The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio The great ones are back in action.

31May/120

EP0679: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger

Holmes investigates a case of treachery and death at the circus.

Original Air Date: June 20, 1948

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30May/120

EP0678: Let George Do It: No Escape from the Jungle

Bob Bailey

George is hired by an unassuming looking man to find a travel expert. George finds him and his client then informs him that he intends to kill the expert.

Original Air Date: March 26, 1951

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29May/120

EP0677: Crime on the Waterfront: Heiress Cruise

Mike Wallace

Lou Kagle is asked to look after an heiress on a cruise ship who has received threats of being kidnapped.

Audition Date: March 1, 1949

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28May/120

Kate Smith Sings God Bless America for First Time

The first performance ever from November 10, 1938. In honor of America's Veterans on Memorial Day.

Filed under: Video No Comments
28May/120

EP0676: Barrie Craig: Moving Target

William Gargan

Barrie is hired by a man who has become suspicious because catastrophe seems to follow him wherever he goes in scouting hotels in obscure locations around the world.

Original Air Date: February 16, 1955

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27May/120

Radio Review: The Jumbo Fire Chief Program

Jimmy Durante with Jumbo in the 1962 film
In 1935, NBC brought Broadway and Jimmy Durante to radio listeners across America with its Jumbo Fire Chief Program.

The radio program was based on Billy Rose's Jumbo which told the trial of the John Considine Wonder Show, a circus having to dodge attempts by a U.S. Marshal to sell off the show to pay off back taxes, which the circus owed due to its overzealous promoter, Claudius "Brainy" Bowers (Durante) who overstated the show's profits, thus bringing the government down on their back.

The original broadway show was a spectacular. It was was written by Rodgers and Hart and featured classic songs such as, "The Circus is on Parade," "My Romance," and "Over and Over Again." The Digital Deli describes the grand setting:

The music was provided by no less than Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, carried its own glee club--Charles Henderson's thirty-two Razorbacks, featured acrobats, a full complement of clowns, a 35-foot tall puppet, animal acts and in the final scene of each performance featured Jimmy Durante allowing the 8,000 lb. Jumbo to place its foot over Durante's head. Indeed, the only venue then available in New York to house such a production was The Hippodrome, a 5,000 seat theatre with a 60 foot high ceiling.

The program ran for 233 performances and the high cost depression-era show ended up losing $2.4 million in 2012 Dollars (per Digital Deli). The Broadway Show ran from November 1935 to April 1936, while the radio version ran from October 1935 to January 1936.

The radio show features most of the songs from the Broadway show and a few more in the 12 episodes run. The music was wonderful to listen to. The highlight of the show was a "young" Jimmy Durante. Young is in quotation marks because Durate was 42 going on 43 when the radio show began. However, Durante would keep working until he was 80.

Durante had the malapropisms and all the Durante style of humor working. The package was much more vaudevillian than later Durante performances. The performance was part of Durante's rise to prominent. He was eight years away from becoming an entertainment elder statesman which he would do when at age 50 he was teamed up with 28 year old Gary Moore on their joint radio program for Camel Cigarettes and then for Rexall.

This particular series though was one case where the whole was not greater than the sum of their parts. Durante's vintage acting, the Rodgers and Hart music went nowhere. The program illustrated the peril with trying to adapt a two act Broadway play to a twelve part radio series. Each episode would go the same way: There would be an opportunity to save the circus but Brainy Bauer's efforts would ultimately backfire, but at the end of the episode the Circus would get a stay of execution until next week. In the middle of that, the two young love interests Mickey Considine (Gloria Grafton) and Matt Mulligan, Jr. (Donald Novis) would work in a love scene and a song. Perhaps, Billy Rose wanted to avoid revealing the ending, but it left a kind of thin plot.

It's worth noting that a reworked version of Jumbo did make it to the screen in 1962 with Jimmy Durante playing the owner of the circus and in most other ways acting the same part he played on the radio and Broadway.

As for the radio series, if you can get past the then plot, then the music, Jimmy Durante, and just the age of the recording  make this a well worthwhile series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0 stars

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26May/120

Book Review: Hand in the Glove

Hand in the Glove features Dol Bonner, a young woman who has started her detective agency with the financial help of wealthy heiress Sylvia Raffray, who is on the cusp of taking over her family fortune. Her Guardian, P.L. Storrs, objects to Sylvia's involvement in the detective business as it's created some bad publicity. He pursuades Sylvia to agree to quit the agency and her professional association with Dol which will essentially for Dol into a far less plush and favorable position. 

However, Dol gets her first solo job when P.L. hires her to rid his family of a cult leader who is draining his wife financially. She heads to P.L.'s home in Connecticut with this goal, but everything changes when she finds P.L. strangled and hung up by a wire. Dol sets out to solve the murder of her friend's ward and prove herself as a detective.

Nero Wolfe doesn't appear in this story, but Inspector Cramer does make a cameo. Bonner actually shares one key feature with Nero Wolfe: a contempt for the oppositie sex, though her's is not so severe as to prevent her from having men work for her or from being a caring sister. She also has a verbal feature in common with Wolfe: how she tells subordinates to take notes. When I read her saying to a male detective, "Your notebook..." I got de javu. I wonder if this was intentional or if Stout couldn't think any other way a detective might tell someone to take notes.

In other ways, they are mirror images. Wolfe an experienced late middle aged man and Bonner a young pretty woman feeling her way in the art of detection. While Wolfe remains reticent about his past and we only get tiny glimpses throughout the Corpus, Bonner tells straight up her backstory and why she thinks so little of men: she was jilted by one. Bonner's efforts to solve the case are met with sarcasm, annoyance, and amusement. A police officer smirks when he sees Bonner getting her detection kit out of the car and Sylvia tells her to put it away.  Even Bonner's not so sure.   She  puts forth a strong front of absolute confidence,  she's riddled with self-doubt. Is she really a detective or is she "just playing." Thus Bonner mission is to prove herself to herself.

The story is weakened by a forgetable cast of 1930s stereotypes, the occultic huckster,  the heavy-drinking newsman, the dutiful butler, and the aloof bohemian poet daughter. Only the psychologist who is in need of a psychologist provides any spark and not enough of that.  Sylvia Raffray fills the part of  spoiled rich kid and is completely useless to Dol. While everyone seems to like her, it's a mystery to me why they do.

Even with a stronger cast of supporting characters, it's doubtful Bonner would have ever made it in a series. Her disrespect for men was unlike to make her popular with men or women. Plus, her uncertainty in the face of challenge is unlikely to connect with modern women in the age of girl power. Hand in the Glove is a serviceable 1930s mystery. What sets it apart from other 1930s mystery that are gathering dust in libraries across America is that it was written by one of America's most talented mystery writers and featured a character who  would go on to appear as a supporting character in the greatest detective series ever.

I should also note that a TV adaptation of Hand in the Glove was produced by NBC in 1992 called Lady Against the Odds that featured Crystal Bernard (Wings) as Dol Bonner and is available on Netflix. The TV movie made a number of departures. The time period was changed to World War II (which is far more exciting to most viewers than 1937),  rather than having the case confined to the estate as the book does, Dol travel back and forth questioning witnesses. It also changed the character of Dol Bonner and removed the man-hating elements. While there was a bit of melodrama and some things that didn't ring true to the period, after reading the book, I think they probably did the best they could with it.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5.0.

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25May/120

EP0675: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Nancy Shaw Matter

John Lund

Johnny is hired to investigate the missing jewels of a famous actress, and finds himself more interested in the actress than the case.

Original Air Date: August 11, 1953

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24May/120

EP0674: Sherlock Holmes: The Bleeding Chandelier

A woman calls Holmes to help her overcome a superstitious legend to marry her first love.

Original Air Date: June 13, 1948

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23May/120

EP0673: Let George Do It: Murder for Two

Bob Bailey
George is called in to protect a woman from her ex-husband. George arrives to find the wife dead. The ex-husband is suspected but he has an air tight alibi.

 Original Air Date: March 19, 1951

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