13 September: Character counts

Dragnet: The Big Waiter (NBC, 1951)

Jack Webb (lowest right) preparing for a Dragnet transcription. Co-announcer Hal Gibney, upper right. (Photo: NBC.)

Jack Webb (lowest right) preparing for a Dragnet transcription. Co-announcer Hal Gibney, upper right. (Photo: NBC.)

No less than The Commonweal, the lay Catholic intellectual journal of opinion, is impressed that Dragnet leaves a number of heretofore intractable radio crime drama stereotypes behind:

[N]o stereotypical hoodlums with congenital inability to voice the tongue-point dental fricative; no dem’s and dose’s. If intelligence can be measured as the number of shades visible between black and white, Dragnet is an intelligent program. Character is not subordinated to the arbitrary requirements of an action-packed script.

And tonight comes an episode that proves every one of those words true: Friday (Jack Webb) and Romero (Barton Yarborough) hunt the killer of elder men’s shop keeper Joseph Wilford, beaten brutally to death, and left to be found in the back of his store by his wife . . . for whom his ardor has long passed, as he’d forged “friendships” with several women of which the widow was only too well aware.

One of those women, though, turned out to be the purported girl friend of a waiter resentful that the dead man could afford to lavish her with certain gifts—and in possession of the dead man’s prize wristwatch, which he claimed to have bought from a friend.

Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Possibly Jack Robinson.


Tune in Today, Continued . . .


The Jack Benny Program: Back from Vacation in Hawaii (Season premiere; CBS, 1953)—Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Bob Crosby, Frank Nelson. The star can’t get back from vacation fast enough, and his valet can’t start his own soon enough. Merrily he rolls along on his fifth CBS season premiere. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry, Hal Goldman, Al Gordon.


Crime Drama

The Whistler: Mirage (CBS, 1942)—Jeff Chandler, Joseph Kearns (as the Whistler), possibly Betty Lou Gerson, possibly Wally Maher, possibly Joan Banks. An ambitious attorney groomed to succeed the district attorney prepares to marry the man’s daughter . . . enraging the chorine who paid his way through law school with her own marital ambitions. Not exactly as cliched as it looks. Writer/director: J. Donald Wilson.



Quiet, Please: Symphony in D Minor (Mutual, 1948)—Ernest Chappell, James Van Dyke, Charita Bauer, J. Pat O’Malley. The series’ beguiling theme, extracted from Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, becomes a murder tool in the hands of a blind psychologist whose comely wife has attracted a roguish new suitor. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.



Suspense: The Furnished Floor (a.k.a. Furnished Room) (CBS, 1945)—Mildred Natwick, Don DeFore, Ted Osborne. A boarding house owner awaits the return of a former tenant who left when his wife died . . . but claims to be returning with her. Stay with it. Writer: Lucille Fletcher.


World War II

Fulton Lewis, Jr.: Czech President Benes Declares Martial Law (Mutual, 1938)—The conservative commentator speaks to Czechoslovakia’s ambassador to the United States after Czech president Benes’s declaration of martial law, two days before British Prime Minister Chamberlain agrees, infamousl, that the Sudetenland be ceded to Hitler.

Your AAF: A Report to the American People (ABC, special report, 1945)—None-so-subtle self-promotional early peacetime broadcast which sits several cuts above type, thanks to a feature on the all-black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion’s forest firefighting and one on actor Reginald Denny’s invention of a radio-controlled airplane.

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