Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1945: Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: September 04, 1945-September 21, 1945

"Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang"

While Perry White, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are searching for buried treasure on the Daily Planet editor's old homestead in Maine, there's trouble in Metropolis. Dixie LaMarr, a member of Doctor Blythe's confidence gang, has shot and killed a federal agent named John Stone in the lobby of the Burton Arms Hotel. Blythe is in his hideout under the Playland amusement park scolding Dixie for her impulsive behavior. Another gang member named Happy shows the cunning doctor a copy of the Daily Planet. There is a picture of Lois Lane in the newspaper. Lois is a dead ringer for Dixie LaMarr. Doctor Blythe is now hatching a plan that will make all the witnesses to Dixie's crime and the Metropolis Police Department believe that Lois murdered the federal man. Once the evidence against Lois sends the star reporter to prison, Doctor Blythe and his gang can continue with their confidence schemes unhindered.

Doctor Blythe sets his plan into motion. Under the name Robert Hemingway, he calls Lois posing as a press agent for the park to invite her to Playland for a special celebration in her honor. Lois accepts the invitation, and Blythe goes to Happy's brother in-law, who runs the River of Horrors at Playland, to set his trap for Ms. Lane.

At the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen is telling Lois of the adventure he, Perry White and Clark Kent had in Maine. Perry gave the buried treasure they had found to Jimmy, who will use the money to build or buy a new house for his mother. Jacob and Esaw, two dwarves that helped the trio get the treasure from black market smugglers, will be working for Jimmy's aunt at the circus. Clark asks what happened to Lois while they were in Maine with the chief. She mysteriously boasts about her special night at Playland without mentioning a thing.

Clark has just been called to Perry's office. Lois invites a curious Jimmy to come with her to Playland. Jimmy remembers that he's to meet Dick Grayson, who is really the young partner of Batman - Robin the Boy Wonder. Lois says that Jimmy can bring Dick along with him.

Clark has returned from Perry's office. He's wondering about Lois and Jimmy's behavior as they leave him in the office. Lois even says something that is as strangely curious as it is prophetic: "See you in jail."

Sensing trouble, Clark is ready to follow Lois and Jimmy, but he later changes his mind without realizing that his friends will soon be in danger. He asks copy boy Beany Martin if anything unusual had happened while he, Perry and Jimmy were in Maine. Beany can't think of anything and goes about his business while Clark returns to Perry's office.

Lois, Jimmy and Dick are on the way to Playland. Using the detective skills taught to him by Batman, Dick notices that they are being followed by a black sedan. The driver is a short fellow with big ears that Dick had noticed at the restaurant where he, Lois and Jimmy had eaten dinner. Both Jimmy and Lois think Dick is being paranoid even after the sedan nearly runs Lois' car off the road.

Dick continues to keep a watchful eye on things as he and the others enter Playland. He sees the man with big ears talking to Doctor Blythe, who is disguised as the white-haired press agent for Playland named Robert Hemingway. Blythe later introduces himself to Lois and the boys. He allows them to go into the River of Horrors on the house. A man named Joe Hanson gives the trio permission to have the free ride.

Lois, Jimmy and Dick are now in a boat as skeletons jump from the River of Horrors. One of the boney terrors even grabs Lois, much to the surprise of Jimmy and Dick, and takes her away into the darkness. The boys climb some rocks in the attraction before it ends and try to get a policeman named Officer Riley to help them. Unfortunately, he has trouble believing Jimmy and Dick because the skeletons in the River of Horrors are made of wood and glow-in-the-dark paint. Joe even tells Riley that Dick and Jimmy weren't even in the attraction. Dick and Jimmy tell the policeman that Mister Hemingway, Playland's press agent, offered a free tour on the River of Horrors, but they learn that the real press agent is named Harry Spencer.

While the policeman and the two boys go away, Joe tells Doctor Blythe what had happened. The con man must get Dick and Jimmy before his plans for Lois Lane are spoiled. Blythe then goes to the phone booths where two youths are calling for help. Jimmy is contacting Clark Kent, and Dick must phone Bruce Wayne, who is really Batman.

Clark has just arrived in Playland. However, Jimmy Olsen and Dick Grayson are nowhere to be found. The worried reporter asks Joe about the boys, but the nefarious attraction owner claims to know nothing about them.

Clark is now ill at ease, and he isn't alone. The masked hero known as Batman has arrived. He and Clark question Officer Riley about Jimmy and Dick. He tells them of the incident with Joe Hanson. Riley even describes Robert Hemingway as the boys had for the policeman earlier. More worried, Batman and Clark insist that Officer Riley come with them on a ride through the River of Horrors. They find that one of the skeletons is missing. There is an opening in the wall behind the area where the wooden monster should be. The door goes to a secret passage that takes Clark, Batman and Riley to the entrance of Playland's Hall of Mirrors.

Suddenly, Batman and Clark see someone matching the description of Mister Hemingway enter the Hall of Mirrors. The world's finest heroes are now in pursuit of the cunning Doctor Blythe. However, the mirrors have a lead coating that blocks Clark's X-ray vision. He cannot find Dick, Jimmy or Lois Lane.

The corridor has now become more narrow. Batman is walking behind Clark. The sound of something opening attracts Clark's sensitive ears. Batman has disappeared, and Kent cannot see where the Dark Knight has gone.

In an old house outside of the Playland amusement park, Happy is guarding Lois. Doctor Blythe, who has just evaded the pursuit of Batman and Clark Kent, enters to introduce himself to Ms. Lane. Afterwards, he and Happy discuss evidence planted in Lois' apartment. Blythe then vaguely tells Lois of his plans for her when Dixie LaMarr arrives.

Lois suddenly tries to break a window in an attempt to escape. The star reporter is then knocked unconscious and drugged. Dixie switches clothing with Lois. The red dress, imitation pearls and mink coat she exchanges with the unconscious reporter are the same things Dixie wore when she killed the federal agent. Doctor Blythe will take Lois to the Red Devil Cafe on South Street, one of the seediest dives in Metropolis. The confidence man then calls Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson to tell him where Dixie LaMarr can be found.

Batman has fallen through a trap door in the floor of the Hall of Mirrors. He's landed in a large tank full of water used to supply the trick showers in the hall. The Dark Knight has found Dick Grayson and Jimmy Olsen. Doctor Blythe made the boys think the River of Horrors getting Lois was a trick. He took them to the Hall of Mirrors to meet the star reporter when they fell through the same trap door that got Batman. Jimmy was knocked unconscious by a bump on the head. Dick and the Caped Crusader yell for help. Unfortunately, the roar of a nearby roller coaster drowns out their cries.

Above, Clark Kent has marked the approximate spot where he had last seen Batman. He removes the reporter's garb to become Superman and smashes through the floor of the Hall of Mirrors. The Man of Steel carries Jimmy, Dick and Batman to Playland's medical aid station. He then resumes his guise of Clark Kent and approaches Batman. The Dark Knight Detective then tells Kent that Lois Lane has been found. However, Inspector Henderson has arrested her for murder.

Three hours have passed since Lois Lane was arrested for the murder of a federal agent. Inspector Henderson is telling Clark Kent and an angry Perry White all the evidence against the star reporter. There are messages from Ace Scarlotti, a notorious gangster from Chicago who was killed in a gang battle three weeks ago. Sixty thousand dollars and the gun that was used to murder the federal agent were found in Lois' apartment. The weapon has Ms. Lane's fingerprints on it. Three witnesses saw her shoot and kill the man. There is an airtight case against Lois, and she can go to the electric chair for murder.

Clark and Perry are in the city prison speaking with Lois while Batman is investigating Playland to find something that can clear the star reporter's name. Unfortunately, Lois' memories of what happened on the night the police had found her are vague. She only remembers that she was taken from the River of Horrors to a house near Playland where Happy had kept her. She also recalls pieces of meeting Mister Hemingway before being taken from the amusement park boat.

Clark tells Lois about the evidence found in her apartment when a prison guard tells Kent to meet Batman at Playland. Using Superman's speed, the reporter gets to the park in no time. Batman discovered that Joe Hanson replaced the missing skeleton that took Lois with another. Batman interrogated Hanson, but the man pulled a gun on the Caped Crusader. This forced Batman to knock out and tie up Hanson in an office located in a lighthouse above the River of Horrors. However, when Batman returns to question Joe Hanson further with Clark Kent, both Kent and the Dark Knight find the bound man dead with a knife in his back.

It is now the day in which Lois Lane goes on trial for the murder of Federal Agent John Stone. Doctor Blythe and his gang are celebrating Ms. Lane's plight, but Clark Kent, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are extremely worried. All witnesses and evidence are against the star reporter.

Lois has taken the witness stand revealing why she never told anyone of Mister Hemingway's honoring her in Playland. She wanted to surprise her friends at the Daily Planet, particularly Clark. This gives Clark an idea that could possibly free Lois. He decides to leave in the middle of Lois' testimony in order to investigate this with Jimmy and Perry. He realizes that Dixie LaMarr is a double for Lois and is possibly using that name as an alias.

While Jimmy gets Lois' lawyer to stall the trial before the jury deliberates, Batman and Robin are looking through Metropolis police files for criminal reports on a woman resembling Lois, and Clark and Perry search the newspaper morgue for stories on Dixie, whatever her name may be. However, they have had no luck so far.

Final speeches from the lawyers in Lois' case have been made. The jury has left the courtroom to begin deliberation. When they return, they will decide the fate of Lois Lane. Clark and Perry return from the newspaper offices with nothing that can save her. This combined with waiting for the jury's decision makes the situation more tense.

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are at Metropolis Police Headquarters going through the files to find any information on Dixie LaMarr. Like Perry and Clark, the Dynamic Duo hasn't found anything. Batman opens a window to clear his head with some fresh air. A newsboy calling out the headlines of the Daily Planet gives him an idea that could possibly save Lois, and he and Robin leave police headquarters in a hurry. The go to City Hall to scan the records of juvenile delinquents and find something. Five years ago, a girl named Dorothy Zelinka was sent to the local reformatory for shoplifting. Ms. Zelinka is a dead ringer for Lois Lane.

Having gone to the Metropolis Reformatory, Batman and Robin learn from the matron that Dorothy Zelinka lived at 229 West Street, Apartment 6-B. However, Dorothy never returned there after being released. This is the only clue the Dynamic Duo have. Assuming their civilian identities of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, they go to the address to question Dorothy's mother. She says that she's alone and that she hasn't seen her daughter since she was released from the reform school. Bruce, however, notices that somebody had turned off the radio while the woman was talking.

Bruce and Dick have now returned into their Batman and Robin costumes. They are battling Doctor Blythe's gang on the roof of 229 West Street. Batman has been shot in the leg during the fight. He can hold off the criminals for a little while, but Robin must go to the courthouse to tell Clark that Dixie LaMarr has been found and that Batman needs help. Robin may not get the chance to summon assistance, for he has now come face to face with Doctor Blythe himself. The confidence gang leader is shooting and pursuing Robin. A bullet nicks the Boy Wonder's knee just as the teenaged hero jumps to a nearby rooftop. Doctor Blythe then falls to his death in his attempt to capture the Boy Wonder.

The jury deliberations in Lois Lane's murder trial have now ended. The faces of the jurors tell the nervous staff of the Daily Planet that they believe Lois killed the federal agent. Suddenly, Robin bursts into the courtroom mere seconds before the jury is about to give their verdict. The Boy Wonder tells Clark Kent of finding Dixie LaMarr and of Batman's being shot by the late Doctor Blythe's confidence gang.

Rushing into the judge's empty chambers, Clark changes into Superman in time to help Batman fight the henchmen of Doctor Blythe and grab Dixie LaMarr. The Man of Steel takes Dixie to the courtroom and forces her to confess that she killed John Stone. Lois is now cleared of all charges thanks to the world's finest heroes Superman, Batman and Robin.

Things are now back to normal at the Daily Planet several hours later. Lois has written an article about her ordeal for the newspaper. Perry shows Clark the front page where her story is located, but there is also something else written on another part of it. The words on the page shock Clark and make him seem like he's seen a ghost. What did Clark read? Could it mean that there's a menace far too dangerous for even Superman to handle? "The Meteor of Kryptonite" holds the answers to those questions and is sure to bring certain doom to the Man of Steel. Tune in next week for The Adventures of Superman to see how our hero will react to this mysterious news, boys and girls.

Trivia:

While Joe Hanson ran the River of Horrors throughout most of this serial, Happy says in chapter one that his brother in-law named Archie runs it.

Before battling foes together in Superman #76 and World's Finest Comics #71, (Previous issues of World's Finest showed both Batman and Superman, but they were featured in separate stories.) Batman and Robin first teamed up with Superman in the radio serials. Their first meeting was in 1945's "The Mystery of The Waxmen." The radio serials in which Superman, Batman and Robin worked together were so popular that DC Comics made them fight evil doers together through the years from the aforementioned World's Finest Comics #71 up until the current Superman/Batman title.

Inspector Henderson makes an appearance in this serial. He would later be an important supporting character in the Adventures of Superman television show starring George Reeves. Robert Shayne played Henderson on TV. Henderson also made periodic appearances in early issues of the Post-Crisis Adventures of Superman comic books.

Announcer Jackson Beck also played Beany Martin the copy boy, the policeman talking to Jimmy Olsen and Dick Grayson and various other characters throughout this and many other Superman radio serials. He also provided many voices for The New Adventures of Superman 1960s animated series and was the announcer for the 50th anniversary TV special dedicated to the Man of Steel.

The part of Doctor Blythe is played by Gail Gordon, who is best known for his role of Mister Mooney in The Lucy Show.

Mason Adams is portraying Joe Hanson the ticket taker in the River of Horrors. Adams will later play the Atom Man in The Adventures of Superman. He is also famous for his role of Charlie Hume on the Lou Grant television show and for his voice-overs in the Smuckers jam and jelly commercials of the 1970s and 1980s with the slogan, "With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good."

Review:

"Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang" will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first Superman serial I had ever heard. About ten years ago, a volunteer disc jockey for the Yesterday USA radio station had played it and started my addiction to this radio series. My memories of listening to this story may be coloring my judgement a bit, but I really liked it as a story. I only have one complaint, and it has nothing to do with the writing. The character of Happy is extremely irritating. I wish Doctor Blythe or Dixie had killed him. Aside from that, this arc is extremely entertaining.

The writing seems to have taken a different direction from that used in the 1940-1942 story arcs. Much like the first two seasons of the television series, The initial 325 episodes of The Adventures of Superman radio show seem more like film noir than a show based on a comic book character. It feels more like the writers made these post-war serials more like the comics from which its heroes were created. This sensation seems to begin with "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang."

It's a pity that only two episodes from "The Mystery of Waxmen" serial exist. I'd love to be able to hear the complete story that feature the first time Superman teams up with Batman. Hopefully, the missing chapters will turn up sometime in the future.

Lois having a double will later be used in Lois & Clark. However, "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang" seems to work with the plot device better than the television show. Not that the Lois & Clark version was bad, but the radio show used the mind's eye and cliffhangers that, in my opinion, could not work in TV because we are given visuals that someone else wants us to see, which might not be what we want to view. With radio, the pictures in our minds' eyes are limitless. We are in control of what is shown.

Despite his gruffness, Perry White seems nearly fatherly toward Lois in "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang." He may fire Clark, Lois and Jimmy on an hourly basis in the early stories from the radio, television and comics, but deep down inside, the chief considers the people of the Daily Planet his family. He shows this more in Post-Crisis comics and Lois & Clark, but if one looks closely at other versions of Perry's character, the father figure image is there.

I mentioned earlier that the writing of "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang" seems to give off a comic book type of atmosphere. One thing that helps this feeling is the fact that Batman and Robin guest star in this serial, but Doctor Blythe himself and his gang also make this possible. Blythe could easily make a transition from the serials to the comics given the right plot.

The appearances of both the Dynamic Duo and Doctor Blythe also help make this story arc fun and go extremely smoothly. I personally believe that this has to do with the actors chosen to play various parts. Everyone, even the main cast, does superb voice work, particularly in "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang."

When we return to Metropolis, "The Meteor of Kryptonite" causes trouble for Superman. Will this mean the end for the Man of Steel? We'll have to wait until next week, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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