Nero Wolfe and Night Beat

Nero Wolfe: The Deadly Sellout Originally Aired January 5, 1951

Mystery writer Rex Stout created fictional detective Nero Wolfe in 1934. Nero Wolfe is a big guy–5’11” tall and is frequently said to weigh “a seventh of a ton” (about 286 pounds). Due to his size, he tried to solve crime from home without visiting crime scenes. Wolfe relied on his assistant, Archie Goodwin, who did the leg work, interviewing witnesses and gathering clues for interpretation by Nero Wolfe at home. Wolfe had his definite eccentricities. Known for his particular tastes and love of gourmet food, Nero Wolfe is fed by Fritz Brenner, an exceptionally talented Swiss cook. Also an avid reader, Wolfe doesn’t have a television in his home, he doesn’t like to be called by his first name or to be touched all the while keeping a rigid schedule of eating and tending to his orchids and seems to go into a trance while he solved crime with his mind.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe made his larger than life old time radio show debut on July 5th, 1943. The detective show proved to be a natural for classic radio. The plots and verbal word-play make this really an entertaining series. Throughout the show’s run, Santos Ortega, Luis van Rooten, Francis X Bushman and Sydney Greenstreet all filled the shows (and big suit) of Nero Wolfe. A large assortment of actors played the part of Archie Goodwin. The Adventures of Nero Wolfe show stayed on the airwaves in different versions for eight years (1943 – 1951)

Night Beat brings us Mentallo, The Mental Marvel from May 1, 1951

Night Beat aired on NBC from February 6, 1950 until September 25, 1952, sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and Wheaties. Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy (originally “Lucky”) Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star, encountering criminals and troubled souls. Listeners were invited to join Stone as he “searches through the city for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness.” It is generally regarded as a “quality” show, and it stands up extremely well. Frank Lovejoy was a powerful and believable actor with a strong delivery, and his portrayal of Randy Stone as tough guy with humanity was perfect. The scripts were excellent, given that they had to cover much in a short time. There was a good supporting cast, orchestra and sound effects. “The Slasher,” broadcast on 10 November 1950, the last show of season one, has a very loosely Ripper-derived plot in which Stone searches for an artist.
Supporting actors included Joan Banks, Parley Baer, William Conrad, Jeff Corey, Lawrence Dobkin, Paul Frees, Jack Kruschen, Peter Leeds, Howard McNear (who was on EVERYTHING, it seems), Lurene Tuttle, Martha Wentworth and Ben Wright.
The format was recreated, with Lovejoy as Stone, on an episode of the television anthology series, Four Star Playhouse (“Search in the Night” airing on November 5th, 1953).

The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy


The Lone Ranger
: The Silver Spur, originally broadcast 6/08/1938

While details differ, the basic story of the origin of the Lone Ranger is the same in most versions of the franchise. Six Texas Rangers are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Barthalamo “Butch” Cavendish. Later, a Native American named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, as the man who had saved his life some time in the past. He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid’s comrades, among them Reid’s brother, Captain Daniel Steven Reid who is the Captain of the Texas Rangers. John Reid fashions a black mask using material from his brother’s vest to conceal his identity, so that Cavendish will think there were no survivors. Even after the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight evil under the guise of the Lone Ranger.

Although the Lone Ranger’s last name is given as Reid, his first name is not definitely specified. According to the story told in the radio series, the group of six ambushed Rangers was headed by Reid’s brother, Captain Dan Reid. Some later radio reference books, beginning with Radio’s Golden Age in the 1960s, claimed that the Lone Ranger’s first name was John;[14] however, both the radio and television programs avoided mentioning his first name. Fran Striker’s obituary and a Gold Key Comics retelling of the origin both stated that “Dan” was the Lone Ranger’s first name, not his brother’s.

It appears that the first use of the name “John Reid” was in a scene in the 1981 big-screen film The Legend of the Lone Ranger in which the surviving Reid digs an extra grave for himself. This gave the use of the first name John a degree of official standing, although the name “Luke Hartman” was used in the 2003 TV-movie/unsold series pilot. The name of Captain Reid’s son, the Lone Ranger’s nephew, a later character who became a sort of juvenile sidekick to the Masked Man, is also Dan Reid. (When Trendle and Striker later created The Green Hornet, they made this Dan Reid the father of Britt Reid, alias the Green Hornet, thereby making the Lone Ranger the Green Hornet’s great-uncle.

Hopalong Cassidy: Letter From Beyond the Grave from 1951 or ’52.

“Hoppy” is a fictional cowboy hero created in 1904 by the author Clarence E. Mulford, who wrote a series of popular short stories and twenty-eight novels based on the character. In his early writings, Mulford portrayed the character as rude, dangerous, and rough-talking. Beginning in 1935, the character ‒ as played by movie actor William Boyd in films adapted from Mulford’s books ‒ was transformed into a clean-cut, on-screen hero. A total of sixty-six immensely popular films were released, only a few of which relied on Mulford’s original story lines. Mulford would later revise and republish his earlier works to be more consistent with the character’s new, polished, on-screen persona.
Cassidy was played by William Boyd, James Ellison, Russell Hayden, George Reeves and Rand Brooks. George “Gabby” Hayes originally played Cassidy’s grizzled sidekick, Windy Halliday. After Hayes left the series due to a salary dispute with producer Harry Sherman, he was replaced by the comedian Britt Wood as Speedy McGinnis and finally by the veteran movie comedian Andy Clyde as California Carlson. Clyde, the most durable of the sidekicks, remained with the series until it ended. A few actors of future prominence appeared in Cassidy films, most notably Robert Mitchum, who appeared in seven of the films at the beginning of his career. George Reeves, mentioned earlier became well known for his television portrayal of Superman in the 1950s.

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George Burns and Gracie Allen Program and Richard Diamond, Private Detective

Richard DiamondGeorge Burns & Gracie Allen Program
Watching the Neighbor’s Daughter June 16, 1949
On this show, jumped-to conclusions and mistaken identities take George and Gracie on their prevalent zany course. With Bill goodwill, Rudy Vallee and Richard Crenna.

George Burns (Born Nathan Birnbaum) was the ninth of 12 children born to Louis and Dorothy Birnbaum in New York City. His father was a substitute cantor at the local synagogue but did not work very often. Nattie (as he was known to his family) started working in 1903 after his father’s death from influenza, shining shoes, running errands, and selling newspapers. When he landed a job as a syrup maker in a local candy shop at the age of seven, Nattie Birnbaum was discovered singing harmony with the Pee-Wee Quartet. George recalled, “We started out singing on ferryboats, in saloons, in brothels, and on street corners. We’d put our hats down for donations. Sometimes the customers threw something in the hats. Sometimes they took something out of the hats. Sometimes they took the hats.”

Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen, known as Gracie Allen, alleged that she was born in July of 1906. Her husband listed her birth year as 1902 but no one really knows the real date (or year for that matter) as many records were destroyed in the earthquake and great fire of April, 1906. A Search of Census records show that her birth year was more likely 1895 or 1896.
Burns and Allen weren’t afraid of pulling a stunt now and again. In 1940, Gracie announced she was running for President of the United States on the Surprise Party ticket. For this stunt, Burns and Allen did a cross-country whistlestop campaign tour on a private train, performing their live radio show in different cities. In one of her campaign speeches Gracie said, “I don’t know much about the Lend-Lease Bill, but if we owe it we should pay it.” Allen was also the subject of one of S.S. Van Dine’s famous Philo Vance mystery novels, The Gracie Allen Murder Case. Typically, she couldn’t resist posturing a classic Gracie Allen review: “S.S. Van Dine is silly to spend six months writing a novel when you can buy one for two dollars and ninety five cents.”

Richard Diamond, Private Detective:
Butcher Shop Protection 3/9/51
This series starred Dick Powell (no relation to William Powell) which aired from 1949 to 1953, first on NBC, then ABC and finally on CBS. The title character was a rather light-hearted but quick-witted detective who often ended the episodes singing to his girlfriend, Helen.
The series moved to television in 1957 and was produced by Powell’s company, Four Star Television, and ran for three years. On TV, David Janssen played a more hard-boiled private eye and his secretary renamed “Sam”, was only ever shown on camera from the waist down, most assuredly to display her beautiful legs (which belonged to Mary Tyler Moore).
Mr. Powell was married three times, his brides included Joan Blondell and June Allyson, with whom he had two children. Powell’s ranch-style house in Mandeville Canyon, Los Angeles, was used as the setting for the television show Hart to Hart.

Next Week: Your Truly, Johnny dollar

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Show #1 The Secrets of Scotland Yard and Abbott & Costello

Secrets of Scotland YardWelcome Michael’s Midnight Matinee.

Our first show, originally broadcast on 6/28/11

This week’s show features: The Secrets of Scotland Yard which is undated but probably from 1951 and The Abbot and Costello Program The Matrimonial Agency from October 26, 1944.

The Secrets of Scotland Yard starring Clive Brook originated on the Canadian Broadcasting System in 1950 and ran there until 1953. The show began a new life on Mutual in March of 1957 and ran weekly through June 12, 1958. This was not the end of the show as the University of Texas at Austin started playing reruns in 1974. I believe that this recording was made at that time.

One of the most well known and well loved comedy duos on Radio, Film or Television Abbott and Costello delighted audiences for years and continue to do so today. This show, The Matrimonial Agency is one of my very favorites.

Next Up: The Shadow and Candy Matson

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