30 August 2015

Rocky King: Murder, PhD

With this, the fifth and final in our Rocky King, Detective series, we’ve brought you the five examples available in the public domain. UCLA archives contain about two dozen more episodes salvaged before a disingenuous lawyer destroyed DuMont’s film library, virtually erasing collective memory of the pioneering broadcaster and its teleplays.

In this episode, you may wonder about the haunting blues harmonica that starts off as a nice touch but grows slightly tedious. It’s not used as filler in the ordinary sense. Besides giving organist Jack Ward a break, the jail cut-scene serves a purpose: a staged transition giving actors a chance to rush to their next location, sometimes on a different floor of the DuMont Tele-Centre in Manhattan. The harmonica/jail insert at the four-minute mark gives Roscoe Karns time to jog from the domestic setting of his house to meet Detective Sergeant Lane (Earl Hammond) in their office. Imagine writers and directors forced to not only plot a viable story, but to plan for actors reaching their scenes in time as designated cameras went live.

Mistakes were inevitable, although this episode is relatively free of errors. As we saw in an earlier episode when a picture fell off a wall, things sometimes went wrong during live presentations. Falling props and scenery were not uncommon. Not only did scenery problems afflict the early 1949 BBC broadcast of Miss Marple, the murdered victim rose and walked off the set in the middle of the broadcast.

Tip back your chair and watch how crime stories appeared in homes in the nascent days of television in this episode titled…

Murder, PhD
broadcast: 1953-Dec-13

in which a possibly innocent man is due to be executed in 180 minutes…


  1. It's always fun to see old shows, Leigh. But what's up with that lawyer who destroyed the Dumont library? Jeez!

  2. I agree with Paul. I'd love to know more about that lawyer too!

    I don't know why I'm still amazed at your writing, Leigh. But your non-fiction craft is as good as the fiction and that's saying something.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Claire. I like to find exciting and poignant issues to write about.

  3. Thank you for your kind words, Claire. I like to find exciting and poignant issues to write about.

  4. Paul and Claire, a corporate lawyer made the unilateral decision to literally dump the entire DuMont collection in the East River rather than pay for air conditioned storage to house the kinescope film, the earliest, unique examples of television broadcasting. An account of the skulduggery as told by Edie Adams is here.

    The larger story of the sad destruction of America's first television network starts here.

  5. A Broad Abroad30 August, 2015 12:34

    Do we know the name of this dastardly fellow (or his firm) who dumped into the bay the priceless treasure trove of over 20 000 films? What repercussions, if any, were there after the act?

  6. ABA, at the moment, the source document is off-line, so I can't determine if the idiot's name was revealed. I don't know if there were repercussions, but I'd like to think Karma bit him in the butt.

  7. Hello, does anyone know the name of the artist and the song for the amazing blues piece in this episode please?

    1. Crafty, THAT is a terrific question. I don't know the answer but it would be wonderful to find out. No hint in the credits, but we're treated to Ivory Flakes adverts.

      About 23:14, the announcer says "Original music composed and played by Jack Ward." I can't be certain that's much of a clue as the previous episode makes the same statement, apparently referring to the organist. It seems unlikely, but perhaps Ward played the mouth organ as well as the studio's upright organ.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>