Monday, June 23, 2014

Nero Wolfe

Nero Wolfe is a fictional detective, created in 1934 by the American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe's confidential assistant Archie Goodwin narrates the cases of the detective genius. Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 short stories from 1934 to 1974, with most of them set in New York City. Wolfe's residence, a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street, features prominently in the series. Many radio, television and film adaptations were made from his works.
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated for Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was a nominee for Best Mystery Writer of the Century.

Nero Wolfe made his way to radio in 1943 in The Adventures of Nero Wolfe for ABC. Three actors portrayed Nero Wolfe over the course of the series. J.B. Williams starred in its first incarnation, broadcast Wednesdays on the New England Network (April 7–June 30, 1943). Santos Ortega assumed the role when the suspense drama moved to ABC on Mondays (July 5–September 27, 1943) and Fridays (January 21–July 14, 1944). Luis Van Rooten succeeded Ortega in 1944, Nero Wolfe's last year on ABC.

"Santos Ortega played Wolfe," wrote John McAleer in Rex Stout: A Biography. "John Gibson was Archie. Gibson was breezy and Ortega wheezy — indeed, he opened the program with a wheeze, as his signature... Rex thought the actors were creditable but winced at the plots. He never listened to the broadcasts... Louis Vittes was the chief scriptwriter and wrote most of the scripts. None of Rex's story material was used. All characters beside Wolfe, Archie and Cramer were ABC's own. For the use of Wolfe and Archie, Rex received a weekly royalty.
"Differences between (ABC producer) Hi Brown and Edwin Fadiman, who represented Rex's radio, screen and television interests, as Nero Wolfe Attractions, Inc., prevented its later resumption on ABC," McAleer reported. "This fact Brown regretted. 'Nero Wolfe,' Brown says, 'is one of the strongest and most successful detective characters in all of fiction.'"

"The series next surfaced early in 1946, on Sundays, on the Mutual Network," wrote Stout biographer John McAleer, "with Francis X. Bushman, one-time movie idol, as Wolfe, and Elliott Lewis as Archie. ... The scripts once again were network originals. The humor verged on slapstick." The concluding show in the series, "The Case of the Shakespeare Folio," aired December 15, 1946.

1950 -- 1951 Series: "THE NEW ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE" (25 episodes)
NETWORK: NBC, SPONSOR: SUSTAINED, TIME: Fridays: 8:00 - 8:30 pm
STARS: Sidney Greenstreet as Nero Wolfe. Archie played by various actors
WRITER: Louis Vittes based on the stories by Rex Stout; ANNOUNCER: Don Stanley; PRODUCER: Edwin Fadiman; DIRECTOR: J. Donald Wilson.
1982, 60 minutes
Mavor Moore and Don Francks
in the CBC Radio drama series Nero Wolfe.

In 1982, Canadian actor, producer, writer and cultural pioneer Mavor Moore (1919–2006) starred as Nero Wolfe in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's 13-episode radio series Nero Wolfe (a.k.a. Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe). Don Francks portrayed Archie Goodwin, and Cec Linder played Inspector Cramer.

Sources: Nero Wolfe Wikipedia and Nero Wolfe(radio) via Wikipedia

Sunday, June 15, 2014

VINTRAD: Celebrating Father's Day

Celebrating Father's Day, by recognizing some great Old Time Radio Fathers.

First up...

Father Knows Best is an American radio and television comedy series which portrayed a middle class family life in the Midwest. It was created by writer Ed James in the 1940s.

The series began August 25, 1949, on NBC Radio. Set in the Midwest, it starred Robert Young as the General Insurance agent Jim Anderson. His wife Margaret was first portrayed by June Whitley and later by Jean Vander Pyl. The Anderson children were Betty (Rhoda Williams), Bud (Ted Donaldson), and Kathy (Norma Jean Nillson). Others in the cast were Eleanor Audley, Herb Vigran and Sam Edwards. Sponsored through most of its run by General Foods, the series was heard Thursday evenings on NBC until March 25, 1954.


Next up...The Life of Riley, with William Bendix in the title role, is a popular American radio situation comedy series of the 1940s that was adapted into a 1949 feature film, a long-run 1950s television series (originally with Jackie Gleason as Riley for 1 truncated season, then with Bendix for 6 seasons), and a 1958 Dell comic book.

The radio program starring William Bendix as Riley initially aired on the Blue Network, later known as ABC, from January 16, 1944 to June 8, 1945. Then it moved to NBC, where it was broadcast from September 8, 1945 to June 29, 1951. The supporting cast featured Paula Winslowe portraying Peg, Riley's wife, as well as John Brown, who portrayed not only undertaker "Digger" O'Dell but also Riley's co-worker Jim Gillis. (Brown also played the character of Waldo Binny.) Whereas Gillis gave Riley bad information that got him into trouble, Digger gave him good information that "helped him out of a hole," as he might have put it. Brown's lines as the undertaker were often repetitive, including puns based on his profession; but, thanks to Brown's delivery, the audience loved him. The program was broadcast live with a studio audience, most of whom were not aware Brown played both characters. As a result, when Digger delivered his first line, it was usually greeted with howls of laughter and applause from surprised audience members.

And last, but certainly not least...
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 to September 3, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series starred Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David Nelson and Eric Nelson, better known as Ricky. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons' friendly neighbor "Thorny". The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US TV history.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Have Gun - Will Travel

Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western television series that aired on CBS from 1957 through 1963. It was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons. It was one of the few television shows to spawn a successful radio version. The radio series debuted November 23, 1958.

This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin," a gentleman gunfighter (played by Richard Boone on television and voiced by John Dehner on radio). He prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients who pay him. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs and, under his real name, was a duelling champion of some renown.

Have Gun – Will Travel was created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow.
The title was a catchphrase used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser was ready for anything. It was used this way from the early 20th century. A form common in theatrical advertising was "Have tux, will travel," and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works such as Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

Paladin is a mercenary, a soldier of fortune, accepting commissions from people who seek to engage his services. He is not above scanning newspaper headlines to offer his services to people whose troubles find their way into print. In the parlance of chivalry, since Paladin is not attached to the service of any one liege lord, his is "a free lance." He makes it clear that his time is all his clients hire for their particular jobs.

 A "paladin" is a knight, a paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion of a cause: "like Charlemagne's fabled Roland," as the Honourable Diana Coulter (Patricia Medina) notes in "The Lady". Using this nom-de-guerre Paladin makes clear that he is motivated by a code of chivalry to act justly in a just cause. He exhibits a passion for justice as well as for the rule of law, which means that he is constantly forced to differentiate between the two concepts.

The Have Gun – Will Travel radio show broadcast 106 episodes on the CBS Radio Network between November 23, 1958, and November 27, 1960. It was one of the last radio dramas featuring continuing characters and the only significant American radio adaptation of a television series. John Dehner played Paladin, and Ben Wright usually (but not always) played Hey Boy. Virginia Gregg played Miss Wong, Hey Boy's girlfriend, before the television series featured the character of Hey Girl. Unlike the small-screen version, in this medium there was usually a tag scene at the Carlton at both the beginning and the end of the episode. Initially, the episodes were adaptations of the television program as broadcast earlier the same week, but eventually original stories were produced, including a finale ("Goodbye, Paladin") in which Paladin leaves San Francisco, apparently forever, to claim an inheritance back east. The radio version was written by producer/writer Roy Winsor.

 Many of the writers who worked on Have Gun – Will Travel went on to gain fame elsewhere. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, Bruce Geller created Mission: Impossible, and Harry Julian Fink is one of the writers who created Dirty Harry (the opening title and theme scene of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force would feature the same Paladin-like sequence of a handgun being slowly cocked and then finally pointed toward the camera, with a line of dialogue). Sam Peckinpah wrote one episode, which aired in 1958. Both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were produced by Desilu Productions and later Paramount Television, which also now owns the rights to Have Gun – Will Travel through its successor company, CBS Television Distribution.

This photo shows radio's Paladin, John Dehner, with TV's Paladin, Richard Boone.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Dragnet, the brainchild of Jack Webb, may very well be the most well-remembered, and the best, radio police drama series. From September, 1949 through February 1957, Dragnet's 30 minute shows, broadcast on NBC, brought to radio true police stories in a low-key, documentary style.

The origins of Dragnet can be traced to a semi-documentary film,  "He Walked by Night" from 1948, in which Webb had a small role. Both employed the same Los Angeles Police Department technical adviser, used actual police cases and presented the case in "just the facts" manner that became a hallmark of Dragnet. It is interesting to note that Webb employed that format in other radio series, some pre-dating the film mentioned above.

Dragnet was a long running radio and television police procedural drama, about the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners. The show takes its name from an actual police term, a Dragnet, meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects.Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in American media history. The series gave millions of Americans a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers.

Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media. The shows cultural impact is demonstrated by the fact that even after five decades, elements of Dragnet are known to those who have never heard nor seen the program. The ominous four note introduction to the brass and tympani theme music, titled Danger Ahead, is instantly recognizable as well as the shows opening narration:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."

The original Dragnet starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday ran on radio from June 3rd, 1949 to February 26th, 1957; and on television from December 16th, 1951 to August 23rd, 1959, and from January 12th, 1967 to April 16th, 1970. All of these versions ran on NBC. There were two Dragnet feature films, a straight adaptation starring Jack Webb in 1954, and a comedy spoof in 1987. There were also television revivals, without Webb, in 1989 and 2003.

Sources: Wikipedia and

Other Dragnet links: