Crime Photographer Thanksgivings

Working holidays
Casey, Crime Photographer was a weekly fixture on CBS radio for a dozen years, 1943-55, and listeners probably felt they were dropping into the Blue Note Cafe along with the hero and his reporter friend Ann Williams — even on the holidays.

That included the Thanksgivings of 1947 and 1948, one of which is here for your after-dinner listening. It’s not the greatest half-hour in radio history, but it has a couple of good scenes for fans of old newspaper dramas. Family holiday or not, this 1947 “After Turkey, the Bill,” is about people who dine-out on Thanksgiving — dating couples, newspaper staff, restaurant workers, cops, and stick-up artists.

A couple in a restaurant open the story, talking about their problem romance, which builds a little tension; then the story shifts scene to Casey and Ann at the Blue Note — their regular bar — having dinner with their bartender pal Ethelbert, who has to work on the holiday.

When they try to convince him that their great act of friendship (dining with him) deserves a free meal, the hard-to-snooker Ethelbert points out that Casey and Ann are also working on Thanksgiving Day, with just enough time for dinner at their usual place.

Almost on cue, the editor calls with an assignment. It’s a seemingly routine filling station holdup. Casey launches into familiar reporter-editor grumbling, but they are really just pro-forma complaints. He’s on the job.

“For a run of the mill story like that we have to leave our dessert? Well, OK Bert, alright, goodbye…
Why I have to stick to this newspaper racket, I don’t know…
Just one of those inside-page fillers. Bert says news is light and we have to cover it…”

For a “family holiday” story, the episode features a rather dysfunctional family. It includes cousins accusing each other of a frame-up, and a girlfriend caught between them and a father who doesn’t want her to marry the one she thinks she loves most, criminal record or not. Before the story ends there are three suspects. And, of course, Casey sorts it all out, even pointing us toward a reasonably happy ending.

(That’s all I’m telling you. That’s why they call it “radio” — you have to listen for yourself.)

Well before we get to that happy ending, Casey and Ann visit the crime scene with one of their police friends, a scene with some of the banter and “We’re all in this together” camaraderie that appeared to be common between policemen and newspaper reporters in the 1940s — at least on radio.

Police sergeant: “Why don’t you two get jobs that won’t make you work on holidays?”  
Casey: “Why don’t you?”  
Ann: “You mean like Captain Logan?”
Sergeant: “I’ve been thinking about it… for 25 years.”

Notes on other episodes
Similarly, the 1948 Thanksgiving installment, “Holiday” has the photojournalist crime-fighter sacrificing part of his (and Ann’s) holiday celebration to help someone in trouble, solve a crime, get a story, and wish their bartender friend Ethelbert a Happy Thanksgiving. The real suspense is whether Casey will finally pay his October bar tab. (That episode is part of the sixth CD of the Internet Archive — Old Time Radio Researchers collection of Casey episodes, available only in six big “zipped” CD-length downloadable collections, not one of the “single episode” pages I use for embedding here.)

The 1946 and 1949 Thanksgiving week episodes also had the holiday’s name in the title, but copies aren’t present in the Old Time Radio Researchers’ Group collection at the Internet Archive for comparison. Researcher Joe Webb estimates that collectors have identified only 78 circulating recordings of Casey shows out of 431 broadcasts.

His 13-page “Casey, Crime Photographer — Random notes about the series” and many other documents are included with the OTRRG collection at the Internet Archive, along with two “Casey” films from the 1940s, pulp magazine covers, and several comic books.

MP3 collections also are available online from other sources, including Radio Mick Danger (although I couldn’t get his copy of “Holiday” to download tonight) and on CD from OTR Cat: Casey, Crime Photographer

While Casey was more crime-solver than storyteller, the dialogue and the annual repetition of this “must work holidays” theme did emphasize that fact of daily newspaper life. See last year’s Christmas items for more on this theme.

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, 1950s, Casey, detectives, holidays, newspapers, photographer, reporters. Bookmark the permalink.

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