Friday, February 10, 2012

THE GREEN LAMA: The Radio Program (Part Two)

Paul Frees, a.k.a. Jethro Dumont
Taking a page from The Shadow radio program, The Green Lama audio adventures varied considerably from the pulp stories. In the pulps, the Green Lama is really Buddhist Jethro Dumont, who was made a lama in Tibet. He disguised himself as Reverend Dr. Pali, a Buddhist priest, preventing anyone from connecting Dumont with his shrouded alias. Like The Shadow in the pulps, Dumont had several agents who helped gather information that was used to deduce the motive and operation of the criminals. One of these agents was the mysterious Magga, who helped the Green Lama, but her real identity was never revealed. Much like Lamont Cranston, Dumont was a wealthy resident of New York City. On radio, Dumont traversed the globe accompanied by a native minion, Tulku, played by Ben Wright. This was Dumont’s only agent in the combat against crime. In the earliest broadcasts of the series, Dumont encountered cab drivers, providing comic relief, who offered their services for a small fee. 

Like the incarnation depicted in the pulps, the Green Lama applied newly acquired supernatural powers to fight evil wherever he encountered it. Having been exalted with honorary status as a Tibetan Lamaist monk, Dumont christened himself The Green Lama -- the hue representing justice in Tibet. Dumont was known to radio listeners for his relentless efforts to conduct a “single-handed fight against injustice and crime.” The Dr. Pali alias was discarded for the radio program. The pulp stories were lauded for their attention to detail regarding the Buddhist faith. The radio program avoided such details, in an effort to focus more on action and plot. The use of Radioactive Salt powers was also discarded on the radio program.

In the pulps, Jethro Dumont traveled across the globe as a lecturer to spread the basic doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism. Dumont did so on two particular radio programs, but it was never fully revealed on the radio program exactly what his profession was. Listeners who never read the pulps could only assume he was a wealthy enough not to have to work. Having inherited his father’s fortune, an estimated ten million dollars, Dumont was able to devote his time to more important matters such as seeking justice as a criminal combatant. On the radio program, it was never revealed how Dumont was able to retain a financial life of luxury. His disregard for the want of money was evident when Harrison Bigelow attempted to hire Dumont for his services.

DUMONT: Mr. Bigelow, you mentioned hiring me. If you know anything about me, you must know I’m not for hire.
BIGELOW: Nonsense. Every man is for hire -- it’s only a question of finding his price. I was thinking about ten thousand dollars for you.
DUMONT: I said I’m not for hire.
BIGELOW: (HARD) Fifteen thousand dollars.
DUMONT: You know, you’re beginning to interest me, Mr. Bigelow. Is there anything that you think you can’t buy?
BIGELOW: I’ll make it twenty thousand dollars, Mr. Dumont, but not a cent more.
TULKU: It is written that when money talks it is nearly always with a raised voice.
DUMONT: You are so right, Tulku… Mr. Bigelow, I’ll break an old habit and let you hire me for twenty thousand dollars -- on two conditions.
BIGELOW: What are they?
DUMONT: First, make out the check payable to the Cancer Fund. I’ll tell you the second condition after I have the check.
BIGELOW: All right.

SOUND: WRITING OF CHECK
JESSICA: Ouch! Jethro -- you’re just costing me half of my next week’s allowance.
DUMONT: How is that?
JESSICA: I bet Harrison that he couldn’t hire you.
DUMONT: Then perhaps this will teach you not to gamble, Mrs. Bigelow.
JESSICA: Not at all -- Jethro. I bet him the other half of my allowance that you’d never pick up the paintings.

SOUND: TEARING CHECK OUT OF BOOK
BIGELOW: There you are, Mr. Dumont. Now, what is the second condition?
DUMONT: That you tell me the truth.
BIGELOW: What? You mean to say --
DUMONT: (INTERRUPTING)-- that you’re lying? Yes. You may want to present the paintings to the university all right, but that’s not why you’re willing to pay me twenty thousand dollars to pick them up! I want the truth -- or we can just forget the whole thing.
BIGELOW: But you’ve already accepted the check.
DUMONT: I’ve accepted your check as a donation to a worthy cause. I haven’t accepted your employment.
JESSICA: (LAUGHS) You know, Jethro -- you interest me more and more. Harrison, I think he has you on the hook. You’d better tell him the truth.

The radio scripts were written with the assumption that the listeners have not read the pulp magazines. The origin of The Green Lama was revealed within single paragraph at the beginning of each episode:

    “And now we bring you another exciting adventure taken directly from the files of Jethro Dumont -- the wealthy young American who, after ten years in Tibet, returned as The Green Lama to amaze the world with his curious and secret powers in his single-handed fight against crime!”

Tulku, his servant, explained further in detail.

    “Many have wondered why Jethro Dumont is called the Green Lama. Jethro Dumont is a lama because of his great wisdom and powers of concentration, and the Green Lama because green is one of the six sacred colors and is the symbol of justice.”

The opening billboard was revised beginning with episode eight.

    “From the mystery of the Far East -- from the mountain peaks of a Shangri-la -- from Tibet -- come the exciting adventures of Jethro Dumont. Jethro Dumont, the wealthy young American who, after ten years in Tibet, returned as The Green Lama to carry on a single-handed fight against injustice and crime. It is the wisdom and power of concentration, enabling the Green Lama to do things impossible for ordinary men, which has made him the nemesis of the underworld!”

Exactly what those powers are, other than receiving visions when closing his eyes and clearing thoughts, probably remained unknown to the listeners. Physical combat sometimes included a chant beforehand, but the action was depicted in the same manner as private eyes who wrestled a gun out of a thug’s hand.

None of the radio broadcasts were adaptations of the pulp stories, but elements and locales were certainly borrowed from the pulps. A total of 11 radio broadcasts were produced at the CBS studios in Los Angeles. Supposedly an audition recording was produced on the afternoon of May 17, 1949. While there does appear to be two different recordings of “The Man Who Never Existed” in circulation, with an eight minute difference in length, and different music cues and scripted dialog, nothing has been found to verify the audition was dated May 17. A few sources report June 2 as the recording date.

On June 8, Variety reviewed the premiere broadcast and referred to The Green Lama as “satisfactory hot-weather stuff, with exotic atmosphere added as extra whodunit flavor. Format follows the usual air crime mystery motif, but judged by Sunday’s premiere, interest is sustained by good writing, acting and situation. Colloquial dialog, a slew of false clues, and good performances helped put the program over. Paul Frees, as the Green Lama, is convincing, and support is good.” 

EPISODE GUIDE (Part One)

Episode #1  “THE MAN WHO NEVER EXISTED”
 Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 5, 1949, 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 5, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Sunday, June 5, 1949, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 2, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 1, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Pancho Kulkulcan and Prof. Harlan A. Hendrix); Paul Dubov (Howard Crane); Laurette Filbrandt (Marta Hendrix and voice of the operator); Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Clark Gordon (Philmore Merton); Nestor Paiva (the clerk and the voice on the p.a. system); Herb Vigran (Sgt. Weylan); and Ben Wright (Tulku).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: Norman MacDonnell
Assistant: Roy Rowan
Sound: Dave Light
Music: Richard Aurandt
Engineer: Stan Carr
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: Soon after Jethro Dumont arrives in New York, his good friend Professor Hendrix is found murdered. The only clue is the recent robbery at the Museum of Primitive Art. One of Professor Hendrix’s discoveries, a Kulkulcan, was stolen from the Mayan exhibit. Discovering that Hendrix himself stole the piece and mailed it back to the excavation site in Mexico, Dumont and his faithful servant, Tulku, book tickets to fly south. In Mexico, Dumont meets Marta Hendrix, the professor’s daughter, and discovers the stolen Kulkulcan was a fake. Philmore Merton, director of the museum, flies to Mexico in the hopes of recovering the stolen artifact before (as Professor Hendrix discovered) that he was selling the original pieces and replacing them with fakes. Merton is too late, however, because Dumont already solved the case and found the proof. Merton is apprehended and flown back to New York to face a charge of murder.

Episode #2  “THE MAN WHO STOLE A PYRAMID”
East Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 12, 1949, 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 12, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Sunday, June 12, 1949, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 2, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 1, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Edgar Barrier (Police Chief Mohammed Bey); Lillian Buyeff (Yadida Damietta); John Dehner (Count Nikolai Sumotkin); Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Vivi Janiss (Helen Patterson); Lou Krugman (Hussein el Had); Jack Kruschen (Rakmir Pasha); Don Randolph (Roger Cartwright); and Ben Wright (Tulku).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: Norman MacDonnell
Assistant: Roy Rowan
Sound: Harry Essman and Dave Light
Music: Richard Aurandt
Engineer: Stan Carr
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: The Green Lama, attending the reception of the grand opening of the newly-excavated Mastaba Pyramid of King Kbebe, is shocked to discover the massive stone structure has completely vanished outside city limits of Cairo, Egypt. The local authorities, as well as Jethro Dumont, are baffled. The prime suspect is Count Nikolai Sumotkin, a pyramidologist who believes the future can be told according to the physical measurements of the pyramids, and who predicted the disappearance the night before. As Jethro wanders Egypt investigating the details of the case, Hussein el Had, chairman of the Pyramid commission, is stabbed to death. Another attempt on Jethro’s life leads to a clue that ultimately solves the mystery. Mr. Cartwright, owner of an American oil well, was operating an illegal enterprise. Cartwright tapped the main oil pipe line and ran a spur to the pyramid. Then he stored oil in the chambers below and from this reserve he sold oil that was supposed to come from his well. If the pyramid were opened, his scheme would fail. All he did was dynamite the foundations so that the pyramid fell down into the first chamber and the sand storm covered the hole with sand. The Green Lama apprehends the guilty party and turns him over to the police.

Episode #3  “THE GIRL WITH NO NAME”
 East Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 19, 1949, 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 19, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Sunday, June 19, 1949, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 3, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 4, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Nina Klowden (Susan Carter); Eve McVeagh (Leslie Leeds); Peter Prouse (Mike Flaharty and George Carter); Charles Russell (Norman J. Mathews); Herb Vigran (Sgt. Weylan); Bud Widom (Harry Betes); and Ben Wright (Tulku).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: Norman MacDonnell
Assistant: Roy Rowan
Sound: Harry Essman and Dave Light
Music: Richard Aurandt
Engineer: Stan Carr
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: The Green Lama and Tulku answer a plea from Susan Carter, who fears her uncle, an engineer, may be involved in a recent rash of subway booth robberies. When a subway train carrying the day’s payload from the change booths suddenly vanishes almost before their eyes, Jethro Dumont and Tulku investigate. They soon discover an unfinished and deserted tunnel where the train secretly vanished, masked by dirty beaverboard that looks the same color as rock, fooling investigators. After rescuing Susan’s uncle, The Green Lama witnesses the murder of George Carter, and realizing dead men tell no tales, pieces the clues together. Leslie Leeds, who claimed to have witnessed the attempted murder on Susan Carter, was working hand-in-hand with Harry Betes, an employee at the change booth, and hired a gang of thugs to steal the payroll. Exposed, the crooks are taken into custody by Sgt. Weylan.

Trivia, etc. The original title of this drama was “The Case of the Lost Subway.”

Episode #4  “THE MILLION DOLLAR CHOPSTICKS”
 East Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 26, 1949, 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, June 26, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Sunday, June 26, 1949, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 3, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 4, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Lillian Buyeff (Madame Jade Ming); Larry Dobkin (Toby Holbrook); Georgia Ellis (Rita Randolph); Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Jack Kruschen (Lu Bing How and Yen Fu and voice 1); Paul McVey (Captain Jenson); Charles Russell (Howard Stacy); and Ben Wright (Tulku and Captain Trembolt Smyth and voice 2).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: Norman MacDonnell
Assistant: Roy Rowan
Sound: Harry Essman and Dave Light
Music: Richard Aurandt
Engineer: Stan Carr
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: In Hong Kong, a city of Oriental charm and beauty, there was a murder involving a pair of chopsticks said to be worth one million dollars. The Green Lama faced death and violence in order to help a friend, Rita Randolph, discover how her business partner, Toby Holbrook, cheated her out of the money she invested. When Holbrook staggers into Rita’s hotel apartment with a knife in his back, The Green Lama investigates to uncover the facts: the business venture was masking a smuggling operation involving small emeralds looted from Pekin. The chopsticks are hollow and the emeralds were placed inside. Howard Stacey, would-be playboy, partnered with Holbrook. When Rita claimed a pair of chopsticks, unaware of what was inside them, the guilty culprits attempted to retrieve them and Stacey attempted to eliminate his business partner. Confronting The Green Lama, Stacey falls overboard and unable to swim, drowns.

Trivia, etc. There is internal evidence among the scripts in the Kendall Foster Crossen Collection that “The Million Dollar Chopsticks” was originally intended for broadcast on June 19, and “The Girl With No Name” for June 26. It remains uncertain why the switch, except the possibility that the script for “The Million Dollar Chopsticks” was not yet ready for broadcast.

Episode #5  “THE LAST DINOSAUR”
 East Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, July 3, 1949, 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, July 3, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Sunday, July 3, 1949, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 3, 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., and 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 4, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Gloria Blondell (Mary Carter); William Conrad (Herman K. Herman); George Fisher (George Fisher); Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Frank Gerstle (Philbert Jones); Jerry Hausner (Cy Martin); Yvonne Peattie (Gloria Spear); Ben Wright (Tulku); and Dave Young (Lt. Furnald).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: James Burton
Assistant: Roy Rowan
Sound: Harry Essman and Dave Light
Music: Richard Aurandt
Engineer: Stan Carr
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: The LaBrea Tar Pits, in Hollywood, are long famous for having preserved the fossils of prehistoric animals and it is rumored all over the glamour city that a live dinosaur came out of the pits and is loose in Hollywood. A publicity stunt for Herman K. Herman’s latest picture, “The Last Dinosaur,” gone bad or a masquerade for murder? The discovery of the murder of Gloria Spear at Herman’s latest Hollywood party suggests a dinosaur was the culprit. The Green Lama suspects otherwise. Further investigation leads to Triumph Pictures and the murder of the film’s producer, Herman K. Herman. After confronting a raging dinosaur on the lot, The Green Lama throws himself against one of its legs so it would go off balance and fall. The guilty culprit was Mary Carter, in love with Herman and jealous of Spear’s engagement to the producer, who faked the dinosaur footprints by the swimming pool where Gloria’s body was found. It was Mary Carter who controlled the mechanical dinosaur used for the motion-picture.

Trivia, etc. That really is George Fisher, Hollywood radio columnist, playing himself in this broadcast!

“The Green Lama strikes terror into the hearts of all evil doers…”                                                                   -- Tulku in “The Last Dinosaur” (July 3, 1949)

Episode #6  “THE RETURN OF MADAME POMPADOUR”
 East Coast Network Broadcast: Saturday, July 16, 1949, 7:00 to 7:30 p.m., EST
West Coast Network Broadcast: Sunday, July 17, 1949, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., PST
Recording: Saturday, July 16, 1949, 3:00 to 3:30 p.m., PST
Rehearsals: Studio 1, 9:30 to 12 noon, and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Music Rehearsals: Studio 2, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Nan Boardman (Lilly Jardin); Guy de Vestel (Jacques Flourard); Paul Frees (Jethro Dumont); Jerry Hausner (Sam Pulowski); Rolfe Sedan (Inspector Courtier); Martha Wentworth (Madame Tusconi); Ben Wright (Tulku); and Dave Young (Pierre Reynard).
Script Writers: Richard Foster and William Froug.
Producer/Director: James Burton
Assistant: Ralph Jones
Sound: Berne Surrey and Eugene Wombly
Music: Del Castillo
Engineers: Hook and McKnight (first names unknown)
Announcer: Larry Thor
Plot: The Tusconi Wax Museum in France unveils the new likeness of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson le Normant d’Etioles, also known as the Marquise de Pompadour. When Lilly Jardin, the model for the wax figure, is stabbed to death, Jethro Dumont suspects a connection with the theft of the Pompadour necklace. Sam Pulowski, an American formerly employed by the National Library, was responsible for the theft. It isn’t until a slip of the lip that Dumont figures out how Pulowski accomplished the feat. He hid the necklace around the statue’s neck until the heat was off, but learning that the statue was not good enough and a replacement was needed, Pulowski panicked and began killing the people responsible for issuing the replacement. This meant killing the model, Lilly, as well.  

Trivia, etc. Jacques Flourard, the artist, did ice sculptures for the expensive restaurants, so he always had blocks of ice in his place. When Pulowski killed him, he propped the body in the window with a chunk of ice, then timed it so Dumont would break into the room just as the ice was gone, giving the appearance that Flourard committed suicide. Hoping the blame would fall on Flourard, Pulowski’s plan failed. For the radio audience, whether they bought this flimsy solution to an unsolved mystery remains unknown.

Notes
The titles of the episodes originate from the radio scripts available at the Kendall Crossen Collection at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and the Library of Congress. More than one hard copy of each script exists, revealing a number of differences between the first and final draft. The initial broadcast log consisting of titles and broadcast dates was compiled by archivist Ray Stanich in the early 1980s. Stanich consulted the first draft of each script, which on occasion revealed the intended title before the producers settled on a more colorful one. Episode 11, for example, was originally titled “The Case of the Patient Prisoner.” Episode eight was originally titled “The African Diamond Affair.” This was no fault of Stanich, who at the time had no other reliable information from which to base his findings. It is hoped that the broadcast log featured in this chapter will help correct the many errors found on the Internet.

Special thanks to Jo Bagwell, Stephen Jansen, Mel Simons, Ken Stockinger and Jerry Williams.

This is the second of a three-part article. To read the first part, CLICK HERE.

Altus Press has recently released a three-volume set of all the Green lama pulp magazine stories, along with essays of historical nature, including the radio program and the comic books. Buy all three of them and own the complete series! http://www.altuspress.com/

GREEN LAMA is a trademark controlled by, and licensed from, Argosy Communications, Inc.

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