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

The Fat Man (US)

Riding the wave of the next big thing in radio, the fledgling ABC network premiered not one, but two separate hard boiled detective programs on January 21, 1946. The biggest hit of these was the Fat Man which followed the adventures of private detective Brad Runyon.

The Fat Man was advertised as "Dashiell Hammett's most exciting character" despite the fact that Hammett had little to do with the writing of any of the radio shows based on his characters. The Fat Man was created as a composite of the Thin Man and the Continental Op.

Whatever his origins, the Fat Man became one of radio's great icons with its opening:

There he goes, into that drugstore. 
He's stepping on the scales. 
Weight: 239 pounds. 
Fortune: Danger. 
Who is it? 
THE FAT MAN

The way that Fat Man (J. Scott Smart)  pronounced "murder" was also one of his trademarks that fans remember. In the first episode Runyon declared, "Nobody loves a Fat Man." Radio audiences begged to differ as the show lasted six seasons and he became one of few detectives to take his role on screen.

Due to concern about Dashiell Hammett's Communist ties, the show had trouble holding a sponsor, particularly as radio headed into its declining years and it was cancelled into 1951.

How long lasting and popular the show had been is often obscured by the fact that only 10 episodes are in circulation. However for comparison, Smart played the Fat Man longer than The Adventures of Sam Spade were on the air and longer than Bob Bailey played Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. The lack of episodes is probably due to the show being tied Hammett as well as having aired on the fledgling ABC network. Hopefully, more episodes will somehow emerge in the future.

About the Star: J Scott SmartJ. Scott Smart (1902-1960) was an accomplished actor of stage, screen, and radio as well as a musician and music historian. Prior to taking on the role of the Fat Man, he was perhaps best known for his appearances on Fred Allen's show as part of Allen's Alley. He was also a character actor appearing in several of CBS 1937 Shakespeare productions in character roles.

More information on Jack Smart and the Fat Man is available here.

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Comments (2) Trackbacks (1)
  1. There was an Australian radio version of The Fat Man that ran for 52 episodes in 1954 & 1955. Lloyd Berrell, the actor playing the title role of Brad Runyon had a deeper, more mature voice that to me went better with the “Fat Man” title and his weight was given as 247 lbs rather than the 239 lbs given at the beginning of each American episode. To my knowledge there are at least 38 Australian episodes available to listen to or to buy over the internet.

  2. Oops! I got the weights quoted in my previous comment exactly backwards. The Australian Fat Man weighed less than the American Fat Man. The confusion came from my listening to more of the Australian episodes recently. BTW, the 1951 movie of The Fat Man starring the American radio actor is worth watching. It’s free to view on the internet. Rock Hudson, Jayne Meadows, Julie London, & Emmett Kelly, the famous clown of yesteryear are also in the movie. (They’ll be familiar names if you remember the 1950s.)


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