Down These Mean Streets (Old Time Radio Detectives)

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 Apr 12, 2020

Description

Presenting the best detectives from the Golden Age of Radio. Each week, we'll bring you an episode starring one of Old Time Radio's greatest detectives and the story behind the show. Join us for adventures of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Johnny Dollar, and many more.

Episode Date
BONUS - Seeing Red (Red Skelton Show)
01:08:02

Comedian Red Skelton is a one-man cast of characters in this week's bonus comedy episode. We'll hear Deadeye, Willie Lump-Lump, Junior "the mean widdle kid," and more in a pair of episodes from The Raleigh Cigarette Program. First, it's a salute to traffic court (originally aired on NBC on April 1, 1947). Then, Deadeye rides again in a show from April 15, 1947.

Jul 08, 2020
Episode 392 – To Catch a Thief (Boston Blackie)
01:08:25

Chester Morris puts his criminal past to work for the forces of good as Boston Blackie - "enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend." We'll hear the reformed safe cracker turned super sleuth in two old time radio mysteries: "Fifty Hunter Street" (originally aired on NBC on June 30, 1944) and "The Caretaker of the Devon Estate" (originally aired on NBC on July 28, 1944).

Jul 05, 2020
BONUS - With Friends Like These (My Friend Irma)
01:09:21

Radio characters didn't come daffier than Irma Peterson, the scatterbrained secretary who never met a phrase she couldn't twist. And Irma had one of radio's best straight women in roommate Jane Stacy. Together, they made wonderful radio comedy in My Friend Irma. Marie Wilson and Cathy Lewis star in this week's bonus comedy show; we'll hear a pair of episodes originally aired on CBS on March 15, 1948 and April 19, 1948).

Jul 01, 2020
Episode 391 – Special Delivery (Box 13)
01:29:30

"Adventure wanted." That's how Dan Holiday advertised in Box 13 and he used his exploits to fuel plots for his novels. Alan Ladd stars as Holiday in three syndicated old time radio tales of mystery. We'll hear the show's first episode, along with "The Sad Night" and "Flash of Light."

Jun 28, 2020
BONUS - Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:05:50

We're taking a trip to the movies in this week's bonus comedy episode. Cary Grant stars as a boxer prematurely pulled up to Heaven only to return to Earth in a new body in Here Comes Mr. Jordan from The Lux Radio Theatre (originally aired on CBS on January 26, 1942). Grant is joined by big screen cast members Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes, and James Gleason in this delightful adaptation of the classic romantic comedy fantasy.

Jun 24, 2020
Episode 390 – Simple Art of Murder (Adventures of Philip Marlowe)
01:37:32

As Philip Marlowe, Gerald Mohr patrolled the City of Angels and proved "crime is a sucker's road" in one of radio's best detective shows. We'll hear Mohr as Raymond Chandler's private eye in three radio mysteries: "The Lady in Mink" (originally aired on CBS on April 30, 1949); "The Busy Body" (originally aired on CBS on June 18, 1949); and "The Key Man" (originally aired on CBS on June 25, 1949).

Jun 21, 2020
BONUS - Love and Marriage (Drene Time)
01:06:29

Take a polished emcee, a beautiful singer, and an oddball comedian, throw them together, and add a dollop of Drene Shampoo and you get Drene Time. Don Ameche, Frances Langford, and Danny Thomas headline this mix of comedy and music featuring the sparring spouses John and Blanche Bickerson. In this week's bonus comedy episode, we'll hear this talented trio in two shows (originally aired on NBC on February 23, 1947 and March 2, 1947).

Jun 17, 2020
Episode 389 – Won’t You Come Home, Bob Bailey (Let George Do It & Johnny Dollar)
02:05:07

To celebrate Bob Bailey's birthday, we'll hear the actor in four old time radio detective dramas. First, he's George Valentine in a pair of mysteries from Let George Do It: "Murder and One to Go" (originally aired on Mutual on January 3, 1949) and "The Man Under the Elm Trees" (originally aired on Mutual on September 26, 1949). Then, he's "the man with the action-packed expense account" in two shows from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: "The Rasmussen Matter" (originally aired on CBS on December 16, 1956) and "The Killer's Brand Matter" (originally aired on CBS on August 11, 1957).

Jun 14, 2020
BONUS - Summer School (Our Miss Brooks)
01:08:30

School is back in session with the faculty and students of Madison High School in Our Miss Brooks. In this week's midweek bonus comedy show, Eve Arden, Gale Gordon, and Jeff Chandler star in two episodes of one of the funniest shows from the golden age of radio. We'll hear Connie Brooks' attempts to become head of the Madison English department (originally aired on CBS on January 23, 1949) and the school's efforts to close down on the hottest day of the year (originally aired on CBS on August 7, 1949).

Jun 10, 2020
Episode 388 – Crime Paired with Wine (Casebook of Gregory Hood)
01:07:17

Comedy star Gale Gordon crosses over to the crimesolving side of the street in The Casebook of Gregory Hood. Join Hood - an importer and amateur detective - as he solves cases in San Francisco with the help of his friend and attorney Sanderson Taylor. Then, the pair relates their adventures to announcer Harry Bartell over a glass of fine Petri Wine. We'll hear "The Derringer Society" (originally aired on Mutual on July 8, 1946) and "South of the Border" (originally aired on Mutual on July 15, 1946).

Jun 07, 2020
BONUS - Secret Words (You Bet Your Life)
01:07:42

It's always a safe bet when Groucho Marx is on hand, especially when he's hosting the madcap game show You Bet Your Life. The legendary comedian and rapid-fire ad libber keeps things moving (and audiences laughing) as pairs of contestants wager their way through trivia questions to a grand prize. And there may be a secret word dropped along the way. We'll hear a pair of episodes originally aired on NBC on March 10, 1948 and April 14, 1948.

Jun 03, 2020
Episode 387 – Brilliant Deductions (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
02:01:50

To celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday, we'll hear radio adaptations of four Sherlock Holmes short stories, each featuring a different actor as the great detective. First, Basil Rathbone stars in "The Speckled Band" (originally aired on Mutual on November 12, 1945). Next, we'll hear Tom Conway in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" (originally aired on ABC on February 3, 1947). Then, it's "The Adventure of the Empty House" (originally aired on Mutual on April 11, 1948). Finally, John Gielgud plays Holmes in "The Bruce-Partington Plans."

May 31, 2020
BONUS - Seven Keys to Baldpate (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:06:59

In this week's bonus comedy episode, Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, and Cecil B. DeMille star as themselves in a delightful comedy mystery from The Lux Radio Theatre. The trio headlines "Seven Keys to Baldpate," the mystery novel turned smash comedy play that was brought to the silver screen several times. This production originally aired on CBS on September 26, 1938.

May 27, 2020
Episode 386 – Capering Through Crime (Adventures of Sam Spade)
01:32:12

Sam Spade made a dynamic debut in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon before lighting up the big screen in John Huston's classic noir drama. In 1946, Spade came to radio in a weekly series of adventures that became a critical and listener favorite. We'll hear Howard Duff in "The Bail Bond Caper" (originally aired on CBS on June 27, 1948) and "The S.Q.P. Caper" (AFRS rebroadcast, originally aired on CBS on November, 1948). Then, Steve Dunne is Spade in "The Sure Thing Caper" (originally aired on NBC on February 9, 1951).

May 24, 2020
BONUS - Hope Floats (Screen Directors' Playhouse)
01:07:24

It's a double feature of classic comedy films recreated for radio in this week's bonus episode. Bob Hope reprises his screen roles in two productions from the Screen Directors' Playhouse: "The Ghost Breakers" (originally aired on NBC on April 3, 1949) and "The Paleface" (originally aired on NBC on March 3, 1950).

May 20, 2020
Episode 385 – Cowardly Lyon (Jeff Regan, Investigator)
01:36:39

Jeff Regan wasn't a lone wolf operator like other radio gumshoes; he reported to Anthony J. Lyon, head of the International Detective Bureau. Known throughout the city as "the Lyon's Eye," Regan worked cases sometimes in spite of the penny-pinching interference of his boss. We'll hear Jack Webb as Regan in "The Diamond Quartet" (originally aired on CBS on August 14, 1948) and "The Man Who Came Back" (originally aired on CBS on August 21, 1948). Then Frank Graham stars in "No Sad Clowns for Me" (originally aired on CBS on June 25, 1950).

May 17, 2020
BONUS - Spring Fling (Fibber McGee and Molly & Milton Berle)
01:04:12

Spring is in the air on this week's bonus comedy quarantine show. We'll hear an unseasonable prediction of snow on Fibber McGee and Molly (originally aired on NBC on May 11, 1943). Then, Uncle Miltie and his gang present their salute to the season in The Milton Berle Show (originally aired on March 23, 1948).

May 13, 2020
Episode 384 – Freedom of the Press (The Big Story)
01:09:04

Thrill to the exploits of America's newspaper reporters in The Big Story with dramas of the hard work of the men and women of the press. The true tales ripped from the pages of America's papers made for compelling - and popular - radio. We'll hear two stories of reporters who double as detectives to get to the bottom of murder cases and - in one instance - clear a wrongfully convicted man. We'll hear "The Deadline Murder" (originally aired on NBC on May 19, 1948) and "The Bitterest Man on the Earth" (originally aired on NBC on June 8, 1949).

May 10, 2020
BONUS - Mother’s Day (Burns and Allen & My Favorite Husband)
58:43

With Mother's Day right around the corner, our midweek bonus comedy show features visits from a pair of mothers-in-law much to the chagrin of George Burns and Lucille Ball. First, Gracie's mom comes to town in The Burns and Allen Show (AFRS rebroadcast from May 20, 1948). Then on My Favorite Husband, George's mother's visit stretches on and on...and on (AFRS rebroadcast from March 4, 1949).

May 06, 2020
Episode 383 – Mild-Mannered Reporter (Adventures of Superman)
01:09:28

Even though he could leap tall buildings in a single bound and bend steel in his bare hands, most of Superman's radio adventures were down to earth. In many shows, the Man of Steel (and his alter ego Clark Kent) battled gangsters and swindlers rather than mad scientists and monsters. We'll hear Clayton "Bud" Collyer as Superman with Joan Alexander as Lois Lane in two thirty-minute mysteries: "One Minute to Death" (originally aired on ABC on November 19, 1949) and "The Diamond of Death" (originally aired on ABC on December 17, 1949).

May 03, 2020
BONUS - Dynamic Duos (Abbott and Costello & Martin and Lewis)
01:10:34

Two classic comedy pairs headline our midweek bonus episode. First, Bud and Lou perform some of their classic routines in an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show (originally aired on NBC on February 27, 1947). Then, Dean and Jerry welcome guest Henry Fonda to The Martin and Lewis Show (originally aired on NBC on June 5, 1949).

Apr 29, 2020
Episode 382 – Vocalist Violence (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)
01:36:45

There was no other radio detective like Richard Diamond - a tough, glib ex-cop turned private eye who had a powerful pair of fists and a healthy set of pipes. Dick Powell starred as the singing gumshoe in one of the era's best detective dramas. We'll hear a trio of shows - "The Fred Sears Murder Case" (originally aired on NBC on June 19, 1949); "The Angelino Giuseppe Case" (originally aired on NBC on January 7, 1950); and "The Bald Head Case" (originally aired on NBC on September 20, 1950).

Apr 26, 2020
BONUS - Say Goodnight, Gracie (Burns and Allen)
01:06:37

For this week's bonus comedy episode, we'll visit with George Burns and Gracie Allen. The beloved comedy couple kept audiences laughing from the vaudeville stage to their own radio show and on to their long-running TV series. We'll hear Gracie take inspiration from her favorite radio sleuths and play detective (originally aired on NBC on March 6, 1947). Then, Jack Benny stops by to start a musical act with George (originally aired on NBC on January 8, 1948).

Apr 22, 2020
Episode 381 – Members Only (Crime Club)
01:05:38

Murder and mayhem leap from the printed page to the airwaves in The Crime Club. This anthology show blended adaptations of mystery novels with original radio plays to deliver tales of mystery emceed by the eerie tones of the club's Librarian. We'll hear "Dead Men Control" (originally aired on Mutual on March 20, 1947) and "Death Swims at Midnight" (originally aired on Mutual on August 27, 1947).

Apr 19, 2020
BONUS - Taxes Take a Holiday (Milton Berle & Jack Benny)
01:00:10

Tax Day has been pushed out a few months, but there's no reprieve for the stars of this week's comedy bonus show. We'll hear Milton Berle present a salute to income tax in The Milton Berle Show (originally aired on NBC on March 9, 1948). Then, Jack Benny gets a visit from a pair of inquisitive IRS agents in an AFRS rebroadcast of The Jack Benny Program (original episode aired on CBS on March 16, 1952).

Apr 15, 2020
Episode 380 – Betty Lou’s Gettin' Out Tonight (The Whistler & Philip Marlowe)
01:07:28

Before she menaced puppies as Cruella de Vil, Betty Lou Gerson was one of radio's busiest character actresses. Her husky voice and powerful characterizations added flair to shows like SuspenseEscapeJohnny Dollar, and Sam Spade. We'll hear her as a murderess trying to stay a step ahead of her conscience in "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" from The Whistler (originally aired on CBS on July 16, 1947). Then, she co-stars in "The Indian Giver" from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe (originally aired on CBS on August 13, 1949).

Apr 12, 2020
BONUS - Easter Parade (Fibber McGee and Molly & Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show)
01:05:47

With Easter right around the corner, our midweek comedy break finds two of radio's funniest couples preparing for the holiday. First, Fibber McGee and Molly are after a new Easter dress (originally aired on NBC on March 23, 1948). Then, Phil Harris, Alice Faye, and Elliott Lewis as Frankie Remley are going out to eat for Easter in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show (originally aired on NBC on March 25, 1951).

Apr 08, 2020
Episode 379 – Read All About It (Big Town)
01:39:07

The citizens of Big Town were protected from mobsters, racketeers, and fraudsters by the crusading staff of the Illustrated Press. Editor Steve Wilson (Edward Pawley) and society reporter Lorelei Kilbourne (Fran Carlon) chased down leads with the help of their colorful crew of friends and sources and shined the light of justice on evildoers. We'll hear three radio mysteries: "Double Murder" (originally aired on NBC on October 12, 1948); "I Remember Murder" (originally aired on NBC on November 30, 1948); and "The Fatal Alibi" (originally aired on NBC on May 3, 1949).

Apr 05, 2020
BONUS - No Fooling (Mel Blanc & My Favorite Husband)
53:28

It's another midweek dose of quarantine comedy from the Golden Age of Radio! We'll hear a pair of shows featuring goofs and gags for April Fool's Day. First, the man of a thousand voices headlines his own series in The Mel Blanc Show (originally aired on CBS on April 1, 1947). Then, Lucille Ball plans to fool My Favorite Husband (AFRS rebroadcast from April 1, 1949).

Apr 01, 2020
Episode 378 – Man With the Yellow Hat (Dick Tracy)
03:34:34

The comic strip adventures of Chester Gould's two-fisted super cop Dick Tracy thrilled readers across the country, and the detective soon made the leap to the big screen and to radio. Ned Wever stars as Tracy, a cop equally skilled in the crime lab and on the shooting range, in the serialized adventure "The Black Pearl of Osiris" (originally aired on Mutual between February 8 and February 25, 1938).

Mar 29, 2020
BONUS - Keep Smiling (Jack Benny & Our Miss Brooks)
01:09:00

After a few weeks of quarantine and social distancing, I could use a few laughs and I bet you could too. So enjoy a midweek comedy break with two of the radio era's funniest shows. Listen as Jack Benny opens a new season of his program (originally aired on NBC on September 29, 1946). Then, as Our Miss Brooks, Eve Arden tries to steer clear of Mr. Conklin's "carelessness code" (originally aired on CBS on July 17, 1949).

Mar 25, 2020
Episode 377 – Itemized for Adventure (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
02:16:05

From 1955 until 1960, Bob Bailey starred as Johnny Dollar - "America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator" - and gave radio one of its all-time great detectives. Bailey first played the gumshoe in a series of five-part nightly serials before the series reverted to a weekly 30 minute format for the rest of its run. We'll hear him in all five installments of "The Plantagenet Matter" (originally aired on CBS on between March 5 and March 9, 1956). Plus, we'll hear a two-part mystery: "The Mason-Dixon Mismatch Matter" (originally aired on CBS on June 9, 1957) and "The Dixon Murder Matter" (originally aired on CBS on June 16, 1957).

Mar 22, 2020
Episode 376 – Big Red (I was a Communist for the FBI)
01:29:04

Dana Andrews starred in the sensational spawn of Red Scare paranoia I Was a Communist for the FBI. Loosely inspired by the real-life exploits of undercover operative Matt Cvetic, the series pit Andrews against dastardly Russian forces working to topple the US of A. We'll hear three of his radio adventures: "A Riot Made to Order," "Hate Song," and "Fifteen Minutes to Murder."

Mar 15, 2020
Episode 375 – Casual Friday (Dragnet)
01:07:18

We're back in Los Angeles for the grandfather of all police procedurals - Dragnet. Jack Webb is Sgt. Joe Friday and Barton Yarborough is Sgt. Ben Romero in two cop dramas on the streets of the City of Angels - "The Big Bomb" (originally aired on NBC on July 13, 1950) and "The Big Couple" (originally aired on February 22, 1951).

Mar 08, 2020
Episode 374 – Homicide on the Range (Tales of the Texas Rangers)
01:06:15

Big screen western star Joel McCrea uses old cowboy tricks and modern forensic science to track down crooks in Tales of the Texas Rangers. The series pulled cases from the files of the legendary lawmen and dramatized the thrilling pursuit of justice all across the Lone Star State. We'll hear McCrea as Ranger Jayce Pearson in "Soft Touch" (originally aired on October 15, 1950) and "Dead Head Freight" (originally aired on January 7, 1951).

Mar 01, 2020
Episode 373 – She’s Always The Woman to Me (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:07:17

In "A Scandal in Bohemia," Arthur Conan Doyle gave Sherlock Holmes an adversary who matched the Great Detective's cunning - actress, singer, and blackmailer Irene Adler. She became one of the most popular and intriguing characters in the Holmes canon, and she continues to appear in adaptations and derivative works. We'll hear Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson in a radio adaptation of the classic story (originally aired on Mutual on December 10, 1945) along with a sequel written especially for radio - "The Second Generation" (originally aired on Mutual on December 17, 1945).

Feb 23, 2020
Episode 372 – Amazing Race (Adventures of Frank Race)
01:26:28

Globetrotting and intrigue are all part of a day's work for Frank Race. The OSS spy turned insurance investigator traveled the world and cracked the toughest cases in this syndicated radio detective series. We'll hear Tom Collins and Paul Dubov starring as Race in "The Istanbul Adventure," "The Adventure of the Garrulous Bartender," and "The Adventure of the House Divided."

Feb 16, 2020
Episode 371 – My Funny Valentine (Let George Do It)
01:08:28

Celebrate Valentine's Day with two old time radio adventures of George Valentine as he invites clients facing danger to Let George Do It. Bob Bailey is George with Frances Robinson as his loyal secretary Brooksie in "The Seven Dead Years" (originally aired on the Mutual-Don Lee network on September 25, 1948) and "Mayhem by Experts" (originally aired on the Mutual-Don Lee network on January 31, 1949).

Feb 09, 2020
Episode 370 - Thank the Academy (Rex Saunders, Rocky Fortune, & Johnny Dollar)
01:33:05

With the Academy Awards right around the corner, we've got a bonus episode featuring three radio detectives who took home Oscars. First, Rex Harrison stars in "Worth More Than Its Weight in Murder" from The Private Files of Rex Saunders (originally aired on NBC on July 25, 1951). Then, Frank Sinatra is Rocky Fortune in "The Catskills Cover-up" (originally aired on NBC on February 9, 1954). Finally, Edmond O'Brien stars in "The Jackie Cleaver Matter" from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (originally aired on CBS on March 31, 1951).

Feb 05, 2020
Episode 369 – Above the Fold (Night Beat)
01:05:57

When the Windy City goes to sleep, Randy Stone goes to work. Frank Lovejoy stars as the intrepid reporter in Night Beat. We'll join him on two nocturnal sojourns as he searches for the right story for his column and for people in need of help. We'll hear "The Night is a Weapon" (originally aired on NBC on February 13, 1950) and "Marty" (originally aired on NBC on July 3, 1950).

Feb 02, 2020
Episode 368 – Number, Name, and Charge (The Line-Up)
01:39:30

In a great American city, Lt. Ben Guthrie and his men patrol the streets and grill the suspects under the cold, glaring lights of The Line-Up. Bill Johnstone stars as Guthrie, with support from Wally Maher and Jack Moyles in one of radio's greatest police dramas. We'll hear "Yudo in Ypsilanti" (originally aired on CBS on January 18, 1951); "The Senile Slugging Case" (originally aired on CBS on February 8, 1951); and "The Fresno Break Case" (originally aired on CBS on September 17, 1952).

Jan 26, 2020
Episode 367 – I’m Just a Poe Boy (Weird Circle, Suspense, & NBC University Theatre)
01:35:04

We're celebrating the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe - the master of the macabre and the father of the modern detective story. Poe's super sleuth C. Auguste Dupin and his methods of solving crimes through logic and observation inspired a genre and directly led to the creation of Sherlock Holmes. We'll hear old time radio adaptations of the three Dupin mysteries: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" from The Weird Circle; "The Mystery of Marie Roget" from Suspense (originally aired on CBS on December 14, 1953); and "The Purloined Letter" from The NBC University Theatre (originally aired on NBC on September 17, 1948).

Jan 19, 2020
Episode 366 – It’s a Miracle (The Saint)
01:04:27

The adventures of The Saint came to radio seventy-five years ago this month, and we're tipping our hats (and halos) to Simon Templar with a pair of his old time radio adventures. Vincent Price stars as "the Robin Hood of modern crime" in "The Frightened Author" (originally aired on NBC on July 23, 1950) and "Simon Carries the Ivy" (originally aired on NBC on April 1, 1951).

Jan 12, 2020
Episode 365 – Queen of Smarts (Ford Theatre)
01:07:45

Master detective Ellery Queen returns in a special sixty-minute mystery from The Ford Theatre. The cast consists of actors who starred in earlier versions of the Ellery Queen radio shows: Hugh Marlowe as Ellery, Charlotte Keane as Nikki Porter, Santos Ortega as Inspector Queen, and Ted de Corsia as Sgt. Velie. We'll hear them all in "The Adventure of the Bad Boy" (originally aired on NBC on January 4, 1948).

Jan 05, 2020
Episode 364 – Auld Lang Crime (Casey, Crime Photographer & The Whistler)
01:04:45

It's time to bid goodbye to 2019 and ring in 2020, and we've got a pair of old time radio New Year's Eve mysteries to close out the year. We'll hear Staats Cotsworth as Casey, Crime Photographer in "Hot New Year's Party" (originally aired on CBS on January 1, 1948). Then, Gerald Mohr and Betty Lou Gerson star in "The First Year" from The Whistler (originally aired on CBS on December 31, 1947).

Dec 29, 2019
Episode 363 – Yule Be Laughing (My Favorite Husband & Our Miss Brooks)
01:05:18

Before you set cookies out for Santa, tune in for this bonus episode and a pair of old time radio Christmas comedies. First, Lucille Ball tries to figure out what she's getting under the tree in My Favorite Husband (originally aired on CBS on December 16, 1949). Then, Eve Arden sends a letter to St. Nick as Our Miss Brooks (originally aired on CBS on December 18, 1949).

Dec 24, 2019
Episode 362 – The Five Days of Christmas Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:16:41

We're decking the halls with Johnny Dollar. Bob Bailey stars as "America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator" in a five-part Christmas radio mystery. We'll hear the complete adventure of "The Nick Shurn Matter" (originally aired on CBS between December 19th and 23rd, 1955).

Dec 22, 2019
Episode 361 – For the Boys (Command Performance)
01:04:22

In a madcap musical comedy adventure, Bing Crosby is Dick Tracy, Dinah Shore is Tess Trueheart, and Bob Hope is Flat Top in "Dick Tracy in B-Flat." They're just the tip of the iceberg of an incredible cast assembled for the production on Command Performance - a special series presented for the fighting men and women of the US Armed Forces. This silly song-filled take on Chester Gould's celebrated super cop was recorded on February 15, 1945.

Dec 15, 2019
Episode 360 – Triple Bogie (Bold Venture)
01:29:09

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's chemistry sizzled on screen, and they brought their star power to radio in their own weekly dramatic series. Set in exotic Havana, Bold Venture followed Slate Shannon (Bogart) and Sailor Duval (Lauren Bacall) as they found intrigue and adventure on the island and on the high seas. We'll hear a trio of radio episodes: "That Gun Will Kill You," "The Tabard of Pizarro," and "Welcome to Civilization, Deadman."

Dec 08, 2019
Episode 359 – Wolfe Whistle (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)
01:07:33

Sydney Greenstreet stars as Nero Wolfe - Rex Stout's eccentric orchid fancier and gourmand who's also a brilliant detective. We'll hear Greenstreet - with Larry Dobkin as loyal assistant Archie Goodwin - in "The Case of the Beautiful Archer" (originally aired on NBC on November 24, 1950) and "The Case of the Girl Who Cried Wolfe" (originally aired on NBC on December 15, 1950).

Dec 01, 2019
Episode 358 – Talking Turkey 2019 (Abbott and Costello & Our Miss Brooks)
01:01:16

Here's a side dish of old time radio comedy to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. In this bonus episode, we'll hear Turkey Day comedies starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, and Eve Arden. First, Bud and Lou host a fancy Thanksgiving dinner (originally aired on NBC on November 23, 1944) and then Our Miss Brooks has a long list of guests and a very small bird to serve (originally aired on CBS on November 27, 1949).

Nov 27, 2019
Episode 357 – In the Wee Small Hours (Rocky Fortune)
01:18:46

Frank Sinatra takes a break from crooning to solve radio crimes as Rocky Fortune. Each week, the "footloose and fancy-free young gentleman" takes a new job and finds himself up to his ears in trouble. We'll hear Sinatra in three mysteries: "Double Identity" (originally aired on NBC on October 13, 1953); "The Prize Fight Fix" (originally aired on December 29, 1953); and "Hollywood or Boom" (originally aired on NBC on January 26, 1954).

Nov 25, 2019
Episode 356 – Whole Lot of Howard (Sam Spade & Philip Morris Playhouse)
01:25:58

When Howard Duff stepped up to the microphone as Sam Spade, he brought the gumshoe to life as a tongue-in-cheek tough guy and delivered one of radio's best performances. We'll hear Duff in two adventures of Spade: "The Calcutta Trunk Caper" and "The Cheesecake Caper" (rebroadcasts from the AFRS). Plus, he plays a man on the wrong side of the law in "Four Hours to Kill" from The Philip Morris Playhouse (originally aired on CBS on May 13, 1949).

Nov 17, 2019
Episode 355 – Perils of Powell (Rogue’s Gallery & Richard Diamond)
01:06:35

In honor of Dick Powell's November 14th birthday, we'll hear the crooner turned big screen crimesolver in two old time radio mysteries. First, he's gumshoe Richard Rogue in "Special Added Attraction" from Rogue's Gallery (originally aired on Mutual on January 31, 1946). Then, Powell stars as Richard Diamond, Private Detective in "The Jerome J. Jerome Case" (originally aired on NBC on September 17, 1949).

Nov 10, 2019
Episode 354 – Radio Days (Stand By For Crime)
01:21:54

Real-life husband and wife Glenn Langan and Adele Jurgens star as a radio reporter and his secretary - a pair of amateur sleuths in the city of angels - in Stand By For Crime. The syndicated mystery series follows the pair as the probe the cases they cover for the radio news. We'll hear three episodes: "The Luke Larson Murder," "The Kidnapper's New Shoes," and "The Clueless Crime Spree."

Nov 03, 2019
Episode 353 – Gumshoes and Ghosts: Halloween 2019 (Let George Do It & The Saint)
01:33:22

For our annual Halloween special, we're spotlighting radio sleuths doing battle with the (seemingly) supernatural. First, it's "The Ghost on Bliss Terrace" from Let George Do It (originally aired on Mutual on August 16, 1948) with Bob Bailey and Frances Robinson. Then, Vincent Price is Simon Templar in "The Ghosts Who Came to Dinner" from The Saint (originally aired on NBC on April 8, 1951).

Oct 30, 2019
Episode 352 – Eliminate the Impossible (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:37:30

The game's afoot as we head back to 221B Baker Street for three old time radio adventures of Sherlock Holmes. John Stanley is the great detective and Alfred Shirley is Dr. Watson in "Professor Moriarty and the Diamond Jubilee" (originally aired on Mutual on December 7, 1947); "The Mazarin Stone" (originally aired on Mutual on January 4, 1948); and "The Adventure of the Wooden Claw" (originally aired on Mutual on February 22, 1948).

Oct 27, 2019
Episode 351 – Casey at the Bat (Casey, Crime Photographer)
01:06:58

Armed with a camera and an insatiable appetite for the truth, Casey, Crime Photographer will get to the bottom of the baffling mysteries he covers for his big city paper. Staats Cotsworth stars as Casey, with Jan Miner as reporter Ann Williams and John Gibson as bantering bartender Ethelbert, in "Self-Made Hero" (originally aired on CBS on July 17, 1947) and "Fog" (originally aired on CBS on March 11, 1948).

Oct 20, 2019
Episode 350 – Long Goodbyes (Adventures of Philip Marlowe)
02:06:57

It's the 350th episode of Down These Mean Streets, and to mark the occasion I'm celebrating with Gerald Mohr as Raymond Chandler's celebrated shamus Philip Marlowe. One of radio's best actors brings vibrant life to one of literature's greatest detectives in four old time radio mysteries: "Red Wind" (originally aired on CBS on September 26, 1948); "The Black Halo" (originally aired on CBS on January 15, 1949); "The Fatted Calf" (originally aired on CBS on September 24, 1949); and "The Open Window" (originally aired on CBS on October 8, 1949).

Oct 13, 2019
Episode 349 - Jumping Jack (Somebody Knows, Johnny Dollar, & CBS Radio Workshop)
02:16:58

If all he did was revive Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Jack Johnstone would still be a radio legend. But the multi-talented Johnstone brought listeners everything from true crime tales to offbeat western adventures. We're saluting the man who wrote scripts for Buck Rogers and Superman and who directed James Stewart in the Hollywood legend's only regular series radio role with a block of his shows. First, he narrates "The Unsolved Murder Of Joseph P. Bohanak" from Somebody Knows (originally aired on CBS on July 28, 1950). Then, he writes, produces, and directs "The Curse of Kamashek Matter," a five-part Johnny Dollar adventure (originally aired between September 3 and September 7, 1956). Finally, Johnstone is in the director's chair for "Report on E.S.P." - an all-star exploration of the psychic world from The CBS Radio Workshop (originally aired on CBS on March 9, 1956).

Oct 09, 2019
Episode 348 – History’s Mysteries (Crime Classics)
01:08:51

Travel back in time with Thomas Hyland - connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders - in Crime Classics. One of the all-time great radio dramas, Crime Classics was the brainchild of actor, producer, and director Elliott Lewis, and it colorfully dramatized some of history's most notorious murders. Each week, Hyland (played by Lou Merrill) related accounts of Lizzie Borden, Blackbeard, Trotsky, Billy the Kid, and more. We'll hear two tales of historical murder: "The Death of a Picture Hanger" (originally aired on CBS on July 20, 1953) and "Twenty-three Knives Against Caesar" (originally aired on CBS on February 10, 1954).

Sep 29, 2019
Episode 347 – Please Come to Boston (Boston Blackie)
01:20:29

"Enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend" is how Boston Blackie was introduced to radio listeners, and the former jewel thief turned detective proved week after week that he was always ready to lend a hand to a friend or throw a punch at a criminal. Richard Kollmar stars as the charming rogue who uses all of the tricks of his trade to turn the tables on dangerous crooks in three syndicated old time radio mysteries: "The John Austin Murder," "The Armored Car Murder Case," and "The Bombing of Joe Ingalls."

Sep 22, 2019
Episode 346 – Everybody Comes to Rocky’s (Rocky Jordan)
01:07:28

Travel to Cairo and make sure to grab a drink at the Cafe Tambourine - the nightclub owned and operated by Rocky Jordan. Jack Moyles stars as the expat and adventurer cut from the Casablanca cloth, with Jay Novello as the ever-watchful Captain Sam Sabayya of the Cairo police. We'll hear "Up in Flames" (originally aired on CBS on December 19, 1948) and "Journey to Nashier" (originally aired on CBS on June 26, 1949).

Sep 15, 2019
Episode 345 – Addressed for Adventure (Box 13)
01:28:03

Dan Holiday will beat writer's block even if it kills him. The reporter turned author offers his services as an adventurer for hire, and his only payment is to get fuel for his novels. Alan Ladd stars as Holiday in Box 13, and we'll hear three of his syndicated radio mysteries: "Three to Die," "The Biter Bitten," and "The Clay Pigeon."

Sep 08, 2019
Episode 344 – Zither Dither (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:08:58

Released 70 years ago this week in the UK, The Third Man remains one of the greatest films ever made. It's an engrossing, morally ambiguous noir drama set in the ruins of postwar Vienna and it finds Joseph Cotten's Holly Martins searching for the truth behind the death (and alleged crimes) of his oldest friend. Cotten recreated his role in an adaptation from The Lux Radio Theatre (originally aired on CBS on April 9, 1951) - a broadcast that retained the iconic and instantly recognizable zither score from Anton Karras.

Sep 01, 2019
Episode 343 - Some Very English Murders (Whitehall 1212)
01:06:11

Using stories from the files of Scotland Yard, writer-director Wyllis Cooper crafted an outstanding and authentically British crime drama with Whitehall 1212. Each episode followed the dedicated detectives of Scotland Yard as they tracked down and apprehended the guilty. We'll hear a pair of episodes: "The Case of Dr. Duncan Allen" (originally aired on NBC on March 9, 1952) and "The Case of Maggie Rawlinson" (originally aired on May 25, 1952).

Aug 25, 2019
Episode 342 – Vance Can’t Dance (Philo Vance)
01:23:50

No matter how baffling the crime appears, no matter how stumped the police may be, master detective Philo Vance will unmask the culprit. Jackson Beck - the man whose booming voice introduced Superman to a generation of radio listeners - stars as S.S. Van Dine's brilliant sleuth in three syndicated radio mysteries: "The Movie Murder Case," "The Birdcage Murder Case," and "The Golden Key Murder Case."

Aug 18, 2019
Episode 341 – Hot Mike (Adventures of Michael Shayne)
01:34:49

Over the course of two radio shows, Brett Halliday's Michael Shayne shifted from a happy-go-lucky gumshoe with a lovely secretary and a good rapport with the cops to a burned-out loner who regularly found himself short on money and up to his neck in trouble. Both were great, and this week we'll hear episodes from both of the shows. First, Wally Maher is Mike, with Cathy Lewis as Phyllis Knight, in "The Body in the Trunk" (originally aired on Mutual on April 23, 1945) and "Murder, RSVP" (originally aired on Mutual on May 28, 1945). Then, Jeff Chandler stars as Shayne in the syndicated mystery "The Case of the Left-Handed Fan."

Aug 11, 2019
Episode 340 – Go Marching In (The Saint)
01:05:51

When people find themselves in trouble, it only makes sense that they'd ask a Saint for help. Vincent Price starred on radio as Leslie Charteris' "Robin Hood of modern crime" and lent an air of sophistication to crimesolving. We'll Simon Templar in a pair of old time radio mysteries: "Tuba or Not Tuba - That Is the Question" (originally aired on NBC on January 21, 1951) and "The Birds and Bees of East Orange" (originally aired on NBC on March 18, 1951).

Aug 04, 2019
Episode 339 – Sing-A-Long Shamus (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)
01:36:03

There was no shortage of private eyes during the Golden Age of Radio, but only one could carry a tune as well as he could crack a case. Dick Powell starred as Richard Diamond, Private Detective - the gumshoe who cracked wise, packed a punch, and crooned a song to his girlfriend every week. We'll hear Powell in three radio mysteries: "The Private Eye Test" (originally aired on NBC on March 19, 1950); "The Hatpin Murder Case" (aka "The Oklahoma Cowboy Murder Case" - originally aired on NBC on September 27, 1950); and "The Red Rose" (originally aired on ABC on March 2, 1951).

Jul 28, 2019
Episode 338 – Fit for a Queen (Ellery Queen)
01:31:05

It's time to match wits with Ellery Queen! The brilliant amateur sleuth takes a break in the program to give you - and a special guest armchair detective - a chance to solve the crime before he reveals the solution to the mystery. We'll hear three old time radio mysteries starring Sydney Smith as Ellery: "The Adventure of the Vanishing Magician" (originally aired on NBC on November 6, 1943); "The Adventure of Dead Man's Cavern," and "The Adventure of Nick the Knife" (AFRS Rebroadcasts).

Jul 21, 2019
Episode 337 – Sitting on the Dock of the Bay (Pat Novak For Hire)
01:07:15

There's murder and mystery on the waterfront in San Francisco - "where the best trouble always looks good from the outside" - and Pat Novak is at the center of the storm. Jack Webb stars as the hard-boiled gumshoe in a pair of mysteries: "Find John St. John" (AFRS rebroadcast from May 22, 1949) and "Joe Dineen" (originally aired on ABC on June 19, 1949).

Jul 14, 2019
Episode 336 – The Neon Lights are Bright (Broadway is My Beat)
01:06:30

It's time to revisit "the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world" with Detective Danny Clover. Larry Thor stars as the cop with the heart of a poet in Broadway is My Beat - the police procedural drama with lyrical dialogue and Runyonesque characters. We'll hear two of his cases from the Great White Way - "The Joe Gruber Murders" (originally aired on CBS on July 8, 1951) and "The Alice Mayo Murder" (AFRS rebroadcast from May 24, 1952).

Jul 07, 2019
Episode 335 – Frees as a Bird (Green Lama & The Whistler)
01:08:24

Whether he was thwarted by Rocky and Bullwinkle or leading visitors on a tour of the Haunted Mansion, Paul Frees' rich voice has been a part of pop culture for generations. But before all of that, he was a versatile voice actor on radio - one of the era's men of a thousand voices. We'll hear him starring as Jethro Dumont in "The Man Who Never Existed" from The Green Lama (originally aired on CBS on June 5, 1949). Then he's an impressionist roped into a scheme in "Fatal Fraud" from The Whistler (originally aired on CBS on May 22, 1949).

Jun 30, 2019
Episode 334 - Basil of Baker Street (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:36:25

He dueled on screen with Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, and Danny Kaye, he was twice nominated for Oscars, and for 14 films and hundreds of radio episodes, Basil Rathbone brought Sherlock Holmes to life. We'll celebrate one of the best actors to wear the deerstalker cap with two of his radio mysteries: "Murder Beyond the Mountains" (originally aired on Mutual on January 14, 1946) and "The Waltz of Death" (originally aired on Mutual on April 29, 1946). Plus, Rathbone teams up with Fred Allen to solve a comedy mystery in an episode of The Fred Allen Show (originally aired on NBC on April 11, 1948).

Jun 23, 2019
Episode 333 – Baileywick (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:14:59

For radio detective fans, it doesn't get much better than Bob Bailey as "the man with the action-packed expense account." In honor of the actor's birthday, we'll hear him in a complete five-part adventure of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: "The Long Shot Matter" (originally aired on CBS between June 25th and June 29th, 1956).

Jun 16, 2019
Episode 332 - Nothing's Better than Mohr (Philip Marlowe & Nero Wolfe)
02:05:24

Gerald Mohr lent his voice to hundreds of radio episodes, but he's best remembered today for his run as Philip Marlowe. Mohr's voice was perfect for the hard-boiled narration and rough and tumble action, and his Marlowe stands out as one of the best gumshoes of the era. We'll hear Mohr as Marlowe in "The Last Laugh" (originally aired on CBS on April 2, 1949) and "The Last Wish" (originally aired on CBS on July 19, 1950). We'll also hear him as Archie Goodwin in "The Case of the Vanishing Shells" from The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (originally aired on NBC on February 2, 1951), and as an amorous French teacher in a December 5, 1948 episode of Our Miss Brooks.

Jun 09, 2019
Episode 331 - The Names Have Been Changed (Dragnet)
01:59:37

Seventy years ago this week, Dragnet made its radio debut and changed the face of crime drama forever. That first episode launched a franchise that stretched into the 21st century and made its creator and star Jack Webb a household name. We'll celebrate the anniversary with four cases pulled from the files of the LAPD: "Homicide" (originally aired on NBC on June 10, 1949); "The Big Fake" (originally aired on NBC on June 1, 1950); "The Big Bible" (AFRS rebroadcast from 9/28/1954); and "The Big No Tooth" (AFRS rebroadcast from 4/5/1955).

Jun 02, 2019
Episode 330 - Dash It All (Adventures of Sam Spade)
01:31:46

We're saluting Dashiell Hammett - born May 27, 1894 - with three old time radio adventures of his famous private eye Sam Spade. Spade's adventures made for one of the best radio detective shows of the era - a hard-boiled mystery that poked gentle fun at the conventions of the genre. Howard Duff stars as the gumshoe in "The Wheel of Life Caper" (originally aired on CBS on July 11, 19498) and "The Battles of Belvedere" (AFRS rebroadcast from May 1, 1949). Then Steven Dunne stars as Spade in "The Spanish Prisoner Caper" (originally aired on NBC on 

May 26, 2019
Episode 329 - Bird is the Word (The Falcon)
01:07:53

The ringing of that phone means Mike Waring has to break another date and The Falcon has a new case. The suave private eye solved crimes in print, on the big screen, and for over a decade on radio. Les Damon starred as Waring for several years, including a run when the Falcon got a new client – Uncle Sam and Army intelligence. We’ll hear the Falcon solve “The Case of the Sweet Swindle” (originally aired on NBC on June 13, 1951) and “The Case of the Babbling Brooks” (originally aired on NBC on July 3, 1952).

May 19, 2019
Episode 328 - Hey Bulldog (Bulldog Drummond)
01:07:20

Captain Hugh Drummond comes out of the fog, into the night, and earns his nickname “Bulldog” as he fights evildoers everywhere. The gentleman adventurer of H.C. McNelie’s novels came to the big screen with Ronald Colman and Ray Milland logging time as the man of mystery. In 1941, Bulldog Drummond came to radio and continued his battle for justice. We’ll hear George Coulouris as Drummond in a September 1941 audition program. Then Ned Wever steps in as the detective in “Death Loops the Loop” (originally aired on Mutual on March 10, 1948).

May 12, 2019
Episode 327 – Orson’s Swell (Lives of Harry Lime & Black Museum)
01:51:02

Orson Welles’ radio work is defined by a skirmish between a couple of planets, but there was far more to his career than an invasion from outer space. We’ll celebrate the actor, writer, and director’s birthday with some of his performances on the air. First, he recreates his Third Man movie role in “Horse Play” from The Lives of Harry Lime. Then, he narrates the bloody history of “The Khaki Handkerchief” from The Black Museum.

May 05, 2019
Episode 326 - Their Girl Friday: Frances Robinson (Let George Do It, Richard Diamond, & The Whistler)
01:38:45

What do Philo Vance, George Valentine, Richard Diamond, and John J. Malone have in common? They all romanced – and were frequently assisted by – Frances Robinson. The busy and talented actress was a mainstay on radio crime dramas, and her performances gave us some of the genre’s all-time great partners in crime. We’ll hear her in “The Elusive Hundred Grand” from Let George Do It (originally aired on Mutual on April 18, 1949); “The Pop Skoals Case aka The Blind Man and the Cop Killer” from Richard Diamond, Private Detective (originally aired on NBC on February 26, 1950), and in “Murder in Mind” from The Whistler (originally aired on CBS on April 16, 1950).

Apr 28, 2019
Episode 325 - Master Class (Nick Carter, Master Detective)
01:04:37

Nick Carter was a super sleuth in the pulps and on the big screen before he came to radio in 1943, and he found success on the air as well. Lon Clark starred as Carter – “the most famous of all manhunters” – for twelve years in hundreds of radio mysteries. Hear Nick, along with his friends Patsy Bowen and Sgt. Mathison in “The Double Disguise” (originally aired on Mutual on January 8, 1944) and “The Case of the Candidate’s Corpse” (September 26, 1948).

Apr 21, 2019
Episode 324 - G-Men Get Their Man (This is Your FBI)
01:05:15

Criminals and spies can run, but they can’t hide from the FBI. Stacy Harris stars as Special Agent Jim Taylor in This is Your FBI, the only dramatic radio program endorsed by the Bureau and J. Edgar Hoover. We’ll hear a pair of FBI adventures: “The Case of the Curious Coin Collector” (originally aired on ABC on October 4, 1946) and “The Agent Apprentice” (originally aired on ABC on August 11, 1950).

Apr 14, 2019
Episode 323 - Hit the Road, Jack (Jeff Regan, Pat Novak, & Pete Kelly's Blues)
01:37:50

We're celebrating Jack Webb's birthday, but instead of cake we have three old time radio mysteries starring Webb as three hard-boiled sleuths. First, he's Jeff Regan, Investigator in "The Gambler and the Lady" (originally aired on CBS on December 11, 1948). Then Webb stars as Pat Novak for Hire in "Rory Malone" (originally aired on ABC on March 20, 1949). Finally, we'll hear "June Gould" from Pete Kelly's Blues (an AFRS rebroadcast of an episode from NBC on September 19, 1951).

Apr 07, 2019
Episode 322 - Same Bat-Time (Adventures of Superman)
03:55:17

Holy 80th Anniversary, Batman! The Caped Crusader made his first comic book appearance on March 30, 1939, and we're marking the occasion with a complete serialized adventure of Superman co-starring Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. It's "The Mystery of the Dead Voice," a tale with ties to young Robin's origin, and it originally aired on the Mutual Network between September 25 and October 16, 1946.

Apr 03, 2019
Episode 321 - The Buck Starts Here (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:37:41

When Johnny Dollar itemized his first expense account on February 11, 1949, he was played by actor Charles Russell, and Russell would fill the role for just over one year. Though his tenure was short, Russell’s take on the character – glib, sarcastic, and a little unscrupulous – makes him stand out in the fraternity of actors who brought Dollar to radio life. We’ll hear him in three episodes: “The Perikoff Policy” (originally aired on CBS on 2/11/1949); “Melanie Carter and the Un-Nice Niece” (originally aired on CBS on November 12, 1949); and “The Animal Show Unscheduled Performances” (originally aired on CBS on December 10, 1949).

Mar 31, 2019
Episode 320 - Don't Fence Me In (Tales of the Texas Rangers)
01:08:51

When criminals strike in the Lone Star State, they know it won’t be long before the Texas Rangers are on their trail. Joel McCrea brought his big screen western star power to radio as Jayce Pearson in Tales of the Texas Rangers. The crime drama presented actual cases from the Rangers’ files in a blend of police procedural and western. We’ll hear two episodes from the series: “Quicksilver” (originally aired on NBC on August 12, 1950) and “The Trap” (originally aired on NBC on February 25, 1951).

Mar 24, 2019
Episode 319 - Hite Writes (Philip Marlowe & Fort Laramie)
01:38:14

Kathleen Hite started at CBS as a secretary only to become the network’s first female staff writer. She would go on to pen hundreds of radio and TV scripts for shows like Gunsmoke, The Whistler, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. We’ll hear two of her mysteries from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe: “The Good Neighbor Policy” (originally aired on CBS on July 28, 1951) and “The Young Man’s Fancy” (originally aired on CBS on August 18, 1951). Plus we’ll hear one of Hite’s episodes of Fort Laramie: “The Buffalo Hunters” (originally aired on CBS on September 9, 1956).

Mar 17, 2019
Episode 318 - Take a Letter (Box 13)
01:01:38

“Adventure wanted. Will go anyplace, do anything. Write Box 13.” That’s the newspaper ad Dan Holiday runs and each week a new letter brings him to the doorstep of danger. Holiday runs the ad to get plots for his mystery novels, but he has to survive each case before he can start writing. Big screen star Alan Ladd puts his film noir bona fides to work as Holiday in two old time radio mysteries: “Mexican Maze” and “House of Darkness.”

Mar 10, 2019
Episode 317 - Their Girl Friday: Virginia Gregg (Richard Diamond, Let George Do It, & Frontier Gentleman)
01:34:10

No matter what old time radio genre you prefer, you’ve probably heard Virginia Gregg’s voice. You’ve almost certainly heard her as Mrs. Bates in the Psycho films or seen her in one of her many on-screen performances. She was one of radio’s most versatile and talented actresses, and in honor of her birthday we’ll hear Virginia Gregg in three old time radio shows. First, she plays Helen Asher opposite Dick Powell’s Richard Diamond, Private Detective in an episode originally aired on NBC on July 9, 1949. Then, she’s Claire Brooks, loyal assistant to George Valentine in “Seed of Destruction” from Let George Do It (originally aired on Mutual on August 18, 1952. Finally, she plays a Chinese immigrant won in a poker game in “Gentle Virtue,” an episode of Frontier Gentleman from March 30, 1958.

Mar 03, 2019
Super Friends

Today in 1945, Superman first encountered the caped crusaders, Batman and Robin. This momentous meeting of heroes didn’t take place in a comic book or film serial; it happened on radio on The Adventures of Superman. That first meeting found Superman rescuing an unconscious Robin from a rowboat, a discovery that kicked off a hunt for the missing Batman. The Man of Steel had enjoyed radio success since his debut on the air in 1940, and though the Dark Knight Detective would go on to conquer the big and small screens success on radio eluded him.

The first attempt to bring the Caped Crusader to the air came in 1943.  DC Comics, the publisher of Batman comics, was eager to duplicate the success it enjoyed years earlier with Superman.  The Man of Steel was the star of his own popular radio series airing on the Mutual Network, and he’d appeared on the big screen in a series of sharply produced animated shorts from Max Fleischer.  In 1943, Batman hit the big screen in a 15 chapter Columbia Pictures serial, and he took to the airwaves in an audition program for a Mutual series.  The story, titled “The Case of the Drowning Seal,” found Batman and Robin pursuing the Nazi agents who murdered Robin’s parents.  Comic fans may recognize this was a departure from the origin of Robin’s sidekick, but these were the years when everyone, from Superman to Sherlock Holmes, joined the fight against Nazis.  The introduction for the series set the tone for what was to come:

“You are about to hear the first in a series of programs starring - The Batman!  The legendary feats of this 20th century Robin Hood are tales of high adventure and stark mystery.  In his ceaseless struggle against the forces of evil and corruption, The Batman has enlisted the aid of no one!  He fights alone; his keen brain and athlete’s body, combined with the almost unbelievable acrobatic skill, have made the horned black mask and the flapping black cape the symbol of law and decency.”

Thrilling stuff, and very true to the way Batman was depicted in the comics of the era.  Unfortunately, the program did not make it to series, and “The Case of the Drowning Seal” is lost.  Producers moved away from attempts to bring Batman to the air in his own series, but saw an opportunity to pair him up with one of his fellow heroes.

In the early 1940s, Superman and Batman shared comic book covers, but they did not appear in the same stories.  Years before they would ever share an adventure in a comic panel or newspaper strip, the heroes would meet and team up on radio.  In March 1945, Superman (voiced on radio by Clayton “Bud” Collyer) rescued Robin, and the Dynamic Duo arrived on the air.  Over the years on The Adventures of Superman, Batman and Robin would appear, sometimes to join Superman in adventures and other times to give the busy Collyer a chance for a vacation.  This was especially true during the story arcs involving Superman’s battles against Kryptonite (his greatest weakness, the radioactive fragments of his home planet, were a creation of the radio series).  Superman would be “unconscious” with Batman and Robin hunting for their friend; in reality, Collyer was enjoying some time off!

For most of the appearances on Superman, Batman was played by actor Matt Crowley, a veteran of juvenile adventure shows.  He was also played on occasion by Stacy Harris, a veteran of Jack Webb’s Dragnet who also starred as FBI Special Agent Jim Taylor in This is Your FBI.  Robin was played by actor Ronald Liss.

A second attempt was made to bring Batman to radio in 1950, with Ronald Liss again donning the mask and cape of the Boy Wonder.  John Emery played Batman in the audition story “The Monster of Dumphrey’s Hall."  The frame of the show found Batman and Robin presiding over a meeting of the "Batman Mystery Club,” a gaggle of tykes who met to hear cases from the Caped Crusader’s files.  Oddly enough, all of these kids knew Batman’s true identity!  The plot, which involved an old estate with a possibly haunted room, would be more suitable for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (ironically, Alfred Shirley, himself fresh off a radio run as Watson, appeared in a supporting role!).  The episode didn’t provide the solution; perhaps producers were confident they’d go to series.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?), this dreadful audition didn’t go to series.

Just four years after the end of the Golden Age of Radio, Batman would explode in popularity thanks to television.  He may have missed his shot at radio stardom, but the pop culture phenomenon that was the Adam West TV series catapulted him into stardom that has never really gone away, and even managed to eclipse the hero who graciously shared the microphone with him in the 1940s.

Mar 02, 2019
"The lonesomest mile in the world..."

Broadway is My Beat, the story of Detective Danny Clover and “the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world,” premiered on CBS on February 27, 1949. Thanks to the expert direction, the sharp writing, and an impressive lead performance, Broadway is My Beat broke the mold of a police drama and holds up today as one of the best shows from the era.

Admittedly, it got off to an inauspicious start.  The series premiered as a competently made police drama with a capable lead performance from Anthony Ross as Danny Clover.  It attracted little attention from the public and the series left the air after four months.  Originating from New York for the first go-round, CBS moved production across the country to Los Angeles and engaged a new production team to retool the series.

The reins were turned over to Elliot Lewis, who was about to break out as one of the great radio talents of the era.  Lewis was best known in 1949 as an actor; he starred in the Mutual adventure series Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, and he played Frankie Remley, the dim bulb sidekick of Phil Harris on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.  He cut his teeth in the Armed Forces Radio Service and learned the ins and outs of radio, from scriptwriting to directing, during World War II.  Lewis wasn’t interested in making just another police drama.  He wanted to make the city of New York as much a character on the show as the cops and the criminals.  To that end, he employed a team of three sound effects artists to create one of radio’s richest soundscapes.  It was rare that the sounds of traffic and the hustle of the city weren’t heard as Danny Clover walked up flights of stairs at apartment houses or ducked into bars still waking up from the previous’ nights revelries.

Lewis added scriptwriting duo Morton Fine and David Friedkin to the Broadway is My Beat team.  This veteran radio duo (who would later create the classic 1960s TV series I Spy) put a spin on Danny Clover that was more in line with Jack Webb’s Joe Friday than brilliant super-cops.  Clover cracked cases through determination and hard work; he was no deductive genius but he wasn’t a dullard either.  In a June 15, 1950 article in The Sherbrooke Telegram, Fine and Friedkin described Danny Clover as “a nice, human guy who is a policeman and who solves crimes by piling human emotion against human emotion.“

But Clover wasn’t going to be the man Fine and Friedkin imagined without the right voice at the microphone.  Fortunately, the right man got the job.  Larry Thor was a CBS announcer (he could be heard introducing Rocky Jordan and other programs) who started acting along with his announcing chores.  He brought a dignity and determination to the work of a policeman, and he delivered the lyrical dialogue of the scripts effortlessly.  Supporting Clover at police headquarters were Charles Calvert as the quirky desk sergeant Gino Tartaglia, and Jack Kruschen as Clover’s sidekick in the field, Detective Muggavan.  Just like Clover, these weren’t the typical radio cops, but they added some color and levity to the downbeat scripts and harsh world of the series.

The things that set Broadway is My Beat apart from the crowd also made it hard to sell to a sponsor.  For much of the run, the show was sustained by CBS and was used to fill gaps on the network’s lineup.  it moved consistently, which is never the right way to build an audience.  The series left the air in 1953, but one listen to Broadway is My Beat today reveals a show that succeeded in spite of its scheduling woes; it wasn’t just another radio cop show, and it may be a program that plays better to a 21st century audience more accustomed to realism and morally complex plots than some of the white-hat derring do of the Golden Age of Radio.

Feb 27, 2019
Episode 316 - A Chorus Crime (Broadway is My Beat)
01:05:44

It’s back to Broadway this week, as Detective Danny Clover walks his beat - “the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world.” Larry Thor stars as Clover, the cop with the soul of a poet, in two mysteries from Broadway is My Beat: “The Val Dane Starvation Murder Case” (originally aired on CBS on August 25, 1949) and “The Gridiron Hero Murders” (an AFRS rebroadcast of an episode from November 22, 1952).

Feb 24, 2019
Episode 315 - Wealthy Young Man About Town (The Line-Up)
01:39:43

Bill Johnstone may be best known as the voice of The Shadow, but old time radio fans can enjoy his performances from shows ranging from Escape and Suspense to My Favorite Husband and Our Miss Brooks. In honor of his birthday, we’ll hear him as Lt. Ben Guthrie, the determined detective of The Line-Up in “The Topaz Earring Case” (originally aired on CBS on November 23, 1950) and “The Jersey Parallel” (originally aired on CBS on December 7, 1950).

Feb 17, 2019
"Faster than a speeding bullet..."

“Look, up in the sky!” Today, in 1940, Superman flew from the pages of Action Comics on to radio. As he thrilled readers in the comic books and dazzled audiences in movie theaters, the Man of Steel soared on the airwaves, battling the mob, Nazi spies and saboteurs, mad scientists, and aliens from other planets, all while cementing the character’s popularity as an American icon.

In fact, much of Superman’s mythology grew out of his radio adventures and later worked its way into the comic stories.  Plucky cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and blustery newspaper editor Perry White were both original creations for the radio series. Ditto Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson, one of Superman’s allies on the police force. The first meeting of Superman and Batman happened on radio in 1945 (they’d appeared on covers of comics before, but radio featured the first story where the characters teamed up), and Superman had his first encounter with his Achilles’ heel - Kryptonite - not on the pages of the comics, but on the radio series.

The show was a ratings success practically from the start when it premiered on February 12, 1940.  Radio veteran Jack Johnstone (who later directed Bob Bailey as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) directed the early shows, and the series topped the charts among three-day-a-week children’s serials.  The series aired in syndication until March 9, 1942.  Six months later, it returned over the entire Mutual Network in a five-day-a-week series.  Directed by George Lowther and later Allen Ducovny, Superman exploded during the World War II era, as Kryptonite was thrown into the mix in 1943 and Superman and his friends fought Nazis as often as they fought domestic villains.  One of these baddies led to one of the show’s longest and most celebrated storylines when Superman battled a Nazi-engineered, Kryptonite-fueled Atom Man out to avenge the defeat of Germany from October to December 1945.

But it wasn’t all fights with Atom Men and imaginary monsters.  On the air, Superman fought racial intolerance and bigotry, and today the series is as fondly remembered for its social consciousness as much as for its thrilling adventures.  In one memorable arc (the “Unity House” series), Superman defended an interfaith community center from a gang of bigots; in another, he battled the “Clan of the Firey Cross,” a thinly veiled substitute for the Ku Klux Klan.  Despite pressure from some listeners (and a threatened boycott by the KKK itself), Mutual and Kellogg’s, the show’s sponsor, stuck by their program, and the series received seals of approval from the Boys Clubs of America, the Associated Negro Press, and the United Parents Association, among others.

At the center of this series, providing the voice of a man who could change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel in his bare hands, was a busy radio actor who initially didn’t want the gig.  By age 32, Clayton “Bud” Collyer  was appearing on all four major networks over several dozen series.  And while he won the job by creating two distinct voices for Superman and his secret identity of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, he initially turned down the role.  “The whole idea embarrassed me, so I said no,” he recalled years later.  Collyer would also voice the Man of Steel in the classic cartoons from Max Fleischer, and he returned in 1966 for Filmation’s New Adventures of Superman.  Later, in the years following the Golden Age of Radio, Collyer would find fame as a game show host on television, anchoring shows like Quick as a Flash and To Tell the Truth.  He played Superman in close to 1,700 shows and was the “voice” of the Man of Steel to a generation as much as George Reeves was the “face” on television.

Collyer was backed up by a great cast in the Superman family.  Joan Alexander set the template for Lois Lane - smart, spunky, and willing to jump into the fray as no damsel in distress.  Julian Noa voiced the perpetually frustrated editor Perry White, and Jackie Kelk (Homer on The Aldrich Family) gave the right dose of “gee whiz” enthusiasm to Jimmy Olsen.  But a comic book adventure is lost without a narrator, and for most of its run Superman had a humdinger in Jackson Beck, who famously intoned the legendary introduction that began with “Faster than a speeding bullet!” (Yep, that was coined for the radio series as well.)

Today,the radio adventures of Superman still pack a ton of excitement into every fifteen or thirty minute episode.  Even if you can only see him in the theater of your own mind, Superman rockets through the air when Bud Collyer’s voice drops an octave, that wind machine kicks in, and Jackson Beck’s stentorian boom erupts over the speakers.

Feb 12, 2019
"Expense account, item one..."

On February 11, 1949, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar premiered on CBS and kicked off the career of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator.” Dollar traveled the world investigating cases of insurance fraud until 1962. Each mystery was narrated by Johnny as he itemized his expense account for his bosses at “the home office.” The series aired up until the end of the Golden Age of Radio in 1962, and it remains one of the most beloved detective programs of the era.

What made the show work?  The format of the show is a great hook - Dollar narrates the story as he itemizes his expense account for his employers.  As the case progresses, another expense is rattled off.  This was played up for humorous effect in the show’s early days, leading to a frequent announcer tag line - “At insurance investigation, he’s only an expert.  At making out his expense account, he’s an absolute genius!“  Dollar was sharp, a bit cynical, and had brains to match his brawn.

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But in his first several years on the air, Johnny Dollar was a good - but not great - radio detective.  There was little about the show to distinguish it from the sea of detective shows cluttering the airwaves.  Three different actors (Charles RussellEdmond O'Brien, and John Lund) played Dollar between 1949 and 1954.  (Dick Powell was actually the first to play Johnny Dollar in a 1948 audition program.  Before the show went to series, Powell opted to star in Richard Diamond, Private Detective on NBC.)  The insurance investigation angle provided a different flavor for the show, but those early shows weren’t quite in the same league as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.  The show actually left the airwaves in 1954, and Johnny Dollar might have ended up as a radio footnote had it not been for a revamped series that returned to the air in 1955.

Under the direction of Jack Johnstone, Johnny Dollar was reinvented as a five-night-a-week 15 minute serial.  Johnstone was a veteran radio writer and director who previously brought Buck Rogers and Superman to radio. Just before he took the helm of Johnny Dollar, he served as producer and director for the outstanding NBC western series The Six Shooter, which brought Jimmy Stewart to weekly radio as its star.  Johnstone served as producer and director of the new series, and he frequently provided scripts.  With 75 minutes instead of 30 for stories every week, Johnstone and his fellow writers could deliver complex plots with plenty of twists and turns and nuanced characters with more depth than the usual supporting players in a weekly detective show.

But talent behind the scenes is only part of the story.  Johnny Dollar’s renaissance owes as much to the man in front of the microphone - a strong, dynamic actor who breathed life and a personality into the detective.  And it was an actor who was no stranger to solving crimes on the airwaves. 

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Bob Bailey was fresh off a run as private eye George Valentine in Let George Do It when he was cast as Dollar.  He sank his teeth into the king-size scripts, and his performance fleshed out the character in a way that the previous actors had never quite managed to nail down.  His Johnny Dollar would more often than not get too involved in his cases, and he might fall too hard for a female suspect.  He loved to fish, and his clients might exploit that to persuade him to take a dangerous job in a far-off locale where he could be promised a good catch.  He was unpredictable, funny, and dangerous.  In the early years, Johnny Dollar was just a radio detective.  With Jack Johnstone’s words and Bob Bailey’s voice, he joined the ranks of Marlowe and Spade, characters with long histories on the page behind them.

The series continued in the serial format until 1956 when it returned to 30 minutes once a week.  While the individual shows may not have always been as rich as the five-part stories, Bailey’s performance remained strong.  He remained in the role until 1960, when CBS shut down its West Coast radio operations and moved its dramatic productions to New York.  The show continued for another two seasons; Jack Johnstone continued to provide scripts but was replaced as director.  Bob Readick and Mandel Kramer starred as Dollar until he turned in his last expense account on the final night of network radio on September 30, 1962.

Nearly all of the episodes of the show survive, and while each actor brought something unique to the character, it is Bailey’s Johnny Dollar that stands head and shoulders above them all.  His wry humor, his hard edge, and his world-weary cynicism come through in every line of his performance, and there are years of episodes for today’s audiences to rediscover and enjoy.

Feb 11, 2019
Episode 314 - The Final Five Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:18:34

Seventy years ago this month, listeners first met “the man with the action-packed expense account” when Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar premiered on CBS. The show ran until 1962 with several actors stepping into the shows of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator,” but the best of the bunch was Bob Bailey. Bailey starred as Johnny Dollar from 1955 until 1960, including a tremendous run of five-part nightly stories from 1955 to 1956. We’ll hear the last of those serialized installments - “The Silent Queen Matter” (originally aired on CBS from October 29 to November 2, 1956).

Feb 10, 2019
Stories Start in Many Different Ways

“Hi - this is Randy Stone. I cover the night beat for the Chicago Star.”

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On February 6, 1950, reporter Randy Stone took his first walk on the Night Beat. Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy, an intrepid newspaperman working at the Chicago Star. Every night, Randy explored the darkened streets of the Windy City in search of stories for his column. Randy Stone was looking for the good and the bad of human nature - anything that would make for a good yarn to follow his byline. Along the way, he usually found trouble among the desperate and the dangerous residents of the city at night.

In each episode of the show, columnist Randy Stone went to work when the sun went down and set off through the city streets in search of stories about people that had fallen through the cracks.  The “human” in human interest stories was of paramount importance to him, and like a knight on a romantic crusade, Stone did his best to help the subjects of his stories and ensure as much of a happy ending as he could for his column.  Randy Stone wasn’t a detective; he wasn’t even an amateur sleuth like Box 13’s Dan Holiday or Casey, Crime Photographer.  But he walked the streets of Chicago after dark and as a sucker for a hard luck story, he frequently found himself in conflict with the mob, gamblers and thieves, con men, and killers.  He could be taken in by a sob story or come around to discover a perceived villain had been wronged as badly as the victim.  He didn’t carry a gun, and he wasn’t a fighter, but he had dogged persistence in chasing down a story to the end.  It was the kind of persistence that was finely honed from walking the streets and wearing out who knows how many pairs of shoes.

On May 19, 1949, an audition program for the series was recorded starring Edmond O’Brien as reporter “Hank Mitchell.”  Directed by Bill Rousseau (director of hard-boiled private eye shows Pat Novak and Michael Shayne), O’Brien’s performance was closer to how he’d sound as Johnny Dollar a year later: tougher, cynical, and harder-edged.  Not a bad performance (in fact, it served him well in the role of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator”), but it was a little too tough for what producers were looking for. Night Beat got a second bite at the apple almost a year later.  This time, actor Frank Lovejoy stepped to the microphone as the lead character, rechristened “Randy Stone.”  Where Hank Mitchell was cynical, Randy Stone was a kind of cock-eyed optimist.  Where Mitchell was tough, Stone was compassionate.  Of the voices, Randy Stone’s sounded more like that of a champion for the little guy.  And delivering that winning performance for over 100 episodes was Frank Lovejoy.

Lovejoy had been a radio actor in the 1930s and early 1940s, appearing on Gangbusters and This is Your FBI.  He was the first actor to play the Blue Beetle on radio, and he was frequently heard as a supporting player on Sam SpadeBox 13, and Adventures of Superman; he also took more than a few starring turns on Suspense.  In films, Lovejoy was often a supporting player in everyman roles in films like The Hitch-HikerHouse of Wax, and In a Lonely Place.  This “man of the people” streak to his work served him well as Randy Stone, and Lovejoy delivers one of the best dramatic lead performances from the Golden Age of Radio in Night Beat. It helped that he was given wonderful words to say and characters to say them to with scripts by Larry Marcus, Russell Hughes (main writer for Box 13), and others.

One of the great dramatic shows of the 1950s, Night Beat was anchored by Frank Lovejoy’s performance and strong scripts. Though not strictly a detective program, Night Beat often featured stories of crime and killers, of cops and robbers. Night Beat was a bright spot in the Golden Age of Radio as it gradually gave way to the rise of television.

Feb 06, 2019
Episode 313 - In the Still of the Night (Night Beat)
01:06:03

When the sun goes down in the Windy City, Randy Stone goes to work. Frank Lovejoy stars as Stone, the Chicago reporter who walks the Night Beat in search of a story. What he finds in the darkness will give him material for his column...if it doesn’t kill him first. We’ll hear Lovejoy in a pair of radio mysteries: “Old Home Week” (originally aired on NBC on September 4, 1950) and “The Kenny Day Amnesia Case” (originally aired on NBC on October 6, 1950).

Feb 03, 2019
An Englishman in the West

“Herewith, an Englishman’s account of life and death in the west. As a reporter for the London Times, he writes his colorful and unusual stories. But as a man with a gun, he lives and becomes a part of the violent years in the new territories.”

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Western heroes were in no short supply during the Golden Age of Radio. There were lawmen like Matt Dillon, keeping the peace and fighting to bring law and order to the frontier. There were hired guns like Paladin and roaming cowboys like Britt Ponsett who made every effort not to draw his gun. And of course, there was the granddaddy of all western heroes - the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains known as The Lone Ranger. But one of radio’s most unusual leading men of the old west was Jeremy Brian Kendall, correspondent for the London Times - the Frontier Gentleman. This standout drama made premiered on CBS on February 2, 1958.

For a single radio season (just over 40 episodes) Frontier Gentleman followed Kendall on his journeys through the new territories of the United States. Moving from town to town, Kendall traded notes with fellow reporters, rode along with the cavalry, rubbed elbows with rogues, and shared his experiences - good and bad - with his readers back home. Kendall fought Indians, tangled with the James brothers, and he had a seat at the poker table during Wild Bill Hickok’s last hand. He fell for a beautiful Confederate spy, and he served as impromptu defense counsel and surgeon.

The show was created, written, and directed by Antony Ellis - a native of England who worked extensively in American radio as an actor and behind the scenes talent. And the titular gentleman was played by John Dehner, a Disney animator who became a voice (and later TV and film) actor. Dehner could be heard on everything from Philip Marlowe to Escape to Gunsmoke and Suspense. An unlikely choice to play a Brit, Dehner was born in Staten Island, but he brought a mature, refined quality and an underplayed accent to Kendall. He didn’t sound like he grew up on the London streets, but it was easy to imagine Dehner’s voice coming from a man who had fought for the queen in India and who had picked up on the rough and tumble slang and customs of the American frontier.

The show was fantastic, ranking near the top of the list of great radio westerns. Historian John Dunning said Frontier Gentleman was “the only serious rival to Gunsmoke in the radio Hall of Fame.” Unfortunately, the show came to radio in the medium’s twilight, and it lasted only that single season. The week after Frontier Gentleman ended, John Dehner went on the air as Paladin in the CBS radio adaptation of its TV hit Have Gun - Will Travel.

Feb 02, 2019
Episode 312 - True North (Mr. and Mrs. North)
01:20:43

Some couples play golf, and some like to travel. Pam and Jerry North spend their quality time putting their amateur sleuth skills to work in Mr. and Mrs. North. One of radio’s most popular detective shows, the adventures of the Norths sprang from the pages of novels and kept listeners guessing for over a decade. We’ll hear three of their adventures starring Barbara Britton as Pam and Richard Denning as Jerry: “Coat of Arms,” “Die Hard,” and “Masquerade.”

Jan 27, 2019
Episode 311 - Spy Hard (Dangerous Assignment)
01:07:45

Even if he can’t pronounce the names of the countries he visits, two-fisted secret agent Steve Mitchell knows each Dangerous Assignment means trouble. Brian Donlevy stars as the international man of mystery in two tales of radio espionage and adventure. We’ll hear “Find Hired Killer Lupac” (originally aired on NBC on August 16, 1950) and “Recover Memory Chain Equation” (originally aired on NBC on November 18, 1950).

Jan 20, 2019
Episode 310 - Behind the Badge (Nero Wolfe & Dragnet)
01:07:19

In a special bonus episode, we tip our hat to the late Herb Ellis. The actor passed away in December at age 97, and along with his many radio credits he’s a key figure in radio history because of his collaboration with Jack Webb - a collaboration that yielded Dragnet. We’ll hear Ellis co-star as Officer Frank Smith in “The Big Bull” (originally aired on NBC on September 14, 1952), and we’ll hear him as Archie Goodwin in “The Case of the Dear Dead Lady” from The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (originally aired on NBC on November 3, 1950).

Jan 16, 2019
Episode 309 - St. Vincent (The Saint)
01:25:13

“The Robin Hood of modern crime” is on the case, and the halo of The Saint is hanging over Vincent Price’s head. Price stars as Simon Templar in three old time radio adventures of Leslie Charteris’ gentleman sleuth: “Murder on the High Seas” (originally aired on Mutual on September 18, 1949); “It’s Snow Use” (originally aired on NBC on October 29, 1950); and “The Terrible Tintype” (originally aired on NBC on November 26, 1950).

Jan 13, 2019
Episode 308 - Raising Cain (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:04:55

Based on a novel by James M. Cain, with screenplay co-written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder behind the camera, Double Indemnity is a film noir classic - one of the best ever produced and it doesn't lose any of its power when adapted for radio. Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck recreate their screen roles as an insurance salesman and an unhappy wife who plot to make the most of her husband's new accidental death policy. The crackling adaptation aired on the Lux Radio Theatre on CBS on October 30, 1950.

Jan 06, 2019
Episode 307 - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? (Dragnet & Philip Marlowe)
01:04:18

When the bells all ring and the horns all blow, you can ring in 2019 with a bonus episode of Down These Mean Streets! Jack Webb and Gerald Mohr star in New Year’s Eve mysteries from Dragnet and The Adventures of Philip Marlowe. We’ll hear “The Big New Year’s” (originally aired on NBC on March 8, 1951) and “The Old Acquaintance” (originally aired on CBS on December 26, 1948).

Dec 30, 2018
Episode 306 - Holmes for the Holidays (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:32:47

We’re wrapping up 2018 and spending the holidays with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The dynamic duo of Baker Street stars in three old time radio mysteries taking us from Christmas to New Year’s Eve. First, John Stanley and Alfred Shirley star in “The Adventure of the Christmas Bride” (originally aired on Mutual on December 21, 1947). Then, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson play Holmes and Watson in an adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle Christmas story “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” Finally, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce ring in the new year in “The Iron Box” (originally aired on Mutual on December 31, 1945).

Dec 23, 2018
Episode 305 - Silver-Haired Shamus (New Adventures of Michael Shayne)
01:28:47

To celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday, we'll hear Jeff Chandler in two old time radio mysteries as "that reckless red-headed Irishman" - two-fisted private eye Michael Shayne. Chandler is an ultra-hard boiled gumshoe in "The Case of the Crooked Wheel" and "The Case of the High-Priced Twins." Then, he shows off his comedic side as Mr. Boynton in Our Miss Brooks (in an episode originally aired on CBS on March 27, 1949).

Dec 16, 2018
Episode 304 - Archie and the Wolfe (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)
01:07:16

In celebration of the December birthdays of Rex Stout and Sydney Greenstreet, here are two episodes of The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe starring Greenstreet as the gargantuan gourmet created by Stout. There's no case too baffling for the sedentary sleuth and his loyal legman Archie Goodwin, and we'll hear two of their mysteries: "The Case of the Deadly Sellout" with Larry Dobkin as Archie (originally aired on NBC on January 5, 1951); and "The Case of the Hasty Will" co-starring Harry Bartell as Goodwin (originally aired on NBC on March 2, 1951).

Dec 09, 2018
Episode 303 - Luck of the Irish (Mollé Mystery Theater, NBC Radio Playhouse & The Hunters)
01:33:42

Cornell Woolrich - aka William Irish - was one of the great crime writers of the twentieth century with his works winning acclaim and adaptations on radio and the big screen (including Hitchcock's classic Rear Window). We'll celebrate the anniversary of his birth with three of his tales adapted for the airwaves - "The Bride Wore Black" from The Mollé Mystery Theater (originally aired on NBC on February 7, 1947); "Wardrobe Trunk" from the NBC Radio City Playhouse (originally aired on NBC on April 4, 1949); and "You Take Ballistics" from the audition recording for The Hunters.

Dec 02, 2018
Episode 302 - New Carr Smell (Suspense & Cabin B-13)
01:09:25

Master mystery writer John Dickson Carr embraced radio in a big way. He wrote scripts for Suspense and his own anthology show Cabin B-13. Carr also acted as master of ceremonies for Murder by Experts. In honor of his birthday on November 30th, we'll hear two of his original radio mysteries: "Will You Make a Bet with Death?" from Suspense (originally aired on CBS on November 10, 1942), and "A Razor in Fleet Street" (originally aired on CBS on July 5, 1948).

Nov 25, 2018
Episode 301 - Talking Turkey 2018 (Durante-Moore & Jack Benny)
01:05:33

No sleuths today - just a heaping helping of Thanksgiving comedy from the Golden Age of Radio. Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore present a comedy opera about the pilgrims, and Jack Benny and his gang are off to the big football game in this Turkey Day bonus show.

Nov 21, 2018
Episode 300 - The Case of the 300th Episode (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:32:36

"Down These Mean Streets" has reached 300 episodes! To mark the occasion, we're hearing again from Bob Bailey as "the man with the action-packed expense account" - Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Bailey stars as "America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator" in the six-part mystery "The Kranesburg Matter" (originally aired on CBS between August 24 and August 31, 1956).

Nov 18, 2018
Episode 299 - How Now, Howard? (Sam Spade & Suspense)
01:30:07

This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we'll hear Howard Duff in two radio mysteries as Sam Spade and as a scriptwriter plotting the perfect crime in "Suspense."

Nov 11, 2018
Episode 298 - Poor Richards' Almanac (Rogue's Gallery & Richard Diamond)
01:06:45

Dick Powell reinvented himself as a hardboiled hero with his performance as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, and several films noir and radio detective shows followed. We'll hear Powell as gumshoe Richard Rogue in "Blood on the Sand" from Rogue's Gallery (originally aired on Mutual on December 13, 1945). Then he's Richard Diamond, Private Detective in "The Martin Hyer Case" (originally aired on NBC on July 23, 1949).

Nov 04, 2018
Episode 297 - Crossing the Jordan (Rocky Jordan)
01:37:29

Grab a drink and a mystery at the Cafe Tambourine in Cairo with two-fisted club owner and adventurer Rocky Jordan. The ex-pat and amateur detective kept audiences thrilled with tales told against an exotic backdrop. Jack Moyles stars as Rocky in "The Bartered Bridegroom" (originally aired on CBS on October 31, 1948) and "Adventure with Andrea" (originally aired on CBS on September 11, 1949). Then, big screen tough guy George Raft plays Jordan in "The Genakos Affair" (originally aired on CBS on July 11, 1951).

Oct 28, 2018
Episode 296 - Trick or Treat (Jack Benny Program & My Favorite Husband)
01:03:24

We're celebrating the lighter side of October 31st with this year's "Down These Mean Streets" Halloween special. Grab your favorite candy and enjoy a pair of trick or treating comedies from The Jack Benny Program (originally aired on NBC on October 31, 1948) and Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband (originally aired on CBS on October 28, 1949).

Oct 24, 2018
Episode 295 - Fabulous Baker Street Boys (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:38:57

It didn't take a brilliant detective to bring one of fiction's greatest sleuths to radio, but it did take a talented writer and devoted fan. Edith Meiser penned the very first Sherlock Holmes radio show on October 20, 1930, and her efforts behind the scenes kept the character going for nearly twenty years on the air. We'll celebrate Holmes' anniversary with three of Meiser's original mysteries starring John Stanley as Holmes and Alfred Shirley as Dr. Watson: "The Case of the Missing Heiress" (originally aired on Mutual on October 5, 1947); "The Case of the Lucky Shilling" (originally aired on Mutual on January 18, 1948); and "The Case of the Accommodating Valise" (originally aired on Mutual on May 23, 1948). 

Oct 21, 2018
Episode 294 - Their Girl Friday: Jan Miner (Boston Blackie, CBS Radio Workshop, & Casey, Crime Photographer)
01:32:12

Before she became a commercial star as "Madge" for Palmolive, actress Jan Miner was busy working on the stage and the radio. Miner was heard regularly on soap operas, dramas, and radio detective shows. We'll hear her as Mary Wesley in the syndicated episode "Alibi Time" from Boston Blackie and as Ann Williams in "King of the Apes" from Casey, Crime Photographer (originally aired on CBS on May 1, 1947). Plus, we'll hear Jan Miner in a behind-the-scenes look at radio production from The CBS Radio Workshop (originally aired on CBS on October 12, 1956).

Oct 14, 2018
Episode 293 - Fortune Favors the Bold (Rocky Fortune)
56:59

The Chairman of the Board fights crime as Frank Sinatra stars in Rocky Fortune. The singer played Fortune - a man whose odd jobs always led to trouble - for a single season in a fun, well-produced mystery series. To celebrate the sixty-fifth anniversary of the show's debut, we'll hear a pair of Rocky's adventures - the show's first episode (originally aired on NBC on October 6, 1953) and "The Museum Murder" (originally aired on NBC on January 11, 1954).

Oct 07, 2018
Episode 292 - Craig's List (Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator)
01:05:06

William Gargan is on the case as Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator - the sardonic gumshoe with a healthy sense of humor to go along with his powers of deduction. We'll hear "Murder Masquerade" (originally aired on NBC on August 9, 1953) and "Hay is for Homicide" (originally aired on NBC on August 31, 1954).

Sep 30, 2018
Episode 291 - Get Out of Dodge (Gunsmoke)
01:05:17

In celebration of what would have been his 98th birthday, we're tipping our hat to William Conrad. Before he was the narrator of The Fugitive and Rocky and Bullwinkle and before he solved TV crimes as Cannon, Conrad was one of the biggest talents of the golden age of radio. He had thousands of credits to his name but he was best known as Matt Dillon, US Marshal, on Gunsmoke. We'll hear him in a pair of murder mysteries from the old west (originally aired on CBS on May 9 and November 21, 1953).

Sep 23, 2018
Episode 290 - You Can't Con a Conway (Sherlock Holmes & The Saint)
01:05:52

With his polished radio presence and his mellifluous British accent, Tom Conway was a natural as a radio detective, and he put his voice to great use as both Sherlock Holmes and Simon Templar. We'll hear him as Holmes - with Nigel Bruce as Watson - in "The Adventure of the Original Hamlet" (originally aired on ABC on November 2, 1946). Then as The Saint, he stars in "The Girl with the Lower Berth" (originally aired on NBC on June 3, 1951).

Sep 16, 2018
Episode 289 - Let's All Go to the Lobby (Screen Directors Playhouse)
01:06:39

In the film noir classic D.O.A., the detective is also the victim of the crime. Edmond O'Brien, one of radio's Johnny Dollars, recreates his big screen role as Frank Bigelow, a man with only days left to live who is frantically searching for the man who murdered him, in this adaptation from the Screen Directors Playhouse (originally aired on NBC on June 21, 1951).

Sep 09, 2018
Episode 288 - You Can Call Me Al (Box 13 & Lux Radio Theatre)
01:33:23

Alan Ladd didn't just star in mysteries and thrillers on the big screen - audiences could also hear Ladd on their radios in tales of daring detectives and heroes. We'll hear him in "Double Right Cross," an episode of his syndicated series Box 13 where he starred as reporter turned mystery writer and amateur sleuth Dan Holiday. Then he's joined by Veronica Lake in a radio recreation of his wartime action adventure O.S.S. from the Lux Radio Theatre (originally aired on CBS on November 18, 1946).

Sep 02, 2018
Episode 287 - Their Girl Friday: Lesley Woods (Boston Blackie & Casey, Crime Photographer)
01:28:40

From the Broadway stage to the world of daytime soap operas, Lesley Woods found success in every medium she tried during her six decade career. She was very busy on radio, appearing on soaps, sci-fi shows, thrillers, and detective programs. We'll hear her opposite Richard Kollmar in Boston Blackie as Blackie's girlfriend Mary Wesley in "The Wentworth Diamonds." And she's reporter Ann Williams alongside Staats Cotsworth's Casey, Crime Photographer in "The Twenty Minute Alibi" (originally aired on CBS on February 20, 1947).

Aug 26, 2018
Episode 286 - Blind Man's Bluff (Murder Clinic & Suspense)
01:10:16

Crooks made the mistake of underestimating private detectives Max Carrados and Captain Duncan Maclain because both men were blind. After you hear their radio adventures, you'll know that a lack of sight doesn't stand in the way of these gentlemen as they solve seemingly impossible murders. Ernest Bramah's gentlemanly Carrados (voiced by Alfred Shirley) stars in "The Holloway Flat Tragedy" from Murder Clinic (originally aired on Mutual on August 18, 1942). Then, Baynard Kendrick's Maclain (played here by Brian Donlevy) is heard in "Out of Control" from Suspense (originally aired on CBS on August 23, 1946).

Aug 19, 2018
Episode 285 - Auditions for Adventure (Candy Matson)
01:05:20

San Francisco shamus Candy Matson was the greatest girl detective of the radio era. Charming, cool, and cute, Candy made her way in the man’s world of private eye gumshoeing. Before and after her series aired on NBC, two audition shows were recorded to bring the sassy sleuth to audiences. We’ll hear Natalie Masters as Candy in both of those shows – “The Donna Dunham Case” from April 1949 and “The Allison Gray Case” from September 1952.

Aug 12, 2018
Episode 284 - Mohr for Your Money (Adventures of Philip Marlowe)
01:08:10

If you've got to walk down the mean streets of Los Angeles, it helps to have Philip Marlowe by your side. Gerald Mohr brought Raymond Chandler's private eye to life in one of the best detective shows to come out of the radio era. We'll hear a pair of Marlowe's mysteries: "The Bum's Rush" (originally aired on CBS on September 3, 1949) and "The Fox's Tail" (originally aired on CBS on May 23, 1950).

Aug 05, 2018
Episode 283 - Back on the Case (Dragnet)
01:35:07

After a hiatus, it’s time once again to head “Down These Mean Streets.” I’m kicking off a new season with the king of the radio cops – Sgt. Joe Friday. Jack Webb is keeping Los Angeles safe in three old time radio mysteries: "The Big Girl" (originally aired on NBC on February 9, 1950); "The Big Evans" (originally aired on NBC on March 16, 1952); and "The Big Impossible" (originally aired on NBC on March 15, 1953).

Aug 01, 2018
Episode 282 - Play It Again, Sam (Adventures of Sam Spade)
59:57

To celebrate Dashiell Hammett's birthday, we'll hear a pair of radio adventures of his most famous creation - the hard-boiled San Francisco shamus Sam Spade. Howard Duff stars as Spade in "The Queen Bee Caper" (originally aired on CBS on July 10, 1949). Then, Steven Dunne steps into Sam's shoes for "The Biddle Riddle Caper" (originally aired on NBC on January 5, 1951).

May 27, 2018
Episode 281 – Doyle’s Day (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:20:07

We're celebrating the birthday of Arthur Conan Doyle with radio adaptations of three of his greatest Sherlock Holmes mysteries. In these productions from the BBC, John Gielgud stars as Holmes with Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson. The game's afoot in "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Red-Headed League," and "The Six Napoleons."

May 20, 2018
Episode 280 – Give a Little Whistle (The Whistler)
01:03:22

Walk in the shoes of a killer as he plans and carries out his crime. Just watch out for a twist ending when the story is told by The Whistler. Bill Forman stars as the sinister storyteller who introduces his tales with a haunting melody. We'll hear "Brief Pause for Murder" (originally aired on CBS on September 11, 1949) and "A Law of Physics" (originally aired on CBS on June 10, 1951).

May 13, 2018
Episode 279 – All’s Welles That Ends Welles (Black Museum & Harry Lime)
01:29:38

We're celebrating Orson Welles' birthday with two of the legendary actor and director's old time radio performances. First, Welles leads us on a tour of The Black Museum, Scotland Yard's archive of murder. He narrates the tale of a faded tartan scarf wielded in the hands of a dangerous man. Then he recreates his big screen role from The Third Man in The Lives of Harry Lime. We'll hear Harry in the syndicated mystery "Mexican Hat Trick."

May 06, 2018
Episode 278 - Cowboy Up (Tales of the Texas Rangers)
01:03:57

We're back in the saddle this week with Joel McCrea in Tales of the Texas Rangers. As Ranger Jayce Pearson, McCrea keeps the Lone Star State safe in true crime stories. We'll hear "Fool's Gold" (originally aired on NBC on August 19, 1950) and "The White Suit" (originally aired on NBC on November 5, 1950).

May 01, 2018
Episode 277 – Say It With a Diamond (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)
02:02:15

It's the fifth anniversary of Down These Mean Streets and the 69th anniversary of the premiere of Richard Diamond, Private Detective. To celebrate both, here's an extra-large episode starring Dick Powell as Diamond. Radio's singing detective gets his man and carries a tune in "The Ralph Chase Case" (originally aired on NBC on May 15, 1949); "The Harry Baker Case" (originally aired on NBC on September 3, 1949); "The Grey Man" (originally aired on ABC on February 16, 1951); and "The Hollywood Story" (originally aired on CBS on August 23, 1953).

Apr 22, 2018
Episode 276 - Monday Through Friday Mystery (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:12:26

Bob Bailey is back on the job in another five-part adventure of Johnny Dollar - "the man with the action-packed expense account." Join America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator as he crosses swords with a twentieth century pirate to learn what happened to a sunken ship in "The Jolly Roger Fraud" (originally aired on CBS between March 19 and March 23, 1956).

Apr 15, 2018
Episode 275 – Wolfe Whistle (Adventures of Nero Wolfe)
01:04:40

Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout’s gargantuan gourmet, is back! His career as a radio detective began 75 years ago this month, and we’re marking the occasion with two of his on-air adventures. Sydney Greenstreet plays the eccentric sleuth (with Larry Dobkin as loyal legman Archie Goodwin) in “The Case of the Friendly Rabbit” (originally aired on NBC on December 1, 1950). Then, we’ll hear an early Wolfe radio adventure – “The Last Laugh Murder Case,” broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Service’s Mystery Playhouse.

Apr 08, 2018
Episode 274 – Jack Be Nimble (Pat Novak & The Whistler)
01:03:01

In honor of his birthday, we'll hear Jack Webb in a pair of old time radio performances - roles that show off a side of the actor/director's persona very different from Sgt. Joe Friday. In "Jack of Clubs" (originally aired on ABC on February 20, 1949), he's waterfront shamus Pat Novak For Hire. Then, he's an unscrupulous private eye who dabbles in crime in "Perfect Alibi" from The Whistler (originally aired on CBS on June 12, 1949).

Apr 02, 2018
Episode 273 - Les is More (The Thin Man, The Falcon, & The Abbotts)
01:32:41

During his nearly three decade run on radio, Les Damon starred as several detectives - Dashiell Hammett's Nick Charles, the debonair private eye known as the Falcon, and half of the husband and wife duo the Abbotts. We'll hear Damon as Nick in "The Strange Case of Professor Waigner" from The Adventures of the Thin Man; as Mike Waring - The Falcon - in "The Case of the Big Talker" (originally aired on NBC on April 29, 1951); and as Pat Abbott in "The Case of the Blood-Red Diamond" from Adventures of the Abbotts.

Mar 25, 2018
Episode 272 - No Stone Unturned (Amazing Mr. Malone, Escape, & Night Beat)
01:34:04

One of the busier actors on radio, Frank Lovejoy starred in everything from soap operas to superhero adventures, from tales of Suspense to the urban newspaper drama Night Beat. We'll hear him in three old time radio shows: as The Amazing Mr. Malone in "Cleanliness is Next to Godliness" (originally aired on ABC on August 28, 1948); in "Danger at Matecumbe" from Escape (originally aired on CBS on March 24, 1950); and finally as Randy Stone in Night Beat in "Old Blind Pop" (originally aired on August 7, 1950).

Mar 18, 2018
Episode 271 - Lullaby of Broadway (Broadway is My Beat)
01:01:21

It's Broadway - "the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world." Join Detective Danny Clover as he walks the Great White Way in Broadway is My Beat. Larry Thor stars as the sensitive sleuth in "The Max Wendell Murder Case" (an AFRS rebroadcast of a show from April 28, 1950) and in "The Howard Crawford Murder Case" (originally aired on CBS on August 5, 1951).

Mar 13, 2018
Episode 270 - An Honor to Be Nominated (Nero Wolfe, Michael Shayne, & Barrie Craig)
01:29:24

In a special bonus episode, we’ll hear a trio of radio detectives who were nominated for Academy Awards. Though they didn’t bring home an Oscar, they still won a place in our hearts for their on-air crime solving prowess. Sydney Greenstreet stars as Nero Wolfe in “Stamped for Murder” (originally aired on October 20, 1950). Then, Jeff Chandler is Michael Shayne in “The Case of the Mail-Order Murders.” Finally, William Gargan is Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator in “The Schemers” (originally aired on NBC on April 6, 1954).

Mar 04, 2018
Episode 269 - Hammer Time (That Hammer Guy)
01:15:39

To celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of master mystery writer Mickey Spillane, we'll hear three radio adventures of his signature shamus - the hard-boiled Mike Hammer. Ted De Corsia stars as Hammer in three episodes from That Hammer Guy: "The Jim Gordon Case," "The More You Kill, the Simpler It Gets" (originally aired on Mutual on April 20, 1954), and "A Dead Dame in Central Park" (originally aired on Mutual on April 27, 1954).

Mar 04, 2018
Episode 268 – Hello, Neuman (Rocky Jordan, The Line-Up, & Johnny Dollar)
01:33:06

Emmy-nominated writer E. Jack Neuman was one of radio's most prolific mystery scribes. Before he created classic TV shows like Mr. Novak, Neuman penned adventures of Jeff Regan, Richard Diamond, Sam Spade, and many more. In honor of his birthday, we'll hear three of his old time radio mysteries: "Fall Guy" from Rocky Jordan (originally aired on CBS on May 1, 1949); "The LaTourette Matter" from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (originally aired on CBS on February 20, 1953); and "The Lugar-Lugging Laddie Case" from The Line-Up (originally aired on CBS on July 8, 1952).

Feb 25, 2018
Episode 267 - Worth a Thousand Words (Casey, Crime Photographer)
01:02:31

Staats Cotsworth gets the shot - and his man - as Casey, Crime Photographer. Each week, Casey covers the news and makes it as he cracks the case and meets his deadline. We'll hear the crusader with a camera in "Loaded Dice" (originally aired on CBS on September 4, 1947) and "The Tobacco Pouch" (originally aired on CBS on September 18, 1947).

Feb 18, 2018
Episode 266 - Holy Roller (The Saint)
01:29:17

Heaven help crooks and thieves - The Saint is on the case! Vincent Price stars as Simon Templar, "the Robin Hood of modern crime," in three old time radio mysteries: "The Sinister Sneeze" (originally aired on NBC on June 11, 1950); "The Dame on the Doorstep" (originally aired on NBC on November 12, 1950); and "Formula for Death" (originally aired on NBC on March 25, 1951).

Feb 11, 2018
Episode 265 - You've Got Mail (Let George Do It & Box 13)
01:01:29

Our old time radio detectives this week drummed up business with newspaper ads - catchy sales pitches that invited potential clients to write in with requests for help. We'll hear Bob Bailey inviting those in need to Let George Do It in "The Father Who Had Nothing to Say" (originally aired on Mutual on September 13, 1948). Then, Alan Ladd opens another letter addressed to Box 13 in the syndicated mystery "The Haunted Artist."

Feb 04, 2018
Episode 264 - Lyon-Hearted Hero (Jeff Regan, Investigator)
01:05:17

If you're in trouble and you can come up with ten dollars a day and expenses, you can get help from Jeff Regan, Investigator. The hard-boiled gumshoe worked for the penny-pinching Anthony J. Lyon and never failed to find dangerous dames and double-crosses as he hustled for that ten a day. We'll hear Jack Webb as Regan in "The Too Many Mrs. Rogers" (originally aired on CBS on October 9, 1948). Then, Frank Graham is the detective in "The Two Little Sisters" (originally aired on CBS on November 16, 1949).

Jan 28, 2018
Episode 263 - Deduction Down Under (The Fat Man)
58:55

Though it was one of radio's most popular shows, The Fat Man left the airwaves in 1951 - a victim of the same anti-Communist hysteria that jailed its creator Dashiell Hammett. But in 1954, an Australian radio series, using scripts from the American show, was launched and its surviving shows give us a chance to hear more from this XXL private eye. We'll hear Lloyd Berrell starring in "Murder and the Peacock" and "Murder Shows a Phantom Face."

Jan 21, 2018
Episode 262 - The Doctor is In (Danger, Dr. Danfield & Sam Spade)
01:28:31

To old time radio fans, Steve Dunne is best known for his single season as Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade. Dunne stepped into the private eye's shoes when the program was resurrected following a cancellation, and he remained in the role until Sam closed up shop for good in 1951. We'll hear Dunne in his very first Spade adventure (originally aired on NBC on November 17, 1950) as well as "The Crab Louie Caper" (originally aired on NBC on January 12, 1951). Plus, we'll hear Dunne as a crimesolving psychologist in Danger, Dr. Danfield in an episode originally aired on ABC on November 17, 1946.

Jan 14, 2018
Episode 261 - The First Five Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:15:50

On October 3, 1955, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar returned to CBS after a year-long hiatus. The adventures of "the man with the action-packed expense account" were revamped into a serial, with a complete adventure playing out each weeknight. Bob Bailey stepped into the shoes of "America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator," and it was a perfect marriage of actor and character. We'll hear that very first five-part mystery - "The McCormack Matter" (originally aired on CBS between October 3 and October 7, 1955).

Jan 07, 2018
Episode 260 - Detect the Halls (Candy Matson, Richard Diamond, Johnny Dollar, & Broadway is My Beat)
01:59:40

Haul out the holly - it's time for the "Down These Mean Streets" holiday special. We're wrapping up 2017 with Christmas capers from four old time radio sleuths. First, Natalie Masters is Candy Matson, the gorgeous girl detective of San Francisco, in "Jack Frost" (originally aired on NBC on December 10, 1949). Next, Dick Powell and his Richard Diamond cast of characters present their version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (originally aired on NBC on December 24, 1949). Then, Bob Bailey files a holiday expense account as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: "The Missing Mouse Matter" (originally aired on CBS on December 23, 1956). Finally, we head to the Big Apple for Larry Thor as Detective Danny Clover in "Santa Takes a Powder" from Broadway is My Beat (originally aired on CBS on December 24, 1949).

Dec 20, 2017
Episode 259 - Blues in the Night (Pete Kelly's Blues)
01:02:03

Head down to 417 Cherry Street for a drink and a set from Pete Kelly and his jazz band. Jack Webb combines his love of jazz and his unique style of radio crime drama in Pete Kelly's Blues, a short-lived series from the summer of 1951. The show featured great tunes and downbeat stories of the Prohibition era, and it inspired a 1955 feature film. We'll hear a pair of episodes - "The Veda Brand Story" (originally aired on NBC on July 11, 1951) and "Dr. Jonathan Budd and the Dutchman" (originally aired on NBC on September 12, 1951).

Dec 17, 2017
Episode 258 - Double Date for Danger (Mr. and Mrs. North & The Abbotts)
01:00:15

Two of old time radio's crime solving couples are on hand to mix marriage and mayhem in a pair of mysteries. First, Richard Denning and Barbara Britton are amateur sleuths Mr. and Mrs. North in "Too Late to Die" (an Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast of a show originally aired on CBS on December 15, 1953). Then, Mandel Kramer is private eye Pat Abbott and Claudia Morgan is his wife Jean in "The Gentleman in the Nile Green Suit" from The Adventures of the Abbotts (an Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast of a show originally aired on NBC on May 29, 1955).

Dec 10, 2017
Episode 257 – Meet the Press (Casey, Crime Photographer, Big Town, & Night Beat)
01:33:27

We’re running a special edition to salute the radio crime fighters of the Fourth Estate – three newsmen who used the power of the press to solve crimes and keep their cities free of corruption. First, Staats Cotsworth is Casey, Crime Photographer in “The Blonde’s Lipstick” (originally aired on CBS on November 6, 1947). Then, editor Steve Wilson and reporter Lorelei Kilbourne fight the rackets of Big Town. Edward Pawley and Fran Carlon star in “The Final Payment” (originally aired on NBC on September 21, 1948). Finally, Frank Lovejoy is Chicago reporter Randy Stone in “Byline for Frank” from Night Beat (originally aired on NBC on June 29, 1951).

Dec 03, 2017
Episode 256 - Hard-Boiled Howard (Sam Spade & Burns and Allen)
01:30:15

We tip our fedora to Howard Duff in honor of the star’s November 24th birthday. To celebrate, we’ll hear him in his signature role as Dashiell Hammett’s famous private detective Sam Spade. With his wry humor and unique take on the material, Duff as Spade gave us one of the best gumshoes of the era. We’ll hear him in two episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade: “The Bow Window Caper” (originally aired on CBS on November 9, 1947) and “The Stopped Watch Caper” (originally aired on CBS on April 10, 1949). Finally, Sam gets his craziest caper ever when he meets Gracie Allen in a comedy episode from February 10, 1949.

Nov 26, 2017
"Wire Paladin, San Francisco"

In the latter days of the Golden Age of Radio, several programs made the move to television - chasing advertisers and the public’s focus. Dragnet aired on radio and TV simultaneously for years, along with comedies like Our Miss Brooks and The Jack Benny Program. Generally, it was a one-way street, but in 1958 CBS reversed the trend when it brought its hit TV western Have Gun - Will Travel to radio.

The series premiered on television in 1957. Created by Herb Meadow and Sam Rolfe (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), the series starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a suave but deadly gun for hire. Educated at West Point, Paladin operated out of the luxurious Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. He was aided by hotel bellhop Hey Boy (Kam Tong), and he advertised his services with his trademark card, bearing the words “Have Gun - Will Travel.”

Off duty, he enjoyed fine cigars, good drinks, and the company of lovely women. But when he was on the job, Paladin dressed in black and had nerves of steel. The series successfully blended two of television’s most popular genres: the western and the private eye series. It wasn’t as if Paladin was Sam Spade on horseback, but he was tough, resourceful, and worked by his own moral code. He’d take on dangerous jobs for the right place, but he would turn the tables on his employer if Paladin discovered he was being used. Boone was simultaneously debonair and dangerous as Paladin. The role earned him two Emmy nods and he directed several of the episodes. One of the show’s most prolific writers was Gene Roddenberry; less than ten years later, he’d bring Star Trek to television. Have Gun - Will Travel had a comfortable home in the top five on the Nielsen charts for its first four seasons on the air.

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The radio version of Have Gun - Will Travel had connections to the radio and TV versions of another classic western. Producers brought Gunsmoke to television in 1955, but producer Norman MacDonnell - who, along with writer John Meston had made the radio series one of the finest programs on the air - was largely shut out of the TV series. When CBS planned to bring the adventures of Paladin to radio, MacDonnell campaigned for - and won - the job. Actor Ben Wright, who co-starred as Hey Boy on radio, said “There were definite ill feelings between Norm and the television crew responsible for Gunsmoke. I think Norm came up with the idea for doing a radio version of Have Gun, possibly to show them that ‘Hey, look what I can do with your program, and I did it even better.’”

When it came to casting the radio voice of Paladin, producers did not import the series’ television star. Instead, they tapped an actor who had only recently wrapped a run on another western program. John Dehner was one of the busiest radio actors in the 1950s, frequently guesting on EscapeSuspense, and - for Norman MacDonnell - Philip Marlowe and Gunsmoke. In fact, Dehner had been offered the role of Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, but he turned it down. From February until November 1958, Dehner starred in Antony Ellis’ acclaimed drama Frontier Gentleman as British newspaper correspondent J.B. Kendall. It was a drama in the “adult western” vein of Gunsmoke, but it left the air in November. The week after J.B. Kendall filed his last report of the west, John Dehner was on the air as Paladin.

Dehner sought to create his own version of Paladin, commenting “I didn’t pay any attention to [Richard Boone] at all. I knew it would be deadly if I were to imitate him or do anything that was even vaguely similar to him.” He made the role his own, creating a Paladin who sounded just as home in an opera box as he did on the trail. Each episode opened with Bernard Hermann’s driving theme (imported from television) and Dehner as Paladin delivering a line from the story to follow.

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Have Gun - Will Travel offered a showcase for some of radio’s greatest players as the era of radio drama was winding down. Harry Bartell, Larry Dobkin, Virginia Gregg, Jeanne Bates, Howard Culver, and many more (most of them members of MacDonnell’s repertory company) turned in supporting performances in a mix of adapted television scripts and original stories.

On television, Paladin continued to hire himself out until 1963, but his radio series ran for 106 episodes. Have Gun - Will Travel left the air just over two years after it premiered and just about two years away from the end of the Golden Age of Radio. In the final episode, Paladin left San Francisco behind and rode to Boston to claim an inheritance. Just as he reversed the trend and rode to radio, Paladin defied his genre and rode east at the end of his story.

Nov 23, 2017
Episode 255 - Talking Turkey (Our Miss Brooks)
34:18

To keep you smiling on Thanksgiving, here’s a comedy side dish courtesy of Eve Arden as Our Miss Brooks. Jeff Chandler – radio’s Michael Shayne – co-stars alongside the amazing Ms. Arden in this Turkey Day story about a live turkey slated to be guest of honor at the Madison High feast. Co-starring Gale Gordon (The Casebook of Gregory Hood), this episode originally aired on CBS on November 19, 1950.

Nov 23, 2017
Episode 254 - It's a Plane! (Adventures of Superman)
01:14:52

Don’t touch that dial – the thrilling conclusion of our Superman-Batman radio team-up is coming your way. The Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader are fighting to save Robin and Jimmy Olsen in the exciting final chapters of “The Monkey Burglar,” originally aired on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Network between February 19 and 25, 1947.

Nov 22, 2017
Episode 253 - It's a Bird! (Adventures of Superman)
01:16:45

The Man of Steel and the Dynamic Duo are teaming up to keep the airwaves safe! We’ll hear a serialized story from The Adventures of Superman that brings Batman and Robin to Metropolis to join forces with Superman. Bud Collyer is Superman, Matt Crowley is Batman, and Ronald Liss is Robin in “The Monkey Burglar,” a story that finds Robin as a prime suspect for a series of daring robberies. We’ll hear the first five installments, originally aired on the Mutual Network between February 12 and February 18, 1947.

Nov 19, 2017
Episode 252 - Mustachioed Marvel (Murder Clinic & Hercule Poirot)
59:11

We're putting our little grey cells to work as Hercule Poirot solves two old time radio mysteries. Agatha Christie's brilliant Belgian detective is back on the big screen, and we'll hear two of his adventures from the airwaves. First, Maurice Tarplin is Poirot in an adaptation of Christie's "The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor," originally aired on Murder Clinic on October 6, 1942. Then, Harold Huber steps in for "Murder is a Private Affair," an episode of Hercule Poirot (originally aired on Mutual on November 23, 1945).

Nov 12, 2017
Happy Birthday, Joel McCrea

Actor Joel McCrea was born November 5, 1905. His show business career began when he was still in high school; he’d double for cowboy star Tom Mix in stunt scenes. During his career, McCrea worked with Alfred Hitchcock in Foreign Correspondent and Preston Sturges in Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story. Westerns were his favorite films - he admitted as much, saying “I liked doing comedies, but as I got older I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations…Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore. I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.”

It was fitting that he’d find success on radio in the cowboy crime drama Tales of the Texas Rangers. McCrea starred as Ranger Jayce Pearson in the NBC radio series from 1950 to 1952. McCrea lent a tough, no-nonsense air to the lead role of Ranger Jayce Pearson. He’s Joe Friday with a touch of Gary Cooper; Wyatt Earp with a radio and forensic knowledge. On screen, McCrea earned his spurs in The VirginianFour Faces West, Ride the High Country, and more.

Happiest when he was outdoors, McCrea described himself as a rancher with the hobby of acting. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 84.

Nov 05, 2017
Episode 251 - Powell, P.I. (Rogue's Gallery & Richard Diamond)
01:04:12

Need a case closed and a tune carried? Dick Powell is your man. The crooner reinvented his career when he played Philip Marlowe on screen, and he starred in a pair of radio detective shows as glib but tough private investigators. In honor of Powell’s birthday, we’ll hear two of his mysteries: as Richard Rogue, he solves “The Impossible Murder” from Rogue’s Galley (originally aired on Mutual on May 16, 1946). Then, as Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Powell tackles “The Big Foot Grafton Case” (originally aired on NBC on August 30, 1950).

Nov 05, 2017
Backdrop of Antiquity

“Not far from the Mosque Sultan Hassan in Cairo stands the Cafe Tambourine, run by Rocky Jordan.  The Cafe Tambourine, crowded with forgotten men, alive with the babble of many languages.  For this is Cairo, where modern adventure and intrigue unfold against a backdrop of antiquity.”

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Blend two of Humphrey Bogart’s signature roles - hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and ex-pat club owner Rick Blaine in Casablanca - and you’d end up with Rocky Jordan, an adventure/detective series that aired on the West Coast over CBS’ Pacific Network from 1945 to 1951.  Rocky ran the Cafe Tambourine, a watering hole and nightspot (not unlike Rick’s Cafe Americain) frequented by characters on both sides of the law.  Despite his best self-interested intentions, Rocky was usually drawn into the postwar intrigue that was being plotted in and around his club.  The combination of mystery and the exotic setting help Rocky Jordan stand out as a unique member of the old time radio detective fraternity.

The series began as a five-night-a-week serial called A Man Called Jordan.  During this 1945 to 1947 run on CBS’ West Coast network, Rocky’s club was located in Istanbul.  When the series returned in a 30 minute format in 1948, Rocky had relocated the club to Cairo, but the premise of the series remained largely the same.  Rocky was an American, but he couldn’t return to his native land due to a murky event in his past in St. Louis.  Like Rick Blaine, he looked out for himself and wasn’t motivated to stick his neck out unless it carried the promise of a reward.  But Rocky discovered there was no shortage of old friends and foes from the states or Cairo criminals whose plans intersected with the Cafe Tambourine.

For most of the run, Rocky was played by Jack Moyles (also heard as Sgt. Pete Carger on The Line-Up).  Moyles delivered Rocky’s tough guy style, but he allowed a hint of a heart to peek through when needed.  He brought a world-weary delivery to the role, and Moyles sold the part of a very American man in a uniquely un-American setting.

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A radio detective series wouldn’t be complete without a friendly rival on the police force; throughout the series, Jay Novello co-starred as Captain Sam Sabayya of the Cairo Police.  While his associates (including the toadyish Sgt. Greco) disliked Rocky, Sam knew he had a cautious ally in the American club owner, and the two frequently collaborated on investigations.

Along with the casting, the production values of Rocky Jordan helped to make the show unique.  There was the musical score, composed by Richard Aurandt, that was heavily inspired by Middle Eastern music.  The Cairo setting was meticulously researched by writers Larry Roman and Gomer Cool to ensure they were authentically portraying the city.  They relied heavily on the Pocket Guide to Egypt issued by the U.S. Army to soldiers during World War II, and they used actual street names as Rocky made his way through Cairo.  Roman and Cool also pulled stories from current events coming out of the region.  The resulting scripts felt as at home in Egypt as Jack Webb’s Dragnet felt in Los Angeles.

The series returned for a brief run in 1951 with 1930s movie star George Raft playing Rocky.  Ironically, Raft turned down the role of Rick in Casablanca, but he eventually played a similar role on this  series.

Oct 31, 2017
Episode 250 - The X Factor (Man Called X)
58:23

Herbert Marshall travels the globe as the dashing and debonair Man Called X. Dispatched on international adventures, the Man Called X is really secret agent Ken Thurston, enemy to spies, saboteurs, and insurgents wherever they may lurk. Marshall gave radio a suave super spy in one of the best espionage programs of the era. We’ll hear Ken Thurston in “Japanese Underground” (originally aired on NBC on January 20, 1951) and “A Ton of Dynamite” (originally aired on NBC on February 26, 1952).

Oct 29, 2017
Across the Pond

Pursuit!  A criminal strikes and fades quickly back into the shadows of his own dark world.  And then, the man from Scotland Yard, the famous Inspector Peter Black, and the dangerous, relentless Pursuit!”

Sherlock Holmes was not the only British detective to solve crimes stateside during the Golden Age of Radio.  A wave of mystery shows featuring Scotland Yard detectives cropped up on American radio in the post-World War II era.  The great Orson Welles hosted The Black Museum, a syndicated series that drew inspiration from Scotland Yard’s warehouse of evidence seized from murder scenes.  Basil Rathbone, Sherlock Holmes himself, got into the act as Inspector Burke on Mutual after he hung up his deerstalker cap.  And CBS offered Pursuit, a series without star power but one with sharp writing and top flight vocal performances from a crew of radio veterans.

Pursuit grew out of an audition program for a series called The Hunters.  Developed by Anton M. Leader (who was coming off a run at the helm of Suspense), The Hunters starred Victor Jory as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Harvey in an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s short story “You Take Ballistics."  The Hunters didn’t take off, but the premise was reworked by producer William N. Robson.  Robson enlisted character actor Ted de Corsia to star as the renamed Inspector Peter Black.

The actor was one of the most versatile in the world of west coast radio; de Corsia had a gift for dialects and accents and could be heard as an upper crust member of high society one week and as a fast-talking gunsel the next.  He delivered Inspector Black’s dialogue in an arch, clipped manner that recalled the voice of actor Ronald Colman.  Shortly after he left Pursuit, de Corsia played Lt. Levinson opposite Dick Powell on Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

Pursuit featured scripts by radio veterans Morton Fine and David Friedkin (including the episode on the podcast this week), and supporting performances from Hollywood radio’s deep talent pool.  Actor Bill Johnstone (Lt. Ben Guthrie on The Line-Up) did double duty as Black’s superior Chief Inspector Harkness and as the show’s announcer.

In 1950, Robson left the series.  The production was turned over to Elliot Lewis (the creative force behind Broadway is My Beat), who was also directing and producing Suspense on CBS.  Lewis reworked the show; he brought in Ben Wright as the star (Wright, a British born radio actor, was coming off of a run as Sherlock Holmes when he assumed the lead role on Pursuit).  Wright came by his British accent naturally, but like de Corsia he was a versatile actor and a master of different voices.  Though it was his natural voice that was often in demand, Wright also doubled as Asian characters on shows like Frontier GentlemanThe Green Llama, and as Hey Boy on Have Gun - Will Travel.

Lewis made changes behind the scenes as well.  The orchestral scores that accompanied the earlier run of Pursuit were replaced by the organ music of Eddie Dunstedter, and he enlisted Antony Ellis to write scripts.  Lewis secured sponsorship from Wrigley’s Gum and from Sterling Products, makers of multiple drug store items such as Ironized Yeast and Molle shaving cream.  When the sponsorship ran out, so too did Pursuit, another victim of the increased attention (and advertising dollars) being paid to television.

Pursuit had a relatively short run (less than 70 episodes aired on CBS), but the surviving episodes show some of the best writers, directors, and actors of the Golden Age of Radio doing some of their best work.  Even if it flew under audiences’ radar when it aired, Pursuit can thrill listeners today as Inspector Peter Black searches the streets of London for dangerous criminals.

Oct 27, 2017
Episode 249 - Old Time Radio Halloween 2017 (Suspense)
32:57

It's alive...it's alive! It's the "Down These Mean Streets" Halloween special, presenting an old time radio chiller guaranteed to get you in the mood for trick or treating. We'll hear Herbert Marshall star in an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (originally aired on Suspense on CBS on November 3, 1952).

Oct 25, 2017
Episode 248 – Back to Baker Street (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:33:52

The game’s afoot as we join Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in three of their old time radio adventures. John Stanley is the world’s most famous detective and Alfred Shirley plays his loyal companion and biographer in these original adventures that feature a locked room mystery, a ghostly menace to an old family, and a woman in fear for her life. We’ll hear “The Case of the Dog that Changed Its Mind” (originally aired on Mutual on September 28, 1947); “The Case of the Cradle that Rocked Itself” (originally aired on Mutual on November 30, 1947); and “The Case of the Very Best Butter” (originally aired on Mutual on April 18, 1948).

Oct 22, 2017
Seven Percent Solutions

On October 20, 1930, Sherlock Holmes arrived on radio, and he would remain on the airwaves for nearly two decades. Holmes of course was already popular from the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a stage play that toured the country starring William Gillette as the sleuth. But it wasn’t until actress, writer, and producer Edith Meiser persuaded NBC to take a chance on the character’s radio prospects that Holmes made his way into homes throughout the United States. For nearly ten years before Basil Rathbone first donned the deerstalker cap in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes was a mainstay on American radio.

In honor of the anniversary of that first broadcast, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite radio adventures of the master detective of Baker Street. These episodes, a mix of Conan Doyle adaptations and original radio mysteries, will make a fine playlist as you celebrate the on-air career of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson.

“The Immortal Sherlock Holmes” – Technically not an episode of the Holmes radio series, but I think you’ll forgive my making an exception for Orson Welles. In this episode of The Mercury Theatre On the Air (a show that aired a month before the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast), Welles adapts and stars in a radio version of the Gillette play, a story that blends elements of several Holmes stories into one adventure pitting the sleuth against his nemesis Professor Moriarty. Ray Collins, years before he was Lt. Tragg on Perry Mason, narrates as Dr. Watson, and Eustace Wyatt plays Moriarty in this top-notch production from one of radio’s best dramatic anthologies. (Originally aired on CBS on September 25, 1938)

“The Notorious Canary Trainer” – To generations of fans, Basil Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes. Rathbone made an indelible impression as the detective in fourteen films between 1939 and 1946, but he also starred in hundreds of radio episodes alongside Nigel Bruce in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. These shows, written by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green, are fantastic, and one of the best is this original mystery about a murderer who confesses before he commits suicide, but there is no evidence of a killing beyond two dead canaries found at the scene. (Originally aired on Mutual on April 23, 1945)

“The Second Generation” – One of the most famous stories in the Holmes canon is “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the tale that introduced Irene Adler. Known forever to Holmes as “the woman,” the beautiful and brilliant Adler has appeared in nearly all of the recent Holmes adaptations (the Robert Downey, Jr. films, Elementary, and Sherlock), and subsequent works have explored the exact nature of the relationship between Holmes and his lovely adversary. This Green and Boucher script acts as a sequel to “Bohemia” (a story they adapted on the series one week prior), and it tells of Holmes and Watson’s encounter with Irene’s daughter two decades later. One of the great things about the Green/Boucher run was they explored the entire timeline, with stories set in the early days of the Holmes/Watson partnership, some during the “great hiatus” after Holmes supposed death, and some in Holmes’ later years of semi-retirement as a beekeeper. “The Second Generation” is one of those “Holmes in twilight” stories, and it adds an additional level of emotion to the proceedings. (Originally aired on Mutual on December 17, 1945)

“The Adventure of the Tolling Bell” – After Basil Rathbone left the role of Holmes in 1946, Tom Conway took over as the detective for one radio season. He stars as Holmes in this mystery set in the idyllic English countryside. A vacationing Holmes and Watson (Nigel Bruce) learn of a strange series of deaths in the village when they come to the aid of a young woman. Their investigation leads them to a demented villain’s reign of terror and a showdown in a church bell tower. It’s a classic example of the “small town with a secret” genre, and it proves once again (as Holmes said in “The Copper Beeches”) the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."  (Originally aired on ABC on April 7, 1947)

“The Case of the Sudden Senility” – Listeners of the podcast will know that my favorite radio Holmes is John Stanley, and my favorite run of episodes is Stanley’s 1947-48 season – a year where he was supported by Alfred Shirley as Watson and performed scripts penned by Edith Meiser. In this Meiser original that serves as an unofficial sequel to Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” Holmes and Watson investigate when a five year-old horse dies in his stable of old age. The case involves a black cat, a mysterious house, and an appearance from Holmes’ greatest enemy. (Originally aired on Mutual on January 11, 1948)

“The Empty House” – Edith Meiser adapts the story that brought Holmes back from the dead. Watson has been soldiering on after Holmes’ apparent battle to the death with Moriarty, and he’s called in to consult on a baffling locked room murder case. It isn’t long before Holmes reveals his presence (in a wonderful scene that shows off John Stanley’s versatility, he plays an irascible bookworm who harangues Watson about his treatment of books) and explains the connection Watson’s case has to one of Moriarty’s most dangerous associates. (Originally aired on Mutual on April 11, 1948)

“The Final Problem” – This one may have the greatest cast of any Holmes radio adaptation. John Gielgud is the great detective, Ralph Richardson is Dr. Watson, and special guest star Orson Welles is the Napoleon of crime – Professor Moriarty. Edith Meiser never adapted the story where Conan Doyle killed off his hero, but it was used for the 1955 British series from producer Harry Alan Towers. The entire Gielgud/Richardson series is superb, presenting wonderfully faithful adaptations of the original stories, but if you only listen to one episode make sure it’s this one. The showdown between Holmes and Moriarty in the detective’s rooms in Baker Street is a glorious scene played to the hilt by Gielgud and Welles (who may be the only actor who played both Sherlock Holmes and his greatest enemy on radio).

Enjoy! And for more radio Holmes, check out Down These Mean Streets this Sunday for three original adventures starring John Stanley and Alfred Shirley.

Oct 20, 2017
Elementary

“My name is Sherlock Holmes.  It is my business to know what other people do not know.” (“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”)

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You’d be hard pressed to find a more famous detective (any literary character, for that matter) more famous and known throughout the world than Sherlock Holmes.  Since the character’s introduction in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, his adventures have been reprinted around the globe; he has starred in films and television shows (indeed, at the time of this writing, there are two different shows that cast Holmes in the modern world and a third installment of a blockbuster film franchise starring the detective is in the works).  But the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his legendary consulting detective enjoyed a long life on radio and was a fixture during the World War II era as he simultaneously entertained audiences on the big screen.

And his patron saint on the airwaves was an actress, singer, and writer named Edith Meiser.  Meiser had grown up reading the Conan Doyle stories, and she believed Sherlock Holmes’ adventures were a natural for radio.  She worked tirelessly to bring the stories to radio, and she succeeded in 1930 when her adaptation of “The Speckled Band” premiered on NBC on October 20.  William Gillette, who wrote and starred in a stage adaptation of Holmes, played Holmes in that first broadcast.  The series, which starred Richard Gordon, Louis Hector, and eventually Richard Gordon again, ran on NBC until 1936.  Through these different actors and series, Meiser remained a consistent hand at the wheel

Holmes returned to the air following the success of the 1939 film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  NBC commissioned a new series to be written by Mesier and to star the actors from the film - Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson.  This series, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, premiered on NBC on October 2, 1939.  It ran until March 1, 1942, when it moved to the Mutual Network.  Most of the episodes were original adventures “suggested by” incidents in the original Conan Doyle stories.  When Meiser left the series in 1944, scripts were provided initially by Leslie Charteris (creator of “The Saint”) and Dennis Green.  When Charteris left to focus on bringing his own creation to radio, Anthony Boucher stepped in and co-wrote the series with Green.

Rathbone, concerned about typecasting, left the role in 1946 after the final film in their series was released.  Nigel Bruce had no such concerns, and he stayed on in the part as producers brought in a new Holmes - actor Tom Conway.  As the veteran of the cast, Bruce received top billing for the 1946 - 1947 series, sponsored by Kremel Hair Tonic.  The Conway/Bruce series lasted 39 episodes before both actors left at the end of the season.  Rathbone’s departure coincided with Meiser’s return; many of her earlier scripts were re-used for Tom Conway and Nigel Bruce.

The show came back for the 1947 - 1948 season with new actors at the microphones.  Alfred Shirley assumed the narration/sidekick duties as Dr. Watson, and John Stanley took over as Sherlock Holmes.  When some listeners heard Stanley in the role, they suspected one of Holmes’ famous disguises might be in use.  As Edith Meiser recalled, “Everyone thought that Basil Rathbone, who had said he would have nothing more to do with Sherlock Holmes, was now moonlighting as ‘John Stanley.’”  Stanley, she said, “was a darling who sounded exactly like Basil Rathbone.”  To this writer’s ears, Stanley outdoes his predecessors and emerges as the definitive radio Holmes.  His performances are far more polished than Rathbone’s, and Stanley is unencumbered by any of the baggage (such as frustration with the role) that Rathbone brought with him to the program.  Stanley was also admired by Holmes fans; he wrote a monograph on the pistols used by Holmes and Watson that appeared in the July 1948 issue of Black Maskmagazine.  And both he and Alfred Shirley were given wonderful lines by Edith Meiser.

Unfortunately, this season of Sherlock Holmes proved to be Meiser’s last.  She was fired for, as she put it, refusing to put more violence into her scripts.  “The producers were always telling me to make Mr. Holmes more hardboiled,” she’d recall years later.  The show continued on without her, with a decidedly more modern feel to Holmes than what had come earlier, before leaving the airwaves in 1950.  John Stanley left the role in 1949 and he was followed by Ben Wright (later to star as an intrepid Scotland Yard inspector on Pursuit) before the airwaves in 1950.

Holmes and Watson continued their radio adventures across the pond after they wrapped up on American radio.  John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson starred in an excellent series of Conan Doyle adaptations in 1955.  Co-produced by ABC, the series featured Orson Welles as Professor Moriarty in an adaptation of “The Final Problem.”  And of course, the character is still going strong on television (Sherlock and Elementary, which recast the sleuth in the modern world, draw millions of viewers) and in films (Robert Downey Jr.’s re-imagined take on the character has become a box office smash franchise).  But few of the writers who have adapted the character since his creation have been able to match Conan Doyle’s style in the way Edith Meiser pulled it off.  Thanks in no small part to her work, the Sherlock Holmes radio adventures are a must-listen for Sherlockians and fans of radio drama alike. 

Oct 20, 2017
"You've got a job for me - George Valentine."

Not all of the radio detectives were two-fisted tough guys, delivering purple dialogue through gritted teeth.  There were a number of sleuths who took a lighter approach to solving crimes, often aided by a girl Friday to allow for some flirtation along the way.  One of the best examples of the lighter school of radio detectives is the long running Let George Do It, a series that evolved from a comedy with a hint of mystery to a whodunit with a lighthearted touch.

In his first outing as a radio detective, Bob Bailey (later the star of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) played George Valentine, an ex-GI who seized upon an unusual method of finding post-war employment.  He placed an ad in the newspaper where he offered to take a job - any job - that would prove too risky for anyone else.  When the show premiered in 1946, George was backed up by a cast better suited for comedy than crime solving.  Joseph Kearns (later Mr. Wilson on TV’s Dennis the Menace) played Caleb, the elevator operator in George’s building; Eddie Firestone played George’s office boy, Sonny Brooks; and Frances Robinson as Sonny’s sister Claire, aka “Brooksie,” who became George’s girl Friday.  The earliest episodes found George in more comedic assignments than dangerous jobs, but as the show evolved the mystery element played a more prominent role.  Sonny left the team and the shows became driven more by the George/Brooksie duo.  The shows played like episodes of Richard Diamond, Private Detective if Diamond’s Park Avenue girlfriend Helen Asher accompanied him on his cases (this would really be the case when Virginia Gregg and Frances Robinson swapped roles later in the run; Gregg played Brooksie and Robinson played Helen!).  Often assisting the pair in their investigations was Lt. Riley of the police department.  Like other long-suffering foils of radio private eyes, Riley would initially roll his eyes when George arrived on the scene but would quickly embrace his help in closing a case.  Riley was played by the talented Wally Maher - a radio veteran who played Michael Shayne and supported Bill Johnstone on The Line-Up.  Sadly, he passed away at age 43 in 1951, leaving a hole in the Let George Do It team.  Actor Ken Christy joined the cast as Lt. Johnson, who while not outright hostile certainly saw Valentine as a hindrance rather than a help to an investigation.  And the usual stable of great Hollywood radio actors rounded out the guest casts every week, including Alan Reed, Jeff Chandler, Lurene Tuttle, Betty Lou Gerson, and Parley Baer.


The 1950s saw not only a new police cohort but also a new tone for Let George Do It.  The tide had turned and audiences were demanding a grittier sound to their mysteries as police procedurals and hard-boiled private eyes littered the airwaves.  Even as scripts grew tougher, the cast continued to deliver strong performances, backed up by sharp scripts written by Herb Little, Jr., David Victor, and veteran mystery scripter Jackson Gillis, who would later pen thirty-two episodes of Perry Mason and eleven Columbo TV movies.

Bailey would remain in the role until 1954 when production moved from Hollywood to New York.  Actor Olan Soule (later the voice of Batman in Filmation cartoons from the 1960s) played George for the final year of the series.  But Bob Bailey wouldn’t stay off the beat for long; in 1955, he kicked off a long run and cemented his place in radio history with his definitive portrayal of Johnny Dollar.  Before he starred in that series, however, he proved his chops as a radio leading man in a series that called for comedy, action, romance, and drama.  Just like George Valentine, Bob Bailey was the man for the job - no matter what it entailed.

Oct 18, 2017
A Crying Shayne

“Okay, Shayne…get the picture.  A guy in front of you with a .38, a guy in back with a rifle.  And you with nothing.  If wishing will make it so, you better start wishing to be somewhere else fast because- (BLAM)”

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Under the pen name of “Brett Halliday,“ writer Davis Dresser introduced the world to Florida-based private eye Michael Shayne in Dividend on Death in 1939.  Dresser continued the adventures of his shamus for fifty novels and hundreds of short stories before farming out his pen name to a staff of writers who kept his character in print.  Unlike his contemporaries, Shayne started out as an atypical private detective; he was married, and his adventures were equal parts domestic comedy and deduction of clues.  But in 1943, Mrs. Shayne met an untimely end, the laughs fell by the wayside, and Michael Shayne was reinvented as a two-fisted, hard-nosed private eye.  The various radio, film, and television incarnations of the character oscillated between the two Shaynes, with some playing up the his-and-hers patter, and others doubling down on the hard-boiled intensity.

Before Shayne came to radio, he hit the big screen.  Lloyd Nolan starred in a series of films for 20th Century Fox before Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver himself) headlined a run for PRC.  Shayne first came to radio in 1944 in a West Coast series that eventually went national in 1946.  Radio character Wally Maher (heard as Sgt. Grebb on The Line-Up and as Lt. Riley on Let George Do It) starred as Shayne with Cathy Lewis as his secretary Phyllis Knight.  This series focused on the lighter aspects of the character, with well-developed characterizations for Shayne and Cathy.  The two would exchange flirtations as they solved their cases; imagine if Helen Asher accompanied Richard Diamond on his cases, and you’ll get the idea.  The Maher series ran until November 14, 1947.  When it ran its course, Shayne would be off the air for almost a year before he returned in a very different style and format, and it’s this series that is best remembered among radio fans.

The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, directed by radio veteran Bill Rousseau, came to the air in 1948 for twenty-six syndicated episodes.  Rousseau had previously directed Jack Webb in the ultra-hard-boiled Pat Novak For Hire and he brought a similar tone to the revamped Shayneseries.  Each episode opened with a musical barrage, ratcheting up the tension before audiences heard a tease of the story to come.  Usually, it was Michael Shayne describing his latest tight spot, on the receiving end of a beating or facing down the business end of a gun.  This new series uprooted Shayne from Miami and plopped him down in New Orleans.  Phyllis Knight didn’t make the trip, but a rotating assortment of femme fatales and damsels in distress turned up to keep Shayne in and out of trouble.  Shayne took a licking and kept on ticking; Joe Mannix may be the only fictional private eye to rival Shayne in the injury department.  Rousseau’s old collaborator Jack Webb even joined the cast as Shayne’s police foil, Inspector LeFevre.  And stepping into the title role was Jeff Chandler, an actor selected by Rousseau out of a field of contenders.

Chandler is well known to radio fans as bashful biology teacher (and 180 degrees away from Michael Shayne!) Philip Boynton on Our Miss Brooks, and his most famous film role as Cochise opposite Jimmy Stewart in Broken Arrow.  His first film role came opposite Dick Powell in Johnny O’Clock(1947), and he was a top leading man throughout the 1950s.  Sadly, his career was cut tragically short in 1961 when a botched operation for a spinal disc herniation resulted in his death at the age of 42.

It’s a shame; his performance as Michael Shayne helps to ground a series that is otherwise pretty over the top.  Even throughout the beatings, the bullet wounds, the smoky dames and the snappy patter, Chandler’s Shayne is a down to earth guy with the right touch of humor behind his gritted teeth.  And his years on Our Miss Brooks demonstrate his comfort with comedy and versatility as an actor.  There’s no doubt he had decades of good work ahead of him, but we have 26 episodes of Michael Shayne to enjoy and celebrate the too-short life of this talented actor.  Along with Jack Webb, Chandler is supported in these shows by great radio talents like Larry Dobkin, Frank Lovejoy, Hans Conried, Vivi Jannis, and more. 

A 1952 - 1953 ABC series starred Donald Curtis, and later Robert Sterling and Vinton Hayworth as Shayne, but the Chandler syndicated series continued to air all across the country during this period.  The Chandler episodes continued to run in several markets throughout the 1950s.  Not bad for a private eye who was usually in debt, on the verge of losing his license, and nursing a head injury. 

Oct 16, 2017
Episode 247 - Through Thick and Thin Man (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:04:46

“Are you packing?” “Yes dear, I’m putting away this liquor.” William Powell and Myrna Loy are back as Dashiell Hammett’s husband and wife crime solvers Nick and Nora Charles as The Lux Radio Theatre presents After the Thin Man. The sequel to the smash hit comedy mystery hit the big screen in 1936, and four years later the stars reunited to recreate the film for the airwaves. Join Mr. and Mrs. Charles as they solve a New Year’s Eve murder in this episode originally aired on CBS on June 17, 1940.

Oct 15, 2017
Someday I'll find you...

Gatewood sat down and looked at his host. Then he said: “I’m searching for somebody, Mr. Keen, whom you are not likely to find.”

“I doubt it,” said Keen pleasantly.

(Robert Chambers, The Tracer of Lost Persons)

Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe may be the more famous names in the crime-solving pantheon, but one wry little old man outpaced them all when it came to radio casework. Mr. Keen was a radio institution, popping up in 1,690 installments between 1937 and 1955. Even Johnny Dollar, with his own 13 year run only turned in 811 expense accounts. The Energizer Bunny of radio detectives, Mr. Keen tirelessly toiled to reunite people with their missing loved ones and to make sure guilty parties met with justice. Churned out like the soap operas that made his producers famous, Mr. Keen’s adventures have been almost entirely lost, save for a small fraction of his hundreds of radio cases still available today.

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Years before he hit radio, Mr. Keen came out of the pages of The Tracer of Lost Persons, a collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. The vignettes penned by Chambers focus more on the clients of Westrel Keen than on the “tracer” himself. Many of his clients were in search of lost loves, adding a romantic melodramatic flavor to the stories. Chambers would gain more fame from The King in Yellow, a collection of supernatural stories that have inspired dozens from H.P. Lovecraft to the first season of HBO’s True Detective. This was not an introduction on par with Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, and Mr. Keen may have seemed an unlikely candidate for adaptation as a radio detective. Perhaps it was the romantic angle of the stories that drew the attention of the couple that - more than Chambers - would become the true architects of the character.

Anne and Frank Hummert, a husband and wife duo who were some of the most influential players in early radio, were responsible for bringing Mr. Keen to the airwaves. The two started in radio with soap operas, and their genre-shaping hits included Just Plain BillMa Perkins, and Young Widder Brown. The two met while working at the same advertising firm, and they married in 1935. The Hummerts formed their own production company after their marriage, and launched several shows including Mr. Keen. At one point, the Hummerts had 90 episodes of various serialized shows airing on radio each week. Radio historian Jim Cox estimated the Hummerts controlled 4.5 hours of national radio each week, and more than half of the advertising revenue generated by daytime radio.

Mr. Keen was one of several mystery programs produced by the Hummerts. From the couple’s home, Anne Hummert outlined the plots for all of her shows; she was celebrated for her ability to remember every twist and turn of the labyrinthine plots of her soaps. These outlines were dispatched to the writers – or “dialoguers” – in the Hummert’s employ, who would turn the stories into actual scripts.

The program’s earliest run resembled a soap opera in a three night a week, fifteen minute format. It aired in this serialized version from 1937 until 1943. In December 1943, CBS relaunched Mr. Keen as a 30 minute weekly program. It remained on the air until April 19, 1955, generating 1,690 episodes - far and away the leader of the pack of old time radio detectives. For most of the run, Keen was played by actor Bennett Kilpack, a stage and radio veteran who voiced Keen with a kindly charm. Providing the stereotypical lunkheaded sidekick support was Jim Kelly as Mike Clancy. The erstwhile Irishman’s favorite expression was “Saints preserve us!” whenever his boss shed light on a hidden clue. Though Kilpack was in the lead for most of the run, Keen was played later in the series by actors Philip Clarke and Arthur Hughes.

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Less than sixty of the Mr. Keen episodes survive, but the available episodes generally follow the same trajectory. The effect of churning out so many scripts can be heard in some of the repetitive aspects of the plots. A drinking game could be made for each time a character’s name is uttered in dialogue (“Would you believe it, Mr. Keen?” “Frankly, no, Miss Smith,” etc.), but there’s a good chance the listener would be passed out in a stupor before the first commercial break. The clichéd plots and dialogue inspired parodies, including Mr. Trace, Keener Than Most Persons from radio satirists Bob and Ray.

So – in a world where we have Howard Duff as Sam Spade, Gerald Mohr as Philip Marlowe, and Bob Bailey as Johnny Dollar – is Mr. Keen worth a listen to a modern audience? I think so. The world of radio detectives included an array of characters and behind-the-scenes talents, each catering to a different segment of the audience. There is a healthy appetite for cozier puzzle mysteries that’s as strong as the desire for two-fisted private eyes and femmes fatale. And Bennett Kilpack – the Mr. Keen of most of the surviving shows – is very good in the role. His voice has a homespun, old-timer quality, similar in some respects to Titus Moody on The Fred Allen Show, but a steely determination sneak in when he’s facing down a culprit. Another (albeit more cynical) view is that you need the mediocre offerings to underscore what is so good about the top of the heap.

Oct 12, 2017
Episode 246 - Nick's Knack (Nick Carter, Master Detective)
01:04:03

It's another case for Nick Carter, Master Detective - two of them, in fact - as Lon Clark stars as "that most famous of all manhunters." Carter sprang from the pages of pulp magazines and solved crimes on radio for twelve years. Clark voiced the super sleuth for the entire run of the program, and we'll hear him in two of his adventures. Charlotte Manson co-stars as Patsy Bowen, Nick's loyal secretary, in "The Case of the Make Believe Murder" (originally aired on Mutual on July 22, 1945) and "The Case of the Dictaphone Murder" (originally aired on Mutual on June 4, 1946).

Oct 08, 2017
"That footloose and fancy-free young gentleman..."

For a single season (1953 - 1954), the greatest singer of the twentieth century headlined a radio detective show.  Hard as it may be to believe that the Chairman of the Board would slum it on a weekly series, Frank Sinatra starred as Rocky Fortune for a one year run.  The series came to the air during a rare slump in Sinatra’s storied career, finding the singer and actor in a transition period from his days as a crooner and bobbysoxer idol to his establishment as one of the most popular entertainers of all time.

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In 1953, Sinatra was divorced and hurting publicly after leaving his wife Nancy for actress Ava Gardner.  He’d been dropped from his contract at Columbia Records, and his big screen career was floundering.  After commanding six figure salaries for films just a few years before, he had to beg for an audition for a supporting role in From Here to Eternity.  That film opened in August 1953, and just a few months later Sinatra hit NBC in the premiere episode of Rocky Fortune.

The series was created by George Lefferts (who would later create and develop NBC’s sci-fi revival X Minus One) at Sinatra’s request.  Lefferts recalled his first meeting with Sinatra at the singer’s home, where the crooner was clad in only a towel.  Lefferts was an in-house writer at NBC, and he was tapped by Sinatra to develop a mystery series in which Sinatra could star.  It wasn’t completely unheard of for major stars to head to radio.  Alan Ladd produced and starred in Box 13, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall lent their voices each week to Bold Venture, but both of those series were syndicated and had a schedule that was more star-friendly.  Sinatra would be appearing on network radio, perhaps a sign that his star had faded and not quite ascended again in late 1953.

Rocky was not a cop or a private eye.  Rather he was a “footloose and frequently unemployed young gentleman” who bounced from job to job lined up for him by the Grindley Employment Agency.  Later episodes revised the description to “footloose and fancy free,” which conjures up less images of Rocky as a hobo.  Each week, no matter where he ended up, Rocky would usually find trouble on his quest for a paycheck.  He could be shucking oysters, barking at a carnival, or leading a bus tour of New York, odds were he would stumble over a dead body, interrupt a robbery in progress, or get strong-armed into playing unwilling accomplice for a criminal enterprise.  Often, he’d run up against the aptly named Sgt. Hamilton J. Finger (played by several actors but most frequently by Barney Phillips), who was always ready to point one assigning blame at Rocky for whatever he’d happened into that week.  Lefferts and his fellow writer Ernest Kinoy wrote up adventures that took Rocky Fortune across town, across the country, and even on the high seas.  (In the episode we’ll hear on this week’s podcast, Rocky is hired as a babysitter for a vindictive drunk of a theater critic who has trouble staying awake during the shows he’s assigned to review.  Unfortunately, under Rocky’s watchful eye the man ends up dead in an aisle seat during an intermission!)

The show suffered from poor reviews when it premiered (though Sinatra’s performance was praised by Variety, among others), and today it is dismissed by some as a lesser effort from both Sinatra and the Golden Age of Radio.  This writer respectfully disagrees with these harsh assessments.  Rocky Fortune is a lot of fun, and it’s an opportunity to hear Sinatra in his only regular dramatic role on radio.  He was a frequent guest of Jack Benny and other radio comedians, and he made a memorable turn on Suspense, but Rocky Fortune stands as the best showcase of Sinatra’s dramatic vocal range in the radio era.  He finds the right amount of humor and dramatic tension in each show, and he could have continued in the series had his own fortunes grown less rocky in 1954.  Just days before the final episode of Rocky Fortune aired, Sinatra won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity, and he was off and running with a new recording contract at Capitol Records.  Bouncing from job to job as Rocky Fortune wasn’t in the cards anymore and the series left NBC on March 30, 1954.  Today, it’s an interesting footnote in Sinatra’s career, and another fine detective show that brought a big screen star to weekly radio.

Oct 06, 2017
America's Number One Detective

Of all the actors to play private eyes and gumshoes during the Golden Age of Radio, William Gargan may have been the most uniquely qualified. Ironically, while success as a detective seemed to elude him, he enjoyed a great deal of success by playing detectives on film, television, and radio.

His father was a bookie, and as a boy Gargan would accompany him when he made his collection and payment rounds. During Prohibition, he dropped out of school and became a salesman of bootleg liquor to speakeasies in New York; his sales partner during this time was Dave Chasen, who would later go on to open Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant. The two would remain lifelong friends. For a time, Gargan worked as a collection agent for a department store. On one of his jobs, he was shot at by an irate customer. He lost another job as an operative for a detective agency when the subject he was assigned to follow eluded the tail.

Gargan found more success as an actor than he did as a detective. He turned to acting in the 1920s and appeared in dozens of films, including two turns as Ellery Queen in 1942. In 1946, Gargan had his first run at radio crimesolving, starring as private eye Ross Dolan in ABC’s I Deal in Crime (launched alongside another ABC detective series, The Fat Man with J. Scott Smart). That series only ran for eleven months, but Gargan found more success a few years later on NBC radio and TV as Martin Kane, Private Eye. Gargan starred in the radio and TV series for two years before frustration over the quality of the scripts drove him out. As Gargan later recalled in his 1969 autobiography, “Very soon in the game, I realized our stories were nothing to rave about. How much well plotted story line and genuine character development can you accomplish in a half-hour? So I made the program a showcase for me. After all, that was what we were selling - Martin Kane. I developed a tongue-in-cheek style, a spoof of the hard-boiled detective, a way of silently saying, ‘Don’t blame me for the lousy stories, I didn’t write them. And anyway, what’s the difference? Relax.’”

Given his attitude towards the caliber of radio detective scripts, it may come as a surprise that Gargan came back for another run as a radio shamus. Maybe it was because he was past his leading man prime in 1951 when the offer was made to star in a new series on NBC. It might have been the money that was on the table; NBC brought him to their network with a $1 million contract for five years. The deal covered the new series and other radio and TV appearances.

The series was launched as part of NBC’s silver anniversary celebration under the title The Adventures of Barrie Crane. Gargan used the spelling of his own son’s name for the title character, and while the character’s surname switched to “Craig,” the characterization was intact from the beginning. Craig was a wry, sly operator in the mold of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. He narrated his adventures with a tongue in cheek style that kept the hard boiled business in check. He was loyal to his clients and friendly with the police (in the person of Ralph Bell’s Lt. Rogers). From 1951 until July 1954, Barrie Craig was broadcast from NBC in New York. For the last run of the series, production shifted to Hollywood. It left the air in September 1954 but returned for a 39 week run beginning in October before Barry Craig closed his last case.

Sadly, William Gargan’s acting career came to an end only a few years after Barry Craig left the air. He returned as Martin Kane for 39 syndicated episodes in 1957, but throat cancer diagnosed in 1958 ended his work on the screen. Doctors removed his larynx in 1960 and he was outfitted with a voice box. He spent the remaining years of his life as a crusader and activist for the American Cancer Society, cautioning against the dangers of smoking. The Screen Actors Guild honored his career and his philanthropic work when it awarded Gargan with their lifetime achievement award in 1967. He passed away at age 73 in 1979. Cancer may have taken William Gargan’s voice, but his talent and his performances will live forever in these wonderful mystery shows from the Golden Age of Radio.

Oct 03, 2017
Episode 245 - Matinee for Murder (Broadway is My Beat)
01:04:20

It’s Broadway – “the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world.” Join Detective Danny Clover as he fights crime in the Big Apple in one of the all-time great radio detective shows Broadway is My Beat. Larry Thor stars as Clover, the cop with the soul of a poet who wears his heart on his sleeve, in a show unlike any other radio crime drama. We’ll hear “The Secretarial School Triangle Murder” (originally aired on CBS on April 12, 1952) and “The Manipulative Magnate Murder” (originally aired on CBS on June 13, 1953).

Oct 01, 2017
Happy Birthday, William Conrad

Even if you don’t know his name, chances are you know William Conrad’s voice.  You may know it from the jovial narrations of the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle or the somber voice-over that followed Richard Kimble, The Fugitive.  Maybe you’ll recall his heavyset but still hard-nosed private eye Frank Cannon or the rascally courtroom antics of J.L. “Fatman” McCabe.   Or you may remember him as Matt Dillon, “the first man they look for and the last they want to meet,” on the old time radio classic Gunsmoke.  Audiences had ample opportunities to meet the actor in his five decades in show business, and it all began when he was born September 27, 1920.

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Conrad was born John William Cann, Jr. in Lexington, Kentucky, and he began a career in radio as an announcer and writer for a Los Angeles station before he entered the Air Force in World War II.  Like other radio professionals who were enlisted men, he worked with the Armed Forces Radio Service.  After the war, Conrad was in demand as a supporting radio player.  He could be heard in a variety of roles, with a seemingly endless variety of accents and characterizations, on shows like EscapeSuspenseThe Man Called X, and The Adventures of Sam Spade.  Some believed he was heard a little too often, and perceived overexposure almost cost Conrad a shot at what would prove to be his biggest radio role.

Producer-director Norman Macdonnell had been tasked by CBS President William Paley to develop a series that would be a “Philip Marlowe of the Old West."  Paley was a big fan of Macdonnell’s The Adventures of Philip Marlowe starring Gerald Mohr, and wanted a show with a similar feel. (Coincidentally, Bill Conrad filled in for Gerald Mohr and played Marlowe in "The Anniversary Gift," the April 11, 1950 episode of the series. You can hear it in Episode 43 of the podcast.)   Up until that point, radio westerns were primarily kids’ stuff.  The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and others rode the range in what amounted to little more than B-movie entertainment (no knock against those shows; it is thrilling to hear the Ranger and Tonto chase down bandits, but compelling drama it is not).  Just as Jack Webb brought grit and realism to the police drama with Dragnet, Macdonnell and scriptwriter John Meston saw an opportunity to revitalize the western.  When it came time to cast their lead of Matt Dillon, the US Marshal who tried to keep the peace in the "suburb of hell” known as Dodge City, Kansas - Meston pushed hard for William Conrad.  CBS had other ideas.

Conrad recalled years later, “I think when they started casting for it, somebody said, ‘Good Christ, let’s not get Bill Conrad, we’re up to you-know-where with Bill Conrad.'  So they auditioned everybody, and as a last resort they called me.  And I went in and read about two lines…and the next day they called me and said, 'Okay, you have the job.’”

Gunsmoke premiered on April 26, 1952, with a powerful script involving Matt Dillon facing down a lynch mob.  The episode (listen to it here) erases any doubts as to whether William Conrad was the right choice for the role.  Backing him up every week was one of radio’s strongest regular casts.  Parley Baer was Dillon’s easygoing deputy Chester Proudfoot; Howard McNear was the wry Doc Addams; and Georgia Ellis was Kitty, the saloon owner (and, although it was never explicitly said on the show, prostitute) and Matt’s love interest.  Rounding out the supporting company every week was a repertory company of actors assembled by Macdonnell, including John Dehner, Larry Dobkin, and Harry Bartell.

There were attempts to bring Gunsmoke to TV as early as 1953, and by 1955 CBS was ready to move ahead.  Conrad, Baer, Ellis, and McNear were given token auditions, but none were seriously considered to reprise their roles on the small screen.  Conrad never had a shot due to his growing obesity; the network believed viewers wouldn’t believe the short, heavy actor as the rugged hero, even though he effortlessly sold the role on radio.  Losing the role to James Arness left Conrad embittered.  He’d continue to work in radio until the end of network radio drama in 1962, and he went on to a career off-camera in television.  Conrad directed episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel77 Sunset Strip, and even the TV version of Gunsmoke.  He narrated the adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and the exploits of Richard Kimble on The Fugitive (it’s from his prologue to that series that we get our podcast title this week - “Fate moves its huge hand.”)

A starring role on the small screen came at last in 1971 when Conrad starred as the titular character in Quinn Martin’s Cannon.  It was the glorious era of "gimmick" TV detectives - Longsteet was blind, Barnaby Jones was old, Kojak was bald, and Frank Cannon was...portly. But Conrad's performance elevated the series above the "fat detective" concept. The private eye drama ran for five seasons and earned Conrad two Emmy Award nominations.  Conrad gave TV one of its most memorable detectives, and Cannon’s adventures continue to air today in syndication.  

There was an attempt to revive Cannon with a 1980 TV movie, and the following year Conrad played Nero Wolfe in a short-lived series on NBC.  Conrad was a tremendous fan of the character, and you can tell he's having a ball opposite Lee Horsley's Archie Goodwin. Unfortunately, the series only aired for 13 episodes before it was cancelled. Following a well-received turn as a D.A. opposite Andy Griffith on Matlock, Conrad returned to the small screen in a starring role in 1987 with Jake and the Fatman.  Conrad played J.L. “Fatman” McCabe, a Los Angeles prosecutor who relied on investigator Jake Stiles (Joe Penny) to do his legwork (shades of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin again).  The show ran until 1992.

Conrad passed away February 11, 1994 at the age of 73.  In 1997, he was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.  With thousands of performances across dozens of shows, Conrad’s voice will live forever, wherever Rocky and Bullwinkle get into misadventures or whenever Matt Dillon is forced to draw his gun to keep the peace.

Sep 27, 2017
Episode 244 - The Final Matters Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
54:47

On September 30, 1962, the Golden Age of Radio came to a close with the final broadcasts of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. The man with the action-packed expense account solved crimes right up until the end of the era as he wrapped up a thirteen-year career of radio crimefighting. For those final years, Mandel Kramer starred as America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator, and we’ll hear his final radio adventures: “The Deadly Crystal Matter” (originally aired on CBS on September 23, 1962) and “The Tip-Off Matter” (originally aired on September 30, 1962).

Sep 24, 2017
"The man in the saddle"

"The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both 'the Six Shooter.'"

Today in 1953, James Stewart rode on to the radio range as Britt Ponset, the wandering plainsman and infamous gunfighter known far and wide as The Six Shooter. In his only regular starring role in a radio dramatic series, Stewart lent his trademark screen persona to the character of Ponset, a hero who had to reluctantly live up to his reputation as he traveled the plains. With Stewart's amazing performance in the title role, engrossing scripts, and a talented troupe of supporting players, The Six Shooter stands up today as one of the finest frontier offerings from the Golden Age of Radio.

Each week, Ponset drifted into a new town and a new adventure. He encountered everything from gunslingers looking for revenge to a dangerous sibling rivalry on a cattle drive to being strong-armed into marriage. Whether the story of the week was intense and dramatic or played for laughs, Stewart was an amiable hero. His drawl was put to excellent use as the show's narrator, and he would drop his voice to a whisper as Ponset crept up on a gun-toting villain.

The series was created by Frank Burt, the writer who two years later penned Stewart's film western The Man from Laramie, and it was directed by Jack Johnstone (who later helmed the Bob Bailey era of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar). Despite the caliber of talent on and behind the microphone, the show ended after only 39 episodes. For most of its run The Six Shooter aired without sponsorship, but it wasn't because potential sponsors weren't interested. Jack Johnstone later recalled  "Chesterfield begged and begged and begged for months trying to get sponsorship, but Jim didn’t feel that, because of his screen image, it would be fair for him to be sponsored by a cigarette." Without sponsorship, even the best shows fell to the rise of television in the early 1950s, and Britt Ponset rode off into the sunset on June 24, 1954.

Sep 20, 2017
Episode 243 - Big Easy Beat (New Adventures of Michael Shayne)
01:25:37

Jeff Chandler trades the biology lab for the back alleys and swamps of New Orleans as Brett Halliday’s “reckless, red-headed Irishman” Michael Shayne. Chandler, known to radio fans as bashful science teacher Philip Boynton in Our Miss Brooks, gave radio one of its toughest, most two-fisted private eyes in a sensational syndicated series. We’ll hear Chandler as Shayne in all of his ultra-hard-boiled glory in three radio mysteries: “The Hate That Killed,” “The Case of the Deadly Dough,” and “The Case of the Bayou Monster.”

Sep 17, 2017
Happy Birthday, Edmond O'Brien

Academy Award-winning actor Edmond O’Brien was born September 10, 1915. In a career that spanned five decades, O’Brien was one of the all-time great character actors of the big and small screens. But to old time radio fans, O’Brien is best known as “the man with the action-packed expense account” – Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. O’Brien starred as Dollar from 1950 to 1952, and to many fans (this writer included), he’s second only to Bob Bailey in the ranking of actors who played “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator.”

O’Brien worked onstage before he made his film debut in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). It led to a long film career where he turned in memorable performances in White Heat and – in a kind of test run for Johnny Dollar, O’Brien starred in The Killers (1946) as an insurance investigator probing the murder of Burt Lancaster’s Swede. In 1950, O’Brien starred in one of his most famous movies – the film noir classic D.O.A. where he played a poisoned man investigating his own murder.

That same year, O’Brien assumed the title role on Johnny Dollar and he would star as the sleuth for 103 episodes. O’Brien succeeded Charles Russell, who voiced Dollar for the program’s first year. Russell was sardonic and sly, a lighthearted character more in the vein of a Dick Powell radio detective (Richard Diamond or Richard Rogue of Rogue’s Gallery). As played by Russell, Johnny Dollar was described “at insurance investigation, he’s only an expert. At making out his expense account, he’s an absolute genius.” The tongue-in-cheek grifter aspects of the character were exiled when Edmond O’Brien stepped in. His Johnny Dollar was no-nonsense, two-fisted, and tough. It wasn’t hard to imagine him taking hits from an office bottle while he waited for the phone to ring and bring him a new assignment.

Interestingly, O’Brien had a shot at a radio series one year earlier. In May 1949, he recorded an audition program for Night Beat in the role that would eventually be played by Frank Lovejoy. While I think O’Brien would have been good in that show, I think his tougher approach was better suited for Johnny Dollar. Frank Lovejoy’s more compassionate take was a better fit for the character and the series.

Elsewhere on radio, O’Brien made four visits to Suspense (“radio’s outstanding theater of thrills”) and he could be heard on Family Theatre and The Lux Radio Theatre. One of his memorable appearances on Lux came in the program’s November 28, 1949 recreation of Key Largo with O’Brien playing the Humphrey Bogart role in John Huston’s film.

Throughout the 1950s and his tenure on Johnny Dollar, O’Brien continued to appear in films but his fluctuating weight made it difficult for him to get leading roles. He continued to do strong character work – as a mobster in Pete Kelly’s Blues and in an Oscar-winning turn opposite Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart in The Barefoot Contessa. He’d pick up a second nomination for what I consider one of his all-time best performances – as an alcoholic Senator enlisted to defeat a military coup against the President in John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964).

O’Brien transitioned into television in the 50s even as he continued to star on the big screen. He played another private eye in the syndicated series Johnny Midnight (1959-60) and he starred as a flamboyant San Francisco attorney in Sam Benedict. The single-season show was created by E. Jack Neumann, a veteran radio writer who’d penned episodes for Johnny Dollar during O’Brien’s run on the show. Elsewhere on television, O’Brien made guest appearances on many classic shows of the 60s and 70s, including Mission: Impossible, The Streets of San Francisco, and McMillan and Wife. His final credits came in 1974 before memory problems (later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s Disease) led him to retirement. Alzheimer’s would ultimately claim him at age 69 on May 9, 1985. Though he died far too young and was forced to retire before his time, Edmond O’Brien left behind a legacy of amazing performances both on screen and on radio in over 100 episodes of “action-packed expense accounts” as Johnny Dollar.

Sep 10, 2017
Episode 242 - Pat-a-Cake (Pat Novak For Hire)
01:34:52

If you head down to Pier 19 at the San Francisco waterfront, you’ll find Pat Novak For Hire renting boats and doing anything else to keep a few steps ahead in one of radio’s best noir detective dramas. Featuring duplicitous dames, gun-toting toughs, and dialogue right out of a pulp novel, the series packed a punch then and now. Jack Webb stars as Novak in a pair of episodes: “Father Leahy” and “Geranium Plant.” Then, Ben Morris is Novak in “The Mysterious Set of Books” (originally aired on ABC on August 10, 1947).

Sep 10, 2017
Close Shaves

"It's smooth - so smooth! It's slick - so slick! It's the smooth, smooth, slick, slick shave you get with M-O-L-L-É!"

Presenting "the best in mystery and detective fiction," The Mollé Mystery Theatre premiered on radio on September 7, 1943. Like Suspense, the Mystery Theatre presented dramas designed to deliver thrills and chills pulled from the best authors of the genre and stocked with some of the best actors working in radio. But where Suspense raided the movie studios of Hollywood for its special guest stars, the Mystery Theatre rounded out its casts with the talented men and women working in New York radio. 

In a departure, the master of ceremonies wasn't a sinister storyteller in the vein of The Whistler, The Mysterious Traveler, or the Man in Black from Suspense. The weekly tales were introduced by "Geoffrey Barnes," billed as a criminologist and master of crime. For most of the run, Barnes was played by the talented New York actor Bernard Lenrow. Lenrow was no stranger to the world of radio mysteries. Listeners could hear him elsewhere on the dial as Captain Logan in Casey, Crime Photographer, as Inspector Lestrade in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and as Commissioner Weston in The Shadow


Each week, Barnes introduced stories from writers like Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Richard Connell, and even an up-and-coming writer named Ray Bradbury. The casts included stalwart radio players like Berry Kroeger, Martin Gabel, June Havoc, Frank Lovejoy, Elspeth Eric, Bud "Superman" Collyer, and Richard Widmark, only a few years away from his breakout Oscar-nominated film debut in Kiss of Death.

The series picked up Mollé ("Mo-lay") Brushless Shaving Cream as a sponsor (and acquired one of radio's best jingles delivered by announcer Dan Seymour), but many of the episodes of the show that survive today come from the Armed Forces Radio Service. The AFRS stripped the show of its commercials and aired it as part of its Mystery Playhouse wheel series. Servicemen and women could tune into the Mystery Playhouse and hear installments of the Mystery Theatre alongside adventures of Mr. and Mrs. North and The Thin Man. Peter Lorre served as the host for those broadcasts, opening the series with a tongue in cheek greeting of "Hello, creeps!"

Back on Episode 131, we heard an episode of the The Mollé Mystery Theatre - a radio adaptation of L.G. Blochman's "Red Wine." Here are a few more episodes to enjoy on the anniversary of the series premiere:

"Murder in the City Hall" - In this story from Raymond Chandler, political pressure and scandal plague a cop as he tries to nab the killer of a judicial candidate. (Originally aired on April 5, 1946) 

"Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" - Peter Lorre hosts this one from the AFRS Mystery Playhouse - the story of the hunt for Jack the Ripper in 1945 Chicago.

"A Crime to Fit the Punishment" - In between flights as the Man of Steel, Bud Collyer plays an antique dealer and amateur detective in this mystery.

Sep 07, 2017
Happy Birthday, Kenny Delmar

Somebody, I say, somebody get a cake and candles. Kenny Delmar was born September 5, 1910. He was born in Boston, an unlikely birthplace for a man who made a name for himself as Beauregard Claghorn, the blustery senator from south of the Mason-Dixon line and longtime resident of Allen's Alley.

Born into a vaudeville family, Delmar made his stage debut before he was ten years old. He pursued a career in radio, and by the late 1930s he was already being heard all over the dial. He voiced Commissioner Weston opposite Bill Johnstone on The Shadow, and he voiced several characters in the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast from Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Fans of that program will recognize Delmar as the "Secretary of the Interior" who sounds suspiciously like then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Delmar was a skilled impressionist who played world leaders on The March of Time and Cavalcade of America.

But his most famous radio role came when he made his first appearance as Senator Claghorn on The Fred Allen Show. Delmar was also the show's announcer even as he portrayed the proud son of the South who only drank out of Dixie Cups and refused to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel. The character proved to be so popular that Delmar reprised the role in commercials and even in a film - It's a Joke Son! from 1947.

Sep 05, 2017
Episode 241 - Adventures of Alan (Screen Guild Theatre & Box 13)
01:28:53

It's a birthday bash for Shane star Alan Ladd as we spotlight three of the legendary actor's old time radio performances. First, he recreates one of his movie roles in Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key for The Screen Guild Theatre (originally aired on CBS on July 22, 1946). Then, Ladd stars as mystery writer and amateur sleuth Dan Holiday in two syndicated episodes of Box 13 - "Hot Box" and "The Better Man."

Sep 03, 2017
Episode 240 - Simon Says (The Saint)
01:02:13

Heaven help evildoers when The Saint is on the case. Simon Templar – “the Robin Hood of modern crime” – came to the airwaves after thrilling audiences in stories by Leslie Charteris and in big screen outings starring George Sanders. The most celebrated radio Saint was Vincent Price, the future horror legend of the movies, who voiced Templar from 1947 until 1951. We’ll hear Price in a pair of Saint episodes: “A Real Gone Guy” (originally aired on NBC on July 2, 1950) and “Simon Minds the Baby” (originally aired on NBC on December 17, 1950).

Aug 27, 2017
Episode 239 - Thief in the Night (Boston Blackie)
01:24:27

It takes a thief to catch a thief (or con man or killer), and Boston Blackie is on the case! The reformed safecracker turned detective uses his intimate knowledge of the underworld to track down dangerous criminals and to clear his name with the irascible Inspector Farraday. We'll hear Chester Morris as Blackie in "The Jonathan Diamond" (originally aired on NBC on June 23, 1944). Then, Richard Kollmar steps in for the syndicated episodes "Uncle Bill Blaine's Legacy" and "Charlie Kingston and the Disappearing Office Building."

Aug 20, 2017
Episode 238 - Rocky's Road (Rocky Fortune)
01:16:54

Frank Sinatra trades crooning for crime solving as Rocky Fortune. For a single season, Old Blue Eyes starred as Rocky, a footloose, fancy-free, and frequently unemployed young man whose weekly search for a job results in full-time employment with dangerous adventure. It was Sinatra's only regular dramatic role on radio, and the Chairman of the Board is in fine form in three radio mysteries: "Messenger for Death" (originally aired on NBC on November 10, 1953); "The Rodeo Murder" (originally aired on NBC on January 12, 1954); and "The Museum Murder" (originally aired on NBC on January 19, 1954).

Aug 13, 2017
Episode 237 - Hitch Your Wagon (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:02:50

“Down These Mean Streets” presents our annual birthday salute to the master of big screen mystery and suspense – Alfred Hitchcock. The legendary director saw several of his classic films recreated for the airwaves during the Golden Age of Radio. In this bonus episode, we’ll hear one of those star-studded adaptations as The Lux Radio Theatre presents “Notorious” (originally aired on CBS on January 26, 1948). Ingrid Bergman reprises her screen role of a woman pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, with Joseph Cotten as her handler and lover.

Aug 09, 2017
Episode 236 – Quick as a Flash (Casey, Crime Photographer)
01:04:56

Get ready for fast-paced mystery and excitement with Casey, Crime Photographer – the ace cameraman who covers the news at the same time he makes headlines. Along with reporter Ann Williams and Captain Logan of the police, Casey gets the facts of the stories behind his pictures and always manages to catch the guilty party in time to make the next edition of the paper. We’ll hear Staats Cotsworth as Casey in “The Surprising Corpse” (originally aired on CBS on January 16, 1947) and “Miscarriage of Justice” (originally aired on CBS on October 2, 1947).

Aug 06, 2017
Happy Birthday, Wally Maher

There are several old time radio actors who can best be described, in my opinion, as "the glue." Rarely featured in the lead, they're versatile, talented performers who can make a character come to life in only a few lines, and their dynamic presence holds many a show together all these years later. The actor who springs to mind first whenever I think of this class of performer is Wally Maher. Born August 4, 1908, Maher was one of those actors who, when compiling a list of their credits, it may be easier to list the shows on which he didn't appear. Maher's many credits include turns on SuspenseSam SpadeRichard DiamondThe Lux Radio TheatreJohnny DollarNero Wolfe...the list goes on and on. He'd no doubt have had an equally impressive run in television through the 1950s and 1960s were it not for a tragic and premature end to his career.

After coming to Hollywood in the 1930s, Maher found his talents as a mimic made him a natural for radio. He practically became a piece of the furniture on The Lux Radio Theatre and he could be heard in supporting performances on many of the dramatic anthology shows. His workload increased during the war years; Maher was kept out of the service by chronic lung problems, but he didn't let his ailment slow him down on radio. In 1946, he was cast as Brett Halliday's private eye Michael Shayne in a popular radio detective series. Though the character would later be played with ultra-hard boiled intensity by Jeff Chandler, Maher's Michael Shayne was less two-fisted and more quick-witted. Beginning in 1948, he co-starred with Bob Bailey in Let George Do It. Maher played Lt. Riley, the token police department buddy of Bailey's titular private eye, but as voiced by Maher Lt. Riley wasn't the cliched thick-headed cop. He had a colorful presence and a wonderful rapport with Bailey and fellow co-star Frances Robinson. And during all of this time, Maher was still appearing regularly on The WhistlerSuspense, and more.

In 1950, he found another gig as a radio cop when he played Sgt. Matt Grebb in The Line-Up. Maher oversaw the titular line-up of criminals that opened each episode, and he was the easy-going family man partner of Bill Johnstone's stoic Lt. Ben Guthrie. Their camaraderie and chemistry helps to make the program one of the best the era had to offer. And that fall, Maher was the first of six actors to co-star as Archie Goodwin with Oscar nominee Sydney Greenstreet in his single season run as Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe.

Unfortunately, the lung ailment that dogged him his entire life caught up with him in December 1951. He'd had one lung removed the year before and he worked almost until the day he died - December 27, 1951 at age 43. It's a terrible tragedy that we were robbed of what should have been a much longer career for Wally Maher, but we're lucky to have so many of his wonderful performances preserved from his busy years in front of the microphone.

Aug 04, 2017
Wild About Harry

“That was the shot that killed Harry Lime. He died in a sewer beneath Vienna, as those of you know who saw the movie ‘The Third Man.’ Yes, that was the end of Harry Lime…but it was not the beginning. Harry Lime had many lives, and I can recount all of them. How do I know? Very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime.”

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He’s on screen for a scant ten minutes, but one of Orson Welles’ most celebrated performances comes in The Third Man. As Harry Lime, Welles plays a rogue of the worst order: a man who dilutes much-needed penicillin and sells it to the sick and wounded of post-war Vienna; a man who fakes his own death and keeps his ever-loyal girlfriend in the dark; and a man who preys on the kindness of his friends to advance his own self-interest. He’s a villain, and his lack of remorse only makes his actions more dastardly. Given all of that (and his death at the end of the film), Harry Lime seems an unlikely character to anchor a series. But it’s a testament to the genius of Orson Welles that Harry Lime became one of radio’s unlikeliest heroes with adventures that premiered in America today in 1951.

Harry’s story begins with writer Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana, The Confidential Agent) and director Carol Reed collaborating on the screenplay for the film The Third Man. Their story centers on Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a pulp western writer who travels to a divided postwar Vienna in response to a job offer from his old friend Harry Lime. Upon arriving in the city, Martins learns Lime died just days earlier, and he is surprised to learn Lime was a man wanted by the British military police. Martins launches his own investigation into Lime’s mysterious death and soon learns that Lime isn’t dead at all. It all culminates in a chase beneath the city streets, where Harry Lime - the once untouchable criminal kingpin - must descend to the sewers to escape authorities from four nations.

Most of Lime’s screen time comes in a legendary sequence set on Vienna’s Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel. In the carriage with Martins, Lime indifferently admits his crimes and coldly reveals the depths of his greed. His view of the world and his place in it is best summed up in the film in lines added to the script by Orson Welles himself:

“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

The film was a smash success in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Welles won some of his best notices in years, though he missed the opportunity for a sizable payday from the project. He was offered a percentage of the film’s gross profits but he declined in favor of a salary paid on the spot. Even if he didn’t get rich, the reception of the film must have reassured Welles after several box office disappointments prompted him to flee Hollywood to Europe. The movie also made an unlikely star of Viennese musician Anton Karas. Discovered in a tavern by director Carol Reed, Karas was enlisted to provide the film’s score of zither music. Karas’ “Third Man Theme” became one of the most popular records in the UK and the States and turned the mild-mannered Karas into an international star.

Jump ahead to 1951, where Welles (still in Europe) was approached by producer Harry Alan Towers about starring in several radio projects. Not to be outdone by his star, Towers was a larger than life character in his own right. He formed his own production company and distributed radio and television programs in England and all around the world. In the 1960s, he was accused of operating a prostitution ring in New York and of being a Soviet spy. He fled to Europe where he continued to work producing films. In Welles, he saw a source of talent who was more than a little desperate. Welles was digging himself out of debt and taking on work where he could find it to raise funds for passion projects of his own.

Towers signed Welles for three series: the first was a Scotland Yard crime drama called The Black Museum, which Welles would narrate and host. The second was a Sherlock Holmes series starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson; Welles would play Professor Moriarty in the program’s adaptation of “The Final Problem.” The third was a series which would continue the adventures of Harry Lime. Towers discovered the rights to the character of Harry Lime were still available, and he and Welles set to work developing a prequel series that would follow Lime around the world before the events of the film.

It was a challenge to retain the spirit of Harry Lime as he was conceived by Graham Greene while also making him a palatable lead for a series. The solution came by dialing back the character’s less savory tendencies. Harry is still a rogue, but he’s the least odious rogue in the room. He’ll cheat someone out of their savings or pocket a diamond necklace, but this Lime is a far cry from the unrepentant fiend whose greed causes the deaths of Viennese children. It’s telling that several episodes hinge on Lime being retained to put his criminal mind to work in stopping other criminals, whether it’s to thwart a bank robbery or to recover incriminating photographs from a blackmailer. Lime’s adventures take him all over the world, from Havana to Budapest, from New York to Naples. In this respect, Harry Lime acts in several episodes as a private detective…albeit one on the wrong side of the law. Accompanying him every step of the way is the memorable zither music of Anton Karas; the score was carried over from the film, and it’s almost impossible to think of Harry Lime without thinking of Karas’ music.

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Welles is credited as the writer for several shows (including the episode featured on this week’s podcast). One of his scripts, “Man of Mystery,” found Lime hired by a reclusive business tycoon to investigate the man’s past. He claimed to have no memory of his younger life, and Harry embarks on a worldwide hunt for answers. Welles reworked the story into his 1955 film Mr. Arkadin. Welles starred in 52 episodes of the series and threw himself into the work with the passion that marked his earliest radio performances. He’s droll, dangerous, and always fascinating to hear.

Today, anti-heroes are far more common. Audiences root for characters to succeed in their nefarious enterprises and evade the consequences of their actions, but in 1951 this was a riskier gamble. Harry Alan Towers deserves the credit for snatching up the rights and pitching the series, but it is the magnetic, captivating performance of Orson Welles that made the dastardly Lime into someone listeners would be happy to conspire with week after week.

Aug 03, 2017
Episode 235 - June is Busting Out All Over (The Stan Freberg Show)
01:02:19

In this special bonus episode, we salute the late June Foray - the titan of voice acting who passed away July 26th just shy of her 100th birthday. From Rocky Squirrel to Witch Hazel to Cindy Lou Who, chances are you've heard and enjoyed her work from a career that stretched over eighty years. Among her many radio credits is The Stan Freberg Show, one of the absolute best comedies radio ever produced and as a tribute to June Foray we'll hear two episodes (originally aired on CBS on July 21 and 28, 1957) that show off her amazing voice. 

Aug 02, 2017
Episode 234 - Sam I Am (Adventures of Sam Spade)
01:35:37

Sam Spade - Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco shamus of The Maltese Falcon - was a hit with audiences when he came to radio in July 1946. The mix of tongue in cheek comedy with hard-boiled mystery, combined with the memorable performance of Howard Duff in the title role, made for a series that still holds up today and stands as one of the very best the era had to offer. We'll hear Duff as Spade in "The Missing Newshawk Caper" (originally aired on CBS on July 18, 1948) and "The Vaphio Cup Caper" (originally aired on CBS on August 22, 1948). Then Steve Dunne steps into Sam's shoes for "The Chateau McLeod Caper" (originally aired on NBC on January 26, 1951).

Jul 30, 2017
Episode 233 - Sleuthing in Spurs (Tales of the Texas Rangers)
01:04:25

Planning to break the law in Texas? You'd better make other plans, because Joel McCrea is fighting crime on foot and on horseback in Tales of the Texas Rangers. As Ranger Jayce Pearson, McCrea stars in dramatizations of actual Ranger cases, presenting a combination of old west manhunting and twentieth century forensic science to bring in the guilty. We'll hear Pearson patrol the Lone Star State in "Play for Keeps" (originally aired on NBC on September 2, 1950) and "Fugitive Trail" (originally aired on NBC on October 21, 1951).

Jul 23, 2017
Happy Birthday, William Gargan

William Gargan, who brought a wry cynicism to his characters on radio, was born today in 1905. Of all the actors to play private eyes and gumshoes during the Golden Age of Radio, Gargan may have been the most uniquely qualified. Ironically, while success as a detective seemed to elude him, he enjoyed a great deal of success by playing detectives on film, television, and radio.

His father was a bookie, and as a boy Gargan would accompany him when he made his collection and payment rounds. During Prohibition, he dropped out of school and became a salesman of bootleg liquor to speakeasies in New York; his sales partner during this time was Dave Chasen, who would later go on to open Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant. The two would remain lifelong friends. For a time, Gargan worked as a collection agent for a department store. On one of his jobs, he was shot at by an irate customer. He lost another job as an operative for a detective agency when the subject he was assigned to follow eluded the tail.

Gargan found more success as an actor than he did as a detective. He turned to acting in the 1920s and appeared in dozens of films, including two turns as Ellery Queen in 1942. In 1946, Gargan had his first run at radio crimesolving, starring as private eye Ross Dolan in ABC’s I Deal in Crime (launched alongside another ABC detective series, The Fat Man with J. Scott Smart). That series only ran for eleven months, but Gargan found more success a few years later on NBC radio and TV as Martin Kane, Private Eye. Gargan starred in the radio and TV series for two years before frustration over the quality of the scripts drove him out. As Gargan later recalled in his 1969 autobiography, “Very soon in the game, I realized our stories were nothing to rave about. How much well plotted story line and genuine character development can you accomplish in a half-hour? So I made the program a showcase for me. After all, that was what we were selling - Martin Kane. I developed a tongue-in-cheek style, a spoof of the hard-boiled detective, a way of silently saying, ‘Don’t blame me for the lousy stories, I didn’t write them. And anyway, what’s the difference? Relax.’”

Given his attitude towards the caliber of radio detective scripts, it may come as a surprise that Gargan came back for another run as a radio shamus. Maybe it was because he was past his leading man prime in 1951 when the offer was made to star in a new series on NBC. It might have been the money that was on the table; NBC brought him to their network with a $1 million contract for five years. The deal covered the new series and other radio and TV appearances.

The series was launched as part of NBC’s silver anniversary celebration under the title The Adventures of Barrie Crane. Gargan used the spelling of his own son’s name for the title character, and while the character’s surname switched to “Craig,” the characterization was intact from the beginning. Craig was a wry, sly operator in the mold of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. He narrated his adventures with a tongue in cheek style that kept the hard boiled business in check. He was loyal to his clients and friendly with the police (in the person of Ralph Bell’s Lt. Rogers). From 1951 until July 1954, Barrie Craig was broadcast from NBC in New York. For the last run of the series, production shifted to Hollywood. It left the air in September 1954 but returned for a 39 week run beginning in October before Barry Craig closed his last case.

Sadly, William Gargan’s acting career came to an end only a few years after Barry Craig left the air. He returned as Martin Kane for 39 syndicated episodes in 1957, but throat cancer diagnosed in 1958 ended his work on the screen. Doctors removed his larynx in 1960 and he was outfitted with a voice box. He spent the remaining years of his life as a crusader and activist for the American Cancer Society, cautioning against the dangers of smoking. The Screen Actors Guild honored his career and his philanthropic work when it awarded Gargan with their lifetime achievement award in 1967. He passed away at age 73 in 1979. Cancer may have taken William Gargan’s voice, but his talent and his performances will live forever in these wonderful mystery shows from the Golden Age of Radio.

Jul 17, 2017
Episode 232 – Gargan vs. the Guilty (I Deal in Crime & Barrie Craig)
01:05:41

Perhaps the only radio detective star to have actually worked as a real-life private eye, William Gargan played several gumshoes on the air, as well as the big and small screens. He was most famous on radio as Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator but he gave voice to other hard-boiled private eyes with wry senses of humor. Today, William Gargan stars as two of those old time radio crime-solvers. First, he's Ross Dolan, ex-sailor and shamus in I Deal in Crime. We'll hear him in the premiere episode of that series (originally aired on ABC on January 21, 1946). Then he's Barrie Craig in "The Sneak Assassin" (originally aired on NBC on November 21, 1954).

Jul 16, 2017
"License number 137596..."

“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” (Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett wasn’t just a writer of detective fiction; he was a real-life detective who also happened to pen some of the greatest mystery novels of the 20th century. His mind and pen brought readers the rough and tumble Continental Op; the urbane and refined Nick and Nora Charles; and arguably the most famous private eye of them all, Sam Spade. Hammett’s tenure with the Pinkertons (including work on the infamous Fatty Arbuckle case) provided the DNA for Spade, a cynical shamus with his own moral code. He made his debut in 1929’s The Maltese Falcon and while he would appear in another three short stories penned by Hammett, the Falcon and its hunt for a legendary statuette are why Spade is best remembered. Of course, the classic film adaptation by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart as Spade didn’t hurt his reputation.

The success of Bogart’s Maltese Falcon generated new interest in Hammett’s work in the 1940s. As stories were reprinted in hardcover and paperback, Hammett’s agent believed Spade’s exploits would be perfect for radio. By 1946, the wheels were in motion to bring the detective to the airwaves.

The Adventures of Sam Spade was produced and directed by radio veteran William Spier, who also ran the show on CBS’ “outstanding theater of thrills,” Suspense. In fact, the audition program for Spade was a reworked Suspense script from two years earlier that originally starred Keenan Wynn. The scripts for that first season (including the audition) were written by an uncredited Jo Eisinger and Robert Tallman. The scriptwriters received no credit, as producers wanted to maintain the illusion that Hammett himself scripted the series. Hammett’s name was all over the program, but he had no direct involvement in the series. As he said, “My sole duty in regard to these programs is to look in the mail for a check once a week. I don’t even listen to them. If I did, I’d complain about how they were handled, and then I’d fall into the trap of being asked to come down and help.”

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ABC picked up The Adventures of Sam Spade for a thirteen-week summer run beginning on July 12, 1946. Actor Lloyd Nolan was set to star as Sam Spade, but a schedule conflict forced him to withdraw from the role at the last minute. (Nolan had just ended a run of B-movies for Fox as hard-boiled private eye Michael Shayne, and he would have made a fine Spade.) Former Armed Forces Radio Service announcer Howard Duff won the role of Spade with his audition, beating out radio veterans like Elliott Lewis. Spier was initially unimpressed with the actor, who was about as far from Bogart’s iconic portrayal as one could get, but Duff had a champion in Spier’s wife, Kay Thompson and she persuaded her husband to give Duff the role.

The series received rave notices in its first year, including an Edgar Award for best radio detective series. By September 1946, the show had moved to CBS, where it would remain until 1950. Robert Tallman continued as a writer, and Gil Doud stepped in to replace Jo Eisinger in 1947. With their scripts and Duff’s performance, Sam Spade was one of radio’s most popular shows. The sleuth even held his own against the powerhouse of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy across the airwaves on NBC.

Duff was ably supported each week by Lurene Tuttle in the role of Spade’s scatterbrained (but always loyal) secretary Effie Perrine, along with some of the best actors working on radio on the West Coast, including William Conrad, Joseph Kearns, Wally Maher, Jeanette Nolan, and John McIntire. Each week, Spade would dictate his case report to Effie for his client’s review. The fourth wall was often broken, with frequent references to the program itself. “Sam” and “Effie” often weighed in on the performances Duff and Tuttle gave in the dramatizations of “their” adventures.

The show kept a loyal following, but CBS grew wary of Hammett’s Communist affiliations (he had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s at the height of the New Deal). After the names of Hammett and Duff turned up in a pamphlet identifying Communists and their sympathizers, the show lost its sponsor (Wildroot Cream Oil) and September 1950 saw Howard Duff’s last performance as Spade.

The show was revived for a twenty four-week run on NBC on November 17, 1950 with Steven Dunne stepping in as Spade. Lurene Tuttle and William Spier returned from the original run, but there was conspicuously no mention of Dashiell Hammett to be found. Dunne was a fine Spade, but Howard Duff had made the role his own. As radio historian John Dunning noted, not even Humphrey Bogart could have succeeded Duff as Spade by 1950.

But before the Red Scare and timid sponsors did the show in, The Adventures of Sam Spade consistently delivered some of the best that radio had to offer. With Duff’s wry performance and the colorful characters invented by Tallman, Eisinger, and Doud, the show still holds up today as exciting mystery drama.

Jul 12, 2017
X Marks the Spot

“Herbert Marshall as The Man Called X. Wherever there is mystery, intrigue, romance, in all the strange and dangerous places of the world, there you will find…The Man Called X!”

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Philip Marlowe walked the neon-tinged streets of Los Angeles. Danny Clover’s beat was Broadway. But some radio detectives patrolled more than a city, more than a state, sometimes even more than a country. One of those globe-trotting gumshoes, and radio’s answer to James Bond, was Ken Thurston - the dashing, debonair secret agent known and feared through the international underworld as The Man Called X. Debuting just as World War II drew to a close and leaving the air as the Cold War was heating up, The Man Called X stands as one of radio’s finest espionage mystery programs.

The series was created by Jay Richard Kennedy, a businessman and writer who would later become singer Harry Belafonte’s business manager. It centered on Ken Thurston, agent for “the Bureau,” and his dangerous missions that took him all around the world. The early introductions for the show introduced Thurston as “the man who crosses the ocean as readily as you and I cross down.” Whether it was hunting down surviving Nazi plotters, assisting with defections, or thwarting sabotage, Thurston, aka Mr. X, could be counted on to get the job done “so that tomorrow’s peace will make the world a neighborhood for all of us.”

The series found its Mr. X in an actor who had already demonstrated his heroics on the battlefield. Herbert Marshall took a sniper’s bullet in the knee during World War I where he served in the London Scottish Regiment. It may have been the war’s most star-studded brigade, as it also included future stars Ronald Colman, Claude Rains, and Basil Rathbone. Doctors were forced to amputate his right leg at the hip, but Marshall hid his prosthetic leg from audiences as he embarked on his stage and film career. Marshall was a romantic leading man in his early years, but he matured into a character actor. One of his most famous performances came in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent as Stephen Fisher, the traitorous leader of the Universal Peace Party on the eve of World War II. Marshall was polished and urbane, but he could tap into a ruthlessness appropriate for a spy with the fate of the world resting on his shoulders.

Marshall starred as Thurston for the series’ entire run except for three episodes he had to sit out due to a pulmonary embolism. For those shows (aired in May and June 1951), Van Heflin, John Lund, and Joseph Cotten filled in as other Bureau agents. Heflin had starred as Philip Marlowe on radio in 1947, and Lund was about a year away from starring as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Joseph Cotten was a regular radio presence with his turns on Suspense and the Lux Radio Theatre, and he too was a year away from his own radio detective series, The Private Files of Matthew Bell.

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Thurston was a lone wolf…or at least he wanted to be. Unfortunately for him, his track was dogged by international con man and small time crook Pegon Zellschmidt. Played by Leon Belasco, Pegon was always out for a quick buck and would offer his services to Thurston for a nominal fee. Pegon was a loyal sidekick, until the bullets started flying or the opposition came in with a more lucrative offer.

The series traveled between networks as often as Ken Thurston circled the globe. The Man Called X premiered as a CBS summer series on July 10, 1944. In September, it moved to NBC, where it ran until March 1945 and then returned for summer runs in 1945 and 1946. From 1947 to 1948, it came back to CBS. Finally, it returned to NBC for a last run of 86 shows from 1950 to 1952. For nearly the entire run, the series was directed by Jack Johnstone. Johnstone was a radio veteran who helmed the Bob Bailey era of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and he pulled talent from the very deep West Coast radio pool. Will Wright recurred as Thurston’s boss at the Bureau, “the Chief,” and supporting roles were filled by Harry Bartell, Gloria Blondell, Gerald Mohr, Peggy Webber, and more.

The Man Called X came to television in 1956 as a syndicated series starring Barry Sullivan, but his Thurston didn’t log nearly as many frequent flier miles as Herbert Marshall. Unhindered by filming logistics and backed up by sharp scripts, Mr. X went everywhere from the Arctic to the Amazon and he kept audiences entertained every step of the way.

Jul 10, 2017
Trouble is My Travel Agent

“Yeah, danger is my assignment. I get sent to a lot of places I can’t even pronounce. They all spell the same thing, though - trouble.”

In the years during and after World War II, radio’s gumshoes and beat cops were joined by international secret agents; these globe-trotting detectives worked at home and abroad to keep America and her interests safe from the enemy agents, saboteurs, and black marketers who threatened the stability of the post-war world. Previously, we heard the exploits of Ken Thurston, better known as The Man Called X, a debonair and urbane agent. Another member of the fraternity was Steve Mitchell, more two-fisted than Thurston but just as capable. As played by big screen star Brian Donlevy, Mitchell was dispatched all around the world from 1949 to 1953 in Dangerous Assignment. It was a terrific espionage adventure program anchored by Donlevy’s lead performance.

Though it was never clearly explained which agency employed Steve Mitchell, it was clear he was operating on behalf of the U.S. Government. At the beginning of each episode, Mitchell received his assignment from “The Commissioner” (played by Herb Butterfield, who also doled out cases as Anthony J. Lyon on Jeff Regan, Investigator). Usually undercover as a foreign correspondent, Mitchell would catch a plane to a far-off locale to investigate a threat to America. But where the Man Called X was sophisticated and suave, Mitchell was a hard-boiled spy. Steve Mitchell was more likely to end up in the jungle or hiding in the sand dunes than he was to move in and out of high society parties. It’s almost impossible to listen to Herbert Marshall as Ken Thurston and not imagine him in an immaculately tailored suit. It’s equally difficult to hear Steve Mitchell and imagine him outside of dungarees and fatigues. The actor who gave voice to the man of action was one who had his own share of derring-do in real life, Brian Donlevy.

At age 14, Donlevy lied about his age to join the Army. In 1916, he served under General John J. Pershing in the Army’s pursuit of Pancho Villa, and he served as a pilot with the French Air Force during World War I. Ultimately, he abandoned his military career for acting and broke into Hollywood in silent pictures in the 1920s. Donlevy earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Beau Geste in 1939, and the following year found some of his greatest success in the title role of Preston Sturges’ The Great McGinty - a bum who ends up in the governor’s mansion. Donlevy could play tough guys with the best of them, but he also managed to find the likable aspects of a character. His brutes were never wholly brutish, a quality that served him well in a number of 1940s film noir performances, including Kiss of Death in 1947.

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Dangerous Assignment went on the air in the summer of 1949.  NBC had recently lost The Man Called X, and the network was eager for another adventure series to fill the void. Brian Donlevy was heavily involved in the production of the series, and he approached NBC about getting the program on the air. After the summer run ended, NBC brough Dangerous Assignment back in February 1950. In late 1950, The Man Called X returned to NBC, and the programs aired back to back from 1950 to 1951. In 1952, Steve Mitchell’s adventures came to television for 39 episodes. Donlevy not only reprised his role, but he produced the TV version as well. Also along for the TV series was Herb Butterfield as “The Commissioner.”

The series was well produced, offering a variety of locations and adventures rounded out by the great Hollywood radio acting pool. In his tenure on the air, Steve Mitchell investigated deaths of fellow agents, pursued saboteurs, and tried to maintain America’s sphere of influence. In one episode, the enemy spreads rumors that the United States is backing a coup in a South American country; Mitchell is dispatched to set the record straight and to stop the rumors. In the show we’ll hear on the podcast this week, the theft of several barrels of oil jeopardizes the export of oil to the States. Scripts by Robert Ryf (a frequent contributor to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) and the driving score by Bruce Ashley helped to create a sense of atmosphere and foreign intrigue.

Jul 09, 2017
Episode 231 - Travel Spells Trouble (Dangerous Assignment)
01:03:48

Pack your bags - this week, we're joining Steve Mitchell on another Dangerous Assignment. Brian Donlevy stars as Mitchell, the two-fisted spy dispatched all around the world on thrilling adventures and top secret missions. In this pair of international mysteries, Steve Mitchell is on the trail of a pair of missing scientists (in an episode originally aired on NBC on April 24, 1950); and he heads down south to find a stolen Civil War map (in an episode originally aired on NBC on December 16, 1950).

Jul 09, 2017
Quick as a Flash

The Golden Age of Radio hosted a big club of newspaper reporters whose zeal for truth and justice led them to fight crime as they fought deadlines. Randy Stone of Night Beat; Dan Holiday of Box 13; and of course Clark Kent are just a few of the reporters who went above and beyond merely reporting the news and who took an active role in their stories. But it wasn’t just the writers who played detective on the side in the world of radio journalists. One plucky photographer played gumshoe as he worked the police beat for his paper. He was Casey, Crime Photographer, and he enjoyed a long career on radio in the 1940s and early 1950s beginning with his first broadcast on July 7, 1943.

Casey was created by George Harmon Coxe and first appeared in Black Mask magazine in 1934. Coxe was inspired by the stories of heroic newspapermen, but he observed that “it was frequently the photographer accompanying such newsmen who frequently had to stick their neck out to get an acceptable picture.” Coxe felt it was time to give the cameraman his due and introduced readers to Jack “Flashgun” Casey, a hard-drinking, two-fisted photographer who wielded a gun as effectively as he used a camera. Coxe featured the character in 24 short stories and six novels.

Following two B-movies in 1936 and 1937, Casey came to radio in June 1943 on CBS in Flashgun Casey, Press Photographer. Actor Matt Crowley, who played Batman, Dick Tracy, and Mark Trail on radio during his career, was the first actor heard as Casey. He was quickly succeeded by Jim Backus, later the voice of Mr. Magoo. By October, the role had been recast again, and this new Casey would stick with the character for the rest of his radio career. Actor Staats Cotsworth found his greatest radio success as Casey, but even with over 400 performances as the crime photographer he enjoyed a long career of diverse roles in radio and on television. Like J. Scott Smart of The Fat Man, he was a bit of a renaissance man. Cotsworth acted on the stage and only moved into acting early in his career to support his work as a painter. He continued to work in radio even while he was headlining Crime Photographer; Cotsworth could be heard on The Shadow, Dimension X, The Mysterious Traveler, and Rocky Fortune throughout his tenure on Casey.

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The supporting cast for Cotsworth’s run was rounded out by actress Jan Miner as reporter Ann Williams, whose stories ran alongside Casey’s photos; Bernard Lenrow as Captain Logan of the police; and John Gibson as Ethelbert, the wry bartender at the Blue Note Cafe, where most Casey episodes wrapped up. Typical episodes (mostly written by Alonzo Dean Cole) involved Casey and Ann launching their own investigations into the crimes they covered, with Captain Logan often accepting their assistance, albeit reluctantly.

Though the series is best known today as Casey, Crime Photographer, it ran under several titles including Casey, Press Photographer and Crime Photographer. It aired on CBS in multiple incarnations from 1943 until 1954. For the final years, the radio version ran alongside a TV version. Actor Darren McGavin (perhaps best known as “The Old Man” in A Christmas Story) played Casey, with Jan Miner reprising her role as Ann for the single season TV run.

Radio historian John Dunning is less than kind to Casey, calling it “better than Mr. Keen [Tracer of Lost Persons], but lacking the polish and style of Sam Spade.” That’s a high bar to clear; few shows could measure up to Sam Spade when Howard Duff was at the microphone (today it would be akin to dismissing a series because it isn’t as good as Homeland). Casey, Crime Photographer, thanks largely to Cotsworth’s performance, is light and engaging mystery fare, well produced and written, and it presents a different type of character in a sea of hard-boiled private eyes.

Jul 07, 2017
"The innocent, the vagrant, the thief, the murderer..."

“We take you now behind the scenes of a police headquarters in a great American city…”

Cops rarely got their due in the Golden Age of Radio. On shows headlined by private detectives and amateur sleuths, the uniformed police officer was at best a harried man in over his head forced to turn to an outsider for help; at worst, he was a dullard who would trip over his own shoelaces without assistance from the main character. But some shows painted police officers with the right kind of brush. They weren’t portrayed as geniuses or as dunces; rather, the hard work and determination that cracked cases was played up with elements of unique personalities and characters allowed to shine through. Dragnet is the best-known example of this type of police drama. Less known but just as strong is The Line-Up, a series that aired on CBS from 1949 to 1953, keeping pace with Jack Webb’s program in its early years on radio.

The series was set in “a great American city” (unnamed at first, but later revealed to be San Francisco in the television version) and it followed the police as they tracked down killers, thieves, con men, and mob bosses. Each episode opened with a line-up of suspects, sometimes connected to the crime of the week, who were questioned by officers while anxious eyewitnesses watched and tried to recognize them. These scenes were wonderful displays of characterization, humor, and sound design as the hushed observations from the gallery mixed in and out of the loud defiant answers of the suspects being questioned.

The Line-Up was originally developed by Elliot Lewis, Morton Fine, and David Friedkin - the trio behind Broadway is My Beat. After the initial eight week run on CBS, the series was turned over to Blake Edwards and Jaime del Vallee, the creative team behind Richard Diamond, Private Detective. The new creative team shepherded a series that had the realism of Dragnet (especially in how it portrayed the frequent monotony of police work), but The Line-Up was more nuanced and allowed for richer characters to populate its precinct. Joe Friday and his partners were cops; the men on The Line-Up felt more like real people.

And to get that level of characterization, you need great actors in the roles. The Line-Up started strong at the top. In what may be his greatest radio role (and that’s saying something given his two decades of work in the Golden Age of Radio), Bill Johnstone starred as Lt. Ben Guthrie. Johnstone first rose to prominence when he succeeded Orson Welles as The Shadow, a role he played from 1939 until 1943. That year, he moved to Hollywood and joined the incredible talent pool of west coast radio players. Johnstone was a fixture on Suspense, Escape, Sam Spade, and many more. He appeared in several episodes of The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe as Inspector Cramer and he played Lt. Ybarra opposite Van Heflin on The Adventures of Philip Marlowe. The prematurely gray-haired Johnstone had a rich voice that gave his characters an “older than their years” sound, and that technique was put to great use as Ben Guthrie. He was overworked (long hours and trips to the coffee pot were standards on the show) but Johnstone captured Guthrie’s determination to close a case through the late nights.

Johnstone was supported for the first years of the program by actor Wally Maher (radio's Michael Shayne and Lt. Riley on Let George Do It) as Sgt. Matt Grebb. Grebb called the titular line-up that opened each episode and his wry dressing-down of suspects added some levity to the dramatic scripts. Grebb could also be counted on to rib Guthrie about the latter’s bachelor lifestyle. Grebb played a role similar to that of Frank Smith on Dragnet, but Maher was given more opportunity to make Grebb a true character. Sadly, Maher passed away at age 43 in 1951, leaving a hole in not only The Line-Up, but the reperatory cast of Hollywood radio actors.

Actor Jack Moyles (who enjoyed a run as a radio detective in Rocky Jordan) played Sgt. Pete Carger, Guthrie’s new partner, for the duration of the radio run following Maher’s death. As a tribute to Maher (or perhaps because the late actor’s style was so closely associated and identified with the program), Moyles used a similar delivery and cadence when calling the line-up at the start of each episode.

The Line-Up aired on CBS from July 6, 1950 to February 20, 1953. Like other shows of the era, it transitioned to television (albeit without its radio cast). The TV version starred Warner Anderson as Lt. Guthrie and Tom Tully as Inspector Grebb. Grebb received a promotion for TV because the San Francisco Police Department Bureau of Inspectors had no “Sergeant” rank. The series ran on CBS television from 1954 to 1960, and a feature film spin-off hit theaters in 1958. Ditected by Don Siegel (later he would direct Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry), the film co-starred Eli Wallach. Anderson returned as Guthrie for the film.

As more episodes of The Line-Up continue to enter circulation, it’s a great time to discover this series. Fans of police drama and sharp writing would do well to sit in the gallery and watch as the suspects are paraded out and questioned. Just don’t pay too much attention to their answers, as they often lie.

“Bring on the line.”

Jul 06, 2017
Philo's Files

The gentleman amateur is as much an archetype of detective fiction as the dogged policeman and the hard-boiled private eye. Perhaps the most famous of this more refined school of crime-solver is Philo Vance. The debonair detective appeared in 12 novels written by Willard Huntington Wright (under the pen name S.S. Van Dine) and enjoyed a run as a film and radio star from the 1920s into the 1940s. Vance's tenure as a radio detective began with a broadcast on July 5, 1945.

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Vance was an intellectual, a gourmand, a polyglot, and an expert on everything from psychology to Chinese pottery. He fenced, played polo and poker, and even bred show dogs. Described by Wright/Van Dine as “unusually good-looking,” he was always dressed to the nines and usually wore a monocle. His creator inserted himself into the drama, with “S.S. Van Dine” acting as narrator and a Dr. Watson for Vance as he embarked on his mysteries. Also appearing alongside Vance in the books were District Attorney Markham, a no-nonsense prosecutor, and Sgt. Heath, who was as gruff and guttural as Vance was refined. Vance solved baffling cases in and around New York for twelve novels, including one where he partnered with comedienne Gracie Allen! The Vance novels were constructed as puzzle mysteries, with their intricate plots taking priority over the characters, and were well-received, especially the earliest novels in the series.

Not everyone was a fan, however; poet Ogden Nash famously observed “Philo Vance/Needs a kick in the pance.” Raymond Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe, derided Vance as “the most asinine character in detective fiction.” Despite the chilly reception Vance received from these writers, Hollywood came calling to bring the character to the big screen.

In 1929, William Powell (five years away from The Thin Man) became the screen’s first Philo Vance and starred in three films. Basil Rathbone, nine years from his run as Sherlock Holmes, stepped in as Vance for The Bishop Murder Case (1930) before Powell returned in 1933’s The Kennel Murder Case. Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), The Kennel Murder Case is hailed as not only the best Philo Vance film, but one of the best film adaptations of a Golden Age mystery novel. Other actors who played Vance include Warren William (who also starred as Perry Mason in a series of Warner Brothers films), Paul Lukas, and William Wright. The final Vance films hit the screen in 1947, when the character was also solving crimes on the radio.

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John Emery, the one-time husband of Tallulah Bankhead, was radio’s first Philo Vance in 1943. Future Academy Award winner Jose Ferrer starred as Vance in a 1945 summer series. But the actor with the longest run as Philo Vance on radio was not a classic leading man, but rather a versatile radio actor.

Jackson Beck was the narrator of The Adventures of Superman on radio; it was his thunderous delivery of the introduction “Faster than a speeding bullet…” that became a hallmark of the program. Beck was one of radio’s most versatile actors. Not only could he fill in as background characters on the Superman shows he narrated, but he could mimic world leaders on The March of Time and ride the radio range as The Cisco Kid. Beck was tapped to star as Philo Vance in a syndicated series from producer Frederick W. Ziv. Ziv also brought Richard Kollmar to radio as Boston Blackie.

The Ziv series toned down some of the character’s less endearing characteristics; Vance was still a brilliant detective, but he was a more down-to-earth character. The preening fop of the novels (and even the early films) was gone. Jackson Beck’s performance created a Vance who had a taste for the finer things but was no dandy. He wasn’t a tough guy, but had no problem landing a punch when he needed to. The syndicated episodes also built a team around Vance. His secretary, Ellen Deering, was on hand for assistance and some playful office banter. Ellen was played by Beck’s Superman co-star Joan (Lois Lane) Alexander. District Attorney Markham carried over from the Van Dine novels, and was played on the series by George Petrie. Usually, Vance would get entangled in a case because Markham sought out his assistance.

The Ziv series ran for 104 episodes, each following Van Dine’s template of titling: “The [something] Murder Case.” Like Ziv’s Boston Blackie series, Philo Vance didn’t have an introduction or opening credits. Instead, the first thing the listener hears is the organ followed by a teaser. Usually the crime is heard in this scene, or the criminals are overheard planning their next steps. Vance enters the story either at the behest of a client or by working alongside D.A. Markham. After dismissing the too-obvious solution to the crime at the scene, Vance makes his way through the suspects, interrogating but always with a gentleman’s charm, before he solves the crime and reveals the murderer.

His adventures aren’t hard-boiled, but Philo Vance provides entertainment for listeners (particularly when Jackson Beck is at the microphone). These puzzlers are cleverly plotted mysteries cast with an assortment of New York radio players. It’s the type of quality programming the real Vance might enjoy in an easy chair with a cocktail at the ready.

Jul 05, 2017
Episode 230 - Philo-osophy (Philo Vance)
01:19:15

S.S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance – perhaps the quintessential gentleman detective – was a hit in print and on the big screen where he was played by Basil Rathbone and William Powell, among others. He eventually came to radio in several incarnations, each making the snobbish sleuth more down to earth and likable. We’ll hear Jose Ferrer as Vance in “The Case of the Girl Who Came Back” (a rebroadcast from the Armed Forces Radio Service Mystery Playhouse). Then, Jackson Beck steps into Vance’s shoes in “The Motor Murder Case” and “The Mathematical Murder Case.”

Jul 02, 2017
Episode 229 - Sixty Minutes Man (Crime on the Waterfront)
01:16:27

Long before he was an award-winning journalist, Mike Wallace was a radio announcer and actor. The longtime correspondent for 60 Minutes had a stint as a radio crime solver when he starred as Lt. Lou Kagel, a New York cop who investigated Crime on the Waterfront. Though the show didn’t materialize into a series, both audition recordings survive and give us the chance to hear the celebrated newsman in a dramatic detective role. We’ll hear the two audition recordings from February 24 and March 1, 1949.

Jun 25, 2017
"Rogue speaking..."

Following his star turn as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, Dick Powell found himself at a new stage of his career. With the acclaim he’d earned for his hard-boiled performance, Powell could finally shed the baby-faced crooner image that had defined his work up until that point. He used his clout and the momentum Marlowe brought him to approach the F.W. Fitch shampoo company with a proposal - a summer detective series to fill the weeks until their Fitch Bandwagon variety show returned to the air in the fall. Powell, a veteran of the Bandwagon, would headline the new series as a private detective cut from the Marlowe cloth. The result was Bandwagon Mysteries, Powell’s first weekly dramatic series and the introduction of Richard Rogue, a radio shamus who would crack cases on radio over the next seven years.

Bandwagon Mysteries premiered on NBC on June 17, 1945 and ran for fourteen weeks. By the end of the run, there was a demand for the show to continue but the regular Fitch Bandwagon program was slated to return to NBC after its summer vacation. Fitch shopped the series, retitled Rogue’s Gallery to other networks. It landed at Mutual and began a thirty-nine week run on September 27, 1945. When its Mutual season ended in June 1946, it returned to NBC as a summer replacement for Fitch Bandwagon. By this time, the show was so identified by its new title that it didn’t revert to Bandwagon Mysteries; instead it aired for an additional fourteen episodes in the summer of 1946.

Powell’s performance as Richard Rogue was similar to his take on Philip Marlowe (and it would be refined and perfected a few years later on Richard Diamond, Private Detective): tough, but glib, and more likely to come up with a quip than to squeeze off a round from his .38.

Aside from Powell’s unique delivery, the signature element of the show was the inclusion of Rogue’s impish “alter ego,“ Eugor (that’s Rogue spelled backwards). Each week, usually following a shot to the head, Rogue would lose consciousness and take an otherworldly trip to “Cloud Eight." While there, he’d trade barbs with the cackling Eugor, and their conversations would usually shed light on a clue the gumshoe had overlooked during his investigation. Though never credited on the show, Eugor was played by veteran radio character actor Peter Leeds. Leeds could be heard in supporting roles on Suspense, Nero Wolfe, Escape and others. He was a member of the cast of Stan Freberg’s legendary 1957 CBS radio series, and he provided several voices for Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Dick Powell left the role after the 1946 series. Rogue’s Gallery returned the following year for a summer run starring Barry Sullivan, who would later pinch hit as The Saint when Vincent Price was unavailable to record. Following that brief run, Richard Rogue left the air for three years. The Fitch company fell upon hard times following a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission over the company’s claims that its shampoo could eradicate dandruff, and their sponsorship ended in 1947. In 1950, ABC resurrected the concept for a two year run. Actor Paul Stewart, a veteran of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre, played Rogue on ABC. Elsewhere on the network, Dick Powell was crooning through crimes as Richard Diamond. He was working right alongside one of his earlier characters - one who helped pave the way for his future radio success. Diamond may be the more famous Richard, but it was Rogue who put Powell on the path to a career as a crime-solver extraordinaire.

Jun 24, 2017
"Friend to those who have no friend..."

“Boston Blackie” was the nickname of Horatio Black, a reformed thief and modern day Robin Hood in the vein of The Saint. Emerging from the pen and mind of a real-life convict, Blackie went on to become one of the most popular radio detectives of the 1940s and 1950s.

He was created by Jack Boyle, whose writing career began behind bars with a series of true crime confession novels written under his prison number, 6006. The stories originated in San Quentin and were published by The American Magazine. Editor Ray Long recalled Boyle as “an opium addict, and a hard drinking man if ever there was one. But withal, one of the most entertaining men in the world, and so far as his dealings with me went, a square shooter.” Long encouraged Boyle to continue writing upon his release.

Those initial 12 short stories were collected and published as a novel in 1919. From 1918 to 1927, Blackie appeared in nine silent films, but actor Chester Morris made the role his own during a run of 14 B-movies for Columbia Pictures from 1941 to 1949. This film series established Blackie as a reformed jewel thief who used his knowledge of the underworld to come to the aid of innocent victims. Throughout the series, Blackie was pursued by Inspector Farraday of the police (played by Richard Lane). Farraday was never convinced that Blackie had gone over to the side of law and order and he was always quick to blame Blackie for any robberies in his proximity.

Blackie first came to radio in 1944 for an NBC summer series replacing Amos n’ Andy. Sponsored by Rinso, the Boston Blackie radio show starred Chester Morris and Richard Lane (reprising their screen roles) and promoted One Mysterious Night, the upcoming Columbia Boston Blackie film. As the introduction to the series explained every week, Blackie was an “enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend. Along with Blackie and Inspector Farraday, the NBC series featured recurring characters like Blackie’s wealthy benefactor Arthur Manletter and “Shorty,” Blackie’s driver and sidekick. Veteran announcer Harlow Wilcox, who pitched Johnson’s Wax on Fibber McGee & Molly and Auto-Lite Spark Plugs on Suspense, announced the show. The Morris-NBC series ran for 13 weeks.

A year after the Morris series signed off of NBC, Boston Blackie returned to radio in a syndicated series from producer Frederick Ziv. Ziv was a pioneer of radio and television syndication, and he later brought a Blackie TV series to the air in 1951. Richard “Dick” Kollmar played Blackie for the entire Ziv run, appearing in over 200 episodes. Kollmar was perhaps most famous for co-hosting the morning radio show Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick for 18 years with his wife Dorothy Kilgallen. In the syndicated series, Inspector Farrady was played by Maurice Tarplin, a versatile New York radio actor who could also be heard narrating tales of terror as The Mysterious Traveler. Actresses Lesley Woods and Jan Miner appeared as Blackie’s girlfriend Mary Wesley (coincidentally, both actresses also played Ann Williams, reporter and gal pal of Casey, Crime Photographer on CBS during the same period!).

In both runs of the series, plots often involved Blackie being set up or suspected of a robbery. Another frequently employed plot device would involve old cellmates of Blackie’s, or criminals he’d sent up the river, breaking out of jail to exact their revenge. The series was a more lighthearted affair than some of the more hardboiled offerings from the Golden Age of Radio, but it was solidly entertaining with lively characterizations and plots.

Jun 23, 2017
Match wits with Ellery Queen!

Most of the fun in reading (or listening to) a detective story is the chance to play detective ourselves. We meet the suspects, process the clues, and weigh the evidence alongside the sleuth, and we have the chance to see if we can reach the same solution to the crime. But rarely do our fictional gumshoes pause mid-narrative to see where we are, to check in on the progress of our own investigation. One notable exception (for young readers, at least) is Encyclopedia Brown. Another is one of the biggest names in crime fiction - Ellery Queen. And like Encyclopedia Brown, Ellery is an amateur sleuth who helps his police detective father crack tough cases.

Queen was the creation of mystery writer cousins Daniel Nathan (alias Frederic Dannay) and Manford Leopofsky (alias Manford Lee). They submitted a story for a contest in 1928, and they won but the magazine folded before the story could be published. The cousins shopped the story around and the first Ellery Queen adventure was published in 1929. That first story, “The Roman Hat Mystery,” set out the elements of the character and the formula for his adventures. Ellery was a bit of a dilettante, an intellectual who solved crimes because their puzzles intrigued him. He was often called upon to assist his father, Inspector Richard Queen of the New York Police Department. Along with the inspector’s irascible Sgt. Velie, Ellery and his father tackled bizarre cases littered with red herrings and multiple suspects. One of the signature elements of the Ellery Queen stories was a “Challenge to the Reader,” a break in the action just before the solution was revealed. It explained that the reader had seen all of the clues, and there was only one possible solution to the crime. The character starred in over 30 novels written by Dannay and Lee, and the two would create the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 1941; Ellery Queen is still being published today.

Ellery Queen first came to radio on CBS in 1939 with Hugh Marlowe in the title role. Though he was featured prominently in promotional photos and press, Marlowe was not credited as Queen during the run. This may have been done to maintain the illusion that “Ellery Queen” was a real figure, detective, writer, and publisher of the magazine. None of the actors who played Ellery on radio got the billing and on-air credit, even as their co-stars were identified by name with the characters they played. The radio series introduced a character who would become fixtures in the Ellery Queen mythology - Nikki Porter, Ellery’s secretary and Girl Friday (played in the first series by Marion Shockley). Nikki would remain in the cast for the rest of the radio runs, and she was incorporated into the Ellery Queen novels in 1943. The radio series retained Ellery’s amateur status, but he was less arrogant and insufferable. It was easy to see why his father would reach out to bring him in on cases. Though he still wasn’t two-fisted, nor did he carry a gun, Ellery Queen was pretty human. He had Sherlock Holmes’ eye for detail but he was less anti-social and aloof.

Like the stories, the radio series offered a challenge to audiences, but the radio series went a step farther and featured a stand-in for the audience during the broadcasts. A guest “armchair detective” would sit in and would discuss the case with “Ellery” and “Nikki” before the solution was revealed. Initially, the “guest detective” was a panel of mystery writers. Later, members of the studio audience were used (that idea was dropped because the audience members were far from adept at the microphone); eventually, one celebrity guest appeared in each show. Gloria Swanson, Mel Blanc, Victor Jory, Orson Welles, and Ed Sullivan are just a few of the guests who appeared and tried their deductive skills against those of Ellery Queen (and his creator - Manfred Lee co-wrote the series with Anthony Boucher for much of the run). Ellery Queen ran in multiple series over NBC, CBS, and ABC from 1942 until 1948. Carleton Young, Sidney Smith, Larry Dobkin (who later played Archie Goodwin on Nero Wolfe), and Howard Culver all starred (uncredited, of course) as Ellery Queen.

There were several TV versions in the 1950s, but the definitive Ellery Queen adaptation came nearly thirty years after the radio series took its final bow. In 1975, producers William Link and Richard Levinson (creators of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, among others) brought Ellery Queen back to television in a great series that unfortunately lasted only one season. Jim Hutton starred as Ellery for 22 episodes with David Wayne as Inspector Queen. This Queen series was a period piece set in post-World War II New York. The setting allowed the producers to include several references to radio; a recurring character was a radio detective who tried to out-think Queen and position himself as a master detective, and one episode featured threats to the life of a radio soap opera star. Each episode boasted an all-star guest cast and a “challenge to the viewer” where Ellery broke the fourth wall right before the denouement to see if the audience had figured out the solution to that week’s mystery.

In some respects, even though he perhaps wasn’t as famous as some of his more hard-boiled brethren, Ellery Queen may have been the ideal detective for the radio era. Audiences tuned in to detective and mystery shows for the thrill of trying to solve the crime, but none of the other sleuths they followed took the time to ask them “have you figured it out yet?” Ellery Queen, on print, screen, and radio encouraged a spirit of cooperation and involvement in his adventures unlike any of the other detectives who cracked cases during the Golden Age of Radio.

Jun 18, 2017
Episode 228 – There’s No Place Like Holmes (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
01:30:13

To moviegoers and radio listeners of the World War II years, Basil Rathbone and Sherlock Holmes were practically one in the same. Rathbone starred as the master detective of Baker Street in 14 films and in hundreds of episodes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on radio. In honor of the star's June 13th birthday, we'll hear a trio of Holmes radio adventures starring Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (as our storyteller, Dr. Watson): "The Eyes of Mr. Leyton" (originally aired on Mutual on September 24, 1945); "Murder by Moonlight" (originally aired on Mutual on October 29, 1945); and "The Case of the Accidental Murderess" (originally aired on Mutual on November 26, 1945).

Jun 18, 2017
"Crime is a sucker's road..."

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” (Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely)

Raymond Chandler was thirty-nine when The Big Sleep, the first Philip Marlowe novel, was published and the world of detective fiction was never the same. It’s Chandler who gives us the archetypal private eye as knight errant, working his way through a world of corruption and vice while he is guided by his own moral compass. Along with Dashiell Hammett, Chandler helped to invent the “hard-boiled” style of detective fiction, and his signature character proved to be one of the most popular detectives to solve cases during the Golden Age of Radio.

In the years between the publication of The Big Sleep and Marlowe’s premiere on radio, Chandler’s novels were adapted to the screen six times. Farewell, My Lovely and The High Window were retooled for other cinematic detectives (The Falcon and Michael Shayne, respectively); and Marlowe himself was played by four different actors in four films (Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet; Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep; Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake; and George Montgomery - no relation - in The Brasher Doubloon).

Marlowe first came to radio in a regular series on June 17, 1947 as NBC’s summer replacement for Bob Hope. MGM contract player and Academy Award winner Van Heflin starred as Marlowe, with scripts based on Chandler’s own stories. Heflin prepared for the role by riding along with Los Angeles police officers before and during the run of the show. Heflin was a fine Marlowe, but he failed to win over Chandler. In a letter to fellow mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of Perry Mason), Chandler described the series and Heflin as “thoroughly flat.” The NBC series lasted thirteen weeks, and when the time came for more episodes, Heflin’s film career prevented his participation.

It took nearly a year before Philip Marlowe returned to the airwaves in a regular series. Producer/director Norman Macdonnell, a veteran of Escape and other programs, oversaw the production of the new series, which premiered on CBS on September 26, 1948. Stepping into Marlowe’s shoes was actor Gerald Mohr, a regular on Suspense, Escape, Our Miss Brooks, and The Whistler. Mohr brought a hard edge and a grim determination to Marlowe’s voice; it was as different as night and day from Howard Duff’s wry, sardonic take on Sam Spade. Gerald Mohr’s Marlowe used his fists (and his .38 tucked away in shoulder holster) when necessary, and he marched through his world with a weary cynicism that came right out of Chandler’s pages. And Mohr bellowed the show’s legendary opening week after week:

“Get this and get it straight…crime is a sucker’s road, and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison, or the grave!”

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe was a hit, with scripts by Mel Dinelli, Robert Mitchell, and Gene Levitt. By 1949, the series was attracting 10.3 million listeners a week, and Gerald Mohr had been named Most Popular Male Actor by Radio and Television magazine.

Like Dashiell Hammett and The Adventures of Sam Spade, Chandler’s name was all over the show (the broadcasts were billed as coming “from the pen of Raymond Chandler”), but the author had no involvement in the actual scripts or broadcast. He did, however, have praise for the show’s star, declaring “Gerald Mohr’s voice is absolutely tops. A voice like Gerald Mohr’s gave you a personality which you fill out according to your fancy.” Mohr’s wasn’t the only strong voice; he was backed up each week by members of Macdonnell’s repertory company of actors, including John Dehner, Virginia Gregg, Jeff Corey, Larry Dobkin, Howard McNear, Parley Baer, Vivi Janiss, Georgia Ellis, and William Conrad. Many of those actors would join Macdonnell in Dodge City when he developed Gunsmoke, a program that grew out of CBS chairman William Paley’s request to Macdonnell for a “Philip Marlowe in the Old West.”

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe ran until September 29, 1950. It was revived for a brief run in July 1951, with Mohr slipping back into the role of Marlowe as if he’d never left it. Philip Marlowe left the airwaves the same way he arrived on them: as a summer replacement series. This time, Marlowe kept the time slot warm for Hopalong Cassidy.

Nearly all of the 114-episode Mohr series has survived in good condition, giving today’s fans a chance to thrill to the rough and tumble exploits of Philip Marlowe as radio audiences did from 1948 to 1951.

Jun 17, 2017
Happy Birthday, Bob Bailey

Actor Bob Bailey was born June 13, 1913. To old time radio fans, Bailey is best remembered for a pair of detective roles: as ex-GI turned gumshoe George Valentine in Let George Do It, and as “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Bailey began his career in Chicago radio with appearances on That Brewster Boy, Meet Corliss Archer, and other programs originating from the Windy City. Between 1943 and 1944, he was under contract at 20th Century Fox. Bailey made several pictures at Fox, including the Laurel & Hardy films Jitterbugs and The Dancing Masters.

In 1946, Bailey starred as George Valentine, a private detective who solicited clients through a newspaper ad offering to shoulder the danger they couldn’t handle. Bailey’s performance in Let George Do It made Valentine tough but funny, a scrappy and hard-working gumshoe. Bailey starred in the show until 1954.

The following year, he stepped into the shoes of Johnny Dollar. Under the direction of Jack Johnstone, Bailey starred as Dollar in a series of nightly serialized stories that remain some of the finest drama produced during the Golden Age of Radio. The program went back to a weekly format in September 1956, and Bailey would remain in the title role until 1960 when production moved to New York. He left a run of nearly five hundred episodes and cemented himself as the definitive version of the character.

Unlike some of his peers from the era, Bailey didn’t go on to a long television career outside of a handful of appearances in the 1960s. Struggles with alcoholism and later a stroke kept him off of the screen. Fortunately for us, there are dozens of hours of his memorable performances as two of radio’s best detectives.

Jun 13, 2017
Happy Birthday, Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone, the debonair British actor and one of Hollywood’s most famous performers, was born June 13, 1892. With hundreds of stage and screen roles to his credit, Rathbone is most famous for his fourteen films and hundreds of radio episodes as the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Rathbone made a splash in Hollywood in a number of dashing roles through the 1930s, including the dastardly Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood, suave detective Philo Vance in The Bishop Murder Case, and Captain Pasquale in The Mark of Zorro.

In 1939, he first played Sherlock Holmes and kicked off a seven year run as Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective that included fourteen films and hundreds of radio performances. Rathbone was always paired with his old friend Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson both in radio recreations of the Doyle stories and in Universal B-movies that brought Holmes and Watson into the twentieth century. For many, Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes, and his films have continued to entertain mystery fans since their release seventy-five years ago. Ultimately, frustration with typecasting led Rathbone to bid farewell to Sherlock Holmes in 1946.

Rathbone returned to the detective well in his post-Holmes years; first, he starred as Inspector Burke on Scotland Yard, and later he played himself as an amateur sleuth on Tales of Fatima. Both shows were short-lived, and they did not come close to eclipsing the image of Holmes in the public’s eye.

In later years, he appeared opposite Danny Kaye in The Court Jester and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No Angels. Rathbone co-starred with Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror, and he made memorable recordings of poems by Edgar Allan Poe and “The Night Before Christmas.” Rathbone passed away in 1967, nearly twenty years after he hung up Holmes’ deerstalker cap.

Jun 13, 2017
Happy Birthday, Gerald Mohr

Gerald Mohr, who possessed one of radio’s greatest voices, was born June 11, 1914. His powerful baritone delivery made him a natural for radio detective work, and he may be best remembered today for his three year stint on the air as Philip Marlowe.

Mohr made the leap from medical school to broadcasting when an announcer told him he had a perfect radio voice. After a stint in the service during World War II, Mohr began working both on radio and in B-movies. He starred in three films as Michael Lanyard, aka “The Lone Wolf” and narrated the early television episodes of The Lone Ranger. On radio, Mohr could be heard in supporting roles on Rogue’s Gallery, Our Miss Brooks, and Suspense. He was a frequent guest star on The Whistler, usually playing flashy criminals or con men. But his signature radio role would come when he played a character on the right side of the law.

From 1948 to 1950, Mohr starred as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe on radio. He starred in over 100 episodes as the tough but heroic private eye and gave the Golden Age of Radio one of its greatest detectives. Even Chandler himself was a fan, describing Mohr as “absolutely tops.” Mohr’s delivery and booming voice were perfect for the show’s signature introduction: “Get this and get it straight. Crime is a sucker’s road, and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison, or the grave!”

In January 1951, Mohr had a short stint as Archie Goodwin, the glib, skirt-chasing leg man to Nero Wolfe (Sydney Greenstreet) in The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe. A few months later, he was back on CBS for a final run of 11 episodes as Philip Marlowe. Later, in 1955, he recorded an audition program as Johnny Dollar before that series’ revival as a nightly serial.

Mohr worked in television on shows like Maverick and Perry Mason, and he continued to flex his voice acting muscles in cartoons as Green Lantern and Mr. Fantastic. He passed away at the too-young age of 54, but he leaves a body of work and radio performances that can still be enjoyed today.

Jun 11, 2017
Episode 227 - One Mohr for the Road (Philip Marlowe & Nero Wolfe)
02:04:06

From 1948 to 1951, Gerald Mohr turned in a star performance as Raymond Chandler's L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe and gave us one of the best detectives of the radio era. But there was more to Mohr than his celebrated turn as "crime's most deadly enemy." In honor of his birthday, we'll hear Gerald Mohr in two radio mysteries as Marlowe - "The Long Rope" (originally aired on CBS on February 5, 1949) and "The Strangle Hold" (originally aired on CBS on October 15, 1949). We'll also hear him as Archie Goodwin (opposite Sydney Greenstreet) in "The Case of the Killer Cards" from The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (originally aired on NBC on January 12, 1951). And - as a bonus - we'll hear Mohr playing for laughs as French teacher Jacques Monet in an episode of Our Miss Brooks from October 9, 1949.

Jun 11, 2017
Episode 226 - Hoodwinked (Casebook of Gregory Hood)
01:03:25

Join San Francisco importer and amateur detective Gregory Hood as he shares two adventures from his casebook. Gale Gordon and Elliott Lewis star as Hood, a brilliant gentleman detective whose cases intersect with his search for rare treasures from all around the world. Created by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green (radio writers for Sherlock Holmes), Hood is a worthy addition to the world of radio sleuths. We’ll hear “Death from the Red Capsule” (originally aired on Mutual on July 22, 1946) and “The Eloquent Corpse” (originally aired on Mutual on October 14, 1946).

Jun 04, 2017
"The story you're about to hear is true..."

On June 3, 1949, Dragnet premiered on NBC and ushered in a new era of crime drama. Created by Jack Webb, the series dramatized actual cases of the Los Angeles Police Department and did so with radio’s most realistic depiction of police procedure. Webb, in partnership with LAPD technical advisers, brought radio listeners deep into the world of the police with a matter-of-fact, underplayed style.

Jack Webb himself was the chief innovator of that style as the no-nonsense Sgt. Joe Friday. Friday was a cop’s cop, a determined public servant committed to keeping the streets of the city safe. Webb brought Dragnet to the big and small screens in the 1950s, and he resurrected the show for a late 1960s run.With its focus on the mechanics of crime-solving (including forensics, interrogation, and stake-outs) the influence of Dragnet can still be felt in police dramas today.

During the shoot of He Walked By Night (1948), Webb struck up a friendship with the film’s Los Angeles Police Department technical adviser, Sgt. Marty Wynn.  The two discussed how police officers were depicted in films and on the radio and how far that portrayal strayed from the real day-in, day-out work of a policeman.  Webb thought that a realistic representation of policework could be a hit.  Convincing a network would prove to be tricky.

NBC wasn’t enthusiastic when Webb pitched them the series.  Police shows were a dime a dozen on radio, and the network did not see the merits of adding one more to its schedule.  Two things helped sell the series.  The first was Webb himself, who in 1949 had returned to Pat Novak for Hire for a run over ABC’s national network and was making a name for himself.  The second was the network’s recent loss of big stars like Jack Benny, Red Skelton, and George Burns and Gracie Allen to CBS in a raid of comedic talent.   In need of programming, NBC commissioned an audition program.  Webb and writer James Moser already had a script prepared, but they needed the cooperation of the Los Angeles Police Department.  Without it, Webb couldn’t hope to leverage the department’s case files and official procedures.  Then-Chief of Police Clemence B. Horrall granted permission with two conditions.  First, the LAPD would get to okay the program’s sponsors.  Second, the department would not be portrayed in an unflattering light (as a result, certain practices - including allegations of department racism and corruption - were not addressed on the series).

In the program’s first years, Barton Yarborough co-starred as Sgt. Ben Romero, Friday’s partner on the force. When Yarborough passed away unexpectedly in 1951, Friday was partnered with a handful of officers before being paired with Frank Smith (voiced by former child actor Ben Alexander). Friday and Smith would remain on the job through the end of the radio series and on into the television run.

Webb said goodbye to Dragnet to focus on his production company and his work as a producer of new shows.  In the 1960s, however, he worked with NBC to revive the series for a four season run.  At the time, Ben Alexander was unavailable and actor Harry Morgan (Col. Potter on M*A*S*H*) played Friday’s new partner Bill Gannon.  Another revival was planned for the early 1980s but was scrapped when Webb passed away.  The man who had done so much to change the perception of police officers was honored by them; Joe Friday’s badge number was retired and the LAPD flew its flags at half staff after Webb’s passing.  Since then, Dragnet has endured in reruns, remakes, and the style that Jack Webb took a gamble on nearly 70 years ago.

Jun 03, 2017
Crack Open the Casebook

“Petri Wine brings you…The Casebook of Gregory Hood!”

Sam Spade and Pat Novak weren’t the only detectives to call San Francisco home during the Golden Age of Radio. But while they had the seedier sides of the city covered, Gregory Hood’s beat brought him to the finest restaurants, swankiest nightclubs, and poshest museums of the city of the Golden Gate. Though not a hard-boiled, two-fisted detective, Gregory Hood had a keen eye and a knack for getting into trouble…even if his day job was imports and not investigations.

Gregory Hood was an unlicensed, untrained detective, though he had an extensive knowledge of several fields including art, antiques, wines, and fine foods. While those may not be the qualities associated with a master sleuth, most of Hood’s cases came to him in the course of his work, and they often involved an artistic angle. He had no fans on the police force; as an unlicensed amateur, he was even worse than a private eye butting in on their territory. However, he had a confidant and frequent partner in Sanderson “Sandy” Taylor, the attorney for Gregory Hood Importers and a close friend. Sandy was along for the ride to provide back-up (and to stand in as an audience surrogate when Hood explained how he’d cracked the case).

If the relationship between Greg and Sandy sounds similar to the partnership between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, it’s no coincidence. The Casebook of Gregory Hood was the brainchild of Anthony Boucher and Dennis Green, the scriptwriters for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as a summer replacement for Holmes and Watson. Hood and Holmes shared not only writers, but also a sponsor (Petri Wine - “the family that took time to bring you good wine”); an announcer (actor and occasional pitchman Harry Bartell); and a format where the announcer would visit the characters and hear about their latest adventure.

As an unofficial detective, Gregory Hood usually came by his cases by accident. Dinner parties ended in murder; rare antiques were stolen; and one mystery began when Greg and Sandy were on a camping trip in the mountains. In the episode we’ll hear this week, pulling over to aid a man in distress on the side of the road lands Hood in a murder case.

Radio’s first Gregory Hood was Gale Gordon, an actor better known today for his comedic chops than dramatic roles. He played Mayor LaTrivia on Fibber McGee & Molly; Mr. Scott, the sponsor’s representative on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show; and most famously the stuffy Principal Osgood Conklin on Our Miss Brooks. Gordon co-starred on My Favorite Husband, the radio show that spawned I Love Lucy on television. He was Lucille Ball’s first choice to play Fred Mertz, but his commitment to the Our Miss Brooks TV series cost him the job. He’d go on to work with Ball in her later TV shows The Lucy Show (as her harried boss, Mr. Mooney), Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy. Gordon was a master of the comedic slow burn, and he may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of a radio detective. But in addition to those laugh roles, he starred as The Whistler on radio, and he was the first actor to portray Flash Gordon on the air. Gordon could convey the sophistication and charm of Gregory Hood, but he could also get across the resolve and determination to close a case. Like Jackson Beck’s Philo Vance, Gregory Hood was a man who appeared deceptively harmless to his enemies only to later reveal a sharp mind and a nose for information.

Gordon played Gregory Hood for the first 17 episodes of the program. During that run, Sandy Taylor was played by several actors, including Bill Johnstone (Lt. Guthrie of The Line-Up) and Howard McNear. When Gordon stepped out, Elliott Lewis assumed the title role. Lewis was still a few years away from directing Broadway is My Beat and Suspense. He was about to begin his role of ne’er-do-well sidekick Frankie Remley on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show; ironically, his Remley and Gordon’s Scott would frequently feud on that program in what amounted to fights Gregory Hood had with himself. Lewis kept the role for the duration of the program’s run on the Mutual network. The program came back for a 1950-1951 run on ABC with Jackson Beck and other actors taking on the role.

Gregory Hood is a classic example of the gentleman detective, a character just as important to crime fiction as his hard-boiled brother. Pat Novak and Sam Spade covered the waterfront, but Gregory Hood could be counted on to detect the clues and crack the cases among society’s upper crust.

Jun 03, 2017
Episode 225 – Dashiell’s Detectives (Suspense & Screen Guild Theatre)
01:04:09

In honor of Dashiell Hammett’s birthday, we’re saluting the master of hard boiled mystery with radio adaptations of two of his stories. First, Suspense – “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills” – presents John Payne and Frank McHugh in the small-town murder mystery “Two Sharp Knives” (originally aired on CBS on June 7, 1945). Then, the big screen cast reunites for a radio recreation of The Maltese Falcon. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet star in this version from The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre (originally aired on CBS on September 20, 1943).

May 28, 2017
Episode 224 - Burr in the Saddle (Pat Novak, Johnny Dollar, & Fort Laramie)
01:32:29

Before he achieved TV immortality as Perry Mason, Emmy Award-winner Raymond Burr could be heard on radio in a number of detective and crime dramas. In honor of what would have been the legendary actor’s 100th birthday, we’ll hear Burr in three of his old time radio performances. First, he’s Inspector Hellman, the bull-headed thorn in the side of Pat Novak For Hire. Burr co-stars with Jack Webb in “Marcia Halpern” (originally aired on ABC on February 27, 1949). Then, Burr goes bad in “The Henry J. Unger Matter” (originally aired on CBS on July 20, 1950), an adventure of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar starring Edmond O’Brien. Finally, we’ll head west to hear Burr as Lee Quince, captain of cavalry, in “Playing Indian” (originally aired on CBS on January 22, 1956).

May 21, 2017
Episode 223 - Pyramid Schemes (Rocky Jordan)
01:04:35

You can always find mystery and adventure at the Café Tambourine, the Cairo nightclub run by American ex-pat and amateur detective Rocky Jordan. Jack Moyles stars as Jordan, a combination Sam Spade and Rick Blaine who’s trying to make an honest dollar in a den of thieves. Rocky investigates crimes and capers through the bazaars and back alleys of Cairo. We’ll hear “The Big Ditch” (originally aired on CBS on June 19, 1949) and “Cairo Vendetta” (originally aired on CBS on August 14, 1949).

May 14, 2017
Episode 222 - Ford Theater (Christopher London)
01:02:51

Glenn Ford travels the world as freelance private eye Christopher London, a radio detective with the international beat of a secret agent. The character was created by Erle Stanley Gardner, the author who gave the world Perry Mason, and had it not been for Ford's success on the silver screen, we might have had a long run of globetrotting adventures to enjoy. We'll hear Ford as London in “The Terrible Price of Sugar" (originally aired on NBC on February 26, 1950) and “The System – A Code for Murder” (originally aired on NBC on May 29, 1950).

May 07, 2017
Episode 221 - The Wright Stuff (Sherlock Holmes & Pursuit)
01:03:51

A master of dialects and accents, the British-born Ben Wright appeared all over the dial during the Golden Age of Radio and he could convincingly play characters from all around the world. He usually worked in supporting roles, but he had time in the spotlight as two old time radio detectives. We'll hear him as Sherlock Holmes in "The Singular Affair of the Ancient Egyptian Curse" (originally aired on ABC on March 10, 1947). Then on Pursuit, he's Inspector Peter Black in an Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast of "Pursuit at the Vicarage."

Apr 30, 2017
"There's just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers..."

One of radio’s finest dramas rode into town on April 26, 1952 with the premiere broadcast of Gunsmoke. The series was created at the request of CBS president William Paley who wanted a “Philip Marlowe in the old West.” After the idea kicked around without gaining any traction, producer/director Norman Macdonnell and writer John Meston developed their idea for a Western made for adults, without the simple “good guys vs. bad guys” feel of The Lone Ranger and other programs. Macdonnell and Meston created Gunsmoke, the story of US Marshal Matt Dillon - “the first man they look for and the last they want to meet.” Dillon wasn’t a white hat hero - he was a man trying to put his violent past behind him as he fought to keep the peace in Dodge City, Kansas. 

John Meston's writing was hailed by producer/director Macdonnell, and Meston would go on to write 183 radio episodes and 196 television episodes of Gunsmoke. Meston was keen to avoid the traits of the stereotypical western hero in his depiction of Dillon, saying “Life and his enemies have left him looking a little beat-up. There’d have to be something wrong with him or he wouldn’t have been hired on as a United States marshal in the heyday of Dodge City, Kansas.”

William Conrad won the role of Dillon, and he gave the character a weary humor but an absolute fury when needed. Supporting Conrad was one of radio’s greatest supporting casts. Parley Baer was Chester Proudfoot, Dillon’s amiable deputy. Howard McNear was “Doc” Adams, the town physician with a ghoulish demeanor (and, as one episode revealed, a past in Richmond, Virginia involving a duel with a romantic rival). Georgia Ellis was Kitty Russell, proprietor of Dodge’s Long Branch Saloon, as well as a friend, confidant, and lover of Matt Dillon. The relationship between Kitty and William Conrad's Matt Dillon was a key component of the show. Though her true profession was never explicitly stated on the show, in a 1953 interview, producer/director Norman Madconnell said "Kitty is just someone Matt has to visit every once in a while. We never say it, but Kitty is a prostitute, plain and simple." But their relationship was more than what it appeared to be. As Ellis herself said "There was no forgiveness to be given because I don't think Kitty was available to anybody but Matt."

Supporting roles were filled out by some of the best actors in Hollywood radio, many of whom had worked with Macdonnell in other shows like Escape and Philip Marlowe - John Dehner, Larry Dobkin, Harry Bartell, Vivi Janiss, Jeanette Nolan, and more. The landscape of Dodge City and its saloons and jail cells was created by Ray Kemper. Kemper’s sounds were as essential a part of that program’s success as the acting and the writing. Dodge City came to life with the sounds generated by Kemper and his effects team. To create the sound of a beer being poured at the Long Branch Saloon, a warm can of soda was used. Old microphone cable was twisted together to make the sound of a man mounting his saddle. The sound men are often the unsung heroes of old time radio, and Ray Kemper was one of the finest.

The series presented the grim realities of the west - sickness, death, loneliness - more than any program that came before. Matt Dillon wasn't an infallible hero; he struggled with doubt and disillusionment, and he didn't always get his man. the series paved the way for the new genre of mature Westerns on radio, and it spawned a television adaptation that ran for twenty seasons on CBS. The radio cast lobbied to reprise their roles, but the core characters were recast; even Norman Macdonnell was initially passed over for the TV show; he eventually came on board in 1956, and he guided the program to the number one rating from 1957 until 1961. Today, the radio Gunsmoke (which ran from 1952 to 1961) stands as one of the finest dramatic programs from the Golden Age of Radio.

Apr 26, 2017
"Hello, there - this is Diamond..."

“I was sitting in my office shooting paper clips at a King size horse fly. It was a little sadistic but he was bigger than I was. Well, about the time I had him down on his knees begging for mercy, the door opened…” (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)

There’s nothing in Dick Powell’s early career to suggest he was destined to play hard-boiled private eyes.  Had his bosses at Warner Brothers had their way, he’d have stayed in the song-and-dance roles on which he built his career.  But thanks to a gamble by a director, Powell kicked off a new chapter to his career and the result were some great radio shows, including one of the medium’s best - Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

Powell got his start in Hollywood in the 30s as a singer in Warner Brothers musicals, including 42nd Street, and On the Avenue.  He was frequently cast in the role of a boyish crooner, even as he approached his 40s.  Despite his success, Powell was eager to expand into other roles.  His efforts were resisted by Warner Brothers, who wanted to keep Powell right where he was, even if he thought it was the wrong place to be.  He pursued the lead role in Double Indemnity, but it ultimately went to another actor pegged in “nice guy” roles - Fred MacMurray. 

But later in 1944, RKO and director Edward Dmytryk gave Powell the role he’d been waiting for - Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, the film adaptation of the Marlowe novel Farewell, My Lovely.  The film was a success, and Powell received rave reviews for his performance.  In a flash, he had shed the crooner image he’d been desperate to shake and he embarked on the next stage of his career.

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Powell recreated his role as Marlowe on the June 11, 1945 Lux Radio Theater broadcast of Murder, My Sweet, and he starred as private detective Richard Rogue in Rogue’s Gallery from 1945 to 1946.  While it was a fine series, it failed to stand out from the crowd of hard-boiled private eyes littering the airwaves in the postwar years.  For his next radio effort, Powell wanted to “make something a little bit different of a standard vehicle.”  He recorded an audition show as “the man with the action packed expense account,” Johnny Dollar, but he passed on the series for a show that sprang from the mind of Blake Edwards.  Edwards would later create the outstanding police procedural The Line-Up for radio, develop Peter Gunn for television, and would become a celebrated writer and director of film arguably most famous for the Pink Panther film series with Peter Sellers.

Powell and his producer, Don Sharp, asked Edwards if he had any ideas for a vehicle for Powell.  Edwards said he did (a lie), and went home to write what would become the pilot for Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  In Edwards’ original script, Diamond was a former OSS agent; he would evolve into an ex-cop.  One trait he would retain as the script evolved was that Diamond was as quick with a quip as he was with his fists.  This played to Powell’s natural comedic strengths, and it helped to give the show a unique voice in the sea of detective programs from the era.  Unlike other radio shamuses, Diamond would keep up a friendly relationship with his old colleagues on the force - Lt. Walt Levinson, his former partner; and the oafish Sgt. Otis Ludlum, the long-suffering butt of Diamond’s jokes.  Diamond flirted with every skirt that came through his office door, but he only had eyes for his Park Avenue girlfriend, Helen Asher.  Shows would often close at her apartment, where Diamond would sum up his case and (in a nod to Powell’s old career) Helen might coax him to do a little singing.

Richard Diamond, Private Detective premiered on NBC on April 24, 1949.  Powell was supported by Virginia Gregg as Helen; Ed Begley as Levinson; and Wilms Herbert doing double duty as Sgt. Otis and as Helen’s butler, Francis.  Joseph Kearns, Peggy Webber, Bill Johnstone, Jack Kruschen, and other West Coast actors filled out the cast.  Later in the show’s run, Frances Robinson would take over the role of Helen, and Ted de Corsia, Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), and Alan Reed (Fred Flinstone) would rotate in and out as Levinson. 

The show ran without a sponsor for the first year before being picked up by the Rexall Drug Company (“Good health to all from Rexall!”) in June 1950.  In January 1951, the show switched networks and picked up Camel cigarettes as its new sponsor.  The show took its final bow on June 27, 1952 (although repeats popped up in the summer of 1953).  Powell pulled the plug on the show as he entered a third phase of his career as a successful director and producer.

It was in this capacity that Powell brought Richard Diamond to television in 1957 for a four-season run starring David Janssen in the title role, minus the crooning of the radio series.  Janssen would later star as Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive.  The Diamond TV show is perhaps best known today for its character of Diamond’s secretary, Sam, who was only shown from the waist down to show off her legs.  The first actress to furnish Sam’s legs was a young Mary Tyler Moore.

Apr 24, 2017
Episode 220 - Diamond is Forever (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)
01:03:14

For one hundred dollars a day plus expenses, Richard Diamond will tackle any case. By the time it’s over, he’ll have used his fists, his gun, his wits, and his pipes as he croons a tune to his girlfriend. Dick Powell stars as the singing detective in one of radio’s best mystery shows. We’ll hear him in a pair of episodes – “The Betty Moran Case” (originally aired on NBC on May 29, 1949) and “The Cathy Victor Case” (originally aired on January 15, 1950).

Apr 23, 2017
Happy Birthday, Al Hodge

Actor Al Hodge was born April 18, 1912. He made a name for himself as two famous heroes - as Captain Video on television and The Green Hornet on radio. When he wasn’t starring as Britt Reid on WXYZ in Detroit, Hodge worked as a disc jockey, a football announcer, and a producer of other shows on the station, including The Lone Ranger. Hodge was radio’s longest-running Hornet, and its his voice that may be most associated with the character.

In 1950, he took over the role of space ranger Captain Video and played the part on the DuPoint Network until 1955. Outside of that series, he could be seen on Naked City, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and more.

Apr 18, 2017
Happy Birthday, Joan Alexander

For multiple generations of kids - those who listened on radio and saw the theatrical cartoons and later those who tuned in for the Filmation TV series - Joan Alexander was the voice of Lois Lane. Born April 16, 1915, she was a model and an actress touring with the Yiddish theater before she got into radio. Her birth name was Louise Abrass; she took the first name Joan after big screen star Joan Crawford.

Joan Alexander worked extensively on the air with major roles on several daytime soaps like Lone Journey, Light of the World and This Is Nora Drake. She was in the "girl Friday" business for a pair of radio detectives as Della Street on Perry Mason and Ellen Deering, secretary to Jackson Beck's Philo Vance. Elsewhere, she could be heard on Dimension XCrime ClubBarrie Craig, and more.

But it's the role of Lois Lane, tough, resourceful reporter, for which Joan Alexander is best remembered. She was the third actress to play the role, but she was cast early in the run and made the part her own. Alexander would co-star with Clayton "Bud" Collyer (voice of Clark Kent and Superman) in over 1,600 radio episodes. The two also voiced their characters in the popular (and still riveting, even today) Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios and released theatrically. From 1940 until 1951, Joan Alexander gave voice to one of the most well-known comic book characters of all time, and she helped to cement the character of Lois as a heroine in her own right. Almost every subsequent portrayal of the star reporter owes something to Alexander's performance.

Bud Collyer loved working with her, telling a reporter that "Joan is one of those rare actresses -- especially in radio where you can't be seen and have to depend entirely on voice -- who can go in on something cold and her instincts are so right as an actress that without even a rehearsal or a read-through, she is right." The two reunited in 1966 as Lois and Clark in The New Adventures of Superman, an animated Saturday morning series produced by Filmation. 

Apr 16, 2017
Episode 219 – The Five Nights a Week Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)
01:14:58

Back in 1956, audiences had to wait a day in between installments of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and an entire week to hear how the insurance investigator would close the case. Today, we’ll hear a complete five-part mystery starring Bob Bailey as “the man with the action-packed expense account.” As Dollar, Bailey travels the world in “The Star of Capetown Matter,” originally aired on CBS between July 16 and July 20, 1956.

Apr 16, 2017
Out of the Fog

“Out of the fog, out of the night, and into his American adventures comes…Bulldog Drummond!”

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The idea of the gentleman detective conjures up images of smoking jackets and walking sticks: characters like Philo Vance who were as handsome as they were insightful. Captain Hugh Drummond broke that mold. Created by H.C. McNeile, the detective and adventurer is a powerfully built hulk of a man with a face that led to his nickname - “Bulldog.” A veteran of World War I, Drummond was a crack shot, good with his fists, talented at poker, and hungry for thrills and excitement. He became one of the most popular sleuths of early Hollywood and the success he enjoyed led to a stint fighting evildoers on the radio.

McNeile introduced Drummond first in a story in The Strand. He later reworked the character for a 1920 novel. Like George Valentine, Drummond found post-war life to be dull and took out an advertisement in search of adventure wherever it could be found. His ad memorably read: “Demobilised [sic] officer, finding peace incredibly tedious, would welcome diversion. Legitimate, if possible; but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection. Excitement essential.” The ad is answered by a young woman concerned for her father’s safety, and she leads Drummond to a Communist plot to take over England. His client, Phyllis Benton, became Mrs. Drummond, and the mastermind of the plot, Carl Peterson, became Bulldog’s arch nemesis. McNeile went on to write ten Drummond novels, five short stories, and three plays before his death in 1937. McNeile’s friend Gerald Fairlie picked up the mantle and wrote an additional seven Drummond novels between 1937 and 1957. The character proved very popular in England and influential to boot: Ian Fleming stated that James Bond was Bulldog Drummond from the waist up and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer below.

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After two silent films in the early 1920s, Bulldog Drummond was released as a talkie in 1929. Ronald Colman earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Drummond, and the film was hailed by critics. Colman’s portrayal of Drummond as debonair and dashing eventually supplanted the rougher around the edges character of McNeile’s books; the subsequent films (including a second turn by Colman in 1934) continued the characterization of Drummond as a more sophisticated gentleman adventurer. Ray Milland starred in 1937’s Bulldog Drummond Escapes before John Howard made the role his own in seven B-movies for Paramount.

It was the success of the film series that spurred interest in a radio series. Producer Hiram Brown (Inner Sanctum Mysteries, as well as another series about a dapper British sleuth - The Private Files of Rex Saunders) packaged the series. Captain Drummond came to radio in 1941 and was originally played by George Coulouris. Coulouris was a veteran of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre and he’d appeared with Welles in Citizen Kane. He starred as Drummond until March 1942 when he was succeeded by Santos Ortega. Ortega was a busy radio character actor; he played Inspector Queen on Ellery Queen, Commissioner Weston on The Shadow, and was also heard as Charlie Chan and in supporting roles on The Adventures of Superman, usually in villainous roles. Ortega stayed with the series for a year, and his replacement was another actor with a track record at radio crime-solving.

Ned Wever stepped into Bulldog Drummond’s shoes with the March 15, 1943 broadcast and he stayed with the show until 1949. Wever was a regular player on The Adventures of Superman; he played Jor-El in the series’ premiere episode and he appeared as “The Wolf,” the first villain the Man of Steel encountered on radio. Coincidentally, in another early serial, he and fellow radio Bulldog Santos Ortega played crooked mine owners who swindled their investors. Later, he played a Nazi agent (more than slightly inspired by Sydney Greenstreet’s Kasper Gutman) during the program’s memorable “Atom Man” story arc. On the right side of the law, he played Dick Tracy on radio, and his clipped, authoritative delivery was perfect for the dapper British gentleman detective as he’d been reinvented on screen and on the radio.

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The McNeile novels had introduced the character of James Denny, Drummond’s wartime batman and landlord of Drummond’s apartment building. Denny made the jump to radio, where he was reworked as Drummond’s valet and sidekick. Everett Sloane (another Mercury Theatre veteran) played Denny for much of the series, alongside Coulouris, Ortega, and Wever. The supporting casts included several great radio actors, including Jackson Beck (Philo Vance) and Mercedes McCambridge (Defense Attorney). In his radio adventures, Bulldog Drummond tackled all manner of crimes - hijackers, atomic spies, gangsters, and killers all went up against the poised captain…and lost.

Despite the character’s popularity at the time (the radio series ran until 1954, with Cedric Hardwicke in the role for the final year), Bulldog Drummond has been left behind by popular culture. Aside from a brief James Bond-inspired revival in the late 1960s, the character remains a war-years relic. It’s too bad; the B-movies (many of them available on public domain collections of mystery films) are enjoyable romps, and the radio series is a good listen. Hopefully you’ll enjoy rediscovering Bulldog Drummond or meeting him for the first time as he steps out of the fog.

Apr 13, 2017
"The most famous of all manhunters..."

“Calling Nick Carter!  Another case for Nick Carter, Master Detective.  Yes, it’s another case for that most famous of all manhunters, the detective whose ability at solving crimes is unequaled in the history of detective fiction - Nick Carter, Master Detective!”

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In 1886, readers were introduced to a brilliant detective, a master of both disguise and deduction, who tackled the cases that baffled the police.  Think you know who it is?  If you guessed Sherlock Holmes, you’re a year too early.  Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Holmes adventure was published in 1887, one year after the debut of Nick Carter, a character who went from dime novels to pulp magazines, and then to film and later radio.  Though not as well known today, Nick Carter enjoyed a long career as one of America’s most celebrated detectives.

Carter’s first adventure was “The Old Detective’s Pupil,” which appeared in the September 18, 1886 issue of Street & Smith’s New York Weekly.  Street & Smith were one of the largest publishers of dime novels in the country; in fact, the plot of the first Nick Carter story was dreamed up by Ormond G. Smith, son of one of the magazine’s founders.  Writer John Russell Coryell wrote the story and two more before he decided there was more money in writing romances.  The character was turned over to writer Frederick Rensselaer Dey, who penned a Carter novel (25,000 words) each week for seventeen years.  Carter became so popular that Street & Smith launched a separate magazine devoted to his exploits.

Nick Carter was a clean-cut, teetotaling, private detective.  He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world and possessed almost superhuman strength; he could “lift a horse with ease…while a heavy man is seated in the saddle."  Nick had been groomed for the gumshoe game from birth by his father, a famous detective named "Old Sim” Carter.  Based in a ritzy New York apartment, Nick’s cases would take him all around the world.  And he was famous all over the world, too.  In 1908, the first of three Nick Carter film serials hit French movie screens, with sequels following in 1909 and 1912.

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By 1915, the solo Nick Carter magazine had folded, but the character continued to make appearances in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine.  Later, after the company found pulp novel success with the exploits of The Shadow and others, Nick Carter was back in his own pulp magazine.  In 1939, Hollywood came calling (albeit several years after French film producers), and Walter Pidgeon starred as Nick in three movies from MGM.

When the character came to radio in 1943, it was in The Return of Nick Carter.  Those early shows tipped their hat to the character’s pulp origins with subtitled adventures (for example, “Murder in the Crypt…or Nick Carter and the Jackal God”).  Actor Lon Clark, a former opera singer, took the role of Nick and kept it until the series left the air in 1955.  His 12 years as Nick Carter are bested only by Bennett Kilpatrick’s 13 years as Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.  On radio, Carter was presented in the clean-cut mold from the pulps.  He had a fancy brownstone house with a crime lab and shooting range in the basement where he’d work out cases with his friends and colleagues Patsy Bowen and reporter “Scubby” Wilson.  They’d be called in, sometimes relcutantly, by Sgt. Mathison (affectionately known as “Matty” to Nick) on tough crimes that left the NYPD stumped.

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Clark was supported by Helen Choate (a former radio Lois Lane) and later Charlotte Manson as Patsy.  Ed Latimer provided the thick Irish brogue for Matty for much of the series.  Scripts came from Walter B. Gibson, who wrote the pulp novels and fleshed out the history of Carter’s Street & Smith stablemate, The Shadow.  Other writers on the show were Edith Meiser, who contributed scripts for Sherlock Holmes, and sci-fi author Alfred Bester.  Walter Gibson also worked on the series’ short-lived spin-off Chick Carter, Boy Detective (Chick was Nick’s adopted son who followed in the family business).

The show, later retitled Nick Carter, Master Detective, aired on the Mutual Network until September 25, 1955 - outlasting several of the better known gumshoes of the Golden Age of Radio.  When the radio series ended, Carter didn’t hang up his badge and gun.  He was resurrected in the 1960s as a James Bondian secret agent in over 200 Nick Carter - Killmaster novels.  In 1972, Robert Conrad, late of The Wild Wild West, starred as Carter in a turn of the century mystery set in the Victorian Era that would have served as a pilot for a new series.  Unfortunately, this didn’t get picked up, but Nick Carter is still kicking over a century after he first appeared in print.  His mix of brains and derring-do, with a healthy dose of pulp heroics, are well worth rediscovering or enjoying for the first time.

Apr 11, 2017
"Always ready with a hand for oppressed men and an eye for repressed women..."

“You met The Falcon first in his best-selling novels, then you saw him in his thrilling motion picture series.  Now, join him on the air when The Falcon solves…The Case of the Flaming Club!”

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Some radio detectives originated in the pages of novels and short stories, while others transitioned from the big screen to the airwaves.  In the case of The Falcon, it was a little of each as two different characters were blended into one of radio’s longest-running sleuths.

The first Falcon was introduced by Drexel Drake in a 1936 novel The Falcon’s Prey.  Drake’s Falcon, featured in multiple novels and stories, was Malcolm Wingate, a shadowy crime-fighter and Robin Hood figure born in America but raised in England.  Aided by an ex-cop nicknamed “Sarge,” the Falcon preyed on evildoers and came to the aid of the oppressed.

Drake’s Falcon predated Gay Stanhorpe Falcon, a freelance adventurer created by Michael Arlen in his 1940 short story “The Gay Falcon.”  It was this Falcon who came to the big screen in 1941 with George Sanders (fresh off a movie run as The Saint) starring as the character.  As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the movie (and its sequels) changed the character’s name to Gay Lawrence, with no explanation of how he earned the name “The Falcon.”  The Falcon of the films began as a replacement for The Saint at RKO, but he evolved into more of a classic private detective.  In fact, his third movie, The Falcon Takes Over (1942), was an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely with The Falcon subbing in for Philip Marlowe.  After four movies, Sanders had enough and his real-life brother Tom Conway took over the franchise as “Tom Lawrence” in The Falcon’s Brother, and played the role for eight more movies.

The success of the films led to a radio version in 1943.  The Falcon of the radio was a private eye named Michael Waring, neither the Drake character nor the Arlen character.  The radio series referred to the Falcon’s past in novels and in films, and Drexel Drake was credited as the character’s creator on the air.  Just to add another wrinkle to the genealogy of the character, the Waring Falcon hit the big screen in three films starring John Calvert.

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Berry Kroger was the first actor to play Waring on the air, and he was succeeded by James Meighan.  For the bulk of the run, The Falcon was played by Les Tremayne and Les Damon.  The actors shared several roles along with their first name; in addition to The Falcon, they each took a turn starring as Nick Charles in The Adventures of The Thin Man.  George Petrie, who played radio private eye Charlie Wild and District Attorney Markham on Philo Vance, was the last actor to play The Falcon on the air.

Most of the shows began with The Falcon answering a phone call from one of his many lovely female companions.  He’d politely decline their company for the evening before offering a tease of the adventure he was about to undertake.  Like his radio private eye brethren, Waring’s cases were about equally divided between clients seeking his help and the police calling him in on tough-to-crack cases.  In the early 1950s, owing to the popularity of espionage programs, The Falcon became an intelligence agent for the US Government.  His work took him overseas where he battled enemy spies with the same skills he used on gangsters back in the Big Apple.

Despite the long run of the program (The Falcon aired from 1943 until 1954 in multiple runs over NBC and Mutual), only about 100 episodes survive.  Most of them come from the Tremayne/Damon years, so listeners today can hear a mix of Falcon adventures both foreign and domestic.  With his mix of hard-boiled private eye and suave gentleman adventurer, The Falcon is a great character with whom to spend an evening.

Apr 10, 2017
Episode 218 - Big Bad Wolfe (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)
01:05:04

You need a big man to solve big crimes, and few detectives come bigger than Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. The gargantuan gourmet and orchid aficionado will crack the case as long as he doesn’t have to leave his house. For the legwork and rough and tumble elements of the job, he turns to his able assistant Archie Goodwin. Sydney Greenstreet stars as Wolfe in a pair of radio mysteries: “The Case of the Careless Cleaner” (originally aired on NBC on November 17, 1950) and “The Case of the Malevolent Medic” (originally aired on NBC on February 23, 1951).

Apr 09, 2017
"That chair-born mass of unpredictable intellect..."

“I rarely leave my house. I do like it here. I would be an idiot to leave this chair, made to fit me.” (Rex Stout, Before I Die)

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Nero Wolfe made his first appearance in 1934, and his adventures are still being enjoyed nearly eighty years later in books, TV shows, and - beginning on April 7, 1943 - radio dramas.  Not bad for a man who hated leaving his house more than nearly anything in the world.

Wolfe, the eccentric genius who weighs a seventh of a ton, was created by writer Rex Stout.  Stout made a tidy sum inventing a system to track the money school children saved in their accounts, and he used his earnings and royalties to travel the world and embark on a career as a writer.  His first Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, was published in 1934, and Stout would go on to write 33 novels and 39 stories featuring Wolfe until his death in 1975.  Over the course of the novels and stories, Stout fleshed out the character, who enjoyed fine food and good beer, tended to his orchids, and solved mysteries when he had to earn a fee, always with the aid of his assistant (and the narrator of the stories), Archie Goodwin.

Stout’s brilliant stroke was to combine two archetypes of detective fiction into one duo.  Nero Wolfe was a classic refined detective in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, right down to his eccentricities, anti-social personality, and acute agoraphobia.  He could listen to clues as they were presented to him in his drawing room and deduce the solution to a crime without ever leaving the chair especially designed for his massive weight.  At his side was Archie, a more streetwise sleuth in the mold of (though not nearly as hard-boiled) Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.  Archie carried a gun and had an eye for a blonde like his brethren, but he drank milk instead of bourbon and he had a playful demeanor - particularly with his boss and their frequent foil on the police force, Inspector Cramer. 

Wolfe came to the screen in 1934 and 1937, but it would take almost ten years for the character to make his radio debut.  From 1943 to 1944, ABC aired The Adventures of Nero Wolfe which starred J.B. Williams, Santos Ortega, and Luis Van Rooten as Wolfe during various points in the run.  A falling out between ABC and Stout’s representatives prevented the series from continuing, but a new version would premier on the Mutual Network in 1946.  Francis X. Bushman starred as Wolfe, with Elliott Lewis, a veteran radio actor who would soon take the director’s chair on Suspense, as Archie.  

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But it is the 1950 NBC series The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe that is most fondly remembered and which came the closest to capturing the essence of Stout’s stories.  First and foremost, they found an actor who could fully embody Wolfe’s larger than life persona - Sydney Greenstreet.

A longtime theater actor, Greenstreet’s big break came as Kasper Gutman (“The Fat Man”) opposite Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon in 1941 at age 62. After receiving an Academy Award nomination for the role, Greenstreet appeared in films like Casablanca, The Mask of Demetrios, and Across the Pacific.  At age 71, he was cast as Wolfe, and his trademark characteristics - arched speech, droll laugh, deliberate intonation - perfectly fit Nero Wolfe’s larger than life personality.

Over the course of the series, no fewer than six actors were heard as Archie Goodwin. Each of the first three episodes featured a different Archie: Wally Maher (October 20); Lamont Johnson (October 27); and Herb Ellis (November 10). Beginning on November 24, actor Larry Dobkin assumed the role.  Dobkin had previously been heard as Louie the cab driver on The Saint and as Detective Lt. Matthews on The Adventures of Philip Marlowe.  After eight episodes, Dobkin left and his old co-star Gerald Mohr voiced Goodwin for the next four episodes. Mohr was on a radio detective roll; he had just wrapped his two-year run as Marlowe and would return for a Marlowe summer series a few months after his gig as Archie came to a close.  Harry Bartell, a veteran of Escape and Dragnet as well as the Petri Wine announcer for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, stepped into Archie’s shoes for the final ten episodes of the series.

Why so many Archies to one Nero?  There’s no definite answer.  Some have said it was because Greenstreet was difficult to work with; others speculate the revolving door of co-stars was a sign of retooling to see if the ratings would improve.

And while the series was well done, with even Rex Stout praising Greenstreet’s performance (he was less complimentary of the program itself), it did not fare well enough in the ratings to earn a second year.  The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe wrapped up its run on April 27, 1951.  Fortunately for fans, the entire series run are available in great condition.  One can listen to the full run and hear Greenstreet lend his one-of-a-kind voice to Wolfe, and even with so many actors playing Archie Goodwin, none is sub-par.  Each brings his own style to the character while staying true to Stout’s creation.  And backing up Greenstreet and his Goodwins every week are a great cast, including Bill Johnstone as Inspector Cramer, Howard MacNear, Betty Lou Gerson, Peter Leeds, and Barney Phillips. Click here to check out some of the adventures of Nero Wolfe I've featured on the podcast, including an episode starring Francis X. Bushman as the big man.

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Apr 07, 2017
G-Men at Work

G-Man crime drama This is Your FBI premiered on April 6, 1945. Hailed as “the finest dramatic program on the air” by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the show featured dramatizations of actual Bureau case files. Of the many FBI-themed programs on the air, This is Your FBI was the only one endorsed by the agency. Hoover himself made an appearance on the program’s first episode to lend his seal of approval. (The long-running The FBI in Peace and War was based on Frederick W. Collins' book of the same name, but it was not sanctioned by the Bureau.)

The series was created and produced by Jerry Devine, a former comedy writer who switched to drama. Before he entered the world of the FBI, Devine wrote scripts for Mr. District Attorney. He was welcomed with open arms by Hoover, and he was granted a two-week crash course at the FBI academy before he launched the program. Devine stayed abreast of new developments in FBI techniques with regular visits to headquarters in Washington.

Stacy Harris (above), a frequent player on Dragnet and Gunsmoke, starred as FBI Special Agent Jim Taylor, dispatched all around the country in pursuit of fraudsters, spies, counterfeiters, and robbers. The radio’s G-men were on the air until January 30, 1953.

Apr 06, 2017
Order in the Court

On April 3, 1939, Mr. District Attorney launched his radio crusade for law and order - a campaign that would last on the air until 1952. 

The series was created by Ed Byron, a former law student who collaborated with Gang Busters creator Phillips H. Lord. Loosely inspired by New York Governor (and future legendary losing presidential candidate) Thomas E. Dewey fight against racketeers, the series chronicled the efforts of the unnamed prosecutor as he battled criminals.

For most of the run, the DA was played by Jay Jostyn, but Dwight Weist and Raymond Edward Johnson played him early in the run. Jostyn's portrayal of the upstanding district attorney was so convincing, that, according to a 1952 Radio-TV Mirror article, “He is so generally believed to be a real life lawyer that he frequently receives mail from listeners inviting him to move to certain cities where they feel crimes are going unsolved.” Vicki Vola portrayed the DA's loyal secretary Miss Miller, and Len Doyle played the DA's chief investigator Len Harrington. The trio formed one of radio's best crime-solving units, tracking down crooks played by some of the best actors in East Coast radio.

The show spawned a pair of TV shows, one featuring the radio cast and the second starring David Brian as the DA. By that time, the prosecutor had been given the name Paul Garrett, and Brian would reprise the role for a final run of syndicated radio episodes.

Apr 03, 2017
Happy Birthday, Jack Webb

Is there anybody who doesn’t know Dragnet?  Even if you don’t know the series or couldn’t pick Jack Webb out of a line-up, chances are you know the distinct “dum-da-dum-dum” opening.  Like the eerie sounds of the theme to The Twilight Zone, the opening notes of the Dragnet march have become shorthand for someone in trouble about to get busted, or the arrival of an authority figure on the scene.  This writer discovered the taut police series in between Get Smart and The Dick Van Dyke Show on Nick at Nite in the early nineties, and it wasn’t until years later that he discovered the radio series.  It’s hard for modern audiences to appreciate just how revolutionary Dragnet was when it hit radio.  The style it perfected and the approach to docudrama realism it produced can still be seen in TV procedural programs and films today, more than sixty years after it premiered.

The series was the brainchild of actor, writer, and producer Jack Webb. Born April 2, 1920, there was more to the man than Joe Friday’s no-nonsense demeanor.  Webb was a talented writer, director, and producer, a music aficionado, and - perhaps least well known - a man with a wicked sense of humor.  Along with Rod Serling and Quinn Martin, Webb was arguably one of the biggest creative forces in the Golden Age of Television, and he is undeniably a legend of the Golden Age of Radio.

Webb grew up in Los Angeles.  His father left before Webb was born, and Webb was raised by his mother and grandmother.  As a boy, Webb grew up with a love of movies and jazz music, the latter cultivated by a jazzman tenant in his mother’s rooming house.

He enlisted in the Air Force in World War II, but he did not make it through flight training (in his words, he “washed out”).  After his discharge, Webb moved to San Francisco where he got into radio.  The lack of announcers due to the war left vacancies on the schedule of ABC’s San Francisco affiliate KGO, and Webb served as an announcer, DJ, and as host of his own comedy show, The Jack Webb Show, a sketch comedy series that poked fun at current events and featured a house band playing Dixieland jazz numbers.  His comedy career on the air would be short-lived, as he turned his attention to the crime genre that would come to define his output for the rest of his career.

During his time at KGO, Webb struck up a friendship with writer Richard Breen and the two collaborated on The Jack Webb Show.  The two were approached to fill some holes in KGO’s programming schedule, and they created a character who was perfectly suited for Webb’s downbeat, naturalistic style.  He would be a detective of the hard-boiled school, operating out of an office on the San Francisco waterfront, and he would deliver some of the purplest dialogue this side of a pulp novel.

Pat Novak For Hire premiered on KGO in 1946 and was a hit almost immediately.  The combination of Webb’s voice and Breen’s words were unlike anything radio listeners had heard up until that point.  Novak was cynical and world-weary, and he had great reason to be both.  He was often double-crossed by his clients; he rarely got the girl; and he was always on the outs with the law, particularly with the block-headed Inspector Hellman.  His only friend (if you could call him that) was Jocko Madigan, an ex-doctor and full-time boozer who could come to Novak’s aid, but not without dropping a ton of unwanted tipsy advice on Novak.



Despite the success, Webb and Breen jumped ship for reasons that have never fully been explained.  ABC soldiered on with Ben Morris stepping in as the new Pat Novak, while Breen and Webb set up shop on Mutual with the very similar program Johnny Madero, Pier 23.  Listeners didn’t take to Morris in the role, and the series signed off in early 1948.  Webb continued in the detective business, and he starred for a season as Jeff Regan, Investigator for CBS before returning to Pat Novak for a national run on ABC in 1949.  It was during this period where Webb was beginning to get the ideas for what would become his signature series and role.

In 1948, Webb played the role of a crime scene technician in He Walked By Night.  During breaks in the filming, he struck up a friendship with the movie’s technical advisor, Sgt. Marty Wynn.  Webb believed there was an opportunity to dramatically depict police work in an authentic manner; most radio shows (including Webb’s own Pat Novak and Jeff Regan usually played cops as incompetent at best and corrupt at worst).  Working with Wynn and other police officers, along with writer James Moser, Webb pitched the concept to NBC.  That series would become Dragnet, and its combination of authentic cases and a “ripped from the headlines” style with Webb’s signature realistic approach made for a series that - once again - was unlike anything radio audiences had heard.

Webb starred as Sgt. Joe Friday, the epitome of a professional policeman, who rotated in and out of different divisions of the LAPD (Homicide, Narcotics, Traffic, etc.).  This allowed Webb and his team to tell a full range of stories, all taken from LAPD files.  Sometimes there was a corpse and the thrill of the hunt of a killer; in other episodes, there were stake-outs and spent shoe leather running down leads.  Through it all, Webb pushed for authenticity: “We try to make cops human beings.  We try to combine the best qualities of the men I’ve seen downtown, incorporate their way of speaking, make a composite.”

Dragnet exploded in popularity not long after it premiered in 1949.  A TV version followed in 1951 and a film version hit the big screen in 1954.  Even during this time, when he was on Dragnet twice a week on radio and TV, Webb continued to work elsewhere.  He starred in the short-lived 1951 radio crime drama Pete Kelly’s Blues, which incorporated his love of jazz into the mystery stories.

Big screen success eluded Webb, and after a few misfires at the box office in the late 1950s, he was back in television.  In 1963, he was given the reins of the private eye drama 77 Sunset Strip, which he rebranded in his own style.  The series, which had been one of the more “hip” mystery shows on TV, suffered a ratings hit as a result of the shift and was cancelled.  Fortunately for Webb, there was still a demand for his style - and his signature series.  He was approached by Universal in 1966 to develop a new Dragnet TV movie.  The product was so well received that NBC put a new Dragnet series on the air, with Webb back as Sgt. Joe Friday.  It’s this color run of Dragnet (which aired often on Nick at Nite in the early 1990s) with which Webb is most closely associated.  It also kicked off the next phase of his career, as a producer of TV content through his Mark VII production company.  In addition to Dragnet, Webb produced the squad car-based police drama Adam-12 and the EMT/paramedic series Emergency!, both of which enjoyed long runs in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  (His Adam-12 star Martin Milner got one of his first jobs on the radio version of Dragnet, playing one of Joe Friday’s young partners.)

In the early 1980s, Webb was prepping for yet another Dragnet revival, and he tapped Kent McCord of Adam-12 to play Joe Friday’s new partner.  Before the series could go into production, Webb passed away at the age of 62 from a heart attack on December 23, 1982.  In recognition of his long partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, the LAPD retired 714, Joe Friday’s badge number.  All flags in Los Angeles flew at half-staff in his honor.

One doesn’t need to look far to see Jack Webb’s legacy alive and well today.  Reality-based police procedurals cover the prime-time landscape, and the realistic style of acting he helped introduce to the mainstream has influenced generations of writers and actors.  He was a tireless professional who worked right up until the end of an unfortunately short life, but his body of work will continue to outlive him and entertain new generations of fans.

Jack Webb has made a number of appearances on Down These Mean Streets, including in this week's new episode, which spotlights the actor in his signature role of Joe Friday. Click here to check out some of his other visits to the podcast as Sgt. Friday, Pat Novak, Jeff Regan, and Pete Kelly.

Apr 02, 2017
Episode 217 – Thank God It’s Friday (Dragnet)
01:29:58

The stories you're about to hear are true as Jack Webb stars as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet. Not only did he star in the series, Webb created, produced, and set the tone for the grandfather of all police procedural dramas. Friday teams up with Sgt. Ben Romero (Barton Yarborough) and Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) in three cases dramatized from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department: "The Big Crazy" (originally aired on NBC on August 30, 1951); "The Big Little Mother" (originally aired on NBC on October 6, 1953); and "The Big Office" (originally aired on NBC on August 31, 1954).

Apr 02, 2017
Happy Birthday, Les Damon

Mike Waring – the private eye with “a hand for oppressed men and an eye for repressed women,” and Nick Charles – the retired detective and full-time boozehound. Les Damon, born March 31, 1908, gave voice to both of them during the Golden Age of Radio. Before he stepped up to the microphone, he walked the boards on stages in his native Providence, Rhode Island and – in 1934 – as an apprentice at the Old Vic in England. When he returned to the United States in 1938, Damon got into radio. Some of his earliest roles came in soap operas churned out by the factory of Frank and Anne Hummert (the prolific radio writers behind Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons).

On July 2, 1941, Damon had the unenviable task of filling William Powell’s shoes as Nick Charles when The Adventures of The Thin Man went on the air. Claudia Morgan played his wife, Nora in the series that followed Dashiell Hammett’s married detectives on new adventures. Damon and Morgan had terrific chemistry as Nick and Nora, a couple you could believe in during those very chaste days of early radio.

Damon’s stint on The Thin Man was interrupted when he was drafted in 1943. David Gothard and Les Tremayne stepped in to co-star with Claudia Morgan during the war years. After serving in the Pacific (and earning a Bronze Star), Damon returned to the role and stayed in until December 1947. Three years later in 1950, he had his second shot at radio sleuthing when he took over the title role of The Falcon. Damon starred as gumshoe Mike Waring until 1953, including a run of episodes where the Falcon traded his private eye license for the cloak and dagger world of American intelligence. The Falcon went from facing down gangsters to enemy agents abroad.

His radio detective career came full circle in 1954 when he reunited with Claudia Morgan as another pair of married sleuths – insurance investigator Pat Abbott and his wife Jean in Adventures of the Abbotts. Damon was ultimately succeeded by Mandel Kramer in the show’s short run, but he worked elsewhere on radio on many of the programs originating from the East Coast: Dimension X, X Minus One, and the later years of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense. In fact, his final radio appearance came in the June 17, 1962 episode of “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills.” He passed away just over a month later at age 54.

Mar 31, 2017
"And the Oscar goes to..."

Academy Award, one of the more prestigious Hollywood radio programs, premiered on March 30, 1946. The series presented recreations of films that had been nominated for or won - you guessed it - the Academy Award. Humphrey Bogart, Ginger Rogers, Gregory Peck, and Lana Turner were just some of the stars who appeared at the microphone to recreate their screen roles in Jezebel, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, and more.

Ultimately, that Oscar-prestige helped to spell a premature end for the series, as the cost for licensing the mentions of the Academy Awards (combined with the big salaries for the Hollywood stars) proved prohibitive for a long run. The program came to an end after only 39 episodes, despite being a hit with audiences.

We've heard a few big screen adaptations from Academy Award on the podcast: "The Maltese Falcon," featuring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet recreating their roles in Dashiell Hammett's detective drama; and a pair from Alfred Hitchcock - "Shadow of a Doubt" with Joseph Cotten in his screen role as "Uncle Charlie" and "Foreign Correspondent," with Cotten filling in for Joel McCrea as an American reporter who uncovers a deadly conspiracy in Europe.

Mar 30, 2017
Happy Birthday, Richard Denning

Actor Richard Denning was born March 27, 1914. A handsome leading man, he’s best known to old time radio fans for a pair of shows: first, he was George Cooper co-starring with Lucille Ball on My Favorite Husband. Then, he was Jerry North, amateur sleuth and half of Mr. and Mrs. North.

Denning starred in several films in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but his career was put on hiatus for his military service during World War II. Once he came home, it would be almost two years before he was offered additional film work; it was a period when Denning and his family lived in a mobile home. His career slump ended when he was cast opposite Lucille Ball in My Favorite Husband.

The series followed the comedic misadventures of Liz and George Cooper - “two people who live together and like it.” Initially the couple’s surname was Cugat, but confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat led to the name change by the 26th episode.The show was based on a pair of novels about an upper-class banker and his socialite wife. Soon into the run, to make the characters more accessible, the writers changed the Coopers to an average middle-class couple. Denning had fantastic chemistry with Lucille Ball as the titular "favorite husband" - occasionally an accomplice in his wife's crazy schemes but usually showing up for the aftermath. His quips and romantic banter with Lucy make the Coopers one of the best radio couples.

The series aired on CBS from 1948 to 1951. In 1950, CBS approached Lucille Ball about a television series, but she refused to do a show without her real-life husband Desi Arnaz playing her on-screen spouse. After much negotiation, CBS agreed. The resulting program was I Love Lucy. Many of the My Favorite Husband writers joined the staff of I Love Lucy, and several radio scripts were reworked as TV episodes. Though Richard Denning didn't make the jump to I Love Lucy, his film career had resumed by the late 1940s with appearances in several B-movie detective and sci-fi pictures.

In 1952, Denning took on the role of Jerry North, half of the popular amateur detective duo Mr. and Mrs. North. With Barbara Britton as wife Pam, Denning starred in the television adventures of the couple from 1952 until 1954. The Norths had starred in their own radio series since 1942, but on the radio they were voiced by Alice Frost and Joseph Curtin. The popularity of the TV Norths led Denning and Britton to take over the roles on radio in 1953. Jerry was a New York publisher and Pam was his eagle-eyed wife. Together, the pair had an uncanny knack for landing in the middle of murders, kidnappings, and other crimes. Unfortunately for evildoers, Pam and Jerry were no slouch in the gumshoe game - particularly Pam, who stands out as one of radio’s premiere female detectives.

After the TV series ended in 1954, Denning and Britton played the Norths on radio until 1955. In his post-North career, Denning had a major role in the Universal monster classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. He stepped back into the detective game in a single season on NBC as private eye Michael Shayne from 1960 to 1961. By 1968, Richard Denning had mostly retired from show business and was living with his wife in Hawaii. Producer Leonard Freeman offered Denning the role of Governor Paul Jameson in the Jack Lord crime series Hawaii Five-O, a recurring role that kept Denning on TV screens from 1968 until 1980.

Mar 27, 2017
Episode 216 - Eyewitness Accounts (The Line-Up)
01:05:26

Head back to a great American city and the suspects who stand in The Line-Up. Bill Johnstone is Lt. Ben Guthrie in one of radio’s best police dramas, with Wally Maher as Sgt. Matt Grebb and Jack Moyles as Sgt. Pete Carger. Each episode opens with the titular line-up, where each week listeners meet “the innocent, the vagrant, the thief, the murderer,” We’ll hear “The Case of Frankie and Joyce” (originally aired on CBS on January 4, 1951) and “The Modern Sounds Case” (originally aired on CBS on November 19, 1952).

Mar 26, 2017
Happy Birthday, Ed Begley

Actor Ed Begley was born March 25, 1901. An Oscar winner for Sweet Bird of Youth, Begley was a mainstay on the big and small screens, with credits including 12 Angry Men, The Fugitive, Billion Dollar Brain, The Wild Wild West, and more. Begley’s son, Ed Jr., has continued in the family business.

Old time radio fans may know him best as the irascible but lovable Lt. Walt Levinson on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, where he co-starred opposite Dick Powell from 1949 to 1950. The first (and best, in this writer's opinion) of the actors to play Levinson, Begley had wonderful chemistry with Dick Powell. Levinson clearly loved his old partner, but he could also be easily vexed by Diamond's wordplay and attitude. Elsewhere on the dial, he played another police confidant to a private eye - Lt. O’Hara on The Fat Man - and he starred on radio as Charlie Chan. You can hear one of his adventures as the Honolulu-based detective in Episode 145 of the podcast. Begley turned in supporting roles on The Adventures of Philip MarloweThe WhistlerTales of the Texas Rangers, and more.

Mar 25, 2017
Happy Birthday, Jack Kruschen

Actor Jack Kruschen was born March 20, 1922. Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Kruschen was a master of dialects and an incredibly versatile actor. Kruschen was a mainstay on radio: his credits include Dragnet, Gunsmoke, Night Beat, Frontier Gentlemen, Crime Classics, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Suspense, and more. Kruschen was such a ubiquitous presence on radio it would be hard to find a series where he didn’t lend his voice. On Broadway is My Beat, he played two recurring characters - the gruff Detective Muggavan and the cynical coroner Dr. Sinsky, sometimes in the same episode.

On the big screen, he picked up an Academy Award nomination for his memorable performance as Dr. Dreyfuss, Jack Lemmon’s neighbor, in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. In 1960, Kruschen told the Los Angeles Times “Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon were the best things that ever happened to me. They worked with me, helped me, brought out the ability to use whatever I have learned of my craft.”

He could also be seen in Cape Fear, McLintock!, and The War of the Worlds. On television, he appeared on Batman, Columbo, The Odd Couple, and many more. Younger audiences may remember him from his role of the Greek grandfather on Webster. Kruschen was still working well into the 1990s, with his final role coming in 1997’s Til There Was You.

Mar 20, 2017
Episode 215 - Public Enemies (Green Hornet)
56:24

Ride with newspaper publisher Britt Reid as he dons a mask to fight crime as The Green Hornet. Wanted by the police as criminals, Reid and his trusted valet Kato wage a war against racketeers and corruption. The radio adventure series spawned movie serials, a TV series, and films and it’s slated for another big screen reboot. Robert Hall stars as the Hornet in “George Haven’s Secret” (originally aired on ABC on January 22, 1946) and “A Question of Time” (originally aired on ABC on March 2, 1946).

Mar 19, 2017
Happy Birthday, Mercedes McCambridge

Academy Award winning actress Mercedes McCambridge was born March 16, 1916. Hailed as the world’s greatest living radio actress by Orson Welles, McCambridge starred in shows ranging from soap operas to prestigious dramas. She had enjoyed early success on radio on soap operas as well as in supporting roles on Suspense and The Shadow.  She worked with Welles on his Mercury Theater broadcasts and later played a small role in his classic film Touch of Evil.

McCambridge was an Oscar winner by the time she starred on radio in Defense Attorney, winning in 1949 for her performance in All the King’s Men.  She was at the height of her film career when she was cast by producer Don Sharpe in a new series he was developing about a female defense lawyer. 

Defense Attorney began as an audition show called The Defense Rests, a script by a female writer, Cameron Blake, with a lead female character (neither was all that common in the Golden Age of Radio).  The lead character of Martha Ellis Bryant was a former district attorney who had entered private practice on the other side of the aisle.  Marty’s boyfriend and occasional legman was newspaper reporter Jud Barnes (played by Howard Culver, who we heard as Ellery Queen n Episode 21), but Marty often tracked down witnesses and did most of the heavy lifting on her cases herself, often at great risk to her life

The series was initially sold to NBC as a summer replacement series, but NBC wanted the show to be produced in New York rather than on the West Coast as a cost-saving measure.  Neither McCambridge nor Culver wanted to make the cross-country trek for a summer gig.  The producers reworked the show as Defense Attorney and pitched it to ABC, who agreed to produce the show in Hollywood.  Defense Attorney premiered on July 6, 1951.  The reliable troupe of West Coast radio players filled out supporting roles, including Larry Dobkin, Harry Bartell, Jeanne Bates, and Bill Johnstone.  Tony Barrett played multiple characters but was most often heard as Lt. Ed Leebis of the police, who frequently encountered Marty and Jud during their investigations.

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The series was a hit with the public and especially with lawyers.  Mercedes McCambridge was invited to address the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in 1952, and she was honored by the National Association of Women Lawyers.  In the episode featured on the podcast this week, she receives the title of “Favorite Dramatic Actress” from the readers of Radio-TV Mirror magazine.

The series came to an end in December 1952.  There were attempts to launch a television version, but the pilot episode did not sell.  After the series ended, Mercedes McCambridge focused on her film career, eventually picking up another Oscar nomination in 1956 for Giant   Throughout her life, she struggled with alcohol and drugs, and she had periods where she did not work at all.  She almost missed out on credit for one of her most famous performances voicing the demon in The Exorcist.  It took the intervention of the Screen Actors Guild for her to receive the credit.  She was an advocate for those fighting addiction in her final years, and she passed away in 2004.

Mar 16, 2017
Happy Birthday, Georgia Ellis

Georgia Ellis was born one hundred years ago today - March 12, 1917. Though she never found big success on the big or small screens, she's a legend of the Golden Age of Radio. Ellis was heard on dozens of shows from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe to Escape to Night Beat and The Whistler, always displaying her versatility in a variety of roles. But even without all of those performances to her credit, Georgia Ellis would be a radio legend thanks to her years as Kitty Russell on Gunsmoke. From 1952 until 1962, she was a member of the core cast of radio's greatest western and one of its best dramas, and Georgia Ellis' performance as the saloon owner who carried a torch for Marshal Matt Dillon was a major part of the show's success.

Before she was introduced as Kitty, Georgia Ellis appeared in the first episode of Gunsmoke as an old girlfriend of Marshal Dillon - a woman who was also the widow of a recently murdered man. She didn't make her first appearance as Kitty until the May 10, 1952 episode. With the August 16 episode, she started receiving equal billing with the three other series leads - William Conrad, Parley Baer, and Howard McNear. She was tied to Gunsmoke before the show ever aired - Georgia Ellis co-starred with William Conrad in "Pagosa," an August 6, 1951 episode of Romance scripted by future Gunsmoke writer John Meston. The story of a new sheriff's arrival in a western town was a sort of test run by Meston for an "adult western" and both Conrad and Ellis played characters similar to those they would later portray in Dodge City.

 

The relationship between Kitty and William Conrad's Matt Dillon was a key component of the show. Though her true profession was never explicitly stated on the show, in a 1953 interview, producer/director Norman Madconnell said "Kitty is just someone Matt has to visit every once in a while. We never say it, but Kitty is a prostitute, plain and simple." But their relationship was more than what it appeared to be. As Ellis herself said "There was no forgiveness to be given because I don't think Kitty was available to anybody but Matt."

Like her radio co-stars, Georgia Ellis was given a token audition to reprise her role in the Gunsmoke TV series, but Amanda Blake was cast as Kitty. Georgia Ellis continued on Gunsmoke until the radio series aired its final episode on June 18, 1961.

Mar 12, 2017
Episode 214 - Bird on the Wing (The Falcon)
01:03:29

Private eye Michael Waring – better known as The Falcon – solved crimes for over a decade on radio. A hard-boiled hero, Waring was “always ready with a hand for oppressed men and an eye for oppressed women.” The Falcon made his way to radio after success in print and a popular series of B-movies. We’ll hear two of the Falcon’s adventures: James Meighan stars in “Murder is a Family Affair” (originally aired on Mutual on November 27, 1945); and Les Tremayne is Waring in “Murder is a Knock-Out” (originally aired on network on February 20, 1949).

Mar 12, 2017
Happy Birthday, Virginia Gregg

Virginia Gregg and Bob Bailey

Born March 6, 1916, Virginia Gregg could play a glamorous Park Avenue socialite, a demure Chinese woman in the old west, and everything in between. One of the most versatile and talented actresses working in radio (and later television), Virginia Gregg was a presence on so many of the wonderful programs of the radio era - a member of that incredible group of west coast radio players who delivered performances that brought characters to vivid life on the air.

She was born in Harrisburg, Illinois, but her family moved to Pasadena, California when she was five. Gregg was bound for a showbusiness career, albeit a musical one - she played the double bass with the Pasadena Symphony and Pops, and before she went into acting she was part of "The Singing Strings," a group whose performances were featured on the CBS and Mutual Networks.

But it was acting where she made her mark. It may be easier to comprise a list of the programs she didn't visit, as it seems Virginia Gregg covered most of the dial during the Golden Age of Radio. She did comedies (The Jack Benny Program), soap operas (One Man's Family), dramas (Dr. Kildare, Lux Radio Theatre), westerns (Gunsmoke, Frontier Gentleman), and detective shows.

Radio detective show fans will recognize Virginia Gregg as two of radio's best Girl Fridays. She played Claire "Brooksie" Brooks opposite Bob Bailey in Let George Do It, and Dick Powell crooned to her as Helen Asher in Richard Diamond, Private Detective. In the case of Richard Diamond, her versatility allowed her to double as other characters in the cast. Gregg married frequent Diamond director Jaime del Valle, and the two had three children before they divorced.

 

She appeared regularly on the 1950s and 1960s TV incarnations of Dragnet as well as the 1954 movie version. No surprise there, as Jack Webb was a huge fan, describing Gregg as "the actress' actress," and she was frequently heard on the Dragnet radio program. She made multiple appearances on Perry Mason opposite her occasional radio co-star Raymond Burr, and she was a regular presence in dozens of classic TV dramas through the 1970s - MannixHave Gun - Will TravelIronsideThe Streets of San FranciscoRawhideCannon (reuniting her with another old time radio vet - William Conrad), and many, many more.

Virginia Gregg and Raymond Burr in

Virginia Gregg worked in films as well, even though she did most of her work on the small screen. Her most famous (albeit off-screen) movie role may have been as the voice of Mrs. Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It was a role she shared with Paul Jasmin and Jeanette Nolan, another veteran radio player. Gregg was the sole performer for the voice in the sequels Psycho II and Psycho III; the latter would be her final credit before she passed away in 1986.

In a 1959 interview, Virginia Gregg said "I work steadily, but I have no identity." Old time radio fans would say she sold herself short. While she was rarely spotlighted in lead on-screen roles, the versatility she honed as a radio actor earned her a career that spanned five decades.

Mar 06, 2017
Episode 213 - Abracadabra (Chandu the Magician)
35:11

Frank Chandler learned mystical secrets in India and returned to the west as Chandu the Magician to put his newfound powers to work fighting evil. One of radio’s most popular serial adventure characters, Chandu first came to the air in 1932 and returned for a revival in the late 1940s. Aided by his niece and nephew, as well as a cast of mysterious characters, Chandu was a magical menace to evildoers everywhere. We’ll hear Tom Collins as Chandu in “The Temple at Karnak,” originally aired on Mutual on March 17, 1949.

Mar 05, 2017
Episode 212 – Murder on the Marquee (Broadway is My Beat)
01:34:14

Head back to Broadway – “the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world” – with Detective Danny Clover. Larry Thor stars as the policeman with the soul of a poet in Broadway is My Beat. From flophouses to mansions, from back alleys to the bright lights of the Great White Way, Clover investigates murder in the city that never sleeps. We’ll hear three of his mysteries: “The Robe Sash Strangler Murders” (originally aired on CBS on November 3, 1950); “The Tradewinds Murders” (originally aired on CBS on June 16, 1951); and “The Frankie Crowne Arson Murders” (originally aired on CBS on October 13, 1951).

Feb 26, 2017
Episode 211 - Strange Things (Results, Incorporated)
34:11

Big screen stars Lloyd Nolan and Claire Trevor indulge in some comedic crime-solving in Results, Incorporated. Private eyes Johnny Strange and Terry Travers will take on assignments from babysitting to hunting for ghosts in a haunted house. Undaunted, they trade quips as they follow the clues and close their cases. We’ll hear “The Last of the Bloody Gillettes,” originally aired on Mutual on December 16, 1944.

Feb 19, 2017
Episode 210 - Valentine's Day (Let George Do It)
01:05:03

Got a problem that’s too tough to handle on your own? Why not Let George Do It? Before he was “the man with the action-packed expense account,” Bob Bailey was George Valentine, the private eye who advertised that “danger is my stock in trade.” Aided by his girl Friday Claire Brooks, George found no shortage of people eager to enlist his aid in cases ranging from missing people to murder. We’ll hear “The Impatient Redhead” (originally aired on Mutual on September 6, 1948) and “Double Death” (originally aired on Mutual on October 17, 1949).

Feb 12, 2017
Episode 209 - Scott Free (Under Arrest)
32:55

Criminals beware – Captain Jim Scott won’t stop until you’re Under Arrest. TV mainstay Joe DeSantis stars as Scott in this police procedural that began as a summer replacement in 1946 but ended its radio run eight years later. We’ll hear Captain Scott solve “The Sam Carver Case” (originally aired on Mutual on February 6, 1949).

Feb 05, 2017
Episode 208 - Night Moves (Night Beat)
01:04:01

Reporter Randy Stone makes a nightly trek through the streets of the Windy City in search of stories for his column. This week, we’ll join him as he covers the Night Beat. Frank Lovejoy stars as Stone, not a professional detective but a man who nevertheless ends up entangled with cops and crooks as he works to meet his deadlines. We’ll hear “The Night Watchman” (originally aired on NBC on May 15, 1950) and “The Doctor’s Secret” (originally aired on NBC on August 21, 1950).

Jan 29, 2017
Episode 207 - Mysteries by Marlowe (Adventures of Philip Marlowe)
01:02:30

“Crime is a sucker’s road,” Philip Marlowe intoned at the beginning his radio program, “and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison or the grave.” It was a two-fisted introduction to one of radio’s best detective shows. Gerald Mohr stars as Raymond Chandler’s private eye, solving crimes from high society to skid row in Los Angeles, in a pair of radio mysteries. We’ll hear “The Pigeon’s Blood” (originally aired on CBS on June 11, 1949) and “The Angry Eagle” (originally aired on April 18, 1950).

Jan 22, 2017
Episode 206 – Ace Up His Sleeve (Cases of Mr. Ace)
33:07

George Raft made the leap from big screen gangster to radio gumshoe in The Cases of Mr. Ace. Each week, Eddie Ace paid a visit to psychologist Dr. Gayle to recount his latest adventure – adventures the good doctor used as material for her book on criminal psychology. Raft does a good job as a character on the right side of the tracks in this short-lived syndicated series. We’ll hear him in “A Man Called Judas,” a mystery with a stolen coin and stand-ins for Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet!

Jan 15, 2017
Episode 205 - Point of View (Lux Radio Theatre)
01:04:53

Robert Montgomery reprises his screen role of Philip Marlowe from his innovative adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake. The movie put the audience in Marlowe’s shoes, with the camera acting as the detective’s eyes, but the story plays better on radio; without the occasionally distracting camera gimmick, listeners can dive into the story as Marlowe hunts for a missing wife. Montgomery is joined by his screen co-stars Audrey Totter and Tom Tully in this Lux Radio Theatre adaptation from CBS on February 9, 1948.

Jan 08, 2017
Episode 204 – Holly and Homicide (The Falcon, Nick Carter, The Saint, & Sherlock Holmes)
01:57:03

Crime doesn’t take a rest during the holidays. Fortunately, radio’s best gumshoes are working on Christmas to keep the airwaves safe. In the annual “Down These Mean Streets” holiday special, we’ll hear four gumshoes and super sleuths in Christmas capers. First, Les Damon is private eye Mike Waring, aka The Falcon, in “The Case of the Unwelcome Christmas Present” (originally aired on NBC on December 24, 1950). Next, it’s “that most famous of all manhunters” – Nick Carter, Master Detective. Lon Clark is Nick in “Nick Carter’s Christmas Adventure” (originally aired on Mutual on December 25, 1943). Then, we have a Saint – not Nicholas, but Simon Templar. Vincent Price stars in "Santa Claus is No Saint" (originally aired on NBC on December 24, 1950). Finally, we head to London with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in “The Night Before Christmas” from The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (originally aired on Mutual on December 24, 1945).

Dec 21, 2016
Episode 203 - Hungry Like the Wolfe (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)
01:03:33

Private detective Nero Wolfe loves to eat, tend to his orchids, drink beer – almost anything except take on a case. But – usually at the urging of his assistant Archie Goodwin – the mountain of a man solves the most baffling cases all without leaving his home. Sydney Greenstreet stars as Wolfe with Herb Ellis as Archie in “The Case of the Dear Dead Lady” (originally aired on NBC on date) and Harry Bartell as Goodwin in “The Case of the Final Page” (originally aired on NBC on March 23, 1951).

Dec 18, 2016
Episode 202 - Party Time (I Was a Communist for the FBI)
56:15

Dana Andrews is undercover for Uncle Sam in I Was a Communist for the FBI. The big screen star plays Matt Cvetic, the real-life infiltrator who reported Communist activities to the bureau in this fictionalized version of his exploits. On radio, Cvetic puts his life on the line to thwart the diabolical plans of American communists. We’ll hear the syndicated episodes “Tight Wire” and “No Second Chance.”

Dec 11, 2016
Episode 201 – Cowboys, Cops, and Robbers (Tales of the Texas Rangers)
01:03:35

Ranger Jayce Pearson keeps the Lone Star State safe in Tales of the Texas Rangers. Joel McCrea plays Pearson in this series of true crime stories dramatized from the case files of the legendary lawmen. Whether in a police car or on his trusty horse Charcoal, Ranger Pearson tracks down the worst offenders in Texas. We’ll hear “Dead or Alive” (originally aired on NBC on September 9, 1950) and “Room 114” (originally aired on NBC on December 3, 1950).

Dec 04, 2016