Amoeblog

Six Shooter -- The Radio Western Starring Jimmy Stewart Debuted 20 September, 1953

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 20, 2013 02:16pm | Post a Comment


On this date (20 September) in 1953, one of my favorite old time radio Westerns debuted on NBC -- Six Shooter. It was created and written by Frank Burt, who'd also written for The WhistlerThe Man Called X, and The Unexpected. It was produced by Jack Johnstone (Buck Rogers, The CBS Radio Workshop, Richard DiamondSomebody KnowsYours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and others). The music director, Basil Adlam, arranged and conducted the theme,Ralph Vaughan Williams’s "The Highland Lament." The announcers were Hal Gibney (and John Wald), who introduced each episode with the words "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both "the Six Shooter."

The only recurring character was Britt Ponset – played with greatness by Jimmy Stewart, who'd been interested in starring in a radio drama for some time before Six Shooter. Other actors that frequently appeared on the series included Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Howard McNear, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Alan Reed, Marvin Miller and William Conrad (though often credited as "Julius Krelboyne" since, at the same time, he was starring on Gunsmoke over at NBC's rival network, CBS).


ADULT WESTERNS

Six Shooter is one of the finest examples of the Adult Western (no, I'm not talking about Bareback Mountain or How the West Was Hung). Unlike their juvenile counterparts in which a quick-draw sheriff in all white nearly always disposes of the villain in all black in a duel, Adult Westerns were more concerned with inner turmoil and moral gray areas, leading some to call them Western Noir.

The subgenre first arose in the 1940s with radio westerns like Hawk Durango (1946) and Hawk Larabee (1946) and films like I Shot Jesse James (1949). In the early 1950s, when TV began to erode the audiences of both film and radio with family-friendly fare, both film and radio responded by offering more examples of Adult Westerns with movies like Winchester '73 (1950) and High Noon (1952) and radio series like Frontier Town (1952) and best of all, Gunsmoke (1952).


JIMMY STEWART

Six Shooter had something in its chamber that most radio programs didn’t – a movie star – in this case, Jimmy Stewart. As Britt Ponset, Stewart portrayed the wandering gunslinger as a reluctant, yet highly efficient, ronin cowboy. As is still mostly the case, even then film, radio, and TV stars rarely dabbled in more than one format (as they were and are competitors). Stewart was primarily a film actor, having built a reputation on films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946), among others.

His first adult western film had been Destry Rides Again (1939). Beginning with 1949’s Winchester '73, Stewart also began a fruitful collaboration on a series of noir-influenced adult western films with director Anthony Mann which continued with Bend of the River (1952) and Naked Spur (1953) before coming to radio.

Six Shooter
wasn’t Stewart's first foray into radio.  He'd previously graced anthology programs like Lux Radio Theater's The Screen Guild Theater as well as Screen Guild Theater, Theater Guild of the Air and others with his widely-imitated, slow, fumbly, South Midland drawl. He also appeared numerous times as a guest on radio variety shows. Six Shooter, however, was his first and only starring radio role. 


THE PRECURSOR AND AUDITION 

On 13 April, 1952, NBC's Hollywood Star Playhouse anthology series aired an episode called "The Six Shooter" that -- like the series to come -- was written by Burt, directed by Johnstone, and starred Jimmy Stewart. A subsidiary of MCA-TV called Revue Productions expressed interest in fleshing out the episode into a series and reunited its participants. 

The following year the group produced an audition script with guest stars William Conrad as Sheriff Ed Scofield, Ben Scofield as the sheriff's son, Parley Baer as Fred Wilmer, and Herb Vigran as 'Heavy' Norton, the town blacksmith. 


SERIES PICKED UP



Less than a month later, Coleman Home Heaters became the series' sponsor. It debuted on 20 September and ran for 39 more episodes. The episodes veered between tense action and light comedy, sometimes in a single program. In most, Ponset found himself drawn into a situation that he often ended up reluctantly shooting his way out of. It seems that the series was popular but Stewart probably found starring on a weekly series and continually making films too time-consuming. Although I haven't seen any reputable sources to confirm it, by most accounts Coleman oddly dropped their sponsorship and Liggett & Meyers stepped in but Stewart was unwilling to star in a show hawking Chesterfields. It seems to me that, since the program was possible, some other sponsor could've been found if Stewart really wanted to continue doing the show. Whatever the reasons, it ended but luckily for modern fans, all episodes of the series remain in circulation today. 


MORE
 SIX SHOOTER

Six Shooter moved to television in 1957, re-titled The Restless Gun, and without the involvement of Stewart or Johnstone but with Burt on board for its two year run as consultant. Instead of Britt Ponset its protagonist was Vint Bonner -- played by John Payne.

Stewart revived the Ponset character for two 1957 episodes of the television anthology series General Electric Theater -- "The Town with a Past" and "The Trail to Christmas" (although in the latter his name was for some reason changed to "Bart"). Two years later, the anthology Startime, based the episode "Cindy's Fella" on Six Shooter's "When the Shoe Doesn't Fit" although in it Stewart played an unnamed character rather than Ponset.


AFTER RADIO

Stewart continued making films (including adult Westerns with Anthony Mann) like The Man from Laramie (1955 -- co-written by Frank Burt), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and many more. In 1989 Stewart published a collection of poetry titled Jimmy Stewart and his Poems that I used to own a copy of although sadly seem to have long ago lost or misplaced. 


*****

Big thanks to the incomparable old time radio researchers at Digital Deli Too. Old Time Radio programs are located in Amoeba's Spoken Word section.

Bell, Book & Candle @ Egyptian! Kim Novak In Person!!

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, July 30, 2010 01:50pm | Post a Comment


Tonight, the Egyptian Theatre is hosting a tribute to Kim Novak and she's going to be there!!! The Cinematheque is screening Bell Book and Candle with Pal Joey. If you enjoy extreme Technicolor, highly stylized sets depicting an idyllic late 50's NYC, Xmas fairy tales, sensual witches, subterranean beatnik clubs, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Elsa Lanchester, the Brothers Candoli and Persian cats, then you really need to come down to the Egyptian Theatre tonight. If not, then you should stay home and watch Family Guy re-runs.



Egyptian Theatre

6712 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA
(between Las Palmas & McCadden)
(323) 466-3456

$11/$7 for members
7:30

(In which we bid a tearful goodbye.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 7, 2010 01:06pm | Post a Comment
Today marks the final shift of one of my most favorite Amoebites of all time, the glamorous and enigmatic “Smithy.”


Dearly departed Smithy (artist's depiction)

Smithy is not her real name, though it is one of her nicknames, and that’s about as close to “the facts” as most of us are likely to get. Smithy shrouds herself in mystery, and even if all her acquaintances pooled their knowledge of her past, it would scarcely be enough information to provide a decent Wikipedia entry, to say nothing of a biography. I keep the snippets of personal detail that I’ve acquired in the past four years of working with her like a jealous secret; a precious baseball card that I never remove from its protective plastic.

I don’t even know what she’s going to be doing after she leaves Amoeba Music Hollywood. For all I know she’s gotten a job lion taming, apprenticing to a witch doctor, or going deep undercover for the CIA in Beijing. All seem possible; all would hold some amount of appeal for her.


See: Craigslist > job opportunties

One thing we, her co-workers, have been privy to is what she’s keen on in music and film. Even someone as secretive as Smithy has dorked out with the best of us music store geeks when the conversation’s turned to our product. This blog entry will be a brief exposé of some of Smithy’s pop culture paramours. In considering them, we may perhaps glean a little insight into this unknown soldier, but even if not, we’ll still get to hear some perfectly ginchy tunes.

First, and perhaps most importantly, we must present the character Maria from West Side Story as portrayed by Natalie Wood. In her, we find not only a woman who rather closely resembles Smithy physically, but emotes in perfect balance, a youthful effervescence, a pining for romance requited, a profound sense of familial duty, an awareness of the potential cruelty of life, a Latin American heritage, and a penchant for being surrounded by hella gay dudes. That Stephen Sondheim, her favorite composer of musical theatre, had a hand in creating the musical is important. That the story takes its cues from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet bespeaks Smithy’s being an Anglophile. It’s really spot-on as a cinematic metaphor for our beloved subject.


The following is a sampling of the music that Smithy would often play while working at Amoeba. I always looked forward to her selections as being an extension of my own…






















…With this one exception. While I value extreme minimalism in classical music in theory, and certainly accept it as a valid form of art, I can happily work retail without having to hear this:


I might get into trouble for revealing this, but I wanna explore Smithy’s celebrity crushes. Personally, the men of cinema that make me swoon are pretty classic and predictable: John Gavin, Rock Hudson, Vince Edwards – these are the guys that’ll be invited to my orgy in the afterlife (along with you, dear reader, whose beauty surpasses all others).


See: Craigslist > m4m

Smithy’s taste in men runs, well… How shall I put this? She and I will never fight over a man – that’s for sure. Skinny, poised, old fashioned, and maybe a hint of doom – these are attributes that seem to make her giddy. I once jokingly told her that the best place for her to find a date would be in a tuberculosis ward in a hospital. She nodded thoughtfully, taking this more as sound advice than the biting funny I intended.

Here’s some eye candy for you, Smithy…




I’ve been sick with a head cold for a week now, and as a result, I have missed (rather cruelly) Smithy’s last week at Amoeba Music Hollywood, in lieu of sneezing, coughing, and watching way too much Chelsea Lately. I never got to awkwardly tell her, amidst the aisles of shoppers, how much I will miss her, how much she lit-up the jazz room where we resided, how happy I am for her that she’s moving on to bigger and better things, and how bloody awful this turn of events is for me. Los Angeles is a mean place to shop for friends, and she was the best value I’d yet found. She's designer label, all the way. Tonight I will toast her with a glass of our cocktail, Campari and soda with a twist.


Te amo, la Rosa Negro! El toro! El toro! El toro está en usted!