Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Green Hornet: “Too Hot to Handle”—11/11/47

A lot of the most joyful listening experiences of old-time radio originated in the same place—radio station WXYZ in Detroit.

It was from WXYZ that the Lone Ranger galloped onto the public airwaves in 1933. In 1936, the same station began producing The Green Hornet. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon—a Canadian Mountie who always gets his man--was added to the mix in 1939.

All were great shows and all ended up begin broadcast nationally for long runs on radio. Two of these three shows, though, share an even closer connection. It turns out that their main characters were related.

The Green Hornet was in reality Britt Reid, publisher of an important newspaper in a never-identified big Eastern city. Disgusted with political graft and ineffectual laws, Britt took on the identity of the Green Hornet and armed himself with a gun that squirts knock-out gas. Pretending himself to be a gangster in this identity, he gathered evidence that put many criminals behind bars and helped clean up the city. Initially, only his valet Kato knows that Britt and the Hornet are the same person. Kato, in fact, works with the Hornet, using his martial arts skills and high intelligence to help bring the bad guys down.

The show was well-written and expertly produced. The nifty buzzing sound effect of the Black Beauty (the Hornet’s car) was particularly effective.

The Hornet was purposely created to be a modern-day, urban analog to the Lone Ranger. But the creative staff at WXYZ wanted a closer connection than this thematic one. In 1942, on the Ranger’s show, the Western hero met his long-lost nephew. Young Dan Reid became a semi-regular character on the show.

Notice the last name? In the 1947 Hornet episode “Too Hot to Handle”, an elderly Dan Reid traveled east to visit his son Britt. Britt tells him about his Hornet identity. Dan not only approves of Britt’s masked identity, but tells him of an ancestor who also wore a mask while riding across the Old West on a similar mission.

From there, the episode involves Dan helping on a mission to stop a criminal from blackmailing his way out of a narcotics charge. This is all done very well, but it’s that initial scene, linking the Ranger and the Hornet as close relatives, that’s the really cool part. Dan never actually calls the Lone Ranger by name. Instead, he simply describes him while the “William Tell Overture” (the Ranger’s theme music) rises up in the background. I’m assuming there was no legal reason for not naming the Ranger—both characters were copyrighted by WXYZ’s owner George Trendle—and that this was done purely for dramatic effect. It actually works quite well, allowing the audience to figure it out for themselves and collectively shout “They are related!! I KNEW IT!!!”

Click HERE to listen or download.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...