Richard Diamond (audio)
"If trouble is around, yours truly will most likely get a chunk of it."
"Richard Diamond, Private Detective" proved to be the perfect radio vehicle for actor-singer Dick Powell, combining his tough-guy image, showcased in the 1944 film "Murder, My Sweet" and the 1945-46 radio series "Rogue's Gallery," with his tremendous talent for a song, as all those 1930s Warner Brothers/Fox musicals will bear out. The detective series, created by an aspiring screenwriter named Blake Edwards, featured a hard-boiled detective who rarely took himself too seriously; Edwards, the future director of the "Pink Panther" film series, conceived the Diamond character as an ex-cop who had decided to hang out his own shingle in the investigation business.
Richard Diamond bore a not-unintentional resemblance to another wisecracking detective of the airwaves, namely Sam Spade (as in "The Adventures of"). Both shamuses - Powell as Diamond, Howard Duff as Spade - demonstrated a breezy insouciance that added a much-needed touch of levity to the type of detective show that was often in danger of sinking under the weight of its own clichés. (On one memorable broadcast from December 3, 1949, Powell is heard to crack "This is the hokiest case I've ever been on -- even the dialogue is bad.") The lighthearted tone of "Richard Diamond" was even evident in the program's weekly opening, which featured Powell whistling a jaunty "Leave it to Love." It was not uncommon, after cracking each weekly case, for "the singing detective" to sit down at the piano in the penthouse apartment of Helen Asher, his wealthy, red-headed love interest played by Virginia Gregg and also Frances Robinson, and serenade her with a number from the Hit Parade. In-jokes were rampant on the show; Richard would often make reference to other detectives (notably Sam Spade) and he had a particularly pronounced fondness for actress June Allyson -- in real life, Mrs. Dick Powell.
Just as Spade had a love-hate relationship with Lieutenant Dundy, Diamond shared a similar bond with his contact on the force, homicide detective Lieutenant Walt Levinson (played at various times by Ed Begley, Ted de Corsia, Alan Reed, and Arthur Q. Bryan). The sarcastic badinage between the detective and his easily agitated cop pal provided many a memorable moment on the series. Diamond reserved his suffer-no-fools disdain for Sergeant Otis Ludlum, a cop who had such a force field of stupidity surrounding him that you just know he had to have a relative at City Hall looking after his job. Otis was played by actor Wilms Herbert, who also doubled on the show as Francis, Helen's faithful retainer; Francis had an uncanny, mood-killing knack of barging in at the most inopportune times, like when Diamond and Helen were getting ready to turn down the lights and pour the wine...if you know what I mean.
"Richard Diamond, Private Detective" debuted over NBC Radio on April 24, 1949 as a sustaining series, but picked up a sponsor in Rexall Drugs (complete with announcer Bill "Whistler" Forman and your Rexall family druggist) in June 1950. Camel Cigarettes picked up the tab as of January of 1951, just before the show moved to ABC, but by June the show was back with Rexall again, which continued its sponsorship until the program left the airwaves on June 27, 1952. (The series would return briefly during the summer of 1953 for CBS, recycling earlier scripts from the 1950-51 season.)
Like so many of his radio contemporaries, Richard Diamond later tried his luck on television in a series that ran sporadically from 1958 to 1960. Powell served as the show's producer but, since he was too busy to play the title role, he hired a young actor named David Meyer for the part - and then suggested he change his last name to Janssen. David Janssen was certainly game, but he simply didn't possess Powell's charm and joie de vivre -- even then he looked as if he was "The Fugitive," on the run from Barry Morse. If the TV series is remembered at all today, it's for the early exposure of actresses Barbara Bain and Mary Tyler Moore, with Moore playing "Sam," the telephone operator at Diamond's answering service -- a role which featured only her sexy voice and her gorgeous legs. Old Time Radio fans know, though, that their fix of Richard Diamond can only be satisfied by tuning in the one-and-only Dick Powell...and what better way to start than with these twenty fully restored half-hour broadcasts, courtesy of Radio Archives.