Created by Harry Redmond, Jr., James Carl Hall
Starring Larry Pennell, Ken Curtis
In the 50s and early 60s, local station had to look to find programming in the early evening. Network prime time began at 7:30 weekdays, and there was often only a half-hour news broadcast at 6:00. So various producers jumped in to provide programming for the missing hour, half-half hour dramatic shows that were cheap for them to produce. Ripcord was one of these.
Much like Whirlybirds, the show highlighted a new bit of aviation technology – the parachute. Used in the military before that, parachuting became more mainstream, and producer Ivan Tors jumped onto the trend.
The show featured the adventures of Ted McKeever (Larry Pennell) and Jim Buckley (Ken Curtis), who ran a skydiving business. Most of their assignments was to use skydiving as a way to get to places where other forms of transportation could not.
One striking thing about the show today is that it used real stunts: people were actually skydiving.* It had an element of danger. Indeed, one stunt – a transfer from one plane to another, went wrong and the two planes hit each other and crashed to the ground. Luckily everyone was safe, skydiving to the ground, and the footage was used in a couple of later episodes.
By 1963, fewer of this type of show was being produced. Syndicated game shows – which could be made more cheaply – replaced the dramas, and the slots for them started drying up. The show was cancelled after two seasons.
Actor Ken Curtis, however, landed on his feet. Cast as Festus in Gunsmoke, he appeared in over 300 episodes of the show. Larry Pennell was less successful, but continued to work fairly regularly, with recurring parts in The Beverly Hillbillies and Lassie.
*Usually stuntmen, of course.