It’s not uncommon for television shows to change and evolve after a few seasons. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes they are drastic. Adding new cast members is one way that producers try to bring something new to a show in hopes that more viewers tune in.
That’s exactly what happened on The Rifleman — twice, actually. Milly Scott, who bought the general store from Hattie Denton in season three, seemed positioned to be a love interest for widower Lucas McCain. The two certainly got along well enough. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Milly left the show after season four with a quick mention of her needing to go back east as explanation.
But Milly’s departure did not mean Lucas would be alone, far from it! A new entrepreneurial woman named Lou Mallory was about to take over North Fork. But first, the producers had to find the right person to play her, and since onscreen chemistry between male and female leads is so important, Chuck Connors played a large role in deciding who to cast.
Connors detailed the process in a 1962 press release. He took over the column regularly written by entertainment reporter Vernon Scott, who happend to be on vacation. Of course, it may have just been a ploy to promote the upcoming season of The Rifleman but regardless, it reveals an interesting peak behind the scenes.
The whole story is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Connors writes, “A few months ago, I was handed what I thought was a dream assignment. At least it started out on a dreamlike note but almost snowballed into becoming a nightmare.”
He details how interviewing dozens of beautiful women seemed like the perfect job. But it wasn’t all fun and games.
“I should have known the old Connors applecart was in for an upset,” as he puts it. Past injuries playing professional sports were “child’s play compared to the hazardous task of finding a beautiful and talented actress who was right for our show.”
Eventually, “some 60 girls later” they found their woman — a redheaded Texan named Patricia Blair. The chemistry between Blair and Connors is hard to deny, as evidenced the very first time their characters meet in the episode “Lou Mallory.”
Lou chastises Lucas for tying his horse up in front of one of the many establishments in North Fork she has recently bought. After getting some more information from Marshal Micah Torrance, Lucas goes to meet Lou formally but accidentally bumps into her. Naturally, she falls perfectly into his arms and we get a hint of where their relationship might be headed.