Johnny Crawford *is* Broncho Billy. (Review & Analysis)
Review & analysis -
Beyond that, at the time that The Rifleman was airing on CBS, there were over forty Westerns on television. Forty! By 1970, they had all but disappeared from TV and the public’s consciousness, except for a few, like Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Johnny never turned his back on the Western genre and appeared in them literally throughout his 50 year acting career, even as late as the 90′s, which is when he retired from acting and decided to focus on his music career. But although Johnny never eschewed the Western, the culture at large did. By 1970, the traditional Westerns had become passe to the American public, and only ironic Westerns were popular, for the most part.
Johnny is Broncho Billy. He still loved Westerns. He was still in awe of the genre and that period of American history. He still idolized the American cowboy. But this isolated him from the culture at large who had, for the most part, moved on from the Westerns. Johnny wanted to be a cowboy more than anything else in the world and, not only did he play one on TV, but he was a cowboy. But he was now living in an America that was almost embarrassed by its’ past fascination with the genre. So, in that respect, he and Broncho are exactly the same: throwbacks of the Western ideals long receded from the current day culture. That is what makes the film so compelling.