Annie Oakley

1954 | United States

Television's first Western heroine was played by Gail Davis and co-starred Brad Johnson as Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins, as Annie's brother, Tagg. 

Annie and Tagg lived in the town of Diablo, Arizona, with their uncle, Sheriff Luke MacTavish, who was usually away whenever trouble started. It would then be up to straight-shooting Annie and her "silent suitor" Lofty Craig to rescue law-abiding neighbours and arrest the outlaws. Annie Oakley was not a fictional character. 

The real Annie was born in 1860 as Phoebe Ann Moses and starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as a sharpshooter; her most famous trick being able to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on with a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground. Oakley continued to set records into her sixties, and also engaged in extensive philanthropy for women's rights. In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck played Oakley in a highly fictionalized film called Annie Oakley

The 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun is very loosely based on her life. The original stage production starred Ethel Merman, who also starred in the 1966 revival. A 1950 film version starred Betty Hutton. Gail Davis - who played Oakley in the Gene Autry produced TV series was an adroit horseback rider. Davis also toured North America in Gene Autry's traveling rodeo and went on to manage a number of other celebrities. 

Published on November 27th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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