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

1Sep/130

EP1040s: Play It Again Adam: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Calculated Risk

Sidney Greenstreet

 A man plans to carry out a revenge on a man who framed him for Murder, and wants Wolfe to clear his name if he fails. Wolfe refuses, but ends up drawn into the case when the potential client is murdered.

Original Air Date: January 19, 1951

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20Nov/110

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of….

This past week, I had occasion to listen to the Lux Radio Theater version of The Maltese Falcon.  Humphrey Bogart and the rest of the original cast were not available, but the great Edward G. Robinson was chosen to fill Bogart's substantial gumshoes.

At the end of the hour performance, I was struck by how the Lux performance even with an "A" lead came off as a pale imitation when compared to the Bogart classic.  I then listened to the  half hour Academy Award Theater radio presentation with Bogart in the lead and Sidney Greenstreet and Mary Astor

I had the same feeling when I heard radio's attempt to create a made-for-radio sequel to the Maltese Falcon with Howard Duff as Spade. Duff had successfully created his own version of Spade, and played the famous hard boiled eye more often than anyone else. And the Khandi Tooth Caper is a fine radio play in its own right, but it couldn't come close to living up to the wonder of the movie.

The radio  adaptations are helpful to showing the true wonder of the movie and what makes it a great clasisc.  The biggest key is the dialogue with lines such as Kasper Gutman's, "I’m a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk." However, not just any actor can deliver these sort of lines.

I'd insist the magic of the movie comes back to the cast. While Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and even Elisha Cook, Jr. (who played Wilmer) turned in solid performances, they aren't irreplacable. In fact, neither the Lux or the Academy Award Theater version featured Lorre and the Lux version didn't feature Astor, and neither featured Cook. The only rule is if you don't have Peter Lorre playing Joel Cairo don't have an actor doing a bad Peter Lorre impression (as was the case with the Khandi Tooth Caper.)

The key to the greatness of the movie is found in Bogart and Greenstreet as Spade and Gutman. As Spade, Bogart delivers a spell-binding performance. Bogart's is tough, cynical, sarcastic and may seem mildly sociopathic at times as he tries to play both sides to square the murder of his partner.

And  Greenstreet's performance was a classic that would be imitated countless times on radio, in television, and screen. He served up a definitive template of the sophisticated, polite, and yet ruthless villain and earned an Oscar nomination.

Those two performances make the film a definitive screen classic that thankfully, no one in the modern era has tried to remake.

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17May/110

EP0407: Nero Wolfe: The Case of Room 304

Sidney Greenstreet

A woman offers Wolfe $1000 to help her and is then shot while talking to Archie on the phone.  It looks like a suicide, but Archie and Wolfe know it was murder.

Original Air Date: April 27, 1951

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10May/110

EP0402: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Lost Heir

Sidney Greenstreet

Nero Wolfe is hired to find out if a woman is really the air of a wealthy blind man, but Wolfe suspect the man also fears being murdered.

Original Air Date: April 20, 1951

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3May/111

EP0397: Nero Wolfe: A Slight Case of Perjury

Sidney Greenstreet

A man is acquitted of murder on perjured testimony and  hires Wolfe to locate the real killer.

Original Air Date: April 6, 1951

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26Apr/110

EP0392: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Tell-tale Ribbon

Sidney Greenstreet

A strange old man delivers Archie and Wolfe a letter requesting immediate help. Archie heads to the home, only to be told that no detective is needed.

Original Air Date: March 30, 1951

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19Apr/110

EP0387: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Final Page

Sidney Greenstreet

Wolfe and Archie arrive for a dinner date to find their host, a best-selling novelist, murdered.

Original Air Date: March 23, 1951

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12Apr/110

EP0382: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Midnight Ride

Sidney Greenstreet

Nero's Wolfe dentist and Archie both receive a mysterious call from a woman leading to a ride in the country to do away with them.

Original Air Date: March 16, 1951

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5Apr/110

EP0377: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds

Sidney Greenstreet

A burglar comes to Wolfe to ask him to prove he didn't commit murder and steal a fortune in diamonds.

Original Air Date: March 9, 1951

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29Mar/110

EP0372: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Hasty Will

Sidney Greenstreet

A man hires Archie to witness a new will and then disappears.

Original Air Date: March 2, 1951

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