GANG BUSTERS: The Crime Fighters of American Broadcasting

GANG BUSTERS: The Crime Fighters of American Broadcasting

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When Phillips H. Lord created Gang Busters in January of 1936, crime was so rampant that it was almost tolerated. Obedience to the laws and respect for law-enforcement agencies was at a low ebb. Criminals and their methods were highly publicized in glamourous episodes. Lord had just finished his G-Men series that dramatized FBI case files and wanted something with more action and appeal to radio listeners. He created Gang Busters. At first, Lord appeared on the program and interviewed guest police officials. Later, as his other radio programs demanded more attention, he turned the hosting chores over to West point graduate Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Years later, when the Colonel was recalled to active duty, Lewis J. Valentine, former Commissioner of Police for New York City took over.

Before any case was presented to the radio audience, facts were checked and double-checked. The Chief from each bureau had to approve every fact in the report that originated from their office, before it was dramatized. Sound effects were checked, law enforcement endorsed the series, and each week radio listeners were treated to the true-life thrills and star shine that made front page headlines.

One of the most important things to come from Gang Busters was the clues. Following every thrilling Gang Busters drama was a nation-wide clue, which consisted of last-minute reports of wanted criminals and suspects, received from the police and the FBI. One hundred requests weekly was the average number of police bulletins received by Gang Busters. They were boiled down to two clues, selected for their importance, color and ease in remembering the descriptions. Criminals such as Lawrence Devol, Edward (Wilhelm) Bentz, Hoffman and Penning, Howard Hayes, Charles Jones, Willie Sutton, Claude Beaver and Percy Geary were a few apprehended as a result of those clues. By May of 1942, more than 277 other criminals had been apprehended as a result of the Gang Busters clues. This same format has since been applied on television including more recently, Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted.

The radio series would become so popular that Shirley Temple became an honorary fan club member, the series was adapted for comics and Big Little Books, Universal Pictures produced a 1942 film serial, a high-rated television series was produced in the early fifties and two feature films were produced: Gang Busters (1955) and Guns Don’t Argue (1957). This 700-page book documents the entire history of Gang Busters, from radio, television to comic books.


* The origin of Gang Busters, including a biography of Phillips H. Lord.
* The story behind the apprehension of Lawrence Devol, and many other criminals.
* An overview of the cast and crew responsible for the radio productions.
* Details and broadcast logs for Lord’s other radio programs including Philip Morris Thrills (1935-36) and Sky Blazers (1939-40).
* The case of Martin Durkin, and his attempts to prevent his crimes from being dramatized over the radio.
* Documentary about the 1942 Saturday Matinee Serial of the same name.
* Fan mail from radio listeners reprinted.
* Biography of Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf and his involvement with the Gang Bustersprogram.
* Biography of Lewis J. valentine and his involvement with the Gang Busters program.
* Sponsorship disputes regarding Tide, Colgate and other sponsors.
* The Campaign of Frank X. Reller and his attempts to have Gang Busters removed from the airwaves.
* The case of the Charles Albert Boyer lawsuit.
* The case of Mr. Frederick King and his lawsuit with Gang Busters.
* The lawsuit involving Philip H. Lord and the Crown Toy Manufacturing Corporation.
* The case of John Harvey Bugg and the successful apprehension.
* The popularity of crime shows and the 1948 boycott against Gang Busters.
* Documentary about the 1950s TV series of the same name.
* Documentary about the 1955 movie and the 1957 feature film Guns Don’t Argue.
* Radio and television proposals that never made it into feasible scripts for the series.
* Rejected proposals for Gang Busters from faithful listeners.
* A complete episode guide featuring all 1,008 GANG BUSTERS radio broadcasts including episode numbers, titles, broadcast dates, plot descriptions, broadcast day and time, and much, much more. Same for the television series!

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