Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Biggest of All Game: The Way It Was, 31 January

1936---Nocturnal crimefighter The Green Hornet---the guise of Britt Reid, a playboy heir turned crusading newspaper publisher, played by Al Hodge---premieres on WXYZ, Detroit, the station that launched its legendary cousin show, The Lone Ranger, three years earlier.

Both shows are the creation of George W. Trendle and his writer Fran Striker. Britt Reid is revealed in due course to be the great-nephew of John (The Lone Ranger) Reid. The younger man plays a slight twist upon the Lone Ranger's style, however: the Green Hornet infiltrates underworld operations or challenges them for rackets as if an underworlder himself . . . the better to break up those rackets, even if it means allowing himself to be seen as a wanted major criminal by authorities, an image he uses as a crimefighting weapon in itself.

Reid at first tells no one of his double life beyond his valet, Kato, who is portrayed first as a Japanese-American, then as a Filipino-American (following Pearl Harbour), and finally as a Korean-American. Or, was he?

Kato, Britt Reid's faithful valet, was an Oriental, a distinction of some consequence after the Japanese drew the USA into World War II by launching a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. From this era arose the legend that the character of Kato was originally identified as being Japanese, but after Pearl Harbor his nationality was abruptly changed to Filipino.

Was there a change? Some people insist there was, others claim that Kato was an Oriental of unspecified nationality prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the "Filipino" aspect of his character was emphasized afterwards (understandably leaving some listeners with the impression that a change had occurred), and yet another group asserts that Kato had been explicitly Filipino all along. In this case we defer to the expertise of John Dunning, who notes in his comprehensive encyclopedia of old-time radio that although Kato was voiced by an actor of Japanese descent (Tokutaro Hayashi, later "renamed Raymond Toyo by director James Jewell for professional reasons"), he was "described as a Filipino of Japanese descent at least two years earlier" than the events of 7 December 1941. The "Japanese descent" part of his character may have been downplayed thereafter, but he had indeed been identified as a Filipino well before 1941.

In due course, however, the radio Green Hornet will be exposed inadvertently by a woman and, from there, share his dual identity with the police commissioner.

The Green Hornet will become a network radio offering on Mutual, NBC Blue, and ABC before expiring in the mid-1950s. A decade later, it will air for a single season on television, with Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato (who is now Chinese-American); Reid’s dual identity this time is known to his secretary, Lenore Case, and to district attorney Frank Scanlan.

The radio Hornet carries no weapon other than a non-lethal gas gun and his jiu jitsu-trained valet, not to mention a high-powered black automobile, the Black Beauty, that can get him from point A to point B faster than any police cruiser. (The television Hornet, of course, will add a retractable electronic laser, or "sting," through which he can cut through thick layered steel and iron, and a Black Beauty affixed with short-range rockets and gas shells and a deployable electronic aerial scanner.)

Within its first few seasons, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover will take a troublesome interest in the radio Hornet. Hoover will object to the show’s introduction ("He hunts the biggest of all game: public enemies that even the G-men cannot reach") because he's offended at the implication that there are criminals beyond the FBI's competence to stop; he'll prevail upon the show producers to substitute a less offencive but somewhat more cartoonish introduction. ("He hunts the biggest of all game: public enemies who try to destroy Our America.")

The original cast of The Green Hornet is Al Hodge as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet, Raymond Hayashi as Kato, Lee Allman as Lenore (Casey) Case, Jim Irwin as Mike Axford (a Daily Sentinel reporter with a robust Irish brogue and a past as a police officer whose service is implied to have ended in less than honourable circumstances, entirely), and Jack Petruzzi as reporter Edward Lowry.

Rollon Parker plays the unidentified newsboy who ends virtually every episode with a street corner holler selling Daily Sentinal "extrys" following the Green Hornet's latest crimebusting---always ended with the line, "Green Hornet still at large!" Within a decade, however, he'll serve double duty, becoming the second Kato, before handing that role off to Mickey Tolan.

Al Hodge will play the Green Hornet through 1943. Donovan Faust and Bob Hall will play the role in 1943, with Hall continuing until 1946. His successor and the final radio Green Hornet will be Jack McCarthy, later the host (known as Captain Jack) of local children’s programming in New York City and the annual anchor for WPIX-TV coverage of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Allman and Petruzzi are the only actors to keep their roles for the life of the radio series. The show's announcers will include Fielden Farrington, Robert Hite, Harold Neal, Charles Woods, and future 60 Minutes founding co-anchor Mike Wallace.


1940: EMPHASIS ON THE "BOOM"---If you can forgive him for trying to make a jazz swinger out of "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay" (in a just world it would get you tried by jury for attempted murder---of jazz), you can have a pleasant time listening otherwise. A half hour's worth of Gene Krupa and his Orchestra playing the Meadowbrook (on the Newark-Pompton Turnpike in New Jersey, the same pike that once provided Charlie Barnet with a secondary theme for his band) is broadcast tonight. (NBC.)

1943: THE CONFESSION---An underworld gambler who killed a rival in self defence romances a young woman whose father---a successful defence attorney who prides himself on rejecting guilty clients---has just rejected him as a client. But his scorned former lovers include her stepmother, who finds one way to get even with him---so it seems---on tonight's edition of The Whistler. (CBS.) The Whistler (narrator): Bill Forman.


1872---Zane Grey (writer: The Rudy Vallee Show), Zanesville, Ohio
1892---Eddie Cantor (as Israel Iskowitz; a.k.a. Adrian Cantrowitz; comedian/singer/actor: The Chase & Sanborn Houw, Time to Smile, The Big Show), New York City.
1902---Tallulah Bankhead ("the glamorous, unpredictable" host: The Big Show), Huntsville, Alabama.
1905---John O'Hara (writer: Information Please), Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
1906---Edith Adams (actress: Those Happy Gilmans), West Union, Iowa.
1908---Connie Desmond (sportscaster: play-by-play partner with Red Barber for the 1940s-1950s Brooklyn Dodgers), Ohio.
1909---Walter Coy (actor: Lone Wolf), Great Falls, Montana.
1913---Maurice Manson (actor: One Man's Family), unknown.
1915---Garry Moore (as Thomas Garrison Morfit; host: Take It or Leave It, Beat the Band; comedian: The Durante-Moore Show, The Garry Moore Show), Baltimore.
1921---John Agar (actor: The Big Show), Chicago; Carol Channing (singer-actress: Arthur Godfrey Time, Stagestruck), Seattle; Mario Lanza (operatic tenor: The Mario Lanza Show), Philadelphia.
1923---Joanne Dru (as Joanne Letitia LaCock; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Logan, West Virginia.
1929---Jean Simmons (actress: Lux Radio Theater), London.


Blogger COLORADO BOB said...

easy .... Saw you at the google review page. Nice site, adding you to my "Far Away Folks" file.

Colorado Bob

4:24 AM  
Blogger Gene Bach said...

Hey, the Green Hornet premiered on my birthday! Pretty cool.

Jeff, showed my wife your site last night when she stopped by work and she was pretty ecited about making an evening out of listening to old radio shows. You know, kind of like they used to do? LOL!


7:19 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Bob---Beautiful blog you have, especially the visuals. I've added you to my blogosphere list . . .

9:14 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gene---There's no better way to relax at night than to line up a playlist worth of vintage radio. (Unless it's lining up a few CDs worth of blues and jazz, that is . . . ;) )

9:15 AM  

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