Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website Logo This image is copyrighted © 2010, by D. Phillips. All rights reserved. Used by written permission. Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website Logo This image is copyrighted © 2010, by D. Phillips. All rights reserved. Used by written permission.
Referenced from Simpson's Audie Murphy - American Soldier (p.279-280) and TV Guide, dated July 29, 1961 (pages 28-30).
Audie Murphy's 1961 Television Series.

To Audie Murphy's western television Series "Whispering Smith".
Audie Murphy as Tom "Whispering" Smith
Audie Murphy as
Tom "Whispering" Smith
Click to see details and photos of the first episode.

In 1959, Audie Murphy made the move into television by agreeing to star in a series known as "Whispering Smith". The western series was based on a 1948 movie of the same title starring Alan Ladd.

Audie's decision to star in a television series may have been influenced by an appearance he made in an episode for General Electric Theater called "The Incident" which was broadcast on February 8, 1958, and later replayed on July 20, 1958. In "The Incident" Audie played a confederate soldier.

Although filming began in 1959, the series never debuted until two years later. The first episode "The Blind Gun" aired May 8, 1961 in a Monday evening timeslot. It replaced a series known as "Acapulco". "Whispering Smith" was televised opposite the popular shows "The Danny Thomas Show" and "Surfside Six".

Audie Murphy played Tom "Whispering" Smith, a Denver police detective. The time frame was set in the 1870's. The series co-starred Guy Mitchell who played George Romack, Audie's side-kick. Also co-starring was Sam Buffington who played Audie's police commander, John Richards. In a TV GUIDE interview published July 29, 1961, Audie called it "Dragnet on horseback." In the same interview, he stated that he was committed for a total of 86 episodes and that "when they said this series could be made cheap my immediate reaction was that we wouldn’t make it cheap at all. I fought with them constantly."

Unfortunately, the "Whispering Smith" series was short-lived because of a series of unforseen mishaps and other problems. After filming seven episodes the co-star, Guy Mitchell, broke one of his arms in a nasty fall when he was thrown from his horse during filming. Filming had to stop for six weeks until Mitchell could heal. Nevertheless, pressure to restart mounted and before Mitchell was fully recovered, filming continued. In several early episodes, Mitchell actually appears with his bent arm immobilized in a massive plaster case nearly 90 degrees to the rest of his body.

TV Guide, June 11, 1961
TV Guide, July 29, 1961

Tragically, Sam Buffington would commit suicide later in the filming. Producers were also difficult to keep. During the series 4 different producers were hired. Filming expenses skyrocketed beyond the $45,000 allocated for each episode. Even Audie's personal horse, Joe Queen, created a problem. Joe Queen was so fast he would often race ahead of the other actors' horses. Eventually, a double for Joe Queen was used for chase scenes.

Audie Murphy as Tom "Whispering" Smith
Title Screen of
"Whispering Smith"

A death blow to the series was dealt by the U.S. Senate Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee in Washington. The subcommittee was concerned about growing violence on television and as part of its proceedings, reviewed the second episode entitled "The Grudge." Sen. John Carroll (D) of Colorado said the show was “not only bad for children, it’s bad for adults.”

On September 18, 1961, the "Whispering Smith" series was cancelled by NBC and replaced with "87th Precinct". The 19 episodes that aired were stored in the vaults of NBC Television. Five of six unaired episodes were given to the film library at the University of California at Los Angeles. The sixth unaired episode, "The Interpreter" has never been found and little is known about it.

Over the years, interest in the series has grown and many fans have contacted NBC to release the original series. In 2010, Timeless Videos with the help of NBC Universal managed to locate all but "The Interpreter" episode. Almost forgotten, one of television's rarest westerns was finally made public again after an absence of nearly 50 years when the original 19 aired episodes were published in DVD format. The DVD set also included 5 of the 6 unaired "lost" episodes.

Click to see the summary.
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