The Adventure of Sam Spade Detective

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Sam Spade is a fictional character who is the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon (1930) and the various films and adaptations based on it, as well as in three lesser known short stories by Hammett.

Dashiell Hammett - Creator of Sam Spade

The novel, first published as a serial in the pulp magazine Black Mask, is the only one that Spade appears in, yet the character is widely cited as the crystallizing figure in the development of the hard-boiled private detective genre – Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe, for instance, was strongly influenced by Hammett’s Spade.

Raymond Chandler's Marlowe was influenced by Spade

Spade was a departure from Hammett’s nameless and less than glamorous detective, The Continental Op. Sam Spade combined several features of previous detectives, most notably his cold detachment, keen eye for detail, and unflinching determination to achieve his own justice. He is the man who has seen the wretched, the corrupt, the tawdry side of life but still retains his “tarnished idealism”.

On the radio, Sam Spade was played by Bogart in a 1943 Screen Guild Theater production and a 1946 Academy Award Theater production. He was also played by Edward G. Robinson in a 1943 Lux Radio Theatre production.

The Adventures of Sam Spade

The Adventures of Sam Spade ran from 1946-1951 (on ABC, CBS, and NBC) and starred Howard Duff (and later Steve Dunne) as “Sam Spade” and Lurene Tuttle as Spade’s devoted secretary “Effie Perrine”, and took a considerably more tongue-in-cheek approach to the character.

Howard Duff played Sam Spade

The show ran for 13 episodes on ABC in 1946, for 157 episodes on CBS in 1946-1949, and finally for 51 episodes on NBC in 1949-1951. The series was largely overseen by producer/director William Spier. In 1947, scriptwriters Jason James and Bob Tallman received an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama from the Mystery Writers of America.

Laureen Tuttle played Spade's devoted secretary, Effie Perrine

The series had a commercial that is well remembered.  Wildroot Cream Oil.  Wildroots catch phrase was, “A little dab’l do you.”  The melody “Cream Oil Charlie” was copyrighted on 01/27/46 for Tad Dameron & Woody Herman by the Charling Music Corp., New York. Each of the broadcasts were 30 minutes in length.

The Sponsor of Sam Spade - Wildroot (German Ad)

Dashiell Hammett’s name was removed from the series in the late 1940s because he was being investigated for involvement with the Communist Party. Later, when Howard Duff’s name appeared in the Red Channels book, he was not invited to play the role when the series made the switch to NBC in 1950.

Born on May 27, 1894, he was a veteran of World War II, serving as a Sergeant in Alaska.
He was a member of the Civil Rights Congress, a liberal political group which was targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as being a Communist front. He refused to name contributors to the organization and was sentenced to six months in jail for that refusal.

He later became a virtual recluse in the tiny village of Katonah, New York, partly due to chronic health problems.

Dashiell Hammett's Grave

He died there on January 10, 1961 and, as was his wish, he was buried in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery. At one point, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover attempted to block the burial but was overruled in that attempt.

You can hear episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade on both the Crime & Suspense Channel and Heritage Gold.

Happy Listening 🙂

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Dragnet – Jack Web

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Jack Webb

The original Dragnet started as a radio show in June 1949 and later transfered to television. A total of 314 original episodes were broadcast from 1949 through 1957. The series was broadcast on NBC and starred Jack Webb and Barton Yarborough as Friday’s first partner Sergeant Ben Romero.

The show takes its name from an actual police term, a “dragnet”, meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects.

Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in media history. The series gave millions of audience members a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real-life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers.

Actor and producer Jack Webb’s aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals, and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media. The show’s cultural impact is such that even after five decades, elements of Dragnet are known to those who have never seen or heard the program.

Jack Webb, the shows creator and lead actor

Dragnet debuted inauspiciously. The first several months were bumpy, as Webb and company worked out the program’s format and eventually became comfortable with their characters (Friday was originally portrayed as more brash and forceful than his later usually relaxed demeanor). Gradually, Friday’s deadpan, fast-talking persona emerged, described by John Dunning as “a cop’s cop, tough but not hard, conservative but caring.” (Dunning, 210) Friday’s first partner was Sergeant Ben Romero, portrayed by Barton Yarborough, a longtime radio actor.

Barton Yarborough played Sergeant Ben Romero

Raymond Burr was on board to play Chief of Detectives Ed Backstrand. When Dragnet hit its stride, it became one of radio’s top-rated shows.

Webb insisted on realism in every aspect of the show. The dialogue was clipped, understated and sparse, influenced by the hard-boiled school of crime fiction. Scripts were fast moving but didn’t seem rushed. Every aspect of police work was chronicled, step by step: From patrols and paperwork, to crime scene investigation, lab work and questioning witnesses or suspects.

Jack Webb on the set of the TV show (1967)

The detectives’ personal lives were mentioned but rarely took center stage. (Friday was a bachelor who lived with his mother; Romero was a Mexican-American from Texas, was an ever-fretful husband and father.) “Underplaying is still acting”, Webb told Time. “We try to make it as real as a guy pouring a cup of coffee.” (Dunning, 209) Los Angeles police chiefs C.B. Horrall, William Worton, and (later) William Parker were credited as consultants, and many police officers were fans.

Though rather tame by modern standards, Dragnet—especially on the radio—handled controversial subjects such as sex crimes and drug addiction with unprecedented and even startling realism. In one such example, Dragnet broke one of the unspoken (and still rarely broached) taboos of popular entertainment in the episode “.22 Rifle for Christmas” which aired December 22, 1949 and was repeated a year later. The episode followed the search for two young boys, Stanley Johnstone and Stevie Morheim, only to discover Stevie had been accidentally killed while playing with a rifle that belonged to Stanley—who’d be receiving it as a Christmas present but opened the box early; Stanley finally told Friday that Stevie was running while holding the rifle when he tripped and fell, causing the gun to discharge, fatally wounding Morheim.

Jack Webb died at the age of 62 of a massive heart attack. He was buried with full honors by the LAPD, even though he had never been on the force.

Listen out for Dragnet on the Crime and Suspense Channel from ROK Classic Radio OTR.

You can also download a couple of episodes in the download section of our website!

Happy Listening 🙂

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