Tag: Howard Duff

Twice Told Tale – The McCoy: Three Wayward Girls and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Starlet Matter

Once again, we take a look at an old time radio script that was recycled. In this case, the script was a pilot for a new radio series, The McCoy, and then was reused as an episode of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar.

The McCoy is called in by an agent who fears that one of his clients, a promising actress, will be murdered. While they’re talking, a phone call comes in and they learn she was strangled to death.

Originating in Hollywood

Audition date: April 24, 1951

Starring: Howard Duff as The McCoy; Sidney Miller; Sheldon Leonard; Cathy Lewis; Ed Max; Barton Yarborough

Johnny is sent to Hollywood because an agent fears his starlet client is going to be murdered. Johnny finds she’s already been strangled to death.

Originating in Hollywood

Original Air Date: January 16, 1953

Starring: John Lund as Yours Truly Johnny Dollar; Sidney Miller; Raymond Burr; Dick Ryan; John McIntire; Vic Perrin; Virginia Gregg; Jeanette Nolan

Fill out our advertising survey at https://adsurvey.greatdetectives.net

Become one of Our Patreon Supporters at patreon.greatdetectives.net

Patreon Supporter of the Day: Duane, Patreon Supporter since June 2023

Support the show on a one-time basis at http://support.greatdetectives.net.

Mail a donation to: Adam Graham, PO Box 15913, Boise, Idaho 83715

Take the listener survey at http://survey.greatdetectives.net

Give us a call at 208-991-4783

Follow us on Instagram at http://instagram.com/greatdetectives

Follow us on Twitter @radiodetectives

Join us again tomorrow for another detective drama from the Golden Age of Radio.

Dante and Other TV Shows in Copyright Limbo (UPDATED)

(See Update Below)

After Howard Duff hung up his fedora as radio’s Sam Spade, he took on the role of Willie Dante in the 1960-61 NBC series Dante. He plays the operator of an illegal gambling room called The Inferno, who gets into all kinds of trouble, facing off against all sorts of characters in a series that was often described as charming. The series enjoys a solid 7.5 rating on IMDB among those who remember it, which is an exceedingly small number of people.

Classic television is a niche interest and knowledge of Dante and shows like it are even more niche. The series was created in 1960 and 1961, at a time when copyright lasted for 28 years and then needed to be renewed, and it was. So the series isn’t in the public domain. It’s also not legally available anywhere. Dante is currently only available from sellers of gray market DVDs and at the time of writing, there are a couple of episodes posted on YouTube. Those aren’t legal copies, but no one’s enforcing copyright law regarding Dante. However, businesses and streaming platforms are not going to release high quality DVDs or stream a series that way.

Duff’s successor as Spade, Stephen Dunne, also has a series from the same era in the same situation. He stars as one of two brothers (the other is played by Mark Roberts), who are also private detectives in a 1960-61 syndicated series, The Brothers Brannagan. The opening sequence of this one-season wonder is preserved on YouTube and should have been enough to make the series a cult classic, with the classy ’60s music leading into a voice calling, “Hey, Brannagan,” and one of them asking, “Which one?” before getting asked a question. From all appearances, they custom-filed every opening, but that wasn’t enough for them to avoid copyright limbo.

Of course, something doesn’t have to be obscure to find its way into limbo. Take The Thin Man. It’s a classic mystery novel. It’s one of the most successful film franchises of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Yet, the two-season, 72-episode run of the 1957-59 TV series starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk has been little-seen for decades. It’s not that no episode has been released, but only two have, and you have to hunt them. One episode was released as an extra as part of the out-of-print Complete Thin Man Collection.  Another, “The Robot Client,” was made available on the Forbidden Planet DVD because Robbie the Robot made a guest appearance.

And it’s not just the shows of the late 1950s or early 1960s that suffered this fate. Another Howard Duff-led vehicle, the 1966-69 series The Felony Squad, in which Duff plays Sergeant Sam Stone, is also completely unavailable by legal means. The series also featured Ben Alexander, who played Frank Smith in the the 1950s Dragnet series and wasn’t able to reprise his role for the 1960s revival because he was starring in this. The only legal purchasable footage of any character from this series is when Howard Duff makes a window cameo in the Season 2 episode of the 1960s Batman series, “The Impractical Joker.Of course, the joke in the scene is undermined for modern audiences, as we have no idea who Duff is portraying. Failing to release a Howard Duff TV series that also features Ben Alexander, while also ruining a window scene joke from the 1960s Batman series isn’t a felony but maybe it ought to be!


We’ve just talked about TV series that are tied to Dashiell Hammett or to actors who played Dashiell Hammett-created sleuths. But there are many series that find themselves generally unavailable to viewers. In some ways, it’s understandable to do this. Even with the rise of print-on-demand DVDs and streaming sales on Prime or Apple that require no physical presence, there is a cost to TV studios for making shows available, and some programs and movies are unlikely to be profitable enough to merit the expense to get them to market.

Is there a solution?

In the past, some in Congress have pushed for laws that would allow some neglected works to become “orphan works” that could freely be used if notice were given and no one came forward. Yet, this has been resisted by many in the entertainment industry, who view it as a throwback to the era of copyright renewals, when media companies’ failure to file timely renewals led to episodes of programs like The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show entering the public domain.

One thing that occurred to me is the recent spate of stories of large media companies withdrawing works both released and unreleased in order to get a tax write-off. In effect, the tax code is subsidizing them destroying films. Whether such a write-off should exist is a political question far beyond my purview here. But it seems like if we’re going to provide that sort of tax breaks to corporations, it would make sense to give them to companies to release work into the public domain rather than destroying it. And when it comes to old TV shows and movies languishing in the vault, maybe some small tax write-off could be made available in the public domain. It certainly makes more sense than subsidizing the wholesale destruction of unreleased films.

However, such issues are not likely to be on the national agenda any time soon. Until they are, knowledge of these series will be limited to a select in-the-know clientele, much like those who showed up at Dante’s gambling rooms.


A commenter pointed out that Dante is available on the British Website Talking Pictures TV. It is a website where you can watch certain rare classic television programs and films. Some of these are only available in the UK, but many also are available to those of us in the U.S>. The site does require free registration but I was able to access Dante from there. While it’s not ideal that this is the only legal way to access the series, it is a legal way and I’m thankful for the comment and also for being made aware that Talking Pictures TV is available to U.S. watchers.

EP0950s: The McCoy: Three Wayward Girls

Howard Duff

The McCoy investigates the murder of an old girlfriend at the request of her agent.

Audition Date: April 22, 1951

Support the show:


Become one of our friends on Facebook… http://www.facebook.com/radiodetectives

Take the listener survey at http://survey.greatdetectives.net

Give us a call 208-991-4783

Follow us on Twitter @radiodetectives

Click here to download, click here to add this podcast to your Itunes, click here to subscribe to this podcast on Zune, click here to subscribe to this feed using any other feed reader.


Radio’s Most Essential People: #51-#49

Previous: 54-52, 57-55, 60-58, 65-61, 70-6671-75, 76-80, 81-85, 86-90, 91-95, 96-100

51) Jeanette Nolan

Jeanette Nolan was a remarkable character actress over radio. Her friend True Boardman said Nolan was a remarkable actress who could play any female role from the Queen, to a widow, to a seductress. Her first major role was on Tarzan in the 1930s Nolan was best known for her old lady roles. Ironically enough, Nolan was in her 20s and 30s while playing most of these dowager roles. She helped to hold some of radio’s great shows together. Producer Norm Macdonnell used her as part of a stock company that appeared often on Gunsmoke, Fort Laramie,and the Adventures of Philip Marlowe. She also made frequent appearances on Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Suspense, and the Cavalcade of America.

Howard Duff50) Howard Duff

Prior to 1946, Duff’s most memorable radio work may have been as an announcer for the Armed Forces Radio Service. To millions of American soldiers, he was Sergeant X, who hosted the AFRS Mystery Playhouse featuring some of the most notable detectives on radio. Little did Duff know he’d become one of the most famous radio detectives after the war. Duff remains radio’s definitive Sam Spade. During his four years on the program, the show was a radio hit and his sardonic, wise-cracking portrayal of Spade  remains one of radio’s most iconic performances. His status as Spade led to an appearance on the Burns and Allen show in which he played himself, but Gracie believed him to be Sam Spade, and hilarity ensued. In addition, a program featuring a fan of the program was launched and entitled Sara’s Private Capers. A combination of high cost, unjustified accusations of Communist activity against Duff, and justified accusations of Communist activists against Dashiell Hammett led to the end of Duff’s run.  Duff struggled to find radio work after this. He was given a pilot for another detective show called The McCoy that went nowhere. Still, Duff’s role as Spade endures as does his othe radio work.

49) Eve Arden-Eve Arden was not the first choice to play  the title role in Our Miss Brooks. The first attempt at the series featured Shirley Booth in the title role.  Luckily the role went to Arden, whose main claim to fame over radio had been a season spent co-starring on the Danny Kaye Show, though Arden had enjoyed a successful film career. However in Connie Brooks, a wise-cracking, occasionally clumsy, but very competent and beloved English teacher, Brooks found a defining character.  When Our Miss Brooks hit the air in 1948, it was the beginning of a radio megahit. To be certain, Arden wasn’t the only contributor. It’s hard to imagine the show succeeding without Gale Gordon as Osgood Conklin and other parts including  Dick Crenna as Walter Denton and Jane Morgan as Mrs. Davis. However, Arden was the key. She made Miss Brooks likable. She was assertive without being pushy. She was wise-cracking without being mean. Arden had plenty of help but she was the key to the whole enterprise.

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.


EP0200s Suspense: The Khandi Tooth Caper

 Howard Duff

In this made-for-radio sequel to the Maltese Falcon, Casper Guttman (Joseph Kearns) returns, but this time he’s seeking a piece of dental work.

Original Air Date: January 10, 1948

Sponsor: Hold your meetings online for just $49 a month Try GoToMeeting free.

Click here to download, click here to add this podcast to your Itunes, click here to subscribe to this podcast on Zune, click here to subscribe to this feed using any other feed reader.