Where Most Children Have Gone Before
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
(Roland Reed Productions 1952-1954)
Rocky Jones Features available from
Alpha Video, www.oldies.com

From the forthcoming book, Forgotten Horrors #5, by Michael H. Price, John Wooley, and Jan Alan Henderson

Most kids in the 50s wanted to be one of three things: a cowboy, an Indian, or a space explorer. The cathode-ray tubes of the day pumped out enough of this fodder to float covered wagons, Indian villages, and a fleet of space cruisers. The first of these stratospheric voyagers was the Du Mont Network's original creation Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which debuted on June 27, 1949, and ended its run six years later on April 1, 1955, along with its launching pad, the Du Mont Network. In 1950 the American Broadcasting Network transmitted 36 episodes of interplanetary hijinks with science fiction staple Buck Rogers. These two live space operas were quickly followed by the hugely popular Space Patrol and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

Live TV being what it was, often the no-so-special effects didn't convince the entire audience.

In 1950 Roland Reed Productions opened offices in Beverly Hills, California. Roland Reed began his career as an extra, and quickly moved up the ladder to Film Editor on such forgotten horrors as Condemned to Live and A Shot in the Dark. He took the director's chair for House of Secrets before moving on to producing. With Associate Producer Arthur Pierson, and Executive Producer Guy B. Thayer (who was the Associate Producer of The Devil Bat), Roland Reed Productions specialized in TV commercials, religious films, and filmed television series, and had hit TV series My Little Margie and Waterfront. In July of 2005, Roland Reed's girl friend of twenty-five years, as well as his receptionist and the actress who played Yarra in the three-part episode "Forbidden Moon," the late Dian Fauntelle, told us that it was Executive Producer Guy V. Thayer who convinced Reed that a space show would be a boon for the company. But unfortunately, the cost of the special photographic effects almost bankrupted Roland Reed Productions.

In June of 1952, Roland Reed Productions announced the completion of the pilot episode of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, directed by Abby Berlin. This telefilm was never shown on television, and only a remnant of this first installment remains, in the episodes entitled "Bobby's Comet"

Filming resumed with new director the late Hollingsworth Morse at the helm for the run of the series. In 1987, Morse reflected on his days with Rocky Jones and company. "I started out doing The Lone Ranger. I had worked at Roach before World War II. After the service, I met Roland Reed, who later hired me to direct Rocky Jones. We had a technical man whose name I have long since forgotten who was doing the take-offs and landings of the spaceships, and I said to him, 'When these things blast off or land, they are going too slow; can we speed them up?' He said, 'You wait, when they DO have spaceships this is exactly how it will look.' And he was right! I just didn't believe it; every time I'd look at one of the cuts, I'd have to turn my head and look away. We made a show in two days; we did three a week, which was difficult"

Realistic spaceships, asteroids, space stations, and planets were achieved through miniatures, glass paintings, and matte photography handled by Jack R. Glass, who was also supplying the optical effects for the highly popular The Adventures of Superman.

For his protagonist, Roland Reed case veteran actor Richard Crane, who was featured in 50 motion pictures and 200 television shows. Crane was the discovery of Director George Cukor, and later was featured in popular Warner Brothers TV shows such as Surfside Six, Hawaiian Eye, Maverick, Sugarfoot and Cheyenne. Crane was the lead in Sam Katzman's mutilation of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, Columbia 1951, a not-so-super serial.

Rocky's first sidekick Winky was played by Scotty Beckett of Our Gang fame. Beckett began his career at the age of four, and by the time Rocky Jones was in production, his personal and professional life was in ruins. This caused his dismissal from the show. He was replaced by Jimmy Lydon for the last thirteen episodes of the series. Lydon, a familiar face from the Henry Aldrich shows at Paramount, fit smoothly into the Rocky Jones fold, playing Biffen Cardoza, Rocky's second sidekick.

It was an unwritten rule that video astronauts of television's golden age usually had a slightly nutty scientist along for the voyage to explain all the gobbledygook that went on in the cosmos, and Rocky Jones was no exception. Professor Newton was Rocky's slide rule manipulator, aptly played by Lithuanian actor Maurice Cass. A pint sized dynamo, Cass was paired against Boris Karloff and Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Opera, and even went a few rounds with the pugnacious Bowery Boys in Spook Busters. Twenty-four shows into the series, Cass left due to what is rumored to be health issues, and was replaced by Reginald Sheffield, who portrayed Professor Mayberry in the last fifteen entries of the show. His son Johnny was Boy in the Tarzan series with Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and was to star in Monogram's Bomba The Jungle Boy series.

Adding a feminine touch was Sally Mansfield, who played Rocky's interstellar sweater girl navigator Vena Ray. After Rocky, she did guest spots on the Gene Autrey TV show and was in Forever Female and the Jerry Lewis vehicle, The Errand Boy.

Bobby, the juvenile interest, was played by Robert Lyden. Three years after his Space Ranger adventures, he essayed a young Creighton Chaney in Universal's Man of a Thousand Faces. He plays an adolescent Lon Jr., who remarks to Jim Backus (in the role of Chaney Sr's manager) that his father has a thousand faces.

Reasons for the show's early demise are few and far between. Dian Fauntelle offers, "Scotty Beckett was really a nice young man, but he was troubled. He caused the cancellation of Rocky Jones when he had his trouble with the law. He violated the morals code that was in all our contracts. They were very strict in those days about conduct on and off the set. I went to Scotty's funeral in 1968."

Early Sci-fi television historian Andy Andersen feels that Rocky Jones faced impossible competition. "At that time, audiences had already had three or four years of space adventure shows like Captain Video, Tom Corbett, Rod Brown, and Space Patrol so they were already introduced to live action space dramas. When Rocky Jones came along, viewers already had their fill of this sort of program. That's a shame, because Rocky Jones had the best production values and special effects."

Another problem facing Roland Reed Productions was the wide fluctuation in syndication fees for the Space Ranger television show. When the show played in major cities it commanded top fees, but when the show played in smaller markets, the booking price was minuscule compared to that of major cities with multiple television stations. Rocky Jones didn't capture enough of the urban market to make it profitable. Roland Reed addressed these money issues in a TV Guide article in which he disclosed that he spent a quarter of a million dollars on Rocky Jones. By the end of 1954, it was over for Rocky Jones.

Rocky Jones had a promising beginning, debuting twice on the National Broadcasting Network on February 27 and March 6, 1954. The series was dropped and resold to syndication after the first three episodes. Official Films, the show's original distributor, edited 36 three-part shows into the first ever TV movies, changing some of the titels and altering some of the music in the openings. The musical score, resplendent with eerie Theramin themes, was composed by Alexander Laszlo, and can be heard in such 50s Sci-fi offerings as Attack of the Giant Leeches, and Night of the Blood Beast.

Roland Reed Productions shut down before Thanksgiving of 1956, and the irrepressible Reed continued to finance TV shows. MCA did a short-lived re-release of the shows in 1956, and in 1965 the show was on the UHF airwaves in Los Angeles on Channel 22. Director Hollingsworth Morse recalls life after Rocky Jones: "Roland did another pilot after Rocky Jones. It was an undersea pilot, which I directed. Roland kept a boat, and we went over to Catalina and filmed the show. I forget who played the lead - a beautiful girl, with a dreamy figure. We made a very good pilot; unfortunately, it was about five years before its time and it didn't sell. Sea Hunt came along a few years later and had great success. I imagine the money came out of Roland's pocket."

On a sad note, producer Roland Reed died broke. Hollingworth Morse was one of the three people who attended his funeral.

In the 1990s, the Rocky Jones features "Crash of Moons" and "Manhunt in Space" were shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Today Rocky Jones features are sold by the video outlets Alpha and Sinister Cinema. It would seem a good space ranger never dies!

Producer, Roland Reed; Director, Hollingsworth Morse; Executive Producer, Guy V. Thayer, Jr.; Associate Producer, Arthur Pierson; Writers, Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl, Marianne Mosner, Fritz Blocki, Francis Rosenwald; Musical Score, Alexander laszlo; Directors of Photography, Walter Strenge, Ernest Miller, and Guy Roe; Supervising Editors, Toy Luby, and Fred Maguiere; Editors, Richard Brockway, Gene Fowler Jr.; Film Coordinator, James Cairn Cross; Production Manager, Dick L�Estrange; Art Director, McClure Capps; Set Decorations, Rudy Butler; Photographic Effects, Jack R. Glass; Photographic Effects Crew Camera Operators, Dave Smith, Art Semels; Camera Assistants, Herb Bond, Charles Bohny, Gorman Wiman, Hugh Wade; Camera Loader, George Le Picard; Assistant Director, Dick Moder; Sound, Charles Althouse, Joel Moss, and Jack Goodrich; Sound Editor, Cathey Burrow; Music Editor, Robert Roff; Casting Director, Bill Tinsman; Technical Adviser, Dick Morgan; Technical Instruments, Loren Sackett; Make Up, Ernie Park; Script Continuity, Hazel W. Hall; Costumes, Berman Costume Company; Filmed at the Hal Roach Studios.

Rocky Jones - Richard Crane; Winky - Scotty Beckett; Biffen �Biff� Cardoza (the last 13 episodes) Jimmy Lydon; Vena Ray - Sally Mansfield (Crystal Reeves in un-aired pilot); Secretary Drake - Charles Meredith (Robert S. Carson in the un-aired pilot); Bobby - Robert Lyden; Professor Newton - Maurice Cass; Professor Mayberry - Reginald Sheffield (in the last 12 episodes).

Based on Andy Andersen's Episode Guide

Pilot (Unaired) produced June 1952

Season One - debut Mary 27, 1954 NBD Network and syndicated
1. "Beyond the Curtain of Space" (3 parts), feature title: "Beyond the Moon"
Rocky travels to the planet Ophiucius to rescue Professor Newton and Bobby, and must thwart the evil doings of an ex Space Ranger.
2. "Bobby's Comet" (3 parts), feature title "Menace From Outer Space"
Professor Newton discovers a new comet, but closer examination reveals it to be a weapon launched at Earth.
3. "Rocky's Odyssey" (3 parts), feature title "Gypsy Moon"
Rocky and crew encounter dual moons that are at war with each other.
4. "Escape Into Space" (single episode)
Rocky rescues an intergalactic drug trafficker from his meteor damaged spaceship.
5. "Pirates of Prah" (3 parts), feature title "Manhunt In Space"
Aided by a new invention the "Cold Light," Rocky and the Space Rangers search for missing cargo ships.
6. "Forbidden Moon" (3 parts), feature title "Forbidden Moon"
A power mad alien contaminates a space station with a deadly radioactive substance in order to blackmail the universe.
7. "Silver Needle in the Sky," feature title "Duel in Space"
Diplomats are kidnaped on their way to an interplanetary conference.
8. "Kips Private War" (single episode)
A ward of the Space Rangers is on the path of juvenile delinquency.
9. "Crash of Moons" (3 parts), feature title "Crash of Moons"
Two colliding moons cause upheaval for a female dictator and her subjects.
10. "Blast Off" (3 parts), feature title "Blast Off"
Rocky's disabled ship causes him to land on a planet of cave people who destroy his spaceship.

Season Two 1954-1955
11. "The Cold Sun" (3 parts), feature title "The Cold Sun"
The sun goes cold due to a crust growing on it.
12. "Inferno in Space" (3 parts), feature title "The Magnetic Moon"
Earth is in jeopardy from the moon Cirko, which is bombarding it with a deadly ray.
13. "Vena and the Darnamo" (single episode)
A stolen umbrella, a rescued wild dog, an old lady, and a planet of primitive aliens are the elements of this comedic episode.
14. "Out of this World" (3 part), feature title "The Robot of Regalio"
The planetoid Hermes is being pulled out of order by a force emitted by the planet Regalio.
15. "The Trial of Rocky Jones" (3 parts), feature title "Renegade Satellite"
Rocky stands trial, being falsely accused of assault.

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