Friday, July 22, 2016

The Shadow of Fu Manchu Radio Program

“The chimes of old Big Ben, London’s historic clock, ring out.  A sharp rap on a door is heard.  The door creaks and warns of a stealthy entrance.  A girl gasps and piercingly screams.  A shot is fired.  The Yellow Peril Incarnate laughs terrifyingly and sends shivers through millions of listeners from coast to coast.  Dr. Fu Manchu, Mastermind of Crime, is on the air!” 

Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (a great movie, I might add)

Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1913). This was the first of a series of extreme racial stereotype of “Yellow Peril” sub-genre and Fu-Manchu was the most popular character to come from it. Often imitated, this series of adventures never made it to the top of the popularity charts, but today, fans of Fu Manchu can never get enough of him. Like The Saint novels, they are enjoyable reads and offer escapism in the blood 'n' thunder mold. Fu Manchu's exploits were many, but documentation about the radio series has been cursory at best. Fu Manchu has been brought to radio in a number of incarnations.

Version #1 
The first was The Collier Hour, broadcast over the NBC Blue Network starting in 1927. Designed to boost magazine circulations, this hour-long program was divided into segments, each dramatizing a story or serial installment from the current issue of Collier’s. The segments were introduced by a host called The Editor, portrayed through the years by John B. Kennedy, Phil Barrison, and Jack Arthur. Malcolm LaPrade created and produced the series; his brother Ernest LaPrade supplied the music scores. Directed by Colonel Davis, this series was a mere amateur performance, with music and sound effects improvised during rehearsals. Three separate serials were dramatized, based on those that appeared in Collier’s
“The Day the World Ended” (12 installments, May 1, 1929 to July 17, 1929) 
“Daughter of Fu Manchu” (12 installments, March 9, 1930 to May 25, 1930) 
“Yu’an Hee See Laughs” (12 installments, March 1, 1931 to May 17, 1931) 
Arthur Hughes played the role of Fu Manchu (and also doubled as host “The Editor” for a majority of these broadcasts). For the first year, The Collier Hour was broadcast on Wednesday evenings preceding publication of the magazine. Beginning in 1928, the program was broadcast on Sunday evenings following publication. According to the files at NBC, Sax Rohmer appeared in person on the broadcast of March 1, 1931, for the premiere broadcast of “Yu’an Hee See Laughs.” It’s been suggested that “The Emperor of America” was another 12-chapter serial, broadcast circa 1927-28, but no information has been found to confirm it. The Collier Hour originated from New York radio stations and was heard only on the East Coast. Luckless listeners on the West Coast never had a chance to hear the first radio adventures of Fu Manchu. 
It should also be noted that the first three Fu Manchu novels written by Sax Rohmer, were actually compilations of twenty-nine short stories that Rohmer wrote for Collier’s  magazine. 
Version #2 
By far the most ambitious Rohmer adaptation was the second of the four series, this time recorded in the WBBM studios, and broadcast over the CBS Chicago affiliate, WGN. On Thursday, September 15, 1932, Sax Rohmer and his wife Elizabeth sailed from Southampton, bound for the Big Apple. On Wednesday, September 21, the White Star line Majestic arrived in New York port. Mr. and Mrs. Rohmer stayed at the Ritz for a few days, and went sightseeing till Sunday the 25th, when Rohmer made one of his rare radio appearances for a fifteen-minute interview with CBS writer Steve Trumbull. The purpose of the interview was to publicize the new radio series, again heard only on the East Coast. Within weeks, the program brought hundreds of positive letters to CBS, and a nationwide hookup was established so that certain stations on the West Coast could carry the program. 
“I am deeply interested in radio and the dramatic technique,” Rohmer commented, “which has been enormously developed on your [the American] side.” Rohmer claimed crime was on the increase in England and attributed it largely to the influence of American crime (courtesy of newspapers and motion pictures) and the fact that some American criminals had transferred their activity to London. He believed that Scotland Yard was capable enough when dealing with ordinary crimes, but frequently ineffective when faced with organized gangs. 
On Monday, September 26, Fu Manchu Mysteries premiered on CBS radio, nationwide. Instead of a serial, the show presented a single 30-minute adventure. The opening episode, an adaptation of Rohmer’s "The Zyatt Kiss," varied slightly from the rest of the series, the drama lasting only 20 minutes instead of the customary 25. Introductory remarks and commercial credits usually took up the remaining five minutes, but the premiere instead featured a talk by Sax Rohmer.(Sadly, both this series with John C. Daly and The Collier Hour are not known to exist in recorded form.)
Unlike the other Fu Manchu series, this one went all out for preparation and performances. The actors had to dress in full costume, and instead of the performance being acted out in a small sound studio, it was performed on stage before a live audience, recorded, and later broadcast via transcription disc. "Sound effects were as authentic as possible," according to a press release. The solemn note of Big Ben and the background traffic noises of the Thames embankment were as true as could be, since they were actual recordings specially made and imported from England. G. Fred Ibbett, director of radio for the McCann-Erickson Company, and in charge of the production, would have nothing but exact sound effects. He knew his native London, having been an engineer for the BBC previous to his service with NBC and CBS. When Nate Caldwell, with an option on the radio rights to Rohmer’s mystery in his pocket, convinced Mr. Ibbett that Fu Manchu was a natural, the radio director readily agreed. Ibbett convinced the Campana Company to sponsor the dramas, and began a diligent search for the right actors and actresses to make Rohmer’s characters spring realistically to life. 

Movie poster from 1932
Most of the characters were British, with a wide variety of types required, and the problem of finding them in Chicago was a hard one to solve. “From all corners of the world (if you can believe a 1932 CBS press release), even far off china itself, the cast was drawn.” John C. Daly (as Dr. Fu Manchu) spoke French, Chinese, Arabian, and Hindustani. (Note: This was fairly common for many radio actors, as Virginia Gregg, during the forties and fifties, doubled as old English ladies and young Chinese women in many radio westerns.) Charles Warburton, one of the first to bring Shakespeare to radio (as Shylock), would play the role of Nayland Smith, the Devil Doctor’s nemesis. A few years later, Warburton returned to the New York radio studios to star in 35 big dramatic programs, among them Eno Crime ClubSherlock Holmes and K-7: Secret Service Spy Story.*                            
* (footnote) Oddly enough, although Warburton was signed to play roles in these shows, one Sherlock Holmes radio expert insists that Warburton did not act in any Holmes radio plays, but with so many radio incarnations of the Holmes character, and so little recordings existing in recorded form (compared to the thousands broadcast), it still remains a possibility that Warburton did play the role. 
Bob White, who played Smith’s “Watson,” Dr. Petrie, was born in England and experienced on the stage. Betty, his wife, was an experienced radio actress specializing in juvenile parts, and took an un-billed role in a couple of the Fu Manchu episodes. When not excelling as Petrie, White headed his own successful radio-producing company.
Many hours were spent daily during the week preceding the Monday night broadcast, which took but 30 minutes air time. There was no music for the production. Ibbett explained that “The chance of irritating the listener, instead of creating a mood fitting the play, is too great. I prefer to omit music which might distract from the setting.” The actors performed their roles in costume, so that fans could attend the stage performances and be thrilled by the spectacle of the Oriental settings. During the early productions, Ibbett drafted plans for the scenery and lighting effects, for the purpose of allowing the audience attending the “horror chambers” of the criminal mastermind. 
Part way through the series, John C. Daly, (not, by the way, the John Charles Daly of television’s What's My Line? fame) was replaced by Harold Huber, and Sundra Love were replaced by Charles Manson. In the thirties, Huber became a popular character player for Warner Bros., as well as a radio actor. He is known to Charlie Chan fans for playing police inspectors of various nationalities in the 20th Century Fox Chan film series. Huber also wrote radio scripts for Suspense in 1943 and 1944. Sponsored by Campana Balm. Helen Earle and Urban Johnson supplied the sound effects. 
Fu Manchu Mysteries ran for a total of 31 half-hour programs, heard Monday evenings at 8:45 p.m.  It lasted until April 24, 1933. 
Version #3 
During the thirties, the pirate commercial radio programs transmitted from the European continent had vast English audiences. By law, the British Broadcasting Corporation had a complete monopoly on radio transmission within Britain, and was charged by its license holders, and by the British Parliament, with the task of providing radio entertainment for all tastes. Commercial radio, banned in Britain and able to operate only from transmitters on the Continent, capitalized on this situation. With the financial backing of sponsors such as Ponds, Colgate-Palmolive, and other large firms, the pirate stations attracted quality writers and performers to provide showcases for their talents, which the BBC could not match. From the inception of their transmissions until they were closed down in the late thirties, the pirate IBC stations in Luxembourg, Normandy, Lyons and Toulouse offered a continuous flow of high-quality entertainment. In 1936, Radio Luxembourg decided to feature a series of mystery adventures built around a single character. This series would originally be written and supervised by Sax Rohmer himself. 
“Sax himself wrote the scripts during the first half of the series,” Rohmer biographer Cay Van Ash recalled. “When the series continued beyond his original expectations, he found it too great an imposition on his time. He continued to write some of the scripts, but others were written either by Elizabeth or myself. I came in on only the last six months or so of the project. I had first met Sax in November 1935, and he had had my education in hand for just over a year. Whether the draft scripts were written by Elizabeth or by me, they were carefully edited afterwards by Sax, for which reason I described the series in Master of Villainy as the most faithful version broadcast. The adaptation was not a very difficult job.  I don’t recall that any particular selection of episodes was made. As I remember it, we just went straight through the books in their natural sequence. The dialogue did not require changing very much. On the other hand, we did our utmost to avoid narration and to translate action directly into dialogue or sound. This often required additional material, and I think we also used a great many more sound effects than there were in the American Shadow of Fu Manchu radio series.” 
Frank Cochrane, who played the Luxembourg-broadcast Fu Manchu, was a distinguished stage actor and eminently suited to play the part. He had lived for many years in China, studying the native habits and mental makeup. He had also played numerous Chinese roles on the stage. (Cochrane had won acclaim for the part of The Cobbler in the long-running show, Chu-Chin-Chow.) 
“Fu Manchu,” Cochrane said in a 1937 interview, “has a definite personality and a definite purpose. He is a keen wit and possesses a quick Oriental brain. He is a demon for power and wants to mold the world to his way of direction and thinking. The adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu are full of unlikely happenings, which have been so well treated that they convince the listener as being highly probable. Before settling down to listen, I suggest you turn out the lights in the room the moment you hear the gong, and take your mind into serious channels. This will help you enormously to catch the illusion.” 
All of the IBC recordings were produced in London. There were no live broadcasts. It’s believed that Rohmer and the crew recorded the shows at a disused theater. The leading light in the operation was producer Eddie Pola, who also took part as an actor in some episodes. There was actually a plan to follow up the 52 Fu Manchu broadcasts with a series adapted from Rohmer’s The Quest of the Sacred Slipper (1919), Cay Van Ash distinctly remembering having written the first two episodes. However, the BBC exerted legal pressure to close down the rival operation, and thus ended the Fu Manchu broadcasts.
D.A. Clarke-Smith, a well-known stage actor who had appeared in Rohmer’s stage plays The Eye of Siva and Secret Egypt, played the role of Nayland Smith. “I’m getting hardened to it now, but the nerve strain is still almost unbelievable,” commented Clarke-Smith, as the atmosphere in the studio grew more intense with each passing moment. “I have to talk so fast, six or seven prop men are grouped round another mike, to provide the dramatic effects. And, when I’m supposed to be swimming for my life in a swirling river, I have to try to forget that at the other mike a man is vigorously shaking a half-filled hot-water bottle.” 
The program’s producer, swift-thinking Eddie Pola, rehearsed three radio installments in the space of two hours. “Funniest thing, rehearsing one dramatic scene,” recalled Eddie, “was when we came to the line, ‘Shoot the man at the window.’ The effects man fired the gun, but it just didn’t go off. Again we repeated, ‘Shoot the man at the window.’ Again the gun refused to function. We tried again. ‘Shoot the man at the window!’ But still the gun was silent. ‘Oh, cut his throat,’ I said. And at that moment, the gun went off and nearly blew me out of my skin!” 
“There is only one female role in Dr. Fu Manchu,” Frank Cochrane said. “This is the part of the heroine. The girl who takes this character, Karameneh, is Rani Walker. She’s brilliant! There is a good cast in these programs, all exceptionally good actors, and with Rani in the only female role – who, as I have said, is excellent. It is a well-balanced cast.” 
The supporting cast who performed the incidental character parts included Arthur Young, Mervyn Johns (father of actress Glynis Johns), and Vernon Kelso. As was common in radio drama, the actors often took several parts in the same episode and program, and sometimes switched roles whenever necessary. For example, in episode 43, Arthur Young portrayed Dr. Fu Manchu, Inspector Weymouth, and Sir Frank Narcombe, while Vernon Kelso took on three other parts. 
With the completion of the Fu Manchu series, Cochrane and Clarke-Smith were rated such a successful team that they were featured in another long-running series of radio plays, this time concerning Inspector Brooks of Scotland Yard. Clarke-Smith played the Inspector, while Cochrane played the – perhaps inevitably – Chinese villain, La Sante. 
Version #4
In 1939, a lengthier Fu Manchu program was produced, probably the most popular of them all because so many episodes exist in collector circles. This was a series of 156, fifteen-minute episodes, under the overall title of The Shadow of Fu Manchu. The series was recorded, transcribed, and released through Fields Brothers in Hollywood. After the recordings were completed, all 156 episodes were pressed and copied onto transcription discs, and distributed to radio stations across the country. This allowed the stations to play the episodes in any time slot they wanted. Some presented the series on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while others broadcast on all five weekdays. 
Ted Osborne played Dr. Fu Manchu, with Hanley Stafford as Nayland Smith, Gale Gordon as Dr. James Petrie, Paula Winslowe as Karameneh, and Edmund O’Brien as Inspector Rymer. It has not been confirmed whether O’Brien or Gerald Mohr was the announcer. (It was common for radio announcers to double in an acting role, which would give credence to the claim that it was O’Brien, but until someone turns up a recorded interview with either actor providing that information, or can find the original scripts with cast credits included, neither name should be taken as the gospel.) It should also be added that a lot of people would swear O'Brien was the announcer, others swear it is Mohr. Without archival documents to prove who it is, the announcer still remains a mystery. Frank Nelson and Norman Fields played supporting roles. 
Sample of Archival Documents as described above.
40 episodes from The Shadow of Fu Manchu have definitely been floating about in circulation among collectors for decades, 39 of them were from the first serial. The single out-of-sequence episode that has been in circulation was not (as many people have assumed), episode number forty.  In fact, from observation, and narrowing down possibilities (and applying a little common sense), I suspect that the out-of-sequence episode many people label as episode #40 is either episode #136, 137, 138, 139, 140 or 141. 
The adaptations was quite faithful to the original books, though in the middle of the series the episodes occur in somewhat jumbled order.  From what is known so far: 
Episodes #1 to #21, for example, is an adaptation from The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (1913) 
Episodes #22 to #27 from The Hand of Fu Manchu (1917) 
Episodes #28 to #39 from The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1916) 
Episodes #40 to #78 from Trail of Fu Manchu (1934) and President of Fu Manchu (1936) 
Episodes #79 to #94 from Daughter of Fu Manchu (1931) 
Episodes #99 to #117 from Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) 
Episodes #118 to #135 from Drums of Fu Manchu (1939) 
Episodes #142 to 156 from Bride  of Fu Manchu (1933) 

Many sources wrongly list the 1939-40 Fu Manchu series as a 77 or 78 episode broadcast run. Truth is that 156 were actually recorded and aired. Four separate serials were recorded, each 39 episodes in length, each composed of more than one Sax Rohmer story. Each serial ran 39 consecutive installments. It’s been rumored for the past decade that selected discs from the other three serials, episodes #40 to #156, are in existence, but not yet released in circulation, being held on to by a profiteering collector in Niles, Ohio. In 2001, I personally tracked down and made contact with the collector, who verified over the phone that he had come across a huge stack of 16-inch transcription discs and, among them, were many of the episodes from the third and fourth serials of The Shadow of Fu Manchu. Neither             serial is complete. Sixteen of the thirty-nine episodes are missing from the third serial, and fifteen of the thirty-nine episodes from the fourth and last serial, which means there are still more to be discovered elsewhere.

There were a number of collector items produced to promote this series. The photo above is a 1.25" button featuring the character of Fu Manchu, created by Sax Rohmer. The button was a premium designed to promote the 1939 thrice-weekly broadcast based on Rohmer’s novels. Gale Gordon was Dr. James Petrie and Bruno Lang was Fu Manchu. Three years earlier they were, respectively, radio’s Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless. According to one price guide, the price varies from $75 to $200, depending on the condition.
For more information about this particular series, check out Ray Stanich's write-up of "Radio Fu Manchu" in  The Rohmer Review, issue 12. This out-of-print fanzine is available through major book outlets and collectors.
Version #5 
The fourth and final Fu Manchu broadcast was a one-time presentation. The Molle Mystery Theatre was an anthology series, aired over a decade under different titles. The program featured the best in mystery and detective stories, all adaptations of short stories, stage plays and novels by such stalwarts as Raymond Chandler, Jack London, W.W. Jacobs, Rufus King, and Craig Rice. On the evening of Tuesday, October 3, 1944, from 9 to 9:30 p.m., EST, the 1913 novel, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu,  was dramatized and originated from NBC studios in New York. The program was narrated by Roc Rogers and selected by Geoffrey Barnes (the on-the-air pseudonym of Bernard Lenrow, who had recently played Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, in a series that ended in June of 1943). Jack Miller supplied the music.  
Newspapers of the times reported The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu planned for broadcast on August 22, 1944, but it's a known fact that newspapers only listed what was "planned" and not verified as broadcast. No true researcher uses newspapers as a means of compiling broadcast logs (I have yet to meet a college professor or university scholar or published author who claims they uses newspapers as a source for logs), and verifying both the NBC files and the actual scripts as they were registered for copyrighted at the Library of Congress proves that "The Case of the Talking Pills" was broadcast on August 22, and the Fu Manchu story was truly broadcast on October 3. 
Version #??
According to Gordon Payton (a.k.a. “The Sci-Fi Guy”), in 1945, Sax Rohmer wrote a series of eight radio plays for the BBC. Fu Manchu was a bit too politically incorrect for the BBC, in light of England’s large Asian population, and they liked to avoid criticism from any quarter, so Sax created for them a character named Sumuru, who, in effect, was a female Fu Manchu. Described as “a glamorous witch of totally untraceable nationality, heading an international crime organization which employed strange and bizarre devices.” This series aired from December 30, 1945 to February 17, 1946. No copies survive, but Rohmer later wrote a series of five books based on his BBC plays. 
Closing notes: Most of this article originally appeared in the thirty-ninth issue of Scarlet Street Magazine, © 2000. Reprinted with permission and courtesy of the editors of Scarlet Street, and the author. Since the article’s initial printing, the discs described above, held by a collector in Ohio, had been purchased and released on audio cassette and CD by Ted Davenport, who paid the collector his very large ransom. Thanks to Ted, these shows are currently available through RADIO MEMORIES (and your support in purchasing these from RADIO MEMORIES will help reimburse Ted for his generosity). After all, if you spent $1,000 out of your pocket for the discs, then paid additional expense to have them transferred to CD, wouldn't you want people to buy your CD sets rather than download them for free?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bruce Lee as Kato on THE GREEN HORNET

In early March of 1966, The Herald Tribune in New York reported news of The Green Hornet coming to television in the fall. Al Hodge, former radio actor and star of the radio series, having noticed a few discrepancies in the article, wrote to producer William Dozier in the hopes of correcting a few false statements. Dozier was aware the editor of the paper misspelled Kato with a “C.” Dozier told Hodge casting for the series would not begin for two to three weeks, and that the only person signed up definitely was the role of Kato. “We have a superb American-born Chinese actor named Bruce Lee to play Kato. He is a black belt karate and will be able to do all his own stunts in that area.” Dozier also assured Hodge that The Green Hornet would not be an imitation of Batman, which had been labeled by critics as “camp treatment.”

On YouTube you can find what everyone keeps labeling as Bruce Lee's screen test for The Green Hornet. The truth is, Lee's screen test was made for a proposed television program based on the fictional Charlie Chan character.

“Mike Axford and Lenore Case (Casey) will present no particular casting problem,” William Dozier said in a letter to George W. Trendle on November 16, 1965. “I have a superb Oriental in the bullpen for Kato and will be able to show you a piece of test film on him when you come out. He is actually an American-born Chinese, but can play any sort of Oriental or Filipino. I don’t think we should ever say what sort of nationality Kato is: just let him be what he looks like — an Oriental. The actor I have in mind for the role is a Black Belt Karate, incidentally, and can perform every trick in the Karate book.”
William Dozier in a promotional sales film.

Bruce Lee, born in San Francisco in 1940, was the “Oriental in the bullpen.” As a child, Lee had moved with his family back to Hong Kong and appeared in motion pictures there from the age of 6. He returned in 1959 to attend the University of Washington, where he met his wife. In early 1965, Lee went to Oakland, California, to appear in a screen test — though not for The Green Hornet — at the expense of Greenway Productions. What Dozier had in mind was Number One Son, in which Lee would portray the eldest son of Charlie Chan, the fictional Honolulu detective. Television’s Number One Son, in continuing the legacy of the famous — and now, departed — detective would be something of a cross with the James Bond formula proving so popular in movies at the time.

Lee gave a kung fu demonstration at the first International Karate Championships, which was organized by Ed Parker, a martial arts instructor whose most famous student was Elvis Presley. In the audience for the tournament was Ed Sebring, a Hollywood hairdresser, who passed along Lee’s name when Dozier mentioned he needed a Chinese actor. For the screen test, Lee sat before a camera to answer questions and also demonstrated powerful, yet controlled, leaping, kicking and punching.

In February, Lee’s father died, so the actor went to Hong Kong to handle family business. He returned to the States in mid-March. A couple of weeks later, Dozier assured Lee that plans for the Chan television series were underway, but it might take another three months until there was noticeable progress. In late April, the producer suggested Lee hire an agent: “I am taking the liberty of suggesting a reputable and honest agent to you, one William Belasco, President of Progressive Management Agency here in Hollywood.” After signing with Belasco, the agent also said that any action on Number One Son wouldn’t occur until July, so Lee took the opportunity to travel back to Hong Kong with his wife.

Van Williams, George W. Trendle, Bruce Lee
In the meantime, Lee offered Dozier several ideas of his own for Chan, writing that “I can establish an exciting characterization by supplementing cool and concise ‘small action’ to make every ‘ordinary’ action into something unusual.” Lee also watched many television programs to improve his speech. It must have worked. At least, Lee was able to joke with a Canadian journalist in 1971 that he got the role of Kato simply because he was the only Chinese actor who could pronounce the name Britt Reid. 

Finally, at the end of February 1966, Dozier had a first draft of a Number One Son script ready. A month later, the show itself was rejected by the network, but by this time Dozier had the TV rights to The Green Hornet. There was never any doubt about who would play the part of Kato. Lee was hired at a salary of $400 per episode ($800 per two-part episode), which rose to $550 per episode effective November 30, 1966. By the first week of April, Lee was learning from actor Jeff Corey about camera shots, lighting, placement, matching and other factors involved in television production. Corey sent his bill to Greenway Productions and Dozier charged it off specifically to The Green Hornet show. Corey also played the heavy in one of two test films that were made.

After only a few episodes Lee was unhappy with the depth of his role. “[It’s] true that Kato is a house boy of Britt, but as the crime fighter, Kato is an ‘active partner’ of the Green Hornet and not a mute follower,” he wrote to Dozier. “Jeff Corey agrees and I myself feel that at least an occasional dialogue would certainly make me feel more at home with the fellow players.”

He didn’t need to convince Dozier, who replied it was Trendle who insisted Kato remain in the background as an ally, not a companion. But Dozier said he would also ask the writers to incorporate more material involving Kato, hoping this would offer Lee some satisfaction.

Despite limited screen time, Kato proved a more popular character with children than did The Green Hornet, judging by the amount of fan mail sent to the actors. Many requested a copy of the mask worn by Lee, and Dozier complied, telling recipients that enclosed was “a genuine authentic Kato mask, and one which was actually worn by him in Green Hornet.” That was a stretch — Dozier had masks in his office that went straight from a box to an envelope for mailing, never having seen the light of a soundstage. Even so, maybe one of them was good enough to earn viewer Ricky McNeece of Clinton, Iowa, an “A” from his teacher — he said he wanted a Kato mask for a school project, hoping it would win him a high grade.

Van Williams (The Green Hornet) - $2,000 per half-hour episode
Bruce Lee (Kato) - $400 per half-hour episode
Lloyd Gough (Mike Axford) - $1,000 per half-hour episode
Wende Wagner (Miss Case) - $850 per half-hour episode
Walter Brooke (District Attorney) - $750 per half-hour episode

The procedure for writing a Green Hornet script was the same as for most television programs. The script writer would draft a plot synopsis of two to 30 pages. (The average was six pages.) If the producer liked the idea, he would then commission the writer to compose the first draft or pay an inexperienced author for the plot and then commission a seasoned script writer for the larger work. A number of plot summaries were proposed, but not all of them were feasible as television scripts. Among the reasons for rejection, besides a producer declaring the story unacceptable, would be cancellation of the series. The following is a plot summary following my review of Bruce Lee's 13-page plot proposal for an episode. To my knowledge, this was the only plot proposal submitted by Lee that never made it to production.

“The Cobra From the East” by Bruce Lee
Dated: October 28, 1966

There is an old saying in the rackets: “In the East there is The Cobra. In the West, The Green Hornet.” Dope racketeer deMarco survives a vicious attack by The Cobra and his men, and begs The Green Hornet for protection against the master criminal. The Hornet agrees, only to learn the whereabouts of The Cobra — who uses poisonous snakes for his murders-for-hire. A confrontation between the men results in Britt Reid bitten on the forearm. The Cobra makes a getaway as Kato rushes to The Hornet’s aid. Kato takes his friend back to Reid’s living room. A doctor explains to Casey and Scanlon that Reid’s system seems to be a strange mixture of various poisons. Angry, Kato starts a rampage across town to locate The Cobra, kicking doors down and beating up bodyguards. Stealing The Cobra’s luggage, he finds the antidote and rushes back in time to administer the serum. During a second confrontation, The Hornet uses his Hornet Sting to disarm The Cobra and, while Kato battles The Cobra’s henchmen, The Hornet forces The Cobra to fall on his own stick. A snake exits the cane and bites the criminal, taking his life. Bruce Lee’s plot proposal featured a number of details to display the artistic use of the fighting poses.

This blog consists of copyrighted excerpts from The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Adventures of the Space Eagle

In 1967, Whitman published the first of two books dramatizing the futuristic adventures of The Space Eagle, who was in reality Paul Girard, a millionaire whiz-kid playboy and heir to the world's biggest cosmetic empire, the House of Girard, who by night fought International crime at the request of the President of the United States. Many who used to work for George W. Trendle in Detroit, no doubt influenced by The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, ultimately created their own legendary heroes of fictional lore. James Jewell created The Black Ace, The Silver Eagle and provided assistance with a successful franchise known as Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. Raymond J. Meurer, attorney for George W. Trendle, created both the characters and the setting for what would become The Space Eagle (with assistance of Jack Pearl) who wrote the text for two Whitman hardcover books.

In the first book, Operation Doomsday, set in the near future after space travel was accomplished and norm, a Chinese Communist during the height of the Cold War named Dr. Lachesis Muta devised a diabolical scheme to start a nuclear war between Russia and the United States so that he could seize control of whatever was left of the earth. Mad scientist though he was, the plot had come fearfully close to succeeding. With bootlegged I.C.B.M.'s, launched from Muta's secret underground base in the mountains of Tibet, winging through space toward targets in the U.S.S.R. and the United States, only the Space Eagle and the untested S.W.I.F.T. had stood between the deadly nuclear warheads and total world destruction. 

Armed with a number of gadgets and weapons, including tranquilizer darts shaped like eagle talons (ala Green Hornet gas gun), and his vessel, S.W.I.F.T. (Space Warp Infinity Finity Transport) which traveled through outer space and defies the laws of physics and time as according to Einstein. (Additional influences from The Lone Ranger saga was the President's two reference to Paul's great-great-grandfather was a U.S. Marshal in the Oklahoma territory during the wild west days.)

By special order of the President of the United States, a new department of the U.S. Government, known as he Spacial Intelligence Agency of the U.S.A. was formed. Paul Girard was the only member of the organization, taking directives from the President. Paul's secret base was set in the middle of the hundred-acre tract of heavily wooded land in West Virginia. His sister, Julie Girard, was the gadget genius. 

In the second book, published in 1970, Operation Star Voyage, the Russians have managed to duplicate their own S.W.I.F.T., a ship capable of traveling past the speed of light. With assistance from Sam Aarons, a boyhood friend and friend of the family, Paul and Sam travel to an unexplored region of the galaxy to meet a race of space aliens that looked remarkably like Earthmen, except that they were pygmy-sized and were entirely hairless. Their skin was albino white, almost as transparent as glass. Paul explains to the aliens of the perilous arms race between the Free World and the Iron Curtain countries, how spartanism was discovered and how it led to the building of the S.W.I.F.T., and the crisis that existed on Earth because the Russians were developing their own matter-anti-matter engine -- and because they only source of spartanism was in their territory. Should the Russians get their hands on the spartanism, the safety of the entire galaxy was threatened.

Dr. Lachesis Muta, as it turns out, is alive and well and leading a band of renegade pirates. Laser rifles, space ships, space aliens, and an arch nemesis were bound to show up in additional volumes had a third and fourth book been published. Alas, the series ran only two novels. They are both enjoyable reads and easily affordable in the collector market.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July, Hollywood Style

Have a Happy 4th of July!

Grace Bradley

Lynn Bari and Esther Brodelet

Ann Rutherford

Cyd Charisse