Something Green for St. Patrick’s Day


The band played an Irish jig  whenever derby-wearing Michael Axford entered the scene in The Green Hornet Strikes Again, the 1941 movie serial closely based on the Green Hornet radio program. Cop-turned-reporter Axford, played by Wade Boteler in the movie and originally by actor Jim Irwin on radio, provided comic relief with his Irish brogue, blundering manner, polished brass cuspidor, and references to himself as “a man of action.”
But the Green Hornet also was assisted by women of action, making this weekend’s post a double-threat entry for both St. Patrick’s Day and Women’s History Month.
While Axford may have come late to journalism, he clearly valued the new career, as shown in a lot of bantering with his fellow reporters, publisher Britt Reid and secretary (and reporter-wannabe) Lenore Case. Told that he might get his name on a story, Axford responded with an ecstatic sigh, “Ah, a byline!” In this 1942 episode, Torpedo on Wheels, Axford gets scooped by The Sentinel’s aggressive woman reporter, Gail Manning, who uses some deception and risk-taking to get close to a near-disaster scene.

Manning gets a mild scolding from Reid, whose own “vigilante” attitudes — after all, he is the Green Hornet — apparently lead him to condone a bit of rule-breaking by his reporters. He also calls Manning his “best woman reporter.” During its radio years, The Daily Sentinel plots included more than a half-dozen reporters and photographers, including several women characters, and gave them all opportunities to show journalistic skills, find facts, report stories and sometimes be manipulated by the Hornet.

The women reporters sometimes go undercover — Manning impersonating a nurse in one story, another taking over for a switchboard operator and doing some eavesdropping. Photographer “Clicker” Binney subs for the publisher’s secretary at one point, but winds up doing a tough-minded interview with a reluctant source in another. And the multi-talented Lenore Case eventually winds up both reporting and writing an editorial for the boss.

Another strong female character, Linda Travis, plays a pivotal role in a group of 1947 episodes — one of them titled Exposed — in which the new reporter manages to unmask the Hornet. Like Axford, Travis was secretly working for Britt Reid’s father, who had put the young playboy in charge of the daily newspaper to teach him responsibility.

Axford’s backstory was that Reid’s father hired the former policeman to keep an eye on his son. The big Irishman at times functioned as Reid’s bodyguard or as a crime reporter, and was always a sworn enemy of the Green Hornet — never figuring out that his boss and his nemesis were the same person.

The stereotypical stage-Irish character was so popular that it was written into the initial WXYZ Green Hornet radio scripts after cancellation of a previous police drama for which Jim Irwin had created the role. The character was revived with a new actor after Irwin’s death.

While Axford was sometimes portrayed as dumb, the stereotyping was relatively mild — alcohol didn’t enter into it, and other Green Hornet characters had Irish names and accents without negative implications, including a city editor or managing editor named Gunnigan and various police officers.

The 1960s television series brought Axford back minus the derby and brogue, but still Irish enough to wear actor Lloyd Gough’s red hair. The 2011 Green Hornet movie left out all Irish references and ethnic humor, promoted Axford to editor of the newspaper, and cast the un-Hibernian Edward James Olmos in the role.

For details on the Hornet in all media, see the Martin Grams Jr. and Terry Salomonson book-length history, The Green Hornet, which includes a full episode guide.

While the Internet Archive and other online sources have dozens of Green Hornet episodes as MP3 files, higher-quality CD compilations are available in 20-episode sets from Radio Spirits.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, adventure, GreenHornet, movies, radio, reporters, undercover, women. Bookmark the permalink.

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