Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, August 19, 2021


He supposedly weighs a seventh of a ton (272 pounds), although Archie Goodwin has said that his weight is between 310 and 390 ponunds.  He avoids physical exertion.  He raises prize orchids.  He is a gourmand and has hired one of the best chefs in New York as his personal cook.  He seldom leaves his brownstone.  He is a genius who likes beer and good books. 

Of course he's Nero Wolfe.  The 33 novels and 4 novellas and short stories about the character were nominated at the best mystery series in 2000 and Rex Stout, its creator, was nominated at Best Mystery Writer of the Century.  Wolfe also appeared in two theatrical films, Meet Nero Wolfe (1936) and The League of Frightened Men (1937), after which Stout declined to sell any further movies rights.  (A wise choice based on the quality of those films.)  

 In 1959, Nero Wolfe was scheduled to air as a television series beginning in September 1959, with Kurt Kazner as Wolfe and William Shatner as Archis Goodwin; the series was never produced, although the half-hour pilot was.  Then, in 1977, Paramount television filmed Nero Wolfe, based on Stout's The Doorbell Rang.  The idea was to have Orson Welles play the great detective in the TV movie and in a series that would follow, but Welles dropped out of the project and Thayer David stepped into the Wolfe role.  Unfortunately, David died before the film could be aired and the showing was delayed until December 1969.  Then in 1981, NBC aired Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe a one-hour series starring William Cnrad and Lee Horsley.  This one lasted 14 episodes, placing the series in comtemporary New York.  Come 2000, Maury Chakin and Timothy Hutton appeared in the A&E television movie The Golden Spiders:  A Nero Wolfe Mystery,  The ratings were a success and this spawned the network's A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001-2002), with a reptory group of actors who played various parts in each episode.  

Wolfe was also busy in other countries.  There was a German TV miniseries in 1961, an Italian series that ran from 1969 to 1971, a Russian series of television movies from 2001 to 2005, and an Italian series in 2012.  Italy also produced a stage adaptation of a Wolfe story in 2009.  And back in America both The Red Box (2014) and Might as Well Be Dead (2017) were staged.

Wolfe has also shown up in a newspaper comic strip, in Japanese manga, on a Nicarguan postage stamp. and with his own digest-sized mystery magazine.  Wolfe's adventures and deduction continue in 16 (thus far) authorized novels by Robert Goldsborough and in countless pastiches and parodies by others.

And then there's radio...

There have been four radio series over five networks:  The Adventures of Nero Wolfe (New England Network, then on ABC, 1943-1944), The Amazing Nero Wolfe (Mutual, July 17-November 30, 1945), The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe ( NBC, 1951-1952), and Nero Wolfe (CBC, January 16-April 10, 1982).  

Of these, certainly The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe must be considered the best, if only for the remarkable Sidney Greenstreet playing Nero Wolfe.  Rex Stout, who felt that Charles Lughton would make a perfect Nero Wolfe, enjoyed Greenstreet's performances. Twenty-six episodes were aired (all but one are extant).  Greenstreet was in failing health with diabetes and Bright's disease.  He had made his final film in 1949 but his role as Wolfe kept him in the public eye.  He dies in January of 1954.

"Room 304" was the final episode of The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe.  It was produced by Edwin Faadiman and directed by J. Donald Wilson.  The script was by Alfred Bester.  Don Stanley was the announcer.


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