Down These Mean Streets (Old Time Radio Detectives)
An old-time radio podcast, bringing you detective adventures from the Golden Age of Radio. Each week, tune in for an adventure of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Johnny Dollar, The Saint, and many more.
info_outline Episode 315 - Wealthy Young Man About Town (The Line-Up) 02/17/2019
Episode 315 - Wealthy Young Man About Town (The Line-Up) This week on “Down These Mean Streets,” we’re celebrating Bill Johnstone’s birthday with two of his starring turns as Lt. Ben Guthrie in “The Line-Up.”
info_outline "Faster than a speeding bullet..." 02/12/2019
"Faster than a speeding bullet..." “Look, up in the sky!” Today, in 1940, Superman flew from the pages of Action Comics on to radio. As he thrilled readers in the comic books and dazzled audiences in movie theaters, the Man of Steel soared on the airwaves, battling the mob, Nazi spies and saboteurs, mad scientists, and aliens from other planets, all while cementing the character’s popularity as an American icon. In fact, much of Superman’s mythology grew out of his radio adventures and later worked its way into the comic stories. Plucky cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and blustery newspaper editor Perry White were both original creations for the radio series. Ditto Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson, one of Superman’s allies on the police force. The first meeting of Superman and Batman happened on radio in 1945 (they’d appeared on covers of comics before, but radio featured the first story where the characters teamed up), and Superman had his first encounter with his Achilles’ heel - Kryptonite - not on the pages of the comics, but on the radio series. The show was a ratings success practically from the start when it premiered on February 12, 1940. Radio veteran Jack Johnstone (who later directed Bob Bailey as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) directed the early shows, and the series topped the charts among three-day-a-week children’s serials. The series aired in syndication until March 9, 1942. Six months later, it returned over the entire Mutual Network in a five-day-a-week series. Directed by George Lowther and later Allen Ducovny, Superman exploded during the World War II era, as Kryptonite was thrown into the mix in 1943 and Superman and his friends fought Nazis as often as they fought domestic villains. One of these baddies led to one of the show’s longest and most celebrated storylines when Superman battled a Nazi-engineered, Kryptonite-fueled Atom Man out to avenge the defeat of Germany from October to December 1945. But it wasn’t all fights with Atom Men and imaginary monsters. On the air, Superman fought racial intolerance and bigotry, and today the series is as fondly remembered for its social consciousness as much as for its thrilling adventures. In one memorable arc (the “Unity House” series), Superman defended an interfaith community center from a gang of bigots; in another, he battled the “Clan of the Firey Cross,” a thinly veiled substitute for the Ku Klux Klan. Despite pressure from some listeners (and a threatened boycott by the KKK itself), Mutual and Kellogg’s, the show’s sponsor, stuck by their program, and the series received seals of approval from the Boys Clubs of America, the Associated Negro Press, and the United Parents Association, among others. At the center of this series, providing the voice of a man who could change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel in his bare hands, was a busy radio actor who initially didn’t want the gig. By age 32, Clayton “Bud” Collyer was appearing on all four major networks over several dozen series. And while he won the job by creating two distinct voices for Superman and his secret identity of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, he initially turned down the role. “The whole idea embarrassed me, so I said no,” he recalled years later. Collyer would also voice the Man of Steel in the classic cartoons from Max Fleischer, and he returned in 1966 for Filmation’s New Adventures of Superman. Later, in the years following the Golden Age of Radio, Collyer would find fame as a game show host on television, anchoring shows like Quick as a Flash and To Tell the Truth. He played Superman in close to 1,700 shows and was the “voice” of the Man of Steel to a generation as much as George Reeves was the “face” on television. Collyer was backed up by a great cast in the Superman family. Joan Alexander set the template for Lois Lane - smart, spunky, and willing to jump into the fray as no damsel in distress. Julian Noa voiced the perpetually frustrated editor Perry White, and Jackie Kelk (Homer on The Aldrich Family) gave the right dose of “gee whiz” enthusiasm to Jimmy Olsen. But a comic book adventure is lost without a narrator, and for most of its run Superman had a humdinger in Jackson Beck, who famously intoned the legendary introduction that began with “Faster than a speeding bullet!” (Yep, that was coined for the radio series as well.) Today,the radio adventures of Superman still pack a ton of excitement into every fifteen or thirty minute episode. Even if you can only see him in the theater of your own mind, Superman rockets through the air when Bud Collyer’s voice drops an octave, that wind machine kicks in, and Jackson Beck’s stentorian boom erupts over the speakers.
info_outline "Expense account, item one..." 02/11/2019
"Expense account, item one..." On February 11, 1949, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar premiered on CBS and kicked off the career of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator.” Dollar traveled the world investigating cases of insurance fraud until 1962. Each mystery was narrated by Johnny as he itemized his expense account for his bosses at “the home office.” The series aired up until the end of the Golden Age of Radio in 1962, and it remains one of the most beloved detective programs of the era. What made the show work? The format of the show is a great hook - Dollar narrates the story as he itemizes his expense account for his employers. As the case progresses, another expense is rattled off. This was played up for humorous effect in the show’s early days, leading to a frequent announcer tag line - “At insurance investigation, he’s only an expert. At making out his expense account, he’s an absolute genius!“ Dollar was sharp, a bit cynical, and had brains to match his brawn. But in his first several years on the air, Johnny Dollar was a good - but not great - radio detective. There was little about the show to distinguish it from the sea of detective shows cluttering the airwaves. Three different actors (Charles Russell, Edmond O'Brien, and John Lund) played Dollar between 1949 and 1954. (Dick Powell was actually the first to play Johnny Dollar in a 1948 audition program. Before the show went to series, Powell opted to star in Richard Diamond, Private Detective on NBC.) The insurance investigation angle provided a different flavor for the show, but those early shows weren’t quite in the same league as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. The show actually left the airwaves in 1954, and Johnny Dollar might have ended up as a radio footnote had it not been for a revamped series that returned to the air in 1955. Under the direction of Jack Johnstone, Johnny Dollar was reinvented as a five-night-a-week 15 minute serial. Johnstone was a veteran radio writer and director who previously brought Buck Rogers and Superman to radio. Just before he took the helm of Johnny Dollar, he served as producer and director for the outstanding NBC western series The Six Shooter, which brought Jimmy Stewart to weekly radio as its star. Johnstone served as producer and director of the new series, and he frequently provided scripts. With 75 minutes instead of 30 for stories every week, Johnstone and his fellow writers could deliver complex plots with plenty of twists and turns and nuanced characters with more depth than the usual supporting players in a weekly detective show. But talent behind the scenes is only part of the story. Johnny Dollar’s renaissance owes as much to the man in front of the microphone - a strong, dynamic actor who breathed life and a personality into the detective. And it was an actor who was no stranger to solving crimes on the airwaves. Bob Bailey was fresh off a run as private eye George Valentine in Let George Do It when he was cast as Dollar. He sank his teeth into the king-size scripts, and his performance fleshed out the character in a way that the previous actors had never quite managed to nail down. His Johnny Dollar would more often than not get too involved in his cases, and he might fall too hard for a female suspect. He loved to fish, and his clients might exploit that to persuade him to take a dangerous job in a far-off locale where he could be promised a good catch. He was unpredictable, funny, and dangerous. In the early years, Johnny Dollar was just a radio detective. With Jack Johnstone’s words and Bob Bailey’s voice, he joined the ranks of Marlowe and Spade, characters with long histories on the page behind them. The series continued in the serial format until 1956 when it returned to 30 minutes once a week. While the individual shows may not have always been as rich as the five-part stories, Bailey’s performance remained strong. He remained in the role until 1960, when CBS shut down its West Coast radio operations and moved its dramatic productions to New York. The show continued for another two seasons; Jack Johnstone continued to provide scripts but was replaced as director. Bob Readick and Mandel Kramer starred as Dollar until he turned in his last expense account on the final night of network radio on September 30, 1962. Nearly all of the episodes of the show survive, and while each actor brought something unique to the character, it is Bailey’s Johnny Dollar that stands head and shoulders above them all. His wry humor, his hard edge, and his world-weary cynicism come through in every line of his performance, and there are years of episodes for today’s audiences to rediscover and enjoy.
info_outline Episode 314 - The Final Five Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) 02/10/2019
Episode 314 - The Final Five Matter (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) This week on “Down These Mean Streets,” Bob Bailey is “the man with the action-packed expense account” in the final five-part adventure of “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.”
info_outline Stories Start in Many Different Ways 02/06/2019
Stories Start in Many Different Ways “Hi - this is Randy Stone. I cover the night beat for the Chicago Star.” On February 6, 1950, reporter Randy Stone took his first walk on the Night Beat. Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy, an intrepid newspaperman working at the Chicago Star. Every night, Randy explored the darkened streets of the Windy City in search of stories for his column. Randy Stone was looking for the good and the bad of human nature - anything that would make for a good yarn to follow his byline. Along the way, he usually found trouble among the desperate and the dangerous residents of the city at night. In each episode of the show, columnist Randy Stone went to work when the sun went down and set off through the city streets in search of stories about people that had fallen through the cracks. The “human” in human interest stories was of paramount importance to him, and like a knight on a romantic crusade, Stone did his best to help the subjects of his stories and ensure as much of a happy ending as he could for his column. Randy Stone wasn’t a detective; he wasn’t even an amateur sleuth like Box 13’s Dan Holiday or Casey, Crime Photographer. But he walked the streets of Chicago after dark and as a sucker for a hard luck story, he frequently found himself in conflict with the mob, gamblers and thieves, con men, and killers. He could be taken in by a sob story or come around to discover a perceived villain had been wronged as badly as the victim. He didn’t carry a gun, and he wasn’t a fighter, but he had dogged persistence in chasing down a story to the end. It was the kind of persistence that was finely honed from walking the streets and wearing out who knows how many pairs of shoes. On May 19, 1949, an audition program for the series was recorded starring Edmond O’Brien as reporter “Hank Mitchell.” Directed by Bill Rousseau (director of hard-boiled private eye shows Pat Novak and Michael Shayne), O’Brien’s performance was closer to how he’d sound as Johnny Dollar a year later: tougher, cynical, and harder-edged. Not a bad performance (in fact, it served him well in the role of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator”), but it was a little too tough for what producers were looking for. Night Beat got a second bite at the apple almost a year later. This time, actor Frank Lovejoy stepped to the microphone as the lead character, rechristened “Randy Stone.” Where Hank Mitchell was cynical, Randy Stone was a kind of cock-eyed optimist. Where Mitchell was tough, Stone was compassionate. Of the voices, Randy Stone’s sounded more like that of a champion for the little guy. And delivering that winning performance for over 100 episodes was Frank Lovejoy. Lovejoy had been a radio actor in the 1930s and early 1940s, appearing on Gangbusters and This is Your FBI. He was the first actor to play the Blue Beetle on radio, and he was frequently heard as a supporting player on Sam Spade, Box 13, and Adventures of Superman; he also took more than a few starring turns on Suspense. In films, Lovejoy was often a supporting player in everyman roles in films like The Hitch-Hiker, House of Wax, and In a Lonely Place. This “man of the people” streak to his work served him well as Randy Stone, and Lovejoy delivers one of the best dramatic lead performances from the Golden Age of Radio in Night Beat. It helped that he was given wonderful words to say and characters to say them to with scripts by Larry Marcus, Russell Hughes (main writer for Box 13), and others. One of the great dramatic shows of the 1950s, Night Beat was anchored by Frank Lovejoy’s performance and strong scripts. Though not strictly a detective program, Night Beat often featured stories of crime and killers, of cops and robbers. Night Beat was a bright spot in the Golden Age of Radio as it gradually gave way to the rise of television.
info_outline Episode 313 - In the Still of the Night (Night Beat) 02/03/2019
Episode 313 - In the Still of the Night (Night Beat) This week on “Down These Mean Streets,” Frank Lovejoy prowls the streets of the Windy City in search of newspaper stories as reporter Randy Stone in two old time radio mysteries from “Night Beat.”
info_outline An Englishman in the West 02/02/2019
An Englishman in the West “Herewith, an Englishman’s account of life and death in the west. As a reporter for the London Times, he writes his colorful and unusual stories. But as a man with a gun, he lives and becomes a part of the violent years in the new territories.” Western heroes were in no short supply during the Golden Age of Radio. There were lawmen like Matt Dillon, keeping the peace and fighting to bring law and order to the frontier. There were hired guns like Paladin and roaming cowboys like Britt Ponsett who made every effort not to draw his gun. And of course, there was the granddaddy of all western heroes - the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains known as The Lone Ranger. But one of radio’s most unusual leading men of the old west was Jeremy Brian Kendall, correspondent for the London Times - the Frontier Gentleman. This standout drama made premiered on CBS on February 2, 1958. For a single radio season (just over 40 episodes) Frontier Gentleman followed Kendall on his journeys through the new territories of the United States. Moving from town to town, Kendall traded notes with fellow reporters, rode along with the cavalry, rubbed elbows with rogues, and shared his experiences - good and bad - with his readers back home. Kendall fought Indians, tangled with the James brothers, and he had a seat at the poker table during Wild Bill Hickok’s last hand. He fell for a beautiful Confederate spy, and he served as impromptu defense counsel and surgeon. The show was created, written, and directed by Antony Ellis - a native of England who worked extensively in American radio as an actor and behind the scenes talent. And the titular gentleman was played by John Dehner, a Disney animator who became a voice (and later TV and film) actor. Dehner could be heard on everything from Philip Marlowe to Escape to Gunsmoke and Suspense. An unlikely choice to play a Brit, Dehner was born in Staten Island, but he brought a mature, refined quality and an underplayed accent to Kendall. He didn’t sound like he grew up on the London streets, but it was easy to imagine Dehner’s voice coming from a man who had fought for the queen in India and who had picked up on the rough and tumble slang and customs of the American frontier. The show was fantastic, ranking near the top of the list of great radio westerns. Historian John Dunning said Frontier Gentleman was “the only serious rival to Gunsmoke in the radio Hall of Fame.” Unfortunately, the show came to radio in the medium’s twilight, and it lasted only that single season. The week after Frontier Gentleman ended, John Dehner went on the air as Paladin in the CBS radio adaptation of its TV hit Have Gun - Will Travel.
info_outline Episode 310 - Behind the Badge (Nero Wolfe & Dragnet) 01/16/2019
Episode 310 - Behind the Badge (Nero Wolfe & Dragnet) Today on a bonus episode of “Down These Mean Streets,” we’ll salute the late Herb Ellis. We’ll hear the actor and writer as Archie Goodwin in “Nero Wolfe” and as Frank Smith opposite Jack Webb in “Dragnet.”
info_outline Episode 309 - St. Vincent (The Saint) 01/13/2019
Episode 309 - St. Vincent (The Saint) This week on “Down These Mean Streets,” Vincent Price is fighting sinners as only a Saint can. We’ll hear three old time radio adventures starring Price as the dapper and debonair “Robin Hood of Modern Crime.”
info_outline Episode 308 - Raising Cain (Lux Radio Theatre) 01/06/2019
Episode 308 - Raising Cain (Lux Radio Theatre) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're starting a new year of radio mysteries with an adaptation of the film noir classic "Double Indemnity" with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck recreating their roles.
info_outline Episode 307 - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? (Dragnet & Philip Marlowe) 12/30/2018
Episode 307 - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? (Dragnet & Philip Marlowe) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're ringing in 2019 with New Year's Eve mysteries from "Dragnet" and "The Adventures of Philip Marlowe."
info_outline Episode 306 - Holmes for the Holidays (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) 12/23/2018
Episode 306 - Holmes for the Holidays (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," it's our annual holiday show! We're wrapping up 2018 with three seasonal mysteries starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
info_outline Episode 305 - Silver-Haired Shamus (New Adventures of Michael Shayne) 12/16/2018
Episode 305 - Silver-Haired Shamus (New Adventures of Michael Shayne) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're celebrating what would have been Jeff Chandler's 100th birthday with two of his Michael Shayne radio mysteries. Plus - a comedic turn with Chandler as Mr. Boynton on Our Miss Brooks.
info_outline Episode 304 - Archie and the Wolfe (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe) 12/09/2018
Episode 304 - Archie and the Wolfe (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," Sydney Greenstreet is large and in charge as Nero Wolfe in two radio adventures of the gargantuan gourmet.
info_outline Episode 303 - Luck of the Irish (Mollé Mystery Theater, NBC Radio Playhouse & The Hunters) 12/02/2018
Episode 303 - Luck of the Irish (Mollé Mystery Theater, NBC Radio Playhouse & The Hunters) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we'll hear three old time radio tales of cops and killers from legendary crime writer Cornell Woolrich.
info_outline Episode 302 - New Carr Smell (Suspense & Cabin B-13) 11/25/2018
Episode 302 - New Carr Smell (Suspense & Cabin B-13) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're saluting mystery writer John Dickson Carr with two original tales he penned for "Suspense" and his own anthology series - "Cabin B-13."
info_outline Episode 301 - Talking Turkey 2018 (Durante-Moore & Jack Benny) 11/21/2018
Episode 301 - Talking Turkey 2018 (Durante-Moore & Jack Benny) No sleuths today - just a heaping helping of Thanksgiving comedy from the Golden Age of Radio starring Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore, and Jack Benny and his gang.
info_outline Episode 300 - The Case of the 300th Episode (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) 11/18/2018
Episode 300 - The Case of the 300th Episode (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar) For our 300th podcast episode, we'll hear Bob Bailey in a six-part radio mystery as "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar."
info_outline Episode 299 - How Now, Howard? (Sam Spade & Suspense) 11/11/2018
Episode 299 - How Now, Howard? (Sam Spade & Suspense) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we'll hear Howard Duff in two radio mysteries as Sam Spade and as a scriptwriter plotting the perfect crime in "Suspense."
info_outline Episode 298 - Poor Richards' Almanac (Rogue's Gallery & Richard Diamond) 11/04/2018
Episode 298 - Poor Richards' Almanac (Rogue's Gallery & Richard Diamond) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," Dick Powell stars as Richards Rogue and Diamond in a pair of old time radio mysteries.
info_outline Episode 296 - Trick or Treat (Jack Benny Program & My Favorite Husband) 10/24/2018
Episode 296 - Trick or Treat (Jack Benny Program & My Favorite Husband) Happy Halloween! We're celebrating with a bonus podcast episode and two Halloween radio comedies from Jack Benny and Lucille Ball.
info_outline Episode 295 - Fabulous Baker Street Boys (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) 10/21/2018
Episode 295 - Fabulous Baker Street Boys (New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're headed to London for three radio adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring John Stanley as Holmes and Alfred Shirley as Dr. Watson.
info_outline Episode 294 - Their Girl Friday: Jan Miner (Boston Blackie, CBS Radio Workshop, & Casey, Crime Photographer) 10/14/2018
Episode 294 - Their Girl Friday: Jan Miner (Boston Blackie, CBS Radio Workshop, & Casey, Crime Photographer) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," it's a tribute to actress Jan Miner. We'll hear her in co-starring roles on "Boston Blackie" and "Casey, Crime Photographer," plus as mistress of ceremonies on "The CBS Radio Workshop."
info_outline Episode 293 - Fortune Favors the Bold (Rocky Fortune) 10/07/2018
Episode 293 - Fortune Favors the Bold (Rocky Fortune) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," Ol' Blue Eyes is back. Frank Sinatra stars in two old time radio mysteries as "Rocky Fortune."
info_outline Episode 292 - Craig's List (Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator) 09/30/2018
Episode 292 - Craig's List (Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're on the case with Barrie Craig. William Gargan stars as the confidential investigator in two old time radio mysteries.
info_outline Episode 290 - You Can't Con a Conway (Sherlock Holmes & The Saint) 09/16/2018
Episode 290 - You Can't Con a Conway (Sherlock Holmes & The Saint) This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we're saluting Tom Conway with two of his old time radio performances as Sherlock Holmes and Simon Templar - "The Saint."