(Graphic Courtesy of the Digital Deli.)
There were plenty of detectives who appeared on radio before the end of World War II. There was the genius of Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Charlie Chan, and Father Brown. There were the soap operatic adventures of Mister Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. There were detective comedies with Mr. and Mrs. North, Leonidas Witherall, and the Thin Man. There was the pulp fiction adventures of Nick Carter and Casey, Crime Photographer.
However, the hard boiled private eye, the daring men who encountered femme fatales, exchanged wisecracks with underworld characters, and took conks on the head every week, until the Summer of 1945 when the Fitch Bandwagon mysteries premiered over NBC starring Dick Powell as Richard Rogue.
Powell was in the midst of redefining his career to feature dramatic tough guy roles from his previous role as Comedic singing star. The previous season he’d been host and singer for musical Bandwagon Show which was also for Fitch.
Powell was the perfect choice to bring the hard boiled eye to the radio given his film experience. Powell’s performance as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, along with Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, and Lloyd Nolan’s Michael Shayne films had been key in bringing the bard-boiled private eye to the screen.
Richard Rogue was the typical tough guy private eye with a snappy line of patter, a way with the ladies, and a penchant for being knocked out. Rogue, unlike the ever-ethical Marlowe was open to a shady deal every now again. Rogue also was noteworthy for conversing with his subconscious (named Eugor which is Rogue spelled backwards) when he was knocked out and getting helpful and not-so helpful hints from Eugor.
After the Summer was over, Rogue’s Gallery premiered over Mutual for the regular season before moving over to NBC for another Summer season, at which point Dick Powell left the franchise to focus on films. He’d make his triumphant radio return with the memorable Richard Diamond.
In the Summer of 1947, film veteran Barry Sullivan became the 2nd Radio Richard Rogue, doing a 14-week run over NBC. Then in 1950, Mercury Theatre Veteran Paul Stewart became the final Richard Rogue. Ironically, according to the Digital Deli, Stewart played the role of Rogue more times than any other actor. (72 programs to 67 for Powell.) However, due to the popularity of Powell, and the fact that only one episode of the Stewart version is in circulation, to most radio fans, Dick Powell is Richard Rogue.
Dick Powell (1904-63): Dick Powell is one of the most distinct leading men in the world of Old Time Radio Detectives. He spent the first part of his entertainment career, playing young singing romantic leads. At the age of 40, he landed the part of Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet and began a second career as a dramatic actor. This would play out on the radio in several venues. He would bring several of his motion picture performances to the radio via the Lux Radio Theater including his performance in Murder My Sweet and To the Ends of the Earth.
Powell would also come to radio as a sleuth on three other occassions in stand alone shows. He played the lead in Rogue’s Gallery as a detective that was knocked silly and encountered Eugor, a character in his subconcious that would help him solve whatever case he was on.
He parlayed that into the role of Richard Diamond, a laid back singing detective.He also played the police officer foil for his then-wife Joan Blondell’s private investigator in Miss Pinkerton, Incorporated.
In television, Powell was a pioneer, his Four Star Productions turned out memorable programs such as, The Four Star Playhouse, Richard Diamond Private Detective (with David Janssen in the lead), The Zane Grey Theater, Burke’s Law, and the Dick Powell Theater.
Powell died far too young as a result of making the film, The Conqueror, a classically bad film that featured John Wayne as Genghis Khan. The film was shot downwind from a nuclear testing site. He developed cancer along with nearly half the cast and crew and half the population of nearby St. George, Utah. Powell succumbed in 1963.
Peter Leeds (1917-96): Peter Leeds was a character actor’s character actor. He made 3000 appearances coupled with an astounding 8000 television shows that included guest appearances on Dragnet, Adam 12, Checkmate, Sanford and Son, Charlie’s Angels, Hawaii 5-0, Perry Mason, The Flying Nun, and almost any show you could think of that aired between the 1950s and the 1970s. He slowed down towards the end of the 70s but continued to act until 1987.
- Blondes Prefer Gentlemen (Original Air Date: October 4, 1945)
- Murder in Drawing Room A (Original Air Date: October 11, 1945)
- Murder with Muriel (Original Air Date: October 25, 1945)
- Little Drops of Rain (Original Air Date: November 8, 1945)
- The House of Fear (Original Air Date: November 15, 1945)
- The Lovely Little Old Lady (Original Air Date: November 29, 1945)
- Blood on the Sand (Original Air Date: December 13, 1945)
- Fortune in Furs (Original Air Date: December 20, 1945)
- Murder at Minden (Original Air Date: January 3, 1946)
- A Will in Question (Original Air Date: January 17, 1946)
- Special Added Attraction (Original Air Date: January 31, 1946)
- The Triangle Murder Case (Original Air Date: February 21, 1946)
- The Message (Original Air Date: April 11, 1946)
- Snowbound (Original Air Date: May 9, 1946)
- The Impossible Murder (Original Air Date: May 16, 1946)
- The Latin Type (Original Air Date: May 23, 1946)
- Blue Eyes (Original Air Date: May 30, 1946)
- The Corpse I Didn’t Kill (Original Air Date: June 13, 1946)
- The Star of Savoy (Original Air Date: June 23, 1946)
- Lady with a Gun (Original Air Date: June 30, 1946)
- Cabin on a Lake (Original Air Date: July 7, 1946)
- Where There’s a Will, There’s a Murder (Original Air Date: July 14, 1946)
- Phyllis Adrian is Missing (Original Air Date: June 29, 1947)
- The Janice Kroll Murder (Original Air Date: November 12, 1950
Log information courtesy of the Digital Deli.