Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Kathleen Crowley in "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers"

Vasquez Rocks Fort Set | Agua Dulce, California

Click image to enlarge | Download archival scan

Kathleey Crowley guest-stars in Episode 3 of the single-season NBC television series "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers." The episode, titled "The Hostage," premiered Sunday, November 4, 1956.

Crowley is seen in this 7x9-inch publicity photo in front of the fort set that was erected for the series at Vasquez Rocks. "SGI" at lower right stands for the Screen Gems Inc. production company, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.

The version of NBC's episode synopsis that ran in the Birmingham (Alabama) News reads:

An officer of the 77th Bengal Lancers accidentally kills a native woman, and his sister is taken as hostage by her tribe. A Lancer is assigned to disguise himself as a native and rescue the hostage, portrayed by Kathleen Crowley. Phil Carey and Warren Stevens co-star in the series.

Crowley (1929-2017), born Betty Jane Kathleen Crowley, represented New Jersey in the 1949 Miss America pageant, placing sixth. She used her prize money to enroll in the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York. She landed her first television role in 1951 and worked regularly in television through the end of the 1960s.

Film historian Jerry L. Schneider writes (Schneider 2011:576):

At one time, a fort sat on the property on the level field between the major rock formations and the current 14 Freeway. The fort was built for the television show "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" from Screen Gems, a Columbia Pictures subsidiary, erected at a cost of $117,843.17.

"Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" lasted one season on NBC (26 episodes, 1956-1957) and starred Philip Carey, Warren Stevens and Patrick Whyte.

The fort appeared in many subsequent productions including the "Star Trek" episode "Arena" (air date Jan. 19, 1967) where Captain Kirk (William Shatner) fights the Gorn commander (Sand Canyon resident Bobby Clark).

In the early 1970s the County of Los Angeles removed the fort, which was reportedly made of 2x4's, chicken wire and plaster. It was gone by 1974 ("Blazing Saddles").

Click image to enlarge | Download archival scan

LW3730: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2019 or 2020 by Leon Worden.
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