Jun 24, 2017
Following his star turn as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, Dick Powell found himself at a new stage of his career. With the acclaim he’d earned for his hard-boiled performance, Powell could finally shed the baby-faced crooner image that had defined his work up until that point. He used his clout and the momentum Marlowe brought him to approach the F.W. Fitch shampoo company with a proposal - a summer detective series to fill the weeks until their Fitch Bandwagon variety show returned to the air in the fall. Powell, a veteran of the Bandwagon, would headline the new series as a private detective cut from the Marlowe cloth. The result was Bandwagon Mysteries, Powell’s first weekly dramatic series and the introduction of Richard Rogue, a radio shamus who would crack cases on radio over the next seven years.
Bandwagon Mysteries premiered on NBC on June 17, 1945 and ran for fourteen weeks. By the end of the run, there was a demand for the show to continue but the regular Fitch Bandwagon program was slated to return to NBC after its summer vacation. Fitch shopped the series, retitled Rogue’s Gallery to other networks. It landed at Mutual and began a thirty-nine week run on September 27, 1945. When its Mutual season ended in June 1946, it returned to NBC as a summer replacement for Fitch Bandwagon. By this time, the show was so identified by its new title that it didn’t revert to Bandwagon Mysteries; instead it aired for an additional fourteen episodes in the summer of 1946.
Powell’s performance as Richard Rogue was similar to his take on Philip Marlowe (and it would be refined and perfected a few years later on Richard Diamond, Private Detective): tough, but glib, and more likely to come up with a quip than to squeeze off a round from his .38.
Aside from Powell’s unique delivery, the signature element of the show was the inclusion of Rogue’s impish “alter ego,“ Eugor (that’s Rogue spelled backwards). Each week, usually following a shot to the head, Rogue would lose consciousness and take an otherworldly trip to “Cloud Eight." While there, he’d trade barbs with the cackling Eugor, and their conversations would usually shed light on a clue the gumshoe had overlooked during his investigation. Though never credited on the show, Eugor was played by veteran radio character actor Peter Leeds. Leeds could be heard in supporting roles on Suspense, Nero Wolfe, Escape and others. He was a member of the cast of Stan Freberg’s legendary 1957 CBS radio series, and he provided several voices for Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Dick Powell left the role after the 1946 series. Rogue’s Gallery returned the following year for a summer run starring Barry Sullivan, who would later pinch hit as The Saint when Vincent Price was unavailable to record. Following that brief run, Richard Rogue left the air for three years. The Fitch company fell upon hard times following a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission over the company’s claims that its shampoo could eradicate dandruff, and their sponsorship ended in 1947. In 1950, ABC resurrected the concept for a two year run. Actor Paul Stewart, a veteran of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre, played Rogue on ABC. Elsewhere on the network, Dick Powell was crooning through crimes as Richard Diamond. He was working right alongside one of his earlier characters - one who helped pave the way for his future radio success. Diamond may be the more famous Richard, but it was Rogue who put Powell on the path to a career as a crime-solver extraordinaire.