I was digging around in the basement at Oxfam the other week when I came across 2 sets of classic radio detective stories.
- The Adventures of Sam Spade – The Final capers starring Steven Dunne & Lurene Tuttle as Sam & Effie written by Dashiell Hammett.
- Richard Diamond the quick witted, light-hearted, and the first ever singing detective played by Dick Powell and written by Blake Edwards.
I have been so absorbed in the radio drama I’m even making excuses to have a bath so I can listen to another episode. It has taken me less than 1 week to get through all 16 Spade episodes. Roll on this week for the singing detective.
Boy I am going to miss Effie’s “Oh Sam” when he gets into yet another escapade. Their relationship secures your interest right from the start, while the drama takes you right back to when a dame was a dame, fighting in the street and getting shot at was apparently an everyday San Francisco occurrence.
Spade was originally created by Dashiell Hammett for the movie Maltese Falcon. Several versions of the film were produced, until finally recognition came on the 3rd version with Sam being played by Humphrey Boggart.
The series originally starred Howard Duff (and later, Steve Dunne) as Sam Spade and Lurene Tuttle as his secretary Effie, and took a considerably more tongue-in-cheek approach to the character than the novel or movie.
I was unaware until reading the insert that the Adventures of Sam Spade had a very turbulent radio career during its production 1946-1951.
In Hollywood in the 1940’s and 50’s the slightest rumour of Communist sympathies was enough to end a person’s career. The creation of blacklists started in the late 1940’s leaving many entertainers barred from performing in certain venues or in TV, radio and film. Eventually The Red Channels pamphlet, was published on June 22, 1950, in which it served to expand and enhance the existing mechanisms of the blacklists. Even during the period of its strictest enforcement, the blacklist directly damaged the careers of scores of individuals working in the film industry.
The House of UnAmerica Activities Committee (HUAC) started an investigation into communism in Hollywood. Their investigation included stars such as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Katherine Hepburn, Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney. Everyone was affected. Many more were under suspicion Artie Shaw, Leonard Bernstein, Orson Wells for supporting a communist ideology in the making of Citizen Kane.
Hammett pictured here at a Senate hearing on Communism in 1953, was a member of the American Communist Party. After taking the Fifth Amendment at a hearing, he was charged with contempt of court and imprisoned for five months. The studio was no longer allowed to use his name in conjunction with Sam Spade. The original Spade Howard Duff was also under suspicion was removed from the studio.
What Hammett says of Spade “Spade has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been and in their cockier moments thought they approached. For your private detective does not — or did not ten years ago when he was my colleague — want to be an erudite solver of riddles in the Sherlock Holmes manner; he wants to be a hard and shifty fellow, able to take care of himself in any situation, able to get the best of anybody he comes in contact with, whether criminal, innocent by-stander or client.”
Communist or not what a creation !