Prophesying the coming of Trump, “the high priest of fraud,” in 1958

Over the past few days, a reader of this site – a fellow calling himself iRobert – has shared the same link in the comments section several times. It’s a link to an episode of a television program from 1958 starring Robert Culp called Trackdown. Saying that the episode in question, titled “The End of the World,” was incredibly prescient, iRobert kept urging us to watch it, promising us that, if we did, we’d see a balding con man named Trump attempt to swindle a bunch of gullible, terrified people by convincing them that, if they didn’t pay him for an imaginary, magical “wall,” they’d all die horrible deaths. Well, last night, I gave in and watched it, and, while it doesn’t really hold up artistically, it was pretty incredible… Here are a few of the highlights.

From the crowd, Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, played by Robert Culp, interrupts the con man’s spiel about the coming end of the world. “You’re a liar, Trump,” he says. Later in the episode, he gets to say the words we’d all love to hear uttered right now… “You’re under arrest, Trump.”

Here’s a bit of the transcript from when the balding con man rolls into the dusty, little town of Talpa, Texas.

Narrator: The people were ready to believe. Like sheep they ran to the slaughterhouse. And waiting for them was the high priest of fraud.

Trump: I am the only one. Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.

Townperson: What do we do? How can we save ourselves?

Trump: You ask how do you build that wall. You ask, and I’m here to tell you.

Culp, the honest law man, who just happened to be passing through the town, tried to work within the system. He went to the Sheriff of the down, and asked him to stop Trump before serious damage was done. The Sheriff, like the Republicans in Congress today, chose not to act. And, later in the episode, we’d discover that he was actually in on the con.

I could go on, but you should probably just watch it… I should warn you, it’s not great. It actually kind of sucks, as far as television shows go. But it’s worth the investment of 20 minutes just to see “Trump” selling magical parasols to scared townspeople.

I should add, the last time iRobert tried to draw our attention to this episode of Trackdown, another reader of this site, someone by the name of Max, responded by suggesting that it may not have been a coincidence that the name “Trump” was used for the con man, given that Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was a “a well known crook slum lord in the 1940s and ’50s.” As Max pointed out, around the same time this episode came out, Woody Guthrie, who lived in an apartment owned by Fred Trump, even wrote a song about him, calling him a racist, among other things.

[OK, if you want to see Culp in something better, now that you’ve watched this episode of Trackdown, I’d like to make a suggestion. The first episode of Columbo that he did, back in ’71, is one of my favorites. The episode is called “Death Lends a Hand,” and you can watch it on Youtube in its entirety.]

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11 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted January 13, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Trump should start selling magical MAGA parasols.

  2. iRobert
    Posted January 13, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting on this, Mark. I just get such a kick out of the fact that we are now all living in a plot from a goofy 50s television series. I’m tickled to see such glaring evidence that we now live in an idiocracy.

    In addition, thank you for the suggestion of the Columbo episode. It is one of my favorites also. It really showcases that filming style which was being used by the best directors and producers in the late 60s and early 70s.

  3. iRobert
    Posted January 13, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been feeling bad that more commenters haven’t chimed in on this thread. But then I realized that Mark and Eel are the only liberals here with any sense of humor. So now I don’t feel as bad.

    And of course all the Republicans who comment here are all too busy sucking Trumps dick to take a few seconds to say something funny here.

  4. iRobert
    Posted January 13, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it’s possible we haven’t heard from the Republicans lately because there’s no WiFi reception that far up Trump’s ass.

  5. ElsieGal
    Posted January 13, 2019 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    So sorry that I didn’t watch when you urged us to iRobert! Let me offer my belated thanks to you for sharing it here. [And thanks for the nudge, Mark.] I sped through it earlier today and agree that it doesn’t hold up particularly well as the best of classic TV, but it is a truly fascinating piece to watch through the lens of our current national situation–the similarities are astonishing. Thank again, iRobert and Mark.

  6. iRobert
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you ElsieGal, for stopping in to keep me company here on this thread. I sense that you’re a nurturer. I’m sure you can sense how lonely and desperate I’ve become. I guess I should also take this opportunity to thank Mark for sensing that as well and deciding to throw me a little treat, the way one might throw a piece of bacon to their dog, seeing the poor thing is feeling left out and forgotten.

    I’ve been worrying about everybody, seeing that so many liberals have lost their sense of humor, and so many Republicans are so enslaved by their fear of speaking openly or honestly about the Trump circus, to which they’ve sold their souls.

    Maybe I’ve snapped, but I’ve actually decided to embrace the absurdity. I have my fingers crossed, hoping America’s next national crisis turns out to have striking parallels to a really lame episode of Gilligan’s Island.

  7. Rat
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I liked that some of the townspeople were buying magic amulets to protect their cattle while their neighbors didn’t have the money to buy the parasols.

  8. Dave Morris
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    iRobert –

    Thank you for sharing the link. The use of the term wall in referring to the magnetic field the parasols were to create was strange. The idea of a non physical wall is strange, like invisible fences. Eventually, the shock collar is unnecessary.

    Years ago, I visitied Kauai. While there, I discovered that filmmakers have used the island for a setting…. including Gilligan’s Island. We attempted to visit the Lagoon, but it was closed to the public that day. It was a strange experience to be that close to a place that existed only in my imagination thanks to reruns on channel 50. Afterwards, not far from the lagoon, we bought some fruit smoothies from a small local business. The girl that was serving us kept saying “fucking haoles”. I thought she was just in a bad mood. I discovered later that the “fucking haoles” were us. Fair enough. Not everyone is a fan of the open society that liberal democracy has brought.

    Speaking of which, there is a movie that may still be on Netflix called Moana. Not the 2016 Disney film ( which I really enjoyed ), but the 1926 film ( which is totally mesmerizing. ) It documents life before the Haole.

    I think Trump’s notion of a wall is more like a gated community. Luxuries flow in, trash flows out, and everything is idyllic… except for the other side of the wall. He may be too old for a Siddartha moment , but one can hope.

  9. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I am looking forward to watching the little movie iRobert suggested, Moana, and re-watching some old episodes of Gilligan’s Island.

    It is awesome how you tied-in your interesting story, Dave!

  10. iRobert
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Mark is right – It’s not a great piece of television production. But it is only 23 minutes long, and comical in light of the absurdity to which America has sunken. The best part of it for me is that the joke is on us.

  11. EOS
    Posted January 14, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Years ago, I was in a fast food restaurant in Hawaii. I noticed a family of tourists nearby, and the Dad was asking one of his kids to throw the trash into a nearby “mahalo”. I guess the Dad mistook the “Thank you” printed on the trashcan to be the name for the trashcan.

    It’s hard living on a small island where most meat, vegetables and dairy products need to be flown in. Nearly everything they buy is at the jacked-up tourist prices. The haoles make life more difficult for a good proportion of the residents. They live on rice and any fish they can net, with Spam being the occasional luxury. Life is hard and crime rates are high in this tropical paradise. Many are nostalgic for the days before the invasion.

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