Somewhere, hidden deep in the offices of the Old Time Radio Networks, in a place where only writers go, there must have been an office dedicated to the Creation of the Perfect Radio Detective. Posted on the wall of the office would have been the Rules for the Perfect Radio Detective, and perhaps an honor roll of the programs that managed to capture these elements. An unlikely addition to that roll would have been Casey, Crime Photographer.
The first of these crucial elements is that the perfect Radio Detective is Different from Every Other Radio Detective. Next is that even if the Radio Detective is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, he will be sharper than any cops he comes across, if not the crooks. The Perfect Radio Detective does not have to come from the same gritty world his foes do, but it doesn’t hurt. He does not even need a well defined sense of Right and Wrong like the Superman or The Lone Ranger. In fact, it might even get in his way. He will find a sidekick useful. He may or may not enjoy the regular attention of a lovely young woman, if there is not a regularly occurring feminine character in his world, then trouble is bound to follow the new ladies who come in and out of his life on a weekly basis. Hard drink is usually a way to dull life’s various pains, and an appreciation for Jazz music is an enormous plus.
Casey, Crime Photographer, came to the airwaves from the pages of pulp fiction, and he brought the many elements of the Perfect Radio Detective with him. Author George Harmon Coxe grew up in Upstate New York, and attended Purdue and Cornell Universities before moving to the West Coast to work in newspapers. Beginning in 1922, Coxe began publishing short fiction in various genres to help pay the bills. In 1934, Black Mask Magazine introduced the character Coxe would become best remembered for. Coxe drew upon his journalistic background to create the news photographer “Flashgun” Casey.
While still on the pulp pages, Casey kept a bottle of hooch in his desk drawer and was confident in his ability to put a .38 slug where he thought it should go, although he was more likely depend on the “two big fists he knew how to use”.
Casey, whose given name was never revealed, lost some of his grittiness when he came to the airwaves, but none of his intelligence or determination. He specialized in photographing major crimes for the Morning Express newspaper. Pretty reporter Ann Williams’ job was to get the stories, but her Photographer was the brains of the team. Police Captain Logan was usually a friend of the newspaper team, instead of getting in the way of their pursuit of justice as most cops did for Hardboiled Detectives.
In between stories, Casey and Ann would while away the hours at their favorite watering hole, the Blue Note. The tavern always had great jazz on tap, which must have brought in a decent amount of business. It was needed to make up for the long overdue tab run up by Casey. (Casey and Ann’s chief source of nourishment was the free pretzels set out by Ethelbert the bartender.)
Matt Crowley first brought the role of Casey to the airwaves. Staats Cosworth took over the role in late 1943. Jim Backus played the part for a few episodes, and Darren McGavin brought the role to television for a single, best forgotten, season. Jone Allison, Alice Reinheart, Lesley Woods and Betty Furness each played reporter Ann Williams, but the role is more closely associated with Jan Miner. Miner best remembered as Palmolive’s “Madge the Manicurist”, reprised the role for TV.
John Gibson played Ethelbert, the long suffering barkeep at the Blue Note. The tavern had the musical services of the Archie Bleyer Orchestra and the Teddy Wilson Trio.