Thursday, January 28, 2016
Mr. and Mrs. North
Mr. and Mrs. North are fictional American amateur detectives. Created by Frances and Richard Lockridge, the couple was featured in a series of 26 Mr. and Mrs. North novels, a Broadway play, a motion picture and
several radio and television series.
Mr. and Mrs. North was a radio mystery series that aired on NBC and CBS from 1942 to 1954. Alice Frost and Joseph Curtin had the title roles when the series began in 1942. The characters, publisher Jerry North and his wife Pam, lived in Greenwich Village at 24 St. Anne's Flat. They were not professional detectives but simply an ordinary couple who stumbled across a murder or two every week for 12 years. The radio program eventually reached nearly 20 million listeners.
In 1946, Mr. and Mrs. North received the first Best Radio Drama Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America (in a tie with CBS's Ellery Queen). The program, which was broadcast once in 1941 and continuously from December 1942 through December 1946 on NBC Radio (for Woodbury Soap), and from July 1947 to April 1955 on CBS Radio (for Colgate-Palmolive and, later, Adler sewing machines), featured Carl Eastman (1941), Joseph Curtin (1942-53) and Richard Denning (1953-55) as Jerry North. Pam North was played by Peggy Conklin (1941), Alice Frost (1942-53) and Barbara Britton (1953-55).
In his book, Radio Crime Fighters, Jim Cox wrote that the couple:
... who passed themselves off as a publisher and his homemaker-spouse continued to make lighthearted wisecracks as they stepped over bodies in dark alleys and were rendered unconscious by unknown assailants dispensing blows to the head almost every week ... The feminine half of the twosome was at least equal to the husband in solving cases that often baffled law-enforcement officers with years of training and practice—except in reading clues. No explanation was given, of course, as to why a couple of misfits could be so successful in their preoccupation while the professionals thrashed about ineffectually."
In 1946, producer-director Fred Coe brought the Owen Davis play to television (on New York City's WNBT) with John McQuade and Maxine Stewart in the leads and Don Haggerty, Joan Marlowe and Millard Mitchell repeating their Broadway roles.
Barbara Britton and Richard Denning starred in the TV adaptation, produced by John W. Loveton, seen on CBS from 1952 to 1953 and on NBC in 1954, sponsored by Revlon cosmetics. Francis De Sales starred in 25 episodes as police Lieutenant Bill Weigand, only his second screen role. Guest stars included Raymond Burr, Hans Conried, Russ Conway, Mara Corday, I. Stanford Jolley, Carolyn Jones, Katy Jurado, Jimmy Lydon, Dayton Lummis, Julia Meade, William Schallert, and Gloria Talbott. Sixteen episodes of the TV series have been released in the "Best of TV Detectives" box set. A larger set of 8 DVDs containing 32 episodes has also been released by Alpha Video Distributors and is featured by the online store www.oldies.com.
Mr. and Mrs. North were resurrected in spirit with ABC's Hart to Hart, the 1979-84 crime drama about a wealthy husband (Robert Wagner) and wife (Stefanie Powers) who spent as much time solving murders and romancing each other as pursuing careers as an industrialist and a journalist, played the crime theme with wry wit reminiscent of the Norths in their heyday.
NBC's McMillan & Wife provided a different kind of couple, with the liberated Sally McMillan doing independent investigating as an amateur detective while her husband Mac served as the police commissioner. Sally had more gumption than the conventionally pretty Jennifer Hart and frequently solved cases on her own, making her more like Pamela North.