The Pete Kelly's Blues Radio Program
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Our orginal Pete Kelly's Blues MP3 Cover Art
Ray Heindorf's annotated "Pete Kelly's
Blues" theme music for the1955 feature
film, with lyrics by Sammy Cahn.
June 26, 1951 article on the search for
a cornet for Pete Kelly's Blues
Pete Kelly's Blues review of
July 10, 1951
Pete Kelly's Blues Spot Ad from July 25 1951
|While only thirteen Pete Kelly's Blues programs ever aired, it's popularity and historical significance far outweigh the length of its run. Pete Kelly's Blues was a favorite project of creators Jack Webb and Richard L. Breen. A short-lived, summer replacement program for NBC, Jack Webb would go on to help develop and star in the feature film Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and an eventual Television version of Pete Kelly's Blues (1959) for his Mark VII, Limited production company. Both the radio program and film met critical success, but the television program jumped the shark after one season.
A life-long Jazz fan, Jack Webb eventually compiled a collection of over 6,000 classic Jazz albums. Indeed, Webb's first wife was Julie London, a prominent female Jazz vocalist. Jack Webb's first gig in Radio was as a disc jockey playing late night Jazz over the San Francisco area airwaves.
The San Francisco connection was a fertile one for Jack Webb. He based both his 1946 crime drama Pat Novak. . . for Hire, and his 1947 crime drama Johnny Madero, Pier 23 in the San Francisco area. One of his first dramatic breaks in Radio was with the San Francisco-based couple Monte Masters and Natalie Park in Monte's Spotlight Playhouse (1946). Webb followed up Johnny Madero and Pat Novak. . . for Hire with Jeff Regan, Investigator (1948), and ABC's 1949 revival of Pat Novak, for Hire, much in the same radio noir genre. Indeed, Webb appeared several times as a recurring character in The New Adventures of Michael Shayne (1947), again much the same radio noir genre.
Webb's association and friendship with William Conrad, Raymond Burr, Wilms Herbert, The Masters, Wally Maher, Herb Butterfield, Tudor Owen and other young West Coast-based radio performers would provide him with a ready pool of talent for his projects to come. By the time Webb was ready for the Pete Kelly's Blues project, his 1949 Dragnet radio series was gaining popularity and critical acclaim nationwide. Webb threw all of his talent and interest into Pete Kelly's Blues, going so far as to launch a nationwide search for just the right period cornet for the project. Indeed, the Pete Kelly's Blues radio concept of combining at least two live Jazz numbers into the format of a period crime drama made headlines throughout the entertainment sections of the nation's newspapers.
Jack Webb was a life-long perfectionist. His Pete Kelly's Blues project was no exception. Webb obtained the talents of the finest jazz performers available to assemble his "Big 7" Jazz Band for the series. Brothers Ray and Moe Schneider joined famed cornetist Dick Cathcart, Nick Fatool, Matty Matlock and Bill Newman to form the core of the group. Their performances during each of the thirteen episodes of the radio program were as eagerly anticipated as the drama itself.
It didn't hurt that Webb had often life-long relationships with these performers. Dick Cathcart, especially was a close friend of Webb's, going onto a long career with Lawrence Welk after Pete Kelly's Blues, and marrying Peggy Lennon, of The Lennon Sisters. The camaraderie shows thoughout all seven circulating productions, and the two circulating rehearsals, especially.
You get something of a feel for Jack Webb's directorial technique as well from his direction of The Big 7 on air--tough, demanding perfection in every performance. That was Webb's hallmark, both in front of and behind the mike. Webb was equally demanding of himself. A great deal of each of the circulating scripts of Pete Kelly's Blues is exposition, delivered as only Jack Webb can deliver it.
As you can read from the contemporaneous newspaper reviews on this page, Pete Kelly's Blues was more than just a novelty summer series for the reviewers. They knew this was something new in Radio, and you can feel the excitement about this series in every article written about it. Contrary to the nonsense you'll find in the Wikipedia articles about the Pete Kelly's Blues was a highly influential program for its time.
Indeed, Jazz was making little mainstream headway in Radio during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The appearance of a program like Pete Kelly's Blues, very much in the mainstream and from a very mainstream network, set a new standard of acceptability for Jazz over Radio. And it opened doors for even more mainstream Jazz programs to air during the remainder of The Golden Age of Radio.
Pete Kelly's Blues remains a fascinating mixture of the back-story of Jack Webb's entire life. It's set in the speakeasy '20s, the same era into which Webb was born. Its ground-breaking crime drama/variety format was completely new in Radio. And it's gritty, realistic Roaring 20s crime situations were a predictor of Webb's future impact on the crime drama format over Radio.
As more information surfaces about Pete Kelly's Blues, it becomes even more collectable. Hopefully we'll soon see a complete run of Pete Kelly's Blues from 417 Cherry Street, Kansas City, so as to better evaluate the entire 13-week run.
|AFRTS END-238, Pete Kelly's Blues
||Anthology of Golden Age Radio Crime Dramas [often referred to as Variety in contemporaneous radio listings]
||Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
||51-02-13 [Aud] Gus Trudeau
||Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
||51-07-04 01 Title Unknown
||Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
||51-07-04 to 51-09-26; NBC, 30-minutes;
||AFRTS END-238, Pete Kelly's Blues
||Jack Webb, William Conrad, Roy Glenn, Jack Kruschen, Meredith Howard, Tudor Owen, Barton Yarborough
||Cornetist Pete Kelly [Jack Webb] and his 'Big 7' Jazz group; Dick Cathcart [cornet], Matty Matlock [clarinet], Moe Schneider [trombone] and Ray Sherman [piano], Marty Corb or Judd Burnette [bass], Bill Newman or George Van Epps [guitar], and Nick Fatool [drums].
'Red' the bass player [Jack Kruschen/Barton Yarborough].
George Lupo inherited the speakeasy at 417 Cherry Street, Kansas City. He's a quiet little guy who wouldn't give you the sweat off an ice pitcher.
Barney Rickett [Tudor Owen], a former bootlegger, and the only honest man Pete Kelly knows.
Maggie Jackson [Meredith Howard], the singer at Fat Annie's, a speakeasy just outside of town.
Augie, the Piano Player [Roy Glenn (uncredited) in the rehearsal for 'Gus Trudeau].
Rosie, the Piano Player.
||Richard L Breen [Creator]
||Joe Eisinger, James Moser, Jack Webb; Maggie Jackson's songs written by Arthur Hamilton
||Matty Matlock [scoring]; Arthur Hamilton [composer]; Ray Heindorf
||Dick Cathcart [performing]
||George 'This one's about Pete Kelly' Fenneman; Don Pardo
||Estimated Scripts or
|1951 Summer Run:12
AFRTS Syndication: 6
Special Recordings: 3
||Episodes in Circulation:
||1951 Summer Run:7
AFRTS Syndication: 6
Special Recordings: 3
||Total Episodes in Collection:
||1951 Summer Run:7
AFRTS Syndication: 3
Special Recordings: 0
||RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide, 'The Directory of The Armed Forces Radio Service Series', Life Magazine.
Notes on Provenances:
All above cited provenances are in error in one form or another. The most helpful provenance was the log of the radioGOLDINdex.
Pete Kelly's Blues, although having received a great deal of press at the time, was very poorly documented in local newspapers with respect to the actual programs that aired. But it's also very clear that virtually all information regarding its episode sequencing or program names were simply made up out of whole cloth for the last 58 years of documenting and archiving its run sequence.
In researching the newspapers from the period, we could turn up only five sketchy references to descriptions of its thirteen-program run. Fortunately those five references have helped us nail down the five corresponding episodes they refer to. Given the ambiguity of all previous attempts at naming these 13 episodes, we've also begun identifying the music selections employed by both Pete Kelly's Big 7 and Maggie Jackson (Meredith Howard). Our findings follow, in chronological order:
The alleged 51-02-13 Audition of Veda Brand: We could find no information whatsoever substantiating either the date or title of this audition. Its existence remains purely anecdotal. While we have every reason to believe that NBC would have required an audition for Pete Kelly's Blues, given its innovative format, we can find no reference to it. [UPDATE: We're becoming increasingly convinced that the circulating Gus Trudeau Rehearsal is actually the audition for Pete Kelly's Blues. See our discussion below for more.]
51-07-04, Program #1: We can prove that the first episode aired over NBC from 19 different newspapers we consulted. But no reference is made in any of them as to the content of this first program, nor the musical numbers to be performed by The Big 7. It remains Unknown for the present.
51-07-11, Program #2, Veda Brand: For years, the AFRTS transcribed Little Jake program occupied the Program #2 position, but we can now determine from contemporaneous newspaper accounts of the plot that Veda Brand was the second program of the run. We've also indicated the two music selections by The Big 7 and Maggie Jackson's solo for the episode. We can go either way with this episode. The 'otr community' seems to want to accept the clearly 'doctored' circulating exemplar of Veda Brand with the announcement of the premiere of Meredith Willson's new program in the close. If they wish to insist that the circulating doctored recording is Episode No. 2, we're willing to go along with that. That way we have eight exemplars instead of seven.
51-07-18, Program #3, The Stockbroker's Daughter: The title, while admittedly anecdotal, is derived directly from the contemporaneous radio listing description for Program #3. We have no exemplar of this episode with which to either confirm or dispute this provisional title.
51-07-25, Program #4, Little Jake: Although the anecdotal title for this program has apparently always been Little Jake, the underlying plot of the program is accurately described in contemporaneous newspaper descriptions as involving some 'hot letters' or gangland papers that are being sought by competing gangland interests. They've been given to Pete Kelly to hold without opening them. Little Jake, the young altar boy accidently killed before the break was, though tragic, only incidental to the underlying plot. There appears to be a growing movement to retitle the Little Jake episode, 'Hot Letters.' While probably still not the title of the original script [if there even was one] Hot Letters is probably the better title for this episode. We would add, however, that we understand the AFRS/AFRTS repository's exemplar of this program is annotated 'Little Jake.'
51-08-01 through 51-08-15, Programs #5 and #7 remain Unknown for the present. We found no contemporaneous descriptions for these programs, nor any exemplar recordings of these programs.
[UPDATE] 51-08-08, Program #6 remains ambiguous for the present. A contemporaneous promo at the end of the Pete Kelly broadcast from 51-08-08 cites an episode of The Falcon, to follow, and a 9:30 airing of the first At Home with Meredith Willson program, an impromptu replacement for The Private Files of Rex Saunders. And indeed, the contemporaneous listings for that timeslot mention the Meredith Willson program replacing Rex Saunders on 51-08-08. We can reasonably surmise that whatever script was to have aired on 51-08-08 was replaced at the last minute. It appears that it was a rebroadcast of the "Veda Brand" program that aired. If it weren't for those two announcements, the order of the two circulating Veda Brand exemplars could never be resolved--despite the underhanded efforts of some of the hobby's most morally challenged vendors. We can understand the confusion, since most circulating exemplars of the rebroadcast of Episode 6 have been altered to eliminate the closing announcement of the debut of the At Home with Meredith Willson program. They simply cut and paste--or cut and splice--the NBC Chimes immediately after the announcement of the availability of the music from the program. Those fortunate enough to possess an intact exemplar can quite easily tell how the bogus circulating episodes were altered.
It appears, for the forseeable future at any rate, that there remain two diametrically opposed movements in the Vintage Radio Collecting hobby: 1.) commercial otr dealers, groups, and book sellers enriching themselves at their clients' unfortunate historical ignorance, and 2.) historical preservationists revealing and defending the rich--and accurate--history of the Golden Age of Radio and its legacy. The nonsense and 'otr lore and hearsay' long associated with Pete Kelly's Blues is a perfect example of the current dichotomy. [Thanks again to Ben Kibler for helping nail down the run sequence for the series]
51-08-21, Program #8R, Gus Trudeau: The existence of this rehearsal has been a point of controversy for some time. Given that the alleged 51-02-13 Audition for Pete Kelly's Blues has yet to surface, it's quite possible that rather than a rehearsal, this program is in fact the audition for Pete Kelly's Blues. What remains indisputable are the distinct differences between this program and its production rendition:
- The scripts are different: The expositional reference at the beginning of the program refers to a piano player named Augie. The broadcast script refers to the Big 7's regular piano player named Rosie.
- In what we refer to as the production, as-broadcast version, the script is set on New Year's Eve, with Pete returning to the stage before being taken aside by Eddie Newman, to play a few bars of Auld Lang Syne at midnight. Revelers in the background are heard saying 'goodbye 1921, hello, 1922.' The audtion [or rehearsal] doesn't set the backdrop of the script on New Year's Eve, nor does Pete return to the stage before being taken aside by Eddie Newman.
- The actors are different: though uncredited, the actor portraying Augie the piano player is Roy Glenn, and the actor portraying Newman is William Conrad.
- The musical selections differ: The Big 7 play "Jazz Me" and "The Blues in B-flat" in the audition [rehearsal] and "Auld Lang Syne", "Sensation" and "The Blues in B-flat" in the as-broadcast version.
51-08-22, Program #8, Gus Trudeau: As indicated above, there are several material differences between the program we cite as the Program #8 Rehearsal for Gus Trudeau, but we reserve the belief that the above referenced recording may very well be the original audition for Pete Kelly's Blues. In any event, the plot for this program is referenced in contemporaneous newspaper descriptions of this program. Our belief that the episode we currently refer to as Program #8, Rehearsal for Gus Trudeau is actually the audition for the series is based on the following train of logic:
- Rosie the Piano Player, had been well established by Program #8. Why then, if the rendition we've been referrring to was a rehearsal for Program #8 would the writers and Webb have changed the name of the already well established piano player from Rosie to Augie? It makes no sense
- What makes more sense is that Program #8, Rehearsal for Gus Trudeau is actually the long believed surviving audition for Pete Kelly's Blues. There'd have been no continuity reason to change a--by then--well established member of the Big 7's name from Rosie to Augie for a rehearsal. But for an audition--fully six months prior to the script for Program #8--it would have made far more sense.
- We're calling the non-broadcast rendition of Gus Trudeau an audtion until proven otherwise.
51-08-29, Program #9, The Young Girl and The Mug: The title for this episode is anecdotal, as it's derived from the description of the program aired this day in contemporaneous newspaper listings. We have no exemplar of this episode with which to either confirm or dispute this provisional title.
51-09-05, Program #10, Zelda: Though also anecdotal, this title is appropriate. Key to the identification of the sequence and chronology of this program is an important provenance immediately following the credits: NBC announces the return of The Great Gildersleeve later that night as part of NBC's Silver Jubilee celebration. The Great Gildersleeve returned to the air after its summer break on September 5, 1951, so the provenance for this dating of Zelda is well supported, as is its program sequencing.
51-09-12, Program #11, Dr. Jonathan Budd and The Dutchman: This title is an almost verbatim description of the program that aired this date in contemporaneous newspaper listings. Some confusion has arisen over the years between this episode and Gus Trudeau, since both refer to a 'Dutchman". In Gus Trudeau it's 'Dutch Courtney' and in this script it's simply, 'The Dutchman'. It's quite possible that both references over the five-script arc refer to the same gangland figure. Be that as it may, this script and the Gus Trudeau script are clearly different scripts. Another point of ambiguation over the years has the program in this sequence anecdotally named 'The Senator'. And in fact this program does make reference to 'The Senator', simply as a throwaway line. 'Red' refers to Dr. Budd as 'The Senator' as slang for a well dressed, well heeled patron, when talking to Pete Kelly. The observation has no further import in the script.
51-09-19, Program #12, June Gould: This title is also anecdotal, but well supported. Its description in contemporaneous newspaper listings supports both its plot and title.
51-09-26, Program #13: This program remains Unknown for the time being. We know of no circulating exemplar of this final episode of the production, nor is any hint given in contemporaneous newspaper listings as to its plot or title.
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Pete Kelly's Blues Biographies
|John Randolph 'Jack' Webb
Radio, Stage, Screen and Television Actor, Radio Disc Jockey, Recording Artist, Producer, Director, and Writer
Birthplace: Santa Monica, CA
Education: Belmont High School, Los Angeles, CA
1945 The Little Man Inside
1946 Spotlight Playhouse
1946 The Jack Webb Show
1946 Are These Our Children?
1946 One Out of Seven
1947 The New Adventures Of Michael Shayne
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1948 Murder and Mr Malone
1948 The Whistler
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 Errand Of Mercy
1948 Guest Star
1948 The Anacin Hollywood Star Theatre
1949 Three For Adventure
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1950 Family Theatre
1950 Night Beat
1950 The Story Of Dr Kildare
1951 Pete Kelly's Blues
1953 The Martin and Lewis Show
1953 The Bob Hope Show
1959 Hollywood Salutes the National Guard
1963 Weekend Sound Flights
1969 The Charlie Greer Show
1969 Special Delivery: Vietnam
Three For Adventure
Mark VII, Limited Productions:
1956-1957 Noah's Ark
1959 The D.A.'s Man
1959 Pete Kelly's Blues
1962-1963 General Electric 'TRUE'
1971-1972 The D.A.
1971-1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury
1972-1974 Hec Ramsey
1975 Mobile One
1978-1979 Project UFO
August 16, 1951 Article on Jack Webb's Work Ethic
Jack Webb ca. 1955
Jack Webb (lower right) at Belmont High School ca. 1938
Jack Webb ca. 1948
Jack Webb as Joe Friday ca. 1951
Jack Webb, providing direction to Ella Fitzgerald, ca 1954
Jack Webb and first wife famed Jazz songstress, Julie London ca 1955
Jack Webb at home with his first daughter, Stacey ca. 1953
Jack Webb, reading a script on set, ca. 1953
Webb, with Peggy Lee and George Jessel at 1953 Cerebral Palsy Fund Raiser
Ben Alexander and Jack Webb confer in the Radio studio for Dragnet, ca. 1953
Jack Webb, resting on a lighting board for the production set of Pete Kelly's Blues, ca. 1955
Jack Webb, ca. 1965
|Born in Santa Monica, California, on April 2, 1920, Jack Webb's father had already left home before his birth and Jack Webb would never know him. John Randolph Webb was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother amidst the poverty immediately preceding the Great Depression.
To make matters worse, Webb suffered from acute asthma from the age of six until his death, despite a cigarette intake that often reached three packs a day throughout his adulthood. Even as a young man, Jack Webb's great passion was movies, and he dreamed of one day directing them. His other passion--Jazz, was the gift of an ex-jazz performer who lived in Webb's Bunker Hill, L.A. apartment building. He gave Webb an LP of the legendary Bix Beiderbecke, the first of over 6,000 jazz recordings Jack Webb would collect over his lifetime.
Jack Webb served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a crewmember of a B-26 Marauder medium bomber during World War II. Upon receiving his discharge, he relocated to San Francisco, working first as a late night disc jockey, then starring in his own radio show, The Jack Webb Show (1946), a half-hour comedy that aired on the West Coast over ABC Radio.
His first acting roles in Radio were in San Francisco-based Monte Masters' Spotlight Playhouse (1946) performing with Masters' wife Natalie Park (later of Candy Matson fame), 1947's The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, and his own Johnny Madero, Pier 23. He would later spin off his Johnny Madero character into Pat Novak for Hire and Jeff Regan, Detective before he refined his crime drama sights to the more realistic and subdued Joe Friday character in Dragnet. Most notable--and personal--of his early projects was One Out of Seven (1946) in which Webb performed all the voices, attacking many social ills of the era, including race prejudice, corrupt politicians, and Red-baiting.
Jack Webb had an extraordinary ear for the 'throwaway line' most often associated with the work of Raymond Chandler. But it was Webb's genius for drolly and cynically delivering those Chandleresque lines, that made every radio program he recorded during that era some of the most often revisited recordings among Golden Age Radio collectors. Nevermind the fact that he was bouncing those memorable, hard-boiled retorts off of the likes of Raymond Burr, William Conrad, Wilms Herbert, Tudor Owen, Herb Butterfield--and yes, even the famous Carlisle Bibbers. Webb's influence continued throughout most of the radio noir genre detective and crime dramas that followed, even though Webb's own Joe Friday character never uttered a Chandleresque line himself during any of the iterations of Dragnet that followed.
Indeed it was a small role as a crime lab technician in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948) that led him to the creation of "Dragnet." Dragnet first aired over NBC radio on June 3, 1949, and moved to TV ("Dragnet" (1951)) on December 16, 1951, where it ran until September 1959. Webb also appeared in the famous Billy Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard (1950) as William Holden's energetic best friend. But it was the influence of the gritty, hyper-realistic He Walked By Night, that linked Webb to Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn of the Los Angeles Police Department. Wynn was a technical consultant for He Walked By Night, and with Wynn's assistance--and entre to legendary LAPD Chief William H. Parker--that Webb mapped out the pains-taking, hyper-realistic model for Dragnet.
Dragnet's ground-breaking influence was being felt in both Radio and Television. Webb's star continued rising fast, and the 1950s saw him become a film director, directing (and starring in) five features: Dragnet (1954), Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), The D.I. (1957), -30- (1959), and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961). Webb's famous--or infamous--attention to the minutest details made him a natural behind the camera, but his last two directorial outings were box office flops.
Jack Webb's personal life was also arcing from the mid-1940s through the 1950s. He met and married beautiful Jazz songstress and actress Julie London, in 1947. The couple had two daughters, Stacey (1950) and Alisa (1952) and Webb was a doting father, albeit greatly compromised for quality time throughout what came to be the most active and demanding years of his professional life.
The compromises inevitably took their toll, and the couple divorced in 1953. Webb would marry three more times during his life; to Dorothy Towne (2 years), Jackie Loughery (6 years), and Opal Wright (2 years). After his divorce from Jackie Loughery in 1964, Webb would remain single until he married Opal Wright in 1980, just two years before his sudden heart attack just before Christmas of 1982.
Webb's return to Television in 1962 led to his appointment as Head of Production for Warner Bros. Television in February 1963. Webb had taken over from William T. Orr as executive producer of the hit ABC detective series 77 Sunset Strip (1958). Webb demanded wholesale changes in the program, retaining only Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., in the role of Stuart Bailey from the previous rotating ensemble cast of Zimbalist, Ed Byrnes, Roger Smith, Louis Quinn, Jaqueline Beer, and Richard Long. The result was a predictable disaster. Its ratings plummeted, and Warner Bros. canceled the Webb-helmed series midway into its sixth season. Apart from the poor box office showing of Webb's two previous films, Webb's reputation as one of Hollywood's wunderkind had continued to rise. The loss of his position with Warner Bros. was the first significant stumble of Webb's career
Following two years of unemployment--and reflection, Universal Studios invited Webb to do a new Dragnet as a TV movie. The result so pleased NBC and Universal that they offered Webb a new Dragnet series--Dragnet 1967. The new, updated series was an almost instant hit, and Dragnet 1967 ran for three seasons, followed by over ten years in syndication. Webb leveraged Dragnet 1967's success into a second hit, Adam-12 (1968), which gave both Jack Webb and his Mark VII, Limited production company a new lease on life. Webb's success developing new television programs with Mark VII continued through the 1970s, right up until the time of his unexpected passing in 1982. Webb's daughter Stacy tragically died in an automobile accident in 1996.
Jack Webb was a tireless champion of both social justice and the peace officers he so respected throughout his adult life. Jack Webb's mark in Radio influenced hundreds of other productions throughout the 1940s and 1950s. His influence on Television is felt to this day.
But for his Radio fans, his body of work--and its far-reaching influence--carries on, generation after generation through the magic of The Golden Age of Radio and the wonderful recordings we've managed to preserve from the era.
|William Conrad [William Cann]
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor, Director, Producer, Narrator
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky
1944 The Whistler
1945 Destination Tomorrow
1946 Dark Venture
1946 Strange Wills
1946 I Deal In Crime
1946 Favorite Story
1946 Cavalcade Of America
1946 Meet Miss Sherlock
1947 Voyage Of the Scarlet Queen
1947 The Adventures Of Philip Marlowe
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1947 Mr President
1947 Lux Radio Theatre
1947 Shorty Bell, Cub Reporter
1948 The New Adventures Of Michael Shayne
1948 Damon Runyon Theatre
1948 The First Nighter Program
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1948 Let George Do It
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 Hallmark Playhouse
1948 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1948 Prudential Family Hour Of Stars
1948 Command Performance
1948 Hawk Larabee
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 Our Miss Brooks
1949 This Is Your FBI
1949 Hollywood Mystery Playhouse
1949 Rocky Jordan
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1949 Box Thirteen
1949 The Green Lama
1949 Dangerous Assignment
1949 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1949 Four Star Playhouse
1949 The Adventures Of the Saint
1949 The Count Of Monte Cristo
1950 The Halls Of Ivy
1950 The Adventures Of Frank Race
1950 Night Beat
1950 Rocky Jordan
1950 Philip Morris Playhouse
1950 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1950 The Story Of Dr Kildare
1950 Broadway Is My Beat
1950 Hollywood Star Playhouse
1951 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
1951 The Man Called X
1951 Tales Of the Texas Rangers
1951 Pete Kelly's Blues
1951 Mr I.A. Moto
1951 The Silent Men
1951 The Railroad Hour
1952 Stars Over Hollywood
1952 The Line-Up
1952 Jason and the Golden Fleece
1952 Tums Hollywood Theatre
1953 Bakers' Theatre Of Stars
1953 The Six-Shooter
1953 Crime Classics
1953 On Stage
1953 Hallmark Hall Of Fame
1953 Fibber McGee and Molly
1954 High Adventure
1955 The Adventures Of Captain Courage
1955 I Was A Communist For the FBI
1955 Mystery Theatre
1956 The Key
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1958 Heartbeat Theatre
The Roy Rogers Show
The Pendleton Story
The Adventures Of Maisie
William Conrad, ca. 1943
William Conrad in Killers (1947)
William Conrad as Matt Dillon, ca. 1953 (Courtesy of Harry Bartell)
William Conrad, for ABC, ca. 1957
William Conrad and Jack Webb, in Webb's Film, --30-- (1959)
Conrad in Cannon publicity still, ca 1971
Bill Conrad, ca. 1972
|William Conrad was born William Cann in Louisville, Kentucky. He started work in radio in the late 1930s in California. During World War II, Conrad served as a fighter pilot. He returned to the airwaves after the war, going on to accumulate over 7,000 roles in radio-by his own estimate. We can attest to at least 2,000--Conrad had been a fighter pilot, after all.
Conrad's deep, resonant voice led to a number of noteworthy roles in radio drama, most prominently his role as the original Marshal Matt Dillon on the Western program Gunsmoke (19521961). For the Gunsmoke purists, we'd remind them that the two actors that technically preceded Conrad in the role--Rye Billsbury and Howard Culver--auditioned as Mark Dillon, not Matt Dillon.
He was considered for the Television role of Matt Dillon when the series was brought to the small screen in 1955, but increasing obesity led to the casting of James Arness instead. As it turned out, relatively few of the other cast members were cast in the TV version.
Other radio programs to which Conrad contributed his talents included The Whistler, Strange Wills, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Johnny Madero, Pier 23, The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, Ellery Queen, The Adventures of Sam Spade, Jeff Regan, Investigator, Let George Do It, Pat Novak for Hire, Escape!, Suspense and The Damon Runyon Theater. One particularly memorable radio role was his breathtaking performance in "Leinengen Vs. The Ants" first heard in the January 14, 1948 broadcast of Escape!, and in a later rendition in the August 25, 1957 Suspense broadcast of "Leinengen Vs. The Ants." Conrad, of course was also memorable as the 'voice' of Escape!.
Conrad's long association with Jack Webb produced some of radio noir's most memorable moments as well. Conrad was heard in every Jack Webb production he ever mounted, and the chemistry between the two of them is one of radio's greatest pairings. From Johnny Madero, Pier 23, to Dragnet--and beyond, the verbal interplay between Conrad and Webb always made for fascinating radio--and Film.
Conrad's possessed an amazing gift for creating bone-chilling Radio characterizations of a seemingly endless array of toughs, gangsters, hard-boiled cops, corporate magnates, and hundreds of other commanding, self-assured, scoundrels and heroes alike. Those roles created a Radio following for him rarely equalled in Radio History. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997.
Among Conrad's various film roles, where he was usually cast as threatening figures, perhaps his most notable role was his first credited one, as one of the gunmen sent to eliminate Burt Lancaster in the 1946 film The Killers. He also appeared in Body and Soul (1947), Sorry, Wrong Number and Joan of Arc (1948), and The Naked Jungle (1954). And again, his characterizations of tough guys, aided by his amazing deep baritone and chillingly authoritative presence made for some of Film Noir's most enduring depictions.
Conrad moved to television in the 1960s, first guest-starring in NBC's science fiction series The Man and the Challenge. Conrad guest-starred--and directed-episodes of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors! (1962). Indeed, both Conrad and the legendary Sam Peckinpah directed episodes of NBC's Klondike (19601961). He returned to voice work, most notably as narrator of The Fugitive (19631967) and as the director of Brainstorm (1965).
Conrad is as fondly remembered for his voice work in Animation. He narrated the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle series from 195964 (as "Bill Conrad"), and later performed the role of Denethor in the animated Television version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Return of the King (1980).
The 1970s brought him further small-screen success with leading roles in Cannon (1971-1976), Nero Wolfe (1981) and Jake and The Fat Man (1987-1990). Conrad was also the on-camera spokesman for First Alert fire prevention products for many years, as well as Hai Karate men's cologne.
Conrad's credits as a director include episodes of The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, Have Gun, Will Travel, and 77 Sunset Strip, among others, and feature films such as Two on a Guillotine.
Conrad had one son, Christopher, with his first wife, Susie. When Susie died after thirty years of marriage, Conrad married Tippy Stringer Huntley, a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park and widow of famed former NBC newscaster Chet Huntley.
Conrad died from congestive heart failure on February 11, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. He is interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in the Lincoln Terrace.
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor, Director, Producer
Birthplace: Wales, U.K.
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 Chandu the Magician
1949 NBC University Theater
1949 Family Theater
1949 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1949 Lux Radio Theatre
1950 The Adventures Of Philip Marlowe
1950 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1950 Night Beat
1950 Presenting Charles Boyer
1950 The Story Of Doctor Kildare
1951 The Adventures Of the Saint
1951 The Pendleton Story
1951 Stars Over Hollywood
1952 Hallmark Playhouse
1952 Crime Classics
1953 Errand Of Mercy
1953 Hallmark Hall Of Fame
Tudor Owen as Bishop Minter in The Lone Wolf (1954)
Tudor Owen as Don Pedro Miguel Hernandez Santiago O'Sullivan in The Return of Don Pedro O'Sullivan from The Lone Ranger (1956)
Tudor Owen in The Case of The Malicious Mariner from Perry Mason (1961)
Tudor Owen in Perry Mason (1961)
|Though born and raised in turn of the century Wales, proud Welchman Tudor Owen clearly wasn't above portraying Scots and Irishmen for the vast majority of his career.
To the last couple of generations of TV and film viewers, Tudor Owen is simply ''one of those Irish guys who used to be on TV and in the movies''. To dyed in the wool character actor aficionados, Tudor Owen's brilliant, and almost always highly sympathetic characterizations of ethnic British Empire characters, were always examples of understated acting craft, personified.
Though he could be bombastic in any role he chose--on Television and Film anyway, his mere presence in the cast could be intimidating. But in almost every instance, once Tudor Owen made his entrance the viewer knew he or she was in for an interesting ride, irrespective of the actual duration of Owen's performance.
Tudor Owen's Radio fans, by contrast, had known that about Owen for well over a decade by then. Though the breadth and depth of Tudor Owen's radiography spans the entire second half of The Golden Age of Radio, Tudor Owen's most ardent fans almost certainly refer to his work with Jack Webb as some of Owen's most memorable performances. Tudor Owen appeared with Webb in Johnny Madero (Father Leahy), Pat Novak for Hire ('Jocko' Madigan), and Pete Kelly's Blues (Barney Rickett). Though playing four different characters, Tudor Owen's basic role in each of the Webb vehicles was almost the same: Jack Webb's conscience, advisor, and severest critic.
The remainder of Tudor Owen's Radio work genuinely ran the gamut of West Coast drama. He made numerous repeat appearances in University Theatre, Escape, Suspense, Family Theatre, Lux Radio Theatre, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Crime Classics and The Lone Ranger--in all, some 1,200 appearances in Radio over a relatively short, 9-year career.
Tudor Owen was reported to have been appearing in Stage plays throughout the North Bay area of California through the 1920s and 1930s. But it was Owen's Film and Television work that occupied the lion's share of his time throughout The Golden Age of Television years. And although Tudor Owen actually appeared in his first credited Film in 1926, it wasn't until almost 22 years later, in 1948, that Owen acquired his next Film credit--the first of the forty that followed--in The Pilgrimage Play (1949) as Nicodemus. Owen's absence from the public spotlight for those missing twenty-two years is probably a fascinating tale in itself.
Between the 1950s and the mid-1960s, he added another 100+ Television credits to his 40+ Film credits. Seen in virtually every prime time, popular, recurring drama series, Tudor Owen found himself even more in demand on Television than in Film. An inveterate scene-stealer, Owen could clearly suppress his often overwhelming personality when the script called for it. But his most emblematic performances were as irrascible Irish -- Scots -- Welch scoundrels who, by script's end, whether a villain or hero, captured the imagination of every viewer watching him.
Tudor Owen's longest running recurring role was as first mate ''Elihu Snow'' in the South Seas adventure series Captain David Grief (1957-1960), based on the stories of Jack London. Saturday morning Television fans from the 1950s may remember Owen as Sgt. Tim O'Gara in My Friend Flicka (1956) for several episodes.
Owen appears to have retired from Acting in the mid-1960s. He passed away in 1979 at the age of 81. To those readers who knew Tudor Owen's name only from Radio, we hope we've helped you place a background and face with this fine, underrecognized character actor. For those of you who may be only recent fans of Tudor Owen you can now fit a 'face' to all of his amazing characterizations over Radio.
And for all of us, this simple reminder of the timelessness of Tudor Owen's performances-- and his ability to make us smile--continue to remind us of the natural genius of his portrayals, on big screen, small screen, or no screen.
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