Set in the western United States during the late
1800's, The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams was the story of a man
accused of a crime he had not committed, who sought refuge in the wilderness and
discovered that life there suited him better than life in the city. With the
help of a friend named Mad Jack and an Indian blood brother, Nakuma, Grizzly
built a sturdy cabin and determined to live in harmony with nature. A grizzly
bear cub that he had rescued from a ledge became his roommate. The bear was
christened Ben, and though he grew to be an imposing animal weighing several
hundred pounds, he remained as friendly as a child. With Ben as his constant
companion, the bearded Grizzly Adams found wilderness adventure in dealing with
nature, the elements, and strangers passing through. A frequent visitor was
young Robbie Cartman, the son of a farmer living in the area, who loved to
listen to Grizzly’s tales.
Dan Haggerty, who starred in the series, played
the same role in the movie, "The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams," and a
similar role in another film, "The Adventures Of Frontier Freemont."
Haggerty was originally an animal trainer rather than an actor, and was chosen
for the film roles partly because of his remarkable rapport with bears. Denver
Pyle appeared as his co-star in both films.
There was a real Grizzly Adams, upon whom this
series was loosely based. He was born in Massachusetts in 1812 and spent many
years in the Sierra Nevada’s after having gone bankrupt through a series of
unfortunate business deals. The real Grizzly was a bit less altruistic than his
TV counterpart. Having deserted his wife and children, he spent much of his time
hunting and killing animals and capturing others for zoos (a few larger beasts
almost killed him on one occasion or another). The real Ben died in a zoo
that Adams himself opened in San Francisco in the 1850's. But Adams also loved
animals and cared for many of them throughout his wilderness days. He died while
on tour with P.T. Barnum in 1860.