Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Green Hornet

In 1935, George W. Trendle, the WXYZ co-owner and managing partner who had spearheaded the development of The Lone Ranger, sought to bring on air a similar series. Trendle sought to create a series that would "show that a political system could be riddled with corruption and that one man could successfully combat this white-collar lawlessness." Liking the acoustic possibilities of a bee sound, Trendle directed it be incorporated into the show. The team experimented with names, with Trendle liking The Hornet, but that name had been used elsewhere and could have posed rights problems. Colors including blue and pink were considered before the creators settled on green.

The vigilante nature of her hero's operation quickly resulted in the Green Hornet being declared an outlaw himself, and Britt Reid played to it. The Green Hornet became thought of as one of his city's biggest criminals, allowing him to walk into suspected racketeers' offices and ply them for information, or even demand a cut of their profits. In doing so, the Green Hornet usually provoked them to attack him to remove this competitor, giving him license to defeat and leave them for the police without raising suspicion as to his true motives.

He would be accompanied by his similarly masked chauffeur/bodyguard/enforcer, who was also Reid's valet, Kato, initially described as Japanese, and by 1939 as Filipino of Japanese descent. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, references to a Japanese heritage were dropped.

The series originated on January 31, 1936, on WXYZ, the same local Detroit station that originated its companion shows The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon. Beginning April 12, 1938, the station supplied the series to the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network, and then to NBC Blue and its successors, the Blue Network and ABC Network, from November 16, 1939, through September 8, 1950. It returned from September 10 to December 5, 1952. It was sponsored by General Mills from January to August 1948, and by Orange Crush in its brief 1952 run.

Distinguished by its use of classical music for themes and for bridges between scenes, The Green Hornet was "one of radio's best-known and most distinctive juvenile adventure shows". The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, debonair newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighting masked hero at night.

The opening sequence of the radio show originally began with the announcer proclaiming that the Green Hornet "hunts the biggest of all game! Public enemies that even the G-Men cannot reach!", referring to FBI agents. Bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover objected to the line's implication that some crime fighting was beyond the abilities of the FBI, and it was changed to "public enemies who try to destroy our America!"

The radio show used Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin.

One relatively minor aspect of the character that tends to be given limited exposure in the actual productions is his blood relationship to the Lone Ranger, another character created by Striker. The Lone Ranger's nephew was Dan Reid. In the Green Hornet radio shows, the Hornet's father was likewise named Dan Reid, making Britt Reid the Lone Ranger's great-nephew.
In the November 11, 1947, radio show episode "Too Hot to Handle", Britt tells his father that he, Britt, is the Green Hornet. After Dan's initial shock and anger, Dan refers to a vigilante "pioneer ancestor" of theirs that Dan himself had ridden alongside in Texas. As he expressed pride in and love for his son, the Lone Ranger theme briefly played in the background.

The Green Hornet was adapted into two movie serials: The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Again!. Disliking the treatment Republic gave The Lone Ranger in two serials, George W. Trendle took his property to Universal Pictures, and was much happier with the results. The first serial, titled simply The Green Hornet and released in 1940, starred Gordon Jones in the title role, albeit dubbed by original radio Hornet Al Hodge whenever the hero's mask was in place, while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! of 1941 starred Warren Hull. Keye Luke, who played the "Number One Son" in the Charlie Chan films, played Kato in both. Also starring in both serials were Anne Nagel as Lenore Case, Britt Reid's secretary, and Wade Boteler as Mike Axford, a reporter for the Daily Sentinel, the newspaper that Reid owned and published. Ford Beebe directed both serials, partnered by Ray Taylor on The Green Hornet and John Rawlins on The Green Hornet Strikes Again!, with George H. Plympton and Basil Dickey contributing to the screenplays for both serials. The Green Hornet ran for 13 chapters while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! had 15 installments, with the Hornet and Kato smashing a different racket in each chapter. In each serial, they were all linked to a single major crime syndicate which was itself put out of business in the finale, while the radio program had the various rackets completely independent of each other.

Green Hornet comic books began in December 1940. Many other comic renditions have followed throughout the years following.

The Green Hornet was a television series shown on the ABC U.S. television network. It aired for the 1966–1967 television season and starred Van Williams as both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid, and Bruce Lee as Kato.
Williams and Lee's Green Hornet and Kato appeared as anti-heroes in the second season of the live-action 1960s Batman TV series, in the two part episodes "A Piece of the Action" and "Batman's Satisfaction".

A film version of The Green Hornet was released on January 14, 2011, starring Seth Rogen. This film, in my personal opinion, was a bastardization of the source material. A slap in the face to true fans of the character. Only earning mention on this blog for the very fact that it was such an utter embarrassment, and to urge you to avoid at all cost.

For now, the character lives on, for true fans, in the pulp magazines, comics, movie serials, television episodes and radio shows. Below is a selection of some of those radio programs, I hope you enjoy.

For more detailed information, visit the Green Hornet Wikipedia page, or the page devoted to the Green Hornet radio program.

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