The High Chaparral

The High Chaparral
Series titles over a painting of a cowboy on a rearing horse
Genre Western
Created by David Dortort
Starring Leif Erickson
Cameron Mitchell
Mark Slade
Henry Darrow
Linda Cristal
Don Collier
Theme music composer David Rose
Composer(s) Harry Sukman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 98 (list of episodes)
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Xanadu Productions in association with NBC
Distributor Republic Pictures
Worldvision Enterprises
CBS Television Distribution
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network NBC
Original release September 10, 1967 (1967-09-10) – March 12, 1971 (1971-03-12)

The High Chaparral is an American Western-themed television series starring Leif Erickson and Cameron Mitchell, which aired on NBC from 1967 to 1971. The series, made by Xanadu Productions in association with NBC Productions, was created by David Dortort, who had previously created Bonanza for the network. The theme song was also written and conducted by Bonanza scorer David Rose, who also scored the two-hour pilot.

Cast and characters

The show revolves around "Big John" Cannon (Leif Erickson), a rancher living in the Arizona Territory in the 1870s. He runs the ranch, called The High Chaparral, with his brother Buck (Cameron Mitchell) and son Billy Blue (known as Blue Boy) (Mark Slade). Blue Boy's mother, Annalee (Joan Caulfield), is killed in the first episode by an Indian arrow, and John Cannon then marries Victoria (Linda Cristal), the daughter of powerful neighboring rancher Don Sebastián Montoya (Frank Silvera), in what is initially a marriage of convenience. His marriage to Victoria also brings her brother Manolito (Henry Darrow) to live with the family.

Among the guest stars were Rico Alaniz, Richard Bradford, Scott Brady, Anthony Caruso, Chief Dan George, Roberto Contreras, Dennis Cross, Jim Davis, John Dehner, Charles Durning, Paul Fix, Ron Foster, Frank Gorshin, Ron Hagerthy, Ron Hayes, Myron Healey, Don Keefer, Dan Kemp, Robert Loggia, Jack Lord, Tyler McVey, Ricardo Montalban, Joanna Moore, Nehemiah Persoff, Stuart Randall, Ned Romero, Frank Silvera, Barry Sullivan, William Sylvester, William Tannen, Dub Taylor, and Morgan Woodward.

Series format

The two-hour opening episode establishes the background to the action, bringing John Cannon and his family to Arizona, where they buy a run-down hacienda and establish a cattle ranch on it. The Apache Indians, under the leadership of Cochise, are hostile; John's wife is killed in an attack, and in order to survive the Cannons are compelled to enter into an alliance with a rich and powerful neighboring rancher, Don Sebastian Montoya, who owns a huge estate on the Mexican side of the border adjoining the High Chaparral.

Part of the price for the alliance is the sealing of the pact by the marriage of John Cannon to Montoya's daughter, Victoria. Montoya's feckless son, Manolito, whose relationship with his father is strained, accompanies his sister in order to get away from Don Sebastian. John's son, Blue, is vehemently opposed to the marriage, coming so soon after Anna-Lee's death.

Reinforced by Montoya's men, the Cannons are able to fight off the Indian attacks, and, with the services of Manolito as interpreter, manage to negotiate a truce, albeit a fragile one, with the Apache leader. The main reason for its fragility is that the US Cavalry refuses to recognize Cannon's right to negotiate a peace with the Apaches, and continued Army interference constantly threatens the treaty. There are also frequent problems between the Cannons and the arrogant Don Sebastian, usually concerning the terms of their alliance.

Big John's brother, Buck, notionally the ranch's head cowhand, was a hard-bitten former soldier, who fought in the American Civil War, ten years previously, on the side of the Confederacy. From time to time Buck's past came back to haunt him, usually in the person of other Confederate soldiers drifting through the Territory, forever unable to return to their homes in the defeated South. Occasionally, there was friction as a result of the fact that Big John had also fought in the war, but on the other side, as a Captain in the Union Army.

The series gradually evolved to make Manolito and Buck the most popular characters, as they were the ones who tended to get into trouble; both were somewhat irresponsible, particularly under the influence of drink. The other characters were gradually marginalised. Cattle ranching almost never featured in the storylines, which, whenever there were no imminent Indian troubles, were much more likely to revolve around Manolito or Buck and some form of hell-raising - gambling, women, or whiskey.

Mark Slade (Blue-boy) did not appear in the final season and Frank Silvera (Don Sebastian) had died while the series was still in production (but he did appear in a couple of episodes).Blue-boy was replaced by Wind, a new cowhand who was half-Indian and of a similar age to Blue, and who sometimes acted as a go-between for the ranchers and the Indians. This final season had new opening titles and a rearranged version of the theme tune.

Name of the ranch

The name was explained by the following dialog in Episode 1:

Annalee Cannon: Isn't it beautiful, John? It should have a name.
Big John Cannon: You name it.
Annalee Cannon: What is that bush called — that green one?
Big John Cannon: Chaparral.
Annalee Cannon: That's it — Chaparral. I christen thee "The High Chaparral" — the greatest cattle ranch in the whole territory ... the whole world!

In the true sense of the word, "chaparral" is not a single species of shrub but a bionomic community of desert flora, located near a coast especially that in California. There is also some colloquial use of the term in Arizona to describe the low growing Sage, Mesquite and Palo Verde growing especially in the higher deserts. The high Sonoran Desert Arizona plant community is more properly called a "xeric" shrublands biome.


The High Chaparral was Dortort's brainchild, and he left the day-to-day running of Bonanza in the spring of 1967 so he could focus all of his energies on The High Chaparral. After the show's cancellation in 1971, Dortort chose not to return to Bonanza and retired.

All the exterior filming was done at Old Tucson in Arizona and in the nearby Saguaro National Park, although in a few later episodes there was some filming in California and (in season 3) in the Coronado National Forest south of Tucson. The interiors were generally filmed at the NBC television studios in Burbank, Los Angeles.[1]

Cameron Mitchell was offered the part of Buck following an airline flight to Tucson where he sat next to the series creator and his wife.


The series has appeared on CBN, The Family Channel, Hallmark Channel, and, as of September, 2012, exclusively on The Inspiration Network as part of their Saturday western lineup that includes Bonanza, The Big Valley, and The Virginian. As of September 5,2016 it is currently airing weekday mornings on H&I following Have Gun-Will Travel.


On May 20, 2010 the first worldwide release of season 1 on DVD occurred in Germany (Kinowelt, now Studiocanal), with subtitles in English and dubbed into German. Season 2 was released on December 9, 2010. Season 3 was released June 9, 2011. The final season 4 was released in February 16, 2012. On disc 1 episode 1 starts with some scenes shown on German TV that were not in the original and thus dubbed German instead of English for a few minutes.

Art-S Home Entertainment ( in the Netherlands released the first box with season 1 (28 episodes) on May 2, 2012. Season 2 released on January 28, 2013. Season 3 released on September 3, 2013 and the final season 4 released January 26, 2014. The High Chaparral is also released in Sweden with each season in 2 boxes. In Australia they have also released The High Chaparral in 4 boxes.

Season Episodes Region 1 Region 2


Region 2


Region 2


Region 4


Region 4


Season 1 28 May 20, 2010 May 2, 2012 October 30, 2012 November, 2012 March 13, 2013
Season 2 26 December 9, 2010 January 28, 2013 March 19, 2013 December, 2012 May 8, 2013
Season 3 26 June 9, 2011 September 3, 2013 July 31, 2013 January, 2013 August 7, 2013
Season 4 18 February 16, 2012 January 26, 2014 October 8, 2013 February, 2013 January 15, 2014


See also


  1. Lightning in a Bottle, autobiography of Henry Darrow
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