WA-List » Seattle Pioneers in Prime Time

Seattle Pioneers in Prime Time

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Arts, Culture & Media

Asa Mercer took on a crazy idea. In 1864, the first president of what became the University of Washington sailed back East and tried to gather a ship full of women and return them to Seattle where a disproportion of single men eagerly awaited potential brides. He convinced only 11 women to make the trip.

No matter. Producers in TV Land liked the story and built a television series around it. On Sept 25, 1968, with an opening featuring a stereopticon and an instrumental version of “Seattle (The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen),” ABC introduced America to a fanciful version of Seattle’s pioneer logging days. “Here Come the Brides” ran for 2 seasons.

The show centered on the fictional Bolt Brothers (the three men in the image, right).  They owned a logging operation and a forested mountain within jogging distance of Seattle. They were in constant conflict with Aaron Stempel, wealth personified, who owned the mill and a fair share of the town. When the Bolts weren’t trying to keep Bridal Veil Mountain from the entrepreneurial hands of Stempel (or those of any traveling huckster), they were struggling to keep the 100 brides happy in their new frontier home. None of this was based on fact. Hollywood seldom requires that.

For today’s WA-List, we present the characters and actors who appeared in at least half of the show’s 52 episodes, and include a few miscellaneous facts about them — including more than a few surprising connections with Star Trek.

REGULAR CAST MEMBERS OF HERE COME THE BRIDES

The Bolt Brothers

  • Jason Bolt (Robert Brown). We think the oldest brother of the Bolt clan is a separated-at-birth-candidate with Grant Goodeve, the Eight is Enough actor and current host of Northwest Backroads. Jason was the biggest man in TV’s version of Seattle and kept things productive and orderly — even if he did get hot-tempered from time to time. Actor Brown appeared as Lazarus in Star Trek (“The Alternative Factor” episode), and appeared as different characters in three different episodes of Perry Mason.
  • Joshua Bolt (David Soul). A few years after HCTB, Soul got a part on a little hit show called Starsky and Hutch. Soul was Hutch. He also dabbled in a music career and landed a record on the pop charts. Star Trek experience? Yes. He played Makora in “The Apple” episode.
  • Jeremy Bolt (Bobby Sherman). The actor who played the youngest Bolt brother became a teen idol in the pop music world for a few minutes (or a little longer). He even recorded a version of the series’ theme song. It never appeared on the series, but he did sing at least once on the show. Jeremy’s character was in love with Candy, the leader of the brides. Of the four actors appearing in all 52 epsiodes of HCTB, Bobby Sherman is the only one who never appeared in Star Trek.

The Money

  • Aaron Stempel (Mark Lenard). The owner of Seattle’s lumber mill put up most of the money to bring the brides to Seattle but his bet with the Bolt brothers would win him ownership of their mountain if even one bride left town before a year was over. You might also recognize the actor who played Stempel from Star Trek. Mark Lenard portrayed Sarek, Spock’s father, in two different Star Trek series and four Star Trek movies.
    • The Sempel-Sarek connection was so great that a 1985 sci-fi novel by Barbara Hambly led Spock to 19th century Here Come the Brides Seattle to thwart a Klingon plot to destroy the Federation. Ailing in Seattle, Spock was cared for by Sempel, who Capt. Kirk later discovered was Spock’s maternal ancestor. How’s that for a tangled weave of actors’ resumes, television characters, and historical and science fiction storylines? It’s a shame Murray Morgan never included a chapter on Spock in his classic Skid Road history of Seattle!

The Women

  • Candy Pruitt (Bridget Hanley). Candy was Jeremy’s sweetheart and the spokesperson for the brides on the show. Hanley was the only cast member to have been born in Seattle, albeit about 100 years after the her character would have been born in New England. The actor never appeared on Star Trek, but we did confuse her name with the author of the aforementioned Star Trek-Here Come the Brides novel as we prepared this list.
  • Lottie Hatfield (Joan Blondell). Lottie’s bar was the main interior set on the show. In various episodes, Lottie’s was the social center of town, as well as the courthouse, gaming room, and go-to place for business negotiations and brawls. Joan Blondell was a veteran actress starting in 1930, but may be best known to younger audiences as the principal of Rydell High in the movie Grease. Believe it or not, she even made a guest appearance on co-star David Soul’s Starsky and Hutch in 1976. Her character name? Mrs. Pruitt. Hmm. That was Candy’s last name, not Lottie’s!

Other Cast

  • Biddie Cloom (Susan Tolsky). Biddie was Candy’s inexhaustibly talkative best friend.
  • Capt. Roland Clancey (Henry Beckman). Clancey was a sea captain who appeared to be the only sailor willing to land in Seattle. The episodes featured very few other captains or ships. Clancey’s fondness for alcohol led him to Lottie’s and his fondness for Lottie increasingly made him a regular character in the show’s second season. Actor Beckman lived in Deming, Washington for a few years after HCTB concluded.
  • Ben (Hoke Howell). Owner of Seattle’s general store.

NOTES:

  • Asa Mercer brought 11 “Mercer Girls” to Seattle in 1864, far fewer than he had planned. Three years later he made a second trip back east hoping to enlist 700 single women, but convinced only about 40 more.
  • The TV series’ theme was an instrumental version of Hugh Montenegro’s “Seattle” during its first season. A choral arrangement of the song was added for season 2.  I’ve heard several people argue that Perry Como sang the theme for the show.  Nope.  He recorded a popular version but it wasn’t for the show.
  • Blondell died in 1979, Lenard in 1996, Howell in 1997, and Beckman in 2008. The other five actors (who played the Bolt brothers, Candy, and Biddie) are still living.
  • We frequently mentioned Star Trek in this list, but that was not the only common parallel TV series. Three of the actors here appeared in Love, American Style and three were passengers aboard the Love Boat. Unfortunately, Clancey was not among the latter. He could have skippered the ship.

SOURCES: Actor names and resume information was derived from the Internet Movie Database. We also learned much about the characters and fictional history of Seattle by watching all 52 episodes of the Here Come the Brides series. The true story of the Mercer Girls has been told many times, including a chapter in Totem Tales of Old Seattle by Gordon Newell and Don Sherwood. Murray Morgan (Skid Road) and William C. Speidel (Sons of the Profits) briefly wrote about the matter in their books. We discovered the Ishmael book accidentally while doing this research. It came up in a search of library catalogs.

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