Thursday, February 06, 2014

The great Jake Hinkson -Radio Noir

Night Beat starring Frank Lovejoy

Ed here: My generation grew up on radio drama and comedies. Jack Benny was my all time favorite and The Shadow my favorite drama. Jake Hinkson talks about the end of that era.


By 1950, the golden age of dramatic radio had come to an end. In the twenties, thirties and forties, radio was the at-home alternative to a night out at the movies. With the coming of television, however, the radio that Americans had known for the better part of three decades simply ceased to exist. If television irrevocably altered the movies, it effectively destroyed dramatic radio.
Which is not to say that it died overnight. In its final decade, old-time radio made several last ditch efforts to salvage its diminishing audience. It had long employed movie stars to voice radio adaptations of hit films or to star in dramatic series built around their established personas. For instance, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall not only starred in a radio production of To Have And Have Not, they headlined their own adventure series, Bold Venture, from 1951 to 1952.

For my money, the best of the early fifties radio shows was a wonderfully dark little program called Night Beat, which may well be the closest thing to a real radio noir that the golden age ever produced. The show starred the incomparable Frank Lovejoy as Randy Stone, the “night beat” reporter for the fictional newspaper The Chicago Star. (Stone’s paper had no intended connection to the leftist newssheet with the same name that had been run by Frank Marshall Davis in the forties.) At the beginning of each show, Stone headed out into the Chicago night in search of a new story. “Stories start in many different ways,” he would say. “This one began…”
What he invariably found was trouble—“the wino dreaming of a muscatel paradise in cold dark doorways, painted little dames defying the world with their brassy laughter…the homeless, the hopeless.”
Though Stone was occasionally called upon to do some de facto detective work, the show wasn’t exactly a mystery series. It was more of a noir anthology series, with Stone running around the streets of Chicago, finding desperate people living lives of frustration, loneliness, greed, and violence. Sometimes he helped them. Sometimes they were beyond help. “My beat is eight square miles of darkness,” he noted in one episode. It seemed as if those miles were populated exclusively by “the lonely, lost, mixed-up, screwy people of the night.”
The show ran from 1950 to 1952 and logged some 104 episodes. Highlights include:
for the rest go here:


    Anonymous said...

    I remember Frank Lovejoy best for his TV series Meet McGraw from the mid-fifties. He had no first name. "I came from a poor family," he quipped to one person who asked about it. A trouble shooter who traveled around like Jack Reacher, solving people's problems. No detective licence either. I believe Blake Edwards wrote one or two of the episodes, which got its start on Dick Powell's Four Star Theater. I wrote a piece about it for your Mystery Scene years ago.
    J Whalen

    westcrazed said...

    I believe the 1950's produced some of the best radio drama of the golden age. X-Minus One was an outstanding science fiction series. Gunsmoke was, in my opinion, one of the best radio drama programs produced in this country. Nightbeat, as noted, was far above average. Long running shows like Suspense and Your's Truly Johnny Dollar hit a high point in the fifties.