Duncan Maclain
Created by Baynard H. Kendrick (also wrote as Richard Hayward; 1894-1977)

Blinded in World War I, wealthy, dashing Captain DUNCAN MACLAIN moves to New York and sets up a detective agency, aided by his partner, Spud Savage, and his secretary (and Spud's wife) Rena. Rounding out the staff are Duncan's two specially-trained German Shepherds, Schnuke and Driest. When he's not solving crimes, Duncan whiles away the time reading (in Braille) and doing giant jigsaw puzzles. Later on in the series, Duncan found time to marry the lovely Miss Sybella Ford, owner of a decorating shop.

Don't be fooled by the gimmick -- these books are pretty damn decent, and author Kendrick is no hack. He was a founding member of The Mystery Writers of America and served as its first president, and was later voted a Grand Master. The Maclain books are exciting, well-written adventures (even if, granted, there are a few pulpy gee-whizzes sprinkled here and there) and it's a true crime that Kendrick and Maclain are now almost forgotten.

Oh, and by the way, it IS a good gimmick. At least good enough to inspire a handful of B-films in the forties, including a couple starring the decidedly stout Edward Arnold as the blind detective. They weren't great, although Eyes in the Night has a few unintentionally hilarious moments of scenery chewing, as Arnold pretends to be drunk.And 1938's The Last Express, which I haven't seen, ninetheless boasts a character (played by Don Brodie) who's listed as Spud Savage, Private Detective. Is that a great monicker or what?

There was also a TV appearance with Robert Middleton as Maclain (that I can't find any info on), and in the seventies, Longstreet, a television series that featured a blind insurance investigator (and that I definitely remember, and rather fondly, as well).

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Murderer Who Wanted More" (January 1944, The American Magazine; also issued as a special 10-cent Dell paperback in 1951)
  • "Melody of Death" (June 1945, The American Magazine)
  • "Silent Night" (December 1958, Sleuth Mystery Magazine; also 1982, Murder For Christmas, Volume 2)
  • "The Silent Whistle" (1947, Make Mine Maclain)

COLLECTIONS

  • Make Mine Maclain (1947-three novelettes) ...Buy this book
    Includes "The Silent Whistle," "Melody in Death" and "The Murderer Who Wanted More"

FILMS

  • THE LAST EXPRESS
    (1938, Universal)
    63 minutes, black and white
    Based on the novel by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann
    Directed by Otis Garrett
    Starring Kent Taylor as DUNCAN MacLAIN
    Also starring Dorothea Kent, Greta Granstedt, Paul Hurst, Don Brodie (as Spud Savage, Private Eye), J. Farrell MacDonald, Samuel Lee, Al Shaw, Edward Raquello, Robert Emmett Keane, Charles Trowbridge, Addison Richards, Al Hill

  • EYES IN THE NIGHT...Buy this video...Buy this DVD
    (1942, MGM)
    80 minutes, black & white
    Tagline: Startling as a Scream!
    Based on the novel "Odor of Violets" by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by Howard Emmett Rogers and Guy Trosper
    Cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr.
    Directed by Fred Zinnemann
    Produced by Jack Chertok
    Starring Edward Arnold as DUNCAN MACLAIN
    Also starring
    Ann Harding, Donna Reed, Stephen McNally, Katherine Emery, Allen Jenkins, Stanley Ridges, Reginald Denny, John Emery, Rosemary De Camp, Erik Rolf, Barry Nelson, Reginald Sheffield
    Look for Marie Windsor in a bit part as an actress and Donna Reed as a worldly seventeen-year-old.
    Also available as part of the TVNow Mystery Classics DVD set
    .
  • THE HIDDEN EYE
    (1945, MGM)
    69 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Baynard Kendrick
    Screenplay by
    George Harmon Coxe and Harry Ruskin
    Directed by Richard Whorf
    Produced by Robert Sisk
    Starring Edward Arnold as CAPTAIN DUNCAN MACLAIN
    Also starring
    Frances Rafferty, Ray Collins, Paul Langton, William 'Bill' Phillips, Thomas E. Jackson, Ray Largay, Byron Foulger, Morris Ankrum, Robert Lewis, Lee Phelps, Theodore Newton, Sondra Rodgers, Leigh Whipper, Francis Pierlot
    And look for Cameron Mitchell in a bit part.

TELEVISION

  • WESTINGHOUSE DESILU PLAYHOUSE: CHANGE OF HEART
    (1960)
    60 minutes
    Pilot for undeveloped series
    Based on characters created by Baynard Kendrick
    Teleplay by David J. Goodman
    Directed by Richard Kinon
    Starring Starring Robert Middleton as DUNCAN MacLAIN
    With Donald May as Spud Savage
    and Evan Evans as Rena
    Also starring Russ Conway, Allison Hayes, Dick Sargent, and and Karl Swenson.  
    "I remember seeing the beginning of  this episode when it originally aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1960... The blind detective concept was intriguing and Robert Middleton would have made a fascinating series lead. Donald May ("Colt 45", "The Roaring Twenties") would have played his handsome young associate. May may well have been playing Spud Savage. I'm pretty sure Evan Evans played May's wife Rena... The production company was of course Desilu  ("The Untouchables") The writer was David J. Goodman according to imdb. This is his only listed credit. I think it may have really been written by David Z. Goodman, who has some strong credits including "The Untouchables" and "Farewell My Lovely". The episode was rerun on "Kraft Mystery Theater", an NBC  summer replacement series in 1962, and I think the pilot may have inspired "Ironside" several years later."
    -- Brian Cuddy

 Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. A special thanks to Brian Cuddy for the TV lead.


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