One thing that surprises a lot of people about me when they find out is that I am a huge sports nut. I love watching sports both live and on tv, and I am more knowledgeable about sports than a lot of guys I know. Thanks to my dad, I have been a Chicago Cubs fan since I was five years old and a Green Bay Packer fan since about seven or eight.
I watched a ton of games with my dad over the years including my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field when I was 6 years old. I also used to love to sit in our backyard with him on warm summer days and listen to Cubs games on his small transistor radio. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to go back to those days especially now that he is gone.
A New Love for Old Time Radio
Somewhere along the way though, I lost my enjoyment of listening to baseball on the radio. I’m a very visual person, and I just didn’t like being unable to see the action. However, last summer I was listening to a game in my car just to check the score, and after a while I realized I was really enjoying it again. Maybe because it reminded me of those special times I had with my dad.
Realizing that I once again loved listening to baseball on the radio led me to consider listening to old time radio shows as well. I really enjoy listening to several movie podcasts, and two new ones I found recently are Down These Mean Streets and Attaboy Clarence, which both highlight the wonderful world of old time radio and provide an opportunity to listen to programs from the past.
I suspect that if it not for my revived love of listening to Chicago Cubs games on the radio, I may never have given old time radio a try and would not have discovered those two great podcasts. I’m so thankful I did, because it has opened up a whole new world to me that has brought me much enjoyment.
Old Movies & Old Time Radio Collide: Discovering Detective Ellery Queen
After recently watching the movie Alibi for Murder (1936), I did a little research on lead actor William Gargan and learned that he was well known for his roles as both Ellery Queen and Martin Kane on old time radio programs. I noticed that there were a couple Ellery Queen episodes on the Down These Mean Streets Podcast, so I listened to one and learned some very interesting information about the history of Ellery Queen that made me want to know more.
The character of Ellery Queen was created in 1928 by cousins Frederic Danay and Manfred Lee, and was possibly one of the best known fictional detectives in the 1930s and 1940s. He was the main character in several novels, old time radio and television programs and movies during those decades and beyond. In the Ellery Queen stories, the title character helped to solve baffling murders working alongside his father Richard Queen, an inspector with the NYPD.
A Fun Twist: A Challenge to the Readers and Listeners
One of the things that made the books and radio/tv programs special were the “Challenges to the Reader or Listener” which challenged the audience to guess the solution to the crime before it was revealed. In the books, it was a single page near the end declaring that the reader had seen all the same clues Ellery had and that only one solution was possible. On the radio and television programs, it featured guest armchair detectives, often times Hollywood celebrities, who would give their theory on who committed the crime.
The Adventures of Ellery Queen Radio and Television Programs
The Adventures of Ellery Queen radio program was broadcast on all three of the main networks from 1939 to 1948. The episode I listened to was called “One Diamond,” which aired on May 6, 1948 on ABC. It featured actors Howard Culver, Herb Butterfield, and Kay Brinkler, and the celebrity guest armchair detective was singer Peggy Lee. Unfortunately she guessed incorrectly, but I cut her some slack as it was a tough one and I didn’t get it right either.
There was also an Adventures of Ellery Queen television program that ran at various times throughout the 1950s with Richard Hart, Lee Bowman, Hugh Marlowe, George Nader and Lee Philips all playing the character of Ellery Queen at different times.
The series was revived again in 1975-1976 with a show on NBC with Jim Hutton playing the title role. A period piece set in New York City in 1946-1947, each episode contained a “Challenge to the Viewer” and a number of Hollywood celebrities appeared on the show including Don Ameche, Dana Andrews, Roddy McDowall, Vincent Price, and Cesar Romero.
The series was created by William Link and Richard Levinson who also produced the television shows Murder She Wrote and Columbo. It is currently available on DVD or you can watch individual episodes through Amazon Instant.
Ellery Queen in the Movies with Ralph Bellamy and William Gargan
Several Ellery Queen movies were also made in the 1930s and 1940s, with Ralph Bellamy starring as Ellery Queen in five films along with Margaret Lindsay playing his secretary, Nikki Porter. William Gargan followed Bellamy appearing in two movies, A Close Call for Ellery Queen (1942) and A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen (1942) also with Margaret Lindsay.
The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Are you a fan of old time radio? What are some of your favorite shows or characters?