Ken McLaughlin, the main character of My Friend Flicka, was played by child actor Johnny Washbrook in the television series. If you grew up in the 1950’s or 1960’s, you probably watched many of the exciting adventures of Ken and Flicka right in your own living room. My Friend Flicka was 20th Century-Fox’s very first venture into television production, so it launched what was to become a very long and profitable enterprise for this major studio. Twentieth Century-Fox television Productions, Inc. (T.C.F.) began filming the series in the summer of 1955. All of the series’ episodes were filmed during 1955 and 1956. The interior scenes were all filmed, according to Johnny Washbrook himself, at the Fox Western lot—the 20th Century-Fox studio at Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. “That lot had been inactive for many years until we started filming there” he says. “The exterior shots were filmed at the Fox Ranch in Malibu Canyon and a few times at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley. Occasionally, stock footage from the original My Friend Flicka movie was inter-cut to add some splendor and panoramic scenic shots from their location shooting.”
The pilot and first episode of the television series was titled “The Phantom Herd,” and it debuted the evening of February 10th, 1956 on CBS-TV. The episodes were filmed in color, but CBS originally broadcast them all in black and white. This was due to both the lack of color technology and the lack of color television sets in the United States at that time. The following season, it was picked up by NBC, and they began showing it in “living color.” Which brings us to mention the series’ place as a major milestone in television history, for My Friend Flicka was the very first regularly-scheduled color television show!
Production expenses for the series seemed to consistently run over budget, which may have been one of the reasons that it did not run longer. The sets and costumes were a bit more lavish than most series of that time, and the number and quality of actors were definitely far above average. ‘Well-known name’ actors like Hugh Beaumont, Claude Akins, Sheb Wooley, Minerva Urecal, Mike Mazurki, Denver Pyle, and even screen legends John Carradine and Jane Darwell, appeared in episodes in the series. Later during his acting career, Johnny Washbrook worked with the son of one of the producers on the Flicka series, who told him that his father was always coming home from budget meetings ‘tearing his hair out’ because they were always so much over budget.
This photo of Johnny and Flicka appeared on the cover of a 1950’s
issue of Fox’s in-house employee magazine, Action
If you get the chance, and haven’t already, check out Mary O’Hara’s famous novel, My Friend Flicka. This timeless classic, published in 1941, was the basis for the TV series—just as it had been for the earlier 1943 movie starring Roddy McDowall as Ken. She wrote a sequel to the original story as well.
We hope that you enjoy your visit to the Goose Bar Ranch. It may bring back some happy memories, or it may introduce you to brand new friends. It was our intent to document this landmark series for future generations, and to show it in its context as a true milestone in television history. This site is dedicated to the memory of that marvelously talented horse Flicka, and to all of her creative human friends at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. Together, they introduced Mary O’Hara’s wonderful characters to millions of children and adults around this wonderful world through the “magic of television.”
In your trip around the Goose Bar Ranch, you’ll meet all the professionals who each had a hand in beaming My Friend Flicka into countless living rooms. You’ll read about the cast members and others involved in the production, and all of the different episodes. You’ll also learn about the stunt doubles, meet the marvelously talented animals, their owner and their trainer…and much more!
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