The Green Hornet: Radio show, TV series, Comic and Movie Legend

by Mike_W

The 2011 Green Hornet movie introduced a new generation to the masked super hero. The Green Hornet has been entertaining audiences for nine decades through radio, TV and comics.

The Green Hornet is well into his ninth decade of being a supporting player in main stream pop culture, despite perhaps never reaching the heights of his more illustrious counterpart, Batman. He has a legacy in most forms of modern day story telling through his radio show, comics, his famous TV series featuring Bruce Lee, and the 2011 blockbuster movie.

The character was created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for a radio show in the 1930s. He is generally the alter ego of Britt Reid, a wealthy media mogul/newspaper owner and accompanied by Kato, his skilled body guard and driver. This differentiates the Green Hornet from other superheroes who have stood the test of time, most of which were born through comic books.

From the Green Hornet radio show, Reid and his Green Hornet alter ego soon moved into all types of main stream media. He featured in Green Hornet comic books, film serials, fiction books, merchandise, movies, and of course the famous, if short lived, 1960s Green Hornet TV show. Most recently, in 2011, The Green Hornet has been made into a movie starring Seth Rogan.

The Green Hornet Radio Show

The Green Hornet originated in 1936 as the Green Hornet radio show on Detroit station WXYZ. It had a 14 year run on various radio stations and returned for a brief run in 1952.

The Green Hornet Radio Show Premise:

With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminals and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet.

Al Hodge, Donovan Faust, Bob Hall and Jack McCarthy were the various actors to play the Green Hornet on the show.

Green Hornet Film Serials

In 1940, Universal Pictures began releasing a two film serials, ‘The Green Hornet’ with 13 chapters, and then ‘The Green Hornet Strikes Again!’ with 15 chapters, in 1941.

Gordon Jones provided viewers with the first live vision of Britt Read and the Green Hornet; however Al Hodge, the voice from the radio show, was dubbed over for dialogue while Jones was wearing the Green Hornet mask. Warren Hull took over the title role for the second film serial. Keye Luke as Kato and Anne Nagel as Lenore Case featured in both.

While each chapter in the film serials had similar themes, unlike most film serials of the time, the chapters were standalone episodes. The last few episodes of each serial tied the story arch together.

The Green Hornet Comic Books

The first Green Hornet comic books were released in 1940, four years after the first Green Hornet radio show and the same year as the first film serial. It was produced by Helnit Comics, but versions were also released by Harvey Comics, Dell Comics, and Gold Key Comics. In 1989, NOW Comics released 14-comic series that sought to tie in the various version of the Green Hornet over the years.


The Green Hornet by Kevin Smith

In 2010, Dynamite Entertainment released a Green Hornet mini series written by Kevin Smith. It was set in modern times and featured Britt Reid Jr, the spoiled son of the original Green Hornet. When his father was killed by the Black Hornet, Reid Jr takes on the Green Hornet identity to avenge his father. He is helped by Kato, who comes out of retirement to help.

The Green Hornet TV Show

Probably the most famous rendition of the Green Hornet was the short lived Green Hornet television series in 1966–1967. It made a huge impact on popular culture by introducing the Western world to Bruce Lee.

The television show was Inspired by the success of the Batman television series, and the Green Hornet and Kato even guest starred on Batman. However, unlike the campy Batman series, the Green Hornet show was a serious take on the genre.

In the Green Hornet television series Britt Reid (Van Williams) was a playboy and media mogul fights crime as the Green Hornet. He is accompanied by Kato (Bruce Lee), his driver and martial art expert body guard.

Casey Case (Wende Wagner), Reid's secretary, knows his true identity. The Green Hornet is assisted by District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon (Walter Brooke).

As usual, Kato drives 'Black Beauty', which was a 1966 Imperial Crown sedan. The Green Hornet uses the hornet sting, which fired ultrasonic soundwaves and Kato threw green sleeve darts.

The Green Hornet and Kato
The Green Hornet
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Bruce Lee as Kato
The Green Hornet, UK Movie Poster, 1966
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The 2011 Green Hornet Movie

Directed by Michel Gondry and starring Seth Rogen

While there have been several movie versions of the Green Hornet, its first big budget, feature length film was the 2011 Green Hornet movie, 'The Green Hornet'. Seth Rogen co-wrote and stars as Britt Reid. It was directed by Michel Gondry with Evan Goldberg co-writing. Taiwonese pop star Jay Chou also stared as Kato with Cameron Diaz as Casey Case. Christoph Waltz plays Russian gangster Benjamin Chudnofsky. Edward James Olmos, David Harbour, and Tom Wilkinson also feature in the film.

The Green Hornet release date in the United States was January 14, 2011 in both 3D and 2D cinemas. The DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D of The Green Hornet was released on May 3, 2011. Although the movie grossed nearly US$230 million worldwide, it was not deemed to be a financial success due to the late decision to add 3D as well as the expensive filming locations. As a result there is no sequel planned.

Unlike other versions of the super hero, the 2011 film was a comedy, which alienated many die-hard Green Hornet fans. While most variants of the story have evolved to showcase Kato as the key crime fighter, the film exaggerated this to make Britt Reid (Rogen) to be more incompetent than in most versions. Perhaps this direction was hoped to be a point of difference to current super hero movies in the cluttered genre. While Green Hornet enthusiasts may not have loved the film, in time they may look back fondly on seeing their hero on the big screen. It may be a while before we see another version of the Green Hornet, Kato, Black Beauty, and Casey Case.


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What is Your Favourite Green Hornet Incarnation?
Updated: on 09/15/2012, Mike_W
 
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Mike_W on 09/23/2012

Hi Katie, thanks for the comment! Yes, the Green Hornet was a guilty pleasure of mine too :).
Researching for this article I was interested to find how long the Green Hornet character has been around, and in how many mediums he has appeared in. It's a shame the character hasn't established a foothold with modern audiences.

katiem2 on 09/23/2012

I love the Green Hornet 2011 movie, I've watched it more times than I care to admit. Great information on other green hornet stuff... diving in now. :)K



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