THE GREEN HORNET (1966)
The Green Hornet was a radio serial character created in 1936 by WXYZ (now WXYT) owner George W. Trendle and writer Fran Striker, with input from radio director James Jewell. He was the alter-ego of Britt Reid (Al Hodge, Donovan Faust, Bob Hall & Jack McCarthy), the wealthy young publisher of The Daily Sentinel newspaper and a descendent of The Lone Ranger, whom Trendle and Striker also created. He and his loyal partner and confidant Kato (Tokutaro Hayashi, Rollon Parker & Michael Tolan) patrolled the city at night with a variety of gadgets and a technologically advanced car, The Black Beauty. They pose as criminals in order to better infiltrate the criminal underworld. The Green Hornet ran from 1936-1950, then again for 2 months in 1952. In that time, it was adapted into two serials by Universal Pictures and a comic book series that began with Henlit Comics (aka Holyoke) in 1940 and ended with Harvey Comics in 1949.
Trendle had attempted to pitch the character for television in 1951 and 1958, but nobody was interested in it until Batman became a success on ABC. The network decided to take on The Green Hornet and put it in the hands of Batman producer William Dozier. Unlike Batman, The Green Hornet was played straight. The Hornet was once again publisher Britt Reid (Van Williams) with his trusty sidekick, martial-artist Kato (Bruce Lee), dedicated to fighting crime after his father was framed, imprisoned and killed. Only two other people knew their secret: Reid’s secretary Lenore “Casey” Case (Wende Wagner), as she did in the later years of the radio show, and District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon (Walter Brooke), changed from being a police commissioner in order to minimize comparisons to Batman. Sentinel police reporter Michael Axford (Lloyd Gough), no longer Britt’s bodyguard, was determined to get the scoop on the Hornet. Additional differences between previous versions were Hornet and Kato wore masks molded to their faces rather than one that covered the full face or goggles, Hornet carried a vibrational weapon called the Hornet’s Sting as well as a knockout gas gun, and Kato had darts hidden up his sleeve.
The Green Hornet debuted on ABC, who owned WXYZ since 1946, on September 6, 1966. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral interlude, “Flight of the Bumblebee”, had become synonymous with the character through the radio series, so the TV show used a similar jazz-styled theme arranged by series composer Billy May, conducted by Lionel Newman, and a trumpet solo by Al Hirt. Dozier served as the series’ narrator as he did on Batman, and the characters would cross over twice. Unfortunately, The Green Hornet did not duplicate Batman’s success for the network and they cancelled it after a single season. However, it left a lasting impression thanks to Lee as it introduced both him and true martial arts to American audiences, increasing the popularity of both and propelling Lee into a movie career. ABC aired reruns of the series until July 1967, and since then it has made sporadic rounds on various networks.