Sam Spade is a fictional character who is the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon (1930) and the various films and adaptations based on it, as well as in three lesser known short stories by Hammett.
The novel, first published as a serial in the pulp magazine Black Mask, is the only one that Spade appears in, yet the character is widely cited as the crystallizing figure in the development of the hard-boiled private detective genre – Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe, for instance, was strongly influenced by Hammett’s Spade.
Spade was a departure from Hammett’s nameless and less than glamorous detective, The Continental Op. Sam Spade combined several features of previous detectives, most notably his cold detachment, keen eye for detail, and unflinching determination to achieve his own justice. He is the man who has seen the wretched, the corrupt, the tawdry side of life but still retains his “tarnished idealism”.
On the radio, Sam Spade was played by Bogart in a 1943 Screen Guild Theater production and a 1946 Academy Award Theater production. He was also played by Edward G. Robinson in a 1943 Lux Radio Theatre production.
The Adventures of Sam Spade
The Adventures of Sam Spade ran from 1946-1951 (on ABC, CBS, and NBC) and starred Howard Duff (and later Steve Dunne) as “Sam Spade” and Lurene Tuttle as Spade’s devoted secretary “Effie Perrine”, and took a considerably more tongue-in-cheek approach to the character.
The show ran for 13 episodes on ABC in 1946, for 157 episodes on CBS in 1946-1949, and finally for 51 episodes on NBC in 1949-1951. The series was largely overseen by producer/director William Spier. In 1947, scriptwriters Jason James and Bob Tallman received an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama from the Mystery Writers of America.
The series had a commercial that is well remembered. Wildroot Cream Oil. Wildroots catch phrase was, “A little dab’l do you.” The melody “Cream Oil Charlie” was copyrighted on 01/27/46 for Tad Dameron & Woody Herman by the Charling Music Corp., New York. Each of the broadcasts were 30 minutes in length.
Dashiell Hammett’s name was removed from the series in the late 1940s because he was being investigated for involvement with the Communist Party. Later, when Howard Duff’s name appeared in the Red Channels book, he was not invited to play the role when the series made the switch to NBC in 1950.
Born on May 27, 1894, he was a veteran of World War II, serving as a Sergeant in Alaska.
He was a member of the Civil Rights Congress, a liberal political group which was targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as being a Communist front. He refused to name contributors to the organization and was sentenced to six months in jail for that refusal.
He later became a virtual recluse in the tiny village of Katonah, New York, partly due to chronic health problems.
He died there on January 10, 1961 and, as was his wish, he was buried in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery. At one point, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover attempted to block the burial but was overruled in that attempt.
You can hear episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade on both the Crime & Suspense Channel and Heritage Gold.
Happy Listening 🙂