Monday, May 30, 2005

Dashiell Hammett's The Fat Man

Judy and I had to make a long drive to a funeral on Saturday, so I stuck some Old Time Radio shows on CD into the car's changer. One of my favorite programs when I was a kid was The Fat Man, which starred J. Scott Smart as the title character. The Fat Man was a private detective named Brad Runyon, and he was hefty. The show opened with someone (sometimes a man, sometimes a woman) saying, "There he goes into that drugstore. He's stepping on the scales." (Sound of a penny dropping into slot.) "Weight: 237 pounds. Fortune: Danger. Whooooo is it?" Then J. Scott Smart says, "The Fat Man."

I've heard or read that some people aren't all that fond of J. Scott Smart's voice. I thought it was great, and The Fat Man was a show I never wanted to miss. I was thrilled in the early '50s when a movie version appeared, starring J. Scott Smart himself. I was right there in the Palace Theater in Mexia, Texas, to see it. I don't know if it was a big hit across the country, but it was a hit with me.

And I enjoyed the two shows we listened to. One was "The Black Angel," and the other was "Twice-Told Secret." Both of them would probably seem laughable to today's audiences, particularly in the way Brad Runyon manipulates the cops. He's always the one in charge, and they do what he tells them, legalities be damned. For me the highlight was listening to Smart's narration. I still love that voice. And I love the theme music, too. Hearing it was like being transported back to 1948 or so.

The Fat Man was supposedly created by Dashiell Hammett, but the degree of his involvement is questionable. Obviously the title was a play on Hammett's The Thin Man, but I don't know how much he had to do with the show beyond that. Except to collect his paycheck.

Who could have guessed, fifty or more years ago, that I'd be involved with Hammett in one way or another for most of the rest of my life? Certainly not me. Posted by Hello


Anonymous said...

Smart's monotone delivery wears on me after a while. The Fat Man movie is mainly noteworthy as the answer to the trivia question, "Name a movie with ROck Hudson and Emmett Kelly."
-- Art Scott

Bill said...

I don't know why I like Smart's voice. I guess it was something about the impression it made on me when I was just a little kid. I've heard that there are only about six of the shows still in existence, so I guess I won't be able to listen to enough of them to get tired of him.

jeffm12012 said...

I enjoy the show; they're good old who-dun-its. J. Scott Smart's delivery may be an acquired taste; but nobody ever got more out of the word "murrrr-derrrr!!" To me the later Aussie series just doesn't have the same punch.

Bill Crider said...

I agree about the Aussie shows. I listened to a couple, but that was it for me.

Anonymous said...

I too am a fan of the Fat Man. My dad introduced me to the show. That name J.Scott Smart and that voice work so well.

Bill Crider said...

Glad to know there's another fan out there.