The Radio Debut of Boston Blackie (maybe?)

January 9, 2018 at 9:43 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As discussed in my entry from February 29, 2016 (“Tune in For Boston Blackie”), Jack Boyle’s best loved law-breaker stole into the world of radio in 1944.  Chester Morris transported the character from the movie screen to the airwaves in an NBC summer series which premiered on June 23, 1944.

Or did he?  The following item from the March 19, 1943 edition of The Shreveport Times suggests that Boston Blackie may actually have seen his radio debut more than a year before the premiere of his weekly series:

By 1943, Chester Morris had been portraying Blackie for two years in a popular series of b-movies for Columbia Pictures.  And newspapers confirm that in March of that year he made an appearance on NBC’s west coast comedy series The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show (clearly to promote the Columbia films).  But this announcement’s references to “Boston Blackie” (in quotations) makes it unclear whether Morris’ guest appearance was as Blackie or himself.  An alternate piece from the same day’s edition of The Tucscon Daily Citizen mentions Blackie only as Morris’ most famous role:

Unless a recording of the March 19, 1943 installment of The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show (or at least a script) surfaces someday, we may never know if the episode truly featured the radio debut of Boston Blackie, or simply a visit from Chester Morris.  Either way, the broadcast was obviously a direct result of the Columbia film series, and marks Morris’ earliest promotion of Blackie in the medium radio.  For that reason alone, The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show deserves a special footnote in the history of Boston Blackie.

Tommy Riggs & Betty Lou (November 1938)

Deepest thanks to vintage radio researcher extraordinaire Karl Schadow for bringing this “forgotten” bit of Boston Blackie history to my attention.  I’m indebted to you.

JBF  1/9/18

 

 

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