Lost episodes are the bane of old time radio fans. There are few series where you can be entirely sure you’ve heard everything there is to hear. There’s always hope a new episode of Barrie Craig, the Saint, or Philip Marlowe, or Dragnet will emerge.
With those series, we have a lot of episodes in circulation that we can enjoy. However, some series have few episodes in circulation and what we have leaves us wanting more.
We’ll discuss seven rare, tantalizing programs.
1. The Big Guy-3 Episodes circulating (23 missing)
Henry Calvin stars as Joshua Sharp, a widowed private detective raising two precocious kids alone. Sharp was a different protagonist in a world of often interchangeable hard-boiled detectives He had to be as tough as any hard-boiled private eye but he also had a fatherly gentleness to him. The existing episodes vary quite a bit, but I really wanted to see more of this character. It lasted only a season.
2. Easy Money-5 Episodes (21 missing);
Larry Haines stars as Mike Burnett, a magician turned racket buster. This aired at a time when the TV series, “Racket Squad” was a big hit on television. Truth be told, this radio series was far better than it’s TV counterpart. Haines is pitch perfect and the rackets are interesting, plus the stories are well-written. It lasted only a season.
3. Leonidas Witherall-7 Episodes (38 missing):
Based on the novels by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, this was one of the most fun detective comedy series I’ve heard. It features Leonidas Witherall, a boys school principal with a beard like Shakespeare. Witherall goes around solving crimes. The series stars Walter Hampden, one of the finest actors in New York at the time and also features the great Agnes Moorhead. It lasted only a season.
4. The Thin Man-8 Episodes (361 missing):
The Thin Man aired for nine years yet we only have eight episodes. Claudia Morgan played Nora Charles opposite five different actors who played the detective. Most of the episodes are light mysteries. Unfortunately, two were dumbed down, didn’t include mysteries, and the humor was hit and miss. However, the other six episodes point to a great series which deserve to be remembered more.
5. The Fat Man-10 Episodes (279 Missing):
J Scott Smart was iconic in his role as Brad Runyon, the Fat Man. In the opening, he steps on the scale, a moment remembered for decades by people who listened to the overweight hard-boiled detective with a heart of gold. He solved mysteries with his uncanny pronunciation of “murrder.” The episodes that exist are a delight, yet we only have an average of two episodes for every season Smart was on the air.
6. Hercule Poirot-11 episodes (425 missing)
Harold Huber starred as Hercule Poirot in a series of original stories broadcast over the Mutual Network. Nine episodes of Poirot’s fifty-one half-hour performances survived. This is not the worst of it. Huber and Poirot went to CBS where Poirot’s adventures were serialized daily for seventy-seven weeks, all but two of these episodes are lost.
Poirot is one of the greatest detective fiction characters of all time, and Huber was a solid Poirot. The radio series captured the spirit of the character as it chronicled his new “American” adventures. Though some of the mysteries were a bit off. The same could be said of the new Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Yet on occasion, that series produced a great, new story worthy of the original Great Detective. It’s a shame we don’t have the same number of extended mysteries for Poirot.
7. Candy Matson-14 Episodes (79 missing):
Candy has the most episodes of anyone on this list and we get her first and last episodes. Still, this series leaves me wanting a lot more. She changes throughout the series as she’s taken more seriously, but the points at which the character changes are hard to identify due to so many lost episodes. The biggest string of consecutive episodes available is three and there are as many as twenty lost episodes between available episodes.
Are there any rare old time radio programs that make you wish you could hear the whole series (or at least a lot more of it?) Let us know in the comments.