Created for the radio in 1936 by 'Lone Ranger' inventor George W. Trendle and writer Fran Striker, the Green Hornet aka Britt Reid was originally introduced as the son of Dan Reid, the masked man's nephew.
The televised stories were brought up to date with Reid (Van Williams) as the owner of both a newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, and a TV station. His identity was known only to his faithful servant, Kato, his secretary, Casey (Wende Wagner) and District Attorney Scanlon (Walter Brooke). Lloyd Gough added a little light relief by starring as Mike Axford a Hornet hating reporter who was determined to prove that the hero was only out to line his own pocket.
The TV series arrived in 1966, hot on the heels of Batman and was made by the same production company with William Dozier as Executive Producer. But there the similarity with the caped crusader series ended, for the Green Hornet fought organised crime and not the bizarre comic-strip style villains of Gotham City. He did however have his gimmicks such as a non-lethal gas gun and a sting gun, which was capable of penetrating steel. His most impressive piece of hardware though was Black Beauty, a 1966 Chrysler Imperial that was customised by Hollywood conversion wizard Dean Jeffries to the tune of $50,000. The car's new features included a remote control spy camera with a four-mile range, and an adapted exhaust that emitted ice from its pipe in order to foil attackers.
The series failed to capture the imagination of the public in the same way that Batman did and was placed in an infamous Friday night broadcast slot where very little had succeeded before. As a consequence it only lasted the one season. It did however, introduce Lee Jun Fan, a young martial arts expert (as Kato) who would go on to become one of the cult figures of the big screen in the 1970's. You'll remember him as Bruce Lee.
Published on December 19th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.