Death Valley Days

Death Valley Days
Death Valley Days
Genre Anthology/Western
Presented by Stanley Andrews (1952-1965)
Ronald Reagan (1965-1966)
Robert Taylor (1966-1969)
Dale Robertson (1969-1972)
Narrated by Merle Haggard
Theme music composer Herbert Taylor
Country of origin USA
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 18
No. of episodes 452
Executive producer(s) Gene Autry
Louis Gray
Producer(s) Dorrell McGowan
Nat Perrin
Armand Schaefer
Robert Stabler
Editor(s) Jack Wheeler
Anthony Wollner
Cinematography William Bradford
Richard E. Cunha
Running time 25 min.
Production company(s) McGowan Productions
Flying 'A' Productions
Filmaster Productions
Original channel Syndication
Original run March 1, 1952 – August 1, 1975
External links

Death Valley Days is an American radio and television anthology series featuring true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. Created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman, the program was broadcast on radio until 1945. It continued from 1952 to 1975 as a syndicated television series. The series was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company (20 Mule Team Borax, Boraxo).



The 558 television episodes were introduced by a host. The longest-running was "The Old Ranger" from 1952 to 1965, played by Stanley Andrews when the series was produced by McGowan Productions, producer of the Sky King television series. Filmaster Productions Inc., who produced the first several seasons of Gunsmoke for CBS Television, took over production of the series in the mid-1960s.

Following the departure of Andrews, Ronald Reagan became the host. When Reagan entered politics, the role went to Robert Taylor. Taylor became gravely ill in 1969 and was replaced by Dale Robertson. Production of new episodes ceased in 1970. Merle Haggard provided narration for some previously made episodes in 1975. Reagan and Taylor also frequently appeared in the program as actors. While original episodes were still being made, older episodes were in syndication under a different series title with other hosts; the series could still be in competition with itself in syndication, and this also made it easier for viewers to distinguish the new episodes from the older ones. The hosting segment at the beginning and the end was easily reshot with another performer having no effect on the story. Alternate hosts and titles included Frontier Adventure (Dale Robertson), The Pioneers (Will Rogers, Jr.), Trails West (Ray Milland), Western Star Theatre (Rory Calhoun) and Call of the West (John Payne). The last title was also often applied to the series' memorable, haunting theme music.


Under the Death Valley Days title, the program was invariably sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company, which during the program's run changed its name to U.S. Borax Company following a merger. Advertisements for the company's best-known products, 20 Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive, Borateem, a laundry detergent, and Boraxo, a powdered hand soap, were often done by the program's host. Death Valley was the scene of much of the company's borax mining operations. The "20-Mule Team Borax" consumer products division of U.S. Borax was eventually bought out by the Dial Corporation, which as of 2010 still manufactures and markets them. U.S. Borax continued to mine and refine the borates and maintained Dial as one of its customers. In 2006, Rio Tinto, the parent company of U.S. Borax. Inc., decided to merge USB with two of its other holdings, Dampier Salt and Luzenac Talc, to form Rio Tinto Minerals and moved its corporate headquarters to Denver, Colorado.

Death Valley Days is, judging from sheer number of episodes broadcast, by far the most successful syndicated television Western, the most successful television Western ever in the half-hour format, and arguably the most successful syndication of any genre in the history of the U.S. television market (Baywatch had a larger international market among U.S.-produced syndicated programs).[original research?]

The stories used in the series were based on actual events. For example, the episode titled "Death Valley Scotty" was based on the record-breaking run of the 1905 Scott Special, chartered by Walter E. Scott, a.k.a. "Death Valley Scotty".

Guest stars

  • Conlan Carter portrayed L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wizard of Oz, on a 1970 episode.
  • Dennis Cross appeared three times in episodes "Treasure of Elk Canyon" (1961), and "Captain Dick Mine" and "The Rider" (both 1965).
  • Ben Cooper appeared as Jason Tugwell in the 1969 episode "Biscuits and Billy the Kid".
  • Jim Davis, later Jock Ewing on Dallas, portrayed a U.S. representative from Nevada in the episode "Little Washington", set in 1878 in Carson City.
  • John Doucette portrayed Apache Chief Geronimo in the 1961 episode "Gamble with Death". His co-stars included Dick Sargent and Tom Greenway.
  • Ron Foster appeared as Silas Begg in the 1957 episode "Rough and Ready".
  • Ron Hagerthy, formerly of Sky King, appeared as Felix in the 1958 episode "Old Gabe".
  • Ron Hayes appeared as Dan Bartlett in the 1960 episode "Devil's Bar".
  • Brad Johnson appeared five times on Death Valley Days, including the role of Bill Tilghman in the 1960 episode "The Wedding Dress".
  • I. Stanford Jolley, five appearances, as J.V. Langley in "The Kickapoo Run" (1954), as Colby in "California's First Ice Man" (1955) and in the final role of Bart Taylor in "Eruption at Volcano" (1959)
  • Harry Lauter, a character actor, appeared seven times, twice as Mel Hardin in "Gold Lake" and "Wheelbarrow Johnny" (both 1959).
  • Dayton Lummis portrayed New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace in "Shadows on the Window" (1960), with Martin Braddock as Billy the Kid. He also played John De La Mar in "City of Widows" the same year.
  • Tyler MacDuff played Norman Berry in "The Hoodoo Mine" (1956).
  • Tyler McVey appeared four times, including as a priest in the 1962 episode "Abel Duncan's Dying Wish" and in the 1969 segment "The Oldest Outlaw".
  • John M. Pickard appeared ten times, including the role of Sheriff McKittrick in the 1966 episode, "The Resurrection of Deadwood Dick" and as Lafe Ellsworth in "The Other Creek" (1968).
  • Judson Pratt appeared twice: "The Left Hand is Damned" (1964) and as a general in "Raid on the San Francisco Mint" (1965)
  • John Vivyan, earlier Mr. Lucky, appeared on Death Valley Days, guest starred in two episodes in 1962.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1955 Emmy Award Nominated Best Western or Adventure Series
1961 Western Heritage Awards Won Best Factual Television Program Ruth Woodman and Nat Perrin (For episode "The Great Lounsberry Scoop")

In the 1955-1956 season, NBC offered Frontier, an anthology Western series similar to Death Valley Days hosted by Walter Coy. Though Frontier, a springboard for the Western actor Jack Elam, was nominated for an Emmy Award, it was cancelled after a single season.


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External links

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