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).

Fibber McGee & Molly and Boston Blackie

Chester Morris as Boston Blackie
Fibber McGee and Molly was an American comedy series which maintained its popularity over decades. It premiered on NBC in 1935 and continued until its demise in 1959. Jim and Marian Jordan, real-life husband and wife, met when they were their teens, married in 1918 and stayed together until Marian’s death in 1961. For station WMAQ in Chicago, beginning in April 1931, the Jordans and their writer Donald Quinn created Smackout, a 15-minute daily program which centered on a general store and its proprietor, Luke Grey (Jim), a storekeeper with a penchant for tall tales and a perpetual dearth of whatever his customers wanted: He always seemed “smack out of it.” Marian Jordan portrayed both a lady named Marian and a little girl named Teeny, as well as playing musical accompaniment on piano. During the show’s run, Marian Jordan voiced a total of 69 different characters in it. Smackout was picked up by NBC in April 1933 and broadcast nationally until August 1935.
The Fibber McGee & Molly show made good use of running gags, probably the most well remembered being McGee’s junk-filled closet, the contents of which always crashed down on anyone that happened to open the door.
This show, Big Money for Old Books, centers around Fibber’s Horatio Alger collection and originally aired 2/17/1948.

Boston Blackie: Polly Morrison’s Gun Collection
After several months of shows, I thought it was time to “come home” and present home town-guy Boston Blackie on the Matinee. Boston Blackie is old, much older than even the radio and film series which many of us have seen and heard. The original tales of Blackie were written by Jack Boyle in the early 20th Century. “The Price of Principle” was a short story in the July 1914 issue of The American Magazine. Boyle’s character also turned up in Cosmopolitan. In 1917, Redbook published the novelette “Boston Blackie‚Äôs Mary,” and the magazine brought the character back with “The Heart of the Lily” (February, 1921). Boyle’s stories were collected in the book Boston Blackie (1919), which was reprinted in 1979 by Gregg Press. There were even early film adaptations of the stories done in the silent era. Columbia Films revived the Boston Blackie film series in 1941 with a 58 minute story starring Chester Morris, who plays Blackie in our show tonight. The radio series began in 1944 as a summer replacement for Amos & Andy on NBC. It was revived on Mutual (starring Richard Kollmar) in April of 1945 and ran until 1949. But even then, Blackie was not finished as the show was developed into a television series in 1951 which ran for 58 episodes. As late as 2009, Boston Blackie is still thrilling audiences, this time in Graphic novel format. Boston Blackie: Bloody Shame (Moonstone Noir) by Stefan Petrucha (Author), Kirk Van Wormer (Illustrator), Chris Burnham (Illustrator) is available today at many bookstores and online. This episode originally aired on July 28th, 1944.

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