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THE GREEN HORNET  

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The first three broadcasts of The Green Hornet were presented as a Friday evening offering beginning January 31, 1936, over all seven stations of the Michigan Radio Network. The name of the program, The Adventures of the Hornet, was changed to The Green Hornet beginning with the fourth episode, at which time the series was heard twice a week, Friday and Sunday evenings. While a few historians theorized that the first three broadcasts doubled as audition performances for potential sponsors, this appears to be inaccurate. The series initially replaced Manhunters in its weekly time slot.

Both Trendle and Striker, separately, held firm in their belief that a radio program with the same earmarks as The Lone Ranger would assure the network commercial success. Local sponsors in the listening area were probably notified about the broadcasts, and a number of marketing executives and company presidents may have heard the dramas to consider sponsorship, though it would not be until November 1936 that the Detroit Creamery inked a deal to sponsor the show.

This article includes excerpts from the recent publication, The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television (2010, OTR Publishing) by Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson. Reprinted with permission. For more details about the book, please visit Amazon.com.

Those reading the script to the premiere episode and seeking an origin of The Green Hornet (how he created the gas gun, the construction of the Black Beauty, etc.) may feel disappointed. No origin was explained other than Britt Reid’s comments from that memorable 1947 broadcast. Instead, the premiere episode introduced us to the characters of Britt Reid (spelled “Reed” for the first two broadcasts) and Kato (spelled “Cato” also for the first two broadcasts), who’s nationality was Japanese from the very beginning. An advertisement in a Detroit newspaper heralding the premiere of The Green Hornet revealed Kato’s nationality as Japanese. Striker himself wrote two drafts of the premiere broadcast. The first draft (the version not aired over the airwaves) failed to mention Kato’s nationality. The second draft was the one dramatized and his Japanese origin was clearly explained by Britt as he introduced Kato to Mike Axford. Axford himself needed no introduction because he had already been a staple figure in the Manhunters program which concluded the week before over the same network and time slot.

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 The premiere also introduced the radio audience to the gas gun because Britt Reid was not above using firearms, but like The Lone Ranger, he would not resort to inflicting pain or murder. The gas gun was described as emitting a bit of liquid like a toy water pistol and giving Reid the advantage of being silent. It gave an instant but quite harmless nap to the person who received the liquid from it, described in one early episode as “sweet smelling.” In later episodes, Striker had apparently written out the water pistol aspect and replaced it with glass capsules that exploded upon impact, releasing an otherwise harmless gas that rendered victims unconscious (also seen in The Green Hornet Strikes! in 1940). There are a number of later episodes in which villains described a small cloud of gas, which was also depicted on the television series.

The equivalent of “the great horse Silver” was the black car which The Hornet used to make his getaway. Unlike the cliffhanger serial, comics and television series, Kato rarely drove the Black Beauty on the radio program unless it was necessary, such as luring police away from a scene so The Green Hornet could enter a building under police surveillance or when Kato remained at the wheel so The Green Hornet could make a speedy getaway.

Instead of silver bullets, The Green Hornet left behind stickers with a hornet insignia at the scenes of their supposed crimes. In later episodes, these stickers were referred to as a “Hornet seal.” Kato also created a hand-carved jade ring. When The Hornet pushed the ring into the ink pad and then onto paper, an image of a Hornet was left behind. Reid accepted the ring gladly and put it to use almost immediately in the sixth broadcast of the series. When visiting a crook late one evening, The Hornet left an imprint on the crook’s pajamas. Use of the ring was dropped after a few months.

Green Hornet Comic

The Hornet also had a distinct laugh in the first episode that would ultimately be dropped before episode 30. His laugh was clearly noted in episode 26, but questionable in episode 28 and 29. It occurred only once more in episode 61, broadcast September 6, 1936, when the Hornet phoned Blandon, whose safe he had just cracked open an hour before. Described as a “mocking laugh” by the announcer in the fourth episode, it was used more to tease than to frighten his victims. Eventually, the mocking laugh was replaced by the buzzing sound of the Black Beauty, which the police and Mike Axford would associate with The Green Hornet as he sped away from the scene of the crime.

The character of Miss Case was featured as a female secretary in the first two episodes but never referred to by name and limited to a few brief lines. She was finally referred to by name as Miss Case by episode nine, but oddly, she was referred to as Miss Scott in episode 10, then changed back to Miss Case afterward. (Episode 12 listed her as Miss Scott, but Striker had penciled her name out and changed it to Miss Case.) It’s unknown if he was dissatisfied with the name of Case and changed it to Scott for episode 10, then quickly changed his mind.

Because the first two years of The Green Hornet were never transcribed, there does not exist any recordings from 1936 to 1938 (except for three experimental broadcasts from May of 1938). Very little, if anything, is known about those early broadcasts except for what appeared in newspapers publicizing the franchise from 1966 to 1967. William Dozier, producer of the television program, encouraged Trendle to promote The Green Hornet for any trade paper that sought interest. Fran Striker passed away a few years previous, leaving just Trendle and his former legal counsel, Raymond Meurer, to tell the story as they saw fit. Meurer’s recollections, however, were grossly inaccurate. Trendle, having read the interview, sent a letter to his old friend, advising him not to talk to any reporters regarding The Green Hornet, fearing more mistakes would appear in print. The damage, however, had already been made.     CONTINUE




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