“The world of Doc Savage and The Shadow was one of absolute values, where what was good was never in the slightest doubt and where what was evil inevitably suffered some fitting punishment.” – Alan Moore, writer
The Shadow first cast his presence over the airwaves on July 31st of 1930. It was on CBS’s The Detective Story Magazine Hour where a mysterious narrator introduced a dramatic story that appeared in the latest issue of Street and Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. Back then the Shadow was merely a story-telling device, a mysterious identity to bookend a detective story.
“I…am The Shadow! Conscience is a taskmaster no crook can escape. It is a jeering shadow even in the blackest lives. The Shadow knows… and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you …”
Yada yada yada…
The intro was followed by a hard-boiled detective story, and each episode ended with the now-famous maniacal laughter. The stories were pedestrian but the narrator struck a chord with the audience. His mysterious voice and background music made a promise to the listener. That promise was of adventure, intrigue, and action. Sometimes that promise was a little hard to hold up, and the show was canceled after only 52 episodes.
That mysterious narrator, however, lived on to narrate the Blue Coal Radio Revue and Love Story Hour. The mysterious narrator eventually went on to have his own show, The Shadow, but he continued to serve as a narrator and book-ended the stories.
The first person to fill the Shadow’s wide-brimmed fedora was voice actor James La Curto, but he was almost immediately replaced by another voice actor, Frank Readick Jr. and much to the surprise of Street and Smith, the radio show’s producers and the magazine publishers, the character of the Shadow soon became more popular than the hard-boiled stories he narrated.
Murray, W., Gibson, W. B., Sampson, R., & Tinsley, T. (1980). The Duende History of The Shadow Magazine. Greenwood, MA: Odyssey.
Gibson, W. B., & Tollin, A. (1979). The Shadow Scrapbook. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
J. (n.d.). The Shadow in Pulps: History.http://www.shadowsanctum.net/pulp/pulp.html
929, Kent Allard decided that America had become a focal point for criminal. (n.d.). Who Knows What Evil Lurks? The Shadow Knows. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/s/shadpulp.htm
“My agent told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England – I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.” – Ida Lupino
There are certain family names in Hollywood make you sit up and take notice. Today those names are the Fonda and the Bridges, Coppola and Sheen.
It wasn’t any different in the early days of Tinseltown. The names were different, but royalty was still royalty. Back then if you were a Barrymore than it caught people’s attention, and if you were a Huston, then folks wanted to see what you had.
For Ida Lupino, the family tree she grew out of was just as solid and sturdy as any in Hollywood, but the roots went deeper than most. She wasn’t a Coppola or a Barrymore. She was a Lupino.
And that name had a weight all of its own.
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“They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world…and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.” – Ronnie Kray, from his autobiography
The East End of London during the sixties was a mixture of poor and artistic, of modern and bohemian, of classic and diversity that England had never seen before or since. It was like Bauhaus before Hitler. It was like Harlem in the 20’s. It was like… well, it wasn’t like anything ever, and that’s what made it special.
Clubs and art galleries sprang up amid the squalor that was the East End, and with them came the rich and the beautiful. It was said, rather famously, that “London’s West End has all the money and leisure and that the East End monopolizes most of the labor and nearly all of the dirt.”
In the 60’s it was time for the dirt in the East End to shine.
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“It was infamously racially exclusive. W.C. Handy wished to go one evening to the Cotton Club and he was turned away. And he could hear his music being performed!” – Levering Lewis, historian
It was the greatest nightclub of its day and there’s a convincing argument to be made that it was the greatest nightclub that ever was. Opening its doors during the Harlem Renaissance, The Cotton Club was part Speakeasy, part dance-hall, part supper club, and all entertainment.
Owned by Chicago gangster Owney Madden, the Cotton Club featured expensive food, cold beer, even during prohibition, and the greatest lineup of black entertainers in America of its time, and perhaps of any time.
And all of it was available for a small cover charge.
But only if you were white.
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.”
“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
-Raymond Chandler, Writer
Raymond Chandler didn’t invent hard-boiled fiction. Chandler, like Dashiell Hammett, saw a new narrative forming in popular literature and they felt comfortable working in it. It was a style of detectives and dames and it rang a bell with the American public.
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