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

21Jun/120

EP0694: Sherlock Holmes: The Bruce Partington Plans

Sherlock Holmes tries to solve the death of a young government official and recover stolen submarine twins.

Original Air Date: September 26, 1948

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20Jun/121

EP0693: Let George Do It: The Noose Hangs High

Bob Bailey
George is hired by a newspaper man to investigate two eccentric brothers who have lived alone in a house since their friend committed suicide and they were wrongfully charged with his murder.

Original Air Date: April 16, 1951

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19Jun/120

EP0692: Pete Kelly’s Blues: Hot Letters

Jack Webb

Some mugs plant a letter on Pete Kelly,  but when a gunman takes a shot at Kelly, an altar boy dies in the crossfire.

Original Air Date: July 25, 1951

 

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18Jun/120

Jimmy Durante and Al Jolson on Cell Phones

Some folks are keeping the golden age of entertainment alive. Enter Al Jolson impersonator Rick Rogers and Jimmy Durante impersonator Brad Kay. In these two videos they perform a Durante and Jolson song from a radio episode of Kraft Music Hall.  They then imagine what the two great entertainers might have sung about a modern plague-cell phones.

You can skip the first 3 minutes of the first video (which is getting the stage set) and skip right into "Jimmy" and "Jolson" recreating radio magic. While no one would mistake these guys for the original, they do capture their spirits:

 

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18Jun/120

EP0691: Barrie Craig: Never Murder a Mummy

William Gargan

A mummy sent to Craig's office sets him on the trail of a very modern murder.

Original Air Date: March 30, 1955

 

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17Jun/120

Book Review: Curtains for Three

Curtains for Three was published in 1951 and featured three Nero Wolve novellas published from 1948-50. As usual, we’ll review the individual story and then include an overall rating for the book:

"The Gun with Wings": The title sounds similar to a Father Brown story (”The Dagger with Wings”) but the story has an unrelated plot. The police have included that an opera star committed suicide. However, his wife and her lover aren’t satisfied because they found the body and when they found the gun, it was across the room. When they returned and the police arrived, the gun had moved to the floor by his body. Wolfe has to find out how the gun was moved and he knows his clients are lying.

The story is perhaps the most claustrophobic Wolfe case I’ve ready. Archie only leaves the house in one scene. Other than that one scene, all the on-stage action is confined to the office.  This means that the vast majority of the story is composed of Wolfe questioning people. 2/3s of the way through, I was convinced this was going to be the first Wolfe story I gave a Pfui rating to. However, Wolfe recovers when he plays Inspector Cramer off of his lying clients in a hilarious way. Once the lies are cleared up, Wolfe provides a flawless sage solution. It’s not quite Before I Die or Help Wanted Male, but I’ll give it a

Rating: Satisfactory

"Bullet for One": An industrial designer is shot to death and his daughter and associates hire Wolfe to solve the case. One big problem for Wolfe is that the man his clients believe did it has an airtight alibi.

Some of the best Nero Wolfe novellas featuring a very memorable distinctive and it’s no different with Bullet for One and this one will always stand out as the one where everyone got arrested. One by one, Wolfe’s clients as well as their favorite suspect are arrested (most for issues not stemming from the murder investigation.) The story’s chocked full of humor and a solid conclusion typical of the best Wolfe stories.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Disguise for Murder

This one was adapted for A Nero Wolfe Mystery and it was also done for CBC’s Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. So, it’s a stand out whenever anyone looks at adapting the Wolfe canon, and for good reason.

Wolfe has been talked into opening the Brownstone to a flower club. At the event, a woman takes Archie aside to confide him that she recognized a murderer at the party, but she’ll only confide it to Wolfe. It goes without saying that before Archie can get Wolfe back to the office, the woman is killed in Wolfe’s office.

This is not only unfortunate, but very inconvenient for Wolfe as Inspector Cramer peevishly orders the office sealed and Wolfe just as peevishly refuses to divulge a key observation to Cramer. He uses Wolfe’s dining room to interrogate the witnesses and Wolfe orders Fritz to make sandwiches for everyone but the police. The novella is far more subtle than the Television version for A&E, as it quietly shows the tension between Wolfe and the official police.

The story than features one of the most memorable climaxes in the Wolfe canon with Archie facing more physical danger than ever and a truly surprising solution. I’ve not read all the Wolfe novellas yet, but this one was the best so far. It makes the whole collection well worth reading.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Overall Rating: very satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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16Jun/120

Radio Review: Voyage of the Scarlet Queen

I’ve written before about the rarity of having a half hour show with multiple part episodes were rare for half hour shows in the Golden Age of radio.

However, one show is a notable exception to this rule, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen. The 1947-48 Mutual Radio Series was unusual in many respects. It was a sea drama, but its story-telling style bore a striking resemblance to the hard boiled detective stories that were dominating the airwaves at the time. In addition to this, the first 20 episodes were interlinked.

The program follows Philip Karney (Elliot Lewis), Captain of the ketch Scarlet Queen as he tries to deliver a Cargo for Kang and Sons. He’s opposed at every turn by henchmen for a competing exporter, determined to steal the cargo and willing to stop at nothing even multiple murders.  He's aided by his first Gallagher (played by Ed Max) who began working for the bad guys but switched to become Karney's first mate.

The show features a recurring sophisticated and polite villain named Ah Sin as well as a returning love interest (played by Lewis then-wife Cathy) from one episode to the next. While some stories happen at sea, most often Karney and/or Gallagher get in trouble when the Scarlet Queen comes to port. Each episode ended with a ship's log and the first twenty concluded with Karney announcing how many miles the Scarlet Queen had traveled from its San Francisco port of call.

The show's exciting situations, colorful characters, and dangers around every corner make Voyage of the Scarlet Queen  one of more unique radio programs I've found.  The relationship between Karney and Gallagher is also a fascinating aspect of the show. They grow from unease at distrust at the beginning to a loyal camaraderie. With one exception, each episode ends with Karney and Gallagher talking on the deck of the Scarlet Queen and Gallagher offering Karney a drink. Karney responds with a smile, "After you Mate, after you."

The show lost a little bit of focus after episode 20, but remained one of radio's greatest adventures throughout its run.

One myth that has made it on to Wikipedia is that Voyage of the Scarlet Queen provided some inspiration to Star Trek based on the fact, "Each episode opens with an entry from the ship's log." Given that Sam Spade had been giving reports to Effie for more than a year and that in another Johnny Dollar would start handing in expense accounts, the log was just another in a long line of devices for characters to provide narration for their stories. George Raft's Mr. Ace paid a visit to a psychologist to fill that purpose. It's possible that Gene Roddenberry heard the show, but it's a stretch to say that played a role. The Star Trek theory also cites the fact that they became embroiled in trouble with "local authorities, agents of rival merchants, or desperate women in need of rescue." If they didn't run into trouble, it wouldn't be much of an adventure story. While its possible, I wouldn't consider this a probable inspiration for anything other than audience amazement.

The series finished in 1948, but Lewis wasn't finished with the concept. In 1950, he recorded a pilot for Log of the Black Parrot which brought Ed Max back as Gallagher and renamed his role to Matthew Kinkaid. The audition recording had a far more moody and less action filled than the original series and was not picked up for a run.

Currently in circulation are 33 of the 35 broadcast episodes (Episodes 7 and 10) are missing. In addition, the audition for Voyage of the Scarlet Queen recorded originally in February 1947 with Lewis as Gallagher and Howard Duff as Karney and the audition for  Log of the Black Parrot are available.

Fans of great radio adventure owes it to themselves to check this series out.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0 stars.

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16Jun/120

EP0690s: Suspense: The Crowd

 Dana Andrews

A police lieutenant hunts a murderer whose crimes are always accompanied by a crowd.

Original Air Date: September 27, 1950

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15Jun/120

EP0690: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Stanley Price Matter

John Lund

Some insured jewels may have been recovered at the scene of the murder. However, they've been altered and Johnny has to find a way to prove it.

Original Air Date: September 1, 1953

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14Jun/120

EP0689: Sherlock Holmes: Black Guardsman Of Braddock Castle

Sherlock Holmes investigates the death of a nobleman which is tied in to a mysterious ghost who haunts an English castle.

Original Air Date: September 19, 1948

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