CIMARRON CITY “I, the People.” NBC, 11 October 1958. Swaon 1, Episode 1. Cast: George Montgomery (Matt Rockford), Audrey Totter (Beth Purcell), John Smith (Lane Temple). Guest Cast: Fred MacMurray, John Anderson. Director: Writers: Gene L. Coon, Fenton Earnshaw. Director: Jules Bricken.

   The story is interesting enough, but as a first episode of the series, which lasted only one year, it really doesn’t do the job, as far as I was concerned. Of the three major cast members, only George Montgomery’s role is well defined. As Matt Rockford, he’s a successful cattle rancher but even more importantly, he’s also the son of the founder of Cimarron City, a small town north of Oklahoma City, and as such takes a decidedly paternalistic attitude toward it.

   Audrey Totter plays the owner of a boarding house in town, and is given a few lines every so often, but her role has nothing to do with the story. I never did figure out who John Smith was supposed to be. I have since found out that he was a town blacksmith, but if he did any blacksmithing during this episode, I apologize for missing it.

   I saw no reason for Audrey Totter to be in this episode, and apparently also saw no future for her in the part, for (I am told) she quit the series soon thereafter. To give Smith more of a part, in later episodes he becomes a deputy sheriff, while Montgomery is elected town mayor. But that all comes later. In “I, the People,” nobody in charge seems to know exactly what they are doing.

   Which allows Fred MacMurray’s character to come into town and ingratiate himself to the town elders as a substantial citizen, moving his way up first from town banker to being elected mayor. At which point, in the name of law and order, he really begins to tighten his smug self-satisfied grip on the town.

   And eventually Matt Rockford decides he’s had enough and that he’s the only one who can do anything about it. Otherwise it’s Fred MacMurray’s show all the way, at first anxious to please any way he can, but as time goes on, showing more an more of his inner character. Everything in this episode centers around him, not George Montgomery. As for Totter and Smith, they make no impression at all.