In 1965, Michael Garrison, the creator of The Wild Wild West, came up with the brilliant idea of combining two of TV’s most popular genres — Western and spy adventure — and The Wild Wild West was born.
Back in 1954, Michael Garrison, along with a friend of his, had paid $600 to purchase the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond book titled Casino Royale. Ten years later, Garrison approached CBS with the concept of a Western-Spy adventure — the phrase Garrison had used was ‘James Bond on horseback.’ The network liked the idea and Garrison created the story of two Secret Service Agents fighting villains to safeguard the then-President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Garrison chose the incredibly handsome Robert Conrad to play James West and Ross Martin to play Artemus Gordon.
The Wild Wild West ran for a total of four seasons between 1965 and 1969, becoming one of the most-watched shows on television. However, in 1969, pressure started to build on networks to reduce violence on the small screen and thus, the show was taken off the air. However, Conrad and Martin reunited in 1979 for their satirical comedy TV film based on the show, i.e. Wild Wild West Revisited and in 1980, they came together for More Wild Wild West. Both films did well.
In this video, we take you back to an era were James West and Artemus Gordon were the coolest characters on the small screen. Facts Verse Presents 11 Wild Facts About The Wild Wild West.
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Robert Conrad Had an Interesting Early Life
Robert Conrad was actually born Conrad Robert Falk to Leonard Henry Falk, who was 16-years-old at the time, and Alice Jacqueline Hartman, who was 15-years-old. When Falk was 17-years-old, he eloped with a lawyer’s daughter. Conrad took a job at the loading docks in Chicago. While in Chicago, Falk and his wife lived under the name ‘Mr and Mrs Robert Conrad’ to avoid being caught by their parents and that is how the actor got his future screen name. Robert Conrad and his wife told their parents about their marriage in May of 1952 when they discovered that they were pregnant with their first child.
Conrad Did All His Own Stunts
Robert Conrad is responsible for revolutionizing the modern action genre. On the sets of The Wild Wild West, the star would help design each week’s action sequence and performed all of his own stunts. This created a demand for actors willing to do their own stunts. Though Conrad revolutionized the action genre, performing stunts every week was a risky job that once even landed him in hospital. While shooting for a season four episode titled ‘The Night of the Fugitives’, Conrad fell from a height of 12 feet and landed on his head. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. It is no wonder that Conrad took home a cheque worth $5000 every week — when you give so much to a job, you deserve to be paid well.
He Was Multi-Talented
Conrad was multi-talented. As a child, he had studied singing and his vocal coach was Dick Marx, the father of the famous contemporary and pop singer Richard Marx. It was thus no surprise that alongside acting, Conrad also pursued a career in singing. In 1961, he recorded ‘Bye Bye Baby’ with Warner Bros. Records. The song wasn’t a major success and reached only the 113th spot on Billboard. He again tried his luck with singing, but this time in Mexico where he released an album under the moniker Tom Lopaka, his character’s name on this show Hawaiian Eye. In 2008, Robert Conrad started doing a two-hour weekly radio show called The PM Show with Robert Conrad. Didn’t we tell you that Conrad was multitalented?
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If Conrad Was Master of Stunts, Martin Was Truly the Master of Disguise
Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, was a master of disguise and so was Martin in real life. Each week, Martin would work in different disguises and the cast members had no clue what form he would take the next week. While the show was still in production, this talent of Martin stayed relatively hidden. More recently, when the DVD version of the show was released, the collection included a pre-production sketch Martin had created for the show’s pilot episode. Other than being a great sketcher, Martin was also a professional violinist. What a talented duo, right?
Martin Ross Suffered a Heart Attack While the Show Was in Production
In 1968, Martin suffered a heart attack, forcing him to take a break from filming. In his absence, new actors were introduced to fill up his place and the audiences saw actors like William Schallert, Charles Aidman and Alan Hale Jr try and fill the void left by Martin. Such was Martin’s influence on the audiences, that there was never any mention of replacing the actor permanently.
Funnily, Conrad’s Height Was a Problem
Back in the 60s, a hero had to be handsome and tall. While Robert Conrad was one of the most handsome faces on television, at 5’8″, the network considered his height to be his one shortcoming. CBS claimed that Robert Conrad was 5’10” tall. More importantly, the casting agents were given instructions to hire only women who were less than 5′ 6″ in height. Funny, isn’t it?
Conrad Turned down Roles He Shouldn’t Have
By mid-1960s, Conrad was an established name. He had already done Hawaiian Eye, playing detective Tom Lopaka. However, Conrad made the mistake of turning down some roles which could have made him an even bigger star. It is believed that he was offered the role of Hannibal on The A-Team but he turned down the role. He was also one of the top choices for playing Captain Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie. However, the role eventually went to Larry Hagman. Well, one has no control over destiny!
The Show Was Originally Called the Wild West
The show had many producers at different times. The Wild Wild West was Garrison’s first show and thus, he often found it difficult to stay within budget. This is the reason why the show went through so many different producers and also why the network decided to move Garrison to another show called Rawhide. Collier Young then replaced Michael Garrison. Young is also the one who added an extra ‘wild’ to the original title of the show The Wild West. However, Robert Conrad wasn’t very happy with Collier Young. In a documentary about the show, Conrad accepted that he believed the network did the right thing by letting Young go because Young’s contribution to the series was limited to the addition of one extra ‘wild’.
Richard Pryor Made His On-Screen Debut with the Wild Wild West
Richard Pryor is one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time. He has won an Emmy, five Grammys and is the recipient of the first-ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Richard Pryor’s first on-screen appearance was on The Wild Wild West. In the first episode of season two of the show, Richard Pryor made his on-screen debut as a creepy ventriloquist and Ross Martin served as the voice of Giulio, Pryor’s dummy.
A Decade After Going off the Air, the Show Continued with Two Made-for-TV Films
Almost a decade after the show went off the air, Conrad and Martin came together once again for The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild Wild West (1980), both satirical comedy made-for-television films. Since Dunn had passed away in 1973, Paul Willaims replaced Dunn as Miguelito Loveless Jr. in both the films. Both the films were written by William Bowers and directed by Burt Kennedy and were well-received, which led to the talks of a revival series. Unfortunately, Martin died in 1981 and so did the talks.
The 1999 Remake Version Won Five Razzies
In 1999, the show was turned into a theatrical film titled Wild Wild West, with Will Smith and Kevin Kline taking on the lead roles. Robert Conrad was offered the role of President Grant. However, he declined. Conrad was a critic of the whole idea since the very start bore little resemblance to the original show. The film won the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Film, Worst Screenplay, Worst Director, Worst Screen Couple, and Worst Original Song. Since Conrad had always been opposed to the film, he more than happily received all the Razzie awards on behalf of the Wild Wild West team. Much, much later, while promoting Seven Pounds, even Will Smith agreed that the film was a terrible mistake.
Even after all these years, The Wild Wild West remains a favorite among all those who enjoyed spy shows. Are you one such fan of the show? Did you enjoy our interesting facts? Please share your opinion with us in the comments section.
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