Friday, August 15, 2014

The Lone Ranger: The "Lost" 1933 Radio Broadcasts

Brace Beemer as The Lone Ranger
During the 1930s, very few people, if any, saw future commerical value in radio broadcasts beyond their initial airing. Moments after the drama concluded, all of the scripts were deposited into a tray or box and promptly discarded into the nearest paper bin. The script writer, producer, director and cast then began preparing for the next episode. A few of the script writers saved one copy of every script for their own personal collection.

Recording old time radio shows on transcription discs was expensive. Very few people wanted to spend the money -- even fewer had their own personal transcription disc player. It was capable of being played back on a record. Under contract, some sponsors foot the bill to have the shows transcribed. Lipton Tea, for example, when sponsoring Inner Sanctum Mystery, had every episode recorded for their legal files. The Columbis Broadcasting System insisted on the same for Suspense and the network covered the costs. For Dan Golenpaul and his radio program, Information, Please, every episode from May 17, 1938 to early 1945 was transcribed for a single purpose: to rebroadcast the same episode a couple hours later for the West Coast airing. (The game show was honest, so asking the same questions twice seemed silly and it was cheaper to record the show for later playback than to pay the staff to return to the studio two hours after the East Coast airing.) When the radio program moved to a later time slot in early 1945, so the show could be heard coast-to-coast, the transcriptions ceased.

DuPont, sponsoring The Cavalcade of America, began transcribing the series beginning with the first broadcast. Eventually, in later years, an extra transcription was made and handed over to the celebrity guest as a "thank you gift." There are photos that circulate with celebrities smiling and holding a copy of the recording they helped with. This is also why we have almost every episode of Cavalcade in stock.

Earle Graser as The Lone Ranger
So when someone asks why radio shows for particular series do not exist, remember there was always a reason: a financial reason.

For George W. Trendle, it was a business decision. Unless The Lone Ranger could be syndicated and sold to smaller stations for local sponsorship, there was no reason to record the Western adventures. In the fall of 1938, the bill cost Trendle $90 per half-hour broadcast, not counting the cost of making backup masters. With a radio program airing three times a week, that was an expensive proposition. In excess of 1,600 originals plus 410 repeat shows (1954-56) have been in collector hands for decades. With the exception of two 1937 radio recordings, virtually all pre-1938 radio broadcasts of The Lone Ranger are not known to exist in recorded form.

Because of the new Lone Ranger movie coming out this summer, we'll be exploring various aspects of The Lone Ranger during this calendar year (but not too often so if you don't care for The Lone Ranger, you won't get sick of it). And for this posting, I am offering plot summaries and trivia for ten "lost" episodes from 1933. Fran Striker, who scripted all of these radio adventures, never assigned titles for these episodes until 1940, so they remain untitled. And the purpose of posting these on the web? Part of an active attempt to preserve part of old-time radio history. Since no recordings exist, this is the next best thing. Enjoy!

Broadcast September 19, 1933
Robert Liggett (WXYZ staff) sketched his version of
The Lone Ranger found on the back of a radio script.
Plot: Stage robbers prey on a community and the head of the coach line, Alf Kimberly, forces Abe Calhoun, Sheriff of Juniata County, to make an arrest or face opposition come election time. An innocent young man named Dave Sands is accused of being a member of the gang, but breaks free from jail thanks to the Lone Ranger. Tonto, meanwhile, tracks the two guilty culprits, Red and Hammer, leaving a trail of red paint for the sheriff to follow, believing a horse belonging to one of the crooks is bleeding. Alf, attempts to play detective and captures Dave with the help of his posse. Before young Dave can be hung for the robberies, the Lone Ranger interferes long enough to allow the sheriff to arrive and explain how he and his men followed the trail to the guilty culprits. With an explanation provided, Alf apologizes and admits that Sheriff Abe Calhoun is the best sheriff in the county.

Broadcast September 21, 1933
Bessie Bixby and her husband Ben are in dire straights. Thieves stole their tin box containing the money they saved up for taxes. Idaho Pete, living right outside of Golden Gulch, is accused of the crime. But the Lone Ranger had made arrangements to put Pete in jail overnight so he would have an alibi for the robbery. Tonto disguises himself as Idaho, complete with whiskers, and resides in the shack long enough for a confrontation between Ben and the local doctor. Thanks to the meddling of the Lone Ranger, the doctor’s true identity is revealed. Not only was he the man responsible for stealing the money (found on his possession), but the same mane responsible for framing Idaho Pete years ago in Montana for a crime he did not commit. Sheriff Cunningham, on the scene, takes over from there as the Masked Man rides away.

Trivia, etc. According to the script, the role of Limpy (one very brief line in the script) was doubled by the same actor who played the role of the Lone Ranger.

Broadcast September 23, 1933
Old Widow Sims receives a late night visit from Blackie and Squint, two men responsible for robbing an express office in Kansas and shooting a man dead. When the men attempt to muscle in on her abode, she makes a daring escape after being shot at, and she is found in the desert by the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Curly Jenks, a former employee of the express office, was accused of the crime. The Lone Ranger and Tonto find Curly and prevent him from being hung by the law for the crime he did not commit. The Lone Ranger becomes a sheriff's deputy long enough to catch two men, and dig three graves so Curly is assumed dead. Assuming the name of Slim, Curly is able to lead a new life and the widow receives the reward money.

Trivia, etc. According to the script, the role of Curly is doubled by John Todd, who also played the role of Tonto in this episode. Tonto had a much smaller role than Curly.

Broadcast September 26, 1933
After the death of Dan McTigue and Steve Loughran, two grizzled old pioneers in Arizona, The Lone Ranger and Tonto follow Geronimo’s trail to the Circle J Ranch, where twelve men have been killed and a baby was stolen. After delivering a woman, the sole survivor, to a fort commanded by General Nelson Miles, the Lone Ranger sets out to lasso an Apache Indian, thanks to the speed of the great horse Silver. After capturing a scout for Geronimo, the Lone Ranger leaves him tied with Tonto as he rides the pony into Geronimo’s camp. It doesn’t take long for the Masked Man to discover that the Indian he captured is Geronimo himself and his band of loyals are willing to talk surrender. The Lone Ranger also finds the white baby in a teepee, starved to death. Angry, the Lone Ranger leaks word to General Miles where the Indian camp can be found on the prairie. The fight was short, the end ensured. Tonto then delivered a note to the General where to find Geronimo tied and bound, ready for surrender.

Trivia, etc. The narrator opens the episode with a brief recap of the history of Geronimo, the Apache Leader who brought fear to white men and women around the year of 1886, in New Mexico and Arizona. After reminding listeners that General Nelson Miles effected his downfall, with the aid of the Army, the narrator explains that this episode dramatizes the untold portion of the defeat of Geronimo, which dealt with the Lone Ranger. The episode closed with the following narration: "We do not claim that the adventure of the Lone Ranger is history. We can’t claim that any of his great deeds are history. No one knew the Lone Ranger, where he came from, or where he went. Perhaps had his name been known, it would have been fully as great as that of Miles, and many other characters of the southwest of the early days… but he is a mystery rider."

Broadcast September 28, 1933
Chasing Black Joe and his two henchmen to the Mexican border, the Lone Ranger and Tonto stop momentarily at Smokey Creek to steal a case of dynamite that is being used to find oil wells. Realizing the crooks are going to pass through the K Box Ranch, ten miles north of the Texas oil region, the Masked Man and his Indian companion race to apprehend them, only to find themselves too late. Joe and his men kidnapped Bill Nash’s baby daughter and hold her for $2,000 ransom. The Lone Ranger and Tonto cleverly use the dynamite to call a bluff and force the kidnappers into the hands of the law, where the baby is rescued.

Broadcast September 30, 1933
Shortly after young Jim Grant marries Betty Hooker in the small community of Baldy’s Ridge, his past catches up to him. A crook named Jake tries to blackmail young Jim, because Jim was accused of a stagecoach holdup that he did not commit, but made the mistake of fleeing the scene. Jake managed to get away without being recognized, but Jim is still wanted by the law in Kansas. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, aware of the situation, crease a ruse where Tonto creates the illusion that Jim just struck it rich. Jake’s greed for money carries him to the hangman's noose. In return for not spilling the beans to the sheriff, Jake wants Jim to pay him money. The Masked Man apprehends Jake and turns him over to Jim, giving the youth the edge to resolve the mistake he made in the past. During the confrontation, an attempted murder is made since Jim is wanted dead or alive. Jake receives the bullet meant for Jim and Jake’s associate is arrested by the local sheriff. Having heard the entire story from the Lone Ranger, the sheriff figures Jim isn’t a murderer and assures him that his past will never haunt him again.

Trivia, etc. When the Lone Ranger bears witness to the marriage, he signs “John Smith.” Jim remarks that it was an obvious alias, but “if you don’t want tuh tell me yer name, I reckon it’s yer own business…” John Todd not only plays the role of Tonto, but according to the script doubles for either Jim Grant or Jake.

Broadcast October 3, 1933
Dale Walten is bewildered by the generosity of Abe Forley, when the gold prospector offers him a land deal that even the local judge figures is in Dale’s favor. After Dale discovers he was swindled with barren land, and traded a good claim to Abe, the judge does what he can to help Dale and his wife. When the judge passes away, the Lone Ranger learns the story from the newly (and honest) elected judge, Jim Hurley and rides three days away to meet a lawyer who knows more than Abe. Two years later, Abe strikes pay dirt on the land he swindled from Dale and in front of Judge Hurley, quotes the law. A debt that stands for two years without collecting payment is outlawed and can’t be collected. The Lone Ranger appears in court and brings up a technicality that forces Abe to pay off his debt of ten thousand to Dale… or face jail.

Trivia, etc. It’s verified in this episode that the Lone Ranger is distinguished not just by his horse, but with his laugh. Oddly, the entire story takes place over a period of two years as the narrator explains that Abe worked the land for two years while Dale and his wife lived on the charity of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, before the protagonists faced off to a showdown.

Broadcast October 5, 1933
Bill Conroy is found guilty of murdering the local doctor and while the sheriff is trying to get the man pardoned, the Lone Ranger, in disguise, attends a meeting held by Isaac Peterman to discover that a number of men are being hired to form a lynching party. Peterson interrupts the wild furor of the mob and saves Conroy’s life, even hiding him out at his house. Suspecting Peterman is the guilty party in a complicated plot to gain control of his wife’s Golconda mine stock she had, the Lone Ranger questions the sheriff and then keeps close tabs on Peterman. Hours after Peterman harbors the suspected fugitive, he arranges for his servant to fetch the sheriff and attempts to frame Conroy in the murder of his wife, cinching his hanging. The Lone Ranger interrupts and  vouches for Conroy’s story, explaining to the sheriff that Peterman was slowly poisoning his wife. When the doctor found out, he murdered the doctor and framed Conroy. When the dead woman rises, Peterman, scared, confesses his crime. The truth is quickly revealed: Tonto disguised as the wife, saved her life by arranging for Peterman to stab a dummy and took his place. She is alive and well but Peterman won’t -- he’ll face a hanging for the murder of Doc Stanley.

Broadcast October 7, 1933
In the town of Rock Edge, Tim Sautter robbed the bank of a considerable sum and when the sheriff snoops too close, murders the lawman in cold blood (he crushed his skull with a heavy piece of wood). Tim then arranges for Slim Peters to take the sheriff’s place and Slim promptly arrests Tim’s neighbor, Bob Wilson, for the crime. After being taken into custody, Bob breaks free from jail, thanks to the Lone Ranger. Following the Masked Man’s orders, Bob hides in a cave until the posse arrives. Escaping from the back of the cave to the other side, he finds Tim waiting to shoot him. A struggle breaks and Bob gets the upper hand. After escorting Tim to the sheriff, he find Bob sticking to his story -- until the new sheriff explains the whole thing. Thanks to the Lone Ranger, he knew all along that Bob was innocent. Both men had different firewood and the one that was used to kill the sheriff matched Tim’s. With the help of the Lone Ranger, the posse and the sheriff was in on the set-up to trick Bob into revealing the truth when he confronted Bob.

Trivia, etc. According to casting directions on the script, the actor playing the Lone Ranger also doubled for “Voice 2,” a member of the posse.

Broadcast October 10, 1933
There is enough evidence to verify the murder of Ephriam Dodds, manager of the Wells Fargo express station in Great Bear. Buddy Gilroy is accused of the crime and jailed pronto by the sheriff with every chance in the world of being lynched for murder in the manner of the swift western punishment. Clarence McGruder, the new replacement, shows a lack of respect for the dead man, but assures the sheriff that the recent robberies of the Wells Fargo stages will come to a halt with him in charge. Gilroy’s wife, Jeannie, however, has a long discussion with the Lone Ranger, who suspects her husband is innocent. Later that afternoon, Jeannie cries when she claims her two-year-old daughter accidentally locked herself in the company safe. After moments of confusion and desperation, McGruder uses the combination to unlock the door. The Lone Ranger enters and explains that Dodd was never murdered. Dodd is masquerading as McGruder. The old man confesses that he feared the company would put Gilroy in his position, so he framed the young man for a murder and used chicken’s blood as a means of faking the murder scene. 

Trivia, etc. Tonto rationalizes that Gilroy is innocent, claiming “Tonto, him know... Injun blood in Tonto, makum know.” According to script notes, the actor playing the Lone Ranger also doubled for “Buddy Gilroy.”

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