Old Time Radio & the Hunt for Nero Wolfe

by Steve Hood

With absolute respect for those who know these much better than I do with more time and experience, I bow to their infinite wisdom and say thank you for the clues that have somehow lead me on yet another, at times, head-splitting project. I have, somehow, managed to pull most of what’s available on-line (and chances are other clues still have yet to be discovered off-line).

Simply put: this is Old Time Radio & the Hunt for Nero Wolfe.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? At first it does, since regardless of your favorite site, most of the airtime shows stay remarkably the same to the list of what’s available. And with that, let’s be specific to the actual show runs (it’s far easier to lump everything together as everyone seems to do, but defeats the purpose of the individual series, and this article strives to be informational).

There’s a total of four (4) radio shows designed around Nero Wolfe (and it’s the first and the third that are usually misrepresented). Some might try to argue this, but believe it or not (and after an exhaustive search), I finally managed to pull the star cast list. This is the breakdown:

 

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe (April 7, 1943 – July 14, 1944)

*ABC (New England Network)
04/07/43 – 06/30/43
*ABC 07/05/43 – 09/27/43*ABC 01/21/44 – 07/14/44
*Wednesday            *Monday 8:30pm      *Friday 7:00pm
*Cast: J.B. Williams            *Cast: Santos Ortega   *Cast: Santos Ortega
  *Cast: Luis van Rooten

Interestingly enough, it’s Santos Ortega who’s identified primarily with this first broadcast run (as since of the three actors who voiced Wolfe, he remained for the longest duration). However, the broadcast series should be documented in its whole rather in a part to include the work of both J.B. Williams and Luis van Rooten.

This is pretty much the way to identify the first broadcast run of this detective radio mystery show. Depending on how one chooses to break down the timeline, there’s a grand total of roughly fifty-eight (58) episodes that compromises The Adventures of Nero Wolfe (or ANW, which is how it will be referenced from here on out).

With J.B. Williams: about 12 episodes

With Santos Ortega: 12 episodes (July – September 1943)

With Santos Ortega & Luis van Rooten: 34 episodes (January through July 1944)

All we have to go on at the moment is the only available episode, "The Last Laugh Murder Cause", which aired sometime in 1944 with Santos Ortega and we’re not entirely sure when Ortega left and was replaced with van Rooten.

Which means there’s a rough estimate of about sixty (60) episodes for the first run series from the original 4/7/43 broadcast to the 7/14/44 broadcast.

Partial Episode Guide

Ep. #??   44/xx/xx – The Last Laugh Murder Case      (Santos Ortega)

 

*The New Adventures of (a.k.a. the Amazing) Nero Wolfe (1945 – Dec. 15, 1946)

*Jergens, Mut. (1945 – 12/15/46)

*Sun (Not in New York)

* Cast: Francis X. Bushman

We mark The Amazing Nero Wolfe by the actor who voiced the character, Francis X. Bushman. Absolutely nothing is known at this point of any of the episodes or the airdates (which will be subject to change as more information is acquired).

Now interestingly enough, The Shakespeare Portfolio could be considered the first episode of The Amazing Nero Wolfe (or AMNW), or the very last of ANW, depending on how one interprets the known data. Bushman is listed as voicing Nero Wolfe from 1945 – 1946, so there’s call for speculation at this point until more is known.

*There are 6 shows currently available including the 46/12/15 broadcast.

Stars: Francis X. Bushman (1945-46)

   (Partial?) Episode Guide

Ep. #??      46/12/15 – The Shakespeare Portfolio (or The Missing Book)

 

 

The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (1950 – 1951)

*Plymouth, NBC

* Friday 8:00pm

* Cast: Sidney Greenstreet

This is the most accessible and easily recognized run of all of the Nero Wolfe radio shows, as it’s the one most commonly found with those of us who love and like listening to Old Time Radio. We know this by the actor who voiced the part, Sidney Greenstreet.

Of all three of these series, it’s best loved by the fans of both Nero Wolfe as well as the old time radio dramatizations of Nero Wolfe. The best part about this particular series run is we have a complete episode list so we know exactly how many episodes there are:

   Episode Guide

Ep. #01   50/10/20 – Stamped for Murder

Ep. #02   50/10/27 – The Case of the Care Worn Cuff

Ep. #03   50/11/03 – The Case of the Dear Dead Leady

Ep. #04   50/11/10 – The Case of the Headless Hunter**

Ep. #05   50/11/17 – The Case of the Careless Cleaner

Ep. #06   50/11/24 – The Case of the Beautiful Archer

Ep. #07   50/12/01 – The Case of the Brave Rabbit

Ep. #08   50/12/08 – The Case of the Impolite Corpse

Ep. #09   50/12/15 – The Girl Who Cried Wolfe

Ep. #10   50/12/22 – The Case of the Slaughtered Santa Clauses

Ep. #11   50/12/29 – The Case of the Bashful Body

Ep. #12   51/01/05 – The Case of the Deadly Sell Out

Ep. #13   51/01/12 – The Case of the Killer Cards

Ep. #14   51/01/19 – The Case of the Calculated Risk

Ep. #15   51/01/26 – The Case of the Phantom Fingers

Ep. #16   51/02/02 – The Case of the Vanishing Shells

Ep. #17   51/02/16 – The Case of the Party of Death

Ep. #18   51/02/23 – The Case of the Malevolent Medic

Ep. #19   51/03/02 – The Case of the Hasty Will

Ep. #20   51/03/09 – The Case of the Disappearing Diamond

Ep. #21   51/03/16 – The Case of the Midnight Ride

Ep. #22   51/03/23 – The Case of the Final Page

Ep. #23   51/03/30 – The Case of the Tell Tale Ribbon

Ep. #24   51/04/06 – A Slight Case of Perjury

            (a.k.a. The Case of the Shot in the Dark)

Ep. #25   51/04/20 – The Case of the Lost Heir

Ep. #26   51/04/27 – The Case of Room 304

**In The Case of the Headless Hunter, for some reason that hasn’t been explained to me, it seems to be the missing episode out of all of the rest of these wonderfully preserved radio dramas. Why that is, I have absolutely no idea but given that every other episode is accessible, it stands to reason the Headless Hunter episode is as well (or until proven otherwise).

 

Nero Wolfe (January 16, 1982 – April 10, 1982)

CBC (01/16/82 – 04/10/82)

Cast: Mayver Moore

Something should be explained about this gem of a run, since we have the Canadian Broadcasting Company (or CBC) to thank for these brilliantly executed radio dramas. The CBC adapted some of the short stories from Rex Stout’s short works to make this thirteen (13) episode series, which is considered some of the finest radio work for it’s one (1) hour show format. We have Mayver Moore voicing the lead.

   Episode Guide

Ep. #01   82/01/16 – Disguise for Murder

Ep. #02   82/01/23 – Before I Die

Ep. #03   82/01/30 – Counterfeit for Murder

Ep. #04   82/02/06 – Cop Killer

Ep. #05   82/02/13 – Christmas Party

Ep. #06   82/02/20 – Cordially Invited to Meet Death

Ep. #07   82/02/27 – Man Alive

Ep. #08   82/03/06 – Instead of Evidence

Ep. #09   82/03/13 – Eeny, Meeny, Murder Mo

Ep. #10   82/03/20 – The Squirt and the Monkey

Ep. #11   82/03/27 – The Next Witness

Ep. #12   82/04/03 – Death of a Demon

Ep. #13   82/04/10 – Murder is No Joke

 

 

I will be tinkering with this article as I come across more information in regards to the individual broadcast series. My sincere thanks to Jay Hickerson for providing the network information and corrections to the cast/date timeline.

If you have any additional information/corrections, please feel free to contact me at hoodsdavidscott@sbcglobal.net.

 

* These notations are additions/corrections to the information I had, provided by and credited to Jay Hicks from the 8/1/05: 5:41am PST email.

** Personal commentary that bears further investigation.

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