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

30Nov/130

Audio Drama: The History of Harry Nile, Set Six

The History of Harry Nile Set 6 covers 24 cases in which the late Phil Harper portrayed the Seattle Private Detective, set between May of 1956 and Summer of 1958.

At this point, it’s tough to add much to what I’ve written in the previous five reviews. The series while produced in the 1990s and early 21st century sounded just like a vintage detective series from radio’s golden age.

Both Harry (Phil Harper) and his red-headed assistant Murphy (Pat French) were well-established in their roles and had them down to a tee. And producer/writer Jim French really knew how to do a 19-23 minute radio drama and make it shine.

The stories are mostly typical PI fare but with a few surprises thrown in such as, “Submarine Warfare” which has the owner of a new subshop asking for Harry’s help with vandals while his wife is sending Harry notes that her husband wants to kill her. Harry’s cases take him to New Orleans, to California, and to three different western cities where a salesman is keeping different girls and runs into predictable problems. There’s a theft at a mission around Christmastime. And the story of a missing fire extinguisher salesman where Harry has to live up to the bill of one of America’s top ten private investigators.

These are well-done tales with no real clunkers, but consistent quality from episode to episode. The only downside is that on occassion, the motive may be a little thin. Some listeners may be bothered by the relationship between Harry and Murphy with Harry, with Murphy pining for Harry but Harry showing no interest whatsoever. However, this too is a throwback to some golden age programs like Let George Do It.

Overall, this set lives up to the high standards of its predecessors and is a must for fans of Phil Harper’s Harry Nile.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Nile, Set 6  (along with Sets 1-5) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

15Sep/130

Review: History of Harry Nile, Set Five

Set Five of Harry Nile continues the high quality from the previous four sets with most episodes clocking in at 19-22 minutes in length recorded in the 1990s, but with stories set between 1954-56  (sort of) produced by Jim French and starring Phil Harper as Harry. The vintage feel remains on most episodes, with a few exceptions.

"The Toni Parsons" story is a great story about a girl who runs away to Seattle in hopes of finding her brother who has been declared MIA in Korea. There's the case of Harry running into a less than savory relative in, "Who Killed Harry Nile?" And Harry has to deal with a medical mystery in, "The Case of the Missing Witness."

This set marked a return of double episodes. "Always Leave 'em Wanting More"  informs us that Harry had briefly been married to a black lounge singer in the 1930s before he began his career as a private eye. While Harry learns the truth about his late wife's murder in the 1950s much of the story is set in the mid-1930s. While the episode was educational about the type of challenges faced by an interracial couple in the 1930s, it really felt like it was primarily trying to be educational. The attempts to squeeze this incident into what we know of Harry's back story was really forced and not credible.

It is perhaps the final step in the rehabilitation of Harry's harder edged past. Recalling that the first Harry Nile story, "West for My Health" had Harry come West with orders to kill a man with Harry debating whether he'd carry this out, we've come along way to much more of a straight arrow character.  Though if you want a rougher edged story, another 1950s framed story tells of Harry's days in Los Angeles and deadbeat client he'd never forget in a great story called, "Tony Macaroni Still Owes me $600."

The other thing that become apparent listening to the show is how hard it was to keep supporting characters actors on the show.  Harry gets several friends on the force who pop in for two or three episodes and then pop out. Perhaps the most memorable such character to appear was Keys Louise who has a key that'll get her into every office in town.

One actor who stuck with the show and eventually succeeded Harper was Larry Albert whose voice work on a variety of characters was truly indispensable. His best episode was entitled, "Finding Portland," in which Albert plays Fred Allen, who is visiting town to promote his new book. The story is set in 1956, seven years after Allen's last radio appearance and Albert is dead on as Fred Allen. He captured the voice perfectly in a way that made you feel like you were actually hearing Allen.

Despite a few rough spots, Set 5 of the History of Harry Nile was simply marvelous radio entertainment the spirit of golden age radio detectives.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Nile, Set 5  (along with Sets 1-4, and 6) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

24Aug/130

Review: History of Harry Nile, Set 4

Set 4 of the Adventures of Harry Nile settles into a good rhythm with these adventures set in 1952-54 and having a flawless golden age feel. The series is so right, so good, and so relistenable.

Harry Nile is to 1950s Seattle what characters like Barrie Craig were to New York or Jeff Regan to Los Angeles. French captures the time, the place, and the feel of a great city that just wasn't represented as a consistent locale among writers of golden age detective fiction.

Jim French had clearly become the master of the 20 minute episodes as Harry plows through one case after another with mystery, comedy, and a good dose of suspense. The late Phil Harper is flawless. He's mostly supported by French's wife Pat as Murphy, but also an ensemble cast of local actors appear. However, some bigger names do make an appearance including Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan's Island) and Harry Anderson (Night Court) takes a couple turns, most memorably as the owner of a jazz club facing vandalism and harassment.

The set includes "The Case of the Blue Leather Chair" the only Harry Nile to be broadcast live. In addition, many were recorded live before a studio audience, who are heard throughout the production. The most amazing thing about these stories is that they were recorded in the 1990s, at a time when most people thought radio drama was a lost art. However, the Frenches and Harper showed that the formula worked: good writing and professional acting can make magic in the theater of the mind, even in 1990s Seattle. Even for a detective like...Harry Nile.

Purchasing Information:

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Niles, Set 3  (along with Sets 1,2  and 4-6) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

13Jul/130

Audio Drama Review: The History of Harry Nile, Set 3

This 3rd Set of Harry Nile stories starring Phil Harper follows Jim French's Private Detective on adventures from October 1950 to the Summer of 1952. These stories take a turn. There's one double length episode in this set and that's it. The episodes become shorter in length. With 19-22 minute self-contained shows becoming the new normal.

When I saw the track length, I was really nervous. Towards the end of the golden age of radio, many shows including Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and Have Gun Will Travel had their lengths of actual performance cut to that level and the results were really poorly written condensed material. That's why I think that Jim French deserves big time plaudits because he succeeded in making the scripts really pop and fitting a complete mystery into such a small amount of time.  Jim French really does a superb job on these episodes that makes them worth listening to.

This set rings true to the Golden Age setting of the stories.  In addition, there are some solid guest stars in Gilligan's Island Alumni Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson, and the distinct voice of Night Court's Harry Anderson is heard on a couple episodes as well.

Tight acting, great writing, and most episodes recorded before a live studio audience are just some of the reasons why this set is a must buy for fans of radio drama.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars

Purchasing Information:

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Niles, Set 3  (along with Sets 1,2  and 4-6) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

18May/132

Radio Drama Review: The History of Harry Niles, Box Set 2

The Adventures Harry Nile is a radio detective series recorded out of Seattle. It first began recording in 1977 and then resumed in the 1990s and continues to produce new episodes to this. Include in the second set of "The History of Harry Niles" are the last of the 1970s episodes episodes starring Phil Harper and some of the 1990s episodes and cover Harry Nile stories between 1942 and 1950.

There are two double length stories including the , "Blood Ties" which provides some crucial background on Harry's life in Chicago before moving to Los Angeles. "Hair of the Dog" sees the case of missing dog turning into a murder investigation. And as the title implies, "Aloha Means Goodbye" sees Harry traveling to Hawaii on a blackmail case. There's also two Christmas specials, the most heart-warming of which was, "Maybe, there is a Santa Claus" which finds Harry looking for a discharged soldier in Christmas 1945.

This block of episodes also features Harry's move from LA to Seattle, though in the Audible download version the order of episode was somewhat out of order, but that's the main point against this collection and it's a small one.

Producer Jim French really captured the spirit of the 1940s and 50s in these dramas. As well as capturing the history and period in Seattle history, which was definitely not covered in the golden age of radio.  Harry Nile becomes to Seattle what Pat Novak is to San Francisco and what Philip Marlowe is to Los Angeles.

This set also sees Murphy (played by French's wife Pat) begin to assume a regular role on the show. First, as a librarian that Harry plugged for free advice and then growing into a regular associate of Harry's firm.

In addition, I noticed a big improvement from the first set. Early on, French seemed to struggle with Harry as a hard luck hero. In some of those early episodes, the stories crossed a thin line into making Harry look like a loser. However, in this second volume, French clearly has the character down as a much more Marlowesque sort of character, though a little bit less violent.

Overall, this is another great Harry Nile set that shows development in this great character and series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Purchasing Information:

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Niles, Set 2  (along with Sets 1 and 3-6) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

21Jul/120

Audio Drama Review: The History of Harry Nile, Set 1 (Volumes 1-4)

There have been many attempts to tap into the magic of the Golden Age Detectives since 1962. Most modern radio detectives meet a somewhat quick exit unless they aired over British radio. The Independently produced Matthew Slade series lasted for about 13 weeks in the mid-60s. Canada’s Becker, House Detective survived for 13 weeks as well. In the 21st Century, the Canadian Decoder Ring Theatre has enjoyed great success since 2006, producing 48 episodes of Black Jack Justice.

However, for long lasting detective series, no one can beat Jim French’s Harry Nile. The show began airing in 1976 and ran through 1978 and then return in 1991 and continues air to this day. The show survived the death of original Star Phil Harper and continues with Larry Albert in the lead to this day. The show’s endurance for more than 20 years after its 1990s comeback and 35 years after it first aired is an amazing accomplishment.

In the History of Harry Nile, Box Set 1, we get to go back to the beginning. The History of Harry Nile series are in Chronological order based on story set. However, all but one of the 23 episodes were from the 1970s, and only three 1970s episodes are not included. The stories are set between December 1939 and Winter 1942.

We meet Harry Nile in, “West for My Health” which finds Harry in Chicago working as a private operative after quitting the force because he was tired of being the only honest cop in his department. However, he's in for gambling debts of $8,000 with a racketeer and he has no way to pay. The racketeer offers Harry a choice: die or go to LA and commit a murder to cancel the debt. Harry opts to go to LA but is  never sure if he'll go through with it.

This episode was never intended to be the start of a series of Harry Nile stories. It was a double length episode of, Crisis another French series featuring stories that would have fit well on classic radio programs such as "Suspense." However, the audience demanded more Harry Nile and they got it.

The next episode aired but "Seattle Blues" was one of my least favorite of the series. Harry Nile is a hard luck private investigator, however the way, "Seattle Blues" played out, particularly on the heels of a downbeat beginning, Harry Nile skirted that fine line between "hard luck" and "loser."

However, after this episode, the series falls into place. Harry relocates to Los Angeles and begins a far more even string of wins and losses. In the vast majority of episodes, Jim French and Phil Harper created a nearl y  perfect pitch recreation of the 1940s detective series with stories that would easily fit in to any number of detective series aired during the era with femme fatales, eccentric actors, horse racing, smugglers, and underworld characters.

Some notable episodes include:

"The Doomsday Book"-The story of a double-dealing daughter-in-law having walked out and the controlling mother-in-law who wants Harry to stop any blackmail attempt. The beginning bares a very strong resemblance to the Philip Marlowe novel, High Window.

"The Case of the Matinee Murder"-A young man from the wrong side of the tracks is accused of causing disturbance at the theater and finally murder. Harry tries to clear him.

"The Case of the Lisping Lover"- Harry is hired by a famous client who is mysterious about his identity and will only talk to Harry on the phone. However, the voice soudns like Humphrey Bogart. He insists a woman is blackmailing him, but what's really going on?

"Stand-in For Murder"-Harry gets a job on a cruise disguised as a former silent film star who has received numerous death threats. Harry's job is to be the decoy.

"A Little Out of Town Job"-Harry works off a speeding ticket for a friend by trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a beloved local banker.

"Angel's Flight"-Very little mystery in this one but from a dramatic standpoint, it's the best of the collection. It is set in December 1941 and leads up to Pearl Harbor. It captures the mood of the time perfectly.

"The Twenty Dollar Track Down"-Introduced Murphy who would become Nile's equivalent of George Valentine's Brooksie.

The series did a remarkable job recreating the golden age settings. It achieved an amazing authenticity. Most of the time, it would be hard to tell that episodes were recorded in the 1970s. Language and style were very consistent with few exceptions.

In this early collection, swearing is almost completely eschewed. The only episode to feature even mild expletives was, "Vacation with Bullets." Harry's world has more gray than the black and white of some of the golden age detectives. This was most apparent in the 1990s  episode "The Black Widow" which dealt with assisted suicide and artificial insemination (in 1941).   This was a somewhat jarring exception to a series that remained faithful to the times and the way stories were told in them.

In terms of quality, I'd place the series betwen, "Crime and Peter Chambers" and "Rogue's Gallery."  The program lacks the big-time stars of radio's golden era such as Dick Powell and Howard Duff. The biggest star to grace these episodes was the late Kurt Kasznar. However, the series had a repertory Company feel to it with many actors making multiple appearances and Pat French playing a wide variety roles in these early episodes before Murphy became a recurring character.

Overall, these Harry Nile episodes are a great treat that began a well-done series that would enjoy almost unprecedented post-golden age longevity.

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

Purchasing Information:

The set is available at French's website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.

The History of Harry Niles, Set 1 (along with Sets 4 and 5) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my June Audible Credit ($14.95).

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

   

Subscribers

Pages

Friends of the Show

GAR Links

Great OTR LInks

Other Old Time Radio Shows

August 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Tags

Categories

Archives