Friday, September 12, 2014

DRAGNET: The Big Cod, August 2, 1951

Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday
The evolution of detective programs on old-time radio began in the late twenties when most original detectives were inspired by the murder mystery stage plays often dramatized on stage on Broadway. By the early thirties, Philo Vance and Charlie Chan began inspiring imitations and programs of their own... sometimes adapted from the novels themselves -- others to help promote major motion pictures.

In 1946, CBS began offering The Adventures of Sam Spade and those early adventures revealed a different kind of gumshoe -- one who stole money out of a dead man's wallet and shot a crooked thief (a woman) in the back when she tried to escape. Radio listeners (and script writers) took note and began their own imitations of the Sam Spade series, more tame than the Sam Spade character. By 1947, radio detectives became a common staple in network broadcasting -- so much so that concerned parents formed organizations in an effort to curb the vicious murders that intrigued impressionistic young minds. But after you listen to a dozen of those programs -- Philo Vance, Boston Blackie, Nero Wolfe, Richard Diamond, etc. -- the conclusion is the same. The detective programs are relatively the same -- each with their own variation-on-a-theme.

Then came Jack Webb and Dragnet, which was far more original than any detective program on the airwaves. So original that it is difficult to name another radio program that attempted to imitate Dragnet. (It is far easier to name a number of programs that spoofed Dragnet.) Many collectors today know of a handful of "lost" episodes -- lost being defined as episodes in which a recording is not known to exist. For all you Dragnet fans, here is a scan of a Dragnet script for a lost episode. Enjoy!













































Friday, September 5, 2014

My Visit to Duffy's Tavern

There’s no secret about it. One of my favorite radio programs is Duffy's Tavern. Hoping to finish a book about the popular radio program, ten years in the works, I accepted an invitation to Ed Gardner Jr.’s residence. It was Eddie’s father who created the radio program, earning the nickname “Archie.”

Duffy's Tavern aired on CBS and NBC from 1940 to 1951, earning the reputation of making fun of Hollywood celebrities. From Veronica Lake, Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, Peter Lorre and well… you name them and they were probably a guest on the program at one time.

Spending a few days at Ed Gardner Jr.’s house was as delightful as I could have possibly imagined. We shared a number of talks during my visit, a more informal way of getting answers to questions I might otherwise forget. Yes, we could have talked over the phone and exchanged questions and answers in the form of an interview but this was more relaxed. Eddie (he preferred to be called) remembered doing an interview for someone once and after the phone call concluded, thought of stories he wished he could have told. Here, he recalled moments of his childhood two and three days after my arrival and by the time I went back home, he was satisfied that he did not overlook anything.

Autographed photo to Ed Gardner, one of many he collected.
Through our talks I learned about the intimate side of his father. Who knew that Ed Gardner never liked John Wayne? (Yes, he was never on the radio program). Who knew that Gardner purposely collected autographs on glossy photos while he was a producer of the Good News program from 1937 to 1940? Who knew that Gardner died almost penniless? And I finally learned how that famous apron, signed by a hundred celebrities, ended up in the hands of a private collector. It seems after Ed Gardner died in 1964, his widow, Simone, kept the apron. During the 1970s or early 80s, she had Christie’s auction it off and her only percentage totaled $15,000. She should have gotten more. Eddie recalled helping his father with Duffy's Tavern scripts by reading them and scratching out the jokes that were “corny.” Eddie was there when his father died in his arms at the hospital, and how he wished he had been a better son for his father (what son doesn’t wish that after their father passes on?).

Martin Grams and Edward Gardner Jr.
Walking on the same tightrope, but from the opposite direction, Eddie was surprised to learn things about his father he did not know. And he was quick to call his uncle and tell him the news. Eddie was surprised to learn how his father was once singled out on the floor of the U.S. Senate for a joke that one U.S. Senator did not find funny when it was brought to his attention. Eddie knew very little of Shirley Booth, his father’s first wife, and enjoyed learning a little more about her and their rocky relationship. Eddie did, however, share the romantic story of how his mother and father first met. “She was sun bathing on the beach at the Hamptons, Wyborg,” Eddie recalled. “It’s been decades now so if that was not the beach, at the Hamptons, where father rented a house a block away from Wyborg, it was a very desolate and romantic setting worthy of nothing. He saw her lying there and was taken by her beauty. He was a fast and smooth talker and she went out with him. That’s how Simone Hegeman met my father and you look at that photo and you can see how she caught his attention. They got married soon after and good-bye Shirley Booth.”

Ed Gardner and wife Simone.
Eddie was the oldest of two brothers. His younger brother, Stephen, was born four years later. They spent much of their childhood in Puerto Rico, where the Gardners lived. Discovering a tax loophole, Ed Gardner sold their home in Bel Air and moved to the islands. The last three years of Duffy's Tavern was recorded in Puerto Rico and shipped to NBC in the states. When they returned, they lived in a new home in Benedict Canyon.

But most important, scanning all those scripts and photographs will help preserve what Ed Gardner did for radio, including the Duffy's Tavern series. Time was not kind to many of the photographs, suffering both water damage, mold and other factors that age glossy paper of the time. A few were rolled up in the shape of tubes so we had to unravel them carefully and are now being restored digitally. Eddie now has restored copies on CD and DVD. And my copies, off-site backups, ensure they are preserved. (And yes, I sent a copy of the same discs to another friend so they are definitely backed up.) Radio scripts received the same treatment, now in jpg and pdf format (especially for the “lost” episodes for which recordings are not known to exist).

Example of a photo that needs restoration.
We also enjoyed a couple ballgames, toured the local scenery where folks have some beautiful log and stone homes, and soaked in a local hot spring to intake the beauty of nature. A refreshing trip indeed. After spending more than ten years researching Duffy's Tavern, I can state that the additional information not only filled in 90 percent of the blank spaces I had in my manuscript, but the book will be fantastic after one more trip for research next week.

Shameless plug for my up-coming Duffy's Tavern book? Yeah. But I’d be a fool not to use my blog to promote a book and the photos and trivia offered above are certain to be fascinating to any old-time radio fan.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Green Hornet: The "Lost" 1937 Radio Broadcasts

In an effort to extend his profits, and the broadcast range of The Green Hornet, George W. Trendle paid for each radio broadcast to be transcribed when it was broadcast "live." He then syndicated the series to radio stations across the country and those stations would pay a rental fee for each disc and that station could sell sponsorship time. 

The system was not without flaws. When someone in the recording department was putting a Hornet seal over the program numbers, on the discs, stations had to listen to the programs in order to find out which episode number it was according to the spec sheets. This was specifically an issue with KTAR in Phoenix, which decided not to bother with verifying the sequential numbers and chose to broadcast the episodes out of sequence.
 
On the evening of Thursday, August 25, 1944, a number of radio listeners expressed curiosity when WMAQ in Chicago started in at 10:30 with a fascinating, but unscheduled, episode of The Green Hornet, ran it for nine minutes, then switched into Everything for the Boys, normally heard at that time. An announcer explained briefly that it had all been a mistake. The boys at WMAQ recorded both programs earlier in the evening as network features, at which time they were recorded as transcriptions for broadcast at a later time. Apparently an employee typed out labels for both transcriptions, then put the Hornet label on the Everything for the Boys record, and vice versa. The Green Hornet boiled merrily till 10:39 until it was verified that the traffic department hadn’t scheduled a last minute change. Then the announcer broke in while the engineer put on the right record, measuring off approximately nine minutes from the beginning so Everything for the Boys would end at the proper time.
 
John Todd, Senior Reid on The Green Hornet
KFMB in San Diego, California, part of the Worchester Broadcasting Corporation, paid Trendle $28 for each episode played over their network. On March 5, 12, 19 and 26, 1945, episodes 688 through 691 were played in sequence. For the broadcast of April 2, however, an error occurred. Half of each episode was featured on one side of two separate discs. When the first half of an episode concluded on one disc, the second half picked up almost instantly from the other disc. The opposite side of those two discs featured the two halves of the next episode. Due to an error in labeling before the transcriptions were received by KFMB, the network broadcast the first part of episode No. 692 titled “Load of Cigarettes,” and the second part of No. 693 titled “The Bigger They Are.” The mistake was not caught until the recording was being played over the air, and the network began receiving phone calls from listeners asking for an explanation. KFMB could not charge its sponsor for the broadcast because of the error, and the network applied for a credit with King-Trendle to compensate for the mistake. (On April 9, the network continued with the next sequential episode, No. 694.) KFMB’s request for a credit was approved by Trendle, but not until eight months later because he insisted the source of the error had to be verified first.
 
This might explain why Trendle requested a title be added to each radio adventure, rather than an episode and disc number. The August 2, 1938 broadcast was the first episode of The Green Hornet to be titled. As such all episodes prior to August of 1938 did not have a script title. Fran Striker, the author, simply numbered each script with an episode number. What follows, for your amusement, are ten episodes with plot summaries for radio broadcasts not known to exist in recorded form. No matter how many episodes of The Green Hornet you might have in your collection, the episodes documented above were never transcribed and therefore, never will surface no matter how hard you look. While hundreds of radio broadcasts exist and are not yet available in collector hands, these episodes are certified "lost" and are offered for your own amusement. 

Episode #162 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast of Thursday, August 26, 1937
Copyright Registration D-2-#51703, script received at Registration Office Sept. 2, 1937.
Plot: The Atlantic Building Corp. is constructing a skyscraper when work suddenly halts. The tight-fisted owner of the adjoining property, Herman Fogarty, demands $1 million for a strip of his land six inches wide. Since the building’s construction is six inches off, Fogarty’s attempt to prevent completion succeeds. Britt Reid learns an injunction stopping work at this stage allows the corporation to profit on the unfinished job. The Green Hornet convinces Fogarty that he’s working with Davidson of ABC, causing a falling out between the two men and putting 3,000 men back to work.
 
Episode #163 [NO TITLE LISTED, PART ONE OF TWO] 
Broadcast Tuesday, August 31, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#51848, script received at Registration Office Sept. 10, 1937.
Plot: Frank Williamson operates a string of bookie parlors out of town. Having studied the affairs of the Hornet, Williamson contacts his friend, Chief Riggin, to explain his plan for catching The Green Hornet, believing someone in the police department is a leak. Knowing The Hornet wants evidence that could convict bookie Trig Gerber, word spreads as bait for the masked man. The Green Hornet takes the bait and discovers his only means of escape, a skylight, is locked shut. Mike Axford sneaks inside to help catch The Hornet, unlocks the skylight, and unwillingly aids his escape. Axford is gassed, and Britt Reid stashes his costume and gun, then fakes being a victim of The Hornet gas to eliminate suspicion.
 
Episode #164 [NO TITLE LISTED, PART TWO OF TWO]
Broadcast Thursday, September 2, 1937
 
Copyright Registration D-2-#51849, script received at Registration Office Sept. 10, 1937.
Plot: Britt Reid learns that Doctor Mordant, who heads the health column in The Daily Sentinel, administers drugs to at least a half-dozen addicts, claiming they are treatments for the patients’ nervous troubles. They are now addicted, and their position and money protect them. When Axford discovers Mordant’s nurse was murdered by Trig Gerber’s men, and are being shielded by Frank Williamson, The Green Hornet visits Mordant late one evening to convince him that Williamson plans to use the doctor as a fall guy. Stealing the doctor’s gun, the Hornet plants it where Axford will find it, and when Williamson learns about the murder weapon, he plans to eliminate the doctor. Trig shoots Mordant, but not before the doctor squeals on Williamson, and Williamson puts the finger on Trig.
 
Episode #165 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Tuesday, September 7, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52005, script received at Registration Office Sept. 17, 1937. 
Plot: Gordon Hawthorne claims he has six bona fide letters that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the identity of The Green Hornet. He also claims the letters concern Millicent Bancroft, who is a foreign agent, collecting information by posing as an attractive society woman. Hawthorne offers to sell the letters to Britt Reid for $5,000, but Reid claims he would have to see the letters before choosing to buy and publish them. The Green Hornet cleverly steals the letters to unearth a blackmail plot and exposes Millicent Bancroft while foiling Hawthorne’s scheme.
 
Episode #166 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, September 9, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52006, script received at Registration Office Sept. 17, 1937.
Plot: A special investigator from the State Attorney’s Office tips off Britt Reid with his suspicions that a number of restaurants and nightclubs have a racket in wines, putting new wine in bottles labeled for older vintages. He suspects that Rinaldo, who owns all the shady eateries, is juggling the state’s wine accounts, and paying off corrupt clerks. When Fawcett is found dead the next day of an apparent plunge in an auto accident, Reid suspects foul play. The Green Hornet visits Rinaldo’s office and steals papers incriminating the guilty parties involved. Rinaldo, upon discovering the theft, attempts to torture Cooley, a clerk of the state liquor and wine commission, with a hunk of iron and a blow torch, but The Green Hornet arrives to save Cooley’s life and expose the crooks.
 
Episode #167 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Tuesday, September 14, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52076, script received at Registration Office Sept. 22, 1937.
Plot: Darion and Boroff make arrangements for the safe delivery of the Idol Eyes, a pair of matched rubies said to have been from the crown of a ruler in the Far East. Axford tells Reid that Boroff resembles a crook named Duke Gosinski, known as one of the slickest jewel thieves who ever lived. When the jewels are stolen, Mrs. Sanderson, the owner, becomes the prime suspect. But the jewels stolen were paste copies and The Green Hornet visits Boroff to claim he stole the real rubies, negotiating a sale, revealing Boroff is the indeed the famed jewel thief and is attempting to cash in on the insurance policy. Boroff, however, is fooled by The Green Hornet when their deal goes sour and he finds himself framed for the crime.
 
Episode #168 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, September 16, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52077, script received at Registration Office Sept. 22, 1937.
Plot: An epidemic of burglaries has occurred in a dozen wealthy homes. The police attempt to railroad an innocent maid into a confession. The guilty party is Amos Carter, who is accepting memberships for a club he is organizing for house servants who wish to accept a percentage of the robberies. Kato sets himself as bait for Carter and his assistant, Steve, who decide that wealthy apartments should be the next target. When Reid’s apartment is burglarized, Kato becomes the prime suspect — until evidence suggests The Green Hornet was involved. Steve and Amos suspect the masked man is attempting to muscle in on their operation, unaware they are giving away details of their operation to the police.
 
Episode #169 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Tuesday, September 21, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52288, script received at Registration Office Oct. 4, 1937.
Plot: The Merker bill proposes a one percent tax on gasoline, but it was never meant to be passed. It was proposed just so an association of gasoline dealers would come through with a little financial backing to fight the measure. When Roscoe Burton, the new state senator, is offered a bribe, he rejects the payoff and visits The Daily Sentinel with his story. Britt Reid agrees that such bills have been introduced in the past, with no intention of passing, but without proof, nothing can ever be done. When the disillusioned Burton leaves The Daily Sentinel, he is struck by a car and killed. When another state senator, Morgan, gets involved with the same bill, The Green Hornet sets out to meet the lawmaker personally and reveal Jonothan Corbett, another senator, was behind the bill and the murder.
 
Episode #170 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, September 23, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52289, script received at Registration Office Oct. 4, 1937.
Plot: Jack Hastings, a college friend of Britt Reid, is in town to help his play, “The Gold Jersey,” become a success on the stage. But the director, Ranny Roberts, and the producer, Mike Jacoby, are purposely attempting to flop the show — they have sold the rights to the play to half-a-dozen other men. If the show is a hit, they have to pay 80 percent of the profits to each of the six investors. The Green Hornet sets out late one night to convince producer Jacoby to leave town in a hurry. The Hornet does the same for Roberts, leaving Hastings to handle the reins. The play is a financial and critical success, and Jacoby and Roberts are forced to remain in hiding when the backers come knocking.
 
Episode #171 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Tuesday, September 28, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52339, script received at Registration Office Oct. 7, 1937.
Plot: Carlos Wilson, a big-time gangster, accused of murdering Jake the Killer, walks when he provides a steadfast alibi. Hymie Martin, who took a candid picture at the time of the killing, managed to get the murder weapon with Wilson’s fingerprints and strikes a deal with the police to turn over the evidence. Meanwhile, Jim Stevenson, a 15-year-old in jail for a minor offense, is bailed out by Wilson, who offers him a job. He plans to set-up Jim for a burglary rap, with evidence planted on the boy to also accuse him of the murder. The Green Hornet arrives on the scene, gasses the burglars, gets Jim out of there before the police arrive, and secures the evidence so Wilson will go to jail for the homicide. Britt Reid, having read the news in his own paper, offers young Stevenson a job working for The Daily Sentinel.
 
Episode #172 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, September 30, 1937 
Copyright Registration D-2-#52340, script received at Registration Office Sept. 30, 1937.
Plot: Barney Adams operates an organization like a church or club and convinces people to back a fund-raiser, for which he resorts to everything, up to and including blackmail, to sell advertising space. He makes a fortune every year, and since he is not breaking any laws, he cannot be stopped. Britt Reid uses his newspaper to discourage Barney’s advertising methods, but when he learns how Mr. Usher and Mr. Porter and their congregation have been misrepresented, Reid dons the guise of The Green Hornet to smash the racket. By stealing the money Barney was going to use for printing programs, he ensures the crooked advertising man is unable to fulfill his part of the business arrangement, giving police what they need to put him behind bars and providing just cause for the church to file suit against him.
 

Shameless Plug: The "lost" episodes featured in this blog post are reprinted from my book, The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television. Originally released in paperback format, a hardcover version has recently been made available exclusively from coverout.com.

One small reminder I stated a couple times since I started this blog. There are a number of people who have made it a habit of copying material from my blog, including photos, and then claiming they did their own research. One even went so far as to say I stole from them! If this happens again, I will take the entire blog down. I am merely posting this information for the amusement and entertainment of those folks in the hobby who appreciate such treasures being brought to light.

© 2013, Martin Grams, Jr. All rights reserved.