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

30Sep/120

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #75-#71

Previous Posts: 76-8081-8586-9091-9596-100

75) Fanny Brice

Vaudevillian Fanny Brice was a talented comic singer, but her greatest contribution was the creation of Baby Snooks, a mischevious little girl who drove Daddy (played by Hanley Stanford) bananas with her comic antics and misbehavior with famous lines like, "Tell me a story, Daddy." and constantly asking why.  The character began as an act on the Maxwell House Program in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, Snook would get her program. Radio was the perfect medium for Brice.  The act would simply not work on television as Brice played Snooks as about 7 and when she tried to adapt Snooks to television, she was 59 years old. However, in radio, everything was possible and Snooks is forever precociously young and hilarious and the work of Fanny Brice lives on.

Lionel Barrymore74) Lionel Barrymore

The legendary star of stage and screen starred in the 1940s Drama Mayor of the Town where he portrayed the real painful reality of war with uncommon humanity and then in the late 1940s and early 50s, he recreated his film role as Dr. Gillespie in MGM's syndicated Dr. Kildare series. He also showcased his talents in numerous anthology shows. However, Barrymore's position on this list is secured by being radio's Ebenezer Scrooge. He was the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, performing the role live all but two Christmases between 1934-53. Barrymore's success as Scrooge made him a natural to play the villainous Old Man Potter in It's a Wonderful Life. It's a pity that's movie role's all most people know of his great body of work,.

73) Gene Atury

Hollywood's quintessential singing cowboy had a rich career over radio. Autry's Melody Ranch program ran for sixteen years. (1940-56). Autry's success included not only him, but his horse Champion got his own radio and TV series. Autry was admired by many who wanted to emulate him, so Autry created the cowboy code, ten rules for patriotic and moral living. By doing this, Autry showed the type of class that made him one of America's most beloved entertainers.

William Johnstone72) William Johnstone

William Johnstone is best known as the second voice of the shadow in 1938 and those four seasons is what he's best known for. However, Johnstone's performances go far beyond that. Johnstone was also a solid and indispensable character actor appearing regularly on a wide variety of programs from Cavalcade of America to Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. In 1950, he got his second starring role for CBS in The Line Up playing Lieutenant Ben Guthrie for 3 seasons.

71) Anne and Frank Hummert

Their work has many detractors among modern fans, particularly their detective shows, but what Anne and Frank Hummert lacked in quality, they made up with the quantity of their productions. The Hummerts produced a dizzying array of shows. Many were in the soap opera genre such as the long-running Ma Perkins program (1937-60), Just Plain Bill, and Amanda of Honeymoon Hill. However, they also were the force behind many mystery programs such as Mr. Keen Tracer of Lost Persons (1937-55), Mr. Charmelon, and Inspector Thorne, comedies such as Easy Aces, and even the iconic juvenile series Little Orphan Annie (1930-42). Anne Hummert had dozens of shows running concurrently, kept track of them, and outlined all plot twists on the daytime serials and directed her army of writers to make the changes. While it's easy to make fun of the melodrama on some of the Hummerts' soaps, it's hard to dismiss their amazing success.

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30Sep/120

EP0765s: 50th Anniversary of the End of the Golden Age of Radio

Mandel Kramer

On September 30th 1962, the golden age of radio came to an end with episodes of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and Suspense.  In the "Tip-Off Matter," an ex-con tells Johnny the location of his loot. In "Devilstone," a rich young Irishman is having trouble renting a house that is rumored to be haunted.

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29Sep/120

You Ought to be on DVD: Nero Wolfe

Previous: Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio

If one great fictional detective has been slighted in terms of DVD and Home video releases, it is Nero Wolfe. The fine A&E Television series is available on DVD, but everything else isn't. The following are missing:

Two 1930s Movies
1959 TV Pilot with Kurt Kasner and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin
The 1979 TV movie with David Thayer
The 1981 TV Series with William Conrad

It has been a challenge to adapt Wolfe stories into popular visual media, so many of these efforts have not worked.

However, it won't do to say that poor quality should keep these adaptations off of DVD. After all, some fans may be right when they think William Conrad's Nero Wolfe is off-base. However, the rest of us should be able to decide the question for ourselves. Even Galactica 1980 has been given a DVD release.

Perhaps, the one film that looks dreadful based on clips and ratings is 1937's League of Frightened Men with a miscast Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin and an equally poorly cast Walter Connolly as Nero Wolfe. The movie is only rated a 5.0 on IMDB which is the same as Henry Silva's unthrilling 1965 thriller The Return of Mr. Moto. (Which by the way did it make its way to DVD.)

Beyond this, those fans that have seen 1936's Meet Nero Wolfe (6.7), Thayer's Nero Wolfe TV Movie based on The League of Frightened Men (7.0) and Conrad's Nero Wolfe Series (7.3) have enjoyed them. And no doubt, a wider audience would enjoy them as well. They may not all perfectly match the tone of the books but even the A&E series doesn't do that.

Another great opportunity would be to put the foreign Nero Wolfe programs on Region 1 DVD. Nero Wolfe movies have been made in Russian, Italian, and Germany. My particular interest would be in the 1960s Italian Series. A few clips have shown up on Youtube and the show looks very well done in classic black and white. Personally, I'd love to watch these films with subtitles to enjoy the cadence of the original actors while still knowing what's going on. The best of that particular series is that of the ten stories they did, eight were not done by A&E, so it would make interesting viewing as would all of the unreleased Nero Wolfe material included the Kasner-Shatner pilot which hasn't been seen in more than fifty years.

There's a lot of Nero Wolfe that should be released and it's about time for Hollywood to get started.

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28Sep/120

EP0765: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Fairway Matter

John Lund

Johnny tries to assign responsibility in the case of bomb that blew up on an airplane, killing more than 13 people.

Original Air Date: January 5, 1954

Save more and combine hotel and airline fare at http://www.johnnydollarair.com

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27Sep/120

EP0764: Sherlock Holmes: The Knife Of Vengence

A man selling a knife sharpening service is murdering his customers.

Original Air Date: January 10, 1949

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26Sep/120

EP0763: Let George Do It: The Common Denominator

Bob Bailley

A woman is getting premonitions prior to murders being committed and George is hired to find out what the reason is.

Original Air Date: January 28, 1952

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25Sep/120

EP0762: The Fat Man: The Crooked Horse

J Scott Smart

A woman hears a murder and comes to Brad for help when the room appears like it hasn't been occupied.

Original Air Date: September 9, 1946

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24Sep/120

EP0761:Frank Race: The Adventure of the Juvenile Passenger

Tom Collins

A teenage girl gets a ride in the back of Marc's taxi and threatens to commit suicide if Marc forces her out. Marc turns to Race for help.

Original Air Date:  May 7, 1949

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23Sep/121

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #80-#76

Previous Posts: 81-8586-9091-9596-100

80) Arthur Godfrey

Arthur Godfrey redefined the role of radio announcers, bringing a warm, friendly, and folksy style to announcing that stood in contrast to the strict formality of many announcers. He was well-known as a morning talk show on Arthur Godfrey Time (which continued even after the golden age of radio had ended.) His human touch made him a winner with audiences, perhaps most notably his emotional reaction to the funeral procession of President Roosevelt. In addition, he was noted as the host of Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which quickly became America's most popular amateur program.

79) Les Damon

Les DamonFew men landed on as many detective shows as Les Damon. He was Nick Charles in the Thin Man, The vast majority of existing Falcon recordings feature Damon. He was also Inspector Mark Sabre on ABC's Mystery Theater,  the second Pat Abbott in NBC's Adventures of the Abbotts, and the last Captain Kennelly on 21st Precinct. He also worked in the daytime soaps, starring in the The Right to Happiness. In addition to this, Damon made appearances in the Sci-Fi Anthologies Dimension X and X Minus One.

78) John Dehner

John Dehner had only one series lead prior to 1958. In 1958, he starred in two programs. In February, he began in Frontier Gentleman and that ended November 16th and on November 23rd he played Paladin on radio's Have Gun Will Travel and would remain for more than two years. Dehner also starred in CBS 1952 Mystery program The Judge and auditioned for the lead in Fort Laramie. However,  Dehner's career was ultimately defined by the countless hundreds of character roles he played from Philip Marlowe to Gunsmoke  and Lassie.  Dehner's deep voice resonated with radio audience regardless of where it was placed. When Rod Serling made Zero Hour, the first of several radio revival attempts in the 1970s, Dehner played the lead role in the first series.

77) Robert Ripley

Ripley's Believe it Or Not was perfect radio. For 18 years from 1930-48 Ripley brought radio listeners weird facts and oddities from around the world. Ripley took full advantage of radio's theater of the mind as in longer version, dramatic re-enactments of the strange but true stories would be done, much to the delight of radio listeners.

76) Robert Young

Robert YoungRobert Young was best known as Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best which got its iconic start over radio in 1949. However, he was far more than that. As a film actor, he appeared in 100 films. Over radio, he took on countless roles in a variety of genres. He appeared frequently on the Lux Radio Theater. He was a  host of Maxwell House's popular variety show The Good News of 1939.  He appeared on Suspense and of course, The Family Theatre. Young also hosted two radio dramas for the Episcopal Church in the late 1950s and early 1960s called The Witness and The Search. Throughout his career, he remained one of America's best loved entertainer and his long radio resume reflects that.

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22Sep/120

Book Review: Homicide Trinity.

Homicide Trinity contained three Nero Wolfe Novellas originally published in magazine form in 1961 and 1962. Below, we take a look at each story.

"Eeny Meeny Murder Mo"

Bertha Aaron, the secretary to the Senior partner in a lawfirm comes to Wolfe's office because she suspects one of the other partners of colluding with an opposing client against the interests of the firm. Because the opposing client is involved in a divorce case, Archie knows he'll have a time convincing Wolfe to take the case.

Wolfe doesn't want the case but finds himself involved when he and Archie return to the office to find Aaron murderered with Wolfe's discarded necktie. Because it's Wolfe's necktie, the onus is on him to beat the police to the solution.

In some ways, this seems a variation on Disguise for Murder with Archie leaving a woman in the office and returning from the plantroom to find her murdered. They were so similar that A&E linked the two episodes for European syndication. Unfortunately, while this story has features, it's just not as good.  Still I'll give it a 

Rating: Satisfactory

"Death of a Demon"

Lucy Hazen shows up at Wolfe's office and offers him $100 for an hour of his time. She wants to tell Wolfe that she wants to murder her husband and to secure Wolfe's promise to report it to the police. Wolfe takes her upstairs to show her the orchids and while they're upstairs, Archie hears on the radio that her husband was shot.

Lucy ends up being arrested and hiring Wolfe to find out who did it. As is the case in the best Wolfe stories, Stout creates a memorable cast of suspects in the case of the murder of the blackmailing husband and Archie finds them all at the scene of the crime looking for the box of blackmail materials.

The characters are solid, particularly for a novella, and Wolfe solves the case in true master detective fashion.

Rating: Very Satisfactory


"Counterfeit for Murder"

A woman named Hattie Anniscomes to Wolfe's door looking quite disheveled and unlike the high value clients that Wolfe usually pays for and Archie's not inclined to let her in. However, Archie's willing to let her see the big guy because Wolfe is under the impression that he's a sucker for a certain type of woman and Archie thinks it'll be fun to show Wolfe up.  

Hattie has a stack of money that she found in her boarding house which shelters showbiz people whether they can pay their $5 a week rent or not. When Wolfe sends Archie to the boarding house to investigate, they find an undercover female Treasury Agent dead.

The cop-hating Hattie Annis is without a doubt Wolfe's most interesting client so far. Her speech and personality (she calls Wolfe "Falstaff") make the story one of the most enjoyable to read.

The mystery isn't half bad either. Throw in some T-men and the NYPD in a turf war and there are Few Wolfe stories of any length that can beat this one for pure entertainment value.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

The last two stories are simply superb and as good as the vast majority of Wolfe novels. The first one is solid as well and so I'll give this one a:

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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