Robert Horton, a handsome, strapping actor who donned cowboy hats and boots on stage, television and film, died March 9 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Mr. Horton’s career focus was told in the titles on his resume. His films including Apache War Smoke, Pony Soldier, The Return of the Texan, and he made television appearances in The Lone Ranger and The Sheriff of Cochise.
He was best known for playing frontier scout Flint McCollough throughout five seasons of the series Wagon Train, which starred Ward Bond in its initial seasons. Mr. Horton left the show in 1962; it continued to air through 1965. During the 1965-66 season, he was the star of A Man Called Shenandoah. In the unusual series, he played a man who, shot and left for dead, revives with no memory of his previous life. He calls himself Shenandoah and then wanders the country in search of traces of his true identity.
In between those two series, Mr. Horton made his greatest impact on the theatre. He quit Wagon Train to take producer David Merrick’s offer of the lead role in 110 in the Shade, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones musical adaptation of N. Richard Nash’s western drama The Rainmaker. He played Starbuck, the charismatic would-be rainmaker at the center of the tale. The show received middling marks, but Mr. Horton impressed critics with his strong singing voice. The show ran for nearly a year on Broadway.
A 1962 article in the New York Times reported that he would star in a new Richard Rodgers-Alan Jay Lerner musical called I Picked a Daisy (which eventually became the Burton Lane-Lerner musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), but the teaming was not to be. In summer stock, Mr. Horton appeared in such shows at Guys and Dolls and Brigadoon.
Mr. Horton, who was born July 29, 1924, in Los Angeles, tried hard not to be typecast. He displayed his range on several episodes of the suspense anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and in a number of wartime movies and television shows. He also starred at Benedick in a 1958 television staging of Much Ado About Nothing.
Still, it was for his contributions to Westerns that he was most recognized. He receive such specific honors as the Golden Boot, given to actors who made significant contributions to the, and the Cowboy Spirit Award at the National Festival of the West.
There was a bit of old Western toughness in his outlook as well. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence,” he said. “Persistence and determination are omnipotent.”