One of the most important facts to know in life is that Martin Kane is remembered as the first PI to be featured in a weekly television series. On the historic day of September 1, 1949, NBC took its popular radio series Martin Kane, Private Eye and adapted it for television. William Gargan was the first (followed by Lloyd Nolan, Lee Tracy, and Mark Stevens) to play Kane, the typical hardboiled wiseguy PI with a nice hat.
However, Martin Kane would have been second to another hard-boiled PI from radio, if it weren’t for the Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate.
Recently, I uncovered a sad noir tale of a forgotten PI done in by a dame.
TV’s forgotten Private Eye Eddie Drake got his start in radio under a different moniker, Eddie Ace. In 1947, George Raft starred as Eddie Ace, a tough guy PI on the short-lived syndicated radio series, The Cases of Mr. Ace. Each week Eddie would drop by the office of beautiful shrink Dr. Karen Gayle, who was writing a book on criminal behavior and wanted to hear the experiences of a PI, and Eddie would give her the lowdown on his latest case.
The radio show didn’t last long, but August 28, 1948, Billboard spilled the beans about Eddie’s future. CBS TV-Film (CBS syndication gang) wanted to do some business with Eddie. Don Haggerty became the TV version, and Eddie went Hollywood and changed his handle to Drake. The dish Doctor Gayle took on the looks of Patricia Morison, while Edgar-winning radio wordsmith (for The Adventures of Sam Spade) Jason James, aka Jo Eisinger, adapted his radio stuff to TV. CBS paid IMPPRO Productions to film thirteen episodes. According to the shooting schedule, four episodes were shot simultaneously during a ten-day period.
November 20, 1948, Billboard gabbed that the filming of The Cases of Eddie Drake had begun and nine episodes of the thirteen were done. The filming of the final four episodes was scheduled to begin November 17, 1948.
If things had gone as planned The Cases of Eddie Drake would have been ready to air before 1949, but it didn’t happen. Seems Patricia Morison took it on the lam for the starring role in the Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate. TV syndication had barely started, and The Cases of Eddie Drake was one of the first TV series to be filmed, but Morison was a smart enough twist to blow Tinseltown for Broadway stardom.
Things continued to go sour for Eddie. Today, most believe CBS put the finished nine episodes on the shelf until DuMont TV network waltzed in, filmed the final four and put Eddie Drake on the air for the first time on March 6, 1952. But that’s hooey. This is the real dope on what happened to the poor sap, Eddie Drake.
I have my snitches like any Shamus. Billboard had told me what it knew. Now Broadcasting Magazine (February 27, 1950) gave me the rumble. “CBS has purchased TV rights to IMPPRO Inc’s (Hollywood) ‘Cases of Eddie Drake,’ half-hour film series … Present package includes nine films as firm unable to complete remaining four because of commitments of Pat Morrison [sic] feminine lead, with New York show ‘Kiss Me, Kate.’”
May 7, 1951, CBS runs an ad in Broadcasting offering thirteen episodes of The Cases of Eddie Drake for syndication. That was ten months before DuMont aired the series.
Billboard (August 25, 1951) tipped me off that Virginia Dare Wines would sponsor The Cases of Eddie Drake on WENR-TV starting September 7, 1951. Chicago’s television guide TV Forecasts told Chicago and me that the series aired on Chicago’s ABC-TV station WENR, Channel 7 starting September 7, 1951, and ran thirteen weeks. The show was a syndicated film series, not a network series.
So who filmed the final four episodes that featured Lynne Roberts as Dr. Joan Wright, a new doll for Eddie to gab with? Nobody’s talking, but from the final credits of the four episodes, a good guess would be IMPPRO did it.
By then Eddie’s chance for fame had turned to dust. Even Eddie’s car, a three-wheeled 1948 Davis Divan he called Dave, has been forgotten. But that’s Eddie, a three-wheeled PI in a four-wheeled world.
In a final low blow, Dr. Gayle became the first psychologist in a regular role for a weekly TV series.
What a bum deal. It should have been Eddie as TV’s first Private Eye, not Martin Kane, and it was all because of Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate.
Michael Shonk spends his time searching for forgotten, neglected and
failed mystery fiction. Occasionally, he can be found at Steve Lewis'
MysteryFile.com/blog where he shares his discoveries.