This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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RADIO'S CLUMSY COUNTERFEITS
by Jack French
(From Radio Recall, February 2004)
The philosopher, Charles Caleb Colton, said that “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery” and if that’s true, many programs in the Golden Age of Radio were flattered by their competitors.
WXYZ brought The Green Hornet to the air in 1936 and soon after that a new comic book hero arrived, The Blue Beetle. This impersonator became a syndicated program in 1940 and even his musical theme sounded like that of The Green Hornet. In the 30s, a crime fighter with mysterious powers acquired in the Orient, The Shadow, soon became very popular on Mutual. Then in 1949, CBS came out with its counterfeit, The Green Lama, who also had mysterious powers from the Orient.
Some of married couple radio sleuths were derived from Nick and Nora Charles, including Mr. and Mrs. North, whose series was a mirror image of The Thin Man. While Pat and Jean Abbott (the creation of mystery novelist Frances Crane) owed nothing to the above couples, The Abbotts on NBC, were copied exactly in Mutual’s It’s A Crime, Mr. Collins, including paraphrasing Crane’s words.
Teleways, Inc. specialized in syndicating copycat programs. They distributed an imitation of WLW’s Moon River, which they called Moon Dreams. Borrowing from Mutual’s Crime Files of Flamond, they had their own version entitled Danger, Dr. Danfield. When NBC’s Adventures of Sam Spade went off the air in 1951, ABC resurrected it under the title, Crime Letter From Dan Dodge.