Westerns

by Bob Stepno

During the golden years of radio, Hollywood westerns put frontier editors on screen in a variety of sub-genres, from the historical epic “Cimarron” (1931) and the frontier comedy “My Little Chickadee” (1940) to the serial adventures “The Last Frontier” (1932) and “Zorro’s Black Whip” (1944), and the more serious Western drama “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962).

Similarly, radio presented Western editors in shows from adaptations of the novel and film “Cimarron” and adult classic series like “Gunsmoke” to kids’ cowboy adventures. One series, “Frontier Gentleman,” starred a correspondent from the London Times, while other shows worked reporters and editors into individual episodes. Even the legendary Horace Greeley had his minutes of Western fame in an “Adventures of the Lone Ranger” episode.

The evening-broadcast westerns, trying to tell more complex stories than the cereal-selling juvenile shoot em ups, sometimes used journalist characters to help spread the message of a more realistic but still entertaining Wild West. Unfortunately that could mean casting reporters as naive or manipulative outsiders looking for stereotypes and sensationalism. But sometimes they learned (and taught) their lesson well, and got to have a drink with the sheriff back at the saloon.

Frontier Gentleman (41 episodes)

Gunsmoke (4 episodes)

Fort Laramie (episode “War Correspondent”)

The Lone Ranger (2 episodes)

The Cisco Kid (2 episodes)

Wild Bill Hickok (episode “Press for Justice“)

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