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One of my favorite early television shows when we got our first TV in
1953 was "Racket Squad" starring the man with the voice Reed Hadley.
The movie copied by Jack Webb when he put together "Dragnet," one of
the most popular programs ever on TV, was one in which he had played a
major role, "He Walked By Night." The narrator for that film was Reed
Hadley. When "Dragnet" premiered Jack Webb rather than Reed Hadley did
the narration but Hadley had his own spin off from the same film noir
classic. "Racket Squad" dealt with real-life cases of fraud and
misrepresentation mainly in the Los Angeles area.
When "Racket Squad" went off the tube, Hadley bounced back with "The Public Defender," similar in many ways to "Racket Squad" but dealing with those attorneys appointed by the state to defend indigents. This time Hadley canvased the entire nation for intriguing cases. A part of each show was to profile one notable public defender.
Whereas Jack Webb went for the jugular with his true stories of murder and mayhem, the Reed Hadley series were usually quieter and less violent, concerned more with how the law actually works to protect the people and the innocent victims of crime. Note that one of the directors listed for the series is the esteemed Budd Boetticher who is noted for those wonderful Randolph Scott westerns of the late 1950's.
Back in the early 50s, Hal Roach Studios brought the show "Racket
Busters" to television. It starred Reed Hadley and the cases were all
about him apprehending various thieves and bunco artists. After three
seasons, the show left the air and a new, almost identical, show from
Roach came to the airwaves...and again with Reed Hadley in the lead.
The format was just about the same--with the same sort of prologue for
each episode. This time, however, Hadley works the other side of the
law...at least much of the time.
The shows were odd in that although they claimed they were all true, Hadley's character (or a few guest stars) spent tons of time actually investigating the cases. In reality, most public defenders barely even say hello to their clients....and very few behaved like private detectives and social workers rolled up into one. Still, despite this, the shows were generally enjoyable and well made. However, the shows were much more variable in quality than "Racket Squad"...with quite a few stinkers along with the excellent ones.
If you want to see either series, they are available for free download from archive.org--a site frequently linked to IMDb pages.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When "Racket Squad" finished it's run actor Reed Hadley, who could have
passed for a jut jawed detective in real life, was put into another
series "The Public Defender" this time about legal aid attorneys and
each week highlighted a particular story from a real county. A few are
included in the "Best of TV Detectives" DVD pack.
"Badge of Honour" tells of Dan Conway (Harry Carey Jnr.) who decides to join the police force after coming out of a Nazi concentration camp. This one takes you behind the scenes to show just how tough police training was. He becomes a traffic cop and his eagerness to do good almost costs him his career. His first arrest is Frankie Darro as a pick pocket but he makes a vital mistake, he forgets to get the name and address of the young boy who found the wallet.
"Let Justice Be Done" - For an obscure little show this one has an all star cast. A very young Patrick O'Neal plays an up and coming public defender who is torn between the duty of doing his job well and fierce resentment when he is asked to defend a young punk, Ken Conroy (Skip Homeier) who has just killed O'Neal's best friend. As he interviews each witness he realises there is a benefit of a doubt. George E. Stone plays the old newspaper seller and Noel Neil (soon bound for "Superman") is O'Neal's wife. Allene Roberts plays Conroy's teary wife.
"Behind Bars" - A woman inmate, Ginny Smith, is injured in a fire and cries out for her child - that no one knew she had. She was an alcoholic who was determined not to cause her family any more trouble. She ends up in a seedy boarding house with an irritating land lady and a sleazy neighbour who forces himself on her.
A superior police show.
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