Top critical review
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on 5 April 2011
1961 was something of a watershed year for TV westerns. All the great shows of the golden age were still running - `Gunsmoke', `Bonanza', `Wagon Train', `Cheyenne', `Maverick', `Laramie', `Rawhide', `Lawman', `Tales of Wells Fargo', `Have Gun-Will Travel' - plus others!
So, the long anticipated (it was actually made in 1959) `Whispering Smith' was up against some real heavyweights, and it hardly scratched the surface. The show's troubled history and Audie's dissatisfaction has been well documented and `Whispering Smith' remains a curiosity in the TV western genre.
The stories are plot-led, leaving little scope for characterisation. A successful series needs a strong personality to carry it, and sadly there's nothing really distinctive about Audie, who though likeable, is just too bland and neutral - he doesn't even have a badge, or seem to have any kind of life outside of the job.
Guy Mitchell as his curiously named sidekick `Romack' is more interesting and brings some mild humour to the show, plus he gets to sing from time to time, but again his character is sorely underdeveloped.
Production values are rather sparse and it's mostly shot on the Universal backlot street that would later become Medicine Bow in `The Virginian'.
The DVD is value for the money, with the greater investment being in the time spent watching all the shows, some of which are a bit dull. 26 episodes were made though only 20 were broadcast, and 25 appear on the DVD with one episode `The Interpreter' missing.
Happily there are gems to be discovered! Robert Redford makes an early appearance, and in `The Poet and Peasant Case' the great Allan Mowbray, in a rare TV appearance, reprises his `Granville Thorndike' role from `My Darling Clementine' - albeit with a twist!