Dick Barton
Created by Norman Collins

The beloved star of the BBC's first daily radio serial, private investigator and sometime "special agent" DICK BARTON appeared in 711 episodes between 1946 and 1951. With his two best mates by his side, Jock Anderson and Snowy White, and a slew of crime-busting gadgets that would make DICK TRACY envious, Dick managed to get into (and eventually out of) some pretty tight spots, much to the delight of thousands, not to mention the stern disapproval of various "educationalists and clergymen." And all that disapproval despite the scriptwriters strict adherence to 13 codes of conduct, such as: no sex, no booze, no bad language and all violence must be limited to "clean socks on the jaw."

Nevertheless, the radio show was a huge success, and the former Captain Richard Barton of the Commandos became a national hero, right up there with Churchill. In post-war Britain, the fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek adventures were exactly what the doctor ordered. At his peak, over 15 million listeners tuned in to his adventures, broadcast in the early evening, right after the news.

Although Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason wrote the radio scripts, Barton was actually created by BBC producer Norman Collins, who has visions of a "cloak and dagger soap opera" every evening.

Of course, success like that couldn't be overlooked, and three feature films were also made, and a slew of novels and shorts stories. But the films were strictly B, and what worked so well on radio looked awkward, and sometimes even silly on film. Although the films were moderately successful, it wasn't enough to keep to keep the series going.

And then, in 1979, ITV decided to revive Dick. Of course, these were modern times and no mamby-pamby codes of conduct had to be followed. And so viewers were treated to a tough-talking, no-nonsense, square-jawed private eye, complete with trench coat and fedora. The purists (and everyone else, it seemed) were not amused. The show only lasted a few months.

But such is the cult of Dick that his popularity continues, into the next millenium. In 2001, Dick, Snowy et al were brought to the stage, and even toured Great Britain.

RADIO

  • DICK BARTON
    (1946-51, BBC)
    711 15-minute episodes
    Written by Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason
    Signature tune, "The Devil's Gallop," composed by Charles Williams
    Starring Noel Johnson as DICK BARTON
    (later replaced by Duncan Carse and Gordon Davis)
    with Alex McCrindle as JOCK
    and John Mann as SNOWY
    .
  • THE NIGHT OF THE TWENTY SEVENTH
    (1949, BBC)
    Christmas special
    First broadcast: December 27, 1949 on the Light Programme
    Produced by Martyn C. Webster
    Written by Edward J. Mason
    Starring Duncan Carse as DICK BARTON
    Robert Beatty as PHILIP ODELL
    Kim Peacock as PAUL TEMPLE
    and Marjorie Westbury as STEVE TEMPLE
    Brian Reece as PC 49
    Valentine Dyall as THE MAN IN BLACK
    Douglas Burbidge as DR. DALE
    Ellis Powell as MRS. DALE
    A real special, featuring the BBC's most popular detectives of the dayin one big show, first broadcast as a Christmas special in 1949.

FILMS

  • DICK BARTON, SPECIAL AGENT
    (1948, Exclusive Films)
    Starring Don Stannard as DICK BARTON

  • DICK BARTON STRIKES BACK
    (1949, Exclusive Films)
    Starring Don Stannard as DICK BARTON

  • DICK BARTON AT BAY
    (1950, Exclusive Films)
    Starring Don Stannard as DICK BARTON

TELEVISION

  • DICK BARTON-SPECIAL AGENT
    (1979, ITV)
    26 15-minute episodes, colour
    Producer: Jon Scoffield
    Executive Producers: Terence Baker, Lewis Rudd
    A Southern Television Network Production
    Starring Tony Vogel as DICK BARTON
    with Anthony Heaton as SNOWY
    and James Cosmo as JOCK.

NOVELS

  • Jail Break (1953; by Dick Barton)
  • The Case of the Vanishing House (1978; by Mike Dorrell)
  • The Gold Bullion Swindle 1978; by Mike Dorrell)
  • The Great Tobacco Conspiracy 1978; by Mike Dorrell)
  • The Mystery of the Missing Formula (1978; by Mike Dorrell)
  • The Case of the Vanishing House (1978; by Alan Radnor)
  • The Gold Bullion Swindle (1979; by Larry Pryce)

SHORT STORIES

  • "All the Fun of the Fair" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "Dick Barton Wanted for Murder" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "The Garage Racketeers" (also 1992, The Armchair Detective; based on a radio script; by Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason)
  • "Jordan's Folly" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "The Man in Box Four" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "One Foggy Day" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "Ordeal by Fire" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "The Unofficial Victory" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "The Vulture Strikes Again" (by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • "Dick Barton and the Cabatolin Diamonds" (by Elwyn Jones)
  • "Dick Barton and the Lucifer Adventure"  (by Elwyn Jones)
  • "Dick Barton and the Secret Weapon" (by Elwyn Jones)

COLLECTIONS

  • Dick Barton, Special Agent (1950; by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb)
  • Dick Barton, Special Agent (1977; by Elwyn Jones)

PLAYS

  • DICK BARTON SPECIAL AGENT
    World Premiere:
    December 11, 1998; The Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, U.K.
    Written by by Phil Willmott
    Directed by Ted Craig
    Commissioned by Warehouse Theatre Company
    Recent national tour venues:
    February 19-24, 2001, Bolton Octagon
    February 26- March 3, 2001, Jersey Opera House
    March 5-10, 2001, Gaiety Theatre, Douglas, Isle Of Mann
    March 12-17, 2001, Wimbledon Theatre
    Info: warehous@dircon.co.uk
    .
  • DICK BARTON EPISODE 2: THE CURSE OF THE PHAROAH'S TOMB
    World Premiere:
    December 10, 1999; The Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, U.K.
    Written by by Phil Willmott
    Directed by Ted Craig
    Commissioned by Warehouse Theatre Company
    Recent run: February 8-17, 2001, Greenwich Theatre,
    Info: warehous@dircon.co.uk

SCRIPTS

  • Dick Barton Special Agent/Dick Barton and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Tomb
    (2001, by Phil Willmott)...Buy this book

COMICS

  • COMET
    Written by
    Geoffrey Webb, Edward J. Mason
    (1953-54, Almagamated Press)
    Appeared as a regular feature in
    Comet, the British comics magazine.
  • "The Flying Saucer Mystery" (April 11, 1953, Comet #247).
  • "(Dick Barton's) first appearance as a comic strip was on the coloured cover of Comet #247 dated April 11, 1953...It was a little belated: the programme had been off the air since March 30, 1951! There were other differences: Dick was reduced to a single assistant, Snowy White, and he was reduced, too - in age. Also Dick's first case was unlike anything he ever takled on radio. It was entitled "The Flying Saucer Mystery" and Dick soon found himself to be the first man on the moon."
    -- from The Encyclopedia of Comic Characters by Denis Gifford

REFERENCE

  • The Inside Story of Dick Barton (1950; by Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason)
    "A very interesting book on how the D.B. radio productions were "made." (John Mundey)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Al and John Mundey for putting me straight on this one. They're men who I can proudly say know Dick. And thanks to Giancarlo Malagutti for his info on Dick Barton's comic appearances. Giancarlo's personal site about his comic work is currently under construction.


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