Antony Ellis wrote eight episodes for radio Gunsmoke.
All ran in the first season,
and any trace of them should have been trampled away
by the more than 400 other episodes that followed
in the next eight seasons.
Gunsmoke radio being a landscape of excellence,
even the best stories recede in memory.
And yet these eight stand out, unforgettable.
The Ride Back June 28, 1952
Shakespeare August 23, 1952
Kitty November 29, 1952
I Don't Know December 6, 1952
Christmas Story December 20, 1952
Meshougah February 21, 1953
Pussy Cats March 21, 1953
Gonif April 11, 1953
Although Ellis' scripts were curiously absent in the half-hrs,
two did make it to the b&w hours.
'Hammerhead' is Gunsmoke's only out-and-out adventure story.
Powered by a breath-taking cross-country horse race,
it speeds by so entertainingly that you don't even notice
that it's taking a few glances at human nature along the way.
Ellis' other b&w hour was 'Extradition,'
yet another version of 'The Ride Back.'
Regardless of whose idea it was to stretch 'Extradition'
into a two-hour two-parter,
it was antithetical to his original half-hour vision
of intensifying the dramatic conflict
by stripping it down to only two characters.
The Gilbert Roland storyline is only
a distraction, a confusion, a dilution.
Gene Evans' excellent performance as Hacker
is sadly obscured by all this nonsense.
As can be expected, Extradition works best in the scenes
that involve only Matt and his prisoner.
Again, Shakespeare appears on the landscape (no, not on a stage coach).
Charlie Hacker treats his copy of the plays better than he does the Bible.
After saying that 'A bank is the safest refuge for a man's money,
and the Bible for his soul,' Charlie mistreats his Bible--
which he had been using to hide his money--
and refers to it as a ''bank gone bust.'
Ellis has Hacker recite the requisite quotation from As You Will,
then puts the two men through their paces,
their exits and their entrances, their parts.
Pay close attention and make what you will
of Charlie Hacker's fenced-in garden of corn,
to the weeds that when watered
start acting like corn and grow as tall,
and to Cedar Tank and the Joshua trees.
An earlier scene yields some nice lines,
beautifully delivered by veteran actor Walter Burke,
who plays another character about to make his exit:
"Where's home? Once there was the smell of wild strawberries...
Home? I'll never get home."
July 24, 2005
Copyright © 2006-2001 E. A. Villafranca, Jr.
All Rights Reserved