Friday, April 24, 2015

The Green Hornet: The "Lost" 1936 Radio Broadcasts

Fran Striker wrote in a number of inside jokes throughout The Green Hornet radio program, with characters on rare occasion making reference to The Lone Ranger. One of these jokes can also be credited as the most important and influential factor in the expansion of The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet.

During the broadcast of January 13, 1938, The Green Hornet pays a late-night visit to the house of Judge Woodbury, known for being strict in his courtroom and in need of a little push to set a trap and expose a crooked attorney. The Green Hornet climbs through the window of the judge’s bedroom. As the announcer describes ...


ANNOUNCER: The slick black car of The Green Hornet with its super-powered motor was parked in the drive of Judge Woodbury’s home a few minutes later. The Judge was listening to The Lone Ranger, one of his favorite radio programs, half dozing in his chair.

To accomplish this trick, Striker’s notes on the script suggested playing back a recording of The Lone Ranger. But to date, Trendle had never recorded any of the Ranger broadcasts. The series had always been broadcast live on a coast-to-coast hookup. So the Ranger broadcast of December 17, 1937, was recorded solely for the purpose of this Green Hornet scene and was the spark that launched Trendle into the transcription business, leading to a transcription of every episode of The Lone Ranger beginning with the broadcast of January 17, 1938.  

The earliest announcement came on Monday, January 10, 1938, when King-Trendle released a public statement that The Lone Ranger was riding cross country and not just the western plains. Coincident with the Republic Pictures movie serial in February, King-Trendle announced it would market transcriptions of the radio series for February 1 assignments. The strong growth of the series since it premiered four years previous showed promise and broke all records for mail response for WXYZ. Then heard over 27 stations, Trendle wanted to expand his empire with transcription discs and began advertising the series, claiming the discs would be available for broadcast starting February 15. Sales were certainly impressive and profitable, leading to Trendle’s second transcribed series, Ann Worth, Housewife

Advertisement for renting transcription discs.
By August 1938, King-Trendle Broadcasting was still feeding The Green Hornet live to Mutual stations and it was not transcribed. A business meeting in July 1938 discussed the possibility of expansion. Sponsor interest was growing in various sections of the country, giving them guide to how many transcriptions would need to be produced to meet the demand. On August 16, Richard O. Lewis, general manager of KTAR in Phoenix, Arizona, wrote to WXYZ. The station was featuring The Lone Ranger and Lewis wanted pricing information about The Green Hornet, as well as a sample transcription. Lewis asked that the material be sent to J.R. Heath, KTAR’s commercial manager. Charles Hicks sent a case history of The Green Hornet program, which featured a brief background of the premise, the characters, statistics in ratings, reviews from nationwide periodicals and the success of the Detroit and Ebling creameries as sponsors. Hicks also said the cost for an audition transcription was $10, which would be refunded if the recording were returned in good condition or if the station contracted for The Green Hornet.

At least three transcriptions were made during the month of May 1938, possibly copied for stations out of range of network outlets carrying it live which expressed an interest in reviewing the show. J.R. Heath wrote to Hicks on September 6, requesting the audition record so that “after auditioning the show we will then be in a position to advise you as to the account’s interest.” Hicks replied with hesitation, stating: “Before we send the audition recording in accordance with your request, it might be proper for you to consider this one angle. The date of producing Green Hornet transcriptions for a nationwide market is still to be decided upon and how soon it will be known is dependent upon just such requests as yours. The more requests we receive the better we will be able to judge the importance of an earlier date than what has been planned. Therefore, at the present time the indefiniteness of the production date may cause you a problem if your client became interested as a result of hearing the audition recording and ordered the program to start earlier than what it could be made available in transcription form.”

KTAR was not the only station to submit an inquiry. On August 18, Dale Robertson, general manager of WBAX in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, asked for sales materials regarding The Green Hornet. In late September, Fred A. Palmer of KOY, another Phoenix station, submitted a similar request. In early January 1939, James M. Kennedy of WBAL in Baltimore requested via telegram a sample Green Hornet transcription. By the fall of 1938, Trendle decided to expand The Green Hornet via transcriptions in the same manner as the masked rider of the plains. Through special arrangement with NBC’s Chicago office, Trendle agreed to foot the bill for the series to be transcribed to disc. While transportation charges on test pressings for 18 of the first 24 broadcasts cost Trendle $3.55, the cost to have each episode transcribed was much more — $90 per program. By August 1938, Striker had begun assigning a title for each of the radio scripts. Prior episodes had no title assigned by Striker, Trendle, or any member of the production crew. Beginning with the broadcast of April 6, 1939, every episode of The Green Hornet was recorded and King-Trendle was already making preparations for the series to be available to local station managers. 

Green Hornet transcription discs at Audio Archives.
The transcription of the May 26, 1938 broadcast was assigned the title of “Frame Up That Misfired” and transcription No. 1. The transcription of the May 24, 1938 broadcast was assigned the title of “There Was A Crooked Man” and transcription No. 2. For the remainder of the transcription discs offered to radio stations, the April 6, 1939 broadcast began as transcription No. 3. (None of the other May 1938 transcriptions were included with the discs when the series was syndicated across the country, including the broadcast of May 5, 1938, which today circulates among collector hands.) 

Transcriptions may have been costly, but The Green Hornet, Inc. saw a much larger profit when it rented the discs to various stations at various prices, which more than made up for the investment. The cost for each station was adjusted according to station size and number of listeners. A smaller station in the Midwest paid much less for renting the discs than a larger station in the East. In anticipation of using artwork and photographs of the title character in advertisements, Al Hodge signed a release granting use of his likeness in photos and images for promotional purposes on November 18, 1938. This was primarily to please the executives at NBC, who wanted to cover all the bases. Other cast members appeared in similar photographs and it can be assumed they, too, signed similar releases.

With the advent of transcription discs, Fran Striker had to exercise extra caution, avoiding any specific reference to prior Hornet adventures unless it was absolutely necessary. Episodes such as the broadcast of September 9, 1937, had Kato returning from vacation and Fawcett, the special investigator from the State Attorney office, mentioning the drug ring smashed a few weeks ago and “the blackmail ring last week.”

Striker had written a number of two-part and three-part stories, with each episode featuring a resolution for that particular broadcast, but generally, he maintained single-adventure plots for the series. A press release with a brief plot summary which could be used as a local newspaper promotional piece accompanied the transcription discs. Reprinted below are a few of those summaries. 

(“The Trapped Witness,” originally broadcast February 26, 1940)
Transcription No. 422-B9
A murder in a Chinese restaurant prompts Britt Reid, youthful publisher, to assume the role of the Hornet to unearth a cigar store racket and discover the slayer.

(“The Tricky Tankers,” originally broadcast February 28, 1940)
Transcription No. 423-B10
When a high pressure promoter goes into the gasoline business to undersell his competitors, Britt Reid, crusading young publisher, assumes the role of The Green Hornet to expose a plot to swindle thousands of motorists. 

(“Income From Immigrants,” originally broadcast March 4, 1940)
Transcription No. 424-B11
Reid dons the mask of the Hornet to uncover a scheme whereby racketeers provide “doubles” to take final citizenship examinations for foreigners, and then blackmail them later.

© The Green Hornet, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
The transcription discs contained a second series of numbers with the letter “B” before the number as a procedure ordered by Charles Hicks to straighten the numbering system. As of April 1, 1940, it became apparent that The Green Hornet synopses provided to NBC-Blue did not help with keeping the recordings consistent, because the network was using different program numbers than what the sheets revealed.

Another problem was that someone in the recording department was putting a Hornet seal over the program numbers. The stations had to listen to the programs in order to find out which episode number it was. This was specifically an issue with KTAR in Phoenix, which decided not to bother with verifying the sequential numbers and chose to broadcast the episodes out of sequence.

On the evening of Thursday, August 25, 1944, a number of radio listeners expressed curiosity when WMAQ in Chicago started in at 10:30 with a fascinating, but unscheduled, episode of The Green Hornet, ran it for nine minutes, then switched into Everything for the Boys, normally heard at that time. An announcer explained briefly that it had all been a mistake. The boys at WMAQ recorded both programs earlier in the evening as network features, at which time they were recorded as transcriptions for broadcast at a later time. Apparently an employee typed out labels for both transcriptions, then put the Hornet label on the Everything for the Boys record, and vice versa. The Green Hornet boiled merrily till 10:39 until it was verified that the traffic department hadn’t scheduled a last minute change. Then the announcer broke in while the engineer put on the right record, measuring off approximately nine minutes from the beginning so Everything for the Boys would end at the proper time. 

The system was not foolproof, causing confusion not just with the station operators, but with the listeners as well. KFMB in San Diego, California, part of the Worchester Broadcasting Corporation, paid Trendle $28 for each episode played over their network. On March 5, 12, 19 and 26, 1945, episodes 688 through 691 were played in sequence. For the broadcast of April 2, however, an error occurred. Half of each episode was featured on one side of two separate discs. When the first half of an episode concluded on one disc, the second half picked up almost instantly from the other disc. The opposite side of those two discs featured the two halves of the next episode. Due to an error in labeling before the transcriptions were received by KFMB, the network broadcast the first part of episode No. 692 titled “Load of Cigarettes,” and the second part of No. 693 titled “The Bigger They Are.” The mistake was not caught until the recording was being played over the air, and the network began receiving phone calls from listeners asking for an explanation. KFMB could not charge its sponsor for the broadcast because of the error, and the network applied for a credit with King-Trendle to compensate for the mistake. (On April 9, the network continued with the next sequential episode, No. 694.) KFMB’s request for a credit was approved by Trendle, but not until eight months later because he insisted the source of the error had to be verified first. 

© The Green Hornet, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

With this explained, radio broadcasts pre-May 1938 of The Green Hornet do not exist in recorded form. They simply were not recorded. What follows is a list of 10 "lost" episodes with plot summaries.

Episode #67 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Sunday, September 27, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45033, script received at Registration Office Oct. 1, 1936.
Plot: Kollenberg has been operating a large scale auto racket, repainting and rebuilding the cars, which are then resold. After Kollenberg knocks off one of his own men for fear of exposure, Reid, having learned the district attorney has a car resembling the Black Beauty, schemes to force Kollenberg and his gang to make an attempt on the life of the masked man. Instead, they find themselves facing the D.A. and the police. Kollenberg’s girlfriend — thinking The Hornet is going to kill her on behalf of her lover — tells the police all she knows about his shady operation.

Episode #68 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, October 1, 1936
 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45158, script received at Registration Office Oct. 8, 1936.
Plot: Denise Grangerfield comes of age next week and will soon inherit the estate left by her parents. The trustees, Thorne, Radlip and Snead, have chiseled almost $70,000, and when Denise gains control of the estate, she plans a complete accounting of every dime. In order to make up the loss, Radlip and Thorne cleverly plan the death of their partner, making it appear as if Snead died when a train smashes into his car. The double indemnity clause gives Thorne and Radlip a chance to cover their monetary misdeed. The Green Hornet sets out to separately trick each of the men into believing the other hired the masked man to murder his partner for additional life insurance. Thorne is the first to crack under the pressure and runs to the police station to confess the crime.

Episode #69 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Sunday, October 4, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45159, script received at Registration Office Oct. 8, 1936.
Plot: Ed Garland, publisher of a weekly newspaper that blackmails clients into paying for advertising space in return for suppressing gossip, is running for office. The Daily Sentinel endorses honest Hamilton Winton, who leads an anti-narcotics crusade in the city. While police keep an eye on The Green Light Tavern, suspected as the gang hideout for Garland’s narcotics distribution, Garland’s men murder young David Winton, Hamilton’s son, after the boy threatened to expose them. Garland makes plans to frame the boy for dope distribution, but The Green Hornet gasses the henchmen unconscious and steals the boy’s body. The Hornet creates a stir when he wrecks a car into the Green Light and makes a speed getaway. The police jump in to discover all the evidence they need for a conviction, and Dave Winton is hailed a hero for standing up against the crooks, cinching his father’s election.

Trivia, etc. The character of Doyle was temporarily replaced with Officer Flannigan, played by Jim Jewell, who makes a number of recurring appearances beginning with this episode.
It appears that Britt Reid had a sister, the only known sibling revealed in the series, as evidenced in episode sixty-nine, broadcast Oct. 4, 1936.

CASE:
And here is the mail. There is a letter here from your sister at college.
BRITT: Susan? Well what’s possessed her to write? Let’s see it.
CASE:
She’s been reading of this Green Hornet. She says that when she comes home for vacation she’s going to spend the time with you and play detective with Michael Axford and try and make a sensational
capture.
BRITT:
(laughs) She probably wants that reward.
CASE: The easiest way for her not to come close is to work with Axford.

Episode #70 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, October 8, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45239, script received at Registration Office Oct. 15, 1936.
Plot: Wiley Basset arranges for the owner of a small restaurant in the Chinatown district of the city to be killed for refusing to pay for “protection.” Three white men witnessed the shooting but leave before police arrive. Thanks to Kato, who was at the restaurant at the time of the shooting, Britt Reid learns the identities of the men. Reid sends them a note, signed by The Green Hornet, suggesting they leave town — or else. The men race to the police station for safety. The police, afterwards, contact Mazie, Basset’s girl, and Pug, his triggerman, asking their whereabouts at the time of the crime. Mazie attempts to cover for Basset, unaware he is in custody at the station. Having told a lie to the police, now she is in trouble.

Episode #71 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Sunday, October 11, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45240, script received at Registration Office Oct. 15, 1936.
Plot: With the Olympics in Europe, Doctor Bluege lays the groundwork for a clever scheme to smuggle radium into the United States. American tourists in need of a dental filling are unaware that he is planting lead-coated radium capsules in their mouths. A month later, back home, the patients become victims of late-night assaults when they are gassed and the radium fillings replaced with new ones. Britt Reid takes advantage of a set of false teeth, using his Aunt Alicia as bait, to discover the connection and lead the police in a high speed chase to Bluege’s office, where they find the doctor and his assistant trying to clean up their mess. It seems The Hornet created a stir and knocked the radium capsules all over the floor. The criminals are caught red-handed by police.

Trivia, etc. This is the only episode to feature Britt Ried’s Aunt Alicia and her husband (mentioned by name only), Elmer Harrison Reid.

Episode #72 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, October 15, 1936
Copyright Registration D-2-#45441, script received at Registration Office Oct. 23, 1936.
Plot: When the police smashed the Regan mob, only Jack Regan himself escaped. He begins a new swindle — forcing fruit stand owners to pay $10 a week for protection. Three of them won’t pay, causing their stands to be bombed and riddled by machine gun fire. Regan soon learns about The Green Hornet’s attempts to muscle in on his protection racket, unaware The Hornet’s calling cards are merely a plan to trap and expose the crook. The gunmen responsible for the acts of sabotage, Gus and Smitty, are picked up by Flannigan and Doyle, and Axford gets the scoop.

Trivia, etc. This episode would be slightly revised for “A Racketeer Reborn” (January 29, 1940).

Episode #73 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Sunday, October 18, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45442, script received at Registration Office Oct. 23, 1936.
Plot: An Oriental fakir named Shalimar has established himself as a mystic, offering his services to prominent women, while his companion in crime, Zemo, blackmails their husbands with the information he learns from the mystic. When Britt Reid learns businessman Henry Mason is being blackmailed, he becomes The Green Hornet and attempts to move in on Shalimar’s scheme by offering details of a crime from which the mystic could profit. Shalimar refuses, but the next day, when the police arrive with a warrant because of Zemo’s disappearance, the truth is exposed. Zemo and Shalimar are the same man. Zemo, a blond, applies makeup and a turban to cover his features and pose as the mystic.

Trivia, etc. The script called for the same actor playing the role of Zemo, the slow-speaking blackmailer, to also play the part of Shalimar, talking in an Oriental manner. This episode introduced Lolita Lane, gossip columnist for The Daily Sentinel, who makes her first of two appearances on the series. Her second would be the broadcast of October 22, 1936.

Episode #74 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, October 22, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45505, script received at Registration Office Oct. 29, 1936.
Plot: While trying to answer a plea for help from a young girl, Doyle is knocked unconscious from behind, drugged, roughed up, and a bit with alcohol poured on his clothes. Suspended from the force in disgrace, Doyle asks Mike Axford to help search for the girl who caused Doyle’s suspension. Grace Saunders, the daughter of prominent Henry Saunders, is kidnapped by Schottin and Zittel, who operate a number of slot machines in the city and attempted to eliminate the nosy Doyle. To ensure protection from Saunders, who works on the force, they kidnapped Grace, hoping to stall a raid before they move the base of their operations. The Hornet learns of the girl’s whereabouts and sets out to rescue her, gassing the kidnappers unconscious, and flees from the scene, exposing the plot to the police.

Episode #75 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Sunday, October 25, 1936 
Copyright Registration D-2-#45506, script received at Registration Office Oct. 29, 1936.
Plot: Ambrose Fleming has defrauded numerous clients and built a country estate covering 10 luxurious acres. When forced to betray his business colleagues in support of the Anderson campaign, Fleming discovers a way out of his mess. A fire in his barn takes the life of an employee and thanks to Peter Lambert, his dentist brother-in-law, dental records verify the charred body as that of Ambrose Fleming. Reid sets out as The Green Hornet to pay Lambert a visit. Strapping the dentist to a chair and threatening to remove all his teeth, the masked man learns the truth. The police arrive and discover Fleming is alive — and his wife is signing all the papers that will liquidate the estate to repay the people her husband cheated.

Episode #76 [NO TITLE LISTED] Broadcast Thursday, October 29, 1936
Copyright Registration D-2-#45636, script received at Registration Office Nov. 5, 1936.
Plot: A federal agent named Jack Savage is investigating the circulation of counterfeit Documentary Stamps. After learning that Pabloff and his female associate, Olga, are involved with the scheme, Britt Reid arranges for Kato to sell used stamps. The Green Hornet busts in and reveals Kato as a federal agent, tricking Pabloff into believing the masked man is on his side. Offering to buy counterfeit stamps for a nice price, The Green Hornet learns how Pabloff’s process washes away the cancellation marks and then re-gums and presses the stamp so it appears like new. Reid drops an anonymous tip in the mail incriminating Pabloff, enclosing a Hornet mask and plans for the next meeting. Savage dons the mask and pretends to be The Green Hornet, paying Pabloff with marked bills and catching the criminals in the act.

Trivia, etc. This script was originally slated for broadcast on September 24.

The information contained in this article contains excerpts from The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television, by Martin Grams Jr. and Terry Salomonson. The book was published in 2009 by OTR Publishing and is the official 800 page guide to all things involving The Green Hornet, Kato and the Black Beauty.

For more information about this book, please visit www.MartinGrams.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Legacy of Steve Haynes and Cinevent

Steve Haynes
I am saddened to report the passing of Steve Haynes, the legend responsible for spearheading Cinevent, an annual film festival in Columbus, Ohio. If you live along the East Coast and ever wanted to attend a film festival specializing in classic movies, Cinevent was your destination. From film noir to silent movies, cowboy Westerns and early studio talkies, there was something for everyone. Laurel and Hardy, and Charley Chase are funny when you watch them at home... but watching them in a theater filled with people who appreciate comedy of that time period changes the mood... funny becomes hilarious. And there is nothing like mingling with people who share a common interest. Steve made sure the atmosphere at Cinevent was social. Fans flocked from across the country to buy posters, lobby cards, photographs, books, movies, magazines and other vintage movie memorabilia. 

On Facebook, people are expressing their heartfelt sympathy and prayers for Steve's family. He was injured twice in the past few years and fought a battle against cancer, which ultimately took his life yesterday, April 21. I found Steve to be a very generous man, patient, clam and soft-spoken. His biggest virtue was his common sense. He didn't jump on any bandwagon and avoided anything politics, controversy or ignorance. He enjoyed every moment of his life. Every year I chatted with him following a movie screening to learn something I did not know about the movie. Whether it was the difference between the original screenplay and the stage play, or the original casting intentions before the finished product went before the camera, or the rarity of the last reel being in Technicolor which the film studios did not have a print of, I always learned something new. At Cinevent, we talked about the hobby and movies -- the outside world was shut out for a few days. After all, we came to appreciate the art form and enrich our lives with knowledge that the general public probably didn't give two hoots about. Steve certainly helps enrich my life.

Steve always said as long as he was six feet above ground there would always be a Cinevent. This year marks the 47th year and his family will continue this year's event in his memory. We can only hope that his family continues his legacy. If you never went to Cinevent before, this is the year you want to attend. Come see what you are missing and discover just how much Steve left behind and how many people he inspired. www.cinevent.com

To quote Abraham Lincoln, "It is not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years that matter the most." Steve enjoyed every moment and shared with us memories that we will never forget. Forty years from now when someone asks me how I was first exposed to Charley Chase, I will hold my head up high and say his name.


2008 issue of OHIO MAGAZINE about Steve. http://www.ohiomagazine.com/…/Articles/Screen_Gems_3227.aspx


Friday, April 17, 2015

A Spooky Titanic Premonition?

The Wreck of the Titan
With the recent anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaching, it seems fitting to briefly explore one of the strangest coincidences in World History. In 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel titled Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. The story tells of an ocean liner, named "Titan," which sinks in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. The novel was published fourteen years before the sinking of The Titanic. The details contained within the pages of the novel are spooky.... read on.

Like any standard novel of the era, the first half of Futility introduces the hero, John Rowland. Rowland is a disgraced former U.S. Navy officer, who is now an alcoholic and has fallen to the lowest levels of society. Dismissed from the Navy, he is working as a deckhand on board the Titan. On a chilly April night the ship hits an iceberg, causing the vessel to capsize and sink somewhat before the halfway point of the novel. 

One Step Beyond screen version
The second half follows Rowland, as he saves the young daughter of a former lover, by jumping onto the iceberg with her. The adventures continue but it is the first half that proves intriguing because of the similarities to the real incident that happened 14 years later.

Although the novel was written before the Titanic was even designed, there are some uncanny similarities between both the fictional and real-life versions. Like the Titanic, the fictional ship sank in April in the North Atlantic, and there were not enough lifeboats for the passengers. Both ships sank as a result of an iceberg. There are also similarities between the size (800 feet long for Titan vs. 882 feet, 9 inches long for the Titanic), speed (25 knots for Titan, 22.5 knots for Titanic) and the lack of sufficient life-saving equipment. Both ships were triple screw (propeller) and both described as "unsinkable."

One Step Beyond episode, "The Night of April 14th"
The Titanic was actually qualified as "unsinkable" before she sank. The Titan was the largest craft afloat and deemed "practically unsinkable" as quoted in Robertson's book. The Titanic carried only 16 lifeboats plus 4 Engelhardt folding lifeboats, less than half the number required for her passenger and crew capacity of 3,000. The Titan carried "as few as the law allowed" which was 24 lifeboats, less than half needed for her 3,000 capacity. When The Titanic sank, more than half of her 2,200 passengers and crew died. When The Titan sank, more than half of her 2,500 passengers and crew died.

The Wreck of the Titan
The spooky coincidence was covered in John Newland's closing commentary in an episode of television's One Step Beyond, "The Night of April 14th," and paid homage in a recent Dr. Who audio drama, The Wreck of the Titan, starring Colin Baker. Looking for something to read this spring? Give this one a try.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Gone With the Wind Auction

Want to own original Hollywood movie props from Gone with the Wind? Here's your chance.

The James Tumblin Gone with the Wind Collection, devoted to the Academy Award winning film will be sold by Heritage next weekend on April 18, 2015. The collection of screen-used costumes, props, and behind the scenes pieces features over 150 lots of one of a kind collectibles for the 1939 MGM classic from the Golden Age of cinema history.

"When it comes to Gone with the Wind memorabilia, no one is more respected and recognized than Jim Tumblin," says Kathleen Guzman, managing director of Heritage Auctions in New York. "He has devoted his life and efforts to promoting Hollywood and this film, touring his items throughout the United States. Very rarely does memorabilia of this caliber come to market, and these pieces represent an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collect these incredible treasures."

Among the highlights are Clark Gable's suit as pictured on the left. A hand-written check, a prop used in the movie, is also among the auction items.

Tumblin formerly served as the head of the hair and makeup department at Universal Studios. He started collecting Gone with the Wind screen-used costumes, props, and behind the scenes rarities in the early 1960s. During a trip to the Western Costume Company he discovered Vivien Leigh’s iconic dress worn in her Academy Award-winning role as Scarlett O'Hara. The dress was worn during four important scenes in the movie. He was told that it was going to be thrown away, but he spoke with the company manager and ended up paying $20 to procure the dress.




"I started getting inter-office memos and phone calls," Tumblin recalls, "and my secretary would get messages saying 'Well, my aunt worked on that film. Would you be interested in this?' or 'My grandfather worked on this film. What about this?' And that's how it started."

About 50 years later, his collection has amassed over 300,000 collectibles from the movie that has been exhibited across the country. Items up for bid at Heritage include Clark Gable’s period gray suit worn as Rhett Butler in the scene where he kicks down Scarlett’s door and Leslie Howard’s Confederate soldier uniform worn as Ashley Wilkes in the pivotal scene where he finds his way back to Tara Plantation. They are offering Leigh’s period blouse worn in the climactic "As God as my witness" scene and Bonnie Blue Butler's riding dress worn by the young actress, Cammie King. Also in the auction is Hattie McDaniel’s cherished presentation script signed by famed producer David O. Selznick. McDaniel is well known for being the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in the film.

Heritage is also offering rare, behind the scenes pieces including preproduction artworks like the Ashley Wilkes and Scarlett O'Hara standing by a tree, reading of the Confederate dead and wounded scene, and an intense image of Atlanta burning.

The auction will be held at Heritage’s Beverly Hills office, located at 9478 West Olympic Boulevard, 1st Floor. The sale begins at 3 PM Central Time on April 18.

You can watch the auction live at the following site, view all the items (loads of photographs) and check out the gavel prices as they sell tomorrow.


YOU TUBE
You can also view a three-minute video about the auction items and the collection itself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FCkphJ4NFg

You can also see a second video about the collection here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qKt5Xhw5Jc



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Myth Debunked: Bass Reeves was NOT The Lone Ranger

The historical figure Bass Reeves.
I would like to debunk a myth that is falling prey to tens of thousands of internet browsers who are quick to jump in on what sounds like a conspiracy. Bass Reeves, an African American Deputy U.S. Marshal, and subject to more folktales than Paul Bunyon, was not the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger. The life of Bass Reeves has been documented greatly on folklore, oral stories told by people who brushed the legendary gunman. Reeves supposedly apprehended 8,000 plus felons. (Do the math, that is one fellow every day for 21 years. Really?) He was never wounded, despite the statement that he has his hat and belt buckle shot off on separate occasions. And when a biography was published in 2008, the author claimed "uncanny similarities," including (and I am quoting the author here), "Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career." Also quoting the author: "I doubt we would be able to prove conclusively that Reeves is the inspiration for The Lone Ranger," the author remarked. "We can, however, say unequivocally that Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger..."

Comparing a real-life historical figure to a fictional character might be of amusement, but not for historical value. With the internet an open book for anyone with a Facebook account, or a blog or website inviting comments, fanboys discuss their reactions to literary works and pop culture informally. Presently, the lion's share of pop culture analyzing in published format is McFarland Publishing, inviting more critical analysis from authors than historical documentation. What used to be restricted to college classrooms, professional journals, and fanzines is now an open forum on the internet. And sadly, when promotion for The Lone Ranger 2013 motion-picture picked up momentum in the summer of that year, the "suggestion" that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger circulated quicker than wildfire. All of this started in 2008 when Art Black wrote a biography about Bass Reeves and soon after attempted shameless promotion for his book by riding on the coattails of the big screen movie. CNN, BBC, This Land Press, CrimeMuseum.org and many other respectable websites fell victim to the story. "Suggestion" became fact and once something is put to print, 90 percent of the readership accepts this as the gospel. (Remember the television commercial where the young lady met a Frenchman on the internet and said "If it's on the internet, then it must be true"?)

Myth Debunked
The origin of The Lone Ranger has been documented for decades; for the most part with accuracy. In early 2018, the completion of a thorough and extensive chronology of The Lone Ranger's genesis will be published. 800 pages with scanned documents from archives across the country to back up each and every fact. Not only was Bass Reeves not the inspiration of the Masked Man, but as those documents will verify, there is little comparison between the two.

George W. Trendle
While George W. Trendle was credited as the creator of both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, historians today continue to debate who should take sole credit. The fact remains that three men were equally responsible, with Fran Striker and his pen making a major contribution under the controlling oversight of George W. Trendle. James Jewell, the dramatic director at radio station WXYZ, in Detroit, also had a hand in the development of The Lone Ranger. Each creating a different trademark that would ultimately become The Lone Ranger we know today. In short, as Fran Striker, Jr. later remarked, "The Lone Ranger was never created, each aspect of the legendary cowboy developed over time out of dramatic necessity." In fact, The Lone Ranger of the early 1930s is dramatically different from the one we are all familiar with today. This is because the first five years of the radio program was never recorded. Only copies of the radio scripts are known to exist. These scripts have revealed surprises that even the most dedicated of all Lone Ranger fans would be shocked and surprised.

After George W. Trendle sold all rights to The Lone Ranger to Jack Wrather in August of 1954, he devoted much of his "retirement" trying to convince TV stations and sponsors to broadcast a new television series, The Green Hornet, based on his popular radio program. He produced a pilot in 1952 but failed to sell the series because the pilot was so cheaply produced, it failed to sell. By the sixties, Trendle spent much of his time typing letters to journalists who, in his opinion, were not getting the facts correct. No magazine or newspaper columnist was immune to Trendle's wrath. After reviewing his archive of correspondence, it can be verified that not a week went by that Trendle didn't write at least two letters seeking rectification. In September of 1962, Trendle wrote to the editor of Time magazine, after reading the obituary for Fran Striker. (Click the link here to read the obit, now archived online from Time.)

"The format for The Lone Ranger was conceived by me in Detroit in 1932 and before Mr. Striker ever thought of the story, or knew anything about it," Trendle wrote to Time. "There was no question at that time, nor is there now, as to who created the program. Mr. Striker never owned the show; had nothing to sell; never sold anything; wrote the scripts on a contract basis for The Lone Ranger, Inc., of which I was President."

The above statement, however, contradicts a number of reference guides, magazine and newspaper articles that state otherwise. In 1981, Dick Osgood wrote a wonderful book titled Wyxie Wonderland: An Unauthorized 50-Year Diary of WXYZ Detroit (Bowling Green University Popular Press). To compile the facts, Osgood sought out everyone still alive at the time and interviewed them. He also did his research. And thanks to an archive I have access to, the scans below verify just who did create The Lone Ranger. And Trendle's statement to Time magazine was incorrect.

Time magazine's response to Trendle's letter.
Trendle's response to Time magazine.
Trendle cited an article that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1939 as proof that he was the creator of The Lone Ranger.  The material in the Post article was supplied by Trendle himself, who years later would repeatedly cite that article as "proof" of his claim. Regrettably, that magazine article was in error, proving that you cannot simply go by what you read in a magazine or newspaper, just because it is in print. On October 25, Trendle sent another letter to Marie Cisneros pressing the matter and on November 2, told him "there is nothing more we can add to our letter of October 3 about The Lone Ranger. As we wrote you then, we did out best to check the matter out and feel that we can pursue it no further at this time."

Whoa, did Trendle make a mistake in his letter to Marie Cisneros? Apparently so.

The development of The Lone Ranger began on December 28, 1932, when radio director James Jewell at radio station WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, wrote a letter to Striker proposing he write up “three or four wild west thrillers” using a lone cowboy as the central figure. As a former theatre owner, Trendle knew Westerns were always popular movies and certainly the most profitable. Jewell created a western of his own, but it failed to impress the boss and lasted only a short time before he contacted Striker.

Jewell was under salary to produce, direct and write dramatic radio programs. In 1932 the majority of radio broadcasts consisted of music and news commentary. The majority of what little drama was broadcast over radio stations across the country were performed by repertory companies. At WXYZ, Jewell was in charge of that company. With a failed first attempt at a Western, Jewell approached Striker who was at the time still scripting Warner Lester, Manhunter. Just two years prior Striker wrote a short-lived radio program, Covered Wagon Days, and proposed this to Jewell. No dice. So Striker pulled out one of the radio scripts, episode ten, involving a wagon train subjected to Indians and marauders and a mysterious masked man. As an aside fan of pulp fiction, Striker loved the masked vigilante genre. The masked man was nothing more than a vigilante of the plains helping assist wagon trains reach their destination. This radio script was reprinted in Dave Holland's excellent From Out of the Past: A Pictorial History of The Lone Ranger (1989). Recycling this concept Striker created The Lone Ranger and Jewell loved the proposal. Multiple letters were exchanged (Striker lived in Buffalo, New York at the time) fleshing out minor details to "brand" this masked vigilante from other masked vigilante. All cowboys rode horses, shot from six-guns and serenaded Señoritas. This is why the majority of the radio dramas centered on the protagonists and their conflict -- The Lone Ranger was merely a recurring character on the sidelines waiting for his moment to ride in and save the day.

Brace Beemer at the mike.
Striker, meanwhile, continued writing radio scripts for numerous radio stations across the country. He discovered that if he placed carbon paper between the sheets, and hammered the keys on the typewriter very hard, he could type three, four and five copies of the same script at the same time. Striker sold scripts to radio stations in Chicago, Oklahoma City, Buffalo and Michigan. Instead of making two dollars for a single script, he was able to sell the same script to four different stations and make $8 a script. According to author Dick Osgood, the Western program was inspired by President Hoover's proclamation, "The Congress, by unanimous vote, has authorized the commemoration of the heroism of the fathers and mothers who traversed the Oregon Trail to the Far West."

Striker sent a copy of that script to Trendle and director Jim Jewell at WXYZ on January 6, 1933, and the cover letter from Striker advised, "I plan to establish him (the Ranger) as the one that is hunted by the law, yet loved by the oppressed." The same letter also expressed the possibility of a Lone Ranger Boys Club, wherein kids would write in for membership. That suggestion would be taken seriously a few years later, in 1935, with the introduction of the Lone Ranger Safety Club.

Archival document from December 1932.  (sarcasm) Yeah, this shouts "Bass Reeves."

More letters were exchanged about the new series -- more scripts were submitted, changes were made, and finally on January 21, 1933, a letter from WXYZ advised Strike that the new series would start the following Monday, January 30. The same letter made a few suggestions before concluding, "I hope the above suggestions won't cramp your style. I realize they have changed the character you have created... but only in a minor way..." (The January 30 date would later be changed to January 31.)

In a letter dated January 21, 1933, from WXYZ to Striker: "Continue to use the silver bullet and silver horse shoe gag -- it's good." As verified through hundreds of letters and correspondence, Striker created the silver horseshoes on the great horse Silver, the silver bullets and the trademark departure as the masked man rode away.

Jewell's letter to Striker in early February 1933.

Tonto was brought into the series beginning with episode eleven of The Lone Ranger. He was born out of theatrical necessity. With just the singular hero and his horse, the narrator was required to play too big a role in explaining things to the listening audience. Trundle asked Striker to do something about it. In a letter dated February 20, 1933, Striker wrote: "You will notice the birth of Tonto... carrying a certain mysterious back-ground. I have tried to work into this script the suggestions you sent. By the way, the name Tonto may not be as good as some other name so if you rechristen him I'll try and catch it on the air." Striker picked up the name out of an atlas, after Tonto Basin, Arizona.

The character of Tonto was, for the first three years of the radio program, short, shriveled, described as an "old wrinkled fellow" who rode a wagon and jackass. Tonto believed killing was true justice and multiple times encouraged The Lone Ranger to shoot and kill. In one episode Tonto knifed a villain to death to save the life of a woman. It is a known fact that numerous bounty hunters and U.S. Marshals would hire an Indian guide, who knew the territory better than the white man, when venturing into unknown territory. Art Black's theory that Bass Reeves had an Indian ride along with him does not support his claim that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

After learning that Jewell was not responsible for writing The Lone Ranger, and that Jewell was paying Striker, Trendle contacted the Buffalo scribe with an invitation to visit the studio in Detroit, and consider long-term employment. In May 1934, Trendle asked Striker to sign an agreement surrendering all rights to the program and fictional characters to Trendle. According to Art Black, Trendle was responsible for adapting the life and career of Bass Reeves into The Lone Ranger. That some of Reeves' criminals were incarcerated in Detroit, thus a connection. Again, a flimsy connection with a man who was only responsible for the creation of The Lone Ranger because he asked Jim Jewell to create a Western. Nothing more. (Remember WXYZ was responsible for hundreds of hours of programming each week. No one thought of The Lone Ranger beyond kiddie-fare at the time.)

Treadle's 1934 purchase of The Lone Ranger property has been reported in numerous reference books and academic articles. Sadly, most historians have been quick to claim Trendle wanted to own the property outright so he could financially benefit from The Lone Ranger. The real reason why Trendle purchased The Lone Ranger was to protect himself legally so Striker would not come back later as a result of the "misunderstanding." If Trendle was to sell sponsorship of the program, which was his intent from the beginning like any radio program, he would be obligated to pay Striker -- unless Striker was a paid employee under salary as "work for hire." This 1934 agreement led to local stations across the country to cease dramatizing their own version of The Lone Ranger because Striker ceased sending them scripts and this explains why Trendle did not begin copyrighting The Lone Ranger scripts until June 9, 1934. Trendle began copyrighting other Striker programs about the same time: Thrills of the Secret Service beginning June 14, 1934; and Manhunters beginning June 9, 1934. (Copy of the contract between Striker and Trendle is enclosed below.)


In November of 1935, Striker and his family then moved from Buffalo to Detroit. Striker became a full-time script writer for WXYZ and Trendle now owned The Lone Ranger lock, stock and barrel. Yes, this has to be without a doubt one of the best (or worst) business deals in history. Fran Striker, Jr., attending the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention a few years ago, was asked about this deal and his response was, "My father was not a good businessman." Even more of a shocker, a few years later Striker signed a contract with Trendle, for a set fee (for $400), allowing Trendle to claim himself as the sole creator. Yes, the radio industrialist had so much money that he paid people to surrender their rights to claim themselves as the creator of a fictional property.

To this day, if you open a Grosset & Dunlap Lone Ranger novel, a Lone Ranger Big Little Book, watch a television episode of The Lone Ranger or purchase a Lone Ranger comic book, you will no doubt see some form of credit to George W. Trendle as the creator of The Lone Ranger. The present owners of The Lone Ranger insist Fran Striker never created the character or the series and in the past, on occasion, have rejected any claim of Striker's authorship or having a hand in the creation of the character. As you can see from the documents above, they are committing no wrong. But facts are facts and as long as historians continue to do the legwork, we will always know the true story of the creation of The Lone Ranger. It has been documented many times in published books and magazine articles, so this is nothing new to fans who enjoy the adventures of The Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger in person.
Years later, when George W. Trendle died, his obituary also labeled him as the creator of The Lone Ranger, Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon and The Green Hornet. Over the years, other people involved with the program also were credited as “creator,” including Charles Livingstone, Jim Jewell and artist Bill Freyse, with columnists quick to lay claim without proper research. (This still happens to day in newspapers and magazines.)

The assumption that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger makes fascinating reading. (So does a recent essay that purports that an episode of The X-Files was the inspiration for the Twilight saga.) But facts are facts, supported by archival documents, reprinted above both as scans and excerpts. (A friend of mine and I both went through more than 41,000 archival documents related to the radio program and Bass Reeves is never mentioned once.)

Great controversy continues decades later as to who actually created the great radio classic. Numerous books have been written about the subject, multitudes of magazine articles in addition, each providing various takes and theories, many copying material from each other. It is true that Trendle wanted a Western radio program. It is true Fran Striker, while residing in Buffalo, had already written a western series called Covered Wagon Days. James Jewell, dramatic director of the station, contacted Striker, for whom the station was already purchasing scripts. Jewell, dramatic director of the station, wrote a Western but Trendle did not like it. Jewell then contacted Striker, who believed that he was merely adapting his Covered Wagon Days to fit Trendle’s requirements. Much of the creation occurred in staff meetings attended by Trendle, Jewell, Harold True (the studio manager) and Felix Holt. Jewell communicated with Striker, apparently misleading Trendle into believing it was he who wrote the scripts. In late 1933 Trendle learned that Jewell was passing on to Striker all the information from the staff meetings, and Trendle brought Striker on to Detroit. No one person created The Lone Ranger but rather three men each providing input, each creating various aspects of what made up the fictional masked man. One person lived in Buffalo, New York, the others in Detroit, Michigan. A number of characteristics that ultimately became the charm of The Lone Ranger as we know it today were formulated over a period of years. 

If the claim that one person based the entire concept of The Lone Ranger on Bass Reeves, that claim is now obsolete. Even the author of the Bass Reeves biography that started this myth publicly said the claim -- which originates from his publication -- is not accurate but rather an "assumption." But if you want to believe that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger because, as Black suggests, "Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career," you may want to revisit eight-grade composition and reading comprehension. Everyone loves a good controversy and everyone has an opinion.

What Art Black did was Transmedial Migration. That is, properties of fictional characters as they relate to real-life historical figures. Burton chose to find a connection from fiction to real-life, not the other way around as any real historian will assert. For decades in colleges and universities across the country, history professors suggest to their students to avoid this pitfall.

When once asked who created The Lone Ranger, Striker once remarked, "Only God creates." Perhaps without Trendle's financial backing, the Ranger would never have continued beyond a few months. The dramatic director at WXYZ, Jim Jewell, played a major role in the program's birth. It was his production genius that interpreted the scripts and solicited. So if you stumble upon a website that claims Bass Reeves was the original Lone Ranger, make sure you add a link to this blog entry to the comments section to help stop the spread of this ridiculous rumor.

Bass Reeves should be remembered for what he accomplished. Let us not tarnish his good name with a fictional children's program that had nothing to do with the legendary lawman.