Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Godspeed Robert Horton

Robert Horton, perhaps best known for playing scout Flint McCullough on the hit TV show Wagon Train, died on March 9 2016 at the age of 91.

Robert Horton was born Meade Howard Horton, Jr. on July 29 1924 in Los Angeles. He had operations for a hernia and an enlarged kidney, but went onto play football at a California military school. In 1943 he joined the Coast Guard, but was given a medical release due to his enlarged kidney. That same year he made his debut on Broadway in a bit part in the play Slightly Married. He made his film debut in a small part in A Walk in the Sun in 1945.

Robert Horton attended UCLA where he earned a bachelor's degree. In the early Fifties he appeared in such films as The Tanks Are Coming (1951), Return of the Texan (1952), Apache War Smoke (1952), Pony Soldier (1952), The Story of Three Loves (1953), Bright Road (1953), Code Two (1953), Arena (1953), and Prisoner of War (1954). He made his television debut on an episode of Chevron Theatre in 1953. He guest starred on The Lone Ranger, The Ford Television Theatre, Meet Mr. McNulty, The Millionaire, and Public Defender before he was cast as Drake McHugh on the TV show King's Row.

Despite being based on the bestselling novel and hit movie of the same name, the TV show King's Row proved to be a failure, lasting only one season. Robert Horton would guest star on such shows as Studio 57, Lux Video Theatre, and Climax before being cast in his best known role. Robert Horton played Flint McCullough, the scout on the TV show Wagon Train. Wagon Train proved to be a hit, spending three years as the number one show on television and many more in the top ten highest rated shows on the air. Robert Horton left the show in 1962, partially for fear of being typecast and partially to pursue other things. While still on Wagon Train he guest starred on Studio One, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, Startime, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In the late Fifties Mr. Horton also appeared in the film The Man Is Armed (1956).

The Sixties saw Robert Horton appear on Broadway in the musical 110 in the Shade. He starred in the Western TV series A Man Called Shenandoah. On the show Mr. Horton played an amnesiac travelling through the West and searching for clues to his identity. He also sang the show's theme, a specially adapted version of  "Oh Shenandoah". A Man Called Shenandoah received largely positive reviews from critics, but did not perform well in the ratings. It was cancelled after a single season and 34 episodes. During the Sixties Robert Horton also guest starred on The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, and The Red Skelton Hour. He also appeared in the film The Green Slime (1968).

In the Seventies and Eighties Robert Horton guest starred on the shows Longstreet; Police Woman; The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries; Houston Knights; and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in a 1988 TV movie adaptation of Red River.

In addition to appearing on film and television, Robert Horton also had a singing career. He performed in nightclubs and theatres. He also recorded albums, including one tied to the TV show A Man Called Shenandoah.

Robert Horton was a very talented actor. Although he probably would not liked to have admitted it, he was perfect for playing Western heroes. Tall, handsome, and comfortable riding a horse, he was perfectly cast as Flint McCullough. Indeed, to prepare for the part he not only studied the Old West, but actually drove the route that the wagon trains would have taken. Mr. Horton showed that kind of commitment to most of the roles he played. Even in material such as The Green Slime, he gave solid performances. If Wagon Train was a success, much of it was due to Robert Horton.

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