Old Time Radio

      Adapted from an email from David Vineyard:

   Don’t know how many of you care for this sort of thing, but if you check out the BBC7 site this week they are airing an eight part adaptation of the Paul Temple mystery Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case. Currently there are also adaptations of two of Agatha Christie’s Poirot’s, a new Biggles (starting Thursday), John Creasey’s The Toff and the Runaway Bride, and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.

   Previously they’ve done Ashenden, Bulldog Drummond, The Scarecrow, and many more. They also have original crime programs and adaptations of more recent writers’ works.

   The episodes run about thirty minutes and are full cast productions. Thought I’d give everyone a heads up.

   The Gilbert Case finds Paul and wife Steve’s holiday plans interrupted when the father of a murdered girl asks him to try and clear the young man, Howard Gilbert, convicted of murdering her and facing the death sentence. “I know you, you enjoy sticking your neck out.”

   Honestly there’s too much to listen to, but you can pick and choose the ones you really like, and they can be downloaded to an MP3 player or IPod as well.

William F. Deeck

JOHN ROEBURT – Corpse on the Town. Graphic #27, paperback original, 1950. Revised edition: The Case of the Hypnotized Virgin. Avon #730, pb, 1956. Reprinted: Belmont/Tower,1972.


   About to check in to his terminal in New York City, cab driver J. Howard Moran, better known as Jigger, agrees to take a trunk to the Railway Express Office. An unknown someone meanwhile has informed the police that the trunk in Jigger’s cab contains a corpse. Which it does, the body of a young woman whose face is battered beyond recognition.

   Apparently Jigger. a disbarred attorney in Illinois and a private eye without a license, has investigated other crimes before, though this is his first recorded case. He and his reluctant assistant, Red, “free-lance journalist and improvident writer of plays, features, fiction, columns,” try to determine the woman’s identity and find her killer.

   As the police follow Jigger closely with the thought that if they can’t convict him maybe he will be able to pin it on someone else, Jigger manages to come up with the answer.


   For his novel Tough Cop, Roeburt won an Edgar, or so the publisher of this novel claims. I have not been able to identify either the category or the year. This one is no prize winner, but it has its amusing moments.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 1992.

Bibliographic Data:   It is perhaps no surprise that Bill was unable to discover the category for which John Roeburt won an Edgar, as the publisher’s claim is not true, as he surmised might have been the case.

   It may be as obscure as an MWA award can get, and was apparently not for Tough Cop at all. It came in 1949, and it was for Best Radio Drama, the actual title of which I have not discovered, even with the resources available to me on the Internet. It was, however, for one of the episodes of the Inner Sanctum series. (I do not believe that it was for the entire series, but perhaps I am wrong about that.)

    Bill erred in saying that Corpse on the Town was Jigger Moran’s first recorded case. Not true; it was his third and last. The first two were published in hardcover; only Corpse was a paperback original:

       The Jigger Moran series —     [Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.]

    Jigger Moran (n.) Greenberg, hc, 1944.
    There Are Dead Men in Manhattan (n.) Mystery House, hc, 1946.


    Corpse on the Town (n.) Graphic, pbo, 1950.

   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?


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.


   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 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.


   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.


   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.


   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


   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).


   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.


   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.

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.

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.

« Previous PageNext Page »