Whispering Smith
Created by Frank H. Spearman (1859-1950)

Whispering Smith was a short-lived TV show back in the fifties, that tried to combine the then-popular western and private eye formats, much like Have Gun, Will Travel, The Man From Blackhawk and Shotgun Slade.

It featured the adventures of WHISPERING SMITH, a private eye in the Old West, played by Audie Murphy. Smith was a detective for a Denver, Colorado-based railroad company. His partner was played by Guy Mitchell and the "chief" by Sam Buffington. Their job was to protect the railroad from fraud, scandal, robberies, and murder -- pretty standard P.I. fare, actually. But the setting was relatively unique, and the show also featured some interesting guest stars: a young Robert Redford, Harry Carey Jr., noir dame Marie Windsor, a pre-Kildare Richard Chamberlain, a pre-Peter Gunn Minerva Urecal and a pre-Gilligan Alan Hale Jr.

The show occasionally seemed to be based on the exploits of Allan Pinkerton, as it traced Smith's attempts to bring "modern" police methods to the Old West.  Supposedly actual cases from the files of the Denver Police Department provided the basis for many of the episodes.

The series was filmed in 1959, and scheduled for the 1959-1960 fall season, but it seemed jinxed. With only seven episodes in the can, co-star Guy Mitchell fell from a horse and broke his shoulder. Murphy, already less than impressed with television, was all for abandoning the project.  Meanwhile, Sam Buffington committed suicide and had to be replaced.  When the show finally appeared in the summer of 1961, the Senate Juvenile Delinquency committee filed charges that the show was too violent.  The show aired its twenty episodes and was allowed to die a quiet death. Nobody complained.

The series was based on an earlier 1948 theatrical release of the same name, one of Alan Ladd's first starring films and by all accounts a good ol' shoot-em-up. In it, Smith is a by-the-book railroad investigator assigned to solve the mystery of a rash of train robberies, and discovers that the perpetrator is none other than his old friend Murray Sinclaire (played by Robert Preston). There's a big showdown at the end, and an interesting romantic triangle of sorts with Sinclaire's wife.

But in fact, it goes back even before that. The 1948 film was not the first to be based on Frank H. Spearman's 1906 novel, Whispering Smith, which has turned out to be a rather popular property over the years. There was a 1916 silent film (on which Harold Lloyd served as an assistant director, while the actual director, J.P. McGowan, also played the lead), followed by another silent film in 1926. That in turn was followed by yet another silent flick, Whispering Smith Rides in 1927, inevitably followed in 1935 by Whispering Smith Speaks, his first talkie. Each film wandered a little further from the source material, but the real oddity was 1951's Whispering Smith Hits London, wherein Smith travels to England and tangles with Scotland Yard while trying to crack a particularly tough case involving blackmail and murder, not to mention a curious sexual ambiguity. Presumably, this is a modern-day Smith, not an 1870's cowboy. From a script co-written by Steve "I Wake Up Screaming" Fisher.

NOVEL

FILM

TELEVISION

  • "The Blind Gun" (May 8, 1961)
  • "The Grudge" (May 15, 1961)
  • "The Devil's Share" (May 22, 1961)
  • "Stakeout" (May 29, 1961)
  • "Safety Valve" (June 5, 1961)
  • "Stain of Justice" (June 12, 1961)
  • "The Deadliest Weapon" (June 19, 1961)
  • "The Quest" (June 26, 1961)
  • "Three for One" (July 3, 1961)
  • "Death at Even Money" (July 10, 1961)
  • "The Hemp Reeger Case" (July 17, 1961)
  • "The Mortal Coil" (July 24, 1961)
  • "Cross Cut" (July 31, 1961)
  • "Double Edge" (August 7, 1961)
  • "The Trademark" (August 12, 1961)
  • "The Jodie Tyler Story" (August 21, 1961)
  • "Poet and Peasant Case" (August 28, 1961)
  • "Dark Circle" (September 4, 1961)
  • "Swift Justice" (September 11, 1961)
  • "The Idol" (September 18, 1961)
    .
  • Un-aired (on NBC) Episodes
  • "String of Circumstances"
  • "The Interpreter"
  • "The Homeless Wind"
  • "Trail of the Avengers"
  • "Prayer of Change"
  • "Hired to Die"
  • Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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