Although they fought crime in different settings, both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet wore similar-looking masks. This was no coincidence: both heroes were created by the same writer, George Trendle, and the Green Hornet was in fact the grandnephew of the Lone Ranger. This green-masked hero began his life in 1936 as the star of a radio adventure program and was very popular in the 30’s and 40’s. When Batman became a big deal on television for ABC in 1966, network executives decided to give The Green Hornet the same treatment.
Van Williams starred as Britt Reid, the editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel newspaper. His secretary was the attractive Lenore ‘Casey’ Case. In secret, Britt fought crime with the help of his faithful manservant, Kato (an early role for Bruce Lee). The only other person besides Kato that knew Britt’s secret was the city’s District Attorney, F. P. Scanlon. Even Mike Axford, the tough and intrepid crime detective who was always on the Green Hornet’s tail, never figured out that Britt Reid and the Green Hornet were one and the same.
The show’s storylines focused on the Green Hornet’s crusade against crime. Unlike the Batman series, the Green Hornet did not have a plethora of colorful over-the-top villains. Instead, the plots he uncovered usually involved organized crime. For instance, his greenness foiled a million dollar art heist in ‘The Ray Is For Killing’ and smashed a drug ring in ‘The Secret of Sally Bell.’
The Green Hornet also had it tougher than other television heroes in that he had to deal with being perceived as a criminal by the police. Memorable episodes involving this angle of the show included ‘Crime Wave,’ in which the Green Hornet had to foil a computer crime ring that had falsely implicated him as their leader, and ‘Corpse of the Year,’ in which he had to bring a crime-committing impostor version of himself to justice.
Although the Green Hornet’s adventures didn’t involve a lot of Batman-style gadgets, he did have a gas gun that could be used to knock criminals out and a sting gun that could pierce through steel. However, his most notable gadget was his car, the Black Beauty. It had a built-in video camera that could ‘see’ anything in front of the car for four miles, special jets at the rear that could shoot ice onto the road to hinder anyone trying to chase the car, and brushes near the wheels that could sweep away the car’s tracks.
The Green Hornet never caught on with viewers the way Batman did and was canceled in July of 1967 after one season. However, it remains memorable to television fans for its gritty take on the super-hero genre, and also for providing future martial-arts legend Bruce Lee with his first notable public exposure.
USA / ABC – 20th Century Fox Television / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 9 September 1966 – 14 July 1967
Creator: George W. Trendle / Theme Music: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” played by Al Hirt
Van Williams as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet
Bruce Lee as Kato
Wende Wagner as Lenore “Casey” Case
Lloyd Gough as Mike Axford
Walter Brooke as District Attorney F.P. Scanlon