F Troop is a satirical American television sitcom that originally aired from 1965-1967 on ABC. It premiered in the United States on September 14, 1965, ran for two seasons and finished its first run on April 6, 1967, for a total of 65 thirty-minute episodes. It originally began as a black and white series. It premiered on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on October 29, 1968, and was repeatedly screened until July 16, 1974. The series was also broadcast nationally in Australia on ABC-TV and in Ireland on Telefís Éireann.
was set at Fort Courage, Kansas
, a fictional United States Army
outpost in the West
, in 1865, the year the American Civil War
ended. There was a town next door to the fort of the same name. The commanding officer at Fort Courage is the gallant but chronically clumsy and accident-prone Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry
), the descendant of a long line of military leaders. He is awarded the Medal of Honor
after accidentally instigating the final charge at the Battle of Appomattox
. As a private, he is ordered to fetch his commanding officer's laundry. When he rides away on horseback to accomplish the errand, the pollen in the air causes him to sneeze repeatedly. He sneezes loudly just as he passes a group of soldiers, and they mistake this sneeze for the order "Charge!" His superiors, wishing to reward his action, promote him to captain and give him command of remote Fort Courage, a dumping ground for the least useful or trustworthy soldiers.
Much of the humor on the show was derived from the schemes of Captain Parmenter's non-commissioned officers, Sergeant O'Rourke, and Corporal Agarn, and the local Indian tribe, the Hekawis, alternately seeking to expand and conceal their illicit business, O'Rourke Enterprises, as well as the struggles of Parmenter to exert his authority and escape the matrimonial plans of his girlfriend, shopkeeper/postmaster Jane Angelica Thrift, "Wrangler Jane."
Opening theme music
The circumstances of the F Troop
story line are illustrated in the show's opening theme (taken from the first episode):
- The end of the Civil War was near,
- When quite accidentally,
- A hero who sneezed, abruptly seized
- Retreat and reversed it to victory.
- His medal of honor pleased and thrilled
- His proud little family group.
- While pinning it on, some blood was spilled,
- And so it was planned he'd command...F-Troop!
- Where Indian fights are colorful sights
- And nobody takes a lickin',
- Where paleface and redskin
- Both turn chicken.
- When drilling and fighting get them down,
- They know their morale can't droop,
- As long as they all relax in town
- Before they resume, with a bang and a boom...F-Troop!
F Troop officer & enlisted men
- Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry), the "Scourge of Appomattox" - is credited with keeping the peace, which is in fact really kept by O'Rourke's secret treaty with the Hekawi. When the need to keep up appearances arises, the troopers and the Hekawi stage mock battles for the benefit of outsiders.
- Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) - the Sgt. Bilko of his day. O'Rourke's business dealings involve illegally running the local saloon and an exclusive-rights treaty with the local Indian tribe (the Hekawi) to sell their "authentic" souvenirs to tourists. He calls his dealings "O'Rourke Enterprises". (Doubly ironic is that Tucker had actually served in the US Cavalry prior to World War II and played a similar "O'Rourke" Cavalry Sergeant on [[Gunsmoke]]).
- Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch) - O'Rourke's dimwitted sidekick and business partner in the illegal O'Rourke Enterprises scheme. His name is a play on both Randolph Scott and John Agar. The episode El Diabolo features his Mexican bandit cousin who, like other members of his family, all look exactly like him.
- Private Hannibal Shirley Dobbs (James Hampton) - F Troop's inept bugler, who can only play "Yankee Doodle and "Dixie" with regularity. Standard Army tunes like "Reveille," "Assembly." and "Retreat," are only occasionally played well. He is also Captain Parmenter's personal assistant as well as with the fort's artillery crew. (This usually results in the cannon misfiring, and knocking over the lookout tower. The scene from the first episode was reused most times).Private Dobbs was also portrayed as a 'thorn' in Agarn's side with his regular taunts resulting in Agarn's retort, "I'm warning you, Dobbs!"
- Private Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks) - a legally-blind lookout (20/900 in each eye, according to Agarn) who also answers questions in the lookout tower with responses like, "No thank you Corporal, I just had my coffee". He once allowed two Native Americans wearing large, feathered head dresses to gain entry to the fort. When asked why he let them in he answered "I thought they were turkeys". A running gag has Agarn kicking the fort's cannon in frustration after it misfires, only to see one of its wheels come off, setting it off, sending a cannonball into one of the tower's support legs, causing the tower to collapse and sending Vanderbilt crashing to the ground. In one episode he shoots his pistol in a crowded barracks and misses everyone.
- Trooper Duffy (Bob Steele) - an elderly cavalryman with a limp. Duffy is the lone survivor of the siege of the Alamo in 1836. Duffy loves to recount his exploits alongside the heroes of the Alamo, "shoulder to shoulder and backs to the wall." The way Duffy tells it, he was killed in action. Steele was a former 1930s Western movie and serial star.
"Wrangler" Jane Angelica Thrift
) - Captain Parmenter's beautiful but tomboyish
girlfriend, who runs the local general store and post office. She is determined to marry the naive Parmenter and is often obliged to rescue him from his various predicaments. Patterson was only 16 years old when the series began.
Charlie, the town drunk (veteran stuntman Harvey Parry), who usually took his leave of the saloon through the plate-glass window. Fort Courage got Charlie from Dodge City. "We were lucky to get him — Dodge had a spare." —Capt. Parmenter
The Hekawi tribe and tribal members
The Hekawi tribe supposedly derived their name from an incident in which the tribe became lost, exclaiming "Where the heck are we?", which then became "We're the Hekawi". They are partners in O'Rourke Enterprises and produce most of the company's products. They are a peace-loving tribe — Agarn has to teach them a war dance. They have a 50/50 deal with O'Rourke and have a still which produces the whiskey for the saloon. As a sly jest off the notion that Native Americans are the 13th tribe of Israel, many of the Hewaki Indians were played by veteran Yiddish comedians using classic Yiddish shtick, particularly Chief Wild Eagle and Medicine Man Roaring Chicken. The regular "Indian" characters (none of whom were played by Native American
- Chief Wild Eagle (Frank Dekova) — leader of the Hekawi tribe and business partner in the illegal O'Rourke Enterprises scheme. Often O'Rourke, Parmenter, and Jane come to him for advice when they have a problem. Wild Eagle has an old Indian saying for every occasion which even he sometimes admits he does not know the meaning of.
- Crazy Cat (Don Diamond) — Chief Wild Eagle's assistant and heir apparent. He often acts as chief and is rebuked by Chief Wild Eagle.
In order of number of appearances:
- Private Duddleson (Ivan Bell) — a sleepy, obese soldier who is hit on the head repeatedly by Agarn for having his body in line but not his belly, or sleeping when he's supposed to be at attention.
- Private Hoffenmueller (John Mitchum) — trooper who only speaks in his native German. According to the fort's personnel records (doctored by O'Rourke to inflate the payroll) Hoffenmueller can speak Cherokee, Sioux, Apache, and Hekawi. "We can use you as an interpreter ...just as soon as you learn to speak English" —Capt. Parmenter.
- Roaring Chicken (Edward Everett Horton) — aged medicine man (veteran actor Horton appeared as Roaring Chicken in the first season only, and only in certain episodes).
- Private Leonard "Wrongo" Starr (Henry Gibson) — a jinxed soldier. He appears in "Wrongo Starr and the Lady in Black" and in "The Return of Wrongo Starr". Alternative explanations are given for the jinx. The name is a play on Ringo Starr.
- Pete — bartender for O' Rourke's saloon. He is only seen in the first season but is mentioned several times in the second.
Notable guest stars
The program featured guest-starring roles and/or cameo appearances by:
- Sterling Holloway (the voice of Disney's Winnie the Pooh) as myopic lawman Pat Lawton
- Don Rickles as Chief Wild Eagle's belligerent son Bald Eagle
- Milton Berle as a crooked Indian detective Wise Owl
- Paul Lynde as Sgt. Ramsden, "The Singing Mountie" of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Cliff Arquette, better known as Charley Weaver from Hollywood Squares, as General Sam Courage, the Fort's namesake
- Veteran Hollywood character actor Jack Elam as outlaw Sam Urp
- Jamie Farr (best known as Klinger from ''M*A*S*H) as "Standup Bull" an Indian entertainer
- Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman in the 1960s television series Batman
- Lee Meriwether who played Catwoman in the 1960s television spinoff movie Batman (1966 film)
- Radio and TV veteran Parley Baer
- Mike Mazurki as Geronimo
- Zsa Zsa Gabor as a traveling gypsy
- Vincent Price as Count Sforza, a suspected vampire
- Phil Harris as 147-year-old Flaming Arrow, determined to take back Indian land
- Harvey Korman as Heinrich Von Zeppel, a Prussian balloonist
- Little Feat guitarist Lowell George and drummer Richie Hayward as members of the anachronistic Beatlesque band, the Bedbugs. ,
- Pat Harrington, Jr. as secret agent B Wise — a spoof of Maxwell Smart of Get Smart.
- James Gregory as Major Duncan Who requisitions the unit's cook in Too Many Cooks Spoil The Troop
In several episodes, one of the stars plays a double role:
- Larry Storch as Agarn's Canadian fur-trapper cousin, "Lucky Pierre," Agarn's Mexican bandit cousin "El Diablo," and Agarn's Russian soldier cousin, "Col. Dimitri Agarnoff"
- Ken Berry as an outlaw, "Kid Vicious"
- Forrest Tucker as O'Rourke's father
(Black and White)
- Scourge of the West Introduction
- Don't Look Now, One of Our Cannons Is Missing
- The Phantom Major
- Corporal Agarn's Farewell to the Troops
- The Return of Bald Eagle
- Dirge for the Scourge
- The Girl from Philadelphia
- Old Ironpants
- Me Heap Big Injun
- She's Only a Build in an Girdled Cage
- A Gift From the Chief
- Honest Injun
- O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly
- The 86 Proof Spring
- Here Comes the Tribe
- Iron Horse Go Home
- Our Hero, What's His Name?
- Wrongo Starr and the Lady in Black
- El Diablo
- Go for Broke
- The New I. G.
- Spy, Counterspy, Counter Counterspy
- The Courtship of Wrangler Jane
- Play, Gypsy, Play
- Reunion for O'Rourke
- Captain Parmenter, One Man Army
- Don't Ever Speak to Me Again
- Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop
- Indian Fever
- Johnny Eagle Eye
- A Fort's Best Friend is Not a Mother
- Lieutenant O'Rourke, Front and Center
- The Day the Indians Won
- Will the Real Captain Try to Stand Up?
Season Two (Color)
- The Singing Mountie
- How to Be F Troop Without Really Trying
- Bye, Bye, Balloon
- Reach for the Sky, Pardner
- The Great Troop Robbery
- The West Goes Ghost
- Yellow Bird
- The Ballot of Corporal Agarn
- Did Your Father Come from Ireland?
- For Whom the Bugle Tolls
- Miss Parmenter
- La Dolce Courage
- Wilton the Kid
- The Return of Wrongo Starr
- Survival of the Fittest
- Bring on the Dancing Girls
- The Loco Brothers
- From Karate with Love
- The Sergeant and the Kid
- What Are You Doing After the Massacre?
- A Horse of Another Color
- V is for Vampire
- That's Show Biz
- The Day They Shot Agarn
- Only One Russian Is Coming! Only One Russian Is Coming!
- Guns, Guns, Who's Got the Guns?
- Marriage, Fort Courage Style
- Carpetbagging, Anyone?
- The Majority of Wilton
- Our Brave in F Troop
- Is This Fort Really Necessary?
Creation and production
Although the show's opening credits claim F Troop
was created by Richard Bluel
, a final arbitration
by the Writers Guild of America
eventually gave Seaman Jacobs
, Ed James
, and Jim Barnett
Episode writers included Arthur Julian (who, alone, wrote 29 of the 65 episodes), Stan Dreben (Green Acres), Seaman Jacobs, Howard Merrill (The Dick van Dyke Show), Ed James, Austin and Irma Kalish, and the highly successful comedy writing duo of Tom Adair and James B. Allardice, who collaborated on some of the most successful American TV sitcoms of the 1960s, including The Munsters, My Three Sons, Gomer Pyle, USMC and Hogan's Heroes.
The series was directed by Charles Rondeau and Leslie Goodwins among many others, and produced by William T. Orr and Hy Averback.
The story is in some ways a comedy derivative of the John Wayne film, Fort Apache (a running joke in the film is the number of soldiers at the fort named O'Rourke). Actually, it bears more than a slight resemblance to a 1964 Glenn Ford film called Advance to the Rear, which appeared just one year before F Troop aired. Coincidentally, WB now owns the Region 1/4 rights to Fort Apache.
The entire series was shot on the Warner Bros. backlot in Southern California.
The show's ratings were still healthy after the second year, but according to Tucker, Warner Bros.' new owners, Seven Arts, discontinued production because they thought it was wasteful for so much of the Warner Ranch being taken up by a single half-hour TV show. Producer William Orr says the studio was unhappy with the added costs of producing the show in color during its second season.
Syndication and afterlife
Although only two seasons were produced, F Troop
enjoyed a very healthy second life in syndication, much like fellow two-year run entries The Munsters
, The Monkees
, and The Addams Family
, from the same era. The show was a particular favorite on Nick at Nite
in the 1990s, running from 1991 to 1995 despite the fact that there were only 65 episodes to run.
On September 27, 2005, Warner Home Video released the first F Troop DVD compilation as part of its "Television Favorites" series. The six-episode DVD included three black-and-white episodes and three color episodes. Previously, the series had been digitally remastered and released on ten VHS tapes by Columbia House in 1998, with 30 of the 65 episodes represented in that series.
Following the successful sales from the "Television Favorites" release, Warner Home Video released F Troop: The Complete First Season, with all 34 black-and-white episodes included.
The Complete Second Season of F Troop was released on DVD May 29, 2007. The DVD features interviews with original F Troop cast members, writers and other production personnel, as well as behind-the-scenes information.