Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Reed Hadley
RACKET SQUAD (1951 - 1953).

"There are people who can slap you on the back with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. And it could happen to you." -- John Braddock.  

Racket Squad was a very popular half hour TV show from the fifties that exposed bunco operations and lasted three seasons and 98 episodes. Reed Hadley [Sunset Murder Case] played Captain John Braddock, who introduced and narrated the episodes, and often took part in the story lines as well, such as one episode when he's nearly blown up in a mine explosion. Racket Squad was a snappy series that educated the public about schemes that are still going on today (imagine what a modern version of the show could make of Internet rackets). The best episodes focused not just on clever and occasionally diabolical schemes but the characters that got embroiled in them, including the criminals and the often gullible and sometimes greedy victims.

Hillary Brooke in Lady Luck
Among the most memorable episodes: "A Place for Grandma," with Mabel Paige as an elderly woman taken advantage of by the nasty woman who runs a boarding house; "The Case of Two Little Country Girls," which details an amazing scheme to rip off a hotel of thousands of dollars;  "The Christmas Caper," in which a kind man (Lloyd Corrigan) is exploited by people running a crooked charity for children; "The Family Tree," with Hugh Beaumont as a phony genealogist trying to scam Frances Bavier; "Miracle Mud," in which a phony health farm scheme is engineered by an unlikely suspect; "Sting of Fate," in which a couple scams a hotel with a fake ankle injury; "The Longshot," featuring a stupid old gambling woman with a fake Irish Sweepstakes ticket; "The Case of the Expensive Tumble," in which a high school boy is victimized by a gang who stage phony accidents and the resulting insurance fraud; "Lady Luck," with Hillary Brooke [Heatwave] as a woman who just can't stop cheating at cards; and "Pick a Number," with Byron Foulger playing a clearinghouse accountant who is innocently pulled into a dangerous scheme plotted by Edgar Barrier.

Garner and Gleason in His Brother's Keeper
Of the episodes I've seen, the most outstanding are "The Soft Touch," in which con artists, thinking the others are pigeons, try to out-con each other at a hotel, proving -- as Hadley puts it -- that anyone can be taken; and the moving "His Brother's Keeper" in which James Gleason [Spring Reunion] expertly plays an old bum who bonds with a boy (Don Garner) when both are forced into a phony begging racket in this grim tale of the exploitation of the homeless.  

Reed Hadley -- tough but compassionate, firm but fair -- makes the perfect lead for the show. After Racket Squad ended its run the unconventionally handsome actor sort of switched sides and became The Public Defender. 

Verdict: Nifty old crime show is worth a watch. ***.

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