He was a Coureur de Bois

… one who runs in the woods, a small powerful Frenchman who wore a red, knitted cap of Quebec and called himself Pasquinel.  And where he came from no one knew.

One of the suckier things about getting older, is in seeing the passage of people who were foundational to their cultural experience, especially on TV.  Doctor Who fans with long memories know this all too well, but the lessons and impressions made are universal to anyone who bathes in this stuff growing up.

Actor Robert Conrad died today (February 8th).  A tough-guy actor who was quite rightly best known for ‘The Wild Wild West’ (the western/spy hybrid series which sprung from the long shadow of the Bond phenomenon and which ran from 1965-69) along with ‘Black Sheep Squadron’ (1976-78), and Hawaiian Eye (1959-63).  But it is his part in ‘Centennial’ that the Tour would like to focus on.

The longest (26 hours), most expensive ($25 million) and most complicated (four directors, five producers, five cinematographers, almost 100 speaking parts, several hundred extras) project made for television up to that time, Centennial was shown in two and three-hour installments over a period of four months. An adaptation of James Michener’s best-selling novel, it told the story of the settling of the American West by looking at the founding of the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado.  It was a production which possessed a fundamental integrity, and Conrad was essential to that as Pasquinel.  Perhaps a surprising choice for the role given his history up to that point, Conrad was simply terrific in the part.

We make a point to watch ‘Centennial’ every other year or so just to keep it fresh in our memory.  It’s an undervalued gem worth seeking out.  Bonne chance, mon ami.