AXFORD: THE GREEN HORNET'S COMIC
Numerous mystery stories and motion pictures of the
early twentieth century depicted police officers and
detectives as bumbling idiots who, when attempting to
apprehend the burglar, would perform a Keystone Cops pratfall
before making the arrest. Often overlooking the solution to
the crime right under their very noses, this form of
stereotyping was common among radio programs as well — but
not in Fran Striker’s radio thrillers. Had it not been for
the speed of the Black Beauty, The Green Hornet would have
been apprehended by the police numerous times on the program
-- and the fact the automobile was Reid’s savior was
emphasized hundreds of times. Michael Aloysious Axford was a
member of the police force during the earliest Manhunters broadcasts,
but on The Green Hornet he was the bumbling detective
who never realized the elusive Green Hornet was right under
his very nose. And his comical misadventures were a favorite
among radio listeners.
- Warner Lester,
effort to combat the popular Eno Crime Club mystery
program airing on numerous East Coast radio stations, Fran
Striker created Warner Lester, Manhunter, which
premiered in the spring of 1932, while Striker was still
living at 261 Lexington Avenue in Buffalo. The title character
was an independent private investigator who often profited
from his adventures by stealing the money of murderers and
blackmailers. As the announcer revealed in episode eight:
“Lester is neither with the law, or definitely against the
law. He occupies a rather peculiar position, on a line that is
neither within nor yet without the law. His clever manner of
thinking usually brings him the solution of a crime before the
police are able to solve it, and he often profits thereby.”
in the ninth episode of the series was Michael Axford, chief
of police, who assumed Lester was a master criminal and vowed
that one day he would catch Lester with the goods. Axford
spoke with an Irish accent, smoked cigars and wore a bowler
hat. Lester was aided by his secretary, Louise Henderson, who
accepted his proposal of marriage in episode 22 and remained
his fiancée for the remainder of the series. In the same
episode Warner and Axford attempted to frame one another, the
attempt ending in a lasting friendship. A few episodes later,
Axford was framed for a jewel theft and suspended as chief of
police. Thanks to Lester, his name was cleared and Axford was
reinstated. Axford, however, dropped a bombshell at the
conclusion of the broadcast when he resigned from the force to
enter civilian life and help Lester in his investigations.
Lester gave up fighting crime for profit, and together they
opened an office as detectives in an unofficial capacity.
Louise still was the secretary.
“Warner Lester, the famous radio criminologist,
has solved many crimes by the logical working of his mind. He
has recently gone into the solution of crime as a profession,
where it once was his hobby. With him, sharing his beautiful
office, is Michael Axford, former police chief, whose chief
work now is assisting Lester.”
(Announcer for Warner Lester, Manhunter)
Warner Lester, Manhunter was heard from Boston
over the Colonial Network and the Yankee Network -- key
stations were WAAB and WNAC, both studios owned by John
Shepherd, Boston department store owner. Under the direction
of Jim Jewell at the Macabee Building in Detroit, contracted
through Trendle, Striker supplied copies of the same scripts
dramatized from Boston, so WXYZ would offer their own
productions with their own cast. *
For the East Coast broadcasts, the series originated from WIBW
with a different cast than the one broadcast from WXYZ.
Scripted during Striker’s Buffalo, New York, days
before joining WXYZ, the radio program ran for 303 episodes,
but the character of Warner Lester was heard on a total of 525
radio broadcasts. The series was so popular a spin-off series
was created, titled Manhunters, featuring various crime
dramas with rotating detective characters such as Peter Thorne
of Scotland Yard. The mysteries would occasionally lean toward
horror and science fiction with such plots as a mad movie
producer using an octopus in a fiendish murder plan involving
3D movies, vengeful ghosts and a curse from ancient kings
after scientists uncover an Egyptian tomb. *
Newspapers of the times also listed the series as Hunters
of Men and Man Hunters (two words) but those are
Given how popular Manhunters was, Trendle
planned on using the program to attract an audience for his
new series. In January 1933, when The Lone Ranger (not
yet titled by Trendle or Striker) was being scheduled for
broadcast, he briefly considered having it be a part of the Manhunters
program rather than a separate series before deciding to
alternate Manhunters and the western in the same Monday
through Friday time slot.
Lester also combated a number of master criminals who would
prove a challenge for the detectives. Lester attempts to
apprehend “The Ghost Gang” who tunneled into the bank
vault from a sanitarium in a three-episode story. In a series
of five episodes, Lester attempted to learn the identity of
the “Spinner,” a bald-headed woman who used an x-ray
machine to cause blindness and plotted bank robberies. In the
final confrontation, Axford pulled a gun, shooting her dead
and ending the reign of terror.
the most challenging for Lester and Axford was The Crimson
Fang Cult, led by Dr. Fang and his daughter. Obviously
inspired by the Dr. Fu Manchu series in print and on screen,
the crafty oriental used a variety of gimmicks such as a death
ray in an attempt to assassinate the secretary of war. The
criminal mastermind was so popular Striker wrote a short run
radio program lasting 59 episodes titled Crimson Fang.
(At one time also titled Manhunters-O-Fangs.) Warner
Lester’s attempts to defeat his arch nemesis also led to the
kidnapping of Louise, making the cases more personal than
passing year, the character of Mike Axford became more of a
bumbling, accident-prone annoyance to Lester, just as he was
later portrayed on The Green Hornet. In one episode,
with permission from the new chief of police, Axford beats up
a criminal behind locked doors. When captured by Dr. Fang and
his daughter, Axford is given an injection of concentrated
snake venom. Left to die alone, Axford quickly fixes a
tourniquet, cutting off the circulation from his arm. This
prevented the venom from reaching vital organs long enough for
the doctors to flush out the poison. Lester confessed that
until that day he never believed Axford thought fast in an
emergency. “I am going to eat those words.”
In a story
spanning five episodes, Lester went to Washington to study new
methods of crime prevention, leaving Louise and Axford to work
together in a number of capers. The series introduced
Inspector Martin of the FBI, who took Lester’s place
temporarily. Months later, when Lester went on vacation for
six consecutive episodes, Inspector Martin returned to help
Axford solve murders and jewel thefts. Inspector Martin also
combated Dr. Fang on separate occasions and later made a
number of cross-over recurring appearances on The Green
Hornet radio program.
Warner Lester series, there were some objections from
the staff that the character of Michael Axford was too
exaggerated -- perhaps too Irish. Trendle decided to drop the
character from the program. Jewell arranged for Striker, then
in Buffalo, to write an episode during which someone would try
to shoot Lester and, in missing, hit Axford instead. Axford,
described as Lester’s “associate,” was rushed to the
hospital so he could recover from his wounds. For 11
consecutive episodes, Axford was out of the series.
after the broadcast the telephone began to ring,” Dick
Osgood recalled. “The next day, hundreds of letters poured
in; listeners were inquiring about ‘poor Mike Axford.’
Bouquets of flowers were sent to the station to be forwarded
to the hospital. James Jewell milked the situation for all it
was worth. He had five or six bulletins broadcast every day as
to Mike’s condition. So popular did Axford prove to be that
he ‘recovered’ from his wounds and was restored to the
series. Characters were real people to listeners in those
days.” When actor Jim Irwin suffered a heart attack during The
Green Hornet years, Striker reprised the same stunt so
Axford would be recovering from his wounds while the actor was
doing the same across town.
brought back and remained a permanent fixture.
To both Striker and Trendle, the former chief of police was
more popular than the Warner Lester character. In late
1935, when The Adventures of the Hornet was being
conceived, Striker was a permanent staff writer for the
Michigan Radio Network, and Trendle informed his employee that
Manhunters and Dr. Fang were being canceled.
Trendle suggested having the two characters meet in mortal
combat and kill off each other. Lester and Louise fought
hand-to-hand combat with Dr. Fang on a plane plunging to the
ground and the master criminal was finally defeated. Lester
and Louise close the series by saying good-bye to Axford as
they rush off to get married and retire from the detective
agency. Axford promises to carry on, and the announcer informs
the audience that Axford will be heard on the new series, The
Adventures of the Hornet next Friday, proving comical
sidekicks could truly be more popular than the title
described as a married man on the program, but his wife was
never mentioned by name or appeared as a character, and by the
time he debuted on The Green Hornet, any and all
mention of his marriage had apparently been dropped from the
series. Since Axford lived in Britt Reid’s apartment and on
rare occasion fell in love with a woman, it can be determined
that he was single.
- “The Adventures
of The Hornet”
seeking the origin of The Green Hornet by reading the premiere
script of the series may be disappointed. The premiere
broadcast offered no origin to the masked man. Instead, a
character history is revealed through a Simon Legree-styled
villain named John Fenwick who runs his factory like a
ruthless slave-driver but suddenly has a change of heart,
doubling the wages and beginning costly improvements in the
working conditions of the factory. His motive was not
pure -- he yielded to the pressure of a masked man known as
“The Hornet” who threatened to expose his past if working
conditions were not improved. After the introduction of Mike
Axford to Britt Reid, and Axford’s report from his friends
at the police department of a masked man prowling the streets
nicknamed “The Hornet,” Reid learns Fenwick was guilty of
more than bad working conditions and sets out to pay a second
visit to the factory worker to shut him down for good.
the premiere episode would be considered “chapter two” in The
Green Hornet saga, but clearly introduced the characters
of Britt Reid, who with the aid of his Japanese servant Kato,
set out as a masked vigilante to right a wrong he felt the law
was incapable of resolving. The premiere broadcast also serves
as Britt Reid’s introduction to Mike Axford and the
conclusion of the John Fenwick story.
- AXFORD: Well! So
you’re the young fellow what’s takin’ over runnin’
o’ The Daily Sentinel, eh? What’d yer father tell yez
- BRITT: I can’t fire
- AXFORD: Oh, but by
golly, I’m hopin’ yuh wouldn’t want tuh! Yer father
figured that I’d come in handy around the office sometimes.
- BRITT: How?
- AXFORD: Well, bein’
as I know all the boys at the police headquarters I could sort
o’ help yer crime reporters gittin’ in tuh places an’
- BRITT: Go ahead, tell
me the rest.
- AXFORD: Well . . . uh
. . . I . . . I guess that’s about all. I . . . I’ll be
tryin’ some o’ this marmalade if yuh don’t mind.
- BRITT: Axford,
Sentinel reporters have always been able to get into places,
and they are not in the habit of getting into jams.
- AXFORD: Well I . . .
er . . . I . . . that is what I mean, yer father is thought
mebbe . . . I . . . I . . .
- BRITT: Well?
- AXFORD: I guess I will
be havin’ an egg after all.
- BRITT: What else were
you hired for Axford?
- AXFORD: Aw now you
know how it is, sometimes the lads on a newspaper an’ the
cops has little arguments between them that needs ironin’
out an’ . . .
- BRITT: One moment. Let
me tell you something. There never yet has been a reporter who
was broken by a cop, but on the other hand many an
unscrupulous cop has been broken by a reporter.
- AXFORD: Well uh . . .
by golly, these eggs is cooked just swell. I never in all me
life ate an egg that ---
- BRITT: You hear him
- KATO: Thank you,
- BRITT: Kato has over
two hundred ways of cooking an egg. Now let’s get back to
the subject of The Daily Sentinel and your employment.
- AXFORD: But what else
is they tuh say about?
- BRITT: Axford, isn’t
it the truth that dad thought I might get myself into a jam,
and he knew that I would never tolerate a bodyguard so
didn’t he take precautions? Didn’t he express fear that
some of the stuffed shirts who have been unstuffy by Sentinel
editorials would make an effort to get more or less even by
attempting assault on me?
- AXFORD: Now Mister
Reid, I . . .
- BRITT: Didn’t dad
tell you not to let me know that your real purpose in being on
the staff was to look out for his son and heir?
- AXFORD: He . . . he .
. . that is . . . I . . . he . . .
- BRITT: . . . and
isn’t it the truth that while you were employed to
supposedly aid the crime reporters, you were actually to guard
- AXFORD: Now I didn’t
tell yez a blasted thing, did I?
- BRITT: No you did not,
but Axford, I’ve hunted big game in Africa, I’ve engaged
in more or less dangerous collegiate sports, I’ve boxed,
fenced, sparred and footballed, and I’ve learned to fly my
own airplane. I think I can take care of myself.
- AXFORD: But it’s
only that yer so . . . Er . . . sort uh happy go lucky an’
- BRITT: I know. They
all consider me the playboy without a serious thought. They
think I go to The Daily Sentinel office only when there’s
nothing else to do. They think me irresponsible and dad’s
afraid I’ll walk into the hands of kidnappers or something
of the sort.
- AXFORD: Aw now Mr.
Reid . . . don’t take it that way.
- BRITT: I happen to
know that dad left the running of The Daily Sentinel in such a
way that the details to which I don’t attend, will be
attended to by one of the veterans of the staff. If I choose
to attend to them, I may do so but otherwise . . .
- AXFORD: He was
thinking’ of yer own good. And . . . uh . . .
- BRITT: And?
- AXFORD: Well . . . and
his own peace o’ mind.
- BRITT: Never mind. You
can’t be fired so you’ll have to be tolerated. As a matter
of fact, I think we’ll get along. I think I’m going to
- AXFORD: Yeah? Now say,
- BRITT: Now there, in
this apartment there is a lot more room than is needed by Kato
and me. Kato is a fine valet, a dexterous chauffeur, a
splendid handyman, and a first class cook. You’ll be quite
well cared for here.
- AXFORD: Yuh mean yuh
want me tuh live here wit yez?
- BRITT: At least until
you’re acquainted with things and decide to locate
elsewhere, yes. It would facilitate your work a great deal,
Thanks to Axford’s detective skills, a second prior
offense has been brought to light — Fenwick’s theft of
$100,000 from his ex-partner and his framing of Jimmy Carleton
for the crime — and Reid decided he had let Fenwick off too
easy. Using his gas gun and speedy getaway car, The Hornet
reveals Carleton’s innocence while at the same time
establishing himself as the masked vigilante the police are
seeking. Fenwick met The Hornet face to face, arguing that he
improved the working conditions of the factory as requested,
but The Hornet explained that things changed since he learned
of this second offense.
premiere episode also introduced the radio audience to the
gadgets of The Green Hornet. The gas gun revealed Britt Reid
was not above using firearms, but like The Lone Ranger, he
would not resort to inflicting pain or murder. The gas gun was
described as emitting a bit of liquid like a toy water pistol
and giving Reid the advantage of being silent. It gave an
instant but quite harmless nap to the person who received the
liquid from it, described in one early episode as “sweet
smelling.” In later episodes, Striker had apparently written
out the water pistol aspect and replaced it with glass
capsules that exploded upon impact, releasing an otherwise
harmless gas that rendered victims unconscious (also seen in The
Green Hornet Strikes! in 1940). There are a number of
later episodes in which villains described a small cloud of
gas, which was also depicted on the television series.
equivalent of “the great horse Silver” was the black car
which The Hornet used to make his getaway. Unlike the
cliffhanger serial, comics and television series, Kato rarely
drove the Black Beauty on the radio program unless it was
necessary, such as luring police away from a scene so The
Green Hornet could enter a building under police surveillance
or when Kato remained at the wheel so The Green Hornet could
make a speedy getaway.
silver bullets, The Green Hornet left behind stickers with a
hornet insignia at the scenes of their supposed crimes. In
later episodes, these stickers were referred to as a “Hornet
seal.” Kato also created a hand-carved jade ring. When The
Hornet pushed the ring into the ink pad and then onto paper,
an image of a Hornet was left behind. Reid accepted the ring
gladly and put it to use almost immediately in the sixth
broadcast of the series. When visiting a crook late one
evening, The Hornet left an imprint on the crook’s pajamas.
Use of the ring was dropped after a few months.
- A Deeper Study
H. Irwin was the first of two actors to play the role of
Michael Axford. An old-time vaudevillian and minstrel man of
the 1880s, he was stranded with a theatrical troupe in Omaha
in 1891. He
entered the brokerage business and remained there until the
1929 crash. Then, desperate for an income during the
Depression, he accepted the job of radio actor at station WXYZ
in Detroit. Irwin wore a bowler hat, smoked cigars, kept his
hair (what little he had) trimmed, and was the only person to
play the role of Axford on Manhunters. The Axford
character was modeled directly on him.
Green Hornet, Axford constantly attempted to prove his
worth as a reporter to Britt Reid, unaware he was a constant
thorn in the side of both Reid and Miss Case (whom Axford
later referred to as “Casey”). Most notable was his habit
of slamming the door when entering or leaving Reid’s office,
no matter how many times Miss Case or his employer asked him
allowed Axford to pose as an assistant to the reporters
working the police beat, but his real purpose was to serve as
a bodyguard for Britt under the senior Reid’s orders. The
young bachelor invited Axford to live with him and his
Japanese valet Kato, and he gladly accepted. Reid and Kato
would sneak out of the apartment through a secret passageway
only when Axford retired for the evening or went out on the
town for various reasons. (Any mention of Axford residing in
Reid’s apartment had been dropped by the later episodes;
Striker assumed the radio audience by that time needed no
didn’t take Clicker Binney long to discover Axford’s
faults, as evident in “Hook, Line and Sinker” (March 30,
- CLICKER: He thinks!
Gosh! That palooka has more theories than a watermelon has
seeds. Just what is his job with The Daily Sentinel?
- CASE: He’s really a
bodyguard for Britt Reid.
- CLICKER: Bodyguard!
Then what business has he in messing around with our stuff?
He’s doubled Gunnigan’s blood pressure with the stories
he’s tried to have accepted, and he has the dark
crew in a dither, trying to work something out of the films he
Mike Axford could not swim and was afraid of getting
too close to the edge of a high bridge. He once admitted that
“I’m a darn good wader.” A former prize fighter called
Merciless Michael even before his detective days, he was known
for having an uppercut that was applied throughout the series
when he combated a number of crooks or when he lost his
temper. He was also described as “very muscular.” Not for
protection but as an occupational hazard, Axford had a
registered Colt Police Positive Special which he carried at
all times, but rarely thought to pull out. (His quick thinking
and sharp shooting skills protected the life of a police
officer in the broadcast of May 18, 1937, as he shot the gun
from the killer’s hand, à la The Lone Ranger.) The
broadcast of May 25, 1937, revealed Axford’s transportation:
a Model T black sedan, New York license plate number 4229.
career with The Daily Sentinel climaxed in December of 1936
when the character was momentarily written out of the program.
Reprising the same stunt done previously on Manhunters,
Axford is shot and critically wounded. Lying in a hospital bed
for a number of broadcasts, the announcer pleaded with radio
listeners to submit get-well cards. Detroit Creamery, having
just started sponsorship weeks previous, was no doubt
impressed by the total number of cards received at flagship
rendition dramatized on The Green Hornet began with
episode 89 (December 15, 1936) when Scoop, one of The Daily
Sentinel reporters, prints a story about Hector Pemberton of
the Saturn Corporation giving out holiday cash bonuses to his
employees, a total of $2 million. Savage and Flint, two
heavily financed crooks, have made plans to heist the fortune,
and both the police and Scoop believe the Green Hornet is
behind the robbery. With a heavy armored car and a few machine
guns, the thieves shoot and kill their informant, Dan Ingalls,
confidential secretary to Pemberton. The Green Hornet sets a
trap for the thieves, giving away their plot and location,
leaving them for the police to arrest. But when Axford arrives
with Sergeant Doyle at the scene, a struggle with Savage
results in Axford being seriously wounded and rushed to the
additional broadcasts, Axford remains in the hospital listed
in critical condition. Ed Lowry took Axford’s place for
episode 90, looking into the cause of a large number of auto
accidents. He discovers the Appleton Tire Company has been
buying up old tires for junk, stripping the rubber off the old
casing and recovering it, allowing the company to sell tires
at less than half of the competition’s price. When blown-out
tires are proven to be the cause — and not the result — of
the accidents, Reid sets out as The Green Hornet to expose the
truth. At the beginning of the broadcast, Britt tells the
doctor in the hospital, “You understand that if there is
anything in the realm of medicine that can be done, money is
no object.” The doctor, however, tells Reid that the surgery
will be a critical operation. Britt comments to himself, “I
never knew . . . never appreciated Mike Axford until now
….” Doctor Richards successfully removes the bullet and
Axford is kept sedated under an anesthetic. The announcer
closed the broadcast with the following:
- ANNOUNCER: Behind the
closed hospital door, our old friend Michael Axford fights one
of the grimmest battles of his life. A battle for his life.
Modern science has done all that can be done for him. We know
that every one of his friends would do all they could to help.
Here is one way. Put his name on your Christmas card list. A
card from you will cheer him up immensely, if he regains
consciousness. Just address your greeting to Mike Axford, in
care of the hospital ward of the station to which you are
For the second of Axford’s three absences, the
announcer reminded listeners before and after the thrilling
adventure that Christmas cards and get-well cards would be
- ANNOUNCER: (opening)
Those of you who listened to the previous adventure of the
Green Hornet, know that Michael Axford was seriously wounded
by a criminal’s bullet and hovered between life and death in
the Regency Hospital. To those of you who have been kind
enough to send a Christmas card to him, we extend sincere
thanks. He has regained consciousness and the friendly
greetings, from friends he didn’t realize he had, have aided
in no small measure while the best physicians and surgeons
fought for the old fellow’s life.
- ANNOUNCER: (closing)
Poor Michael Axford, he can’t be told how critical his
condition is. He thinks that he’ll be out of the hospital by
Christmas, but there is doubt that the happy old Irishman will
ever leave the white-walled room alive. If you want to be of
great aid to Britt Reid, Miss Case and the other loyal friends
who are doing all in their power to keep up Axford’s spirit,
just send him a Christmas card. A word of greeting from you
will mean a lot to the best-hearted fellow in the world.
Address Michael Axford, in care of this station.
Michael Axford never returned to the program until the
broadcast of December 29, and the announcer explained that the
happy Irishman, having just been sent home from a hospital,
was convalescing after a serious gun wound. Britt Reid looks
after his friend as Axford retires to bed.
- AXFORD: The dirty
spalpeen, oh golly. I wish I had me strength back. I’d like
tuh be in yer office, in case he was tuh come back, an’ take
a clout at him. That I would.
- BRITT: Perhaps, when
you get your strength back Axford. It’s your bedtime now,
however, so turn in.
- AXFORD: Aw-w-w I
- BRITT: To bed you go.
Remember the doctor’s orders.
- AXFORD: (FADING) All
right, I suppose I gotta. Good night tuh yez, Reid.
Axford remained out of the picture for a brief spell,
but returned in the broadcast of January 7, 1937. After The
Green Hornet attempts to expose a crooked construction job
that accidentally killed a number of men at the site, The
Green Hornet visits Jordon, is surprised by a number of his
hoods, and suffers a bullet wound in the leg. Kato saves his
friend and together the men race to Karslake, leading the
police on a trail from one house to the other, finding
incriminating papers revealing the truth about the
construction project. When Axford notices Reid limping, the
young publisher claims Kato’s Jiu-Jitsu lessons were the
cause, and Axford, having undergone the same treatment once,
isn’t any the wiser. (The broadcast of November 19, 1936,
opened with Kato teaching Reid Jiu-Jitsu, which Reid then uses
to combat Joe Spearman on the broadcast of March 2, 1937.)
At the end
of the drama, the announcer and Axford offer a hearty thanks
to the radio listeners.
- ANNOUNCER: Ladies and
gentlemen, before we conclude tonight’s drama, we are going
to ask Michael Axford to step out of character for just a
moment and express his thanks to the thousands of you who
responded to our little request for a card while he was
recovering from his wound. Michael Axford.
- AXFORD: By golly, now
that I’ve got to make a speech, I don’t hardly know what
tuh say, but I do want yez tuh know that is sure done an old
man a lot of good tuh see that all you folks was thinkin’ of
him. I’m goin’’ tuh try to show yez how much I
appreciated it by doin’ me level best tuh do me job here as
you want it done an’ ---- alls I can say to all of yez who
sent me a greetin’ card is thanks to yez, an’ may the good
Lord bless yez all.
One year later, the character of Mike Axford was
abruptly written out of the program. Jim Irwin made his final
appearance on the broadcast of January 6, 1938. Soon after the
broadcast, the actor suffered a stroke, preventing him from
reprising the role he was best capable of playing. When the
seriousness of Irwin’s medical condition became better
known, the Axford character was written out, an explanation
given to the audience that he was ordered by the senior Reid
to return to the West Coast where the old man was now
residing. Irwin’s health did not get better in the coming
months. His character was replaced by two new ones, Tom Hawks
and Jasper Jenks. Irwin died June 24 of that year. Newspapers
reported that fans of the radio program jammed a cathedral for
his funeral, and the crowd overflowed into the street.
eight months later, on the broadcast of August 16, 1938,
another Irishman, a spitting image of Axford, was introduced
and described as a former detective attempting to assist the
police in capturing the notorious Green Hornet. The stranger,
who remained nameless, failed to accomplish his task, but the
broadcast left a momentary tease for the faithful listeners,
wondering just who aided authorities in their attempt. Could
this have been the return of Mike Axford?
a month later, on September 1, in the episode “The Man from
the West,” a private detective named Marlowe Bates arrives
by train, hand-carrying papers for The Daily Sentinel that
support Britt Reid’s exposé of a big graft ring in town,
promising to blow the lid off city hall, proving there are
crooks right in the district attorney’s own office -- and an
alliance between certain cops and the underworld. Britt
Reid’s father offers his assistance in the form of Marlowe
Bates. When two lugs kidnap the private detective, Britt finds
himself in a spot with Grant, the assistant district attorney,
who wants the young publisher to retract his anti-graft
statements in the papers since the proof is missing. Reid
starts sweating, facing defeat and ruin as a publisher.
broadcast, the mysterious Irishman who helped aid the police
weeks before in setting a trap for The Green Hornet, is
working with authorities on another scheme involving Britt
Reid’s fingerprints. While Reid was preoccupied with the
kidnapping of Grant, during the commercial break, the
announcer gave the following explanation:
and gentlemen, girls and boys -- you’ve been hearing a
familiar voice in the last few broadcasts of this program -- a
voice greatly reminiscent of the rich Irish brogue of one of
the grandest old gentlemen who ever lived in fact or fancy. A
man known to you as Mike Axford. If you’ve missed Mike
Axford during the past few months -- if you’ve wondered at
the absence of the blundering, self-confident old gentleman
who was so deeply devoted to Britt Reid, and who served him so
loyally -- we can only say that we miss him too. The true
explanation you will hear later on in this program.
Axford has gone west. He’s not coming back. Somewhere he’s
at last winning the reward for the honesty, the bull-dog
courage, and the deep, sincere loyalty that characterized him
in his capacity as Britt Reid’s bodyguard and closest
friend. So it is not the voice of Mike Axford that you hear --
but of someone else -- someone whose identity will surprise
you as much as it surprises those who knew and loved old Mike.
And as time passes, it is inevitable that you will give him
the same place in your heart that the original Axford held so
long. Who is it? Whose voice is this that brings back so
sharply your memories of Michael Axford, the man of action?
The next few minutes will tell!
The next day, with pressure mounting on Reid, Timothy
Axford, Mike’s brother, visits The Daily Sentinel and
arranges, with the assistance of a police officer, to take
Reid’s fingerprints. Reid takes a deep breath, fearing his
masked identity would become public, but is surprised to learn
the truth. Reid’s old man suspected someone might go so far
as to snatch him, and once his identity is verified, the
delivery of the real papers and proof is hand-delivered. Grant
was a decoy, and old man Reid feared criminals would take
advantage and attempt to eliminate the proof.
Axford was revealed as Mike’s younger brother, played by an
actor named Haggerty, his first name elusive due to the lack
of archival preservation and documentation over the decades.
For the broadcast of September 6, “The Story Of The
Sobsister,” Timothy reveals to Reid that he was a former cop
out west, much like his brother. Reid offers him a job as “a
sort of special agent” for the paper, using his brother’s
desk in Miss Case’s office, using his police training to
help the crime reporters, and being a general handyman for
Reid. The character of Timothy Axford was featured on the
series for a few months in the same capacity as his brother
Mike, even residing in Reid‘s apartment. Eventually,
however, the character was dropped in April of 1939 with no
Mike Axford, determined to be a crime reporter for The Daily
Sentinel, received his own desk, sharing Miss Case’s office,
beginning with the broadcast of October 11, 1936. Miss Case
was not pleased with the arrangement, unable to cope with the
annoying man. When Axford remarks how nice it was of Reid to
put a desk in her office for him, Miss Case comments,
“It’s the lowest down trick he’s ever played on me.”
In the broadcast of February 11, 1937, Britt Reid arranged for
a typewriter so Axford can start writing articles.
In the episode “Pink Lemonade and Tan Bark” (June
22, 1939), Britt Reid comments to Clicker Binney that Timothy
Axford left for California and Mike Axford would soon return.
Mike Axford arrived at The Daily Sentinel in the episode
“Put It On Ice” (July 4, 1939) and returned to his post as
if he were never gone. Oddly, it did not take long for Axford
to get wounded again. In “Death Strikes A Bargain” (April
3, 1940), a man named Ferraro is wanted by the police for an
attempted murder. Toward the end of the drama, Axford has his
arm in a sling from his struggle with the gun in Ferraro’s
With the return of Mike Axford, Gilbert Shea signed on
as the second of two actors to play the role. Shea was famous
for such great “fluffs” as “That was the Green
Hairnet,” a trademark statement that never happened when Jim
Irwin played the role. Numerous reference guides say Haggerty
was the second man to play the role of Mike Axford, but in
reality he played the role of Timothy. After Timothy’s
departure, Haggerty continued to play supporting roles on the
series, sans the Irish accent. Shea would continue the role
until the series concluded in 1952.
taking on the Axford role, Shea had previously played
supporting parts of various dialects on The Green Hornet.
For the broadcast of July 20, 1937, Shea was Councilman Finch,
who was being blackmailed into passing bills that Shirk, a
crooked operator of the Brayton Construction Company, needed
so he could profit from the sale of subdivisions. Shea also
played the recurring role of Hawks on the show in 1938, a
short-lived character of only a dozen broadcasts.
1939, Shea was paid $45 per week covering (according to the
contract) an “unlimited number of performances, both
commercial and sustaining, without further payment.” By
December 1947, he was paid $60 for each Green Hornet
episode he appeared on for the role of Michael Axford. In
October 1949, his salary changed again with $50 for each
episode broadcasting on a sustaining basis, and $60 per
broadcast if sponsored.
reference guides have cited actors Harry Goldstein, Paul
Hughes and [first name elusive] Haggerty among the men to play
the role. Haggerty, however, played the role of Timothy, not
Mike. And there has been no documents to verify Goldstein or
Hughes playing the role of Mike Axford. Goldstein and Hughes
certainly played supporting roles on the radio program, but
doubtful that they filled in for Shea. If an actor needed time
off for surgery or vacation, Striker often wrote the character
out of the series, momentarily, so another character would
become a temporary substitute.
of 1952, under the direction of Paul Landres, a television
pilot produced by George W. Trendle offered a tease of The
Green Hornet’s future. Looking towards television as the
next phase of The Green Hornet’s career, the pilot was
submitted to potential sponsors and networks -- and faced
stubborn rejection. Constructed with the lowest budget
possible, the pilot proposal was repeatedly rejected under the
reasoning that a series of shoe-string productions would not
improve the image and reputation of their products. The
character of Mike Axford was in the drama, but to this day the
actor remains unknown. In 1965, William Dozier successfully
signed a contract with Trendle for a series of Green Hornet
adventures. Three test films were created for the benefit of
Trendle, who had the final say regarding the actors to portray
the characters he fashioned on radio for seventeen years.
Before Lloyd Gough was hired to play Mike Axford, actor
Richard O’Brien had tried out for the role. While he never
succeeded, O’Brien would later gain fame for the role of
Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
Christmas 2010, The Green Hornet returns to the big
screen, courtesy of Sony Entertainment. Edward James Olmos,
best known for his role of Lieutenant Martin Castillo on
television’s Miami Vice, and Admiral William Adama on
the recent Battlestar Galactica, signed on for the role
of Michael Axford in September of 2009. The movie will be an
adaptation of the ’60s television series, not the radio
program, but will feature an Irish detective-turned-reporter
that premiered on Warner Lester, Manhunter in 1932.
“He won’t tell me a word, but he’s got somethin’
on the fire fer tonight. The spalpeen looks like a cat
that’s been stealin’ cream.”
-- Michael Axford, Sentinel staff
- Special thanks to: Terry Salomonson for his assistance
with this article.
- Martin Grams Jr. is
the author and co-author of more than a dozen books on
old-time radio and retro television.
- email me:
- Copyright © 2009 by Martin
Grams, Jr. All rights reserved.
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