29 November: The Hornet and the Hoover

L to R: Raymond Toyo, Al Hodge, and Jim Irwin, preparing for a Green Hornet broadcast. (Photo: Life.)
L to R: Raymond Toyo, Al Hodge, and Jim Irwin, preparing for a Green Hornet broadcast. (Photo: Life.)

In 2009, Dyanmite Entertainment will begin a series of comic books centered around the Green Hornet, the underground crime fighter born in old-time radio in 1936. Issue number nine matched the Hornet against the legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. A nice irony, that, because it was long assumed that Hoover himself prompted a change in The Green Hornet‘s radio introduction.

Of all the cliches that have sprung around Hoover, perhaps the truest is that he was as vain as the day was long about his bureau’s invincibility. Somehow, that vanity extended into a supposition that the FBI director himself lodged a complaint against The Green Hornet‘s familiar introduction each week: He hunts the biggest of all game—public enemies that even the G-men cannot reach.

By 1942, the introduction would change to He hunts the biggest of all game—public enemies who try to destroy Our America. But there could well have been a different reason for the change, even if you dismiss the new intro as being just too much of its time and place and too precious a stereotype for a kids’ radio crime drama.

The United States had entered World War II, and it was no secret that one and all—from Hoover down to the merest local gendarmes—feared the prospect of Nazi, Fascist, Imperial Japanese, and Communist espionage. As preciously cliched as it would sound to future radio collectors, public enemies who try to destroy Our America would make perfect sense during World War II’s years. Indeed, the Green Hornet would tangle with a few such spies, or even mere racketeers looking for a neat profit by way of playing off the combatants, in the years to come.

And as it turns out (numerous sources can tell it to you), J. Edgar Hoover sent The Green Hornet‘s producers a brief note praising the show, at the time that the G-men intro was still in use.

An intro change, no matter the provocation, would prove the least of the problems faced by a popular radio crime drama whose paradoxical hero—upholding the law by breaking it—would later draw fire from assorted “leagues of decency” and parental groups. Fire borne of their ignorance that publisher Britt Reid’s alter ego could break criminal operations by operating within them himself. Which led in time to the show’s masterminds allowing the police commissioner in on Reid’s secret.

For once in his life J. Edgar Hoover was the least of somebody’s problems.

 

TUNE IN TONIGHT:

The Green Hornet: The Gas Station Protection Racket (ABC, 1945; repeat of a Mutual broadcast from earlier seasons, 1945)

After Lowry (Jack Petruzzi) gets punched out by a gas station bombing victim who’s afraid to talk publicly about the racket, Britt (Al Hodge) has a daring idea: stealing the protection money the victim’s willing to pay his tormentors, in a bid to lure him to talk and the tormentors into a trap.

This is probably one of the absolute classic episodes of this series. The giveaway that tonight’s broadcast is a re-run? Listen to the intro.

Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Kato: Raymond Toyo (Tokutaro Hayashi). Axford: James Irwin. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Possibly Charles Wood. Director: Charles Livingstone. Writer: Fran Striker.

 

Further Channel Surfing . . .

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Buck Benny’s Third Ride (comedy; NBC, 1936)
Boston Blackie: The Simmons Construction Murder; or, The Man Who Was Shot on the 21st Floor (crime drama; Blue Network; syndicated by Ziv, 1945)
The Life of Riley: Thanksgiving with the Gillises (comedy; NBC, 1947)
Truth or Consequences: Sing Rock-a-Bye Baby (game; NBC, 1947)
Fibber McGee & Molly: The Bargain Inner Tube (comedy; NBC, 1949)
The Halls of Ivy: The Honour Student (comedy; NBC, 1950)
Adventures of Maisie: Running for Mayor (comedy; Syndicated, 1951)
Broadway is My Beat: The Johnny Clark Murder Case (crime drama; CBS; AFRTS rebroadcast, 1952)
Our Miss Brooks: A Former Student Visits (comedy; CBS, 1953)
The Six Shooter: Sheriff Billy (Western; NBC, 1953)
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Henderson Matter, Part Two (crime drama; CBS, 1955)

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