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“Out of the fog…out of the night…”


It was on this date in 1941 that Captain Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond began what the announcer referred to as “his American adventures” on Mutual Radio. The need to stress “American adventures” stems from the fact that Captain Drummond (nicknamed “Bulldog” because of his tenacity) originally hailed from our neighbor on the other side of the pond. Drummond, a decorated war hero in the “Royal Loamshire Regiment” (he earned the Military Cross [MC] and Distinguished Service Order [DSO]), had grown restless after the First World War and decided to advertise (much in the same way as Dan Halliday and his Box 13) his services as a two-fisted adventurer and private detective.

bulldogdrummondbookDrummond was introduced in a self-titled novel (Bulldog Drummond) in 1920 by H.C. McNeile, who wrote under the pseudonym “Sapper.” McNeile purportedly based the Drummond character on his friend Gerald Fairlie, and when McNeile passed away in 1937, Fairlie repaid him for the compliment by continuing to write Drummond novels for a time afterward. Military fit and a bloke you’d definitely want on your side in a barroom brawl, Bulldog craved excitement…and was unquestionably no stranger to it. His sidekick in his various endeavors was (James) Denny, a loyal man-servant (and his former batman), though the Captain was often aided and abetted by a number of his ex-Army pals as well—one of his hangers-on was Algy (Longworth), who appeared in a good many of the motion pictures inspired by the character.

bulldogdrummondcolmanThe Drummond novels and short stories proved quite popular with the British public, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood began calling—Bulldog Drummond, based on a play written by McNeile (screenplay adapted by B.E. Doxat-Pratt), began packing theater houses in 1922. There were several other actors to tackle the role of Captain Drummond (including Jack Buchanan and Ralph Richardson), but most Bulldog fans believe that Ronald Coleman’s take on the famed detective in 1929 stands head and shoulders above the rest. It was Bulldog Drummond (1929) that put Colman on the map in his first talkie, and he did a sequel in 1934 entitled Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. (Sadly, Strikes Back has never been made available to TV or home video in this country.)

BulldogdrummondcomesbackParamount Pictures instituted a Bulldog Drummond film series beginning in 1937 with Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, which starred John Howard as the adventurous detective. Howard played the part in the majority of the series titles (the exception being Ray Milland in Bulldog Drummond Escapes [1937])—yet the series wasn’t so much about him as it was about featuring John Barrymore as Col. J.A. Neilson, Drummond’s pal and master-of-disguise. The Great Profile eventually tired of his role, and left the series (allowing H.B. Warner to take over)…but the franchise soldiered on until 1939, and always featured first-rate character actors such as Heather Angel (as Bulldog’s girlfriend Phyllis Clavering), Reginald Denny and E.E. Clive. (Turner Classic Movies has tentatively scheduled eight of the Paramount Drummond features to be shown June 4, beginning at 8pm.)

colouris2On April 13, 1941, Mutual premiered Bulldog Drummond to radio listeners in a series produced and directed by the man who brought you the creaking door (on Inner Sanctum Mysteries): Himan Brown. Airing on Sunday evenings for Howard Clothes, Captain Drummond was played by character actor George Coulouris, a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre who also appeared in Welles’ debut motion picture, Citizen Kane (1941), as well as Mr. Skeffington (1944) and Nobody Loves Forever (1946). Many of the early broadcasts probably seemed like Old Home Week to George: several of his friends also played parts on the program, including Everett Sloane (as his sidekick Denny), Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Stewart, Mercedes McCambridge and Ted de Corsia.

weverSantos Ortega took over for Coulouris in May of 1942 and portrayed Drummond for nearly a year…then the Bulldog role was handed off to Ned Wever, the actor best remembered for playing the “polished man-about-town.” (Actors Rod Hendrickson and Luis van Rooten eventually inherited the part of Denny from Everett Sloane.) The series was sustained for most of its run (with sponsorships from Tums in 1945-46 and American Transit in 1947), and bounced around Mutual’s schedule until 1949. While this was going on, Columbia Pictures attempted to jump-start a big screen version of Drummond in 1947 with Bulldog Drummond at Bay and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (not to be confused with the 1934 Ronald Colman). 20th Century-Fox had a turn the following year with The Challenge and 13 Lead Soldiers, both starring former Falcon (and radio Sherlock Holmes) Tom Conway as Bulldog.

callingbulldogdrummondWith the radio show having been off the air for two years, M-G-M tried their hand at the character with Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951), featuring Walter Pidgeon in the part. It didn’t move past the initial entry, but Bulldog Drummond returned to Mutual for a season in the fall of 1953 (briefly sponsored by Chrysler-Dodge) starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Captain Hugh. The series called it a wrap on March 28, 1954…and with the exception of two films in the 1960s that starred Richard Johnson as a more James Bondian interpretation of the hero (Deadlier Than the Male and Some Girls Do), Bulldog Drummond eventually disappeared into that foggy night well established during Radio’s Golden Age.

20636Several of the Paramount Bulldog Drummond films are available for purchase from Radio Spirits: Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge (1937), Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937), Bulldog Drummond’s Peril (1938) and Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939). You also won’t want to miss our fine collection of classic Bulldog broadcasts in Out of the Fog, featuring radio Drummonds George Coulouris and Ned Wever!


  1. Fedora says:

    I enjoyed your article
    I’m a big fan of BD on radio and in the movies.
    A couple of things:
    You appear to be repeating Leonard Maltin’s (ancient) words about Ronald Colman’s BD Strikes Back (1934) being unavailable – its available. I personally digitally restored & enhanced it here just a few months back – a very nice print
    Also there are a few technical points (worth checking out) about the 4 BDs which Bernard Small produced in the late 1940s: two with Aussie Ron Randall & two with Tom Conway.
    I’ve just completed a wide ranging review of these 4 titles (which I also restored) – for Laughing Gravy’s site ‘In The Balcony’
    I also did the Paul Temple movies (as well as Conway’s 4 PI films which he did in London in the mid 1950s) for Gravy as well
    Cheers from Fedora (an Aussie)!

    • Technically, I didn’t repeat Leonard’s (ancient) words about Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. I specified the movie “has never been made available to TV or home video in this country.” It’s a different story in the land down under (Australia), where you reside. Hope this helps.

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