Long before the advent of Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure, “The Clue in the Clouds” was a technology-rich episode of “Casey, Press Photographer,” more often known as “Crime Photographer,” one of the longest-running old-time radio dramatic series to feature newspaper reporter characters.
That’s “technology rich” if 1944 aviation and darkroom or studio-photography tricks are “technology” enough for you. But I did notice the “clouds” in this episode title and decided to write about it on a day when an AWS outage put “cloud computing” in the headlines.
In this story, Casey and Ann Williams have suspicions about a private helicopter crash — not many private helicopters buzzing around in 1944! — and the guy they are suspicious about turns out to be a photographer himself, complete with snapshots of his adventures on a tropical isle.
I’ve written about the Crime Photographer series several times before, including its movie, comic-book and TV spinoffs, but somehow never got to this episode. It’s easy to see how the show might have appealed to fans of the newspaper racket, or of photography, or of saloons with great piano players — all of which have roles to play in this mystery.
You do get some banter between Casey and his editor Bert (“If that ‘heliocopter’ turns out to be a Halloween witch on a broom, you’ve shot your last picture for me!”), and the stereotype of the reporter spending part of his life on a bar stool at the Blue Note Cafe, and both men and women having a place in the newsroom. Ann sometimes does seem to be more “sidekick” to cameraman Casey, but remember she, or an unnamed rewrite man, is the one who writes the stories in that Morning Express.
“Time and deadline wait for no man — or woman either,” as Ann says, just after noting an important clue, soon to emerge from the clouds of Casey’s darkroom developer tray.
(No name is mentioned, but the editor does tell Casey and Ann to give their early research on the helicopter crash to a rewrite man, and an obit writer, the kind of “behind the scenes” newsroom detail I love to hear in these 1940s radio dramas.)