Saturday, October 27, 2018

Remembering Sky King

“Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King!”

Allan Colombo
Those of us old enough to remember this dynamic opening to what was a great, moral half-hour of jam packed excitement are sure to agree, this was one television series that we won't ever forget. Western movies were not only a source of exciting entertainment, but also a great inspirational source of encouragement so far as ethics and morals were concerned. In past articles on Western Magazine Digest we've featured several notables ones, such as Roy Rogers, Marshal Matt Dillon, and Charles Bronson. Today, I'd like to chat about another great Western actor and movie cast: Sky King!
“Sky King was an American radio and television series. Its lead character was Arizona rancher and aircraft pilot Schuyler 'Sky' King. The series may have been based on a true-life personality of the 1930s, Jack Cones, known as the 'Flying Constable' of Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County, California, although this notion is unverified” (Wikipedia, http://bit.ly/2OQ6vrz).
Sky King was an icon of aviation in the minds of many of those who watched this weekly, half-hour show. In fact, Kirby Grant, also known as Schuyler, the main character of the show, was so influential that many well known figures in aviation have cited Sky King as a source of early inspiration.
According to Wikipedia, “The show also became an icon in the aviation community. Many pilots, including American astronauts, grew up watching Sky King and named him as an influence.”


Sky King Classic Cars of the 1950s...


For those of us who would like to know what happened to Schuyler:

According to Sky King Productions, “As ‘Sky King’ continued in syndication for years after it ended, (in 1962), Grant became an icon to the aviation community. Although he did little acting after it ended, he and co-star Gloria Winters were in demand for numerous personal appearances at fairs and aviation events. Additionally, he traveled with the Carson and Barnes Circus from 1967 to when he retired in 1970. After Grant retired, he bought the title and rights to ‘Sky King’ (1953), and he became a Public Relations Director for ‘Sea World’ in Florida” (http://bit.ly/2Slwllr).

Historical Information

The Sky King show actually began in 1946 as a radio production. It continued to air over the radio until 1954, the same year that the television series began to air on the television sets of America. Personally I do not recall listening to Sky King on the radio, but I was 4 years old when the television series began and the radio version ended, so I'm not surprised that I'd not listened to the radio show. The star of the show, Kirby Grant, born in Butte, Montana in 1911, began his acting career in 1930 when he played in roles as a cowboy and a Canadian Mountie. According to Sky King Productions, he played in more than 50 films, some of which included 'I Dream Too Much,' staring Henry Fonda; as well as 'Red River Range,' along side John Wayne and Crash Corrigan.


Remembering the cast from the last episode...


“Kirby Grant is most fondly remembered today for his title role of Schuyler 'Sky' King, in the televised ‘Sky King’ series. It was a role of a wealthy gentleman rancher in Arizona, who used his twin engine Cessna to capture evil-doers and rescue people in trouble. In the series, his plane was named the “Songbird,” and his ranch was the “Flying Crown Ranch.” In real life, Grant was a pilot, and it was his personal plane that was used in the first few years of the televised series (Sky King Productions, http://bit.ly/2Slwllr).
When I told my partner, Gary Miller, that I was doing a feature on Sky King, the first thing he mentioned was the Cessna T-50, used in the initial episodes, and the Cessna 310B, which was featured in the remaining episodes. As a private pilot, Gary continues to have an avid interest in all things aviation, especially Sky King.


Sky King, Cessna T-50, Songbird...


“King and his niece Penny (and sometimes her brother Clipper) lived on the Flying Crown Ranch, near the fictitious town of Grover, Arizona. Penny and Clipper were also pilots, although they were inexperienced and looked to their uncle for guidance. Penny was an accomplished air racer, rated as a multi-engine pilot, whom Sky trusted to fly the Songbird” (Wikipedia, http://bit.ly/2OQ6vrz).

Sometimes it's difficult for me to understand how movies like Sky King could possibly go out of style. Although this may be so, there's no denying the fact that those of us old enough to remember are also bold enough not to forget.




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