Candy Matson was no GIRL detective…she was all woman. Candy Matson was a response to all the hard-boiled detectives on the radio like Jeff Regan, Rocky Fortune, Pat Novak, and all those other detectives who were beaten up on a regular basis.
Candy, played by Natalie Parks, was hard-boiled in her own way. She never compromised her femininity but she did know how to use a gun and didn’t hesitate to use when it was necessary. She didn’t take any guff from the guys–the good guys or the bad guys. With a snappy comeback, she could take anybody’s head off. Candy was fearless, never hesitating to go wherever she needed to solve a case from the lowest dive to the classiest night club. Candy worked hard to get her goon.
Men orbited around her like she was the sun. Her best friend and partner in detection was Rembrandt Watson, a flamboyant photographer. All private detectives need a police detective foil and, in Candy’s case, that Lt. Ray Mallard. It didn’t hurt that Mallard was easy on the eyes (plus she and the good detective dated).
Candy Matson aired on NBC from 1949 until 1951 and was a regional success. Natalie Park Masters starred as Candy and her husband, Monty wrote the show.
Head over to Old Time Radio to check out more Candy Matson plus those other intrepid old-time radio detectives like Richard Diamond, Sam Spade, Nero Wolfe, Nick Carter, Master Detective, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator and many more detectives!
The first thing you hear is phone ring followed by a distinctly feminine voice answering “Hello. YUkon 28209. Yes, this is Candy Matson.” That phone call is the beginning of an adventure that starts at Candy’s apartment on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and can go anywhere, meeting any kind of people.
Candy was the opposite of what many people expected from a woman in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She was a woman with a career and it wasn’t a traditional secretarial career–she chose to fight crime as a private detective…a gumshoe…a shamus. Unlike Jeff Regan, there was no $10-a-day plus expenses. Ever practical, Candy, who was a former model, charged her clients enough to keep her in the Telegraph Hill apartment, driving a very nice car, and in lovely clothes. And she wasn’t shy about telling her clients exactly that.
Women detectives weren’t very common on the radio. You might hear a woman police detective on a show like Dragnet but they were less than common as the star of a radio show. According to Old Time Radio Dame Detectives web page, there were over 120 detective shows featuring men but only find eight shows featuring a woman.
As a model and a pretty woman she was probably accustomed to people underestimating her so she used it to her advantage, often turning the tables on friends and prey alike. Flirting was another tool she used to her advantage, using it unabashedly on anyone she needed to get what she wanted.
Candy was aware of her sexuality and didn’t even try to hide it. You can’t say that she celebrated it but she definitely didn’t shy away from it. She treated her sensuality like just another tool in her bag of tricks. Can you call Candy a femme fatale? Possibly. But when you think of a femme fatale in the detective genre, they seem to be aloof, cold users. Candy is not at all aloof. When she interacts with people, Candy is engaged whether she is bantering with her friends, flirting with the detective, or badgering a witness for information.
Candy’s boyfriend was police detective Lt. Ray Mallard. In spite of the crush, Candy didn’t feel the need to defer to Mallard. Quite the opposite. It almost seems like she was in competition with Mallard, often solving the case first. Being a confident woman, Candy didn’t feel the need to boost Mallard’s ego by hiding her light under a box.
Candy Matson was an extension of the woman who emerged during World War II radio . The strong woman who stepped out of the kitchen or the secretarial pool to do what needed to be done. It was hard for many women to go back to that life when the war was over. Candy represented that independent woman.
Candy worked with her best friend and sidekick, Rembrandt Watson. Rembrandt accompanied Candy on many of her adventures though he was pretty useless in a fight. He did, however, provide a lot of comic relief.
In the audition episode, titled “The Donna Durham Case”, Rembrandt was written as a failed, drunken fashion photographer. When the show was picked up for broadcast, he was rewritten to still be a photographer but he was no longer a drunk. He also gained expert knowledge on many esoteric subjects.
There is much speculation that Rembrandt was gay because he exhibited many stereotypical gay behaviors. He was portrayed as an effeminate, opera-loving man who didn’t mind Candy paying his way. Many believe that Rembrandt Watson was a nod to the San Francisco gay community as thanks for being loyal listeners.
Lt. Ray Mallard was Candy’s police detective boyfriend. They often found themselves working on the same cases, with Candy solving the case before Mallard. Mallard constantly underestimated Candy, like many people she encountered. The final episode ends insipidly with Mallard asking Candy to marry him and she never has to work again. It was probably because he didn’t have to compete with her any longer.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The creator behind Candy Matson was Monty Masters (previously Monty Mohn). Originally, he wrote the show as a starring vehicle for himself but his mother-in-law convinced him to rewrite the show for a woman. The perfect Candy Matson lived in the same house with him–his wife, Natalie Park Masters.
Monty and Natalie were fixtures in the San Francisco area. They were actors in the area for over 15 years before Candy Matson. Monty took great care to pay homage to the city by including local landmarks in and around San Francisco. In return, Candy Matson was the most popular show on the West Coast.
During the run of the show, 1949 to 1951, Monty wrote or supervised the writing on all 93 episodes. Unfortunately, there are only 14 audio episodes that anyone can find though 81 scripts are archived. The show, however, never gained the national success the Masters desired. It aired on NBC and never had a consistent sponsor. If a show didn’t have a regular sponsor, NBC tended to move it from time slot to time slot. As a result, Candy Matson was considered more of a regional success.
Of all the female detective shows, Candy is considered the best. Not because the show was the best of bad choices but because Candy the character was an engaging, sassy, take no prisoners type of woman. A woman who did just fine in a man’s world.