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Down These Mean Streets (Old Time Radio Detectives)

Presenting the best detectives from the Golden Age of Radio. Each week, we'll bring you an episode starring one of Old Time Radio's greatest detectives and the story behind the show. Join us for adventures of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Johnny Dollar, and many more.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Episode 61 - The Mohr the Merrier (Nero Wolfe, Johnny Dollar, & Philip Marlowe)

Gerald Mohr, one of the greatest actors of the Golden Age of Radio, was born 100 years ago this week. To mark his centennial anniversary, we'll hear Mohr as three different radio detectives. First, he's Archie Goodwin to Sydney Greenstreet's Nero Wolfe in "The Case of the Calculated Risk" (originally aired on NBC on January 19, 1951). Then, it's his 1955 audition recording as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Finally, he stars as Philip Marlowe in "The August Lion" (originally aired on CBS on August 6, 1949).

1hr 19mins

8 Jun 2014

Rank #1

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Episode 103 - Little Grey Cells (Agatha Christie's Poirot)

Hercule Poirot, the diminutive, eccentric, and brilliant Belgian detective, has thrilled mystery fans since his first appearances in the novels of Agatha Christie. In 1945, he came to American radio in a series that boasted an introduction by Christie herself. Harold Huber starred as the mustachioed master of deduction in Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and he was perfect as the fastidious investigator. We’ll hear him in “The Case of the Careless Victim,” originally aired on Mutual on February 22, 1945.

37mins

15 Mar 2015

Rank #2

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Episode 90 - Wolfe Pack (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)

Sydney Greenstreet settles into the armchair of Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout's gargantuan gourmet and irascible (but brilliant) detective. Wolfe will tackle a case only when his bank account demands it, and even then he farms out the fact-finding to his leg man, Archie Goodwin. Greenstreet stars in two radio mysteries: "The Case of the Impolite Corpse," with Larry Dobkin as Goodwin (originally aired on NBC on December 8, 1950); and "The Case of the Party for Death," featuring Harry Bartell as Archie (originally aired on NBC on February 16, 1951).

1hr 4mins

7 Dec 2014

Rank #3

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Episode 59 - Nick and Nora (Lux Radio Theatre)

William Powell and Myrna Loy recreate their film roles of Nick and Nora Charles in this radio adaptation of The Thin Man. Dashiell Hammett's story of the Charles and their search for missing inventor Clyde Wynant was a big screen smash and was presented on the air on the Lux Radio Theatre. We'll hear this hour-long dramatization as it was heard on CBS on June 8, 1936.

1hr 4mins

25 May 2014

Rank #4

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Episode 282 - Play It Again, Sam (Adventures of Sam Spade)

To celebrate Dashiell Hammett's birthday, we'll hear a pair of radio adventures of his most famous creation - the hard-boiled San Francisco shamus Sam Spade. Howard Duff stars as Spade in "The Queen Bee Caper" (originally aired on CBS on July 10, 1949). Then, Steven Dunne steps into Sam's shoes for "The Biddle Riddle Caper" (originally aired on NBC on January 5, 1951).

59mins

27 May 2018

Rank #5

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Episode 178 - Seventy Years of Sam (Adventures of Sam Spade)

On July 12, 1946, Dashiell Hammett’s famous private eye Sam Spade came to radio in what became one of the greatest detective shows of the era. With witty scripts and a dynamic lead performance from Howard Duff, the series thrilled listeners and kept a smile on their faces in a program that stands out from the crowd of hard-boiled gumshoes and cops. In honor of the seventieth anniversary of its radio debut, we’ll hear four episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade. Howard Duff stars in “Sam and Psyche” (originally aired on ABC on August 2, 1946); “The Rushlight Diamond Caper” (originally aired on CBS on July 4, 1948); and “The Dick Foley Caper” (originally aired on CBS on September 26, 1948). We’ll also hear Stephen Dunne as Spade in “The Dog Bed Caper” (originally aired on NBC on December 1, 1950).

2hr 4mins

17 Jul 2016

Rank #6

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Episode 62 - You Can't Go Holmes Again (Sherlock Holmes & Tales of Fatima)

Basil Rathbone donned the deerstalker cap in fourteen films as Sherlock Holmes and portrayed the legendary detective on radio for seven years. Frustration with typecasting led him to leave Baker Street, but he didn't stay away from the detective world for long. We'll hear him this week as Holmes (with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson) in "The Problem of Thor Bridge," originally aired on Mutual on October 1, 1945. Then, Rathbone plays himself as an amateur detective in the unusual program Tales of Fatima. We'll hear "Time to Kill," originally aired on CBS on May 28, 1949.

1hr 5mins

15 Jun 2014

Rank #7

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Episode 134 - One for the Road (Rocky Fortune)

Frank Sinatra is on the job as Rocky Fortune. Footloose, fancy-free, and frequently unemployed Rocky bounces from job to job but he finds danger wherever he punches a clock. Old Blue Eyes brings his signature charm and swagger to the role in this single-season radio mystery series. We'll hear him in "A Hepcat Kills the Canary" (originally aired on NBC on November 17, 1953) and in "Murder Among the Statues" (originally aired on NBC on December 1, 1953).

55mins

4 Oct 2015

Rank #8

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Episode 116 - You're a Detective Sergeant (Dragnet)

Jack Webb is back as Sgt. Joe Friday in a two-part episode of Dragnet. Join Friday and his partner Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) as they pursue criminals and try and keep the streets of Los Angeles safe in this king-sized story from official police files. We’ll hear “The Big Mask” (Part 1 originally aired on NBC on December 28, 1952; Part 2 originally aired on January 4, 1953).

1hr 4mins

7 Jun 2015

Rank #9

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Episode 234 - Sam I Am (Adventures of Sam Spade)

Sam Spade - Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco shamus of The Maltese Falcon - was a hit with audiences when he came to radio in July 1946. The mix of tongue in cheek comedy with hard-boiled mystery, combined with the memorable performance of Howard Duff in the title role, made for a series that still holds up today and stands as one of the very best the era had to offer. We'll hear Duff as Spade in "The Missing Newshawk Caper" (originally aired on CBS on July 18, 1948) and "The Vaphio Cup Caper" (originally aired on CBS on August 22, 1948). Then Steve Dunne steps into Sam's shoes for "The Chateau McLeod Caper" (originally aired on NBC on January 26, 1951).

1hr 35mins

30 Jul 2017

Rank #10

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Episode 299 - How Now, Howard? (Sam Spade & Suspense)

This week on "Down These Mean Streets," we'll hear Howard Duff in two radio mysteries as Sam Spade and as a scriptwriter plotting the perfect crime in "Suspense."

1hr 30mins

11 Nov 2018

Rank #11

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Episode 277 – Say It With a Diamond (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)

It's the fifth anniversary of Down These Mean Streets and the 69th anniversary of the premiere of Richard Diamond, Private Detective. To celebrate both, here's an extra-large episode starring Dick Powell as Diamond. Radio's singing detective gets his man and carries a tune in "The Ralph Chase Case" (originally aired on NBC on May 15, 1949); "The Harry Baker Case" (originally aired on NBC on September 3, 1949); "The Grey Man" (originally aired on ABC on February 16, 1951); and "The Hollywood Story" (originally aired on CBS on August 23, 1953).

2hr 2mins

22 Apr 2018

Rank #12

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Episode 359 – Wolfe Whistle (New Adventures of Nero Wolfe)

Sydney Greenstreet stars as Nero Wolfe - Rex Stout's eccentric orchid fancier and gourmand who's also a brilliant detective. We'll hear Greenstreet - with Larry Dobkin as loyal assistant Archie Goodwin - in "The Case of the Beautiful Archer" (originally aired on NBC on November 24, 1950) and "The Case of the Girl Who Cried Wolfe" (originally aired on NBC on December 15, 1950).

1hr 7mins

1 Dec 2019

Rank #13

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Episode 104 - Norths by Northwest (Mr. and Mrs. North)

The radio success of Mr. and Mrs. North convinced CBS to bring the adventures of the crime-solving couple to television. Richard Denning and Barbara Britton starred as Jerry and Pam and moved to take over the radio roles after a year on the small screen. Denning and Britton continued the program’s trademark balance of crime with light comedy simultaneously over radio and on television. We’ll hear the Norths in “The Comic,” an Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast of an episode originally aired on CBS on July 7, 1953.

30mins

22 Mar 2015

Rank #14

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Episode 227 - One Mohr for the Road (Philip Marlowe & Nero Wolfe)

From 1948 to 1951, Gerald Mohr turned in a star performance as Raymond Chandler's L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe and gave us one of the best detectives of the radio era. But there was more to Mohr than his celebrated turn as "crime's most deadly enemy." In honor of his birthday, we'll hear Gerald Mohr in two radio mysteries as Marlowe - "The Long Rope" (originally aired on CBS on February 5, 1949) and "The Strangle Hold" (originally aired on CBS on October 15, 1949). We'll also hear him as Archie Goodwin (opposite Sydney Greenstreet) in "The Case of the Killer Cards" from The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (originally aired on NBC on January 12, 1951). And - as a bonus - we'll hear Mohr playing for laughs as French teacher Jacques Monet in an episode of Our Miss Brooks from October 9, 1949.

2hr 4mins

11 Jun 2017

Rank #15

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Episode 89 - Howard the Duff (Sam Spade & The McCoy)

Howard Duff was one of radio's brightest stars until the blacklist and "Red scare" paranoia derailed his career. Today, he's fondly remembered as the definitive voice of Sam Spade with the perfect blend of tough guy delivery and wry humor. We'll hear Duff as Spade in "The Death Bed Caper," originally aired on CBS on June 20, 1948. Then, he stars as Mike McCoy, a private eye cut from the Spade cloth in the 1951 audition program for The McCoy.

1hr 7mins

30 Nov 2014

Rank #16

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Episode 252 - Mustachioed Marvel (Murder Clinic & Hercule Poirot)

We're putting our little grey cells to work as Hercule Poirot solves two old time radio mysteries. Agatha Christie's brilliant Belgian detective is back on the big screen, and we'll hear two of his adventures from the airwaves. First, Maurice Tarplin is Poirot in an adaptation of Christie's "The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor," originally aired on Murder Clinic on October 6, 1942. Then, Harold Huber steps in for "Murder is a Private Affair," an episode of Hercule Poirot (originally aired on Mutual on November 23, 1945).

59mins

12 Nov 2017

Rank #17

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Episode 150 - All-American Spade (Deadline Mystery & Sam Spade)

We salute actor Stephen Dunne, the second man to wear Sam Spade’s trench coat on radio. After struggling to break out of bit parts on the big screen, Dunne found success on radio in a number of shows. In 1950, after rumors of Communist ties cost Howard Duff the gig, Dunne stepped into the role of Sam Spade and put his own spin on the shamus for 24 episodes. His affable, easy-going qualities and smooth voice served him well as he later transitioned into television. We’ll hear him today as reporter “Lucky” Larson in “A Boy Asks for Help” from Deadline Mystery (originally aired on ABC on August 10, 1947). Then, Dunne is Spade in “The 25-1235679 Caper,” originally aired on NBC on January 5, 1951.

1hr 8mins

10 Jan 2016

Rank #18

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Episode 167 - Crooning for Clues (Richard Diamond, Private Detective)

Dick Powell is Richard Diamond, the only radio gumshoe who carries a tune along with his gun. The big screen star’s talents are put to perfect use in the character of Diamond, a tough, glib ex-cop turned shamus in the Big Apple who is equally skilled with his wits and his fists and who always wraps up the caper with a song for his girlfriend. The combination of Powell’s winning performance and scripts by Blake Edwards (the director behind The Pink Panther) make Diamond one of radio’s very best detectives. We’ll hear the private eye in “The Rene Bene Protection Case” (originally aired on NBC on October 22, 1949) and “The Statue of Kali” (originally aired on NBC on April 5, 1950).

1hr 6mins

24 Apr 2016

Rank #19

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Episode 117 - Bailey on the Beat (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar)

When Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar came back to the airwaves in 1955 after a brief hiatus, it was reenergized by a new nightly serialized format and a new star in Bob Bailey. Bailey made the role of “the man with the action-packed expense account” his own in rich, complex scripts that could play out five nights a week in a combined hour of airtime. We’ll hear Bailey as Dollar  in all five parts of “The Laughing Matter” (first aired on CBS from June 11 to June 15, 1956).

1hr 14mins

14 Jun 2015

Rank #20