Last year I profiled Reed Hadley (see It’s A Racket), star of the earliest procedural police shows on TV; Racket Squad.
While during the 1940’s Hadley found much of his work as a `voice actor’ and narrator, rather than as an on screen personality, he did appear in numerous relatively minor film roles (often uncredited) starting in 1938.
He was the voice of Red Ryder on the radio during the late 1940s, and appeared as the title character in the Republic serial Zorro’s Fighting Legion, but only became a `star’ when Racket Squad emerged as a successful early TV half hour drama.
In 1954, the following the demise of Racket Squad, Hadley returned to TV in The Public Defender – which like his previous show – was produced and syndicated by the Hal Roach movie studio.
As with Racket Squad, the show opened with Hadley narrating a prologue:
“A public defender is an attorney employed by the community and responsible for giving legal aid without cost to a person who seeks it and is financially unable to employ private council.
It is his duty to defend those accused of a crime until the issue is decided in a court of law. The first public defender's office in the United State was opened in January, 1913.
Over the years, other offices were opened and today that handful has grown to a network...a network of lawyers cooperating to protect the rights of our clients."
The similarities with Racket Squad don’t end there. Both shows dramatized actual cases, and both eschewed the `gang busters’ style, opting for less carnage, and more realism.
Hadley continued to find work in television – albeit as as guest actor – on dozens of TV shows (and the occasional movie) until the early 1970s.
His last film role was in the perfectly dreadful low budget horror film Brain of Blood, that is notable only for the fact that the cast included Hadley and two other notable – but forgotten – actors of the 1950s and early 1960s; Kent `Boston Blackie’ Taylor and Grant (Incredible Shrinking Man & Hawaiian Eye) Williams.
Hadley died in 1974, at the age of 63, of a heart attack.
We are fortunate to have 10 episodes of The Public Defender available (and more may turn up) on the Internet Archive.
Public Defender-Behind Bars
Season 1, Episode 7
Public Defender: Badge of Honor
Season 1, Episode 9
Public Defender: Let Justice Be Done
Season 1, Episode 10
Public Defender: A Call in the Night
Season 1, Episode 19
Public Defender: The Big Race
Season 2, Episode 3
Public Defender: Living a Lie
Episode 2, Season 7
Public Defender: Big Steel
Season 2, Episode 25.
Public Defender: Cornered-With Commercials
Season 2, Episode 30
Public Defender: Eight Out of One Hundred
Season 2, Episode 37
Public Defender: The Story of Nora Fulton
Season 2, Episode 40
You may want to check back at the Internet Archive on THIS THREAD to see if any more episodes are posted.