Wednesday, August 26, 2020

List of "Lost" LONE RANGER Radio Broadcasts (pre-1950)

Just as "Nitrate won't wait" became the rallying cry for film archivists, "Acetate won't wait" has become the mantra for collectors of old-time radio. Widely used for three decades (1930s through the 1950s), then slowly replaced with magnetic tape and other formats, radio broadcasts featuring comedy, music and drama were preserved for both commercial and historical purposes. Fans of old-time radio programs, and fans of The Lone Ranger in general, are fully aware of the 2,600+ radio broadcasts from 1938 to 1954 that were preserved thanks to this format. Over 2,000 of those radio episodes have been released commercially thanks to companies like Radio Spirits, which commercially releases CD sets periodically through the months through licensing agreements. For over almost two decades I have purchased those Lone Ranger sets from Radio Spirits and have built a large shrine in my house. 



Due to their rarity, some acetate discs can command high prices at auction but those "record prices" are often the exceptions to the rule. Brian Epstein's collection of Beatles acetates fetched between $1,000 and $10,000 per disc, and an acetate of Elvis Presley's "That's All Right" sold for $82,393. When it comes to The Lone Ranger radio program, the broadcasts were preserved on vinyl pressings for syndication purposes, not acetate discs, so they would never fetch those kind of prices. Yet, there are collectors who mistakenly believe what they have is worth thousands of dollars. The average sale price for a set of two Lone Ranger discs is about $35 on eBay, more depending on whether the recording is rare or not. And it seems no one ever bids on Lone Ranger vinyl pressings that ask for more than $60 as a starting bid. (AFRS renditions of The Lone Ranger, also on vinyl pressings, appear to go for about $5 to $10 each on eBay.)


All of which emphasizes the importance of supporting companies like Radio Spirits. Considering the price of a Radio Spirits box set (five of them pictured above) retails less than $40 each, and you receive 20 half-hour radio programs in a box set, which comes to less than $2 per recording, you can understand why people choose to purchase the CDs versus collecting the vinyl pressings. 


The following is an official list of "lost" radio programs from 1938 to 1949. This list was compiled from multiple box sets, CDs and audio cassette albums that I purchased over the past two decades -- in short, these are the only episodes I am missing in my personal collection and it appears no one has a copy of these. Without such a list, collectors would never know if what they have is truly rare or not. Lists like these were created for other programs and often resulted in a few episodes being discovered because a collector had one and never knew it was a rare or lost recording.


The episode numbers and broadcast dates are listed below. Take note: these are the episode numbers, not transcription disc numbers. To avoid confusion, please go by the broadcast date. For completists, this list will give collectors cause to seek out recordings they do not have. For those who want to know the value of extant Lone Ranger transcriptions, these are the episodes that would more than likely generate larger bids on auction. But if someone holds a "lost" show at ransom prices, consider walking away. And if someone claims to have a lost program but will not verify authenticity, also consider walking away. As shocking as this advice might sound to a few, in retrospect there are already over 2,000 radio broadcasts available to listen to.


In the process of reading all of the radio scripts for The Lone Ranger, and documenting the plot summaries (my episode guide is more than 1,000 pages and still under construction), I can easily verify a recording if someone claims to have one listed below. Verification is essential before removing an entry from the list. With unscrupulous mp3 vendors duplicating existing audio files and renaming them with fake broadcast dates and titles, I will not remove an episode from this list simply because someone claims to have it. If you send me a recording and it turns out not to be a "lost" episode on the list, as a courtesy I will provide you with the correct information so you can catalog your inventory appropriately.


A second list will be posted next week for the "lost" episodes from 1950 to 1954.

 

This list will be updated as recordings are discovered and verified. Do you have any of these?


Episode #                         Broadcast Date                       

793-18                               February 25, 1938                  

794-19                               February 28, 1938                  

796-21                               March 4, 1938                        

798-23                               March 9, 1938                        

802-27                               March 18, 1938                      

808-33                               April 1, 1938

809-34                               April 4, 1938

811-36                               April 8, 1938

814-39                               April 15, 1938                         

843-68                               June 22, 1938                          

849-74                               July 6, 1938                             

893-118                             October 17, 1938

900-125                             November 2, 1938

912-137                             November 30, 1938

913-138                              December 2, 1938

947-172                              February 20, 1939

950-175                              February 27, 1939

974-199                              April 24, 1939

975-200                              April 26, 1939

976-201                              April 28, 1939

977-202                              May 1, 1939

980-205                              May 8, 1939

1083-306                            January 3, 1940

1086-309                            January 10, 1940  (supposedly exists)

1137-360                            May 8, 1940  (supposedly exists)

1145-367                            May 27, 1940

1207-428                            October 18, 1940

1214-434                            November 4, 1940                  

1300-517                            May 23, 1941

1323-540                           July 16, 1941                           

1328-545                            July 28, 1941

1337-553                            August 18, 1941

1338-554                            August 20, 1941

1339-555                            August 22, 1941

1392-608                            December 24, 1941

1395-611                            December 31, 1941

1555-769                            January 8, 1943

1556-770                            January 11, 1943        

1652-865                            August 23, 1943  (supposedly exists)                      

1677-890                            October 20, 1943                    

1678-891                            October 22, 1943  (supposedly exists)

1679-892                            October 25, 1943  (supposedly exists)

1686-899                            November 10, 1943

1687-900                            November 12, 1943  

1689-902                            November 17, 1943

1701-914                            December 15, 1943

1710-923                            January 5, 1944                      

1712-925                            January 10, 1944                    

1714-928                            January 14, 1944                    

1715-929                            January 17, 1944                    

1716-930                            January 19, 1944                    

1718-932                            January 24, 1944                    

1719-933                            January 26, 1944

1721-935                            January 31, 1944

1730-944                            February 21, 1944

1733-947                            February 28, 1944

1741-961                            March 17, 1944

1750-970                            April 7, 1944

1762-982                            May 5, 1944

1765-985                            May 12, 1944

1766-986                            May 15, 1944

1771-991                            May 26, 1944                          

1772-992                            May 29, 1944                          

1773-993                            May 31, 1944                          

1774-994                            June 2, 1944                            

1775-995                            June 5, 1944                            

1776-996                            June 7, 1944

1789-1009                           July 7, 1944

1790-1010                           July 10, 1944

1791-1011                           July 12, 1944

1792-1012                           July 14, 1944

1798-1018                           July 28, 1944

1804-1024                           August 11, 1944

1806-1026                           August 16, 1944

1828-1048                           October 6, 1944

1829-1049                           October 9, 1944

1846-1066                           November 17, 1944

1853-1073                           December 4, 1944

1855-1075                           December 8, 1944

1857-1077                           December 13, 1944

1858-1078                           December 15, 1944

1865-1085                           December 29, 1944

1904-1130                           April 2, 1945               

1905-1131                           April 4, 1945

1923-1149                           May 18, 1945

1967-1193                           August 31, 1945                      

1968-1194                           September 3, 1945                 

1972-1198                           September 12, 1945

1975-1201                           September 19, 1945               

1976-1202                           September 21, 1945               

1981-1207                           October 3, 1945                      

1984-1209                           October 10, 1945                    

1985-1210                           October 12, 1945                    

1991-1216                           October 26, 1945                    

1992-1217                           October 29, 1945                    

1993-1218                           October 31, 1945                    

1994-1219                           November 2, 1945                  

1995-1220                           November 5, 1945                  

1996-1221                           November 7, 1945                  

1997-1222                           November 9, 1945                  

1998-1223                           November 12, 1945                

2006-1231                           November 30, 1945    

2116-1341                           August 14, 1946                      

2130-1355                           September 16, 1946

2166-1391                           December 9, 1946

2255-1480                           July 4, 1947

2263-1488                           July 23, 1947

2317-1542                           November 26, 1947

2325-1550                           December 15, 1947

2330-1555                           December 26, 1947

2600-1825                           September 16, 1949

2641-1866                           December 21, 1949

2642-1867                           December 23, 1949

2644-1869                           December 28, 1949

2645-1870                           December 30, 1949


There are two recordings that supposedly exist, verified through archival documents, but no one has yet turned up any of these.


A "Special Birthday Recording" copyrighted on May 17, 1940 (actual broadcast date remains unknown) was registered through the U.S. Copyright Office, but is not the same as the network's May 17, 1940 broadcast.


A special Lone Ranger anniversary program, with an incidental poem by Edgar A. Guest, was broadcast on Saturday, January 23, 1943. This, too, supposedly exists.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

FOUR STAR TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS

You may not be familiar with Four Star Productions but you more than likely saw their logo at the conclusion of numerous television programs including Honey West, Burke's Law, The Rifleman, Wanted; Dead or Alive, The Big Valley, and The Zane Grey Theatre, among others. The production company was co-owned by Dick Powell, David Niven and Charles Boyer. Joel McCrea, who was busy with Tales of the Texas Rangers on radio, backed out of the proposed project and was replaced by Ida Lupino. While she did not own stock in the company, she was considered the fourth star and the reason why the company was referred to as Four Star Productions. (For those who want to jump the gun and assume incorrectly, Lupino was not a stockholder because she was a woman. Being a stockholder meant buying into a percentage of the company as a financial investment and she did not invest money in the operation.)

Inspired by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's venture with Desilu Productions, the company was launched by Dick Powell who longed to produce and direct. He saw television as more of an open market for his ambitions than motion-pictures. Originally the concept began on radio with Four Star Playhouse on NBC in the summer of 1949, then ventured to television with the weekly anthology of the same name. While today many of us are familiar with the weekly dramas of The Detectives, The Rogues, The Law and Mr. Jones, and Richard Diamond, Private Detective, he called in favors and offered partial investments from Joan Fontaine and his wife, June Allyson, who of course starred in the The June Allyson Show.

Powell and company was shrewd enough to produce tons of pilots, including Bulldog Drummond, Claudia, The Stubby Kaye Show (a.k.a. Full Speed Ahead), The Judy Canova Show, The Searchers, The Bette Davis Show (a.k.a. The Decorator), Michael ShayneThe Dean Jones Show (a.k.a. Alec Tate), Ensign O'Toole, The Lloyd Bridges ShowThe King and Me and many others. Never wasting budget when pilots were unable to sell, or to exhibition the pilots to a large number of potential sponsors at the same time, Four Star aired those pilots on many of the anthology programs.

The Zane Grey Theater, for example, aired a number of "back door pilots" that ultimately sold to sponsors and became weekly programs of their own. Trackdown, The Rifleman, Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo, Law of the Plainsman, The Westerner, and Stagecoach West were a few that spun off from a one-shot episode on Zane Grey. (Many fans know Steve McQueen's Wanted: Dead or Alive spun off from an episode on Trackdown, and Honey West spun off from an episode of Burke's Law.)

On the Four Star Playhouse anthology, Dick Powell played the role of Willie Dante, owner of a nightclub who found himself caught up in trouble -- usually from shady characters from his past. Powell played the role in more than one episode, but eventually a weekly half-hour series came of those potential pilots. Dante lasted a mere 26 episodes, starring Howard Duff in the lead, and became one of my favorites. People rave about The Rogues but I always recommend Dante for those seeking crime dramas of the 1950s and 1960s that are both obscure and entertaining.

Frank Lovejoy starred in a wonderfully-written radio program, Night Beat, which aired for two years on radio. (Highly recommended, by the way.) Four Star Productions was responsible for a pilot that never sold, adapted from one of the radio scripts. A darn shame but thankfully a similar program came about with Frank Lovejoy on television... Meet McGraw.  

Thankfully, Richard Irvin wrote a fantastic book documenting the history of Four Star Productions, available from Bear Manor Media Publishing. Not only did he cover the formation of the company in exquisite detail, but he documented each and every one of the television programs and details regarding many of those unsold pilots. A few years ago I was going through some trade columns in Hollywood Reporter circa 1961 when I came across a news blurb that Four Star Productions had completed a pilot for The Adventures of Sam Spade, starring Peter Falk in the lead. Sincerely, that has been my "Holy Grail" of television pilots that I really, really want to see. Alas, it has not aired on television nor has it become a bonus extra for any commercial DVD release. Yes, Richard Irvin referenced that pilot. That should demonstrate how thorough the book is. Highly recommended.

Link enclosed for direct purchase.

https://bearmanor-digital.myshopify.com/products/four-star-television-productions-a-history-1952-1989-softcover-edition-by-richard-irvin?_pos=2&_sid=c30a49ee7&_ss=r

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

AL JENNINGS vs. THE LONE RANGER

Al Jennings
Beginning with the radio broadcast of February 14, 1944, a new schedule of Lone Ranger stories was initiated whereby Monday broadcasts were devoted to a historical character and The Lone Ranger’s brush with historical fame, Wednesday broadcasts featured Dan Reid, and Friday broadcasts were general western type of stories. Officially Dan Reid was brought back into the series permanently on Wednesday, February 9, and The Lone Ranger met the famous Wyatt Earp back on the broadcast of January 3, but the new format was made official with the broadcast of February 14. Fans today refer to those Monday broadcasts as part of the “biography” series, with stronger emphasis of The Lone Ranger wearing a mask to suggest he was merely concealing a famous face known to many. During those broadcasts, The Lone Ranger fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Buffalo Bill against renegade whites and Indians. For young listeners, it was The Lone Ranger who helped Wild Bill Hickok tame the town of Deadwood. It was The Lone Ranger who sent a warning to General Custer who led a foolhardy attack on Indian forces. It was these broadcasts more than any other that helped establish the program’s opening catchphrase: “Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice…” The Lone Ranger even persuaded Pat Garrett to become a special lawman, assigned to track down Billy the Kid. 

The Biography Series eventually came to a close before the end of August 1944, after one of the broadcasts created a legal stir with The Lone Ranger, Inc. Al Jennings, an 80-year-old reformed trainer robber and one-time Wild West bad man, glamorously portrayed in an episode of The Lone Ranger, filed a lawsuit against The Lone Ranger, Inc., seeking damages for the way he was portrayed on the radio broadcast. To everyone’s surprise, including the script writer, Al Jennings was still alive at the time they depicted his criminal exploits on The Lone Ranger.

In 1899, Jennings was sentenced to life in prison for train robbery. Due to the legal efforts of his brother John, his sentence was reduced to five years. He was freed on technicalities in 1902 and received a presidential pardon in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt. After writing a number of semi-autobiographical books and stories based on his criminal escapades, Jennings moved to California and worked in the motion picture industry making Westerns. Throughout 1919 and the surrounding months, Jennings took up a professional acting career often portraying himself on screen perpetuating the myth of a “good bandit.” Jennings became a popular speaker, evangelist and writer – his life being serialized in The Saturday Evening Post

Al Jennings starring in his own silent film shorts.
On the evening of August 7, 1944, The Lone Ranger broadcast presented one of the usual weekly biography sketches in which the masked man brushed along a legend from the by-gone era. The Lone Ranger shot a gun out of the hands of an Oklahoma bad man, Al Jennings, who at the time was not only ravaging the countryside with his depredations, but who was in the very act of persuading a teenage boy to join his notorious band of bank and train robbers. When The Lone Ranger appeared on the scene and promptly took over, he unbraided Jennings in a stirring speech in which virtue and morality were given high due, and in which he added the punctuation by shooting the iron out of Jennings’ hand with the characteristic aplomb which only he could muster. But this was almost a costly mistake against The Lone Ranger entity.

As soon as papers were served against The Lone Ranger, Inc., George W. Trendle handed down diction to director Charles Livingstone to cease dramatizing exploits of The Lone Ranger that involved his encounters of famous outlaws and heroic figures. Jennings was the star witness as the trial of his $100,000 defamation suit, which ran two days, in September of 1945. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Jennings named the Don Lee Broadcasting Company and the Weber Baking Company (the local sponsor of The Lone Ranger in the area where Jennings lived), as defendants. 

“They made me mad,” said Jennings who, when he took the stand, appeared more like a cracker barrel philosopher than the terror of the West. “They had this Lone Ranger shootin’ a gun out of my hand – and me an expert! You can’t shoot a gun out of a man’s hand, anyway – except in the movies. Not without shooting his hand near off. Who is this Lone Ranger, anyway?” Jennings declared the program made him out like a bank robber, but confessed he never robbed one in his life. His complaint also alleged how the program called him a burglar, and depicted him as inducing a young boy to join his bandit gang, and let the masked Lone Ranger treat him like a common criminal. 

Eleven women and one man – a jury in Superior Judge Robert Scott’s court – sat for more than a week in fascinated silence as Jennings described how he became an evangelist for a time to “clear my conscience” and help others avoid a life of crime. “But I got a little tired of that,” he told Judge Scott, who was also a former minister. “Some of the preachers I found were worse than some of the outlaws, but some, of course, were marvelous.”

To clarify, the breath of the case was “defamation of character” and for Jennings to have won his case, he would have had to establish different rules for different citizens and to set the precedent for publicizing anyone’s life without his permission or consent. At least, this is what his lawyer, R. Ralston Jones, should have advised his client. Instead, Jennings chose to lodge his complaint against the defendants by emphasizing how the program damaged the reputation he built up since he was freed from prison and led a life of aspired morals.

The defendants contended Jennings had no right to damages because he was a real notorious train robber and once the head of a bandit gang. They contended he had publicized his life so fully that he had no privacy left regarding the matter. It was that very book that was consulted as reference for The Lone Ranger broadcast, in which the author described a similar episode in which a 17-year-old boy asked to join the gang and finally was admitted.

On the afternoon of October 2, 1945, a verdict was handed down and Al Jennings lost his suit. A jury in Superior Judge Robert H. Scott’s court returned a 10 to 2 verdict against the reformed train robber. The verdict upheld Defense Attorney Clarence B. Runkle’s contention that Jennings’ career was not private, because Jennings himself frequently wrote details of his deeds and glorified his crimes in a series of motion picture film shorts. 

The main reason for their decision, one jury member later explained to a newspaper reporter, was that Jennings wittingly or otherwise had spent the week on the stand convincing the jury that no one could defame his reputation. “Gentlemen,” he said on one occasion after describing a particularly violent gun battle in his hectic career. “I regret to say I had to kill three of those men!” The jurors gasped. “But would I encourage a boy to embark on a life of crime?” hastily countered the ex-bad man. “No!” The California court decided that Al Jennings was not entitled to his $100,000, and the jury’s esteem of Jennings had not suffered because of the disputed radio broadcast.