The character Green Hornet was originally created by George W. Trendle, aided and abetted somewhat by a book he came across called The Adventures of Jimmie Dale by Frank Pritchard. According to the novel, Jimmie Dale was a wealthy heir and member of the prestigious St. James Club by day, but at night, he enjoyed breaking into businesses and homes to crack their safes for “the sheer deviltry of it.” He did not actually steal anything — he did it because he could. He was a modern-day Robin Hood who left a diamond-shaped gray paper seal at the scene of his crimes and became known in the press as the Gray Seal (the Green Hornet, in his turn, leaves his own seal, the semblance of a green hornet). His real identity stayed a secret until he was caught in the act by a woman who chose to blackmail him into using his unique talents to help others. Before long, he was taking on organized crime and various bad guys. All the while, he tried to stay ahead of the police and avoid being discovered by the press.
Trendle took the book to writer Fran Striker. “Read this,” Trendle told Striker. “We can do something like this with our new series. The Lone Ranger appeals to the kids. Now I want to put something on the air to interest young people who are about to vote. I want to do something to show young men how crooked office holders can be, and what they have to do to stop it… that they have to get out and vote and see what’s going on in the world, watch things so we can elect candidates to office who will be something. See?”
Similarities To The Lone Ranger
Fran Striker blended numerous elements from the Jimmie Dale novel with the cookie cutter format of the Lone Ranger and carried over the Michael Axford character from Manhunters to form The Green Hornet. A deliberate connection between the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger was made with the lead character named Britt Reid, son of the Lone Ranger's nephew, who exercised freedom of speech, not by preaching on top of a horse, but with a newspaper. Reid was a man who fought hard, yet showed mercy and compassion when he chose the side of the oppressed — the underdog — the little man in need of help.
Besides sharing the same corporate owner, both shows and characters have other items in common:
- A mask
- A gun (six-shooter for the Lone Ranger and gas gun for Green Hornet).
- Each program's theme song derives from classical music.
- Both characters value life by avoiding killing.
- Both characters use a means of transportation of unequaled beauty and unparalleled power, the Lone Ranger's being a horse called Silver, and Green Hornet's being an automobile called Black Beauty.
In the 2011 film The Green Hornet, a reference to the Green Hornet's connection to the Lone Ranger can be seen. There is a Lone Ranger poster on the wall next to the television set in Britt Reid's room.
The Green Hornet first aired on January 31, 1936, on WXYZ. Each episode was 17-30 minutes long and over 1,000 were produced. It was "one of radio's best-known and most distinctive juvenile adventure shows." The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, debonair newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighting masked hero at night. With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminals and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet!
Trendle sought to create a series that would "show that a political system could be riddled with corruption and that one man could successfully combat this white-collar lawlessness." Liking the acoustic possibilities of a bee sound, Trendle directed it be incorporated into the show. The team experimented with names, with Trendle liking The Hornet, but that name had been used elsewhere and could have posed rights problems. Colors included blue and pink were considered before the creators settled on green. Each program opened with the catchy narration: "The Green Hornet: He hunts the biggest of all game! Public enemies who try to destroy our America!" In the background buzzed the theme, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral interlude, "Flight of the Bumblebee."
The Green Hornet became thought of as one of his city's biggest criminals, allowing him to walk into suspected racketeers' offices and ply them for information, or even demand a cut of their profits. In doing so, the Green Hornet usually provoked them to attack him to remove this competitor, giving him license to defeat and leave them for the police without raising suspicion as to his true motives.
He would be accompanied by his similarly masked chauffeur/bodyguard/ enforcer, who was also Reid's valet, Kato, initially described as Japanese, and by 1939 as Filipino of Japanese descent. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, references to a Japanese heritage were dropped. Specifically, in and up to 1939, in the series' opening narration, Kato was called Britt Reid's "Japanese valet" and from 1940 to '45 he was Reid's "faithful valet." However, by at least the June 1941 episode "Walkout For Profit" , about 14 minutes into the episode, Reid specifically noted Kato having a Philippine origin and thus he became Reid's "Filipino valet" thereafter. When the characters were used in the first of a pair of Green Hornet movie serials, the producers had Kato's nationality given as Korean.
The last original Green Hornet radio serial aired in 1953.
Main article: List of Green Hornet radio episodes