Of all the lady sleuths in OTR, "Candy Matson" is by far the pick of the litter. Both in quality and quantity (fourteen episodes in circulation) this San Francisco private eyeful exceeded her sister-sleuths. This early 50's show was the product of a married couple: Monty Masters, the creator and producer, and Natalie Parks Masters, the title lead.
Everything about this series was first rate: crisp writing, real Bay area locations, great sound effects, and tongue-in-cheek humor. Candy was usually working the same case as Homicide LT. Ray Mallard, but she always solved the case before he did, usually with the help of her sidekick, the aptly named "Rembrandt Watson" who played second fiddle to this feminine Sherlock Holmes.
Yes, she did agree to marry Lt. Mallard in the last episode, "Candy's Last Case" (5-20-51) and no, it didn't make any sense. Their feisty, and only occasional flirting, relationship was more like John Steed and Mrs. Peel on TV's "The Avengers" so this ending was obviously disappointing to her fans.
Candy had three different telephone phone numbers, EXbrook 2-9994 in the audition show, "Donna Durham's Death" (4-4-49) and YUkon 2-8209 in the remaining shows. There are a total of 14 episodes of "Candy Matson", including the audition and the reprise of 9-21-52, "The Fortune Teller." For the reprise, they modified her phone number very slightly, changing it to YUkon 3-8309.
Since there may be several readers who appreciate strong, smart lady detectives, let me point out there were over a dozen on radio, though few audio copies have survived. I've researched and written on this genre for over ten years and have uncovered thirteen series with a lady sleuth in the lead.
Of the thirteen female detectives, two were played strictly for humor ("Meet Miss Sherlock" and "Sara's Private Caper"), two were soap operas ("Kitty Keene, Inc." and "Carolyn Day, Detective") and one was a kids' adventure series ("Lady in Blue") which I believe was a spin-off from the comic book heroine, Lady Luck. I haven't found any scripts for "Susan Bright, Detective" but I suspect Una Merkel, the lead, played it mostly for laughs.
Kitty Keene was on the air from 1937 to 1940 and all four episodes in circulations are from the year 1939. Carolyn Day's surviving copies are only five-minute audition shows and it is doubtful the series ever got on the air. "Miss Sherlock" was a summer sustainer for 1946 and 1947, with Sondra Gair and Monty Margetts (left) having the title leads. Only two copies are still with us and Gair is in both.
"Sara's Private Caper" was an NBC show for the summer of 1950 with Sara Berner playing a former police secretary who solves cases in a humorous vein. Her inept boyfriend was the voice of Bob Sweeney. The series was sponsored by Wheaties and only the initial episode (6-15-50) is being traded among collectors. "Susan Bright, Detective" was not a true series; it was one of the dramatic segments on "Johnny Presents", sponsored by Philip Morris. I've not been able to find any audio copies.
The remaining seven series were played straight and our respective heroines in these shows were savvy, tough, and sometimes sexy. While "Candy Matson" is the best of these, the others were enjoyable too. The first one "Phyl Coe Mysteries" of the mid-30s (guess who her sponsor was?) was syndicated. It was also a radio audience participation show with the gimmick that one had to go to a Philco dealer and get a booklet in which one filled in the solution to each mystery and than mailed it in to the sponsor. The sponsor was no piker; $ 50,000 in prize money was distributed to winners. There are at least six episodes surviving.
Next comes "Miss Pinkerton" in 1941 with Joan Blondell starring, together with Dick Powell, who at the time was her husband. Blondell played Mary Vance, a lawyer who inherits, and then manages, her uncle's detective agency. Powell plays SGT. Dennis Murray of the New York PD.
Then in 1946, two more arrived, "Police Woman" with Betty Garde in title role and "The Affairs of Ann Scotland" with prominent actress, Arlene Francis (left), at the mike. Only two "Police Woman" shows exist, one of "Miss Pinkerton", and none of "Ann Scotland." I suspect that "Ann Scotland" may have challenged "Candy Matson" for sparkle, fast pace, and sexy humor, but thus far I've found neither audio copies nor scripts.
Another series had two titles and there are a total of about four episodes still around. Mercedes McCambridge (right) played Marty Ellis Bryan in this program. Although supposedly a lawyer, she spent all her time solving cases. NBC ran it first in 1951 under the title "The Defense Rests" and later it went to ABC who re-named it "Defense Attorney."
And finally, there was one show which never aired, but the CBS audition was rather promising. It was "Police Woman-USA" and it came out in June 1950. Richard Sanville was the producer and director; he had experience in those same roles on "Escape", "Box 13", and "Columbia Workshop". The series was to have been based upon real stories of policewomen in the Los Angeles PD, as researched by two real lady cops: Virginia Kellogg and Mary Ross. The cast is not identified in the audio so I don't know who played the central heroine, Sylvia Rollins. But I did recognize the voice of Parley Baer playing her supervisor, Captain Gray of Homicide.
Jack French's award-winning book, Private Eyelashes: Radio's Lady Detectives, covering 44 network series involving a feminine sleuth, is available from the publisher at BearManor Media