‘The Rifleman’ Star Chuck Connors Turned Down $10K Because He Wouldn’t Make Fun of Westerns

by Joe Rutland

Imagine turning down a payday because you didn’t want to make fun of westerns. That’s what The Rifleman star Chuck Connors did.

Connors, who played Lucas McCain on the western drama, had this opportunity before him as an article from MeTV states.

Back in 1959, a show titled The Big Party was on CBS. The environment and ambiance all reeked of party time for adults to attend. Oh, the show also had stars roll in, too. People like Sammy Davis Jr., Eva Gabor, and Carol Channing had a couple of drinks, stop by for some piano singing, and chat it up.

This was the show where Connors did show up. At the time, The Rifleman was on ABC.

‘The Rifleman’ Star Declined Appearance Because of Personal Code Around Show

While he made one appearance, Connors declined at another time.

Gossip columnist Erskine Johnson reported in 1960 that “he (Connors) nixed $10,000 for a guest appearance on The Big Party. They wanted him to kid TV Westerns, which he refused to do.”

So, $10,000 circa 1960 turns into about $100,000 in today’s cash.

“They got a big surprise,” Connors said. “I proved I wasn’t money-hungry.”

It wasn’t so much that he would not appear on the show. But it all had to do with what they wanted him to actually do.

Connors wanted to treat The Rifleman with class and dignity.

“I know we have an upbeat Western instead of a downbeat Western,” he said. The man had a code of ethics, if you will, around his show.

Connors Would Reprise Famed Role For A Kenny Rogers TV Movie

In a bit of a twist on turning down a TV show for his ethics, Chuck Connors did bring back Lucas McCain one more time.

See, he did it, though, for a Kenny Rogers TV movie titled The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.

A lot of Rogers’ movies were based on his hit song The Gambler.

Connors appeared as McCain and he shows up a time need. McCain saved Rogers’ character by showing off his rifle skills. By the way, the music happened to reflect a few notes of The Rifleman theme song just before old Chuck shows up.

This time, Connors and his character were traveling solo.

Back to The Rifleman for a minute. McCain was a Union veteran who was returning home from the Civil War. On his way, though, McCain decides to retire on the New Mexico Territory at a ranch. Also, he’s going to raise his son Mark, played by Johnny Crawford. 

That also was worth something to note. The Rifleman actually was one of TV’s earliest programs that reflected a single parent raising a child.