“Fury…the story of a horse and the boy who loved him,” describes the popular Saturday morning half hour b/w NBC TV series that ran for 5 years from Oct. ‘55 to March ‘60.
Bobby Diamond (now an L.A. lawyer) starred as Joey, an orphan who was taken into custody after being erroneously blamed for breaking a window. Jim Newton (Peter Graves), owner of the Broken Wheel Ranch, witnessed the incident, cleared his name, adopted Joey (giving him the last name Newton), took him to live on his ranch and presented him with a beautiful black stallion, which Joey named Fury.
The extremely lengthy opening of the early episodes explains the premise of the series: “From out of the west, where untamed horses still roam the rugged valleys and canyons, comes Fury, king of the wild stallions. And here hard riding men still battle the open range for a living. Men like Jim Newton, owner of the Broken Wheel Ranch, and Pete, his top hand, who cut his teeth on a branding iron. Wild as Fury is, there’s one human voice he’s learned to love and obey…the voice of the boy who once saved his life, the boy whose unswerving devotion succeeded in taming a savage spirit where spur and lariat failed. Jim Newton’s boy, Joey. There’s a mutual trust and affection that everyone can understand, the eternal story of a noble creature of the wild and of the boy who loves him. A love that’s shared by pint-sized Rodney Jenkins, better known a Pee Wee. But now it’s roundup time and there they go, racing over the range, rounding up the wild herds; men, boys and stallion acting as one, a team working and playing together as only real pals can. This is the range country, the last frontier, where men still challenge nature and keep alive the best traditions of the Old West. And where the free spirit of the wide open spaces is reflected in the nature of the black stallion known as Fury.”
Rounding out the cast were veteran western and serial player William Fawcett (1894-1974), Ann Robinson in a semi-regular role as Joey’s teacher, Helen Watkins, and Jimmy Baird as Joey’s pal, Pee Wee.
Diamond, born in 1943, was 12 when he started the series while Baird, born in 1948, was about 7. After 3 years, Baird had grown up a bit and was replaced by nine year old Roger Mobley (born 1949) as Packy. James Seay was often seen as Sheriff Davis.
Being a ‘western’, many stories revolved around rustlers, bank robbers and swindlers, but still more dealt with issues identifiable to youngsters—4 H, Junior Achievement, Boy Scouts, Civil Defense, hunting and gun safety, car safety, fire prevention and wildlife conservation.
Two episodes a week were produced, budgeted at $25,000 per show with $1,500 reportedly going to the horse.
At first, Leon Fromkess (who died in ‘77) was executive producer with director Ray Nazarro also handling production duties. Midway through the first season, Nazarro was supplanted by Irving Cummings Jr. who remained til the end of the series. In 1958, Cummings explained “Fury” was not trying to “preach or write down to kids,” they wanted to entertain “and not contribute to children’s intellectual impoverishment.”
Peter Graves found “Fury” an “excellent show for kids and families” although he was “disappointed” when he found out the show, originally planned as a prime time series, was being scheduled for Saturday mornings. “When I started to add up what I could get for 26 shows a year, that suddenly became an important consideration. I was very fond of that show and look back now and realize what an important little production it was. We taught kids about animals, life, parental authority, growing up—basic values we sometimes lose sight of.”
Bobby Diamond once told Bob Pontes in an interview, “I could ride a horse (when I started) but not as well as I eventually did while doing ‘Fury’. I used to ride almost every day whether we were shooting or not.” Graves recalls, “Bobby got very close to the horse.”
Roger “Packy” Mobley recalled for Tom and Jim Goldrup in their 3rd volume of FEATURE PLAYERS—STORIES BEHIND THE FACES that he hadn’t acted til “Fury” but he could ride. “I had to go to a diction coach for about a month to try and learn to talk.” While off from filming he was playing baseball and was hit in the nose with a baseball bat, breaking his nose. “I didn’t get one day off. When the swelling went down enough, they could shoot from the sides. If a person knows to watch for it, there’s several episodes where you never see Packy’s face. It’s always from the back.”
The true star of the show was Fury himself. Known as Highland Dale when he lived on a farm in Missouri, he was 18 months old when he was discovered by well-known movie horse trainer Ralph McCutcheon who first used him in “Return of Wildfire” in ‘48. Series producer Leon Fromkess hired McCutcheon to deliver a horse for the series. By this time, McCutcheon had changed the horse’s name to Beauty (often called Beaut) and had worked him in “Lone Star” (‘52), “Johnny Guitar” (‘54) and “Gypsy Colt” (‘54). He was cast as the black stallion in “Giant” (‘56); and several other shows after “Fury” ended.
Peter Graves credits all the horse’s talents to trainer McCutcheon, “He was one of those few people who could talk to animals.” Roger Mobley remembers, “McCutcheon would be off camera and say, ‘Beaut, go pull the boy by his shirt, pull him backwards.’ That horse would grab my shirttail or the seat of my pants and pull me backwards.” According to Mobley, four horses were used for long shots, a stand-in and one where there were long dialogue passages when the horse needed to stand very still.
There were many directors over the 5 year run of the series, the more prominent among them—Sidney Salkow, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy, Les Selander, Harold Daniels and Nathan Juran. Bellamy recalled for WC that Fury could play baseball! “The horse was out in center field. When the kid hit the ball, wherever it went, Fury went after it and ran to home base with it. (Laughs) McCutcheon had the horse so well trained he could say, ‘All right, Beaut, Go.’ The horse would run and Ralph would yell to him, ‘Look over your right shoulder’ and the horse would turn while running and look back. He could do that on either the right or left side. What McCutcheon used to train horses and dogs I’ll never know, but he was unbelievable!”
“Fury” went into syndication as “Brave Stallion” in ‘59. Fury—or Beauty—lived at stables in Van Nuys and was later taken to Sand Canyon near Santa Clarita (then known as Newhall-Saugus, CA). He lived to be 29.