Father Brown is one of the most enduring characters in detective fiction. He was introduced by G.K. Chesterton in 1910 with the story, The Blue Cross. A collection of short stories, The Innocence of Father Brown followed in 1911 and The Wisdom of the Father Brown followed in 1914, and three other collections followed between 1926 and 1935.
Father Brown’s mysteries were puzzles, often with philisophical implications ( “The Three Tools of Death”). Others were satirical looks at the rich (“The Queer Feet”) or even of the Detective Story (“The Absence of Mr. Glass” or “The Mistake of the Machine”)
Father Brown was the first of a long line of clergy detectives and remains the most successful. Also Father Brown was an unassuming fellow who no criminal feared until it was too late. In many mysteries, Father Brown is almost part of the background until he comes forward with a solution to the crime. Brown is underestimated by criminals in a similar way to detectives like Columbo.
Father Brown first came to American radio in 1942 with two episodes of the mystery anthology series, Murder Clinic that were based on “Oracle of the Dog” and “The Secret Garden”
Father Brown got his own show. Air dates have to be considered a bit of a matter of conjecture. Many logs place Father Brown as an 8-week Summer series, while others are indicative of a longer run. With few circulating episodes, there’s been no great push to investigate further.
The series starred Karl Swenson as Brown and like a similar seried based on Poirot, the setting was moved to the United States.
Of course, 8 weeks over the radio wouldn’t be the end of Father Brown in audio, the BBC produced a Father Brown series in the 1980s. and the Colonial Theater performed several Father Brown stories in recent years. In addition to this, there have been numerous movie and television adaptations. And we can expect more interpretations in the second century of Father Brown.
About the Star:
Karl Swenson (1908-78): Known to families across America as Mr. Hanson on Little House on the Prairie, Swenson enjoyed a long career over radio, television, and movies primarily as a character actor. Swenson played the lead in two golden age radio detective series, Father Brown and Mister Charmelon. Only two episodes of each show are currently in circulation. (Picture Courtesy of Digital Deli)
- The Three Tools of Death (Original Air Date: July 22, 1945)
- The Mystified Mind (Original Air Date: August 13, 1945)