DVD review: 'Sugarfoot': The Complete First Season

Will Hutchins showed acting promise in the '50s Western “Sugarfoot” that was never fully realized in later years.
BY GENE TRIPLETT Entertainment Editor etriplett@opubco.com Published: September 13, 2013
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‘Sugarfoot': The Complete First Season

Will Rogers, Jr. starred in a 1954 movie called “The Boy from Oklahoma” as a young drifter and occasional cowpuncher named Tom Brewster who was studying law by correspondence course as he wandered the West of the late 1800s. He didn't wear a gun, nor did he like using one, but he often tended to get into scrapes where firearms were involved and his true grit was tested.

It was a pretty good film directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”) and co-starring Nancy Olson (“Sunset Blvd.”) as a local ranch owner and daughter of the recently-deceased sheriff, up against corrupt elements who were running a frontier town.

Only problem was, Will Jr., at age 43, didn't really fit the “Boy” part of the title role. He just didn't look very damp behind the ears.

Three years later, when the same studio, Warner Bros., was getting into series television, they came up with a show based on the Rogers film called “Sugarfoot,” which rotated every other week with the hugely popular Western series “Cheyenne,” starring Clint Walker. The actor cast as Tom Brewster was Will Hutchins, an unknown Los Angeles-born player who was much better suited to the role, being 27, blond-haired and able to portray a likable, half-naive, sometimes funny, seemingly nonthreatening country boy who favored sarsaparilla (with a dash of cherry) over whiskey and was generally (and mistakenly) dismissed as a lightweight by men and women alike.

The first season of “Sugarfoot” is now available from the Warner Bros. Archives (warnerarchive.com) on a manufactured-on-demand (MOD) basis, which is great news for fans of '50s TV Westerns that were really worth watching, and younger classic-TV buffs who might be curious.

What set “Sugarfoot” apart was the title character himself (“Sugarfoot” was his undeserved nickname, a term which meant “wimp” in Western parlance, at least as this series coined the word and defined it), who was all aw-shucks and easygoing, but whip-smart and ready for a fight with fists or shooting-irons when he was pushed too hard. The boyishly handsome Hutchins played him to perfection.