Racket Squad (1950– )
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The reason these stories are in most cases as relevant today as they were in the 1950's If you change a couple of points (change Sacks of wheat to new computer programs) you could pull most of these off today.
As I edit each show I learn a little more on how easy we can make it for those that will take our money or other items.
The format was very simple, yet it was probably perfect for these half-hour dramas. Following some opening credits, we were brought by the camera to the Desk, complete with a uniformed copper manning the desk. As the telephone rings, in a sort of a deep, sort of gravely voice, he answers the phone, "Rrrrracket Squad!" We then meet Captin John Braddock(Hollywood Veteran & my own personal Favourite "Zorro", Reed Hadley). After that we get a typical opening monologue about how "......the Confidence Man, whose carefully worked out schemes are responsible for taking more money from the American Public than all the Thieves and Thugs with their violence!" Break for Commercial, and then; the uniformed Desk Officer (who by the way is decked out with earphones and switch board), buzzes on the intercom, "Captain Braddock, Captain Braddock! Ready! And then the good Cap'n 'ould start off the story. Captain reappears after second break with the stock remark (and stock film)remarking, "Let's see how this Case is progressing!", while reading from the file.
In the stories, all sorts of devious Criminal ploys and scams are dramatized and thus exposed to the viewers. In some of the episodes we have, we see A Phony Spiritual Reader & Medium, bogus Charities, phony "Gasoline" tablets,a Dance Studio/Black Mail scam, a Crooked Used Car Salesman(imagine that!) and Counterfeit Firemen's Charitable Organization. And by the way, all of the Cons dramatized are real, having been used then and even now, as you read this, Schultz! And good use was made of the practice of having Guest Stars in the Episodes. Just off the top of my head, I can recall Billy Halop, John Ducette, Jimmy Gleason, Allen Jenkins, Eddie Keane, Anthony Caruso and even Henry Kulky in various supporting roles.
And RACKET SQUAD had no stated locale, nor even an implied one. So, the stories could be in any kind of terrain, just as long as it was in the "good old" USA. A farm area one week, a busy inner-city locale the next and finally an "upscale" community/neighborhood the following, they'd all get their turn, and did.
As for our friend, Captain Braddock, you never hardly saw him in the story itself; but he almost always showed up in the end for making "The Pinch."* He had a sufficient number of Detectives and Uniformed Cops with him. They would then presumably take 'em all downtown!(We weren't sure, 'cause we then saw another commercial.
After the final commercial break, we were back in Captain Braddock's Office for the sign-off and his final words of wisdom:
"Remember, there are people who can slap you on the back with one hand. and Pick Your Pocket with another! And it could happen to you!" God, how we loved that show! It was so informational and entertaining! And it proclaimed and endorsed a closer, more decent way of life. And it possibly had just about as good a thumbnail sketch of what Policemen and Police Departments are all about.
Thank You again, Lord, for my VHS and DVD's and for making RACKET SQUAD available!
NOTE: * The "Pinch", term first heard by my little ears from my own Dad, while watching RACKET SQUAD! Thanks, Dad!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John T."Red" Ryan is a lifelong Chicago Resident, a Veteran "Bumper Morgan-Type" Street Cop, Retired after 35 years. He now just watches the grass grow and helps out the Wife, Deanna, with her Real Estate Business. Their Nest is now empty, with both Daughters, Jenn and Michelle(Notre Dame Grads,both), living in the D.C.area.
Each episode features Captain Braddock (Reed Hadley) as the seemingly all-knowing cop. He investigates cases involving frauds and con artists. Each episode begins and ends with the same spiel--a weakness of the show. Instead of tailoring the narration for each episode, it's just tacked on to the standard introduction--a preachy one at that.
What follows are various recreations of various crimes. Some are rather unusual but many (such as one about pyramid schemes) are timeless and might help you avoid such scams today. In each case, the crime is recreated AND Braddock always catches them. And, surprisingly, in most cases, he gets the money back to the victims! Not exactly real life, but quite enjoyable and worth your time--particularly if you like shows like "Dragnet" or "The Naked City".
"Kite High" - a term used for the illegal method of falsifying cheque amounts. It involved a funeral director whose carping mother in law drives a wedge between him and his wife. He flees to Las Vegas and falls victim to a casino conman (Robert Shayne, later of "Superman" series). Director is B stalwart William Beaudine. "The Bill of Sale Racket" - Helen Parish has a guest role as an excitable housewife who decides to sell their gas station to a couple of shifty characters while her husband is stationed in Korea. Even though she was very thorough in checking everything out, Hadley pops up to remind viewers that promisary notes and bills of sale don't make things legal!! "Desperate Money" - an old tailor is not making ends meet so his bartender pal puts him in touch with a nasty loan shark. "The System" - William Ching (a name from the past) as Don Riordan falls for a girl who, along with her father, plans to fleece him of his life savings. They have a system that falsifyies race results relayed through a microphone. Lola Albright is the blonde hustler and it was directed by silent film director Erle C. Kenton.
"His Brother's Keeper" - a lovable conman gets the idea of cadging money by pretending to be deaf but is then captured by a "Fagin" style gang which prey on the vulnerabilities of beggars who really have an affliction. Veteran James Gleeson stars and Hadley's homily for this one "Check their credentials before you check your heart"!!! "Take a Little, Leave a Little" - has to do with the old story of a breezy stranger who insinuates himself into a group of businessmen friends, tantalizing them with tales of oil well investments (similar plot to "The Bad Sister" which had a very young Humphrey Bogart as the big city hustler).