Duncan Maclain

Created by Baynard H. Kendrick
Pseudonyms include Richard Hayward
(1894-1977)

Douglas?

Blinded in World War I, wealthy, dashing CAPTAIN DUNCAN MACLAIN moves to New York and sets up a detective agency, aided by his partner, Spud Savage (is that a great name or what?) and his secretary (and Spud’s wife) Rena. Rounding out the staff are Duncan’s two specially-trained German Shepherds, Schnuke and Driest. When he’s not solving crimes, Duncan whiles away the time reading (in Braille) and doing giant jigsaw puzzles. Later on in the series, Duncan found time to marry the lovely Miss Sybella Ford, owner of a decorating shop.

Don’t be fooled by the gimmick, though — these books are pretty damn decent, and author Kendrick was no hack. The Maclain books are exciting, well-written adventures with clever plotting (even if, granted, there are a few pulpy gee-whizzes! sprinkled here and there). In fact, Kendricks worked hard to make Maclain a credible detective, and claimed he’d created him in reaction to what he saw as the excesses of Ernest Bramah’s Max Carrados.

By the way, it IS a good gimmick; one that really grabbed readers’ attention. At least good enough to inspire a handful of B-films in the forties, including a couple starring the decidedly stout Edward Arnold as the blind detective. They weren’t great, although Eyes in the Night has a few unintentionally hilarious moments of scenery chewing, as Arnold pretends to be drunk. 

There was also a TV appearance with Robert Middleton as Maclain (that I can’t find any info on), and in the seventies, Longstreet, a television series that featured a blind insurance investigator based upon “characters created by Baynard Kendrick.” That one I definitely remember, and rather fondly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Baynard Hardwick Kendrick was known as one of the more successful American mystery writers, enjoying a long and enduring career, with many of his works being adopted to film, television and radio. Born in 1984 to a well-to-do Philadelphia family, he devoted himself to business until World War I came along, and Kendrick headed north (just as Raymond Chandler did) to enlist in the Canadian Army. He was, in fact, the first American to enlist in the Canadian Army, signing up only one hour after World War I was declared. He served honorably and upon his return became interested in the blind. That, and all war experiences were to figure prominently in his crime fiction. His short stories appeared in such pulps as Black MaskDetective Fiction Weekly and Dime Detective beginning in the thirties. His first series revolved around Florida deputy sheriff Standish Rice, and he also wrote several thrillers under the pen name of Richard Hayward, but by far his most successful creation was Captain Duncan Maclain. During World War II, Kendrick served as an instructor for blinded veterans, which inspired the non-fiction bestseller Lights Out (1945), about the rehabilitation of a U.S. Army sergeant who had been blinded in combat. Lights Out was subsequently turned into the 1951 Universal movie Bright Victory. When the Blinded Veterans Association was organized, Kendrick served as an advisor, and was made an Honorary Chairman of its Board of Directors. In his later years he wrote for CBS television.

He was also one of the co-founders, along with Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, Helen McCloy, Brett Halliday and others, of the The Mystery Writers of America, was member number one of the organization, served as its first president and was named a Grand Master in 1967.

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • “The Murderer Who Wanted More” (January 1944, The American Magazine; also issued as a special 10-cent Dell paperback in 1951)
  • “Melody of Death” (June 1945, The American Magazine
  • “Silent Night” (December 1958, Sleuth Mystery Magazine; also 1982, Murder For Christmas, Volume 2
  • “The Silent Whistle” (1947, Make Mine Maclain)

COLLECTIONS

  • Make Mine Maclain (1947) | Buy this book
    Includes the novelettes “The Silent Whistle,” “Melody in Death” and “The Murderer Who Wanted More”

FILMS

  • THE LAST EXPRESS
    (1938, Universal)
    63 minutes, black and white
    Based on the novel by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann
    Directed by Otis Garrett
    Starring Kent Taylor as DUNCAN MACLAIN
    Also starring Dorothea Kent, Greta Granstedt, Paul Hurst, Don Brodie (as Spud Savage, Private Eye), J. Farrell MacDonald, Samuel Lee, Al Shaw, Edward Raquello, Robert Emmett Keane, Charles Trowbridge, Addison Richards, Al Hill

  • EYES IN THE NIGHT | Buy this video | Buy this DVD
    (1942, MGM)
    80 minutes, black & white
    Tagline: Startling as a Scream!
    Based on the novel Odor of Violets by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by Howard Emmett Rogers and Guy Trosper
    Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.
    Directed by Fred Zinnemann
    Produced by Jack Chertok
    Starring Edward Arnold as DUNCAN MACLAIN
    Also starring Ann Harding, Donna Reed, Stephen McNally, Katherine Emery, Allen Jenkins, Stanley Ridges, Reginald Denny, John Emery, Rosemary De Camp, Erik Rolf, Barry Nelson, Reginald Sheffield
    Look for Marie Windsor in a bit part as an actress and Donna Reed as a worldly seventeen-year-old. 

  • THE HIDDEN EYE
    (1945, MGM)
    69 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by George Harmon Coxe and Harry Ruskin
    Directed by Richard Whorf
    Produced by Robert Sisk
    Starring Edward Arnold as CAPTAIN DUNCAN MACLAIN
    Also starring Frances Rafferty, Ray Collins, Paul Langton, William ‘Bill’ Phillips, Thomas E. Jackson, Ray Largay, Byron Foulger, Morris Ankrum, Robert Lewis, Lee Phelps, Theodore Newton, Sondra Rodgers, Leigh Whipper, Francis Pierlot (and look for Cameron Mitchell in a bit part)

TELEVISION

  • WESTINGHOUSE DESILU PLAYHOUSE
    (1958-60, CBS)
    48 episodes
    An American television anthology series produced by Desilu Productions that ran on the Columbia Broadcasting System between 1958 and 1960. 
    • “Change of Heart” (1960)
      60 minutes
      Pilot for undeveloped series
      Based on characters created by Baynard Kendrick
      Teleplay by David Z. Goodman
      Directed by Richard Kinon
      Starring Starring Robert Middleton as DUNCAN MACLAIN
      With Donald May as Bill Wood (Spud Savage?)
      and Evan Evans as Rena
      Also starring Russ Conway, Allison Hayes, Dick Sargent, and and Karl Swenson.
      “I remember seeing the beginning of  this episode when it originally aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1960… The blind detective concept was intriguing and Robert Middleton would have made a fascinating series lead. Donald May (“Colt 45”, “The Roaring Twenties”) would have played his handsome young associate. May may well have been playing Spud Savage. I’m pretty sure Evan Evans played May’s wife Rena… The production company was of course Desilu  (“The Untouchables”) The writer was David Z. Goodman according to imdb. This is his only listed credit. I think it may have really been written by David  Goodman, who had some strong credits including “The Untouchables” and “Farewell My Lovely”. The episode was rerun on “Kraft Mystery Theater”, an NBC  summer replacement series in 1962, and I think the pilot may have inspired “Longstreet” several years later.”
      — Brian Cuddy
      This episode was rerun on Kraft Mystery Theatre on September 12, 1962.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. A special thanks to Brian Cuddy for the TV lead.

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