February 07, 2015


(ABC, September 6, 1969-September 4, 1971)

Filmation Associates, 20th Century Fox

Byron Kane – Joe Hardy, Pete Jones, Fenton Hardy
Dallas McKennon – Frank Hardy, Chubby Morton
Jane Webb – Wanda Kay Breckenridge, Aunt Gertrude
Reed Kailing – Frank Hardy (live)
Jeff Taylor – Joe Hardy (live)
Norbet “Nibs” Soltysiak – Chubby Morton (live)
Bob Crowder – Pete Jones (live)
Deven English – Wanda Kay Breckinridge (live)

            Frank and Joe Hardy are brothers living in the city of Bayport on Barmet Bay with their father, police detective Fenton Hardy, their mother, Laura, and their Aunt Gertrude. However, they’re more than just your average American teen boys; they’re amateur detectives with a penchant for getting involved in one mystery after another.

A first edition of The Rover Boys.

            Realizing there was a large untapped market for children’s books, Edward Stratemeyer began to create books to fill that void; opting for pure entertainment over the morality lessons that dominated that market. He first created the Rover Boys under the pseudonym Arthur M. Winfield. The resulting series proved a success, selling five million copies over 30 volumes from 1899-1926.  In 1904, he began writing The Bobbsey Twins as Laura Lee Hope and Tom Swift in 1910 as Victor Appleton. In 1906, Stratemeyer founded of the book-packaging firm The Stratemeyer Syndicate, realizing that he could produce more books a year through different publishers under different pseudonyms under his control as books with his real name on it failed to sell as well. After a time, Stratemeyer could no longer juggle multiple series and decided to hire ghostwriters to take over some of the books under the established pseudonym for that title. In 1911, Stratemeyer developed a talent for writing mysteries, published under the name Chester K. Steele.

The very first edition of The Hardy Boys.

            By 1926, the Syndicate began focusing on mysteries geared towards its younger base when Stratemeyer created The Hardy BoysHe pitched the series to publisher Grosset & Dunlap, who had come up with the name for it. Under Stratemeyer’s model, the books were created by making a detailed outline of the plot that was then given to a ghostwriter to flesh out under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon, edited in-house, and then released. Stratemeyer and his daughter, Edna, had a hand in developing some of the early outlines for the series, while his other daughter, Harriet, took over the duties in 1934 with Andrew Svenson. Other outliners included Vincent BuranelliJames Duncan Lawrence and Tom Mulvey. A large part of the early foundation for the franchise came from the series’ first writer, Leslie McFarlane, who penned 19 volumes before eventually allowing himself to quit a series and working conditions he despised (aside from the strict anonymity of its authorship, the Syndicate had stringent rules to be followed for each book and vastly underpaid for the amount of work being done).

The 1959 revision of the first book.

            In 1959, the series underwent an extensive revision in content, prompted by Harriet, now the sole company head, and Grosset & Dunlap. Harriet wanted to modernize the stories to bring them up to contemporary times as well as simplify the writing style to appeal to a younger audience. Grosset & Dunlap also wanted racial slurs and stereotypes removed as many parents were complaining about the content of the books they published. Slumping sales also contributed to this decision. However, instead of fixing any minority characters, the cast of the books was completely whitewashed until the 1970s. While a number of the original stories were maintained and modified, several plots were entirely rewritten from scratch to become virtually new stories with the same titles. A greater emphasis was placed on fast-paced action rather than mood building.

Animation cels from Filmation's series.

            Along with these story changes, the characters themselves underwent some revisions. Many of McFarlane’s original stories featured Hardy Boys who were skeptical of authority figures--including law enforcement--as a means to convey that those in charge were sometimes not above board. The Hardys also received compensation sometimes for their sleuthing, which went towards their college educations, and their devotion to their Aunt Gertrude stemmed from the fact she was rich. With the revisions, the Hardys were entirely respectful of authority to the point that they wouldn’t go beyond the speed limit, even to chase down a villain. Villains no longer smoked or drank, nor possessed many of their unique character quirks (Pedro Vincenzo, for example, branded his victims in the original 1934 text of The Mark on the Door, but not in revised editions), and often surrendered in lieu of the shoot-outs that dominated the original stories.

            In 1956, Disney contracted the production of two serials that aired during The Mickey Mouse Club. Starring younger versions of the Hardys to appeal to the show’s audience, The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure was based on the series' first book, The Tower TreasureThe Mystery of the Ghost Farm was an original story by screenwriter Jackson Gillis. After the Syndicate conducted a survey to determine why sales were falling on the series, they discovered a large factor was due to the high cost of the books and competition from television. The Syndicate quickly approved an hour-long pilot based on the book The Mystery of the Chinese Junk with the Hardys portrayed as young adults. It aired on CBS, but the show was never picked up due to the pilot’s poor ratings.

The animated band: Frank, Pete, Wanda, Chubby and Joe.

            A more fully-realized attempt came in 1969 when Filmation acquired the rights to the franchise. Having struck a major hit with The Archie Show the year before on both television and the radio, Filmation sought to duplicate that success with the Hardys. As a result, Filmation took some liberties with the source material. Gone were the clean-cut teens as described in the books; instead Frank (Dallas McKennon) and Joe (Byron Kane) were given long hair and the latest mod styling to complement their new vocation as members of a band. Fellow band mate and friend Chubby Morton (McKennon) was a play on their friend from the books, Chet Morton. Wanda Kay Breckenridge (Jane Webb) was the only female member of the band and loosely based on Callie Shaw, Frank’s girlfriend from the books. Created exclusively for the cartoon was Pete Jones (Kane). Pete received the distinction of becoming the very first African-American character to be featured in a Saturday morning cartoon (although his voice actor was white). However, an argument can be made that the honor retroactively belongs to Filmation’s earlier Aquaman series, based on the DC Comics character, as the villain Black Manta was revealed to be one in Adventure Comics #452 (1977).

The live-action band: English, Soltysiak, Taylor, Kailing and Crowder.

            Once the characters’ looks and designs were set, Filmation set out to cast a real-life version of the band. While the The Archie Show’s band recorded behind the scenes, this time around they wanted the band to be front and center on the show, the albums, on tour to various venues and promotional work. A nation-wide talent search was held and ultimately Jeff Taylor was selected for Joe, Reed Kailing for Frank (both of whom knew each other from high school), Norbet “Nibs” Soltysiak for Chubby, Deven English for Wanda (who eventually dated Taylor for several years) and Bob Crowder for Pete. Primarily identified as their characters, the real band would open and close the show performing the series’ theme, “Here Come the Hardys.” They also stood in for the animated characters’ voices whenever a song was played during the show. Although primarily the Hardys and Pete were featured on guitars with Chubby on drums (which were played by Pete in the live segments), Chubby would sometimes be seen with different instruments during one of their musical interludes. The live band introduced the cartoon to audiences in ABC’s Saturday morning preview prime time special hosted by characters from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.    

The Corgi Toys die-cast version of the band's not-quite-Silver Ghost.

The Hardy Boys premiered on September 6, 1969 and became the first action-adventure mystery show on Saturday mornings. It also became the first to deal with the concept of drugs and provided public service announcements to its audience, such as not smoking and wearing seat belts. The band traveled around on a worldwide tour in a brightly-colored Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and often ended up being caught up in a mystery, leading to confrontations with the culprits. To combat the growing concerns of violence on television, all of the fighting was done off-camera. Characters would be tackled and tumble off screen, sounds of fighting would be heard, and then the camera would pan over to the victor. Any of the conflict shown on screen would be done through comedic methods; such as Chubby clumsily knocking their foes over while giving chase. Filmation used the various Hardy Boys books for episode plots, but their adherence to the books varied between episodes; some being near adaptations while others bore only a passing connection to the story for which the episode was named. Episodes included two different story segments and at least one musical number. The series was written by Eric Blair, H.F. Mauberly, David Melmuth and Ken Sobol, and Ray Ellis (under his son’s name, Marc) provided the rest of the show’s music.

Here Come the Hardy Boys album cover.

            Albums featuring the music from the series were released by RCA RecordsHere Come the Hardy Boys was released in 1969, while Wheels/The Hardy Boys came out the following year. Each album had eleven songs, six of which were released between three 45rpm records as singles and B-sides. Although the songs “Wheels” and “Love Train” made the American Bandstand pop charts, the albums were difficult to find and little interest shown in them despite the popularity of the band. The show itself failed to perform any better, especially being shown against CBS’s brand-new Scooby-Doo series, and no new episodes were commissioned after the first season; although a second season of reruns did air. The band lasted a bit longer than the program, but eventually the idea was abandoned and the members, who all had different musical interests other than what they were playing at the time, went their separate ways.

The Hardy Boys board game by Milton Bradley.

            Despite its short run, the animated series did spawn its own share of merchandise besides the albums. In 1969, Milton Bradley produced a board game while Corgi Toys produced a die-cast model of their car with miniature figures of the characters. Collegeville produced a line of vinyl Halloween costumes based on the show’s designs. In 1970, Filmation created a Hardy Boys Fan Club to which members could join and receive a kit of premiums: a membership card, small black and white photos of the band members which were also featured on a set of stamps, a newsletter with photos and bios of the band members, and a 45rpm record of the band members talking about themselves. Between 1969 and 1970, View-Master produced a 16 page story booklet and three reels called “The Mystery of the Caves,” along with a special single reel preview. Sheet music for “Wheels” and “Love and Let Love” were released through Fox Fanfare Music. Between 1970 and 1971, Gold Key Comics produced a four-issue series that used both the animated characters and live band members on their covers. 

               ABC wasn’t ready to give up on the Hardys yet, as in 1977 they produced a live-action series The Hardy Boys Mysteries, which alternated airings with another Syndicate series, The Nancy Drew Mysteries. That series ran for three seasons, although the Nancy portion would eventually be dropped. Another attempt at the Hardys was made in 1995, but that show only lasted a single season of 13 episodes. 

The 1970s revised edition of the first book.

As for the books themselves, early 1970s revisions featured the Hardys as members of a band they formed, something that had not been previously established in the series until then. In 1980, Harriet, dissatisfied with the lack of creative control or recognition for the Hardys’ 50th Anniversary with Grosset & Dunlap, switched over to Simon and Schuster for further publications. A legal battle over that move resulted in Grosset & Dunlap being awarded the rights to the original books as they were in print in 1980, but Harriet retained all rights to the characters and could produce new material based on them. 

The first book in the current series by Simon  & Shuster.

58 books ran in the original series until 1979. The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories ran from 1979-2005, published by the imprints Wanderer Books and Minstrel Books, continuing the original numbering until #190. The first spin-off, The Hardy Boys Casefiles ran from 1987-98 published by Archway Parperbacks with Simon and Schuster handling collected editions of the books. It featured a darker and grittier version of the Hardys and their world. A younger-reader series, The Hardy Boys Are: The Clues Brothers ran from 1997-2000, with The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers running from 2005-12 as a replacement for the Mystery Stories series. In 2010, Simon  and Schuster’s Aladdin imprint began annual publication of The Hardy Boys Secret Files, which featured the Hardys as grade-school detectives. In 2016, it was rebooted as The Hardy Boys Clue Book, which served as an interactive experience that encouraged readers to write down clues and predictions. Simon and Schuster launched the newest book series in 2013 called The Hardy Boys Adventures, published three times a year with a first-person narrative that alternates between Frank and Joe each chapter. Between 2004 and 2011, Papercutz produced a series of new graphic novels based on the characters; the 10th issue of which included an episode guide and information about the cartoon. In 2017, Dynamite Entertainment published Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie with a follow-up, The Death of Nancy Drew, planned for her 90th anniversary in 2020.

EPISODE GUIDE (episode synopses not available at this time):
“Footprints Under the Window / Hunting for Hidden Gold” (9/6/69)

“Mystery of the Desert Giant / The Viking Symbol Mystery” (9/13/69)

“The Secret of the Old Mill / The Missing Chums” (9/20/69)

“The Secret Warning / The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior” (9/27/69)

“The Mystery of Cabin Island / The Hidden Harbor Mystery” (10/4/69)

“The Secret of the Caves / A Figure in Hiding” (10/11/69)

“The Ghost at Skeleton Rock / The Mystery of the Chinese Junk” (10/18/69)

“The Shore Road Mystery / The Sign of the Crooked Arrow” (10/25/69)

“What Happened at Midnight / The Clue in the Embers” (11/1/69) 

“The Clue of the Screeching Owl / The Yellow Feather Mystery” (11/8/69) 

“The House on the Cliff / Mystery of the Spiral Bridge” (11/15/69) 

“The Mystery at Devil’s Paw / The Haunted Fort” (11/22/69) 
“The Sinister Signpost / The Melted Coins” (11/29/69) 

“The Mark on the Door / The Flickering Torch Mystery” (12/6/69) 

“The Secret of Wildcat Swamp / The Clue of the Broken Blade” (12/13/69) 

“The Hooded Hawk Mystery / The Short Wave Mystery” (12/20/69) 

“The Phantom Freighter / The Secret of Pirates Hill” (12/27/69) 

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2024.

1 comment:

jtbwriter said...

This is a great page-apparently the 1969 ABC Saturday Morning Cartoon Special is a missing favorite from TV Party and You Tube, among other sites. What most people forget is that Jonathan Frid (as Barnabas Collins) made several appearances during the show and ended up pushing a membership card for the Saturday Morning Cartoon Club. I still remember how much I looked forward to that lineup (besides the Hardy Boys, they also had Hot Wheels and a couple of other shows that fed off of toy lines). Hopefully there's a tape of this show sitting in a film vault somewhere just waiting to be discovered!