‘Rawhide’: Why the Classic Clint Eastwood Western Was Canceled

by Joe Rutland
rawhide-why-the-classic-clint-eastwood-western-was-canceled

“Rawhide” is a popular TV show connected to Clint Eastwood and his Rowdy Yates character. But the show was unceremoniously canceled.

What happened? The short version is CBS President William Paley didn’t like the show’s production and nixed it in December 1965 after eight seasons. Its last original episode aired on Jan. 4, 1966. For context, Eric Fleming, who plays trail boss Gil Favor, left in a dispute with show producers.

When Fleming left, Yates became trail boss. But the show’s ratings had been slipping and when Paley made up his mind to do something, he did it.

Eight seasons of watching Fleming, Eastwood, and other characters from “Rawhide” come to an end right in the middle of a season.

‘Rawhide’ Delivers Powerful Ratings For CBS

At one time, “Rawhide” was a powerful Friday night ratings’ winner for CBS. It was No. 6 in the ratings for the 1960-61 season, then it started to slip.

The show was moved to Tuesday nights, though, in its last season and never recovered. Its eight seasons and 217 episodes put the show up there among the longest-running westerns on American television. “Gunsmoke” is the all-time leader with 20 seasons, also for CBS.

Fleming was the star of the show, but Eastwood went on from “Rawhide” to have movie success as “Dirty Harry” Callahan and many other characters. Sadly, Fleming drowned while making a movie in Peru. He was 41 years old.

‘Gunsmoke’ Producer Helps Guied This New Western

Charles Marquis Warren, who played a big role in getting “Gunsmoke” to television, was the show’s producer. He also directed some episodes, too. “Rawhide” is based on the cattle drives from Missouri to Texas in the 1700s and 1800s.

And the answer to the musical question about the show’s theme song is yes. Yes, it was sung by The Blues Brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) in their movie of the same name.

But “Rawhide” cemented its place in TV western history far beyond a theme song. The show was one of a number of westerns across TV networks at the time. Viewers’ tastes have changed since then, yet there are those viewers from a different generation who still love to see Gil and Rowdy out there.

“Rawhide” remains a staple in syndication to this day. Somewhere, somebody is probably singing “Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, Though the streams are swollen, Keep them dogies rollin’, rawhide.” Frankie Laine originally sang the theme and, well, let’s take a minute and enjoy it.

Outsider.com