On This Day: ‘Bonanza’ Star Michael Landon Appears as Special Guest on ‘The Rifleman’ Alongside Chuck Connors in 1959

by Keeli Parkey
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Sixty-two years ago today (June 30), television superstar Michael Landon made an appearance on the popular Western show “The Rifleman.” While he appeared in this series only as a special guest star, Landon would soon rise to fame thanks to his role as Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright on “Bonanza.”

According to IMDb, “The Rifleman” starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain. Johnny Crawford starred as Lucas McCain’s son, Mark McCain. The series aired 168 episodes from 1958 until 1963.

Landon appeared in “The Rifleman” episode titled “The Mind Reader.” This was the 40th episode of the show’s first season. Landon played the character of Billy Mathis in this episode. Robert Bice played John Hallager, Paul Fix played Micah Torrance, and John Carradine played John Barrow McBride.

The plot of “The Mind Reader,” according to IMDb reads: “While walking down the main street in North Fork, John Hallager is shot from someone hiding in the shadows. Marshal Micah Torrance arrests Billy Mathis who had been seeing Hallager’s daughter Lucy despite being told to stay away. Not long afterward, John Barrow McBride comes to town. He has a mind-reading act that the townsfolk find entertaining but he also seems to have information about Hallager’s shooting. How he got that information tells Lucas how McBride gets the information for his act but also leads him to the real shooter.”

Here’s an interesting fact about the cast of “The Mind Reader.” At one point in their careers, four actors who appeared in this episode played a werewolf. “Bonanza” star Michael Landon played one in “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” Chuck Connors played a werewolf in the television show “Werewolf.” John Carradine played one in “The Howling.” Steven Ritch, who played Joe Hyatt in the episode, played a werewolf in “The Werewolf.”

Michael Landon’s Episode of ‘The Rifleman’ Aired Months Before the First Episode of ‘Bonanza’

This episode of “The Rifleman” aired before the very first episode of “Bonanza” hit the small screen. The first episode of “Bonanza” aired on Sept. 12, 1959. It was titled “A Rose for Lotta.”

In addition to Michael Landon starring as Little Joe, the cast of this first episode also included the show’s three other stars. As fans are aware, those stars were Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, Pernell Roberts and Adam Cartwright, and Dan Blocker as Eric “Hoss” Cartwright.

In this episode of “Bonanza,” a successful miner uses a woman named Lotta Crabtree as bait. Her job is to get one of the Cartwright men to go to town. Once he is there, the plot calls for him to be kidnapped. The goal was to get timber rights on the Ponderosa by ransoming the Cartwright man.

Michael Landon Wasn’t the Only Famous Actor to Appear as a Guest Star on ‘The Rifleman’

During its television run, there were more guest stars other than Michael Landon that appeared on “The Rifleman.”

One of the other guest stars was George Lindsey. He was a popular actor from “The Andy Griffith Show” thanks to his role as “Goober” Pyle. Lindsey’s episode aired during the show’s fifth season. It was titled, “Requiem at Mission Springs.”

In this episode, Lindsey played a murdering convict.

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