Old Time Radio


   Old Time Radio collector and historian Randy Riddle has come up with another interesting program on his podcast/blog. It’s an Armed Forces rebroadcast episode of Hollywood Startime from 31 March 1946 entitled “Strange Triangle,” an adaptation of the noir film of the same name.

   It stars two of the three original leading players, Signe Hasso (as a truly seductive femme fatale) and John Shepperd. Replacing Preston Foster as the narrator and leading protagonist, though, is Lloyd Nolan, a fellow still known for a long list of B-movie mystery roles. Also in the radio cast is Lurene Tuttle, whose voice OTR fans will immediately recognize as that of Effie from The Adventures of Sam Spade radio program.

   The radio version of Strange Triangle suffers from being cut down in time from a 65 minute movie to only 25 minutes actual air time, but it’s still good entertainment. Give it a listen (click on the link above).

   Not only has Old Time Radio collector and historian Randy Riddle posted an episode of Casey, Crime Photographer I’d not heard before, but it’s a locked room mystery to boot. Casey, played by Staats Cotsworth in this program, was based on the character created by mystery writer George Harmon Coxe.

   Here’s Randy, as he describes it on his podcast/blog:

    “In this post, we hear ‘Woman of Mystery,’ program 61 in the series, broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Service as Crime Photographer and originally heard on CBS on November 9, 1950. It’s one of those ‘locked room’ mysteries, where Casey’s keen sense of observation come in handy to discover how a woman was murdered.”

   Unfortunately Casey solves the mystery only seven minutes into the program — or does he? Listen and see.

    Speaking of Michael Shayne, there were several different series of his adventures that appeared on radio. The first of these starred Wally Maher as Shayne, with Cathy Lewis featured as his secretary (and close companion) Phyllis Knight. While there was an earlier and much longer run on the West Coast Mutual-Don Lee string of stations, the series didn’t appear on the full Mutual network until 8 October 1946 and only lasting to 14 January 1947. The one I offer you here (click on the link) is generally referred to as “The Case of the Poisoned Fan,” but there is no announcement to that fact on the program itself.

    The show is very well done, even though there is nothing I can see that particularly identifies the radio version with Brett Halliday’s character — all they seem to have in common is the name. Shayne talks tough enough, pretty much as a generic PI is supposed to talk, but the puzzle aspect of this particular episode is the key element: How did the killer make sure the victim was the one who was served the poisoned coffee?

A MOVIE REVIEW BY DAVID L. VINEYARD:         


DICK BARTON STRIKES BACK. Hammer Films, 1949. Don Stannard, Sebastian Cabot, Jean Lodge, Bruce Walker. Based on the BBC Radio serial Dick Barton Special Agent, created by Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason. Director: Godfrey Grayson.

DICK BARTON

   In 1947 listeners to the early evening BBC tuned in to hear the voice of the ‘Beeb’ intone, “The time is a quarter past seven. This is the BBC Light Programme …” followed by Charles Williams’s “The Devil’s Gallop” thundering over the airwaves.

   With a gasp of anticipation ten year old boys of all ages in post-Second World War England gathered to hear the daily fifteen minute edition of the adventures of ex-commando Captain Dick Barton M.C., and his pals Snowey and Jock as they made their on air debut.

   Somewhere between Jack Armstrong, All American Boy and Carleton E. Morse’s I Love an Mystery, the Dick Barton series captured the imaginations of young boys (and girls) in the dreary days of post-WWII England with tales of derring-do, adventure, and dastardly villains. Dick was played by Noel Johnson early on and later Gordon Davies and Duncan Carse.

DICK BARTON

   Dick and his pals found themselves at odd ends in Post War England, so when their ex-commander approached them to act as semi-official agents investigating matters that were too delicate for Special Branch or MI5, it seemed the perfect solution to their post war blues. So Dick Barton Special Agent was born

   Which is why the then fledgling Hammer Studios (yes, that Hammer, of Dracula fame) grabbed up the rights to the series and churned out three quick programmers starring handsome Don Stannard in the lead role. These were Dick Barton Special Agent (1948), Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949), and Dick Barton Bay (1950).

   Dick Barton Strikes Back was filmed third but released as the second in the series. Hammer intended to continue the series, but Don Stannard was killed in a car wreck in 1949. Sebastian Cabot was in the car with him but emerged without fatal injuries. Since the films had improved with each new entry, we may well have missed the definitive screen Dick Barton.

DICK BARTON

   The opening of Strikes Back could easily come from one of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass serials or an episode of The Avengers (Patrick McNee ironically plays a British agent in the opening scenes of the film Dick Barton at Bay ). A remote English village lies silent, everyone and every thing in it lies dead. And no bird sang.

   Dick Barton and his pal Snowey are called in. Their investigation leads to a group of gypsies and the evil Alfonso Delmonte Fourcada (Sebastian Cabot), second in command of the mad scientist whose deadly sonic ray has wiped out two English villages and now is ready for the attack on London.

   Dick and Snowey battle Fourcada and his goons, escape, evade, hunt, and in general chase around in solid thriller tradition. In one particularly good sequence they are left in a snake house, and all the glass shatters with Dick and Snowey suddenly knee deep in deadly serpents.

   Will the boys escape?

   Tune in tomorrow …

   Same time same place …

   The climax is an exciting chase up the famous BBC radio tower in Blackpool where the madman plans to broadcast his sonic weapon and destroy London. Someone must have found the irony of Dick’s final film adventure ending on the very tower that broadcast his adventures all too delicious.

DICK BARTON

   While no masterpieces, the Barton films are well done programmers, with some nice noirish photography and good if hammy performances. Stannard may proclaim his lines in all capital letters, but he certainly looks like what we expect of ex-commando Dick Barton.

In 1979 Dick returned to the small screen in Dick Barton Special Agent, a series with Tony Vogel as Dick that ran four seasons. Done tongue in cheek, the series was a good deal of fun and spawned a series of paperback adventures. In recent years a series of Dick Barton plays have been a great success mixing nostalgia, camp, and theatrical thrills.

   The creators of Dick Barton, Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason (creators of the long running soap The Archers) issued a collection of short illustrated never broadcast Dick Barton adventures, Dick Barton Special Agent (Contact Publicaions) for Dick’s fans. In addition the television series was featured in annual albums of comic books stories and photos from the series as well as the paperback adaptations.

   Several sites of Old Time Radio collections have the first Barton radio serial (ten episodes) available to listen to for free on your computer or download to your MP3 player. They hold up pretty well all things considered. A good example of the charms of the form.

DICK BARTON

   The Barton phenomena was popular enough that Eric Ambler sent it up in his screenplay for Roy Ward Baker’s Highly Dangerous (1951) where his heroine, Margaret Lockwood, believes she is Frances Conway Special Agent, after her nephews favorite radio serial, Francis Conway, when a blow to the head while she is on a dangerous mission behind the Iron Curtain leaves her confused.

   But if you still thrill to the William Tell Overture and the sounds of a great white horse’s hoofbeats on the vast plains of the airwaves, to the mysterious Valle Triste and a voice intoning I Love a Mystery, or ever the catchy tune of Little Orphan Annie, then you will fully understand the appeal of the “Devil’s Gallop” on ten year old boys everywhere.

   And now back to today’s episode of Dick Barton Special Agent. As you know Dick and Snowey had just entered the elevator at Professor X’s secret lair when suddenly …

JUDY CANOVA Louisiana Hayride

LOUISIANA HAYRIDE. Columbia, 1944. Judy Canova, Judy Canova, Ross Hunter, Richard Lane, George McKay, Minerva Urecal, Lloyd Bridges, Matt Willis, Hobart Cavanaugh. Director: Charles Barton.

    Let me start out by saying that is indeed a crime movie, no matter what you may have deduced to the contrary, based on the title of the film and who the leading star is.

    Judy Canova plays a country bumpkin in this movie – no surprise there, right? – who’s swindled out of her farm’s oil option money by two rambling grifters – two rambles ahead of the law – who promise her a career in Hollywood. The leading role, in fact, in a movie called — you guessed it — Louisiana Hayride.

    Little do these guys know what they’re in for. You’re probably one step ahead of me, and for that matter, I’ll let you stay there.

   Canova made an entire career of looking homely, with pigtails and Hee Haw costumes long before Hee Haw came along and gave hillbilly music a bad name. But her brand of youthful innocence, combined with a good-natured honesty and a strong sense of humor, usually at the expense of city slickers like the pair of crooks in this movie, made her a star in the 1940s, at least in small town America.

JUDY CANOVA Louisiana Hayride

   I wonder if her movies ever played in Boston or New York City. They did in Cadillac, that small town in Michigan’s upper lower peninsula where I grew up, although this particular one is almost as old as I am.

   In spite of her incessant mugging for the cameras, Canova really did have a good singing voice, which is on display to great advantage several times in Louisiana Hayride. A pair of songs I recognized immediately were “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey,” which probably tells you more about me than you want to know.

   Besides being a better than average belter of southern fried song hits, Judy Canova was also not quite as homely as the characters she played on the screen. I found this photo of her taken when she was older, and to me, she’s quite a handsome looking lady.

JUDY CANOVA Louisiana Hayride

   There are jokes being cracked and funny business going on continuously in this movie, in between the songs, that is, and I have to tell you I enjoyed them all, still being a small town kind of guy at heart.

PostScript. I nearly forgot to mention that Judy Canova was also a hit on radio, with her self-named series running on NBC from 1945 to 1953, which is essentially when her movie career came to a close as well.

   You can listen to four episodes online here, and with a little searching, I’m sure you can find more.

   Among the group of regulars in the cast were Hans Conreid, Mel Blanc and Sheldon Leonard. (One of these fellows came up for discussion not too long ago, as regular readers of this blog will quickly recall.)

   The following piece first appeared as a comment following my review of the A&E television production of The Doorbell Rang, in which I made some additional remarks that David follows up on too.      — Steve


EDWARD ARNOLD Nero Wolfe

   I agree the Chaykin and Hutton Nero Wolfe series is not only the best film version of Wolfe, but one of the best adaptations of a fictional sleuth to film (certainly to the small screen).

   Both Edward Arnold and Walter Connolly, who played Wolfe in early films, decided to play him as a jovial and bluff type much like the millionaires and politicians they usually played, and it didn’t help that Lionel Stander (Max on Hart to Hart) was badly miscast as Archie (much less John Qualen as Fritz).

   The sets were faithful to the books, though. (The two films were Meet Nero Wolfe, based on Fer de Lance, and The League of Frightened Men.)

   Television did much better with the pilot film Nero Wolfe (1979) that starred Thayer David and Tom Mason. Based on The Doorbell Rang, it was a superior made-for-television film, and David and Mason were both good. They even did the scene from the book where Wolfe’s client (Anne Baxter in this one) spots the portrait of Wolfe’s father (Sherlock Holmes).

SIDNEY GREENSTREET Nero Wolfe

   If memory serves Biff McGuire was Cramer and John Randolph played Lon Cohen. Frank Gilroy directed and scripted. The untimely death of Thayer David postponed the series, which eventually starred William Conrad and Lee Horsley, and the least said about that the better.

   Wolfe did somewhat better on radio where the role was played by Santos Ortega and Sidney Greenstreet. If you’ve never heard them they are well done, and not hard to find. But running only a half hour, the series episodes seldom adapted Stout’s material.

   As to why there is no American equivalent to Mystery or Masterpiece Theater, part of it lies in the fact the BBC is a government operation, and part the commercial nature of network and cable television. We’ll always get another version of Knightrider and seldom get a quality program like Nero Wolfe, and certainly nothing to resemble those adaptations of Lord Peter, Campion, Poirot, or Miss Marple.

   Another factor is that many British series only commit to six to eight episodes a season so budgets aren’t as restrictive, and the actors can do other work while doing a series without having to leave the series.

JIM HUTTON Ellery Queen

   That the Jim Hutton Ellery Queen, the Chaykin Wolfe, and the Spenser TV series were as good as they were and ran as long as they did are all minor miracles.

   Eventually there will be a revival of classical tec films (everything comes back to some extent), and we’ll get a new round of American-made Agatha Christie’s with some poor actress as badly cast in the part of Miss Marple as Helen Hayes was, or a Peter Ustinov struggling with diminishing budgets and scripts.

   But the sad fact is, it’s cheaper to generate material based on old series and follow trends than try to do something smart. It’s more cost effective to invent a tec series for the small screen than to buy the rights to a proven product and run afoul of fans’ preconceived ideas and the author’s desires.

   It probably doesn’t help that today’s honchos have a better understanding of comics, science fiction, fantasy, movies, and 80’s television than mystery fiction. Our only hope is that somewhere down the line another cable network decides to gamble on something like the Nero Wolfe series and produces something worthwhile instead of more reality series and tiresome comedies and dramadies. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

   And I know I’m gilding the lily here, but there seems to have been a suggestion that Perry Mason debuted sometime around the creation of the Raymond Burr television series. Of course Mason appeared for the first time in the late 1930’s when Gardner was already a highly successful pulp author. (H. Bedford Jones officially passed the title king of the pulps onto Gardner.) Mason pushed Gardner onto the bestseller list and made him one of the most successful writers of all time.

   Warner Brothers did a series of Mason movies with Warren William, Ricardo Cortez, and Donald Woods as Mason (at least one had Allen Jenkins as Paul Drake and Errol Flynn made his American film debut as a corpse in another). There was also 15 minute radio serial based on Perry, but it was never a particular success.

RAYMOND BURR Perry Mason

   It wasn’t until television and Burr’s incarnation of the character that Perry finally conquered another market. Fans will recall a second attempt to do Perry with Monte Markham that met an early and much deserved end, and of course Burr’s return to the role in later years in a series of made for television movies.

   Although Gardner was a major success as a mystery writer without Burr, it can certainly be argued that Burr so embodied the character that he took the whole thing to another level pushing Perry to a level closer to Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and James Bond than the usual run of mystery icons. There is a good book, Murder in the Millions, that covers the mega sales of Gardner, Ian Fleming, and Mickey Spillane.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins

   If there’s ever a biography of Ellery Queen—not of the detective character but of the cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee who created Ellery and also used his name as their joint byline—the following incident from Fred’s life deserves to be included.

   The first part comes mainly from one of the long introductions that he wrote for each story published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine during its early years; the follow-up was unearthed by radio historian Martin Grams, Jr. and will appear in one of his forthcoming books.

EQMM 09-46

   In the spring of 1946, soon after being discharged from the Army at the end of World War II, Dashiell Hammett arranged with “a certain school of social science in New York City” to offer a Thursday evening course on mystery fiction aimed at writers and writer wannabees.

   At this time Fred’s main tasks in life were keeping EQMM afloat and, after his wife’s death from cancer, raising two young sons. He read the announcement of Hammett’s course and was impelled by curiosity to attend the first session, on May 2.

   Hammett invited him on the spot to co-teach the course and Fred agreed, each two-hour stint followed by “all-night bull-and-brandy sessions” between those giants of crime fiction. At the end of the May 16 class a young woman named Hazel Hills Berrien approached Fred and offered him the manuscript of a story she had begun writing after the first session.

   Fred, as always, suggested certain changes — “in the character of the detective, in the plot construction, and in the title,” he said later—but when they were made to his satisfaction, he bought the tale, which appeared in EQMM for September 1946 as “The Unlocked Room” by Hazel Hills.

   Then as now, magazines appeared on the stands some time before the publication month listed on their front covers, and the September EQMM had been available at least for a few weeks before August 31, 1946. That evening’s episode of the popular ABC radio series The Green Hornet was called “Death in the Dar” and dealt with a civil servant accused of embezzlement who is found shot to death in a room with the door locked and the window bolted. Newspaper publisher Britt Reid, a.k.a. the Green Hornet, rejects the obvious theory of suicide and eventually proves that the man was murdered.

The Green Hornet

   Hazel Hills Berrien wrote ABC four days after the broadcast, admitting that she hadn’t heard the episode but claiming she’d been told by a friend that it “bore a peculiar resemblance to a recently published short story of mine.”

   In this and several subsequent letters, each more threatening than the last, she demanded a copy of Dan Beattie’s script but refused to send ABC’s lawyers a copy of her story.

   Eventually Fred heard of the dispute and, on October 11, wrote to Green Hornet creator George W. Trendle, promising a copy of September’s EQMM and asking in return for a copy of Beattie’s script.

   Four days later and after reading “The Unlocked Room,” Trendle replied to Fred, rejecting any allegation of plagiarism but saying: “[H]ad Miss Hills handled the matter as diplomatically as you have, I think a copy of our script would have been in her hands long ago.”

   A later letter to Fred from Green Hornet attorney Raymond Meurer made the same point: “[W]e regret that the matter was handled so clumsily by Miss Hills…. [H]ad we received the request originally from you, we would not have hesitated a moment in supplying the script.” The tempest in a teapot quickly blew away since the only similarity between Hills’ story and the Hornet script was that both involved a murder in a locked room with a gimmicked window.

   As far as I know Hills never wrote another story, certainly none published in EQMM.

***

   Among the reprints in the EQMM issue that contained Hills’ story was one by Agatha Christie (“Strange Jest,” a Miss Marple tale originally published in 1941), again with an introduction by Fred Dannay, this one quoting a stanza from one of Christie’s poems.

   It comes from “In the Dispensary,” which was included in her collection The Road of Dreams (Bles, 1925):

         From the Borgias’ time to the present day, their power
            has been proved and tried:
         Monkshood blue, called aconite, and the deadly cyanide.
         Here is sleep and solace and soothing of pain—
            courage and vigour new;
         Here is menace and murder and sudden death—in these
            phials of green and blue.

   Okay, so it’s doggerel. Thanks anyway, Fred, for giving me this item for my column’s Poetry Corner more than sixty years ago!

***

   John Michael Hayes (1919-2007) never wrote a mystery novel or short story but, thanks mainly to his screenplays for several Alfred Hitchcock films, most notably Rear Window (1954) and the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), his memory remains green for us.

Rear Window

   I recently had occasion to read a deposition Hayes gave in August 1991 in connection with some litigation over Rear Window and was delighted to find some information about Hitchcock’s connection with Cornell Woolrich that I believe has never appeared in print.

   Among the six tales brought together in the second collection of Woolrich’s short fiction (After-Dinner Story, as by William Irish, 1944) were “Rear Window” (first published under Woolrich’s own name in Dime Detective, February 1942, as “It Had To Be Murder””) and “The Night Reveals” (first published in Story Magazine for April 1936).

   Hitchcock was interested in both. Shortly after Hayes began working on the Rear Window screenplay, “Hitch asked me…if I would read [“The Night Reveals”] and comment on it because he had [had] a choice between the two stories and wanted to know if he’d made the right choice. And I said he certainly had because “Rear Window” lent itself to intense suspense material and intense personal relationships which the other story didn’t.”

   Still and all, “The Night Reveals” is also marked by powerful suspense scenes and an intense relationship—between insurance investigator Harry Jordan and his wife, who he comes to suspect is a compulsive pyromaniac—and it’s a shame Hitchcock didn’t at least use it as source for an episode of his TV series. Preferably one directed by himself.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins

Ellery Queen

   As all mysteryphiles know, “Ellery Queen” was both the joint byline of first cousins Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1970) and the brilliant sleuth who starred in most of their mysteries.

   It’s also well known that, for all but the first years of their long joint career, Fred’s function was to devise lengthy plot synopses which Manny would flesh out to novel or story length.

   This was their division of labor when the Ellery Queen radio series debuted on CBS in the summer of 1939. What was not known outside the inner circle was that, after his first wife died of cancer in 1945, Fred was so overwhelmed with raising their two small children and keeping Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine afloat that he simply couldn’t continue coming up with new plots.

   After a few false starts, the writer chosen to take over much of Fred’s function on the series was Anthony Boucher (1911-1968). Since Tony lived in Berkeley, California and Manny on the East Coast, the arrangement required correspondence between them on almost a daily basis. That correspondence, which rivals Gone with the Wind in word count, is preserved at Indiana University’s Lilly Library.

Ellery Queen

   I’ve made several trips to Bloomington to immerse myself in those letters, which are fabulously interesting for any number of reasons. Some of them are close to indecipherable since they deal with the plot minutiae of radio dramas that have apparently ceased to exist in audio form.

   But the rest! Working at opposite ends of the country and under wartime and immediate post-war traveling conditions, Tony and Manny almost never met in person. But from their correspondence alone the devout Catholic and the agnostic Jew grew to be closer than brothers, and their letters range all over the map, from the health problems of their children to Hiroshima and the Cold War and anti-Semitism.

Ellery Queen

   Manny’s letters tend to be much longer and more irascible and clearly he was using them to vent. His rants about the confederacy of dunces he had to deal with in the broadcasting world offer some remarkable insights into the medium – as long as one keeps in mind that, being a classic type A personality and a past master at getting hot under the collar, he may not have been the most objective witness in the world.

   During much of his time collaborating with Manny, Boucher was also writing scripts for the Sherlock Holmes radio series, which between 1939 and 1946 starred Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the Holmes and Watson of Universal’s movie series.

    “Compared to EQ, Holmes scripts practically write themselves,” he told Manny in one letter (13 September 1945), “and the EQ occupies by far the major portion of my working week…. You have no idea of the number of ideas that I worked on for days only to reject because I discovered an ineradicable flaw that would exasperate you….”

   As if to reassure Manny that he wasn’t the only man in radio who was surrounded by jerks, Boucher in his letters often recounted his travails with the Holmes program.

Ellery Queen

    “On Holmes, either my collaborator [Denis Green] or I am – is – I hate that kind of sentence – one of us is present at every rehearsal-and-broadcast. And a good thing, we find: not only directors but star actors can get the damndest ideas they have to be gently talked out of.” (28 January 1945)

    “We do at least have a first-rate man at the control board; but our sound technicians are two of the clumsiest louts that ever held a union card and all the things about time for commercials and cutting dialog to the bone… God does all that happen regularly to us. Especially since the sponsor switched announcers on us because the new one reads slower!” (5 July 1945)

   But these problems were as nothing compared with what happened at the beginning of the 1946-47 season, when Rathbone left the series for the Broadway stage and was replaced by Tom Conway. “The new producer on the show … is a pretentious and arrogant boor with a great deal of very real talent for production and writing – in some ways the ablest (and also the most offensive) man I have known in radio. He is convinced that only he knows anything about Holmes…

Ellery Queen

    “He is bent on reducing Holmes to the simple formula of heavy melodrama and heavier low comedy that has driven Holmes enthusiasts screaming from their radios and theaters. And he assumes automatically that his duties as producer include replotting and rewriting of all scripts….” (14 October 1946)

    “My favorite enemy … with his constant miscasting, his incredibly inept music, and his campaign of forcing me [and Denis Green] off and replacing us by astonishing scripts from his ex-wife and a protégé, has succeeded finally in driving Holmes off the air…. I don’t know what this will mean. The director will try to argue that this is all simply due to Rathbone’s absence. But if [he] is kept on the show … I’m pretty certain to be entirely off Holmes in the fall.” (30 June 1947)

    “Did you read in the trades what’s happened to Holmes? It’s been sold to a cheap NY outfit, to be an extreme low-budget show – cheap production, no actors over scale (including Holmes & Watson), scripts for pennies – and $1,000 a week to Denis PS Conan Doyle [who was Sir Arthur’s son and one of his literary executors].”(25 July 1947)

Ellery Queen

   Taking over the parts of Holmes and Watson were the long-forgotten John Stanley and Alfred Shirley. “I’m definitely out on Holmes – not even a hope of some income from repeats… I think this may be the most severe fatality Holmes has suffered since the Reichenbach Falls – but then he survived even that…” (12 August 1947)

   As far as I know, no Sherlockian has ever delved into Boucher’s running commentary on the Holmes radio series, but it’s a job eminently worth doing. And so is the assembling of a full-length book of the Boucher-Lee correspondence, which chronicles one of the strongest, deepest, most fascinating literary friendships of the 20th century and, in the world of mystery fiction, perhaps the strongest and most fascinating of all.

   In her review of Round the Fire Stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle, posted here in May a year ago, Mary Reed began by saying:

   None of the Round The Fire Stories features Mr. Sherlock Holmes, although two mention anonymous letters to the press presenting solutions which some readers believe to have penned by the great detective himself (“The Man With the Watches” and “The Lost Special”).

   And then in a footnote, she later added the following:

   In “The Man With The Watches” we see: “There was a letter in the Daily Gazette, over the signature of a well-known criminal investigator…”

   â€œ… and then we have “The Lost Special,” in which we learn of a letter: “… which appeared in the Times, over the signature of an amateur reasoner of some celebrity at that date, attempted to deal with the matter in a critical and semi-scientific manner. An extract must suffice, although the curious can see the whole letter in the issue of the 3rd of July.

“‘It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning,’ he remarked, ‘that when the impossible has been eliminated the residuum, however improbable, must contain the truth’.”

   And I think we’ll agree the second letter in particular has his grammatical fingerprints all over it, but it raises another question: why didn’t Conan Doyle write these two adventures as Holmes stories? Were these stories written during a period when he was thoroughly tired of his own creation?


[WARNING: SOME PLOT ELEMENTS MAY BE REVEALED.]

   In a comment left last April, and inexplicably never acknowledged by me until now, Brian Gould replied by saying:

 Mary:

   You ask, “Why didn’t Conan Doyle write these two adventures as Holmes stories?”

   A clue to the answer, I believe, is that in both cases the unnamed letter writer was wrong. In “The Lost Special,” the train had been driven onto one of the four side lines of which it was earlier remarked that they “may be eliminated from our inquiry, for, to prevent possible accidents, the rails nearest to the main line have been taken up, and there is no longer any connection.” The villains had temporarily relaid the missing rails.

   In “The Man With The Watches,” nobody jumped from one train to another. The dead man had been in the Euston to Manchester express all along, but had removed his disguise before his accidental killing, which occurred when his criminal associate attempted to shoot a third man who had joined them in their compartment but missed.

   Doyle’s intention, surely, is humorous. He is simply making fun of his own creation, Sherlock Holmes, who does not usually commit such blunders.

Kind regards,

   Brian Gould


>>>>>>>

   My apologies to Mr. Gould for not pointing out this very useful reply until now. My only excuse is that I was out of town attending the Bordentown pulp and paperback show around the time his comment was posted, and I suspect that in the rush to catch up when I was back here at home, I simply failed to.

   But here’s what I discovered that prompted my attention back to “The Lost Special” again, a rare find: one the “missing” episodes of Suspense, one of Old Time Radio’s best-known, and longest-lasting mystery programs.

THE LOST SPECIAL (Suspense)

   I won’t post a link directly to the MP3, but I strongly recommend you go to Randy Riddle’s podcast blog and listen to it there, along with more information about both the disk and the program Of special note, until he found the disk, the program may not have been listened to in over 60 years, a “lost special” in and of itself. Excepted from Randy’s comments, here’s the basic info:

   Unheard publicly since September 30, 1943, we bring you Orson Welles starring in “The Lost Special” a “tale well calculated to keep in you Suspense!.” Originally broadcast on the CBS radio network, but now lost, the version heard here was distributed by the Armed Forces Radio Service as program 24 in the Suspense series.

    “The Lost Special” is based on a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story and concerns a train that mysteriously disappears. The story was also used on the series Escape on February 12, 1949, so it may seem familiar. (You can give it a listen here.) However, in the “Suspense” version, the story is told by the main character and framed as a broadcast by a condemned man that will reveal the identity of persons responsible for certain crimes.

       […]

   Orson Welles appeared in the series Suspense eight times between 1942 and 1944 in such classics as “The Hitchhiker” and “Donovan’s Brain.” One of Welles’ performances, “The Lost Special,” was thought to be one of about thirty-five Suspense programs missing out of over 900 broadcast during the run of the series.


   Go visit, listen, and enjoy!

   One of the people I wanted to see at the Windy City pulp and paperback show this past weekend was Martin Grams, Jr., who with Mike Nevins, is the co-author of The Sound of Detection: Ellery Queen’s Adventures in Radio, which is in turn a revision of an earlier book from 1981 by Nevins and Ray Stanich.

Ellery Queen radio stars

   Martin’s just over 30 years old, but as a radio historian, he’s probably the best there’s ever been, already having 15 books on Old Time Radio (and TV) to his credit, including ones on Sam Spade, Inner Sanctum, Suspense, Gang Busters, and (upcoming) The Green Hornet.

   Besides the fact that he always has several tables filled with DVDs of old TV show at these affairs, to the dismay of my credit card balance, a major reason I wanted to see him was to ask him about this photo I used in Mike Nevins’ most recent column. It’s a photo of two of the stars of the Ellery Queen radio program. Mike didn’t know I was going to use it – I found it on the Internet somewhere – and neither he nor I could identify who either of them were.

   The CBS logo on the microphone helped narrow it down, but not enough to be sure. Martin would know, Mike said, and so he did, at least in part. Right there on the floor of the dealers’ room, Martin whipped out his laptop, fired up his Internet access, took a look at the image on my blog, and said, “That’s Hugh Marlowe, but I’m not sure who the woman is.” She’s the one who (presumably) played Nikki Porter, Ellery’s assistant on the radio shows. (She also appeared in some of the EQ novels and short stories, but not on the regular basis that she was in the radio shows.)

    “I think that it’s Marian Shockley, but I’m not positive,” said Martin, and he sent off some emails to some friends of his who might want to chip in on the question. In reply Jim Widner confirmed Hugh Marlowe, but again, he wasn’t positive about Marian Shockley. Which is where the question lies, at the moment, almost but not quite solved.

   But as long as we’re talking Ellery Queen here, I’ve found a copy of the Ellery Queen book that Mike was talking about in his column that brought about this question in the first place.

Ellery Queen: Chillers and Thrillers

   It’s Chillers and Thrillers: A Book of Mystery Sketches. No editor is stated, but as you see, it was published in oblong softcover format by Street & Smith Publications. Prepared and distributed by the Special Services Division, A.S.F. [Army Service Forces], this is Volume XVIII in a series of “At Ease” paperbacks.

   The date as stated on the title page: 1945; it is a short 128 pages long.

   You can go back and re-read Mike’s column for his discussion of the contents, but since they don’t seem to be documented elsewhere, here’s a complete index. All of the plays are copyright 1945.

* 5 * Part One: “Quick As a Flash” series * introduction & instructions

* 7 * The Mysterious Mr. Harris * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Big Town D.A. Steve Wilson]

* 13 * The Rise and Fall of Rome * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Pamela North]

* 21 * The Man No One Believed * * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Charlie Chan]

* 29 * Murder in the Afternoon * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Dr. Ordway, the “Crime Doctor.”]

* 36 * Murder on the Houseboat * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Mr. and Mrs. North]

* 41 * The Mystery of the Horse Pistol * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Dr. Ordway, the “Crime Doctor.”]

* 47 * Part Two: “Solve a Mystery” series * introduction & instructions

* 51 * The Adventure of the Blue Chip * Ellery Queen * radio play [Ellery Queen]

* 72 * The Adventure of the Foul Tip * Ellery Queen * radio play [Ellery Queen]

* 90 * The Adventure of the Glass Ball * Ellery Queen * radio play [Ellery Queen]

* 108 * The Orderly Room Murder * Anonymous * radio play

* 121 * The Shadow That Walked * Eugene Wang & Harry Kleiner * radio play [Lamont Cranston / The Shadow]

Notes: (1) Quick As a Flash was a radio quiz program on Mutual running on Sundays and later Saturdays from July 16, 1944 to December 17, 1949. As a portion of contest between various contestants, “a fully dramatized short mystery play provided the clues. These plays featured stars of popular detective series, performing as their well known characters.” (The link leads to a webpage listing all of the radio quiz programs hosted by Bill Cullen. Quick As a Flash was one of them.)

(2) On the Big Town radio program, Steve Wilson was not the D.A., but rather the crime-fighting editor of The Illustrated Press.

(3) Jerry North does not appear in the first of the two Mr. & Mrs. North plays.

[UPDATE.] 05-02-08. I received an email from Mark Murphy last night that seems to settle the Marian Shockley question:

   This Web page from eBay has what is apparently a picture of Ms. Shockley from Abie’s Irish Rose. See what you think.

   Some additional digging reveals that she was married to To Tell the Truth host Bud Collyer.

   Hope this helps.

            Mark Murphy

   >>>   And indeed it does. Thanks, Mark. Martin and I are in agreement that the women in the two photos are one and the same. The image is copyright protected, so I won’t show it here. And since it’s an eBay auction, it won’t appear on the Web forever. But it’s there now; take a look while you can.

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