New Adventures of Captain Midnight
(adapted from a copyrighted article by
Captain Midnight is the undercover name of Jim
Albright, a pilot who seeks out enemy agents and various bad guys for a
government agency. He is constantly trying stop the plans of the
nefarious Ivan Shark and his daughter Fury, a marvelously evil female
lead. He is helped in his exploits by his mechanic, Tools Morton, and
his girl, Peggy. Our show ends with a cliff-hanger. Tune in again on
Wednesday night to see if our hero can escape the clutches of the evil…
The series had its beginnings in 1938 on Chicago
radio station, WGN. Created by Robert M. Burtt and Willfred G. Moore,
the creators of The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen, the series
was sponsored by the Skelly Oil Company.
In the beginning, “Captain Midnight” was simply an
undercover name for Jim “Red” Albright, who regularly piloted cargo and
passengers. As an undercover agent, Albright was trying to gather
information on a gang of criminals. However, by the end of the first
run, ending in a summer hiatus, the Captain Midnight persona was
beginning to stick and many knew him only by that name. Captain Midnight
was constantly trying to stop the plans of the evil Ivan Shark and his
daughter Fury. Shark remained as Midnight’s evil nemesis throughout the
length of the radio run.
Captain Midnight was helped in his efforts by Chuck
Ramsey, who was a member of his Secret Squadron and Patsy Donovan
(later, Joyce Ryan). In the national versions (though he appeared
briefly in the Skelly shows), there was also Ichabod Mudd, Midnight’s
mechanic. There were a number of different actors playing the various
roles over the long run. The series grew in popularity and was broadcast
over the Mutual Network beginning in 1940 sponsored by Ovaltine.
Ovaltine had recently dropped its long-running sponsorship of another
juvenile staple—Little Orphan Annie. That show was tired
and was beginning to wane when The Wander Company, makers of Ovaltine,
brought the regional Captain Midnight series to a national
With the network show, there were some cast
changes. The announcer for Ovaltine, Pierre Andre, came over from the Little Orphan Annie series to do
Captain Midnight .
Don Gordon was out. The character of Patsy Donovan became Joyce Ryan and
Ichabod Mudd was added as a regular. Jack Bivans took over the role of
Chuck Ramsey when Billy Rose left to join the army in 1941. Bivans left
in 1944 when he turned 18 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Johnny
Coons took over the role of Chuck until Bivans returned from military
service in 1946.
was one of many series to offer exciting premiums (see example at the
right, plus a Flight Patrol Newspaper). Young listeners could
also be a part of the Secret Squadron by signing up usually via the
premiums and receiving decoder badges, etc. Despite the adult sponsor,
Skelly advertised by telling the kids to be sure their dads go to the
gasoline stations to get the premiums and, of course, Skelly products.
Ovaltine continued the premiums via their foil tops and labels. Often
the premium played a big part in the series. Chuck would use his
Code-o-graph to contact Washington to get the duo out of a difficult
situation. As a part of the Secret Wing of the Secret Squadron, each
person who received their code-o-graph was encouraged to sign the pledge
within the manual. Other than Midnight who was designated SS-1, Chuck
Ramsay and Joyce Ryan were the only agents of the Squadron to have
numbers lower than 10: Ramsey was SS-2 and Joyce SS-3. Agent (William)
Lyle Kelly, who was Captain Midnight’s contact to Major Steele was
assigned SS-11 and was usually referred to “Agent SS-11, Kelly” in the
Eventually, the series moved from radio to film and
finally to television. The films were created by Columbia Pictures and
directed by James Horne, a Laurel & Hardy director. Midnight was
portrayed by former stuntman Dave O’Brien. The essence of Captain
Albright’s history and his relationship to Major Steele was retained,
though “Captain Midnight” became more of a secret identity. Sometimes
the character would be masked and other times not. Ivan Shark returned
though he did not appear as evil and ruthless as the radio Shark. Chuck
Ramsay was portrayed by radio actor Sam Edwards (Gunsmoke, Six
Shooter, Speed Gibson). One fifteen episode serial was
created wherein Shark meets a shocking death.
Many know the character from the television run
starring Richard Webb. If you have an opportunity to view some of the
old television shows, note the actor playing Tut, the scientist for the
Secret Squadron. This is the great radio actor Olan Soule (Mr.
Firstnighter, One Man’s Family, and others).