Flashgun Casey

Created by George Harmon Coxe
(1901-84)

Originally appearing in the pages of Black Mask under the watchful eyes of then-editor Joseph Shaw, JACK “FLASHGUN” CASEY of the Boston Express was the original fast-talking crime photographer, a big, hot-tempered Boston Mick with a gift for gab and a nose for trouble. No “artiste”, Casey kept a bottle of hooch and a .38 in his desk drawer, and boasted of being able to put a “slug where he aimed” and having “two big fists he knew how to use.” He appeared in numerous short stories in the pulps and several novels. While writing the novels, however, Coxe decided “Flash” was a bit too rough-edged, so he cleaned him up, married him off, made him a bit more “professional” and created a new photographer/PI, Kent Murdock, who went on to appear in twenty-two books.

While his crosstown rival, Murdock, enjoyed much more success in books, ol’ Flashgun became a bit of a multimedia superstar. There were a couple of quite popular B-flicks, and a very successful radio show, Casey, Crime Photographer, which ran on CBS for several years, starring Staats Cotsworth as Flashgun. The radio show was so successful that there was a four-issue comic book tie-in by Marvel, with photos of Staats Cotsworth on the cover as Casey.

It also spawned an early television show which ran for just over a year, initially starring Richard Carlyle as the intrepid shutterbug, broadcast live from New York City.

In the radio and TV shows, Casey hung out at the Blue Note Cafe, and related his cases to Ethelbert, the bartender. He landed a girlfriend, Ann Williams, a reporter, and eventually a partner, Jack Lipman, rookie newshound, who wrote the copy to go with Casey’s pics. Somewhere along the line, Casey had gone from working for the Boston Express to the New York Morning Express, but he was still our Casey.

Well, sorta. The producers weren’t satisfied with the original casting of the TV show, and after only a few months, Carlyle and John Gibson, who played Ethelbert, were sacked, and replaced by Darren McGavin and Cliff Hall. The director of the show was a then-unknown 27-year old Sidney Lumet, who went on to become a bigshot Hollywood director.

Unfortunately, the show was only so-so, and many critics suggested that it was McGavin’s performance was all that kept the series going. But even McGavin wasn’t much of a fan, rarely mentioning it in later years when discussing his career. “The cast of Crime Photographer didn’t go down fighting,” McGavin once said. “They took off for the hills. It was so bad that it was never re-run, and that’s saying something when you recall the caliber of television programs in those days.”

The prolific writer Coxe has several other PI series characters: Sam Cromie, Max Hale, Leon Morley, and Jack Fenner.

TRIVIA

  • A young Charles Bronson starred in a very similar television series in 1958-60 entitled Man With a Camera.

SHORT STORIES

  • “Return Engagement” (March 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Special Assignment” (April 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Two-Man Job” (May 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Push-Over” (June 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Hot Delivery” (July 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Mixed Drinks” (August 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Pinch-Hitters” (September 1934, Black Mask)
  • “Murder Picture” (January 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Casey — Detective” (February 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Earned Reward” (March 1935, Black Mask; aka “Reward for Survivors”)
  • “Women Are Trouble” (April 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Thirty Tickets to Win” (June 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Buried Evidence” (July 1935, Black Mask; aka “Guns in Action”)
  • “Mr. Casey Flashgun’s Murder” (October 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Portrait of Murder” (February 1936, Black Mask)
  • “Murder Mixup” (May 1936, Black Mask)
  • “Fall Guy” (June 1936, Black Mask)
  • “Too Many Women” (September 1936, Black Mask)
  • “Casey and the Blonde Wren” (August 1940, Black Mask)
  • “Once Around the Clock” (May 1941, Black Mask; also in The Hard-Boiled Detective)
  • “Killers Are Camera Shy” (September 1941, Black Mask)
  • “Murder in the Red” (June 1942, Black Mask)
  • “Blood on the Lens (Part One)” (January 1943, Black Mask)
  • “Blood on the Lens (Part Two)” (February 1943, Black Mask)

COLLECTION

  • Flash Casey, Detective (1946, reprints four Black Mask stories)

NOVELS

  • Silent Are the Dead (1942)Kindle it!
  • Murder For Two (1943) Buy this book Kindle it!
    Originally serialized in Black Mask as “Blood on the Lens”
  • Error of Judgement (1961)
  • The Man Who Died Too Soon (1962)
  • Deadly Image (1964) Kindle it!
  • Dead Heat (1950; by Paul Ayres [pseudonym of Edward S. Aaron])

FILMS

  • WOMEN ARE TROUBLE
    (1936, MGM)
    60 minutes, more or less
    Written by George Harmon Coxe (story) and Michael Fessier
    Director: Errol Taggart
    Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
    Produced by Michael Fessier,  Lucien Hubbard
    Starring Stuart Erwin as FLASHGUN CASEY
    Also starring Paul Kelly, Florence Rice, Margaret Irving, Cy Kendall, John Harrington, Harold Huber, Kitty McHugh, Raymond Hatton , Robert Homans
  • MEET FLASH CASEY
    (aka “Here’s Flash Casey”)
    (1937, MGM)
    Starring Eric Linden as FLASHGUN CASEY

RADIO

  • CASEY, CRIME PHOTOGRAPHER
    (1943-1954, CBS)
    Written by Alonzo Dean Cole (with some help from Coxe)
    Directed by Alonzo Dean Cole
    Produced by Alonzo Dean Cole
    Starring Staats Cotsworth as FLASHGUN CASEY
    With Jan Miner as Ann Williams
    and John Gibson as Ethelbert
    Also featuring The Archie Bleyer Orchestra (and later The Teddy Wilson Trio) as The Blue Note Musicians
    Reader Eric Allstrom points out that Wilson was a great jazz pianist of the day, probably more famous than the detective show on which he played.

    • “Christmas Shopping” (December 19, 1946)
    • “Acquitted” (July 3, 1947)
    • “Lady Killer” (July 10, 1947)
    • “Self-Made Hero” (July 17, 1947)
    • “Photo of the Dead” (July 24, 1947)
    • “Hide Out” (August 28, 1947)
    • “Graveyard Gertie” (September 11, 1947)
    • “Great Grandfather’s Tent Receipt” (October 30, 1947)
    • “The Blonde’s Lipstick” (November 6, 1947)
    • “The Serpent Goddess” (December 4, 1947)
    • “The New Will” (December 11, 1947
    • “Hot New Year’s Party” (January 1, 1948, CBS)
    • “Ex-convict” (January 22, 1948)
    • “The Piggy Bank Robbery” (January 29, 1948)
    • “The Fix” (February 26, 1948
    • “Tough Guy” (March 4, 1948)
    • “Fog” (March 11, 1948)
    • “Murder In Black & White” (March 18, 1948)
    • “Blind Justice” (March 25, 1948)
    • “Scene Of The Crime” (March 10, 1949)
    • “The Wolverine” (May 5, 1949
    • “Souce Of Information” (January 20, 1954)

TELEVISION

  • Darren McGavin as Casey.

    CASEY, CRIME PHOTOGRAPHER
    (1951-52, CBS)30-minute episodes
    Premiere: April 19, 1951
    Based on the stories by George Harmon Coxe
    Directors: Sidney Lumet
    Music: Morton Gould
    Starring Richard Carlyle as FLASHGUN CASEY (April-June 1951)
    with John Gibson as Ethelbert (April-June 1951)
    Also Darren McGavin as FLASHGUN CASEY (June 1951-1952)
    with Cliff Hall as Ethelbert (June 1951-June 1952)
    Also starring Jan Miner as Ann Williams
    Donald McClelland as Captain Logan
    And Artchie Smith as Jack Lipman

COMICS

  • CASEY — CRIME PHOTOGRAPHER
    (1949-1950, TimelyPublications)
    Four issues
    Artists: Vern Henkel
    Editor: Stan Lee
    Tie-in to radio show, featured photo-covers of Staats Cotsworth, who played Casey on the radio show. But after four issues, Marvel changed the title and theme of the comic book to Two-Gun Western.

    • (August 1949, #1)
    • “The Sinister Carnival!” (October 1949, #2)
    • “Face-To-Face With The Strangler!” (October 1949, #2)
    • “Trapped By The Penny Plunderers!” (October 1949, #2)
    • (December 1949, #3)
    • (February 1950, #4)

TELEVISION

  • CRIME PHOTOGRAPHER
    (1951-1952, CBS)
    40 30-minute episodes
    Directors: Sidney Lumet
    Producers: Charles Russell, Martin Manulis
    Broadcast live from New York
    Starring Richard Carlyle as CASEY (April-June 1951)
    Later replaced by Darren McGavin (June 1951-1952)
    and John Gibson as Ethelbert (April-June 1951)
    Later replaced by Cliff Hall (June 1951-1952)
    Also starring Jan Miner as Ann Williams
    Archie Smith as Jack Lipman
    Donald McClelland as Captain Logan
    with The Tony Mottola Trio as The Blue Note Cafe Musicians

AUDIO CDS

  • Casey, Crime Photographer Collection: Snapshots of Mystery (2012) Buy this set
    This Radio Spirits collection rounds up 16 tales from the shows seven-year run.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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