DICK BARTON – Special Agent rides again, with the release of two classic 1940s radio adventures recently unearthed in Australia.
The complete serials, dating from 1949, were among 338 episodes of the hugely-popular show discovered in the vaults of the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.
The recordings, found in 2009 by freelance researcher Charles Norton but not announced until earlier this year, are accurate copies of the original broadcasts, made by the BBC for international distribution between 1948 and 1950.
Co-created and written by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb,Dick Barton – Special Agent was the BBC’s first daily serial, running between 1946 and 1951 on the Light Programme.
Heralded by the instantly memorable signature tune, Devil’s Galop by Charles Williams, the adventures of special agent Dick Barton and his friends Jock Anderson and Snowy White were essential listening for an entire generation.
At its peak, 15 million listeners tuned in for their 15-minute fix of criminal masterminds, espionage and adventure.
Sadly, very few original BBC recordings (starring Noel Johnson, Duncan Carse and then Gordon Davies as Barton) still survive. Out of 711 episodes broadcast on the Light Programme between 1946 and 1951, only 3 episodes were preserved – 100, 442 and 711 – along with two short clips.
However, a number of early Barton tales were re-recorded for transmission overseas, recycling the original scripts and music cues.
These re-stagings, starring Douglas Kelly, Moira Carleton, Clifford Cowley, Richard Davies, William Lloyd and Patricia Kennedy, found new audiences in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
In Dick Barton and the Paris Adventure (tx 14 March – 14 April 1949), Barton and his friends join forces with the French police on the trail of an international smuggling operation. Can Dick defeat the villainous Spider Kennedy? Will he escape from Paris alive?
Dick Barton and the Cabatolin Diamonds (tx 18 April – 19 May 1949) sees Dick’s plans for a Mediterranean cruise cancelled when the Home Office ask him to help them crack a gang of international diamond smugglers. Can Dick thwart the evil Henri De Flambeau before it’s too late?
Though over 60 years old, both serials are said to have “excellent” sound quality.
LONG-LOST RADIO HERO DICK BARTON RETURNS (Daily Express, February 16, 2011).