Friday, January 4, 2013

Whatever Happened to Kato?

This is for all you Green Hornet fans...

In late 1935, radio director Jim Jewell was responsible for casting the new radio program, The Green Hornet. Not satisfied with the way the Chinese actors were portraying Chinese on the Dr. Fang program (circa 1933-1934), Jewell talked by phone with Cullen Landis, once a leading juvenile in the movies and now directing commercial films for Jam Handy. Since Landis was looking for two Chinese actors for a film and Jewell was looking for a Japanese for the role of Kato, they made a successful exchange. Actor Tokataro Hayashi was the first to play the role of Kato beginning in January of 1936. His talent contract assured him $25 per week to play the role, “whether by radio or visual broadcasting and for as many performances as are necessary.” As of September 8, 1938, his salary went up an extra $5 per week. Hayashi was renamed by Jewell as Toyo, and he is sometimes credited on paper as Raymond Hayashi and Raymond Toyo. 

Today, fans listening to the radio program prefer the earlier adventures because the actors playing the roles were best suited. When Toyo was replaced, the actor tried to speak Oriental but there can be no comparison when an Oriental tries to speak English. But there remains a mystery that has puzzled thousands of historians... until now.

Sometime in 1942 (the exact date remains unknown), Raymond Toyo Hayashi came upon a problem that offered no solution. Because of the war, the U.S. government sent official notice that Toyo was to be sent back to Japan. Since Dick Osgood was broadcasting a series called March of Victory for the Hi-Speed Gas Stations, and a number of scripts had to be cleared through six departments in Washington, the little Japanese believed that Osgood might have an “in” with the government. But it was not so and when Britt Reid phones Kato from his office at The Daily Sentinel to make preparations for the evening’s adventure, he does so alone using a private line. Numerous episodes make reference to the private line, but many of the later ones do not mention it. Fans of the series often wondered why Reid would discuss such plans over a phone line that could be monitored by a switchboard operator, but this explanation was offered many times in the earliest of Green Hornet adventures.

Osgood could do nothing to aid Toyo. Trendle had no influence with members of Congress to have the notice served on Toyo waived. According to Osgood, the Japanese actor disappeared, “presumably to a concentration camp in the west.” No one at WXYZ ever saw Toyo again. This was what Osgood reported in his book, Wyxie Wonderland (Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981). And for more than two decades, historians including Terry Salomonson and myself assumed the same.

Bob Keller in Waukesha, Wisconsin, brought to my attention some information that solves the mystery. A recently-published article by Clifford Hayashi reveals not only Raymond's past before he became an actor at radio station WXYZ, but what happened to the Japanese actor during and after World War II.

Small note I would like to add before you click the link and read this amusing story. Some of the facts are not 100 percent accurate. For example, Hayashi claims the actor was paid $60 a week at WXYZ. Both Terry and myself have a zerox copy of all the talent contracts at WXYZ and his starting pay was $25 a week, later raised to $30, as stated above. But for the most part, like any historical document, this is as good as it gets and we are very thankful Clifford Hayashi was able to compile this information, with the assistance of Raymond's daughter.


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