Monday, September 7, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Radio: Night Beat

I like you. You're attractive and average. - Jeff Donnell's Sylvia Nicolai to Frank Lovejoy's Brub Nicolai, In a Lonely Place

It is difficult to find discussions of the actor Frank Lovejoy (1912-1962) that don't include the word "everyman." On film and television, his handsomeness was approachable, his manner was relatable. This made him a perfect foil for the magnetic and dramatic Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place. Lovejoy is the sensible, empathetic guy that the film ultimately puts forward as a model in preference to the violently unpredictable "genius."

Listening to Lovejoy as a radio actor in the classic series Night Beat, you can easily discern that a key to his empathetic quality is his handling of his voice. I firmly believe that the radio acting which most Hollywood stars practiced as a lucrative sideline was very good for their craft. It forced them to focus on one part of their acting instrument and develop it fully. That pays off nicely in their screen performances.

In Night Beat, Lovejoy plays a newspaper columnist for the fictional Chicago Star, who is very good at getting people to talk to him - certainly an essential for a columnist then or now. The episodes of the show are essentially lengthier, narrated versions of the columns we imagine him writing for the morning edition of the paper.

The nocturnal gig brings out the poet and philosopher in Randy Stone. He frequently encounters people in desperate situations, but has a steadying way with them. It is clear that he loves his work, although he might not stoop to say so directly.

Night Beat enjoyed a 104-episode run over a three-year period (1950-1952), although the sponsoring network, NBC, inhibited its success by constantly changing its time-slot. There was one try at bringing the Randy Stone character to television in 1953, for the anthology series Four Star Playhouse, but it didn't result in a series.

At least three-quarters of the Night Beat episodes exist and are in circulation. A nice one to start with is "The Night Watchman" from early in the run, May 15, 1950:

The Night Watchman

The story involves the world of warehouses located on the city's fringe, wee hour acts of arson, and a very messed-up family each of whom is related in some way to the whole fiery scene. The plot actually offers a good twist that I did not see coming!

A comprehensive guide to Night Beat is available at The Digital Deli Too:

Night Beat

Jake Hinkson of The Night Editor blog has written extensively about Frank Lovejoy's career in "radio noir"::

A Voice from the Dark: Frank Lovejoy's Journey into Radio Noir

No comments:

Post a Comment