range rider

The Range Rider

The Range Rider was an American Western TV series, which was first shown from 1951 to 1953. A single lost episode was first shown in 1959. It was also shown on British television in the 1960s.

Jock Mahoney played the title character in 79 B&W 30-minute episodes, along with partner Dick West, played by Dick Jones. The character had no name other than Range Rider and his reputation for fairness, fighting ability and accuracy with his guns was known far and wide, even by Indians. Mahoney towered over Jones giving the idea that Dick West was a kid instead of a normal sized adult. The show was a production of Gene Autry Enterprise, and the theme tune was "Home on the Range" though in later episodes this was played at a fast tempo without the song. The two main characters were the only consistent ones. Five to six names of other actors were given at the end of each episode, but not the parts they played.

Both Mahoney and Jones were very athletic and able horse riders with both of them performing many horse riding stunts in the series. Range Rider's horse was called "Rawhide" (episode 22). They never, ever just mounted their horses like other cowboys but normally at a run and jump. There were a number of fist fights in every show with a few judo moves thrown in. Fights were fairly realistic in that many punches were struck and lots of furniture wrecked before someone falls to the ground and stays there. But not realistic in that both lead characters took many hard punches each show and never showed a mark on their faces unless it was necessary to the plot. Punches were often wide swings rather than short jabs (which would have seriously damaged knuckles and faces).

Both characters wore distinctive clothing (Range Rider, buckskin and Dick a 'vest' that must have been a nightmare to button up), typical of westerns at the time that made no concessions to the terrible winters experienced in America's mid-west. They often slept rough too though since every day was sunny and every night warm, it was not a problem. Also typical of westerns made in that period, a number of people in the show "threw bullets". The gun was thrust forward each time before firing with little effort at aiming. It is obvious to anyone who watched the show (available on DVD) that the two lead characters got on very well with each other. It is possible that Dick fancied every young woman they met (while the Range Rider only fancied the odd one, being the "pure hero") to stop any talk of homosexuality because of their closeness and of two men living life together. There was usually a little slapstick in the shows, often from Dick West, even sometimes accompanied by comical sound effects.

In the opening episode, titled "Range Rider", he is on his own and takes into town a man named Rivers who tried to steal his horse earlier. John Rivers has spent some years in jail for a crime he may not have committed and has since been kicked out of town for dealing from the bottom of the deck (which he may not have done either). This ambiguity is probably because he has a son called Dick who at the end of the episode decides to ride off with the Range Rider. Dick Rivers, (billed as Dick West in the end titles and only called Dick in this episode) is staying with his aunt. A group of bearded men are holding up the stages in the area. The case is solved and the men captured and though he has had to battle with temptation, John Rivers proves he is of good character and is hired as a sheriff in a frontier town which is not worried about his past, only his present.

The Range Rider comes across a known crook in this episode and knows he is worth $500 reward. Throughout the series, Range Rider and Dick West don't have jobs but ride from town to town capturing criminals on the way. Though they have no jobs they always seemed to have enough money to get by. It could have been possible that they did bring in criminals for the reward but in the series they are seen turning in crooks at the end of an episode and riding off "into the sunset", not apparently having collected any reward. In Episode 22 (Ten Thousand Reward), Range Rider turns down a $10,000 reward for catching the Apache Kid.

Episode 17 "The Golden Peso" is unusual in that Dick West has left the Range Rider's company for some months to go off on his own and has opened up a gold mine which is not as successful as it first appeared. In episode 72 (Hideout), Dick had been separated from the Range Rider somewhere over four weeks and had got himself into trouble yet again by time the Range Rider turns up. At the end of episode 36 (Shotgun Stage), Dick West addresses the camera/audience with the words; "can you?" At the end of episode 70 (Western Edition) Dick holds up a sign with "THE END" on it. Last of the Pony Express (episode 20) was an unusual episode in that the Range Rider supported the Wells Fargo Line and Dick West supported the Pony Express, which they were replacing. A third party set them against each other. The episode also had the usually clean shaven Alan Hale Jr, villain in a number of episodes, with the beginnings of a beard.

Episode 9 (The Baron of Broken Bow) starts with Dick West pretending to be Dick Jones from Chicago and claiming not to know the Range Rider, who remembers him winning a rodeo a few years back. This is to fool some sheep people. He is working with his father, Lance West (the Baron) who seems to be the villain in the cattle-sheep war on the range and is believed to be guilty of the murder of Luke Gordon, sheep herder. Dick West is trying to find out the truth, if his father is guilty of the crimes laid against him. Episode 28 (Marked Bullets) has Dick turning 18 next day and due for an inheritance from his father. $60,000 in Government bonds which his crooked uncle, Homer West, a banker, tries to swindle him out of. Dick is blamed for Homer's murder when he is shot by his partner in crime. Episode 38 (Trail of the Lawless) features Curt Manning who is the Range Rider's twin brother. His name is Curt but he took the surname of Ma Manning, a Ma Barker type who raised him to hate the law. Curt has just come out of a prison after serving a sentence for a bank hold up and Range Rider takes his place to try and find out where the loot is buried. Range Rider's true name is not mentioned.

In episode 32 (Gunman's Game) Dick has a recent letter from a girl dated September 9 1864. 1864 was in the late years of the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) and there would not be the peace in the West at such a bloody period in American history. There is never a mention of "Yankees" or "Confederates" or a sign of troops going to war or returning from war. 1864 was a bad choice of a randomly picked date for this episode.

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