The joke in the 1980s and 1990’s was you should never invite Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote) to a dinner party.
It guaranteed someone would die.
Fifty years earlier, however, pretty much the same bad luck kept happening to a very nice couple named Mr. and Mrs. North.
Created by Richard Lockridge in the early 1930’s, the Norths appeared first in some short stories that appeared in the New York Sun, and then later in the New Yorker Magazine.
These vignettes and stories were released as a collection Mr. and Mrs. North in 1936.
In 1940, Lockridge would collaborate with his wife Frances, and together they would produce the first Mr. and Mrs. North novel, The Norths Meet Murder. This would launch a series that would include 26 books novels over the next two decades.
The two main characters, Jerry North, who was book publisher and his wife Pamela, who stayed at home (but usually stumbled upon a murder once a week) were in many ways the prototype for the Robert Wagner/Stephanie Powers couple in Hart to Hart.
It was usually Pamela who solved the crimes, with husband Jerry along for the ride. The appeal – aside from the well crafted mysteries – was the relationship that this couple displayed.
A version of the Norths came to Broadway in 1941, and a movie version of that play was produced in 1942, starring Gracie Allen. It wasn’t the best casting choice in the world.
It was on radio, however, that the Norths gained true fame. Starting with a single show in 1941, but then running constantly from 1942 to 1955.
The role of Jerry was played by three different actors over the years: Carl Eastman (1941), Joseph Curtin (1942-54) and Richard Denning (1954-55) who would portray Jerry on TV.
Pamela was played by Peggy Conklin (1941), Alice Frost (1942-54) and Barbara Britton (1954-55) who played Pam on TV.
Mr. and Mrs. North received the first Best Radio Drama Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America (actually tied with CBS's Ellery Queen) in 1946.
The Internet Archive has a nice selection of radio episodes than ran from 1943 to 1954.
(Click Image to Get Radio Shows)
Richard Denning, who played Jerry North, is probably best remembered for his cult classic movie The Creature From The Black Lagoon, along with having played the Governor of Hawaii in many episodes of Hawaii 5-0.
He was a capable `B’ movie actor, with dozens of credits like North West Mounted Police (1940), Quiet Please: Murder (1942), and Seven Were Saved (1947).
On the radio, his popularity soared when he was teamed with Lucille Ball in the proto-type for I Love Lucy called My Favorite Husband.
For more on that, and Lucy’s early career, see Before We Loved Lucy.
Barbara Britton, who played Pamela, was a contract player who appeared in several well remembered Randolph Scott Westerns during the 1940s along with So Proudly We Hail (1943), and Till We Meet Again (1944).
Lovely and poised, she somehow never really found her niche in movies. After her successful run as Pamela North, she would become the spokesperson for Revlon Cosmetics for more than a decade.
We’ve 10 episodes from the TV series, which ran on CBS from 1952 to 1953 and on NBC in 1954.
These are `light’ murder mysteries, and if you can suspend disbelief that an `average married couple’ can outwit the police and an assortment of murderers each week, they are certainly enjoyable.
Mr and Mrs North ep 1-06 Nosed Out
The Third Eye
Mr and Mrs North ep 1-18 The Third Eye
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x29 Breakout
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x01 Weekend Murder
Til Death Do Us Part
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x02 Til Death Do Us Part
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x05 These Latins
Comic Strip Tease
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x10 Comic Strip Tease
House Behind the Wall
Mr and Mrs North ep 1x16 House Behind the Wall
Mr and Mrs North ep 2x01 Target
Mr and Mrs North ep 2x06 Flight 217