HEAD ‘EM UP, MOVE ‘EM OUT!
The TV series Rawhide premiered on this day, January 9, in 1959, and ran until 1965.
The world knows about Clint Eastwood, but not everyone knows the fate of Rawhide trail boss Eric Fleming.
DEATH IN THE JUNGLE
After Rawhide, Eric Fleming appeared in episodes of the cowboy show Bonanza. He also acted in the 1966 comedy The Glass Bottom Boat with Doris Day.
But then he took a fateful flight to Peru to film a TV movie called High Jungle deep in the Amazonian river basin, mostly inaccessible to outsiders.
“Deadly snakes, hordes of mosquitoes, ants two inches long and around the clock humidity were a constant menace,” his costar Nico Minardos later recalled.
“Eric had been living in semi-retirement in Hawaii and this was to be his comeback in Hollywood.”
SEPTEMBER 28, 1966
Fleming and Minardos were about to film a scene on the river inside a dugout canoe. Threatening storm clouds loomed overhead and the crew scrambled to get the shot.
Eric said to Nico, “Nico, now or never!”
And down the river they went. The two actors were holding onto the sides of the canoe as it was carried along by the strong current. Suddenly, the canoe “bolted into a cauldron of rapids,” Nico said.
The canoe overturned. Fleming was swept away by the current and drowned. Minardos managed to swim to safety. Fleming was only 41, leaving behind his fiancé Lynne Garber.
Prints of High Jungle are lost, but photographs remain.
Read the harrowing account of Eric Fleming’s death as written by Nico Minardos in his DIARY.
Shelby “Sheb” Wooley, who played the scout in Rawhide, also acted in the film High Noon and in Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Jose Wales. He was also a singer, best known for his 1958 hit The Purple People Eater. He died September 16, 2003 at the age of 82.
Paul Brinegar, who played the cook Wishbone in Rawhide, acted in more than 100 Western films between 1946 and 1994, usually playing playing feisty sidekicks. He died on March 27, 1995 at the age of 77.
Frankie Laine, the powerful voice singing the iconic Rawhide theme — which went to No. 6 on the charts — lived to the good age of 93, dying on February 6, 2007.
They were all great , but tough guy Clint, who will be 90 on May 31, is in a class by himself.