Before the comics, before the movie, before the TV show, The Green Hornet was a radio drama. Tonight I bring you an episode of this radio drama.
Finding a program guide proved…problematic. While they’re easy to find for TV shows and comics, I wish I knew one for radio dramas. So the episode I chose is called “The Parking Lot Racket”, as The Green Hornet tries to take down a protection racket while keeping one step ahead of the law.
Beginning on station WXYZ (don’t look at me, that’s what Wiki says) in Detroit in 1936, it would later go national on the Mutual Broadcasting System two years later. While vigilantes working outside (and therefore chased by) the law was nothing new in radio dramas, the fact that The Green Hornet played up his status making everyone believe that actually WAS a criminal made him unique among the crimefighters of his day and even crimefighters today. (Typically when a good guy is mistaken for a bad guy, it’s despite his action, not as part of his gameplan.)
Co-creator George W. Trendle has said that he planned from the beginning to connect Brit Reid to his earlier hit character, The Lone Ranger. However, at least one article I read questions that assertion. At any rate, he is supposedly the great-grandson of the famous Old-West vigilante, although by this day and age the sliding timeline would demand a more distant relationship.
Four different actors played The Green Hornet during the radio series run: Al Hodge (who also went on to play TV character Captain Video, Donovan Faust, Bob Hall, and Jack McCarthy. While that’s the order, I’m unsure about who was portraying him in this episode because I can’t find that episode guide. Tokutaro Hayashi (later using the name Raymond Toyo) was the first Kato, with Rollon Parker (who also voiced the newsboy at the end of every episode) and Michael Tolan each having his shot at the character, who was changed from Japanese to Filipino during World War 2. (Not surprising, not only because of concerns about Japanese people during the war but because Kato would either have to go into hiding or be taken out of the show.)
In the TV series, Brit’s secretary and the police commissioner were the only ones who knew Brit was both the Green Hornet and one of the good guys, but in the radio drama this wouldn’t happen until the later years. Also, his dad was apparently still alive.
The theme song for the radio drama, “Flight of the Bumblebee”, by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, has been used for the TV series. Not having seen the serials (yet) or the recent Seth Rogen movie (not sure if I will), I don’t know if this has continued into other media.
I listened to a few episodes in preparation for the Showcase and I thought it was a good show. You can catch the entire run at the Internet Archive and I’m sure there’s a better-quality CD release around the internet somewhere. It’s worth listening to, if only to see where the series came from.