Hard-boiled laughs: Old-time radio listening, 20 September

Richard Diamond, Private Detective: The Bald Head Case (NBC, 1950)

Powell (right, with Ed Begley) as Richard Diamond—finally cracking his tough-guy/song-and-dance personae . . .

Dick Powell wanted to break both his tough-guy and his song-and-dance film images, so he took on Rogue’s Gallery, which turned out to be an underrated pilot fish (he left the show after three years; it endured for a few more without him) for his real radio starmaker, the breezier, livelier, funnier, and no less realistic Richard Diamond, Private Detective . . . and did precisely what he wanted.

Diamond differs from Rogue in subtle ways; the latter wasn’t exactly anxious to be secured by a lady, whereby Diamond enjoys a peculiarly footloose relationship with one girl. And Diamond is more overtly winking than Rogue, who was no stiff, could ever be. If you can picture a hard-boiled private eye playing it for laughs without losing his hard-boiled cred, Powell’s Diamond is he. And the show would be popular enough to think about bringing to television. Which Powell’s eventual production company, Four Star Television, eventually does.

Except that in David Janssen’s hands Richard Diamond will keep the hard boiling but lose most of the wit, which isn’t Janssen’s fault entirely; he’s simply not as breezy as Powell, though he will find his own starmaker in due course with television’s The Fugitive, whose edginess will suit Janssen far better.

All of which may explain why Richard Diamond on radio will be remembered as a solid entry, while Richard Diamond on television will be remembered, if at all, for nothing much above or beyond Mary Tyler Moore’s shapely legs.

Tonight: Diamond’s (Dick Powell) old friend Pat Stanz (Mary Jane Croft) needs him now—one of her regular salon customers is dead, and there’s no apparent sign of foul play other than his broken neck, not to mention only a speculative motive at best, until a safe deposit box key turns up a blackmail list, and the dead man’s apparent girl friend proves more than meets the immediate eye . . . especially after her father, an earlier suicide, turns up on the list.

Levinson: Ed Begley. Sgt. Otis: Wilms Herbert. Helen: Virginia Gregg. Additional cast: Ted de Corsia, Bea Benaderet, Lawrence Dobkin. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Frank Worth. Director: Jaime del Valle. Writer: Blake Edwards.

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

Mayor of the Town: Amy Lou Goes to War (NBC, 1942)—Torn between joining the Army nursing corps and staying behind as the wife of her lifelong love (Stan Ferrar), who’s edgy enough about marrying a woman who doesn’t want only to stay home, one-time tomboy Amy Lou Peters (Veola Vonn) joins the corps . . . only to become seriously wounded—and facing a possible court-martial—when she goes to the front lines to treat wounded who may not survive to reach rear-echelon field hospitals. You’ll marvel at how this manages to avoid soapy melodrama. Mayor: Lionel Barrymore. Marilly: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Gordon Jenkins. Director: Jack Van Nostrand. Writers: Jean Holloway, Leonard St. Clair.

The Jack Benny Program: Return to Paradise (CBS, 1953)—The South Seas saga, which features Gary Cooper as a prodigal father returning to a tropical island ruled by a despotic missionary, gets the Benny lampoon treatment. By now it’s probably a long-established tradition that you know your film has it made if Benny decides to take a good-natured poke at it. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Bob Crosby, Don Wilson, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson. Mabel the Operator: Bea Benaderet. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Mahlon Merrick Orchestra, Dennis Day, the Sports Men. Writers: George Balzer, Hal Goldman, Al Gordon, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.

 

Crime Drama

The Whistler: Fog (CBS, 1942)During a spell of heavy fog, a merchant shipman rendered temporarily amnesiac in a fall at port, on the way to meet a hood who owes him money, wants to escape when the hood turns up dead and he fears he may have killed the man—especially after a friend tries to blackmail him over the crime. It’ll kind of force you to stay with it, believe it or not. Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: J. Donald Wilson. Writer: Herbert Connor.

 

Mystery/Thriller

Suspense: The Library Book (CBS, 1945)—Myrna Loy enjoys a miniature tour de force as a mousy public librarian who drops everything to discover who vandalised her library’s copy of Gone With the Wind . . .including her eyeglasses, which causes people to treat her much differently when she does. Additional cast: Conrad Binyan, Cathy Lewis, Wally Maher. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Writer/director: William Spier, based on the novel, The Book That Squealed by Cornell Woolrich.

 

Western

The Six Shooter: Jenny (Series Premiere; NBC, 1953)—Young, plain Jenny Garver (possibly Elvia Allman) intrigues Ponset (James Stewart) with her quietly reserved, almost masculine carriage and fashion sense, but he doesn’t quite understand why townspeople deride her so mercilessly, finding himself concerned for her despite her defiant self-reliance and unusual compassion—the kind that lets her love and hide an outlaw simply because he didn’t deride her as others do. And you thought Gunsmoke has the market cornered cold on intelligent, understated Western radio writing.Additional cast: B.J. Thompson, Jess Kirkpatrick, George Niess, Harry Bartell. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Basil Adlam. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: Frank Burt.

 

World War II

Special Report: Hitler’s Danzig Address (NBC, 1939)—With the war underway in earnest in Europe, a break-in into a scheduled NBC network soap opera delivers a report that Hitler is expected to arrive in the Polish city whose annexation der Fuehrer had demanded the previous spring. The Third Reich invaded Poland at the beginning of this month, launching what would become World War II after Britain and France—having guaranteed Poland’s territorial integrity after the betrayals of the Munich Pact—declared war on Germany in return. An excerpt from Hitler’s rant is included in this recording, though no translation is available . . . or, perhaps, needed.

CBS European News: (CBS, 1940)—Eric Sevareid leads off, on a perhaps unusually quiet day, at least by the established standards of the London blitz: one round of German raiders driven back, apparently, though reports out of Dover indicate another invasion wave is iminent; British troops at Dover are confident of being able to beat the wave back. Sevareid also notes scattered, very occasional incendiary bombs striking around his particular location the day before, not to mention the crash of a German aircraft atop a London home adjacent to a hospital.

From Berlin, William L. Shirer reports a quiet night with little counter-invasion activity, with the German press continuing its “indignant headlines” of propaganda charging British “carefully planned . . . act[s] of murder” against civilian properties, and no news appearing regarding talks in Rome between von Ribbentrop and Il Duce.

From Washington: Albert Warner discusses a Roosevelt Administration plan to transfer forty B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft to the British, taking into account Congressional isolationists when formulating the plan, an antecedent to the coming Lend-Lease Act of March 1941; and, speculation on who would become the administrator of the Selective Service system.

Other news: The likely subject of the Ribbentrop-Mussolini talks is southeastern Europe; major British air raids against Italian forces in northern Africa; sudden Japanese demands against French Indochina for base locations of little apparent value.

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