The Barbary Coast starring Doug McClure and William Shatner

Pre-dating The Quest by one year was another failed TV Western series featuring a star of The VirginianBarbary Coast (1975) was set among San Francisco’s Barbary Coast in the 1880s. Doug McClure played casino owner Cash Conover, friend to undercover federal agent and master of disguise Jeff Cable (William Shatner).

Unlike Matheson and Russell who complimented each other on The Quest Doug McClure and William Shatner lacked chemistry and the show soon found itself losing viewers. A clumsy mix of The Wild Wild West and Mission Impossible, Barbary Coast was yet another victim of early cancellation with only 14 episodes completed.


Author: PGreen

Published work in U.S.A. for McFarland & Co. Inc. : A History of Television’s The Virginian 1962-1971 (2006, 2009 Softcover edition) Pete Duel : A Biography (2007, 2009 Large Print edition; Kindle edition) Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns (2009) Jennifer Jones : Life and Films (2011)

26 thoughts on “The Barbary Coast starring Doug McClure and William Shatner”

    1. Hi Christine – I admit I preferred The Quest but was obviously pleased to see Doug McClure in another Western series. But it just reminded me of how much better he was as Trampas. He still had the good looks and youth to be playing Trampas in 1975 had The Virginian-Men From Shiloh not been cancelled. So watching him in this inferior Western was frustrating for me.

  1. I subscribe to Locate TV and have good luck finding movies that the Virginian TV stars act in. It is interesting that most of The Virginian actors didn’t go on to continued fame.

    1. Interesting that William Shatner went on to great success and is still very active today. But in 1975 he was on an equal footing with Doug McClure. In fact Doug had a better track record in television at the time.

  2. I Love Actor Doug McClure! He was a great Actor. Also,he was a very Good-Looking Handsome Man! I also, like william Shatner,he’s a great Actor Too! But,my most favorite Actor is Doug McClure. I found out Actor Doug McClure was a wonderful person in real-life. He was a very friendly nice person to meet and to get to know that’s why,I love Doug McClure very much!! I wish,I could of met Doug in person and got his autograph!

  3. I thought Doug and Bill made a fairly good team in the show, I think it lost viewers because they kept pre-empting it all the time, and people didn’t know when it was and lost interest, it wasn’t really given a chance.

    1. Since living in America I’ve come to understand just how competitive the US TV market is Nic. Take this season for example. You have numerous shows being launched at the same time. It’s impossible to watch each show unless you record them. And in 1975 this wasn’t possible. I find myself watching the first couple of episodes of a show to give it a try. If it fails to interest you you soon forget to watch it. If you like it you make a point of not missing it. This season the only new show I’ve watched consistently is “Elementary.” A modern day Sherlock Holmes show that’s quite good.
      Series fail because they fail to maintain an audience. It’s all about ratings. Some good shows fail because the timeslot might place them against a popular show. Many start off good and then fade in quality and run out of ideas. Some start slow and gain an audience over time. But if you haven;t reached an audience by the first six episodes you’re in trouble. Many are canceled mid-season and completed episodes never broadcast. It’s a tough environment. All about money, sponsors and the vital audience share.

  4. For any William Shatner/Doug McClure/Barbary Coast fans who might be interested, the site TV Shows On DVD just announced that the
    series is being released officially on DVD as a 4 disc set (13 episodes
    plus the Barbary Coast pilot movie co-starring Dennis Cole) on June 3, 2014. See that site for further details. I personally am in shock.
    I never thought this series would be released on DVD since it
    was owned by CBS-Paramount and has not been aired since
    the 90’s when TV Land ran 4 episodes of it on Saturdays
    under the TV Land Goes West schedule. I am delighted
    but the price is $ 59.99. I’m waiting for it to come down
    eventually. This is good news for the show’s fans!

    1. Thanks for this information Jim. This is great news for Doug McClure and Shatner fans. I remember watching this back in the 1970s and having mixed feelings about the show. It’ll be interesting to see it again after all these years.

  5. Thanks for the reply, Paul. I am very excited about this being a fan
    of the show as short-lived as it was. I saw it only once when I was
    about 12 or 13 but was refamilarized with it in the 80’s back when
    I taped the pilot movie from an Atlanta, GA cable station that aired
    it in the middle of the night. I am interested in it primarily for William
    Shatner since I was a long-time original 60’s Star Trek fan but I
    thought Doug McClure played the character of Cash Conover
    exceptionally well. I finally managed to get another copy of it
    (pieced together from assorted 80’s copies in syndication)
    plus 4 of the series episodes from when TV Land aired it in
    the 90’s that amusingly people in the video collectors market
    also have. I never could find the other 8 episodes. Doug’s
    addition to the show actually helped it in my opinion and
    at least made it memorable to me. I loved that instrumental
    theme song!

    On a slightly related yet different topic, a Doug McClure movie
    I can personally highly recommend to his fans which I’m sure
    they know about is a 1971 TV-movie (originally aired as a
    movie of the week broadcast on ABC) filmed by I think
    Universal called The Birdmen AKA Flight Of The Birdmen.
    It was about American and British POW’s in the Nazi supposedly
    “escape-proof” Kolditz Castle and based on a real-life event in
    which the prisoners secretly built a glider to escape. In the
    movie Doug played OSS agent Harry Cook who was assigned
    to rescue a captured Norweigan scientist (Rene Auberjonois)
    who had knowledge of the atomic bomb and get him back to
    England. Chuck Connors and Richard Basehart co-starred
    as respectively the senior Allied and German commanding
    officers of the camp. Excellent movie. Timeless Media
    released it on DVD a few years ago. I originally saw it
    when I was 9! One of Doug’s best roles besides Trampas
    on The Virginian and Barbary Coast. I also have on
    commercial DVD his 70’s sci-fi movies The Land That
    Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot (both as
    Bowen Tyler, he had a cameo in the latter film), and
    At The Earth’s Core (MGM) as well as his early 60’s TV mystery
    series Checkmate (as Jed Sills) from Timeless Media on DVD.
    All I’m missing of his are the 9 seasons of The Virginian/
    The Men From Shiloh from them (a little high in price for me
    as far as the commercial version goes) I also liked James Drury
    on that series. And amusingly I have the pilot for Laredo with
    Doug that aired on The Virginian as episode 91, We’ve Lost
    A Train.

  6. P.S. I forgot. Re: Doug’s role in The Birdmen.
    In the movie, the glider flew. In real-life (World War II) the POW’s
    never got to fly it. The Russians liberated Kolditz first in 1945.
    The glider was later found hidden and intact in the castle.
    The movie also has a small fan following. A nearly forgotten
    piece of history.

    1. Thanks for that info Jim. I must confess I haven’t seen The Birdmen. And I’ve seen most Doug McClure TV Movies. Sounds interesting and as you say it has a small cult following.

  7. Another thing I remember about Barbary Coast.
    The Golden Gate Casino front entrance (from the Paramount set)
    made a “cameo appearance” of sorts in an episode of the 1995
    TV series Legend starring Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver,
    Stargate SG-1) and John De Lancie (Star Trek-Next Generation)
    that aired for 1 season on the now long-defunct UPN (United
    Paramount Network). It was in the episode Clueless In San
    Francisco, number 11 I think. The casino had been taken over
    by new management (Chinese bad guy). Jeff Cable and
    Cash Conover (even though Cash’s name was still on the
    sign Cash Conover’s Golden Gate Casino out front) were
    nowhere to be seen and no indication as to the present fate of their characters from the Barbary Coast TV series were mentioned.
    The viewer who remembered the original show can only assume
    that the crooks found out about Cable and Conover’s undercover
    work for the Governor of California and they were then forced to
    leave town to prevent severe bodily harm. I found it highly amusing
    at the time. I would guess by now the set is long gone, no doubt
    torn down after the filming of that episode was completed.
    I read somewhere that William Shatner said he remembered doing
    the show and enjoyed it but noted that he wasn’t ever asked to appear and speak at Barbary Coast conventions.

  8. It would be interesting to hear Shatner’s memories of working on Barbary Coast. Of course he’d worked with Doug McClure previously on a few Virginian episodes – both pre and post Star Trek.

      1. Hi Jim. One appearance was pre- Star Trek in 1965 and the other post- Star Trek in 1969. “The Claim” (4:04); “Black Jade” (8:14).

  9. On Doug McClure DVD material, forgot to mention.
    I also have the Timeless Media release of his 1960
    series Overland Trail (with William Bendix) where
    he played Flip (Frank) Flippen, complete series
    besides Checkmate (1960-1962, both from Revue
    Studios which later became Universal Television).
    Just recently I required a copy of his 1967 Universal
    TV-movie The Longest Hundred Miles (VHS to DVD)
    when it aired on the now-defunct Family Channel in
    the late 80’s or early 90’s. Good movie. It was about
    an American GI in World War II who escapes the
    Bataan Death March and ends up escorting a
    priest, a group of Filipino orphans and an Army
    nurse 100 miles to a destination where a US
    military plane is to pick them up and take them
    to safety while the Japanese are in hot pursuit.
    Doug as always is the hero. Ricardo Montalban
    played the priest, and Katherine Ross the nurse.

    I watched my Timeless Media DVD of The Birdmen
    (1971) again last night, another good Doug McClure
    film. Their copy has 10 minutes of extra film footage
    that was never in the original 74 minute version that
    aired on ABC and in U.S. syndication (85 minutes total)
    and is a VHS to DVD transfer. I thought the quality was
    good for a 40 plus year old movie but some buyers of\
    the DVD’s on Amazon have complained about the
    quality. I’m sure Universal’s original film print of the
    movie has been gone. Timeless Media did the best
    they could with what they could get, I figure. I have
    no problem with mine whatsoever and am thankful
    this movie is on commercial DVD at all. Chuck Connors
    and Richard Basehart co-starred.

    My favorite scene (spoiler alert, sorry folks).
    The glider has been launched and is flying.
    Richard Basehart as the Kommandant is
    looking on and can’t do a thing about it. Doug as
    Harry Cook is on the floor with a broken leg.
    Basehart: “Major, I’m afraid we are both in a
    great deal of trouble.”
    Doug: “Why don’t you break out the Scotch first?
    My leg is killing me!” (the latter Basehart had told
    him earlier ironically).

    I only wish Doug could have flown the glider.
    Very good movie. My second favorite WWII
    escape movie after the classic 1963 film
    The Great Escape. And one of Doug’s best.

    Thanks for listening.

  10. Doug flew a Cessna light plane between his home in Monterey and LA and so was cast as pilots quite often (“Terror In The Sky”, “SST-Death Flight”, the Disney show “Strange Companions”) In “Death Race”, he was the pilot of Curtiss P-40 KIttyhawk (A plane obsolete by the time it reached the front, according to a book I have), very possibly the same kind of plane his injured pilot in “South Pacific” flew as it was used both in North African and the South Pacific theatres of the war. In “The Birdmen, when asked by Basehart what kind of plane he flew, Harry replies “A P-51 Mustang” (Harry’s family having a background in Barn storming air shows/crop dusting) I’m not sure if Doug did any actual flying on screen, stunt pilot Frank Talman did most or all of the flying in “Death Race” filmed in the desert at El Centro, California. In the scenes where the P-40 taxis along the desert it is possible Doug could have been at the controls. Doug is excellent in “Terror In The Sky” as the ex-Vietnam helicopter pilot suffering from PTSD, who has to take over the controls of a T-400 (Actually a Douglas DC7 or DC8) when the pilot and co-pilot come down with food poisoning, one of the best meaty dramatic roles he rarely was offered but gave a great performance in. His character George Spencer’s helicopter crashed carrying injured troops back to US lines, he is thrown clear and is the only survivor and so comments (On flying a plane full of people seriously ill with food poisoning) “I’m back flying a plane full of dying people”. Doug at his best.

  11. Doug was cast in the series of “Barbary Coast” because they wanted someone of the same caliber as Shatner and Cole simply didn’t fit the bill. I’ve become friends with Bobby Parr, “Ahm” the friendly caveman from “The Land That Time Forgot” and he told me that originally Doug’s role in The People That Time Forgot” was much bigger, Susan Penhaligon wasn’t killed between movies and Ahm escaped from the Pterodactyl, so Bobby would have been in it, too.

  12. Hi, it’s been a while since I last visited this site.
    Since my last post, I have finally purchased both commercial DVD sets
    of Barbary Coast (Acorn Media) and Search (Warner Archive) the
    complete series (both co-starring Doug McClure) through Amazon.
    The film prints look great to me on each series and I highly recommend
    them to Doug’s fans who do not have them yet or are interested.
    I got them at sale prices but to me considering how long it had been
    since I last saw them on network TV (never in syndication in the
    US except for a brief run on TV Land for Barbary Coast in the
    90’s, Search was only shown overseas meanwhile) it was well worth it.

    In going over the customer reviews for the shows on Amazon before
    purchasing (and waiting for the original prices to go down), I ran
    across something interesting on Barbary Coast regarding the
    matter of why Dennis Cole was replaced by Doug. According to
    one buyer from Canada, he said he once acted in a play with
    Dennis Cole in the 80’s there and happened to ask Dennis
    about his role in the Barbary Coast pilot movie as Cash Conover
    that was later played by Doug in the series. Reportedly Cole did
    not have kind things at all to say about his co-star William Shatner,
    who played lead Jeff Cable the undercover agent for the governor
    of California who used disguises and had his headquarters in a
    secret room of Cash Conover’s office upstairs at the Golden Gate
    Casino. The person did not go into specific detail but one would
    figure that the comments were unrepeatable and unprintable.
    This is only a guess, but I would imagine there was a personality
    conflict between Shatner and Cole (if you see the pilot it is obvious
    there was on-screen tension between the actors and they had no
    chemistry whatsoever) for reasons unknown to the viewers, and
    it was a case of “there isn’t room in this town for both of us”.
    Since Shatner was the “star” of the show, Cole had to go and
    was quietly unceremoniously replaced. Doug was more suited
    for the role anyway and his version of Cash was more along the
    lines of the cowboy character Trampas he played on The Virginian
    for 9 years and allowed him to ride and do other stunts. Dennis
    Cole’s Cash Conover was more of a “dandy” in comparison.
    Besides, Doug was more easy-going and pleasant to work with
    I’m sure. He and William Shatner appeared to get along better
    and no doubt he was a significant improvement over his predecessor.
    A friend told me once he heard that Dennis Cole at the time of the
    pilot was making outrageous demands like a dressing room for
    not only himself but his bodyguard and probably wanted more
    money to continue the role in the series which the producers
    felt differently about so Cole was then forced to seek employment
    elsewhere. Or so the story goes. I wonder what William Shatner
    would have to say about this. provided he even remembers the
    show today that is. I always preferred Doug McClure to Mr.Cole
    and even William Shatner to be honest. Thanks for listening.

  13. Thanks for the interesting info Jim. As you know Shatner had worked with Doug in a few episodes of “The Virginian”. Doug was an easy going guy suited to play off Shatner’s more demanding personality.

  14. Oh, and by the way, in several episodes of Barbary Coast the
    series, Doug McClure’s Cash Conover character did make occasional use of the quote “Cash makes no enemies”, which originated in the pilot movie when Dennis Cole played Cash (at least 3 times
    in it as I recall from watching it). I found that amusing together
    with the “Cash Conover’s Golden Gate Casino” cameo appearance
    in the subsequent 1995 TV series Legend (episode “Clueless In
    San Francisco” specifically) some 20 years after Barbary Coast
    left the air. It was an unintended homage to the earlier series,
    as both it and Legend were each filmed by Paramount Pictures.
    I just thought I would add those comments.

    I finished watching the DVD set of Barbary Coast tonight.
    As Mr.Shatner’s Captain Kirk said in the movie Star Trek
    Generations (1994), “it was fun”.

  15. Even at 25 bucks, the DVD is too expensive for a show that had just a few episodes before it was cancelled.

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