Another Challenge For The Green Hornet! I always loved hearing the announcer intone those words in as dramatic a way as possible. There was a sense of URGENCY behind those words! It always got you excited for what was coming up next! The Green Hornet character was created in 1936 by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker Radio Director James Jewell also provided input into the new character. Therefore, this year we celebrate TWO anniversaries for he Green Hornet! 2016 marks both the 80th anniversary of the creation of the character, but also the 50th anniversary of the famous 1966 green Hornet TV Series starring Van Williams as The Green Hornet, and Bruce Lee as the Green Hornet's aide-de-camp Kato!
The radio program debuted on January 31st, 1936 on WXYZ ; a local Detroit radio station that had originated both "Challenge Of The Yukon" and "The Lone Ranger"! The character would star in two movie serials "The Green Hornet" and "The Green Hornet Strikes Again!" (shouldn't that be--STINGS again?!). Most versions of the Green Hornet character feature Britt Reid as the Hornet's alter-ego. Reid, a wealthy young publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper, dons the green overcoat, green fedora and green mask of the Green Hornet! Reid is accompanied by his partner Kato, who also drives the "Black Beauty"! The Black Beauty is the Green Hornet's technologically advanced automobile.
And what distinguishes the Green Hornet from other crime fighting characters? The police(and the general public) believe the Green Hornet to be a criminal! The Green Hornet uses this misconception to aid him in his crime fighting career! Both Van Williams and Bruce Lee appeared in character on the Batman TV series.
Strangely, the FIRST time that the duo appear, in one of the famous "Window Shots" they are hailed by Batman and Robin as fellow crime fighters! But when they make a full on appearance on the show itself ( in the two part "A Piece Of The Action" and "Batman's Satisfaction") the Green Hornet and Kato are regarded as criminals that Batman and Robin try to apprehend.
The Green Hornet has had a long and varied career in movies, serials, comic books, novels and radio. One of the best (and not touched upon much in further stories) is the connection between The Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger! This was revealed on the November 11th, 1947 episode of the radio show. In the episode "Too Hot To Handle". Brit Reid tells his father Dan Reid that he is the Green Hornet.
After his initial shock, Dan tells his son of a "pioneer ancestor of theirs", who was ALSO a vigilante. and that Dan Reid himself had ridden alongside of in Texas as a young child. Yes, the Green Hornet's father is the same Dan Reid who was nephew to the Lone Ranger! This makes the Green Hornet the Grand Nephew of the legendary masked rider of the plains!! As Dan Reid expresses love and pride in his son, the Lone Ranger theme is heard in the background. The Lone Ranger himself is not named, due to the fact that the rights to the Lone Ranger character had been sold to another company and therefore could not be directly alluded to in the show.
Western Publishing, under their "Whitman" logo, published three Green Hornet Big Little Books on the character. Attributed to Fran Striker, they were released within a year of each other. "The Green Hornet Strikes!" was released in 1940 followed by "The Green Hornet Returns" in 1941 and "The Green Hornet Cracks Down" in 1942. In 1966, the book "The Green Hornet: The Case Of The Disappearing Doctor" by Brandon Keith was released via Whitman Publishing. It was a tie-in novel to the 1966 TV series. Also at that time, Dell Publishing released a mass market paperback allegedly based on one of the TV episodes. It was called: "Green Hornet In The Infernal Light" and was written by Ed Friend (there WAS a Green Hornet movie released in 2011, but I could NOT get through more than a few minutes of the film).
The Green Hornet has been parodied numerous times over the years. For instance, in the Pink Panther films, Inspector Clouseau's houseboy/valet is called "Cato" (Cato was played by the late Burt Kwouk, who also appeared in two James Bond films, plus as "Entwhistle" on the long running and stupidly cancelled British comedy "The Last Of The Summer Wine") and Clouseau's car (shown in the 1978 film, "The Revenge Of The Pink Panther") is a heavily modified Citreon 2CV called "The Silver Hornet". Bill Cosby parodied the Green Hornet in his 1970's syndicated five minute radio program "The Brown Hornet". Cosby revived the character in the late 1970's for his "Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids" TV Series. And in the 1960's, the cartoon series "Batfink" was a parody of BOTH Batman AND the Green Hornet! Batfink rode around in a pink vehicle, which was referred to as the "Battilac!" The car was driven by his assistant "Karate" who was a martial arts expert.
DC Comics recently released a crossover miniseries called "Batman ' 66 Meets The Green Hornet " the comic is a sequel to the Batman episodes featuring the Green Hornet and Kato. In my last column, on the 1966 TV Show "Star Trek", I mentioned that there were three TV shows that I had never seen at any point in my childhood. Star Trek was one and "The Green Hornet" was another. I never got to see the show until sometime in the mid 1990's when the show was seen in syndication. But I loved every minute of the short lived series when I finally DID get to see the series!
Happy 80th AND 50th Anniversary to The Green Hornet and Kato!!