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

28Feb/131

EP0882: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Red Death

A pyromaniac has been unleashed on London and Holmes has to find him.

Original Air Date: June 6, 1949

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27Feb/130

EP0881: Let George Do It: Chance and Probability

Bob Bailey
George travels to a casino resort where a man was killed for his perfect "system" for winning at the casino.

Original Air Date: September 29, 1952

 

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26Feb/130

EP0880: A Life in Your Hand: Captain Mendosa’s Treasure

Carlton Kadell

A man claiming to have a treasure map is murdered and a socialite is charged with the crime

Rehearsal of program that aired: August 14, 1952

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25Feb/130

EP0879: Frank Race: The Adventure of the Silent Tongue

Paul Dubov

Frank Race agrees to meet the last request of a man on death row and retrieve a pair of baby shoes from a safe deposit box. He's shocked to be ambushed by three armed women.

Original Air Date: October 8, 1949

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24Feb/130

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #14-13

Previous Posts: 16-15, 18-17, 20-19,22-2124-2326-2528-2730-2933-31, 36-3439-37,

42-4045-4348-4651-4954-5257-5560-5865-6170-66,  71-7576-8081-8586-9091-9596-100

14) Burns and Allen:

Burns and AllenBurns and Allen remain one of the most successful and memorable husband-wife comedy teams of all time. Their performances on radio began in the mid-30s with those that were variety radio programs . The programs featured an announcer, band leader, and various character actors and the whole act was doing the show with plot contrivances thrown in usually centered on a rivals as their characters  remained single even after they'd been married.

These programs weren't bad and they did show aspects of their talent that were not apparent in later shows. For example, Gracie Allen sang, and George Burns sang before entering a decade of pretending to not be able to carry a tune.They showed Gracie's zaniness found plenty of outlets. Most famously, in 1940 on their Hormel program, she staged a run for President on the "Surprise Party" ticket while on the Hinds and Honey Almond show. However, the light banter and romantic rivalry plots just didn't work anymore. At 45, Burns realized the couple was simply too old for it, so for the 1941-42 season for their new show on Swan, Burns and Allen became a sitcom with musical interludes. Singer Jimmy Cash and Orchestra leader Paul Whiteman still did some acting in addition to their singing, but receded into the background after the first season as far as the plot went.

The show became a home to a variety of characters. Clarence Nash (who voiced Donald Duck) featured in the first couple of seasons as a talking pet duck named Herman, and during the Swan Years Mel Blanc would portray the happy postman whose happy words were contradicted by his dour voice tone. When the show was sponsored later by Maxwell Coffee, Gale Gordon would play a Texas Oil Millionaire, with Elliot Lewis as a manic depressive man who swung from euphoria to rage at every job he had, and Hans Conreid as a psychiatrist who was the Burns' next door neighbor. Bill Goodwin remained the commercial spokesman, extra comic, and absurdly successful lady's man.

The highlight of course was Gracie and George. With Gracie's unimitable style and delivery, she was to 1940s radio what Lucille Ball would be to 1950s television, relying on her zaniness and timing to create fantastic situations. George Burns was the perfect straight man for Gracie and guests with perfect pitch reactions.

The couple left radio for television in 1950, but they'd left an indellible mark in their nine seasons in the sitcom format.

13) Bob Bailey

Bob BaileyBob Bailey did some of his best work in relative obscurity. He performed from 1946 into the mid-1950s as detective George Valentine in Let George Do It in a series that was a West Coast only production of the Don Lee mutual network, helping to bring to life the stories of up and coming writers such as Jackson Gillis. Outside of this, his radio work up until 1955 was mostly a slew of character roles on such reliable sources of such work as Cavalcade of America and  Lux Radio Theater.  However, in October 1955, he made his most lasting mark on radio when he became the fourth on-air Johnny Dollar.

The radio detective series had been on the wane as a genre for years after its heyday in the late 40s and early 50s. Long time detective franchises such as Dragnet and Barrie Craig had packed it in at the end of their 1954-55 seasons.  However, after more than a year off the air,  CBS re-launched Yours Truly Johnny Dollar as a five day a week serial on October 3, 1955 with Bailey winning the title role.

There were many things that made the show a success, but Bailey was the key. He was the perfect Johnny Dollar. He could be tough as his Johnny Dollar predecessor Edmond O'Brien, he could be more tender than John Lund, and he could generate excitement as he told listeners what they could expect in tomorrow's installment. While the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar scripts were often reused and expanded stories from other golden age shows of the 1940s. However,  the scripts were well-expanded, and Bailey made every episode a joy.

The serial format lasted for more than a year, but Bailey continued to appear in weekly 30 minute episodes for another four years before the show moved to New York with Bailey opting to stay close to his family. The series continued for 22 months, and successive Johnny Dollar actors were highly influenced by Bailey's performance.

For people who grew up in the mid-to-late 1950s, he was the radio detective as they never heard Philip Marlowe or Michael Shayne. The radio detective genre had run itself to the ground through over-saturating the market, while also competing with the rise of television. The amazing thing about Bailey's Johnny Dollar is that despite these factors, it became a success.

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23Feb/131

EP0878: The Line Up: The Jersey Parallel

William Johnstone

Guthrie and Groebs rush to find a psycho killer who murdered seven people.

Original Air Date: December 7, 1950

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23Feb/130

The Top Twenty-Five Best Dragnet Programs, Part Four

Continued from: 15-11, 20-16, 25-21.

10) DR-19

Original Air Date: February 27, 1969 (Television)

With the focus on Dragnet's anti-drug shows, what gets lost in the shuffle is how Dragnet really shined a light on child abuse. DR-19 is one of the more poignant episodes. It begins with Friday meeting with the President of a woman's club (Cathleen Cordell) as she previewed information that would be used for a presentation at the woman's club. Dragnet couldn't show pictures of child abuse but Webb's narration of the pictures Cordell was looking at combined with her reactions gave the viewers the idea of what horrific things were going on. Then they were called to investigate a missing child. When they find the boy, they find he's been abused. The show is powerful and portrays Friday's heart and brings home the dramatic way in which the system often leaves abused children vulnerable. It's one of Dragnet's poignant and most moving stories.

9) The Big Fraud

Original Air Date: October 27, 1953 (Radio)
Original Air Date: September 2, 1954 (Television)

Two conmen pretending to be cops are taking traveling businessmen for thousands of dollars by setting up a phony arrest and offering to take a bribe to "clear everything up."  A similar episode would air in the 1960s. I like this one better for a superior ending as well as the fact that it features one of Jack Webb's earliest speeches, "The Phony Badge."

8) The Pyramid Swindle

Original Air Date: November 30, 1967 (Television)

Legendary Character Actress Virginia Gregg looms large in this comedic bunco case as she plays an over-the-top pyramid swindle marketer trying to sell people on her get-rich scam with a religious fervor. The episode provides a great performance from Gregg while also serving as a warning to the public making this  a great fusion of education and entertainment.

7) The Big Red

Original Air Dates: January 3 and January 10, 1952 (Radio)
Original Air Date: August 23, 1959 (Television)

The radio version of this story was perfect. It came right on the heels of the  death of Barton Yarborough who played Friday's first partner Ben Romero, so a script that centered on Joe Friday working pretty much alone definitely was helpful. This was one of many episodes where Friday went undercover to bust narcotics. This was somewhat notable as in the first episode, he caught part of the drug ring, revealing himself as a cop. In the second episode, he has to have their boss somehow still believing that he's a drug dealer so he can get to the source. It's a tough job that Friday has to do. To do it, he has to break out a tough persona that's reminiscent of many of the hard boiled characters he played over radio prior to Dragnet. The Television version is not in circulation. It was the last 1950s episode of Dragnet, but probably wasn't as good as 1) it wasn't two parts and 2) those really late Dragnet episodes suffered in quality. That's a shame because the radio version's a pure classic.

6) The Grenade

Original Air Date: September 14, 1967

This is probably the most exciting episode of the 1960s Dragnet, with perhaps one of  most tense and exciting moments in Dragnet history. It all begins with Friday and Gannon investigating a case where a troubled teenage boy threw acid on the back of another teenager at the movie theater.  The boy is released to the custody of his parents, but he's not done. In a rage over attempts by his stepfather to impose discipline he storms into a party he wasn't invited to and holds a a group of teenagers hostage. This leads to an unforgettable showdown with a live grenade.   This was a key episode for the 1960s Dragnet.  Dragnet had returned to the air after eight years absence with a thirteen episode short season and they needed a strong season opener. This did it and with gusto.

Next week, we countdown the top five greatest Dragnet stories ever.

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22Feb/131

EP0877: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Woodward Manilla Matter

John Lund
Johnny investigates a big theft in the Philippines that coincided with the disappearance of the clerk.

Original Air Date: June 29, 1954

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21Feb/130

EP0876: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Curious Crypt

Sherlock Holmes investigates the disappearance of a wealthy man who spent a fortune on his crypt.

Original Air Date: May 30, 1949

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20Feb/130

EP0875: Let George Do It: Once a Crook

Bob Bailey

George is hired by the sister of an ex-con who has disappeared after her uncle was robbed.

Original Air Date: September 22, 1952

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