Sunday, 19 June 2011

Barton, Temple, PC49 and The Man in Black

In the 1982 Radio 4 documentary feature Dick Barton and All That Roger Snowden recalls four popular radio drama series of the 1940s and 50s – Dick Barton, Paul Temple, PC49 and Appointment with Fear.

The style, especially that of the opening and closing announcements, of the fast moving Dick Barton-Special Agent was perhaps influenced by US radio shows such as The Adventures of Superman. Barton actor Duncan Carse was something of a real life action man, serving in the Royal Research Ship ‘Discovery II’ and holding the Polar Medal for his Antarctic explorations as part of the British Graham Land expedition. He also worked for the BBC during the war as an Overseas Presentation Assistant and received official commendation for saving lives on the fateful night, 15 October 1940, that Broadcasting House was bombed.

Paul Temple, the amateur detective created by Francis Durbridge, was the longest running of the four dramas, starting in 1938 and solving his last case in 1968 before a TV reincarnation starring Francis Matthews. Like the Dick Barton series a number of different actors played the title role but for most of the run it was Marjorie Westbury who played his wife Steve – a crime solving team not dissimilar to William Holden and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man film series -  whose intuition proved infallible in helping Temple.

The world of Paul Temple was decidedly middle class (“hello darling”). I listened again to the Geneva Mystery series this week and it was all film stars, novelists and blackmail, but gripping nonetheless. The series also gave us another iconic theme tune – Vivian Ellis’s Coronation Scot. 

If you thought that PC George Dixon was the first famous bobby on the beat then you’ve not heard of Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby, or PC49 of Q Division. PC49 was the creation of Australian crime reporter Alan Stranks (father of Susan Stranks from tv’s Magpie). The series ran on the radio between 1947 and 1953 but it also spawned a comic strip in the pages of Eagle, several books, jigsaw puzzles, a board game and two films.

Like Dick Barton, PC49 became popular with youngsters and so got an earlier repeat time. But unlike Barton, PC49 – played by Brian Reece – was allowed a girlfriend – played by Joy Shelton – whom he married and then, in the last series, had a son.   

Very little of The Adventures of PC49 survives and it sounds a little quaint to modern ears. The criminal argot was of the “half a minute copper” and “you got me bang to rights” variety. PC49 would occasionally exclaim “my Sunday helmet”, the nearest he came to uttering an oath.

Valentine Dyall
It was the producer of Paul Temple, Martyn C. Webster, that also produced Appointment with Fear, broadcast between 1943 and 1955. This was a series of weekly plays of the mysterious and macabre often written by John Dickson Carr and narrated by The Man in Black. Valentine Dyall’s playing of the “sepulchral-voiced narrator” became so popular that in 1949 he introduced a spin-off series titled The Man in Black and featuring stories by R.L Stevenson and M.R. James. 

In this programme, broadcast on 31 October 1982, you’ll hear the voices of Francis Durbridge, Valentine Dyall, Vernon Harris, Pat Hetherington, Thora Hird, Michael Holloway, Noel Johnson, Bob Lewis, Alex McCrindle, Raymond Raikes, Joy Shelton and Marjorie Westbury.
Dick Barton and All That (click to download)

You can hear the theme tunes for Dick Barton – Special Agent and Paul Temple this Tuesday on Radio 3’s Composer of the Week as part of the BBC’s celebration of light music.

1 comment:

Barker Hughes said...

Noel Johnson was the first actor to play Dick Barton (for at least tweo years(. This change of actor was a shOck to the system at the time but we got used to Duncan Carse,

The original signature tune for Paul Temple was, I am sure you must kn ow, the second part of Roimsky Korsakov's SCHEHEREZADE. I have never been able to accept the Vivian Ellis as being appropriate.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...