Martin Kane, Private Eye

Martin Kane, Private Eye is an American crime drama radio and television series sponsored by United States Tobacco Company. It aired via radio from 1949 to 1952 and was simultaneously a television series on NBC from 1949 to 1954. It was the "earliest of successful cops-and-robbers series" on television.[1]


Martin Kane, Private Eye
William Gargan as Martin Kane
Other namesMartin Kane, Private Detective
GenreRadio crime drama
Running time30 minutes
Country of originUnited States
SyndicatesMutual (1949–1951)
NBC (1951–1952)
TV adaptationsMartin Kane, Private Eye
StarringWilliam Gargan
Lloyd Nolan
Lee Tracy
Walter Kinsella
Nicholas Saunders
Frank M. Thomas
AnnouncerFred Uttal
Written byTed Hediger
Directed byTed Hediger
Produced byEdward L. Kahan
Sponsored byU.S. Tobacco Company

Martin Kane, Private Eye began as a 1949–1952 radio series starring William Gargan in the title role as New York City private detective Martin Kane. It aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System Sundays at 4:30 pm from August 7, 1949, to June 24, 1951.

When the crime drama moved to NBC Radio on July 1, 1951, Lloyd Nolan took over the title role until mid 1952. Lee Tracy portrayed Kane for the remainder of the radio series, ending December 21, 1952.

Other members of the cast were Walter Kinsella as Tucker "Hap" McMann, Nicholas Saunders as Sergeant Ross, and Frank M. Thomas as Captain Burke. Fred Uttal was the announcer.[2] Edward L. Kahan was the producer; Ted Hediger was the director and writer.[3]

The radio episodes aired between 1949 and 1952 were not merely audio rebroadcasts of the television show but original episodes produced for the radio medium. Only twenty-nine radio broadcasts are known to exist.[3]

The program was sponsored by Old Briar pipe tobacco and Encore and Sano cigarettes, all of which were products of U.S. Tobacco Company.[3]


Martin Kane, Private Eye
Lloyd Nolan as Martin Kane
GenreTelevision crime drama
Directed byFred Burns
StarringWilliam Gargan
Lloyd Nolan
Lee Tracy
Mark Stevens
Walter Kinsella
Frank M. Thomas
King Calder
Nicholas Saunders
Walter Greaza
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Running time30 minutes
60 minutes in final season, 1953–1954
Original networkNBC
Original release1949 (1949) –
1954 (1954)

Gargan, Nolan, Tracy, and Mark Stevens played the title role in Martin Kane, Private Eye on live television, airing on NBC from September 1, 1949, until June 17, 1954. The television version, also sponsored by United States Tobacco Company, integrated commercials into the detective drama by having Martin Kane enter his favorite tobacco shop, where he discussed pipe tobaccos and cigarettes with the tobacconist Happy McMann (Walter Kinsella), before leaving to continue the mystery narrative.

Frank M. Thomas portrayed Captain Burke, King Calder was cast as Lieutenant Gray, Nicholas Saunders portrayed Sergeant Ross,[4] Walter Greaza portrayed Captain Leonard, Loring Smith portrayed Captain Evans, and Sergeant Strong was portrayed by Michael Garrett. Frank Burns, the NBC pioneer and father of actor Michael Burns, produced and directed shows written by Harry Kane and Lawrence Young. Charles Paul provided the music.

At the start and finish of the show, Kane was shown in shadow, lighting his pipe. Six episodes of this show have been released in the Best of TV Detectives DVD box set.

Gargan returned to the role for thirty-nine episodes of the syndicated series The New Adventures of Martin Kane,[5] premiering September 14, 1957, filmed in Europe for United Artists. In this version, Kane was based in London. After its original run, the series was re-syndicated with the title Assignment Danger.[6]

Comic booksEdit

The radio-TV series had a 1950 tie-in comic book, Martin Kane, Private Eye, published by Fox and illustrated by Wally Wood, Joe Orlando and Martin Rosenthal.

Cultural referencesEdit

In the second episode of the "Topsy Turvy World" sequence ("Funny Business in the Books, or The Library Card") of The Bullwinkle Show (which aired on NBC), Rocky and Bullwinkle are being escorted out of the town library by a gun-wielding man in a black fedora. Rocky wonders aloud whether the unknown man is from another TV show, leading Bullwinkle to confront him. "Say, fella, the Martin Kane show was dropped this year, you know?"

The series was satirized in Mad 5 (June–July 1953) as "Kane Keen, Private Eye", illustrated by Jack Davis.

Mad's lampoon of Julius Caesar (Mad 17, illustrated by Wally Wood) references a detective called "Martin Walking-Kane".


  1. ^ Settel, Irving; Laas, William (1969). A Pictorial History of Television (PDF). New York: Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. p. 62. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  2. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0786445134. p. 219.
  3. ^ a b c Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters: Over 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-0786443246.
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0786464777. p. 660.
  5. ^ Erickson, Hal (1989). Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947–1987. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0786411988. p. 37.
  6. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2003). The Television Crime Fighters Factbook: Over 9,800 Details from 301 Programs, 1937–2003. McFarland. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0786415335. Retrieved 29 September 2017.

External linksEdit