Hey folks, hope you had a good spring and summer. It's been a long time since we've put anything new on this website, due to many magazine projects for FilmFax (Arch Hall two-parter, the late Jim Marshall - legendary rock photographer, and famed actor Booth Colman interview). Also, there was a little project that consumed most of my time - the new book that is available from Amazon.com called The Legendary Lydecker Brothers, which was officially dropped the last week of August. So, it's only fitting that we resume the business at hand by putting out a review piece by our good friend, Mr. Bruce Dettman, on a book that I am going to be sure to get - and hopefully you will also be enthused to purchase, on the history of The Green Hornet. So we'll hand the baton to Bruce as we revitalize this site. Back with you before you know it!

Thanks,
JAH

The Green Hornet:
A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics, and Television

By Martin Grams & Terry Salomonson
OTR Publishing
779 Pages


Review by Bruce Dettman

Within the popular culture of the Twentieth Century, spawned and influenced by the new mediums of the daily comic strip and later comic books, radio, film and ultimately television, a whole pantheon of original characters were created. Although many of these soon withered and died on the vine and are mostly forgotten today, a number only grew in stature, often actually outdistancing their original creatorís conceptions and morphing with the times into expanded or altered versions of themselves. Eventually these characters took on the trappings of mythological figures, not simply media creations designed to momentarily entertain, but deeply imbedded parts of the American psyche. Even individuals who were born generations after their creation and never actually experienced their popularity firsthand are still familiar with the names of The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Flash Gordon, Tarzan and many others.

Another figure with staying power is The Green Hornet, a character with an extensive resume on radio, in film and on television and whose impressive crime-fighting history is wonderfully profiled in Martin Gramsí and Terry Salomonsonís highly entertaining and astoundingly detailed new work The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television.

The Green Hornet was the brainchild of George Trendle, owner of radio station WXYZ, which several years earlier had introduced the character of the Lone Ranger to listeners. Whereas the creative origins of the Ranger are still debated -- with honors being shared more or less equally between Trendle and his head writer Fran Striker -- the Hornet was strictly Trendleís baby. He came up with the idea of a kind of modern version of the Ranger and set his writers, Striker included, to run with the ball.

The result was a sort of modern version of the celebrated masked man of the old west. *A major difference, in addition to the modern setting, was that the Green Hornet -- who also wore a mask to conceal his identity, armed himself with a special weapon, a gas gun, and had a specially designed and ultra fast automobile which he called Black Beauty -- was the secret identity of the character Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher and bit of a playboy, whereas the Lone Ranger was always himself (save on those occasions when he adopted a disguise). Moreover, whereas the Ranger could often be initially construed as a bad guy because of his telltale mask, he usually emerged from his stories as unquestionably on the side of law and order. The Green Hornet, on the other hand, was almost universally perceived by the authorities as being a criminal, albeit of the lone wolf variety. Playing it this way, however dangerous, allowed Reid to work against the criminal element -- particularly those who had through various means alluded capture -- and not be hamstrung by the laws and procedures that often hindered the official authorities.

For his campaign against crime the masked Green Hornet enlisted also the aid of Kato, a young man with superior fighting, scientific and automotive skills who Reid had met in Japan. Contrary to myth, although Katoís national origins would later change to the Philippines (and even Korea) this alteration was not a direct result of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, but actually came earlier when Japanís role in international politics were increasingly being viewed as more imperialistic and threatening.

Debuting on the air waves in 1936, The Green Hornet had a long and successful run into the early 1950s. He appeared in two Universal serials, The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Back and later, after a failed TV pilot, was the star of a later video series starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee which ran in 1966 for one disappointing season. Although it appeared too late to be discussed in this volume, a new major motion picture featuring the Green Hornet has just been produced and will be theatrically released shortly.

In addition to tracing the origin and development of the Green Hornet, the authors supply radio and television episode guides which give data on all aspects of each individual production. There are also fascinating photos of all the principles, from directors and producers to the actors and writers who helped make The Green Hornet such a media success and great addition to celebrated higher hierarchy of twentieth century heroes.

As in his many earlier works on popular culture, author Grams, aided by co-author Terry Salomonson, has done an unbelievably thorough job in piecing together the sometimes convoluted but always fascinating history of the character. It would be a real challenge to over exaggerate the meticulous and painstaking research that the authors undertook to produce this remarkably definitive volume. Every aspect of the Green Hornet on radio, film, comics, TV, even advertising (there was, for instance, a Green Hornet cocktail mix) and promotional campaigns is covered in precise and documented detail and it is impossible to not believe that this will remain forever the ultimate sourcebook on the character.

* As has been recounted on numerous occasions, the Green Hornet is a direct descendent of The Lone Ranger.


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