Radio Range Riders by Boyd Magers

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“Six Shooter”
by Boyd Magers

James Stewart starred in "The Six Shooter" on radio.“The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged, his skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is grey steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl…people call them both The Six Shooter.”

Starring James Stewart and created and written by Frank Burt, “The Six Shooter” came to NBC radio on September 20, 1953, but unfortunately lasted only one season, 39 shows, until June 24, 1954.

“The Six Shooter” program was about frontier drifter Britt Ponset, an easy-going, roving Texas plainsman, but quick on the trigger when he needed to be. Stewart was perfect for the slow-talking Ponset who usually blundered into other people’s troubles. His experiences were broad, righting wrongs, catching badmen and helping those in trouble, but many “Six Shooter” scripts were not always adventurous, often leaning more to light comedy than straight action.

The idea for the show originated on an April 1952 “Hollywood Star Playhouse” episode entitled—“The Six Shooter” starring Stewart. Well received, writer Burt developed that episode into the series with Stewart stating he accepted the role because he believed the program portrayed honest stories of the West and the Ponset character
Jack Johnstone, director. Art spot by Bobb Lynes. typified the greatness that built America, an earnest, understanding Westerner who realizes everything is not measured in black and white, good and bad. According to director Jack Johnstone (right), one of the busiest directors on radio, “Chesterfield begged and begged for months trying to get sponsorship, but Stewart didn’t feel that because of his screen image it would be right for him to be sponsored by a cigarette.”

Therefore “The Six Shooter” began on Sunday nights at 8pm sponsored by Coleman Heaters. However, after only five episodes, Coleman, for unknown reasons, dropped the show which became a sustaining NBC series. In its last few months on the air (April-June ‘54) “The Six Shooter” moved to Thursday night at 8.

Beginning in 1948, Frank Burt was a prolific writer of both film and radio. His film scripts include “Chinatown at Midnight” (‘49), “Stage to Tucson” (‘50), “The Man From Laramie” (‘55) and TV episodes of “Dragnet”, “China Smith”, “I Led 3 Lives”, “Terry and the Pirates”, “Cisco Kid”, “Biff Baker, U.S.A.”, “Trackdown”, and “M Squad” among others. On radio his writing credits included “The Whistler”, “The Unexpected” and “Hallmark Hall of Fame”. As stated, Burt’s “Six Shooter” scripts were not always about outlaws. In one Ponset brings a group of Shakespearian actors together with P. T. Barnum. In others Ponset plays “Hamlet” for a road company, becomes involved in a Western version of the Cinderella legend, and for Christmas Burt updated Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Burt died suddenly and unexpectedly at 38 from a heart attack on May 31, 1958. At the time he was supervising scripts at the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Company.

Stewart as Ponset with his horse Scar was the only recurring character with guest star roles fleshed out by noted radio actors such as Jeanette Nolan, Howard McNear, Parley Baer, John Dehner, Larry Dobkin, Jack Kruschen, Gerald Mohr, Harry Bartell, Virginia Gregg and Herb Ellis.

When the series was restructured for TV as “The Restless Gun” w/John Payne in 1957, Britt Ponset became Vint Bonner. Many of Burt’s radio scripts were reworked for TV.

To paraphrase radio announcer Hal Gibney, “The Six Shooter left behind a trail of still remembered legends.” (Art spot by Bobb Lynes.)


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