Friday, May 13, 2016


It's time for another extended version of this blog's favorite game, "What If?" Regular readers will know that I've been reading and reviewing various Shadow novels over the last few years. These are paperback reprints of the original pulp novels and while Doc Savage is still my favorite pulp hero, I must admit that I really dig The Shadow. In fact, I'm reading a Shadow adventure right now, MURDER TRAIL, so look for a review of that one soon.

A while back here on the blog, I imagined what a 1960s Doc Savage film would have looked like. As you are probably aware, this almost happened with producers Goodson and Todman briefly owning the rights to the character and actor Chuck (THE RIFLEMAN) Connors supposedly in line to play Doc. I offered my casting choices for the various characters and had a lot of fun doing so.

Lately, I've been watching vintage episodes of 12 O'CLOCK HIGH on the Heroes and Icons cable channel. I really enjoy this old b&w (later episodes were in color) WWII series. As usual, in addition to the regular cast there were always great guest stars (this was, after all, a Quinn Martin production). Those guest stars got me to thinking about how many great character actors there were in the 1960s, men and women who regularly appeared in supporting roles in both comedies and dramatic series. And they had names to go with the distinctive faces then too. I know actors from this era much better than I do any performers on current television shows.

So, I got to thinking the other day, what if (there it is!) the BATMAN series had continued to be a ratings bonanza for ABC-TV in the mid '60s? What if it ran, five or more seasons and dominated the ratings? What if THE GREEN HORNET did likewise and became an extremely popular and long running series instead of the one season it really lasted? In short, what if costumed heroes became the rage of network television rather than spy shows? What if, in order to fill this need an ambitious production company (why not QM productions) secured the rights from Conde Nast to develop a weekly, hour-long SHADOW television series? Who would have been involved in this ambitious undertaking?

The first hire, obviously, would be Walter Gibson, creator of The Shadow. No studio would dare proceed with this project without Gibson's blessings and input so he would be ensconced as the creative director for the series.

The next phone call would be to artist Jim Steranko. He would be hired as art director/production designer and in charge of making sure that the various sets, costumes, props and locations looked as much like his incredible paintings as possible. 

Unlike Batman, The Shadow didn't have a huge gallery of rogues to contend with. Almost all of his foes were "one-hit-wonders" (usually dispatched by the Shadow's twin automatics!) with only one recurring villain, the evil Oriental mastermind Shiwan Khan. Who better to play this arch fiend than Khigh Dhiegh, who played a similar role as "Wo Fat" on HAWAII FIVE-O. 

Two members of the Shadow's supporting cast were law enforcement officials. As Commissioner Weston (who was played by Jonathan Winters in the 1994 film) I would cast veteran character actor (STAR TREK, BATMAN (False Face!) and TO CATCH A THIEF), Malachi Throne.

And as Detective Joe Cardona, Robert (T.H.E. CAT) Loggia.

Burbank ran the Shadow's communications network, relaying messages to and from the Shadow and his various agents. Although seldom a featured player in any of the novels (at least not in the ones I've read thus far), he nonetheless played a vital part in the Shadow's war against crime. He was faithful, loyal and dependable, all qualities that were embodied by the wonderful character actor (and sadly, recently deceased) William Schallert.

Rutledge Mann was a quiet, reserved stock broker who also served as an agent of the Shadow. He rarely became physically involved in an adventure but he did ferret out important information and oversaw a certain mail drop. A perfect role for Tom Bosley.

When the Shadow needed to get around Manhattan, he often depended on Shrevvy, a tough, New York cab driver who knew every inch of the city and then some. I submit that Roy Thinnes would have been good as the hard nosed cabbie.

Cliff Marsland, an innocent man who served time in prison before being exonerated by the Shadow, was often dispatched into the "bad lands" of the underworld to spy for the Shadow. Marsland had the chops to be credible as a smooth, suave, sophisticated type of gangster. Rick Jason, anyone?

Harry Vincent was the first agent The Shadow recruited and he appears in more Shadow novels than any other supporting character. A suicidal young man, Vincent was stopped from taking a fatal plunge off of a bridge by The Shadow in the opening pages of the very first Shadow novel, THE LIVING SHADOW. Vincent, owing his life to this mysterious creature of the night, swore his undying allegiance to his savior and was The Shadow's most trusted agent. Who better to play this role than James MacArthur?

Margo Lane was more a fixture on The Shadow radio program than the pulps but she did appear in some adventures and provided a much needed female presence in this all-male bunch of characters. I think the lovely Suzanne Pleshette would have made a great Margo.

Finally, we get to the star of our show, The Shadow aka Lamont Cranston. I know, I know, Cranston wasn't The Shadow's real identity, it was just one that he borrowed from time to time. But thanks to the radio program and other media iterations of the character, Lamont Cranston is, for better or worse, The Shadow. And who better to embody this weird avenger of the night than Lloyd Bochner. 

There you have it folks. What do you think? I know I would have watched a SHADOW TV show with this cast in the 1960s.