The Adventures of Sam Spade — “Sam and Psyche”

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The Adventures of Sam Spade (1946-1951) aired “Sam and Psyche” on August 2, 1946 as its fourth episode of approximately 243, only 74 of which are still in circulation (this includes 12 AFRS repeats and 2 rehearsal shows). Sam Spade was the private detective and creation of Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961, photo at right). Based on Hammett’s time as a Pinkerton detective from people he knew or had heard about, Spade first appeared in the third of Hammett’s five novels, The Maltese Falcon, in 1930. Only three other stories, all short works, would feature Spade in magazines and all appeared in 1932. One final Spade story was published in 2013, over 50 years after his death in 1961. The Maltese Falcon was brought to film three times: 1931, 1936, and the now film noir classic of 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre.

For all but its final radio season Howard Duff (1913-1990, photo at right) would star as Sam Spade. Duff would go on in later years to play various roles in quite a few films, and later with the advent of television would enjoy a lengthy career in many shows as star or character actor (drama and detective primarily) and was an easily recognizable presence on both the silver and small screens. Like Spade’s creator in the late 1940s (pre-HUAC, but Hammett failing to answer a Congressional Committee’s questions under oath stemming from his overt communist dealings), but years later and owing to a different set of circumstances, Duff found himself in the crosshairs of the early 1950s McCarthy-era House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) and was labeled a communist subversive. It was at this point that this soft “blackballing” dovetailed with his burgeoning tv and film career that made it advantageous for him to leave the radio series, at which point Stephen Dunne would take over as the voice of Sam spade for the series’s final 1950-51 season. According to the writeup by Radio Spirits on their 2014 calendar, on which Duff has the November slot: “A lot of talent came out of the Armed Forces Radio Service at the conclusion of the Second World War. One of the most outstanding examples was an energetic young sergeant named Howard Duff, born on November 24, 1913. A staff announcer for many AFRS features during the war, he was ready for the big time as soon as he doffed the uniform. It didn’t take long for him to land the role of a lifetime, bringing Dashiell Hammett’s legendary private eye Sam Spade to the microphone. In his four years in the role, Duff did the impossible–he replaced Humphrey Bogart’s film version as the definitive embodiment of the Hammett character:  tough, yet vulnerable; hardboiled, yet with a sense of humor about his weekly predicaments. Among the legions of postwar radio detectives, Duff’s Spade stood out as one of the few truly originals.”

Duff would marry one of the most respected and groundbreaking women actors and directors in film history in 1951, Ida Lupino (1918-1995, Lupino & Duff photo at right). The two would star together in several films throughout the 1950s. As to Duff’s film and television appearances, they are too numerous to mention all of them here, though a sampling may recall him to many a fan of the films and TV shows in which he appeared: Films–The Naked City (1948), While the City Sleeps (1956, with Ida Lupino), and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979); Television–The Rockford Files, The Golden Girls, Knots Landing, Dallas, as “Capt.” Thomas Magnum, II–grandfather of Thomas Magnum starring Tom Selleck on Magnum, P.I. His genre credits include an episode of The Twilight Zone and Batman (“The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra” with Ida Lupino).

“Sam and Psyche” has Spade–with able assistance from stalwart secretary Effie Perine, played by highly regarded radio actress Lurene Tuttle (1907-1986), who sometimes appeared in up to 15 varied radio shows a week–being drawn into a murder and before all is said and done finds himself suspiciously in the act of graverobbing. So if you are a fan of the noir detective mystery with murder and danger the heart and soul of the story, then you are in the right place.

Play Time: 29:32

{Dreading the fact that in a month the neighborhood gang would be burying their noses in textbooks when school resumed, they headed for perhaps their last trip of the summer to the corner newsstand, there to bury their noses in more pleasing reading fare. Crack Detective (1938-57) promised more hardcore detective stories like the episode of Sam Spade they had just heard and so seemed a logical choice. In 1946 it was a bi-monthly. Likewise with Ten Detective Aces (1928-49) with its no holds barred, down and dirty street wars between all manner of Bad Guys trying to stay one step ahead of the Good Guys. If they failed they would end up in prison or a cemetery. In 1946 it was also a bi-monthly. Weird Tales (1923-54) was always a favorite and featured its own brand of dark danger, so as a final selection it was easy to make. As with the other pair of pulp magazines, it too was a bi-monthly in 1946.}

        [Left: Crack Detective, Sept. 1946 – Center: Ten Detective Aces, Aug. 1946 – Right: Weird Tales, Sept. 1946]


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