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).

Katharine Hepburn in Little Women

This series originated on radio in the 1940s as Theatre Guild on the Air. Organized in 1919 to improve the quality of American theater, the Theatre Guild first experimented with radio productions in Theatre Guild Dramas, a CBS series which ran from December 6, 1943 to February 29, 1944.

Actress-playwright Armina Marshall, a co-administrator of the Theatre Guild, headed the Guild’s newly created Radio Department and in 1945, Theatre Guild on the Air embarked on its ambitious plan to bring Broadway theater to radio with leading actors in major productions. It premiered September 9, 1945, on ABC with Burgess Meredith, Henry Daniell and Cecil Humphreys in Wings Over Europe, a play by Robert Nichols and Maurice Browne which the Theatre Guild had staged on Broadway in 1928-29.

Within a year the series drew some 10 to 12 million listeners each week. Presenting both classic and contemporary plays, the program was broadcast for eight years before it became a television series.

In 1933, Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar in Morning Glory, as a young actress who rejects romance in favor of her career. That same year, Hepburn played Jo in the Big-screen adaptation of Little Women, which broke box-office records, and for which she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.

In 1950, Hepburn signed on to play Rose Sayer in The African Queen, a prim spinster missionary in Africa (around the time of World War I), who convinces Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-drinking riverboat captain, to use his boat to destroy a German ship. The African Queen was shot mostly on location in Africa, where almost all the cast and crew suffered from malaria and dysentery, except director John Huston and Bogart, neither of whom ever drank any water. Hepburn disapproved of the two men’s drinking and drank gallons of water each day to spite them. She wound up so sick with dysentery that, even months after she returned home, the actress was still ill. The film gave Hepburn her fifth Best Actress nomination, but she lost to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire.The trip and the movie made such an impact on Hepburn that later in life she wrote a book about filming the movie: The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, which made her a best-selling author at the age of 77.
In this version of Little Women, Hepburn plays the parts of both the Narrator and Jo.

Enjoy!

Next time: X minus One and Gunsmoke

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