Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Lone Ranger: “Annie Oakley” 5/8/44

Throughout 1944, The Lone Ranger did an intermittent series of episodes guest-starring real-life historical characters. The Ranger and Tonto encountered villains such as John Wesley Hardin and good guys such as Bat Masterson.

It was a fun idea, allowing the show’s protagonists to interact with some of the Old West’s most interesting personalities. Some of these guest-stars were a bit surprising. A pair of episodes featuring Teddy Roosevelt have been discussed in a previous post. A young Kit Carson teamed up with the Ranger in another episode—violating the show’s historical continuity since it kicked the Ranger and Tonto back in time three or four decades from their normal place in the post-Civil War West. But what the hey, it was still a fun story.

Annie Oakley crossed paths with the Ranger when Tonto sees her in a shooting competition with Frank Butler (another famous sharpshooter of the time, as well as Annie’s future husband.) On the strength of Tonto’s account, the Ranger writes to Buffalo Bill Cody, recommending Annie as a member of the Wild West Show Cody was organizing.

A couple of roustabouts working with the show complicate matters when they formulate a plan to steal the box office receipts. Fortunately, the Ranger and Tonto learn of their plans, acting quickly to foil a plot to use Annie as an unwitting weapon to kill Cody.

Actually, the ending to this one is a little disappointing—I was hoping Annie would get a chance to take a more active role in the capture of the bad guys than she did. But it was fun all the same having her around for awhile. Boy, that lady knows how to handle a shootin’ iron.

And that’s the notable thing about this episode. Her shooting contest with Butler and her shooting tricks during the Wild West Show are, of course, merely sound effects combined with enough dialogue to let us know what’s going on. But such are the high production values of The Lone Ranger that it is very, very easy to immerse oneself into the whole thing and think of it as real. When Annie shoots the three hearts out of a playing card while Cody is holding it just an inch away from his face, it manages to sound just as cool and awesome as if it were actually happening. It’s still another example of how good old-time radio is at engaging the imaginations of its fans.

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