Thursday, June 18, 2009

Still listening: Old Time Radio



One of the nice folks that we have met on our regular Bingo nights is Jeanne. Jeanne is a wonderful lady, who it's hard to believe is in her mid-80s. She's still working part-time and has more energy than people half her age. Anyway, Jeanne is quite naturally a fan of Old Time Radio and has been nice enough to let me borrow some of the CD collections she owns.

Among the collections have been compilations of detective shows, some sets of one series and others of miscellaneous programs. As a fan of these shows I'm still surprised to discover one with which I wasn't familiar or to find one by a particular actor. Two actors, primarily known for their film or television roles (at least by me) were Dick Powell and Jack Webb. In both cases, it was a pleasant surprise and in the case of Webb a revelation.

I knew Dick Powell played RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE on radio for several years. Jeanne had let me borrow several collections featuring this program and I had also heard several before on RADIO SPIRIT compilations. What I hadn't known was that four years previously (the same year Powell appeared as Philip Marlowe in the film "Murder,My Sweet) he had a short-lived radio program. Called ROGUE'S GALLERY, Powell played Richard Rogue, a private-detective. The show's gimmick was that at least once a week Rogue would be hit over the head (or otherwise rendered unconscious)and find himself in dreamland where he would have a conversation with his alter-ego, EUGOR (spell it backwards!). Just as with Powell's interpretation of Diamond, the show was often tongue-in-cheek with Rogue never taking himself too seriously. If you find these shows I recommend them, since you can hear how this portrayal comes close to the one Powell used in the later series.

Other than DRAGNET, and perhaps the film THE D.I., most folks probably are not familiar with Jack Webb's career. I'll be honest and admit that except for knowing he did a few other movies and later became a producer, my knowledge of Webb was pretty much limited to that of his Sgt. Friday. I'd also read his non-fiction book on the Los Angeles police department (and some of their most famous cases) THE BADGE, back in high school. It's kind of odd hearing Webb playing some one other than Friday, especially because his voice is so distinctive, as is his delivery. Apparently, his first show was actually of the comedy/variety type and called THE JACK WEBB SHOW. Sadly, I haven't heard any of those and may have to only imagine what they must have been like.

Before DRAGNET, Webb appeared/starred in about a half-dozen radio dramas for various periods. The only two that I have heard myself have been PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE (Webb as an unlicensed P.I., who also works down on the docks) and JEFF REGAN, INVESTIGATOR (where he works for the sometimes not very scrupulous, Lion Detective Agency). It's a lot of fun, if odd, hearing Webb portray characters who weren't criminals, but didn't have a lot of use for the police. In fact, in both of these dramas you often had the police working at odds with Webb's characer and even being corrupt. It was while working on the film, HE WALKED BY NIGHT in 1948 (based on a true murder case), that Webb got the idea for the series that would make him a star.

Hope you found this interesting. Next time out either comics or a movie review.
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