Philo Vance was created by S.S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright.) Vance first appeared in the novel The Benson Murder Case, which was published in 1925. Twelve novels were published over fourteen years. He was introduced as a wealthy young dabbler in many fields who added solving crime to his many other interests. His friend, District Attorney Markham came to rely on him to solve difficult murders, while Sergeant Heath of the Homicide Squad had little choice but to tolerate him.
The character gained new life and popularity in film. William Powell played Vance in four films, but the character was portrayed by a variety of actors including Basil Rathbone, Paul Lukas, and Warren William.
Philo Vance came to radio starring John Emery from 1943-45. In the Summer of 1945, NBC released a Summer replacement series starring Jose Ferrer as Vance. In 1946, radio and television syndication king Frederic Ziv began producing a series starring radio veteran Jackson Beck as Vance that produced more than 100 episodes.
About Our Stars
Jose Ferrer (1912-1992): Jose Ferrer was a noted screen, stage, and radio actor. Ferrer won the first-ever Tony Award for Best Actor in 1947 for his performance in the title role of Cyrano de Bergarac. Ferrer would go on to star in the film version in 1950 and won the Golden Globe and became the first Hispanic Actor to win an academy award. Ferrer was also nominated for two additional Oscars as well as two Emmys and a BAFTA. Caine appeared in such key films as The Caine Mutiny and Lawrence of Arabai. He won a second Tony Award in 1952. Ferrer also became a director in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with State Fair being the best known film he directed. He was also nominated for a Director’s Guild Award for The Great Man. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures in 1960 and became the first actor to receive the National Medal of Arts in 1985. He continued acting on stage, television, and film until 1991.
Jackson Beck (1912-2004): Jackson Beck had many roles in radio. He starred for Ziv as the once-popular private detective Philo Vance. However, where he distinguished himself was on Adventures of Superman. He’s best known as the announcer of that program who delivered the show’s memorable opening. However, Beck showed flexibility by not only announcing but acting in the show. As the Jimmy Olsen character grew up on the radio, he took on the role of Beany Martin, a copyboy. He also had the distinction of being the first actor to portray Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth. His contributions to radio drama continued long after Superman left the air in 1951. He was probably the biggest name to appear on the radio in the September 30, 1962 golden age of radio finale as he appeared in “The Tip Off Matter” on Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. He continued to make radio appearances frequently with numerous appearance on radio revival shows such as Theater Five, the General Mills Adventure Theater, and The CBS Mystery Theater. In 2000, he served as a narrator on the Hollywood Theatre of the Ear’s production 2000X.
Radio Episode log:
John Emery Episodes:
- The Case of the Cellini Cup (Original Air Date: April 29, 1943)
Jose Ferrer Episodes:
- The Girl Who Came Back (Original Air Date: July 26, 1945)
- The Case of the Strange Music (Original Air Date: August 9, 1945)
- The Eagle Murder Case (Original Air Date: September 26, 1946)
- The Merry Murder Case (Original Air Date: October 3, 1946)
- The Poetic Murder Case (Original Air Date: November 7, 1947)
- The Coachman Murder Case (Original Air Date: November 14, 1946)
- The Midget Murder Case (Original Air Date: May 20, 1948)
- The Blue Lady Murder Case (Original Air Date: November 28, 1946)
- The Backstage Murder Case (Original Air Date: December 5, 1946)
- The Argus Murder Case (Original Air Date: December 12, 1946)
- The Bulletin Murder Case (Original Air Date: December 19, 1946)
- The Cover Girl Murder Case (Original Air Date: December 26, 1946)
- The Heavyweight Murder Case (Original Air Date: January 30, 1947)
- The Tree Trunk Murder Case (Original Air Date: February 6, 1947)
- The Black Jack Murder Case (Original Air Date: February 13, 1947)
- The Star-Studded Murder Case (Original Air Date: February 20, 1947)
New episode posted every Thursday