The Six Shooter

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The Six Shooter
GenreWestern drama
Running time30 minutes
Country of originUnited States
StarringJames Stewart
AnnouncerHal Gibney
John Wald
Created byFrank Burt
Written byFrank Burt
Directed byJack Johnstone
Original releaseSeptember 20, 1953 (1953-09-20) –
June 24, 1954 (1954-06-24)
No. of series1
No. of episodes39
Opening themeHighland Lament

The Six Shooter is a United States Western old-time radio program starring James Stewart as a gunfighter. It was created by Frank Burt, who also wrote many of the episodes, and lasted only one season of 39 episodes on NBC (Sept. 20, 1953–June 24, 1954). Initially, it was broadcast on Sundays at 9:30 pm Eastern Time, through October 11. Then it was heard at 8:30 pm for three weeks. Finally, on November 8, 1953, through March 21, 1954, it was broadcast Sundays at 8 pm; beginning April 1, 1954, through the final episode, it was on Thursdays at 8:30 pm.[1] One old-time radio directory called the program "a last, desperate effort by a radio network (NBC) to maintain interest in adventure drama by employing a major Hollywood movie star in the leading role."[2]

Stewart starred as Britt Ponset, a drifting cowboy in the final years of the wild west.[3] Episodes ranged from straight Western drama to whimsical comedy.[4] A trademark of the show was Stewart's use of whispered narration during tense scenes that created a heightened sense of drama, and relief when the situation was resolved.[1]

Some of the more prominent actors to perform on the program included Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Howard McNear, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Alan Reed, Marvin Miller, and William Conrad (often credited as "Julius Krelboyne" because he was also the star of CBS's radio show Gunsmoke, playing Marshall Matt Dillon at the time). Some did multiple episodes playing different characters.

Each episode opened with the announcer (Hal Gibney; John Wald in later episodes) stating: "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both 'the Six Shooter'."[4]

The haunting theme music was "Highland Lament",[1] arranged by series composer Basil Adlam and written by British film composer Charles Williams. Jack Johnstone was the producer-director for NBC Radio, in association with Revue Productions.

The final episode, "Myra Barker", provided a satisfying (if melancholy) finale to the series. Ponset falls in love with Myra, and proposes marriage. Myra, after thinking it over, appears to accept, but then tells Britt she has heard that Sheriff Jennings of Eagle Falls has asked for his help, and Britt admits that he feels obligated to go. Myra tells Britt to go and not come back, telling him some adventure will always call him, and he will always go, or regret not going. Britt goes, resuming his wanderings, but not before revealing to the audience that he knows he was *not* needed in Eagle Falls, and knows Myra knows that, too. The moment comes across as a moment of supreme self-realization by Britt that he always will be a wanderer.


Ep # Title Airdate
Hollywood Star Playhouse April 13, 1952
(Audition Program) July 15, 1953
01 "Jenny" September 20, 1953
02 "The Coward" September 27, 1953
03 "The Stampede" October 4, 1953
04 "Silver Annie" October 11, 1953
05 "Rink Larkin" October 18, 1953
06 "Red Lawson's Revenge" October 25, 1953
07 "Ben Scofield" November 1, 1953
08 "The Capture of Stacy Gault" November 8, 1953
09 "Escape from Smoke Falls" November 15, 1953
10 "Gabriel Starbuck" November 22, 1953
11 "Sheriff Billy" November 29, 1953
12 "A Pressing Engagement" December 6, 1953
13 "More Than Kin" December 13, 1953
14 "Britt Ponset's Christmas Carol" December 20, 1953
15 "Cora Plummer Quincy" December 27, 1953
16 "A Friend in Need" January 3, 1954
17 "Hiram's Goldstrike" January 10, 1954
18 "The Silver Buckle" January 17, 1954
19 "Helen Bricker" January 24, 1954
20 "Trail to Sunset" January 31, 1954
21 "Apron Faced Sorrel" February 7, 1954
22 "Quiet City" February 14, 1954
23 "Battle at Tower Rock" February 21, 1954
24 "Cheyenne Express" March 7, 1954
25 "Thicker Than Water" March 14, 1954
26 "Duel at Lockwood" March 21, 1954
27 "Aunt Em" April 1, 1954
28 "General Gillford's Widow" April 8, 1954
29 "Crises at Easter Creek" April 15, 1954
30 "Johnny Stringer" April 22, 1954
31 "Revenge at Harness Creek" April 29, 1954
32 "Anna Norquest" May 6, 1954
33 "The Double Seven" May 13, 1954
34 "The Shooting of Wyatt King" May 20, 1954
35 "Blood Relations" May 27, 1954
36 "Silver Threads" June 3, 1954
37 "The New Sheriff" June 10, 1954
38 "When The Shoe Doesn't Fit" June 17, 1954
39 "Myra Barker" June 24, 1954


James Stewart filmed a television pilot episode titled The Windmill featuring Barbara Hale, John McIntire, and Edgar Buchanan, but it somehow failed to sell. A perfect copy of the episode exists, however. The program was later successfully adapted for television in 1957 with John Payne as the star; by that time, Stewart's career had completely recovered from his initial postwar slump, and he was no longer available. An article in a trade publication reported that 39 "half-hour tv films" would be produced "for a series titled The Six Shooter."[5] Frank Burt was the consultant for all episodes of the adaptation. The pilot episode, titled "The Restless Gun", aired on 29 March 1957 as an episode of the anthology series Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. John Payne, who went on to star in the series, played the lead character, Britt Ponsett. By the time the series, also called The Restless Gun, debuted the following fall, though, the main character's name had been changed to Vint Bonner, "a slightly altered rendition of Britt Ponset".[6]


  • An episode of the anthology Hollywood Star Playhouse on NBC entitled "The Six Shooter", was broadcast April 13, 1952. This used the "Ben Scofield" script, which was also used for the audition episode and (with a slightly different opening) the seventh episode of the series.
  • The unaired audition episode, recorded July 15, 1953, includes a personal message by James Stewart in the middle and end trying to sell the program to potential sponsors.
  • Stewart revived the Ponset character for the Feb. 10, 1957, episode of the television anthology program General Electric Theater titled "The Town with a Past". The script was based on the "Silver Annie" episode of the radio show. Stewart, however, declined to appear on a weekly TV version, and the proposed series was offered to John Payne.
  • The Dec. 15, 1957, episode of G.E. Theater, "The Trail to Christmas", was based on the radio episode "Britt Ponset's Christmas Carol", although in this instance, Stewart's character was renamed Bart, and the Dec. 15, 1959, episode of the television anthology program Startime, "Cindy's Fella", was based on the radio episode "When the Shoe Doesn't Fit". Stewart took the role of peddler Azel Dorsey, while George Gobel played an unnamed drifter in place of Ponset.
  • Ponset's horse was named Scar.
  • Although Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. was interested in underwriting the program, James Stewart refused to accept, believing that it did not coincide with his public image. Jack Johnstone was quoted as saying, "Chesterfield begged and begged and begged for months trying to get sponsorship, but Jim didn’t feel that, because of his screen image, it would be fair for him to be sponsored by a cigarette".[7] Coleman eventually bought commercial time during the first four episodes, but no other advertisers sustained the series after that.


  1. ^ a b c Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. pp. 618–619.
  2. ^ Buxton, Frank and Owen, Bill (1972). The Big Broadcast: 1920–1950. The Viking Press. p. 217. [ISBN missing]
  3. ^ Reinehr, Robert C. and Swartz, Jon D. (2008). The A to Z of Old-Time Radio. Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7616-3. p. 236.
  4. ^ a b Dunning, John. (1976). Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925–1976. Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0-13-932616-2. p. 556.
  5. ^ "Window, Glen Firms Combine" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 22, 1957. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  6. ^ "The Six Shooter Radio Program". The Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  7. ^ Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters. McFarland & Company Inc. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-7864-4324-6. Retrieved 12 July 2015.

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