I was born in the early 1940’s and loved watching the cowboy shows of the 1950’s on TV.
Back then, there was a prevalent theme in all of them; The Good Guy Always Won and The Bad Guy Always Lost. These shows did not glorify crime in any way and made it clear that crime did not pay. They were so popular that they were refined and improved during the 1960’s. Some of my favorite shows were:
The Lone Ranger (My favorite)
Each episode began with “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!” The William Tell overture was the Lone Ranger theme song, and you would hear it playing in the background as he rode his horse, Silver, up a hill. This is what it sounded like.
It had a lot of action, so was a very popular program, especially with kids like me. The Lone Ranger, played by Clayton Moore, used proper grammar and was always helping people who were in trouble, which made him a good role model for kids.
So who was The Lone Ranger? His real name, in the original episode, was John Reid. He was part of a posse of Texas Rangers that were chasing some desperadoes. They were ambushed in a canyon and all were left for dead. What the bad guys didn’t know though, was that John Reid survived and crawled to a nearby water hole. Shortly thereafter, a friendly Indian named Tonto, who John Reid has helped in the past, spotted him and nursed him back to health. He then vowed to help this “lone ranger” avenge the deaths of the other 5 posse members and any other wrong doers they might discover in the future. John Reid became “Kemo Sabe” (“Trusty Scout”) to Tonto and, “The Lone Ranger” to everyone else.
While he always brought the bad guys to justice, “The Lone Ranger” never actually killed anyone himself. If anyone was actually killed, it was usually the sheriff who did it, otherwise “The Lone Ranger” worked it out so that the bad guys killed each other.
Every week the Lone Ranger would save the day for somebody in need of help and after being thanked by everyone, he would ride off on his horse calling out the familiar “Heigh-ho, Silver, away!” Then somebody would usually say, “Hey, who was that masked man anyway.” To which someone would usually reply, “ That was The Long Ranger.”
The Lone Ranger’s Creed pretty much summed up what he stood for:
- “I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one……..
- That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
- That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.
- In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
- That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
- That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always.
- That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
- That sooner or later … somewhere … somehow … we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
- That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
- In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”
You can see the first episode here.
Once you have watched episode #1, I am sure you will want to see episode #2, as I did. So, here it is.
The part where The Lone Ranger finds and saves Silver is a little corny, but it is touching too. Be careful, it is pretty easy to get hooked on these.
Hopalong Cassidy was the hero of some twenty-eight western novels written by Clarence E. Mulford beginning in the 1920’s. He was played by William Boyd in the TV series.
In 1950 a Time Magazine article said, “Boyd made Hoppy a veritable Galahad of the range, a soft spoken paragon who did not smoke, drink or kiss girls, who tried to capture the rustlers instead of shooting them, and who always let the villain draw first if gun-play was inevitable.” Boyd himself said, “I played down the violence, tried to make Hoppy an admirable character and I insisted on grammatical English.”
It is said that he received 15 thousand fan letters a week and received endless requests from individuals and international organizations to make public appearances. He continued making films until in his sixties and then felt that the Hoppy character could not be properly portrayed at that age. He was also feeling a lot of pressure from being before the cameras month after month, making some forty Hoppy episodes, at about one a month, before he finally retired. Boyd was reluctant to retire because of his loyal fans and the fact that his production crew would be out of work. Fortunately, the TV network was ready to start shooting a new series, GUNSMOKE, so Boyd was able to assure employment for his entire crew.
Hoppy didn’t sing, dance, play football, baseball or basketball, nor did he box or play tennis or race cars. He was simply…Mr. Good guy…everybody’s favorite cowboy…everybody’s friend, buddy, pal and especially, HERO.
This is because Hopalong Cassidy:
- Was A Man of Action
- Was The Sworn Enemy of Crime and Cruelty
- Was The Epitome of Gallantry and Fair Play
- Had A Strong Sense of Justice
- Highly Regarded and Strongly Promoted Family Values
The Cisco Kid
The Cisco Kid was aired from the early 1950’s and was on for about six years. Duncan Renaldo played the part of Cisco and his trusty sidekick Pancho was played by Leo Carrillo. I loved their easy manner and the they always seemed to be enjoying themselves, even when going after the bad guys.
Cisco was definitely a quick-draw artist, but all he ever seemed to do was shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. Pancho was really good with a bullwhip, and did a lot of the fighting, so there wasn’t that much gunplay anyway.
Pancho didn’t speak English very well and I can still hear him saying, “Hey Ceesco! Let’s went!” Each show ended with some corny joke that had something to do that episode. Then they would both laugh, and Cisco would say “Oh, Pancho!” and Pancho would say “Oh, Cisco!” and they would ride off.
The Rifleman series started in the late 1950’s with Chuck Connors playing the part of Lucas McCain, The Rifleman. He was a struggling homesteader who was raising his young son Mark, played by Johnny Crawford. Mark was a good kid and helped his dad on their ranch outside the town of North Fork, New Mexico.
Westerns were popular at the time, so they used a gimmick to distinguish this show from others. The Rifleman’s gimmick was a modified Winchester Model 1892 rifle with a trigger mechanism allowing for rapid-fire shots. Connors demonstrated its rapid-fire action during the opening credits as McCain shot at an unseen bad guy on North Fork’s main street. Of course, North Fork was infested with numerous bad guys who the local Marshall would never have been able to handle without the help of Lucas and his rapid-fire weapon, which had a big ring which cocked it as he drew. Supposedly it only took three tenths of a second to fire off the first round, which certainly helped in a showdown!
Although the rifle may have appeared in every episode, it was not always fired, as some plots did not lend themselves to violence.
The show always promoted fair play, even toward one’s opponents, neighborliness, equal rights, and the need to use violence in a highly controlled manner. For instance, Lucas said things such as “A man doesn’t run from a fight, Mark, but that doesn’t mean you go looking to run TO one either!”
The program’s villains tend to be those who cheat, refuse to help people down on their luck, hold bigoted attitudes, and see violence as a first resort rather than the last option. Even though the series aired in the late fifties and early sixties, it is interesting to note one episode where the people of North Fork seem to be truly color blind. In the opening scene, a stranger played by Sammy Davis Jr., checked into the only hotel in town. As the story unfolds during the entire show, no one notices his race.
Back To The Present
On TV and in the movies of today, it is not that unusual for the bad guy to actually win or to get away and never be caught.
Movie stars not only get pregnant out-of-wedlock, but the spin is that this is actually a good thing.
Musical artists often wear gang-like attire and it is not that uncommon for some sort of investigation to be underway related to drug abuse by various athletes. And some of the tattoos that celebrities sport are beyond belief.
I could go on and on. It is sickening. How could these types of individuals serve as role models for today’s youngsters. They shouldn’t.
My advice is this, Go to Amazon, Hulu and/or YouTube and search out DVD sets of programs that promote family values and the values demonstrated by my cowboy heroes of yesteryear.
Watch them with your children. It will be good for all of you.