An Alternate Ending to The Fugitive?

I was very intrigued when I came upon this curious bit of television history. But first, for those of you not familiar with The Fugitive, some background:

The Fugitive premiered on ABC on Tuesday, September 17th, 1963 at 10PM. David Janssen starred as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man convicted of murdering his wife who escaped while being transported to his execution. Relentlessly pursued by Lt. Philip Gerard (played Barry Morse), Kimble just as relentlessly chased after the “one-armed man” (played by Bill Raisch) who he saw fleeing from his home the night his wife was killed. The series ran for four seasons before coming to an end. The Fugitive was created by Roy Huggins and executive produced by Quinn Martin.

On Tuesday, April 11th, 1967, the fourth season of The Fugitive came to an end with Kimble still on the run. Repeats began airing the following week. Viewers who had watched 118 episodes of the series were frustrated by the lack of closure. The Chicago Tribune tried to get to the bottom of things, contacted ABC, and printed this quote on April 19th:

“There WILL be an ending. The whole thing probably will be settled sometime between now and September, when the show goes off the air. One or two more episodes will be shot to resolve the unanswered: Was Kimble the criminal or the one-armed man?” [1]

On July 10th, 1967, an article by Hal Humphrey of The Los Angeles Times revealed that a two-part series finale to The Fugitive would air on August 22nd and August 29th. Star David Janssen refused to discuss how the series would end:

“A great many people worked hard to do these two final episodes, so I’d be a real louse to ad-lib it for you now in five minutes.” [2]

Executive producer Quinn Martin also kept silent on the ending in an article for The Chicago Tribune on July 30th:

“To discuss the conclusion now would only spoil it for the audience. Suffice it to say the concluding two episodes are the culmination of the entire series–and I feel sure no one will be disappointed.” [3]

Viewers tuned in to the final episode of The Fugitive (“The Judgment, Part 2”) on Tuesday, August 29th, 1967. Its 45.9/72 Nielsen rating was the highest ever recorded for an episode of a regular television series. It would be more than ten years before the famous “Who Done It” episode of Dallas topped The Fugitive with a 53.3/76 rating when it aired on November 21st, 1980 [4]. (The final episode of The Fugitive, however, performed better in New York City, with a 50.7/73 overnight rating compared to the 45.9/65 rating for “Who Done It” [5, 6].)

But all those viewers couldn’t quite agree on how The Fugitive ended. The October 16th, 1967 edition of The Chicago Tribune‘s entertainment Mailbag feature included the following question and answer:

WAUKESHA, Wis.–My sister just told me that out west there was a different ending for The Fugitive. She says it turned out that Gerard killed Helen Kimble. Was there such an ending?–A.W.

O no, not again. For weeks, we’ve been getting reports from people that claim their “Aunt Tessie in Winnipeg” or “Cousin Cecil [i]n Apache Pass, Ariz.” saw The Fugitive with a different ending. The answer, once again, is NO there was only one ending to The Fugitive–the ending you saw. And incidentally, you might be interested to know that out in California there were rumors that when the last episode of The Fugitive was shown “back around Illinois and Indiana,” there was a different ending, with Gerard as the guilty one. What a life.” [7]

Do you remember hearing about an alternate ending to The Fugitive back in 1967? Hit the comments with any rumors you might have heard.

Sources:

1 Wolfe, Sheila. “Alas, Fugitive Now Runs Backwards.” Chicago Tribune. 19 Apr. 1967: C8.
2 Humphrey, Hal. “‘Fugitive’ Pauses for a Rest Stop.” Los Angeles Times. 10 Jul. 1967: C18.
3 “The Fugitive Finally Stops Running.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Jul. 1967: F14.
4 Schwartz, Tony. “TV Notebook: Show On Who Shot J.R. Sets a Viewing Record.” New York Times. 26 Nov. 1980: C18.
5 “Fugitive Gets Huge Rating In Last Show.” Chicago Tribune. 31 Aug. 1967: C19.
6 Montgomery, Paul L. “‘Dallas’ Broke Rating Record, Network Says.” New York Times. 23 Nov. 1980: 24.
7 “Mailbag.” Chicago Tribune. 16 Oct. 1967: C19.


17 Comments

  • Boomer says:

    Regarding the story of “The Fugitive” having an alternate ending, I recall reading a story in TV Guide in 1967 in which indicated certain cities did see a different outcome in the final episode than what was seen by most. That different outcome being that Lt. Gerard being exposed as the murderer. However, I also recall the story mentioned this “final” episode was seen before the official final episode air dates and also believe TV Guide could not confirm the story. My guess is that they, along with other news media, were trying to discover how the series would end and may have been fed disinformation by either the studio, the network or the network affiliate. Anything to keep them guessing.

  • I heard that O.J. Simpson killed her!

  • Dreepwill says:

    The only “different ending” was the date of the final episode. In the U.S. narrator William Conrad intones, “August 29rh, the day the running stopped!” But in Canada and on existing home video Conrad says, “September 5th…” as it was shown a week later north of the border.

    • joel holmes says:

      N.B.: Some markets, in the U.S., pre-empted the Aug. 29, 1967 ending, because of pre-existing contracts to air baseball. Hence, the ending had to be shown one week later. Did anyone still watch?

  • Dave T says:

    I vividly remember a different, and more satisfying, finale. I was in upstate New York, if that matters. I also recall that there was a two -part finale filmed, but the alternate version was assembled at the last minute and aired instead. In this version, Kimball fid catch up with Fred Johnson at the amusement park tower, but learned from him before Johnson was killed that he was not the murderer, He was a witness, and it was actually Lloyd Chandler (J.D.Cannon) who was having an affair with Kimble’s wife. Johnson broke into the house to rob it and found Chandler over Helen Kimball’s body. With Johnson dead, though, Kimball had to convince a reluctant Gerard to give him a little more time to find the proof to back up Johnson’s story.

    It was a long time ago, but that beautiful twist stuck with me. Surely someone else must have seen this version and will remember it too!

  • John M. Baran says:

    I was in Florida when this episode ran, but the ABC affiliate in Tampa ran a movie instead of the show…what a bummer!!!….but in 1986 at a Blockbuster I found a two-tape VHS release of the episode and the narration on it said “Tuesday, August 29th…the day the running stopped”.

    • Joe P. says:

      Are you serious? An ABC affiliate not airing what promised to be a ratings blockbuster in favor of local programming? They must have been swamped with complaints!

  • Mary M Jones says:

    I am a longtime Fugitive viewer from the very first episode. I loved David Janssen who was the perfect actor to play Dr. Richard Kimble. Lt. Gerard was great also in his role as he relentlessly chased Dr. Kimble. I have never heard about the alternate ending/s. But it is very interesting that there might have been different endings to this show.
    What I really liked about the Dr. Kimble’s character was that he would sometimes put himself in peril of being caught by the police in order to help someone else either medically or in some other way.
    The writers of this series were outstanding also. How they kept the viewers watching each week for four years until the one armed man was finally apprehended. This show has to be one of the best TV shows ever made and thanks to Quinn Martin Productions for making it.

  • ROY M REIDY says:

    ARE YOU GOING TO BE SHOWING ANY MORE EPISODES OF THE FUGITIVE SOON ? THEY ARE GREAT EPISODES & I MISS THEM

  • BOBBYNEAR says:

    Interested in The Fugitive?
    Join my Yahoo discussion group
    The-Fugitive-Views-And-Reviews

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/THE-FUGITIVE-VIEWS-AND-REVIEWS/info?showJoinPopup=true

    We are now in our 11th year with
    hundreds of member and are still
    actively discussing this classic series
    and its star David Janssen

    I will be happy to approve any and
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    bobbynear
    owner/moderator

  • scott says:

    i missed the last eposode of the fugitive ,is there a way i can veiw it ?

  • Annette Johnson says:

    Please bring back the Fugitive. Please.

  • Spengler says:

    In the fall of 1966, I had a conversation with a fellow who claimed to have TV industry contacts. He swore up and down that the Fugitive finale had been filmed and was in the vaults at the studio. He said that Lt. Gerard was implicated in the murder and had been pursuing Kimble to cover up his own guilt.

    When the final two episodes aired, I was a bit surprised. Shocked, actually. But, then I reasoned that the producers thought the original finale was two anti-cop and that there would be an upswell of indignation over showing a police officer in a bad light. Well, maybe or maybe not. If the celluloid reels of the alternate finale are still moldering in a vault somewhere, I wouldn’t count on them ever surfacing.

  • Arnold says:

    My father, who frequently traveled to Germany told me that The Fugitive ended in Germany with Richard Kimble being killed after being hit by a car. This was followed by huge protests by followers of the series. The Germans finally got to see the finale that the rest of us are familiar with.
    Has anyone else heard this?

  • JONATHAN says:

    I LOVE WATCHING THIS SHOW. WHEN KIMBLE FINDS HIS WIFE’S KILLER, HE GETS SHOT DEAD BY GERARD.

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