02 August 2015

Rocky King: Murder Scores a Knockout


by Leigh Lundin

Rocky King, Inside Detective, did not take himself too seriously. He was, after all, working for the DuMont Television Network, which was constantly starved for cash. Unlike flashier big-screen dicks, the down-to-earth detective proved popular with audiences. Played by Roscoe Karns, he enjoyed the domestic life, scraped by financially, and took his lunch to work.

Rocky’s wife Mabel never appeared on screen originally due to cost-savings measures so she could appear in other rôles without changing costumes. The audience loved that little twist and actress Grace Carney developed her own fan following. At the end of each program, actor Karns would ad-lib a conversation with his wife usually over the phone, ending with a signature sound bite, “Great gal, that Mabel.”

Roscoe Karns’ real-life wife Mary appeared at least once in the show. Their real-life son, Todd Karns, would eventually take over the rôle of Sergeant Lane, presently played by Earl Hammond in the episode presented below.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share more about Rocky King, but take note these broadcasts were performed live, mostly in the DuMont Tele-Center, often using the offices as impromptu sets. While live television suffered from miscues and occasional dropped lines, it’s fascinating to imagine the planning and logistics involved in telecasting a drama like this. Note this as we watch …

Murder Scores a Knockout
broadcast: 1952-Jul-13

In which a magician takes one drink too many…

6 comments:

C.S.Poulsen said...

Leigh, I'm intrigued basically because the episode you provided is dated a couple of months before my birth, lol. However, when other children watched Happy The Clown, I "surfed" the tv (by turning a knob) settling on shows like Loretta Lynn Theatre, Our Miss Brooks, Pete and Alice, and the like. So, I'm surprised that I've not heard of this show or come across it in my early years.

Although I tried to play the video, it is in "restricted" mode. I'm working on undoing that on my end but thought it could be an origination problem too. Either way, I'm looking forward to watching an episode from the early years of TV.

Anonymous said...

Until your articles, I hadn't heard of Dumont or Rocky King, but I do love old mystery programs. I'm glad a few still exist.

Leigh Lundin said...

Claire, I had to research 'restricted mode'. The Rocky King video is not age restricted, so I'm not sure what triggers it, but I don't see a problem with the video. It appears that it shows up on the user side. The instructions say to scroll to the bottom of any YouTube video page where you'll find buttons, one of them to shut off restricted mode. Let me know if that works!

Anon, I'm glad too. A sampling is better than nothing, which is almost what we ended up with.

Eve Fisher said...

I love the oldies! (I notice they used the same organist as "Queen for a Day"!)

A Broad Abroad said...

I, too, had not heard of Rocky King until this article. So love the music of these early shows, the more melodramatic the better. One of my maternal great-grandmothers was the piano player in a quartet that provided music for silent movies in the 1920s. On Saturday morning they’d watch the film and work out what to play for the matinee. [Funnily enough, her name was Mabel.]

Leigh Lundin said...

Eve, I love old black and white films and television too. I associate that Hammond organ sound with soap operas, but in truth, the organ (and it's player) was an indispensable part of television in the 1950s and early 1960s.

ABA, that's quite a calling your GGM had. Very cool! She must have had a lot of fun.