FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE. “Search in the Night.”. CBS, 05 Nov 1953 (Season 2, Episode 7). Frank Lovejoy (Randy Stone), Frances Rafferty, James Millican, Rhys Williams, Vic Perrin, Colleen Miller. Directed by Christian Nyby. Current streaming on YouTube (see below).

   â€œSearch in the Night” features a reporter for the Chicago Star whose nightly beat takes him through the streets of that city after the sun goes down, looking for human interest stories to tell his reading audience in his next morning’s daily column. On this particular night, he comes a across a small crowd of people watching a man in a deep sea diver’s suit and helmet look for something off a short pier.

   What is he looking for? Who us the woman who hired him? At the rate of $50 per dive, it must be something important. But … a woman’s purse? Randy Stone is puzzled, until the purse is opened. In it is $5000 in a small wad of bills. Also in the purse … a gun. Then the diver reveals something else. The body of man is also down there, caught in the pilings of the pier. Now Randy Stone has his story. But how does it develop from there? And more to the point, how does it end?

   Old time radio fans will have recognized what is going on, almost immediately, I’m sure. This was an effort to transfer a highly successful radio show to TV. Night Beat was an NBC radio drama that was on the air  from February 6, 1950 to September 25, 1952

   Quoting from its Wikipedi page, “Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star, encountering criminals, eccentrics, and troubled souls. Listeners were invited to join Stone as he ‘searches through the city for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness.’”

   This “backdoor pilot” is a good one, filled with just the right amount of mystery and characters who are terrified about what comes next (some of them), while others feel safe as they go about go about their day-by-job, while revealing to Stone what led up to the events he wandered into in the middle of.

   As a pilot, this really ought to have been picked up. On radio, Frank Lovejoy’ gruff but yet kindly voice was perfect for the role. On TV, his square-jawed visual persona fit the role to a tee, and his interactions with the people he encounters and talks to are also finely tuned. (And not all of them are essential to the plot. His encounter with Colleen Miller’s character as a floozie in a bar, for example, lasts no more than a minute or so, but the conversation they have is solid gold.)