Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Candy Matson was a private detective in San Francisco whose adventures ran for about 93 episodes, of which perhaps 15 survive.  From its beginnings in 1949 to its demise in 1951, Candy Matson ran through three phone numbers following the name in the title, from Exbrook 2-9994 to YUkon 2-8209 and finally to YUkon 3-8309.  (Whether this is due to the producers having difficulty remembering phone numbers or to Candy having a poor track record paying her telephone bill, I couldn't say.)

The program, airing on NBC Radio West, was created and produced by Monte Masters, a popular San Franciso actor, writer, and producer who had some success in producing for fifteen years before creating Candy Matson.  Originally the show was supposed to be about a male private detective with  Masters as the star, but his mother-in-law convinced him to cast his wife, Natalie Park, as the lead.  Park was a very popular, vivacious blonde actress who had started in local theatre groups.  As the no-nonsense, but charming detective, Park propelled the show into a hit.  The San Francisco Examiner named Candy Matson as its favorite radio program of 1950.  When one episode ended in a cliff-hanger, the studio phone lines began ringing before the final credits; over eighty callers were concerned over Candy's fate.

Candy did have a love interest -- Lieutenant Ray Mallard of the SF Police Department, played by Henry Leff.  More importantly (at least in hindsight) was Candy's best friend, eccentric photographer Rembrandt Watson, played by Jack Thomas.  Although never overtly stated (this was the late Forties/early Fifties after all), there were many veiled hints about Rambrandt's homosexuality.

Candy Matson also benefitted from a cadre of local actors and friends of Masters and Parks, including Jack Webb, William Conrad, and Raymond Burr.  Webb, in particular, appears to have been a strong influence in the show's presentation.  A number of San Francisco area actors supplied a quasi-repertory ensemble for the program.  No matter how many people helped Candy Matson along the way, it was the crisp dialogue that Masters inserted into his scripts and Parks' impeccable portrayal that carried the show.  Also, neither Masters nor Parks were prima donnas -- they encouraged their actors, and particularly Leff and Thomas, to develop their characters as fully as possible.

Ultimately though, a locally produced show airing only west of the Mississippi without a major or permanent sponsor was doomed to failure.  That NBC West kept switching  the show's time slot did not help.

Although this Youtube link states that the program's original air date was December 18, 1950, the actual original airdate was November 26 of that year.  Also please note that the proper -- albeit undocumented -- title to this episode is "San Juan Bautista," rather than "San Juan Batista."  Masters was rigidly scrupulous about accuracy regarding historical points and locations in the San Francisco area; the misspelling crept into (and became embedded in) the Candy Watson archives somewhere along the way.

Nonetheless, enjoy this example of the distaff side of private eye-dom as Candy Matson takes on the case of "San Juan Batista Bautista."

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