Yancy Derringer is an American Western series that was broadcast from 1958 to 1959, with Jock Mahoney (1919–1989) in the title role. The show was produced by Derringer Productions and filmed in Hollywood by Desilu Productions. Derringer Productions consisted of half interest for Warren Lewis and Don Sharpe as executive producers, a quarter interest to Jock Mahoney for starring in the series, and a quarter interest to Richard Sale and Mary Loos, husband and wife, as creators.
The Sales based the series on a 1938 short story written by Richard Sale. In the 1930s, Sale was one of the highest-paid pulp writers. The story was never mentioned, but it was about a destitute aristocrat and troublemaker who returns to New Orleans three years after the Civil War. In the story, Derringer has no first name; "Yancy" was added for the television series.
The titular character, Yancy Derringer, is a gentleman adventurer and gambler. He is a former Confederate Army captain who has returned to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, in the southern Reconstruction Era. The state is under Union control and martial law. The atmosphere is similar to Germany after World War II with a strong military presence and oversight. Life goes on in New Orleans despite the fact that the city's atmosphere is forbidding, filled with trepidation and mourning. The Derringer family itself had paid a heavy price in both lives and property during the Civil War. Yancy's brother David and his father Yancy, Sr., had died in the conflict.
Widely respected by all parts of New Orleans society as a southerner who never surrendered, Derringer is recruited by the Federal City Administrator, John Colton, to work as a secret agent at no pay; and only Colton knows of his special role. Often at the beginning of an episode, Colton, a former Union Army colonel, asks Yancy to help solve New Orleans' present threat; and often, usually at the end of an episode, he arrests Yancy for breaking the law to do it. Yancy agrees to be Colton's "huckleberry," because Yancy feels the United States should be one nation again. Huckleberry was just one of many unique southern slang terms creator Richard Sale brought into use during the show. One slang definition of Huckleberry is man, guy, or fellow, as in "I'm your huckleberry."
Yancy owns a riverboat, the Sultana. (The actual riverboat of the same name sank from a fire/explosion on April 27, 1865, with a great loss of life, including returning Union soldiers.) His weapons of choice are four-barrel Sharps pepperbox derringer handguns carried concealed (one held by a clamp inside the top of his hat, one in his vest's left pocket under his jacket and one up his jacket's left sleeve in a wrist holster) and a knife in his belt. (A belt buckle inset with a toy single-barrel derringer, sold by Mattel at the time and popularly associated with Yancy, did not resemble anything that the character actually used.) He is an expert marksman. He also carries a cane or a riding crop with hidden swords and is said to have iron fists: one punch and his opponent remains unconscious for a day. Yancy dresses elegantly, most often in a white suit with a long coat, ruffled white shirt, a silk vest, a sash instead of a belt, a black under-the-collar bow tie, and a white flat-topped straw hat with curled brim.
Yancy's recurring love interest is Madame Francine (played by Frances Bergen, mother of Candice Bergen), the strong-willed, beautiful owner of a members-only gambling house in New Orleans. Her real name is Nora and she is actually Irish. Bridget Malone (played by Margaret Field, mother of Sally Field) is an Irish lass recently arrived from Ireland, originally endangered by the ship's crew but rescued by Derringer. Miss Mandarin, Mei Ling, a former love interest and close friend of Yancy, is the proprietor of his favorite place to dine, the Sazerac Restaurant. Yancy also sometimes dines, usually al fresco, at the Charter House Restaurant, whose specialty is French cuisine, and gambles at the Blackjack Club. Most of Yancy's out-of-town associates stay at the King Louis Hotel.
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