Candy Matson — “Symphony of Death”

Candy Matson (1949-1951) aired “Symphony of Death” on June 19, 1950 as the 51st of its estimated 92 shows (some accounts give 93 as the number, including a pilot that aired over a year later in hopes of sparking a revival that never took place). Candy Matson is a smart, self-sufficient, female detective. Everyone is familiar with all of the police or detective shows featuring a male detective, sleuth, or investigator (some in the superhero vein). There was The Saint, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Nero Wolfe, Jeff Regan (starring Jack Webb), Dragnet (again starring Jack Webb), Johnny Dollar, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, and many, many others. One estimate runs to 120 OTR detective/police shows featuring a male lead. But not only were there Private Eyes on radio, there were Private Eyelashes as well, as early as the late 1930s and well into the 1940s (Kitty Keene, Carolyn Day-Detective, Miss Pinkerton, Meet Miss Sherlock, and Police Woman, to name a few). Though short lived (it never had a sponsor, advertisers were jumping on early television to promote their products), Candy Matson was one of the most popular radio shows west of the Mississipi and especially in San Francisco.

We have previously showcased but three of the 14 surviving Candy Matson episodes, the first back in March of 2017 and the last in December of 2018. For those not familiar with those widely spaced episodes and the show’s interesting history (a female detective, a veiled gay character, etc.), I am reprising below (with minor alterations) from the original introductory notes:

Candy Matson was the brainchild of Monty Masters. Originally conceived as a private investigator program set in San Francisco with a male lead, Masters’ mother-in-law convinced him to feature a female private eye. Masters then turned to his wife Natalie Masters (the former Natalie Park, 1915-1986: photo at left, Monty and Natalie, May 1957) to play the lead role, for which her real life personality was made. Candy Matson lived life to its fullest. A former actress who gave it all up for the life of a private detective, she now resides in a penthouse atop San Francisco’s famed Telegraph Hill. Throughout various episodes we learn that she loves her furs, sunbathing on her patio, listening to 49ers football games while sipping martinis, and pretty much her overall luxurious lifestyle. She never compromises in deference to her sexuality, and is a much sought after investigator–as her high-end fees can attest. About her love of cash, Candy quips that it is needed to keep the “moths out of a few mink coats.” Candy had two recurring supporting characters in her adventures, handsome police Lieutenant Ray Mallard (with whom she has more than a professional relationship as the series progresses and as his character becomes more suave and alluring with each episode), and her best friend Rembrandt Watson, a single, middle-aged, flamboyant fashion photographer who enjoys the opera. Even though San Francisco had the largest gay community of any American city after World War II, and the show was set in the City by the Bay, network radio in the 40s and 50s would not allow an openly gay character to appear on the air, but Masters’s scripts managed to suggest as much, and the actor who played Watson, Jack Thomas (stage name for Natalie’s real life uncle), added a slightly feminine air to his characterization as time went on. After listening to several of the 14 extant episodes, it is easy to understand the popularity of Candy Matson. Natalie Masters plays her perfectly: saucy, sexy, smart, hard as nails when need be, and unapologetic and fully embracing her chosen lifestyle. A woman for the ages it would seem and ahead of her time. Natalie Masters would go on to have roles in several films and numerous episodes of popular tv shows, several of which are shown below.

(Left: Dragnet, 1957 – Center: My Three Sons, 1964 – Right: The Addams Family, 1966–with Parley Bear, the voice of Chester on radio’s Gunsmoke and later as Mayor Stoner on tv’s The Andy Griffith Show.)


Dudley Manlove, the program’s announcer, is an enigma, for no one knows of his whereabouts or if he even still lives (doubtful). Little more is known of his wife, Patty Pritchard, though as of 2002 her voice could still be heard on a local San Francisco car dealer’s commercial. An interesting bit of trivia for genre fans is that Manlove played the alien named Eros from 1959’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (photo at left).

This episode of Candy Matson is unique, in that Candy is hired to prevent, if possible, the death of a once famous composer before it happens, though the composer is certain his death is a foregone conclusion.  Is the composer’s claim true or is he losing his mind? And what part has his work in progress, the eponymous title of this episode, got to do with any of this? The enigmatic nature of this episode, coupled with its unexpected resolution, make it one of the more satisfying shows in the series.

Play Time: 29:43

{Stoked on mystery and detective stories after listening to “Symphony of Death,” the neighborhood gang decided to take a break from their usual science fiction magazines and pick up some of the detective magazines they enjoyed from time to time at the nearby newsstand. Black Mask (1920-51) never disappointed and became the gold standard after decades of publishing stories that would become classics. It was a bi-monthly in 1950. Famous Detective Stories (1938-57) went through no fewer than 8 name changes in its 20-year history. It ran under the title shown below from 1950-56 and was its 7th title. It managed 5 issues in 1950. 15 Story Detective (1949-51) mustered only 15 average issues before it folded, with probably its only claim to fame being that it published stories by John D. MacDonald and even one by SF great Cyril Kornbluth. It was also a bi-monthly in 1950.}

[Left: Black Mask, June 1950 – Center: Famous Detective, June 1950 – Right: 15 Story Detective, May 1950]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.