Lee Majors Week: The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969)

After his 112-episode, 4-year run as Heath Barkley on ABC-TV’s The Big Valley, it was time to see if Lee Majors could carry a feature film. And he did, with this, the screenwriting debut by familiar ’60s and ’70s TV actor Stuart Margolin (we know him best from his support role as Angel Martin, James Garner’s former cell mate, in The Rockford Files). And who’s the director on this? Well, hey, it’s George McCowan — the guy who brought us the nature-run-amuck classic, Frogs and the Canadian Star Wars dropping that is The Shape of Things to Come, as well as a few episodes of the pre-Star Wars venture The Starlost, and too many ’60s and ’70s U.S. TV series to mention.

One of the earliest films — long before the 1979 Oscar Winner, Coming Home — that dealt with the emotional trauma of returning Vietnam veterans, Lee stars as Andy Crocker. He’s a disaffected vet who returns to his Texas hometown to discover his girlfriend was forced into marrying another man, his once successful motorcycle shop is left in ruins, and those he once through were his friends, now turn their backs on him. The campaign against him is led by the town’s queen bee: the mother of his ex-girlfriend.

In addition to this serving as Majors’s film debut, be on the lookout for R&B musician Marvin Gaye (he finished his acting career with Chrome and Hot Leather starring William Smith), country musician and breakfast sausage king Jimmy Dean (who followed up with a role in Diamonds Are Forever), and Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield, each in their acting debuts. Keen TV eyes and lovers off things character-actor will notice Joe Higgins (from TV’s The Big Valley and The Rifleman, but also Record City and Sixpack Annie!), ’60s six kitten Joey Heatherton (Cry-Baby), longtime Clint Eastwood sidekick and future Commission Gordon Pat Hingle (Rachel, Sweet Rachel), and Agnes Moorehead (TV’s Bewitched, but also of What’s the Matter with Helen? and The Bat!) rounding out the cast.

You can watch The Ballad of Andy Crocker — Stuart Margolin’s screenwriting debut — on You Tube, and watch his latest screenplay, What the Night Can Do, for free on IMDbTV (via your IMDb, Amazon, or Google accounts).

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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