Wednesday, August 26, 2020

An Official List of "Lost" LONE RANGER Radio Broadcasts (1938 - 1954)

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 were preserved on various formats over the years 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 over the years. Over 2,200 of those radio episodes have been released commercially thanks to companies like Radio Spirits, through licensing agreements with the copyright holders. For almost two decades I have purchased those Lone Ranger sets from Radio Spirits and built two shrines in my house -- one shelf with radio programs I have listened to and another (pictured below) of episodes I have not yet listened to but slowly going through. 

What is a Fair Price?

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. I mention this because there are collectors who mistakenly believe what they have is worth thousands of dollars and hoard "lost" shows at ransom prices. 

In case you are curious, the average purchase 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 with $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.) To note, these prices are in reference to 16-inch transcription discs, and are not to be confused with LP records that were sold to the general public.

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 to financially support the cause. If people do not buy the sets, companies like Radio Spirits will cease releasing them -- and that would be a darn shame because then we would lose a source that provides "lost" and "uncirculated" episodes to the masses.

The Discoveries

The following is an official list of "lost" radio programs from 1938 to 1954. This list was compiled from multiple sources and are the only episodes I am missing in my personal collection. This list was first compiled in the summer of 2020 and since then, this list has been responsible for the discovery of more than 100 recordings that were initially considered lost. (As "lost" recordings are found, they are removed from the list.) This goes to prove how valuable a list like this is for collectors who may be sitting on "lost" recordings and not aware what they have is a historical treasure. If you have any of these, would you be so kind as to notify me? 

The episode numbers and broadcast dates are listed below. I should point out that every episode has two numbers, separated by a hyphen. The first is the episode number and the second is the recording number. The radio program premiered in 1933 but it was not until early 1938 that Trendle agreed to pay for the broadcasts to be transcribed. Thus, the episode on the top of the list was the 793rd episode broadcast in the series, but the 18th episode to be recorded. 

If a transcription disc has a single episode number, it usually refers to the second number, not the first.

Fair Warning

For those who want to know the value of Lone Ranger transcription discs, these are the episodes that would most likely generate higher bids on auction. But if someone holds a "lost" show at a ransom price, consider walking away. If someone claims to have a "lost" program but will not verify authenticity such as showing you a photo of the disc label, also consider walking away. As shocking as this advice might sound to a few, this is advice that will rule in your favor -- and your sanity.

Why? Because I wasted enough of my time trying to negotiate pricing only to discover this was a losing battle. For some people, bragging about what they have is more important than the price tag and ongoing discussions only feeds fuel to their ego. To be fair, dozens of copies of every radio broadcast was made on acetate transcriptions so if someone has what they believe or claim to be the only existing copy, they may be proven wrong when someone else comes around with the same episode. Learn to spot who are the egos and who are the sellers. 

I have always said how large a collection or what someone has in their collection is never impressive... but what they did to preserve the recordings in their collection could be impressive. Flood or fire, if they lost what they claimed was the only existing copy, what was the point of bragging? This will come as a shock to you but there are collectors who have thousands of discs -- possibly the only existing copies of recordings -- who prefer to brag about what they have but never do anything to make them available. 

Worse, there are a few unscrupulous people who take an existing recording and re-assign a different title and broadcast date to trick consumers into believing they bought a "lost" episode. Free downloads and mp3 discs on eBay only create more complications. Thankfully, I acquired almost all of my recordings from collectors who did first-generation disc transfers and in matching them up with the radio scripts, am certain my collection is far more accurate than what is circulating on the internet.

Thanks to this list, over 100 episodes have been found in the last two years, so it seems logical to assume a few dozen may be found in the coming months. If you come across any episodes labeled accordingly, please let me know. And sincere appreciation to every person who was responsible in the past for looking over this list and finding a few "lost" shows.

Episode #                         Broadcast Date                       

Episode #793-18            Broadcast February 25, 1938 *

Episode #794-19            Broadcast February 28, 1938 *

Episode #796-21            Broadcast March 4, 1938 *

Episode #798-23            Broadcast March 9, 1938 *

Episode #802-27            Broadcast March 18, 1938 *

Episode #808-33            Broadcast April 1, 1938 *

Episode #809-34            Broadcast April 4, 1938 *

Episode #811-36            Broadcast April 8, 1938 *

Episode #814-39            Broadcast April 15, 1938 *

Episode #843-68            Broadcast June 22, 1938 *

Episode #849-74            Broadcast July 6, 1938 *

Episode #893-118          Broadcast October 17, 1938 *

Episode #900-125          Broadcast November 2, 1938 *

Episode #912-137          Broadcast November 30, 1938 *

Episode #913-138          Broadcast December 2, 1938 *

Episode #947-172          Broadcast February 20, 1939 *

Episode #950-175          Broadcast February 27, 1939 *

Episode #974-199          Broadcast April 24, 1939 *

Episode #975-200          Broadcast April 26, 1939 * 

Episode #976-201          Broadcast April 28, 1939 * 

Episode #977-202          Broadcast May 1, 1939 * 

Episode #980-205          Broadcast May 8, 1939 * 

Episode #1047-272        Broadcast October 11, 1939 * (second half is missing)

Episode #1083-306        Broadcast January 3, 1940 *

Episode #1086-309        Broadcast January 10, 1940 *  (supposedly exists)

Episode #1134-357        Broadcast May 1, 1940

Episode #1137-360        Broadcast May 8, 1940 *  (supposedly exists)

Episode #1145-367        Broadcast May 27, 1940 *

Episodes above never contained a script title.

Episodes listed below have script titles. 

Trendle and Striker never started assigning script titles to episodes until the summer of 1940. That means any recordings circulating among collector hands with titles pre-summer 1940 are "collector titles" or "descriptive titles" and not really script titles.

Episode Number        Title        Broadcast Date

1207-428  "The Trail to Nowhere"  (October 18, 1940) *

1214-434  "Plotters in Murder"  (November 4, 1940) *            

1300-517  [Title Not Known]  (May 23, 1941)

1323-540  "Revenge Rides the Wagon Train"  (July 16, 1941) *                           

1328-545  "Rustlers at Breakneck Canyon"  (July 28, 1941) *

1337-553  "Water Makes Trouble"  (August 18, 1941) *

1338-554  "Yellow Boss"  (August 20, 1941) 

1339-555  "The Race"  (August 22, 1941) *

1385-601  "Stagecoach to Deadwood"  (December 8, 1941) *

1392-608  "The Three Wise Hombres"  (December 24, 1941) *

1395-611  "Drums at Dusk"  (December 31, 1941) *

1555-769  "The Bullet Brigade"  (January 8, 1943)

1556-770  "Showdown"  (January 11, 1943)        

1652-865  "A Good Woman's Love"  (August 23, 1943)  (supposedly exists)

1677-890  "Mills of the Gods"  (October 20, 1943)                

1678-891  "As the Cards Falls"  (October 22, 1943)  (supposedly exists)

1679-892  "Bow to Glory"  (October 25, 1943)  (supposedly exists)

1686-899  "Human Contraband"  (November 10, 1943)

1687-900  "The Heathen Chinese"  (November 12, 1943)  

1689-902  "Four Men from Tokyo"  (November 17, 1943)

1712-925  "Tax Thief"  (January 10, 1944) *           

1714-928  "Honest Andy"  (January 14, 1944) *

1716-930  "The Judge's Return"  (January 19, 1944) *                    

1718-932  "With a Star and a Prayer"  (January 24, 1944) *                    

1719-933  "Quicksilver"  (January 26, 1944) *

1721-935  "Tamin' and Larnin'"  (January 31, 1944) *

1730-944  "Wild Bill Hickok"  (February 21, 1944) * 

1733-947  "Belle Starr"  (February 28, 1944) *

1741-961  "Greater Love Hath No Man"  (March 17, 1944) *

1750-970  "Footlights on the Frontier"  (April 7, 1944) *

1765-985  "Straw Points the Way"  (May 12, 1944) *

1766-986  "Teddy Roosevelt"  (May 15, 1944) *

1771-991  "Dead Man's Bluff"  (May 26, 1944) *                          

1772-992  "Doctor Good"  (May 29, 1944) *                          

1773-993  "A Bargain's A Bargain"  (May 31, 1944) *                          

1774-994  "Six-Gun Heritage"  (June 2, 1944) *                            

1775-995  "Luke Short"  (June 5, 1944) *                            

1776-996  "Badge of Honor"  (June 7, 1944)

1789-1009  "Old School Sheriff"  (July 7, 1944) *

1790-1010  "Duke Henshaw"  (July 10, 1944) *

1791-1011  "Eph Wilson's Chicks"  (July 12, 1944) *

1792-1012  "A Gentleman From England"  (July 14, 1944)

1798-1018  "Food for the Iron Horse"  (July 28, 1944)

1804-1024  "One in a Thousand"  (August 11, 1944)

1806-1026  "Gunpowder Joe"  (August 16, 1944)

1828-1048  "Conclusion - Part Six"  (October 6, 1944)

1829-1049  "Peppermint"  (October 9, 1944)

1846-1066  "Sabers or Six-Guns"  (November 17, 1944) *

1853-1073  "Ambush"  (December 4, 1944)

1855-1075  "Pop's Barometer"  (December 8, 1944)

1857-1077  "The Kid Keeps a Promise"  (December 13, 1944)

1858-1078  "Debt of Honor"  (December 15, 1944)

1864-1084  "Hills of Home"  (December 29, 1944)

1904-1130  "The Devil's Pool"  (April 2, 1945)               

1905-1131  "F.O.B. Crime"  (April 4, 1945)

1923-1149  "Rodeo Banker"  (May 18, 1945)

1967-1193  "Arsen"  (August 31, 1945)                      

1968-1194  "Restitution"  (September 3, 1945) *                 

1972-1198  "Guilt for Hire"  (September 12, 1945)

1975-1201  "Camel Brigade: Quicksand"  (September 19, 1945) *               

1976-1202  "Camel Brigade: Deep Water"  (September 21, 1945) *               

1981-1207  "Reform of Luther Gates"  (October 3, 1945) *                      

1983-1209  "The Finger of Death"  (October 8, 1945) *                    

1985-1210  "The Iron Horse"  (October 12, 1945) *                    

1991-1216  "Woodland Peril"  (October 26, 1945) *                    

1992-1217  "The Fifth Condemned Man"  (October 29, 1945) *                    

1993-1218  "Texas Rides Again"  (October 31, 1945) *                    

1994-1219  "Behind the Mask"  (November 2, 1945) *                  

1995-1220  "Auntie"  (November 5, 1945) *                  

1996-1221  "Scarface"  (November 7, 1945) *                  

1997-1222  "Thunder's Mules"  (November 9, 1945) *                  

1998-1223  "Alias, The Lone Ranger"  (November 12, 1945) *                

2006-1231  "Silver"  (November 30, 1945)    

2116-1341  "Rainy Day"  (August 14, 1946)

2130-1355  "Silver Lode"  (September 16, 1946)

2166-1391  "Brave Man"  (December 9, 1946) *

2255-1480  "North Junction"  (July 4, 1947)

2263-1488  "Fighting Spirit"  (July 23, 1947)

2317-1542  "Lolita and the Outlaw"  (November 26, 1947)

2325-1550  "Devil's Pass"  (December 15, 1947)

2330-1555  "Determination"  (December 26, 1947)

2600-1825  "Wagons Westward"  (September 16, 1949)

2641-1866  "Character Loan"  (December 21, 1949)

2642-1867  "Masked Lady"  (December 23, 1949)

2644-1869  "Forgery Frameup"  (December 28, 1949)

2645-1870  "Hunter and the Hunted"  (December 30, 1949)

2646-1871  "Sword of Honor"  (January 2, 1950)

2650-1875  "Printer's Lead"  (January 11, 1950)

2651-1876  "Matter of Proof"  (January 13, 1950)

2652-1877  "The Town Bully"  (January 16, 1950)

2653-1878  "End of the Yuma Kid"  (January 18, 1950)

2654-1879  "Banner of Virginia"  (January 20, 1950)

2663-1888  "Eagle Pass"  (February 10, 1950)

2665-1890  "The Adventure of the Long-Haired Man"  (February 15, 1950)

2666-1891  "One Man Rule"  (February 17, 1950)

2667-1892  "One Night in Dodge"  (February 20, 1950)

2668-1893  "Retired Ranger"  (February 22, 1950)

2669-1894  "Chuck Gurnee's Downfall" (February 24, 1950)

2670-1895  "Two Gold Lockets"  (February 27, 1950)

2671-1896  "Hobey's Rifles"  (March 1, 1950)

2707-1932  "A Drink of Water"  (May 24, 1950) *

2708-1933  "The Ace of Death"  (May 26, 1950) *

2709-1934  "Politics and Cattle Ticks"  (May 29, 1950) *

2716-1941  "Call to the Colors"  (June 14, 1950) *

2718-1943  "Jonathan's Cabin"  (June 19, 1950) *

2722-1947  "Counsel for the Defense"  (June 28, 1950)

2723-1948  "Paid in Full"  (June 30, 1950)

2724-1949  "Barnaby Boggs and his Self Respect"  (July 3, 1950)

2726-1951  "A Lone Ranger Origin"  (July 7, 1950)

2728-1952  "Undercover Agent"  (July 12, 1950)

2729-1953  "The Sole Survivor"  (July 14, 1950)

2730-1954  "Plan for Revenge"  (July 17, 1950)

2732-1956  "The Missing Cattle"  (July 21, 1950)

2734-1958  "The Iron Deer"  (July 26, 1950)

2735-1959  "Tenderfoot Sheepman"  (July 28, 1950)

2736-1960  "For the Good of All"  (July 31, 1950)

2737-1961  "Joel Melton's Son"  (August 2, 1950)

2739-1963  "A Pigeon Called Pablo"  (August 7, 1950)

2770-1994  "The Tattooed Arm"  (October 18, 1950)                    

2786-2010  "The Colonel's Son"  (November 24, 1950)

2789-2013  "The Halsted Roundup"  (December 1, 1950)

2790-2014  "The Range Fence"  (December 4, 1950)

2806-2030  "Before the Firing Squad"  (January 10, 1951)

2818-2042  "Partners in Crime"  (February 7, 1951)

2819-2043  "The Shiny Knife Blade"  (February 9, 1951)

2825-2049  "Hired for Murder"  (February 23, 1951)                  

2826-2050  "Adventure in the Rain"  (February 26, 1951)

2829-2053  "The Red Roan"  (March 5, 1951)

2832-2056  "Trader Boggs"  (March 12, 1951) *

2833-2057  "The Actor Outlaw"  (March 14, 1951) *

2834-2058  "Indian Charlie"  (March 16, 1951) *

2835-2059  "One Little Indian"  (March 19, 1951) *

2836-2060  "Ear Rings for Gretchen"  (March 21, 1951) *

2837-2061  "Valley of the Silver Ghosts"  (March 23, 1951) *

2838-2062  "Red, White and Renegade"  (March 26, 1951) *

2840-2064  "The Murder Trap"  (March 30, 1951) *

2843-2067  "Son by Adoption"  (April 6, 1951) *

2844-2068  "Army Nurse"  (April 9, 1951) *

2845-2069  "Trail to Death"  (April 11, 1951) *

2846-2070  "Shadow of the Gallows"  (April 13, 1951) *

2848-2072  "Rustler's Hideout"  (April 18, 1951) *

2849-2073  "Army Scout's Gold"  (April 20, 1951) *

2851-2075  "Tumblerock Law"  (April 25, 1951)

2852-2076  "The Outlaw's Sister"  (April 27, 1951)

2854-2078  "The Forged Requisition"  (May 2, 1951)

2855-2079  "Words and Ammunition"  (May 4, 1951)

2856-2080  "Picklock Perkins"  (May 7, 1951)

2857-2081  "Misplaced Friendship"  (May 9, 1951)

2859-2083  "Mystery Hotel"  (May 14, 1951)

2862-2086  "The Death Trap"  (May 21, 1951)

2863-2087  "Double Ambush"  (May 23, 1951)

2864-2088  "Sinners by Proxy"  (May 25, 1951)

2877-2101  "The Packet"  (June 25, 1951) *

2884-2108  "Fire and Water"  (July 11, 1951) *

2885-2109  "Man of Many Faces"  (July 13, 1951) *

2887-2111  "Case Against Tonto"  (July 18, 1951)

2888-2112  "Dead Men Don't Talk"  (July 20, 1951)

2889-2113  "The Rescue"  (July 23, 1951)

2890-2114  "In Search of Evidence"  (July 25, 1951)

2891-2115  "Border Scheme"  (July 27, 1951)

2892-2116  "The Banning Death Plot"  (July 30, 1951)

2893-2117  "Marla's Country-Man"  (August 1, 1951)

2894-2118  "Callahan's Clock"  (August 3, 1951)

2896-2120  "Man Missing"  (August 8, 1951)

2905-2129  "Gold is Where You Find It"  (August 29, 1951) *

2906-2130  "The Elusive Spy"  (August 31, 1951) *

2907-2131  "Ace and Two of a  Kind"  (September 3, 1951) *

2908-2132  "Action for Thunder"  (September 5, 1951)

2909-2133  "The Baited Trap"  (September 7, 1951)

2911-2135  "The Step-Brother"  (September 12, 1951)

2913-2137  "Night Stage"  (September 17, 1951)

2914-2138  "Death for Sale"  (September 19, 1951)

2917-2141  "Garland's Grudge"  (September 26, 1951)

2921-2145  "Stage Fright"  (October 5, 1951)

2924-2148  "Special Investigator"  (October 12, 1951)

2928-2152  "Gunmen of Pecos Valley"  (October 22, 1951)

2929-2153  "The Navajo Trail"  (October 24, 1951)

2930-2154  "End of the Quest"  (October 26, 1951)

2931-2155  "The Great Bend Settlement"  (October 29, 1951) AFRS version exists

2935-2159  "The Search"  (November 7, 1951)

2937-2161  "Stage to Big Bend"  (November 12, 1951)

2938-2162  "The Jesse Chase Mine"  (November 14, 1951)

2939-2163  "Witness to Crime"  (November 16, 1951)

2941-2165  "The Hold-Up at Sandy Point"  (November 21, 1951)

2945-2169  "The Bounty Hunter"  (November 30, 1951)

2946-2170  "Loot and a Boot"  (December 3, 1951)

2947-2171  "The Flaming Barrier"  (December 5, 1951)

2949-2173  "The First Snowfall"  (December 10, 1951)

2950-2174  "Guns of Jeopardy"  (December 12, 1951)

2951-2175  "Stranger in the Storm"  (December 14, 1951)

2952-2176  "The Land Grab"  (December 17, 1951)

2953-2177  "Desperado at Large"  (December 19, 1951)

2955-2179  "Faith and the Doctor"  (December 24, 1951)

2956-2180  "Nancy Appleton's Hero"  (December 26, 1951)

2958-2182  "Crime at Umbrella Rock"  (December 31, 1951) *

2972-2196  "Homecoming"  (February 1, 1952)

2974-2198  "When Disaster Strikes"  (February 6, 1952)

2986-2210  "The Lost Trail"  (March 5, 1952)

3028-2252  "Law for Calamity"  (June 11, 1952)

3029-2253  "End of the Chase"  (June 13, 1952)

3030-2254  "Zanzibar"  (June 16, 1952)

3031-2255  "Wagon of Refuge"  (June 18, 1952)

3032-2256  "The Fannin' Kid"  (June 20, 1952)

3033-2257  "Wall of Fire"  (June 23, 1952)

3035-2259  "A Piece of Silver"  (June 27, 1952)

3036-2260  "Sal Hawkins Comes Home"  (June 30, 1952)

3037-2261  "Change of Plans"  (July 2, 1952)

3038-2262  "Apache Pass"  (July 4, 1952)

3039-2263  "The Long Bridge"  (July 7, 1952)

3041-2265  "Moose Miller's Fall"  (July 11, 1952) *

3042-2266  "The Lost Years"  (July 14, 1952) *

3043-2267  "War in Wyoming"  (July 16, 1952) *

3044-2268  "Murder Hunt"  (July 18, 1952) *

3045-2269  "The Eagle Tattoo"  (July 21, 1952) *

3046-2270  "Incident on the Outskirts"  (July 23, 1952) *

3047-2271  "The Loaded Burros"  (July 25, 1952) *

3048-2272  "West of Deadwood"  (July 28, 1952) *

3049-2273  "The Invalid"  (July 30, 1952) *

3050-2274  "Small Gold Nugget"  (August 1, 1952) *

3051-2275  "Dollars of Doom"  (August 4, 1952) *

3052-2276  "The Barricade"  (August 6, 1952) *

3053-2277  "Race Against Time"  (August 8, 1952) *

3054-2278  "The Young Sister"  (August 11, 1952) *

3055-2279  "Savage Justice"  (August 13, 1952) *

3056-2280  "Empty Water Barrel"  (August 15, 1952) *

3057-2281  "The Slave-Runners"  (August 18, 1952) *

3058-2282  "The Hermit of Mile High"  (August 20, 1952) *

3059-2283  "The Canvas Suitcase"  (August 22, 1952) *

3060-2284  "Condemned Men"  (August 25, 1952) *

3061-2285  "The Long Trail"  (August 27, 1952) *

3062-2286  "The Secret Valley"  (August 29, 1952)

3063-2287  "Ex-Marshal"  (September 1, 1952)

3064-2288  "Lone Cedar"  (September 3, 1952)

3112-2336  "The Morning Star"  (December 24, 1952)

3315-2535  "Go-Between"  (April 12, 1954)

3317-2537  "The Thief"  (April 16, 1954) recently found, need to listen to verify

3330-2549  "The Brightest Star"  (May 17, 1954)  only a partial recording exists???

I will remove episodes off this list if the recording is found and provided to me for verification. (Last update: August 20, 2023)

An asterisk (*) means the physical radio script was scanned into PDF format and a plot summary has been written for future projects. 


The following is a list of recordings that exist but are damaged and seeking upgrades or better transfers.

Episode #898-123          Broadcast October 28, 1938  

(opening of the recording is damaged)

Episode #960-185          Broadcast March 22, 1939  

(surface noise including scratches and pops during the second act)

Episode #1048-273        Broadcast October 13, 1939.

(The opening of the second act was cut slightly due to damage.)

Episode #1151-373        "The Trumpet of Victory"

(June 10, 1940, the second half of this episode is very scratchy and broken.)

Episode #1187-409        "Cow Thieves at the Kay See"  

(September 2, 1940, four minutes missing from the second act)

Episode #1243-461        "Dead Man Imposter"  

(January 10, 1941, two minutes missing from second act)

Episode #2027-1252        "Boomerang Scheme"

(recording exists but disc was damaged)

Episode #2035-1260        "Big Brother"

(cross-track audio from reel-to-reel suggests a better sound quality is available)


There were two rare recordings that were never broadcast but the radio scripts have been scanned int PDF.

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, radio broadcast. A recording has not been found but the radio script has been scanned and digitized. It is not known if the "Special Birthday Recording" was ever broadcast. 

A special Lone Ranger anniversary program, with an incidental poem by Edgar A. Guest, was broadcast on Saturday, January 23, 1943. This supposedly exists in recorded form but has not been found or verified.

Thursday, August 20, 2020


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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


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.