Death Valley Days is an American radio and television anthology
series featuring true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. Created in 1930 by Ruth
Woodman, the program was broadcast on radio until 1945. It continued from 1952 to 1975 as a syndicated television
series. The series was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company (20 Mule Team Borax, Boraxo).
The 558 television episodes were introduced by a host. The
longest-running was "The Old Ranger" from 1952 to 1965, played by Stanley Andrews when the series was produced by
McGowan Productions, producer of the Sky King television series. Filmaster Productions Inc., who produced the first
several seasons of Gunsmoke for
CBS Television, took over production of the series in the mid-1960s.
Following the departure of Andrews, Ronald Reagan became the host.
When Reagan entered politics, the role went to Robert Taylor. Taylor became gravely ill in 1969 and was
replaced by Dale Robertson. Production of new episodes ceased in 1970. Merle Haggard provided narration for
some previously made episodes in 1975. Reagan and Taylor also frequently appeared in the program as actors.
While original episodes were still being made, older episodes were in syndication under a different series
title with other hosts; the series could still be in competition with itself in syndication, and this also
made it easier for viewers to distinguish the new episodes from the older ones. The hosting segment at the
beginning and the end was easily reshot with another performer having no effect on the story. Alternate hosts
and titles included Frontier Adventure (Dale Robertson), The Pioneers (Will Rogers, Jr.), Trails West (Ray
Milland), Western Star Theatre (Rory Calhoun) and Call of the West (John Payne). The last title was also often
applied to the series' memorable, haunting theme music.
The stories used in the series were based on actual events. For
example, the episode titled "Death Valley Scotty" was based on the record-breaking run of the 1905 Scott Special,
chartered by Walter E. Scott, a.k.a. "Death Valley Scotty".