Fri 10 Feb 2012
BOLD VENTURE. Syndicated; premiered March 26, 1951. Frederic W. Ziv Radio Production. Cast: Humphrey Bogart as Slate Shannon, Lauren Bacall as Sailor Duval, Jester Hairston as King Moses. Music: David Rose and his orchestra. Other credits (not given on air): Written by David Friedkin and Mort Fine. Directed by Henry Hayward.
Some interesting production information about the series:
The transcribed half-hour weekly was on over 400 stations by April 1951. It was first sold to local stations as a 52 weekly episodes package for $13 to $750 a week (depending on station size).
Bogart and Bacall signed a five-year contract for the show, got royalties earning them $5000 a week in the first year. Writers Fine and Friedkin got $1000 per episode in first year.
The first thirty-six episodes were done at once in early 1951 then Bogart and Bacall left on a European vacation. By the time the episodes aired Bogart was filming The African Queen. Reportedly there were 78 episodes done, but the number remains debated since most episodes had more than one title leading to some episodes getting counted twice. Today over fifty episodes survive. You can listen to many at Internet Archive here.
Bold Venture was a mix of the relationship between Bogart’s Harry to Bacall’s Slim in To Have and Have Not, toss in Sam from Casablanca and add “adventure, mystery and intrigue” in the “mysterious” Caribbean islands.
Slate Shannon was a former adventurer who had decided to settle in Havana Cuba and run a hotel called “Shannon’s Place.” He also rented out his services as Captain of his boat “The Bold Venture.”
Sailor Duval was a young girl with a wild troubled past. When her father, an old friend of Slate, died he “willed” her to Slate to make sure she stayed safe.
Shannon was helped at the hotel by long time friend King Moses, who, when the story needed it, would sing a calypso song (by David Rose) recapping the episode’s story.
A popular source of stories was Slate’s “hobby” (as Sailor called it) of helping people, be it a neighbor who needed Slate to get his daughter away from a gangster or helping an old girlfriend who claimed she was going to be murdered by her stepmother.
“Shannon’s Place,” Slate’s hotel was a repeated cause to get Slate involved. Slate took it personally if anything happened at the hotel or to a guest, as when a beautiful female guest has her face ripped to shreds by killer gamecocks. In another episode Slate becomes a suspect when one of the hotel performers is killed. The script is available to read online here.
The final cause to get Slate involved was his boat “Bold Venture.” Slate and his boat would often be hired by clients who would lie about the real purpose of his trip such as gun running revolutionaries or a college educated treasure hunter turn killer out to retrieve stolen gold.
The stories were full of touches of crime fiction bordering on noir. Gunfire, fists, knifes, Slate getting beat up, Sailor in danger and countless dead bodies spiced up each week’s tale as our two heroes wisecracked and romanced through it all.
Strange characters were common, such as two schoolteachers out for excitement and adventure and willing to kill for it.
And what would this type of adventure mystery be without great dialog such as when Slate asks a man a question and the man replies toughly who’s asking, Sailor says “Him. I talk like this.”
Then there was the final short scene (often called a “tag” or “epilog”) featuring Slate and Sailor and their relationship, usually ending with romance.
While the writing and music were enough to make Bold Venture a radio show worth listening to, it was Bogart and Bacall that made Bold Venture special. Their chemistry together translated to radio as well as film and real life. Plus, Bogart and Bacall could do something not many movie stars could, they could act with just their voice.
It would be the absence of Bogart and Bacall and that chemistry that would doom the Bold Venture TV series, but more about that next time.
Billboard magazine, 1/31/51
OTRR Wiki page. (L. A. Times article by Walter Ames)