Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1941: The Silver ArrowReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: October 29, 1941-November 12, 1941
"The Silver Arrow"
As you recall, Jimmy Olsen found a silver hand-made arrow with the following inscription:
"1885 - I shot this arrow into the air. 'Twill fall to Earth, I know not where. If he who finds this have no fear, you'll search the stream 'neath the galloping steer."
At first, it was thought that the words were from 1855, but Clark Kent was able to make the writing clearer after removing some dirt.
Trying to find out what the enigmatic inscription means, Tumbleweed Jones, Jimmy and Clark go to speak with Hopeful Jake. He's called Hopeful because he's always hopeful to find gold when he pans for the mineral. They show him the silver arrow, and he tells the trio of when a Robin Hood type of vigilante called the Silver Arrow fought lawlessness.
When Hopeful worked for the stagecoach of a silver mining town called Dead Man's Gulch, some bandits were trying to steal silver from him. However the thieves fell dead from being shot by silver arrows. The Silver Arrow would often give the stolen silver to the poor. Hopeful continues on by saying that Dead Man's Gulch is now a ghost town and has been since the silver mines went dry.
Thinking that the answers to the riddle of the silver arrow's inscription are in the ghost town, Tumbleweed, Jimmy and Clark go to Dead Man's Gulch despite Hopeful's warnings not to do so. They search for clues throughout the deserted town.
At that moment, Jimmy gets thirsty and searches for water from a spring in Dead Man's Gulch. After some time, Clark and Tumbleweed hear a scream. Jimmy was not the source of the noise, but he was near whoever or whatever made the sound. Unfortunately, he didn't see the screamer very well because the sun was in his eyes.
Continuing their search for water, Clark, Jimmy and Tumbleweed find a stream behind the old sheriff's office. Jimmy examines a large rock while he drinks. He notices a carving of a galloping steer on it. Tumbleweed and Clark move the rock and find another silver arrow with another verse written on it.
"In a cave by the hill where rests the dead, you'll find my mate in the seventh head."
After much pondering over the inscription, The trio goes to a cave where the remains of seven buffalo rest. They do not yet know that a sinister figure has been following them since they were exploring Dead Man's Gulch. Jimmy, however, does feel like he and his friends are being watched.
After a cat scares Clark, Tumbleweed and Jimmy in the cave, they find another silver arrow under the seventh buffalo's skull. The arrow contains the following riddle:
"Pace seven to the south, than face the east. Shoot this arrow where the sun shines least."
Unfortunately, Clark and the others must wait until tomorrow to solve the inscription's enigma because it has gotten dark. Tumbleweed goes to get the trio's horses while Jimmy and Clark explore the buffalo cave a little more.
Suddenly, Clark and Jimmy hear Tumbleweed call for help. However, before they can come to the aid of their cowboy friend, a rockslide closes the entrance to the cave. Using the darkness to fool Jimmy, Clark uses Superman's strength to clear away some of the rocks. He and Jimmy are now able to leave the cave, but Tumbleweed is nowhere to be seen. Their search for the cowboy leads them to an opening to a silver mine, but there's still no sign of Tumbleweed. Jimmy and Clark find him bound and gagged in an abandoned building in Dead Man's Gulch. Clark and Jimmy enter the back room and free their friend.
After he's free, Tumbleweed tells Clark and Jimmy that someone knocked him out just after he had exited from the buffalo cave. He didn't see who attacked him. The trio then decides to go back to Tumbleweed's ranch and follow the clues in the third silver arrow's riddle tomorrow morning.
Just then, there is a thumping noise. Tumbleweed had heard it when he was tied up, but he didn't know what had caused it. Jimmy, Tumbleweed and Clark follow the noise to a room located on the second floor of the deserted building. Clark prepares to open the room's door. He and his friends find a girl tied to a chair. She has fainted, and Clark, Tumbleweed and Jimmy are trying to revive her. They also find another silver arrow stuck through her hat, which is on the floor. There is another inscription on the bolt, but the trio's first priority is the girl, who has just awakened.
The girl's name is Mary Lewis. She arrived by train this afternoon and came to Dead Man's Gulch to find something. Someone came up from behind her. This caused the scream that Jimmy and the others had heard earlier. It was Mary whom Jimmy had seen when the sun blinded him. Mary was later locked in a cellar and heard a grinding sound, like rocks being rubbed together. She saw a tall, crouched figure in the shadows. She never saw him, but she could recognize his voice because he said, "I know what you've come for - what everybody else wants. But you'll never live to find it."
Going back to the inscription on Mary's arrow, Clark and his friends discover that it has the same verse that was written on the first bolt that Jimmy had found. It seems that Mary Lewis is searching for the same thing that Clark, Tumbleweed and Jimmy are hunting. It's later decided to go back to Tumbleweed's ranch and invite Ms. Lewis to stay at the house. She doesn't want to impose, but she later accepts the invitation.
Suddenly, as Clark questions Mary Lewis further, another silver arrow hits a wall. A note is attached to the bolt this time. The paper reads as follows:
"Leave now, and don't never come back. Give up looking for more silver arrows, or you'll be finding them in your backs."
Just then, Ms. Lewis, Tumbleweed and Clark see someone running toward the hills. The reporter and cowboy pursue the figure while Ms. Lewis and Jimmy stay behind.
At that moment, Mary tells Jimmy how she had received the silver arrow. Ms. Lewis is a Kindergarten teacher back east. Her grandfather, who was a reformed western bandit named Bart Cummings from the Lost Valley area, sent the arrow to her mother. Ms. Lewis' mother went east with Cummings' ex-wife. The only time Mary's mother heard from her father was when he sent her the silver arrow.
Suddenly, a draft blows out the candle lighting the old building for Jimmy and Mary. Someone grabs Jimmy, and the copy boy pulls some gray hairs from the attacker's beard while he and Mary call for Clark and Tumbleweed. The two men return with Hopeful Jake, who claims to have been playing a practical joke on Clark and the others. Jimmy thinks Hopeful attacked him, but the prospector's beard feels differently from the one Jimmy had touched. Tumbleweed threatens to hang Hopeful if he doesn't answer Clark's questions. Hopeful Jake fearfully agrees to cooperate. He doesn't know that Tumbleweed was only bluffing.
Hopeful wanted Clark and the others out of Dead Man's Gulch because there's something - possibly silver - there that the aged prospector has been looking for nearly thirty years. Apparently, someone else is also looking for this, and Hopeful Jake knows who that person is. However, before Hopeful can reveal the person's name to Clark and his friends, the elderly man is shot in the back by a silver arrow.
Later, at Tumbleweed's ranch house, a doctor is looking over Hopeful Jake. While he's not a young man, there is still hope of saving the unconscious Hopeful. With the doctor now gone, Clark, Mary Lewis, Tumbleweed and Jimmy prepare to retire for the night. After the Kindergarten teacher goes to the upstairs guest room, Clark theorizes from elements of both Mary and Hopeful's stories that Bart Cummings was the vigilante called the Silver Arrow. They only need Hopeful Jake to awaken in order to learn more about this mystery.
The next morning, Tumbleweed, Mary, Jimmy and Clark go to the cave of the buffalo bones. Thinking of the verse on the third arrow found by Jimmy and the others, Mary guesses that the only place where the sun doesn't shine is inside the cave. Tumbleweed goes to a spot marked for shooting the arrow and fires it into the buffalo cave. The group prepares to dig in the spot where the arrow has landed. Tumbleweed searches further into the cave for some shovels and picks when he suddenly falls into a hole. Inside the hole, he finds a stove, food and a bunch of silver arrows. It also looks as if someone has been living there recently. Tumbleweed thinks that the bearded man that grabbed Jimmy and shot Hopeful uses the area under the buffalo cave as a home.
At that moment, Jimmy remembers that there is a pick ax in the abandoned hotel in Dead Man's Gulch. Jimmy and Ms. Lewis go to search for the ax in order to help Clark and Tumbleweed dig, but the teacher and the copy boy get the shock of their lives when they see an old portrait on the hotel's wall. The eyes in the picture are moving. Mary becomes extremely frightened, and Jimmy escorts her back to Tumbleweed's ranch.
At the ranch, Jimmy and Mary wait for the doctor to finish examining Hopeful Jake. Mary tells Jimmy that she discovered an old letter belonging to her mother revealing that Mary's grandfather Bart Cummings was the Robin Hood-like vigilante named the Silver Arrow. The pair then goes to speak with Hopeful after the doctor says it's okay to see the aged prospector.
Despite the doctor's orders, Hopeful wants to reveal something to Mary and Jimmy. One night many years ago, someone knocked on Hopeful's door. The man had been shot numerous times, and Hopeful nursed him back to health. This man is still living under the cave of the buffalo bones. That man's mind is fractured quite a bit, but Hopeful Jake still did his best to nurse him back to health. The man is none other than Bart Cummings, Mary Lewis' grandfather that fought lawlessness as the Silver Arrow. Jimmy is about to run to tell Clark and Tumbleweed, who are at the buffalo cave, that the Silver Arrow is still alive, but the delirious former vigilante grabs the copy boy before he can do so.
At the cave, Clark and Tumbleweed hear Jimmy call for help. They arrive in Dead Man's Gulch and find that Bart Cummings has Jimmy. To calm the Silver Arrow down, Clark promises to help him find his treasure with the aid of the silver arrows Cummings had left behind.
With his silver treasure found and his mind healed, Bart Cummings goes to live with his granddaughter Mary Lewis back east. Hopeful Jake has also made a full recovery, bought new clothes with his reward for helping the Silver Arrow and continues to be hopeful that he'll one day find gold in Lost Valley. Tumbleweed has bought a new car with his money, but he's still a cowboy at heart. Jimmy and Clark, despite missing their friends, must return to Metropolis, where another mystery awaits them. Tune in for "The Pan-Am Highway" next week in The Adventures of Superman, boys and girls.
In "The Silver Arrow," Jimmy mentions that he is friends with a boy named Jackie Kelk. Jackie Kelk was the actor who portrayed Jimmy Olsen in The Adventures of Superman during the first seven years of the radio series.
Okay, I hate to admit this, but "The Silver Arrow" was an enjoyable serial despite the irritating presence of Tumbleweed Jones. I was a bit harsh to judge it last week before I even listened to it. This is because "Crooked Oil Association" tortured me, and I had assumed that "The Silver Arrow" would do the same because the former leads into the latter. I'm honestly sorry that I let my dislike of "Crooked" prejudge what "Arrow" was going to be like.
Now, I'm not going to retract anything I've said about Tumbleweed Jones. I still stand by the fact that I feel he is an unnecessary character, and "The Silver Arrow" would have worked just as well without him. However, ol' Tumbleweed seems to be sitting on the sidelines in this story arc to make room for the more interesting characters like the Silver Arrow and his granddaughter.
Something about "The Silver Arrow" reminds me of "The Gray Ghost" episode of Batman: The Animated Series, in which Batman met the hero who inspired him called the Gray Ghost. Much like that animated cartoon, this serial shows an old hero with a new hero, even if neither of them ever see each other in costume. I found this gave the story some really enjoyable aspects.
Another fun thing about "The Silver Arrow" was the puzzle of the arrows' inscriptions. This gives the serial a sense of audience participation and makes the listener feel like they're going on the treasure hunt with Clark Kent and friends. I mentioned audience involvement in the stories broadcasted in The Adventures of Superman before, and I feel that "The Silver Arrow" really shines in that department. Let's hope more serials are like that in the future because I find them more entertaining when the listeners feel like they're a part of the story.
While "Crooked Oil Association" was predictable and lacked suspense, "The Silver Arrow" is the exact opposite. One thing in particular surprised me. I was expecting Hopeful Jake to be the Silver Arrow. It threw me for a loop to learn that he was Mary Lewis' grandfather, or rather, it shocked me that her grandfather was still alive. This almost makes up for the poor way in which "Crooked Oil Association" was handled. Let's hope "The Pan-Am Highway" provides as much of that edge-of-your-seat action we've all come to expect from The Adventures of Superman. We'll find out next week when we rejoin Clark and the gang, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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