“A Man of Many Words,” July 7, 1946
This unusual 70-year-old episode of The Green Hornet begins with a heroic (or foolhardy?) journalist defying death threats — but he’s a radio columnist, not one of the series’ usual newspaper reporters. In the 1940s, radio news reports had grown in importance to a nation following developments in World War II, but the broadcast journalist was still not as common a character in radio dramatic series as the newspaper reporter.
The Green Hornet, a costumed-hero adventure series aimed at a teen or young-adult audience, had plenty of journalists. The Hornet was a young newspaper publisher, frustrated by racketeers and corrupt politicians who stayed out of the reach of the law. By pretending to be a masked criminal himself, he could bring them to justice in other ways.
Like Superman’s Daily Planet, the Hornet’s Daily Sentinel was the perfect place to learn about the life of the city. Its reporters, photographers, editors, and the publisher’s secretary, appeared regularly in Hornet stories — for the most part unaware their boss was the man behind the mask and the Hornet’s non-lethal gas gun.
In this episode there are newsroom scenes and some banter between newspaper publisher Britt Reid and reporter Michael Axford, about radio-newspaper competition.
Axford is not the Sentinel’s sharpest reporter; he’s a former cop appointed to his position by Reid’s father, owner of the paper, to double as Reid’s bodyguard. In the Hornet stories he also doubled as comic-relief, a stereotypical ethnic caricature — the “dumb Irish flatfoot” who never figured out the Hornet’s identity.
Of course, Reid ends up going after murderous racketeers as the Green Hornet, with the help of Kato, his valet (and brilliant inventor, and driver), and their super-fast Black Beauty getaway car.
The criminal enterprise in question is a postwar anomaly, a black-market in meat. Was this really an issue in 1946? Or was this script originally developed when wartime rationing and shortages were common? At first I suspected the latter, but a little online research in newspaper archives and history sites shows that meat shortages were, indeed, making headlines in 1946.
Incidentally, the “Man of Many Words” of the episode title is not the radio commentator or anyone on the Sentinel staff, but the racket boss — a corpulent sesquipidelian with echoes of Sydney Greenstreet’s character in the 1941 movie “The Maltese Falcon.” (It may be just a coincidence, but a similarly Greenstreet-like criminal mastermind was featured in the “Adventures of Superman” radio series story “Atom Man in Metropolis” the previous year.)
The Internet Archive provided the MP3 file. Hornet episodes are also available on high-quality CDs from Radio Spirits.
For more about the series, see my Green Hornet page.
(Technical note: This post was begun with the Chrome browser on an Android phone, then updated with a new version of the WordPress Android app. In addition to getting a new episode onto the site before a classroom discussion next week, I was testing the coding of MP3 streaming and download links, and determining whether repeated edits were saved properly. The App was much more reliable than the phone-browser rendition of the website editor, in both HTML and visual-editing modes.)