Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Best Team-up Ever

In 1944, the Lone Ranger radio show did a total of 16 episodes (scattered throughout their schedule during the first half of that year) in which the Ranger teamed up with or fought against various real-life figures. Most of them were personalities linked with the Old West, such as Buffalo Bill or John Wesley Hardin, but their was one particular team-up that was both really cool and really unusual. That was when the Lone Ranger ended up fighting aside future president Teddy Roosevelt.

The two episodes featuring T.R. were broadcast in May of 1944. The first of these involved T.R. coming out west in 1881 to run a ranch he owns. Rustlers are planning on running off with the stock and part of their plan involves giving this "Eastern dude" such a scare when he gets off the train that he'll immediately run home.

Roosevelt doesn't scare easy, though. Eventually, with the help of the Ranger and Tonto, he manages to round up the bad guys.

Aside from being a well-told story (which was typical of the best of old-time radio), I think the episode does a reasonably good job of portraying Roosevelt as he really was. Besides, the idea of he and the Lone Ranger working together is just plain cool.

The second episode was even better. A few years later, Butch Cassidy and the Hole-in-the-Wall gang steal some horses from Roosevelt's ranch while escaping after a train robbery. The Ranger is already on their trail. Roosevelt and his house guest--artist Frederick Remington--join him as they track Butch and his gang through a raging blizzard.

The best part of this episode was probably at the climax, when the Ranger comes up with a way to use a Remington painting to trick the crooks into surrendering.

One interesting side note--Harry Longabaugh is identified as a member of Butch's gang, but he's never referred to as the Sundance Kid. I suppose that particular nickname wasn't well-known until the Newman-Redford movie came out years later. And, boy, Butch is this episode is a lot more murderous than Paul Newman ever was.

These episodes remind me of another great Roosevelt team-up: from Don Rosa's classic comic book miniseries "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck," in which we follow a young Scrooge from the time he was a poor shoe-shine boy until he makes his fortune and becomes the world's richest duck.

It turns out that while Scrooge was punching cattle in 1882, he met up with Roosevelt. (The first of several meetings, we later learn.) Scrooge was tracking rustlers and Teddy comes along for the ride.

It's a great story--Rosa emulates the great Carl Barks in his ability to use wonderful art and characterizations to tell a story that works as both a comedy and an adventure. This one ends with a wild chase through a canyon maze involving Scrooge, the cattle, the bad guys and a buffalo wearing a dinosaur skull.

Teddy Roosevelt was--in my opinion--a great man and a great president. It's not surprising that he'd make a great partner for two of the best fictional characters ever created.

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