Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Green Hornet: Old Time Radio

The Green Hornet roared across the radio airwaves from 1936 to 1952, courtesy of George Trendle and Frank Striker, the same guys who brought us The Lone Ranger. As most folks know, the Hornet's alter-ego was Britt Reid, son of the Ranger's nephew Dan Reid.

I've read in numerous places that this relationship was intended right from the start. But according to a new book by Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson, that ain't exactly so. Online excerpts from the book The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television (2010, OTR Publishing), state that the idea was not introduced to listeners until the episode "Too Hot to Handle" in November, 1947. In fact, the authors tell us, Britt's father Dan Reid first appeared on The Green Hornet in 1936, six years before nephew Dan Reid showed up on The Lone Ranger. When Striker and Trendle actually got the idea is unknown, but it seems mighty unlikely it was there from the beginning. The misinformation now in print seems to stem from differing recollections of Trendle and Striker, and flat-out mistakes by Trendle's one-time lawyer, Raymond Meurer.

Among other factoids gleaned from the article . . .
- For the first three episodes, the show was called The Adventures of the Hornet. Green was added in episode 4.
- Britt Reid was originally Britt Reed and Kato was Cato.
- Kato was originally Japanese. He was changed to Filipino in 1938 (not, as some sources have claimed, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor).
- The idea for the series was Trendle's, inspired by the pulp and novel character Jimmie Dale (aka The Gray Seal) created by Frank L. Packard. The details, like characters' names, weapons and the Black Beauty, were apparently provided by Frank Striker.

Here are links to several sites offering streaming or free downloads of the show. The first, Radio MickDanger, offers the greatest variety, with episodes ranging from 1936 to 1952. It also features the pivotal episode mentioned above, "Too Hot to Handle."

Radio MickDanger
OTR.Network Library
Old Time Radio Fans
Old Time Radio Downloads
Free OTR Shows
Botar's Old Time Radio



Deka Black said...

Must be one of the very first heroic dinasties of all time. And thanks for the links ;)

I remember the very first time i heard of the Green Hornet: a documentary about pulp heros in the big and small screen. Too bad the bit about Green Hornet was centered around kato played by Bruce Lee.

Craig Clarke said...

Not that he was an OTR scholar, but my uncle first told me, when introducing me to these shows, that the connection between the Reids was not suggested until someone simply noticed the similarity in names, and I find that to be the more plausible argument.

George said...

I'm waiting for Roger Ebert's review of the new movie version before I decide if I want to see it.

Richard R. said...

I'm a little hesitant about seeing the new film, but rereading some of the old pulp stories would be fun, I guess.

and thanks for the help.

Brian Drake said...

"Too Hot to Handle" was preceded by an episode called "Exposed" where a female reporter, sent by Britt's father to check on the boy, discovers the Green Hornet's identity by hiding in the back seat of the Black Beauty (Britt and Kato forget the lock the doors). Britt convinces the girl to keep the secret but then tells his father about everything he's done as the Green Hornet. During their conversation, Britt's father tells him about "our great relative" who also wore a mask and took on the bad guys. The Lone Ranger's name is never mentioned, but the William Tell Overture plays in the background during the scene, and it's a great pierce of radio drama and you can't miss the connection. The series changed after that, where the Hornet was still seen by the public as a villain but to higher-ups in law enforcement he was a troubleshooter who helped them catch the bad guys they couldn't otherwise get.

The Green Hornet is a great radio show, but I wish the gas gun made a noise.