I Love a Mystery

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I Love a Mystery cast (l to r): Russell Thorson (who portrayed Jack Packard) watches Athena Lord (as Jerri Booker) and Jim Boles (Doc). In real life, Lord and Boles were married.

I Love a Mystery is an American radio drama series that aired 1939–44, about three friends who ran a detective agency and traveled the world in search of adventure. Distinguished by the high octane scripting of Carlton E. Morse, the program was the polar opposite of Morse's other success, the long-running One Man's Family.

The central characters, Jack Packard, Doc Long, and Reggie York, met as mercenary soldiers fighting the Japanese in China. Later, they met again in San Francisco, where they decided to form the A-1 Detective Agency. Their motto was "No job too tough, no adventure too baffling." The agency served as a plot device to involve the trio in a wide variety of stories. These straddled the genres of mystery, adventure, and supernatural horror, and the plotlines often took them to exotic locales. Over the years, Jack was played by Michael Raffetto, Russell Thorson, Jay Novello, Jim Bannon, and John McIntire. Doc was played by Barton Yarborough and Jim Boles. Reggie was portrayed by Walter Paterson and Tony Randall. The agency's secretary, Jerry Booker, was played by Gloria Blondell.[1] After Paterson committed suicide in 1942, his friend Morse could not bear to recast the role and Reggie was written out of the series. In later shows, Jerry's role was increased, and she replaced Reggie.

Broadcast history[edit]

Sponsored by Fleischmann's Yeast, I Love a Mystery first aired on the NBC West Coast network from January 16 to September 29, 1939, weekdays at 3:15pm Pacific time, and then moved to the full NBC network from October 2, 1939 to March 29, 1940, airing weeknights at 7:15pm.

In 1940, it expanded to 30-minute episodes from April 4 to June 27 on NBC Thursdays at 8:30pm. Continuing on the Blue Network from September 30, 1940 to June 29, 1942, it was heard Mondays and Wednesdays at 8pm.

Procter & Gamble (for Oxydol and Ivory Soap) replaced Fleishmann's Yeast as the sponsor in the series broadcast by CBS from March 22, 1943 to December 29, 1944 with 15-minute episodes heard weeknights at 7pm.

Revivals[edit]

After a four-year lapse, Jack, Reggie, and Doc returned in 1948 with a title change to I Love Adventure, broadcast on ABC from April 25 to July 18, 1948. It followed the post-war adventures of the trio who worked for the Twenty-One Old Men of 10 Gramercy Park in London, an extra-governmental organization of some power. I Love Adventure ran for 13 episodes.

A year later, I Love a Mystery was revived on the Mutual Broadcasting System, and the production relocated from Hollywood to New York. This series, which was on sustaining, began October 3, 1949, and continued until December 26, 1952, with 15-minute episodes heard weeknights at 7pm during 1949-50 and then 10:15pm from 1950 to 1952. The Mutual series recreated the original scripts written by Morse for the earlier NBC series.

Reconstructed versions[edit]

In 1989, Episodes 8-15 of "The Temple of Vampires" were recreated for Bud Carey's Old Radio Theater on KALW with Frank Knight, Pat Franklin, Nicky Emmanuel and Rosemary Leever.[2]

"The Fear That Creeps Like A Cat", the serial preceding "The Thing That Cries in the Night", was completely recreated in 1996 by Jim Harmon Productions starring Les Tremayne as "Jack Packard", Tony Clay as "Doc Long", Frank Bresee as "Reggie York", and Fred Foy as "The Announcer".

Story situations and characters[edit]

Tough, charismatic group leader Jack is usually the first to figure solutions to the mysteries. Jack has more of an edge than the typical radio hero of the period. He distrusts the attractive women who always seem to show up, and he professes to dislike women in general. The series' writer claimed that Jack's problems with women had to do with his youth. He had gotten a girl pregnant and had to leave his home town in shame. This was only a back story detail and was never made explicit on the show. Doc and Reggie are slightly less edgy characters. The Texas-born Doc is a hard-fighting, boastful, high-spirited character who provides comic relief. Reggie, an Englishman noted for his great strength, however, usually shied away from the fairer sex.

Morse, regarded as one of the best writers in radio, took delight in creating vividly imagined settings for the show and elaborate, often bizarre and at times over-the-top plots. In a medium whose heroes tended to be serious and strait-laced, he created three who were wonderfully reckless and exuberant. Jack, Doc, and Reggie were more interested in the thrill of adventure than in righting wrongs. When they collected a fee, their only goal was to spend it as quickly as possible.

Controversy[edit]

  • Actor Peter Lorre once sent Morse a letter threatening legal action because a character named Michel in two of the serials sounded like Lorre. Morse dropped the character from the series shortly after.
  • "The Temple of the Vampires" was the first serial to cause concerned parents to write letters to the network expressing concern about its effect upon children.
  • When Walter Patterson committed suicide, the character of Reggie was written out of the series, but he was mentioned by name two years later.

Theme music[edit]

Valse Triste by Jean Sibelius was the program's theme music. During the show's Mutual run, its opening was a train approaching a grade crossing sounding its horn full-tilt.

Epilogue[edit]

It was announced that in 2009 Audio Cinema Entertainment, Inc. had gotten the blessings of the Morse Estate to do recreations of the full series based on the Hollywood run.

Surviving serials[edit]

Despite the popularity of the program, few series have survived in a listenable state.

Series as survived in their entirety[edit]

  • "The Thing That Cries in the Night"
  • "Bury Your Dead, Arizona".

Series as survived in part[edit]

(Several or all episodes of the following series are missing, but recreations have been made.)

  • "Fear Creeps Like a Cat"[3] (All episodes are recreations.)
  • "The Temple of Vampires"[3] (Episodes 8-15 are recreations.)

(Several episodes of the following series are missing, hence explaining plot holes in surviving copies)

  • "The Million Dollar Curse"
  • "Battle of the Century"
  • "The Hermit of San Felipe Atabapo"

Series log[edit]

Film, TV and comics adaptations[edit]

A 1945 mystery film called I Love A Mystery starred Jim Bannon as Jack, Barton Yarborough as Doc, George Macready, and Nina Foch. Reggie did not appear in the movies as he had been written out of the radio series. The movie was about a man who seeks protection after he predicts his own death in three days. Two more movies in the series starring Bannon and Yarborough followed in 1946: The Devil's Mask and The Unknown.

Also, Jim Bannon starred in a fourth ILAM theatrical movie—sort of—when The Fear That Creeps Like A Cat was adapted as The Missing Juror. The names Jack Packard, etc. were dropped and Bannon played a Packard-like character named Joe Keats.

A TV movie produced in 1967 starred Les Crane as Jack, David Hartman as Doc, and Hagan Beggs as Reggie. After being shelved for six years, NBC aired the movie in 1973.

I Love a Mystery was an influence in the development of the long-running Hanna-Barbera franchise Scooby-Doo in its early stages of development as a live-action series under the working titles Mysteries Five and Who's Scared?

The radio show was also adapted in a comic book version by Don Sherwood. [4]

References[edit]

Notes

External links[edit]

Audio