Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Radio Greats: NC9-8012 (Candy Matson, Yukon-28209)

Hello. Yukon-28209. Yes, this is Candy Matson.

It's a classic trope: the noir detective is in his office when a blonde bombshell walks in with a case. And what if the noir detective is the blonde bombshell? Then you know you are in the office of Candy Matson.

In the age when noir detectives could be found in every newspaper stall and on every radio station, people were trying out every variation they could think of. Candy Matson is perhaps the most memorable of these. She's a gorgeous woman who could hold her own in a cocktail dress at a Hollywood party who is nonetheless a hardboiled private investigator. She does all the noir detective things, but as a sultry smart-talking blonde living in a fancy penthouse who is trying to get the guy she has her eye on, Lt. Ray Mallard, actually to commit; and that's pretty much the whole of what she was written to do. This means that her plots are rather limited, being for the most part very generic noir detective plots, and not always successful when they deviate from them. If you want a richly plotted hardboiled detective tale, you go to Johnny Dollar, not Candy Matson. But the whole thing works for one very big reason: they have a lot of fun with it. One problem with all the male-lead noir detective stories was that they often took themselves too seriously, and thus lost something of what makes it fun to listen to a good noir detective story. Not Candy Matson, though, which tends to be fun through and through.

This is seen in the aspect of noir detective fiction that Candy Matson does better than any other detective series: the dialogue. What do people find memorable about Sam Spade or any of the others? One of the things is always the dialogue, the snappy comeback, the witty snark, the cool sarcasm. And because Candy Matson is all about having fun with all that's fun in noir, this is front and center in the series. Candy often doesn't so much solve a case as outlast it as it unravels on its own, but that doesn't matter: the banter sparkles all the way through. And Natalie Parks Masters was born to play the part.

Since you tune in for Candy and friends more than the plot, you can jump in at pretty much any episode. That's perhaps a good thing, because almost all of the Candy Matson series is lost: out of 92 episodes that aired from June 29, 1949 to May 20, 1951, only a handful are extant. You can listen to them all at Internet Archive.

My recommendation for a first beginning is "NC9-8012" (episode 27, number 7 on the list at Internet Archive), which has some excellent Matson-Mallard interaction, plenty of Candy's sidekick, Rembrandt Watson, and a fairly interesting story. Lieutenant Mallard -- somewhat unexpectedly and suspiciously -- throws a case Candy's way: investigating a fatal plane crash at a small airport.

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