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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The Black Museum Radio Series

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Opening in 1875, the Crime Museum at Scotland Yard is the oldest museum in the world purely for recording crime. The name “Black Museum” was coined in 1877 by a reporter from “The Observer”, a London newspaper, although the museum is still referred to as the Crime Museum. It is this museum that inspired The Black Museum radio series, produced in London by Harry Alan Towers.

From Jay Hickerson’s “The Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide To All Circulating Shows”, the earliest US broadcast date was January 1, 1952. Thirty nine shows, from the full syndication of fifty two shows, aired over Mutual stations from January 1, 1952 through June 24, 1952 and September 30, 1952 through December 30, 1952.

This may be the earliest broadcast of the series worldwide. It was later broadcast over Radio Luxembourg starting May 7, 1953. Radio Luxembourg broadcast sponsored programs at night to England (the BBC was state-owned and had no commercials). The shows were sponsored by Dreft and Mirro (cleaning products).

The series continued to be offered in syndication and was heard on AFRTS broadcasts and in the US on NPR stations through the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. Some shows were broadcast by the BBC in England in 1994.

This murder mystery series was based on true life cases from Scotland Yard’s files. Each episode was based on an item or items of evidence in the museum.

Orson Welles hosted and narrated the shows. Mr. Welles opened each show slightly differently but followed a standard format. For example, the show, “The Bathtub”, open as follows:

“This is Orson Welles speaking from London.” (Big Ben starts himing in the background). “The Black Museum, repository of death… Here, in this grim stone structure on the Thames which houses Scotland Yard, is a warehouse of homocide, where everyday objects, a piece of wire, a chemist’s flask, a silver shilling, all are touched by murder.” (dramatic music)

Following the opening, Mr. Welles would introduce the museum’s item or items of evidence that was central to the case, leading into the dramatization. He also provided narration during the show and ended each show with his characteristic closing from the days of his Mercury Theater of the Air, remaining “obediently yours”.

Harry Alan Towers produced the series from scripts written by Ira Marion. Music was composed and conducted by Sidney Torch.

The museum was not open to the general public. It’s purpose was then, and still is, for police training, although it did receive a considerable number of famous people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is currently used as a lecture theater for the police and like bodies in various subjects of Criminology. But, thanks to Mr. Towers and Mr. Welles, we can still get a glimpse of what secrets are housed in The Black Museum.

Listen to The Black Museum of ROK Classic Radio OTR!

(From the Old Time Radio Researcher’s Group)

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