Just in time for Boxing Day, some two-fisted Western action!
Just Enough Information: Produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions for syndication, Annie Oakley was inspired by the renowned 19th century sharpshooter and first female star of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. In this highly fictionalized story, Annie (Gail Davis) and her little brother Tagg (Jimmy Hawkins) lived in the town of Diablo, Arizona with their sheriff uncle, and when trouble was afoot (which it always was, because HELLO MCFLY, IT’S A WESTERN) Annie, Tagg, and Deputy Lofty Craig (Brad Johnson) would go all shooty-fisty to set it aright. 81 episodes were produced between 1954 and 1957.
The Christmas Episode: “Santa Claus Wears A Gun”. Original Broadcast: December 9, 1956 (or thereabouts, since it’s syndication).
No, they wouldn’t jerk us around and give us a real Santa Claus packing heat (dare to dream), but we do start the show with a poster of a very familiar-looking mountain man/sharpshooter named Snowy Kringle. Tagg’s very impressed, especially when Annie points out how old the rifle is.
When Annie and Lofty enter the station house they find a stranger loading his gun…and an ominous musical sting. The man introduces himself as D.K. Rodney, federal agent arriving in advance of an Army payroll shipment. He also claims that Kringle is responsible for shooting another station agent in a Dodge City holdup…and he’s riding in on the next train. The train with the money. Dun dun duhnnnnn…
Don’t listen to him, Annie! That music cue is telling a different story!
When Kringle does arrive, he’s a sweet old guy who’s happy to show off for the starstruck Tagg. But the old fella changes his tune in a heartbeat when Tagg tries to sneak a peek at Kringle’s pistol later.
Sure enough, a man in a sackcloth mask and Kringle’s boots shows up later to blow open the safe, (highlight for spoilers) but the first clue that things aren’t what they seem is that the hold-up man doesn’t sound a thing like the real Kringle. To cut to the chase (and yes, there is one), a phony Kringle is conspiring with Rodney to frame the old man for the robberies and get away with the cash. There’s also a logical reason why he was extra protective of the pistol, too.
To get to there from here involves some hard ridin’, two-fisted fightin’, and (of course) fancy shootin’ (but, because it’s pretty much kid’s TV, not fancy killin’). Annie Oakley doesn’t skimp on any of the above, and compared to the other Christmas adventure stories we’ve seen so far, this show really moves. So yes, by all means go for it if you can find it.
Our Holiday Lesson For Today: Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes when you see a fat man with a bag over his shoulder, it’s Santa. Other times, it’s just some hobo stealing your XBox.
There’s all kinds of Annie Oakley video on the Intertubes, but not this particular one, sooooo…
Next (if the current conditions prevail): A String of Blue Beads!