Monday, April 24, 2017

The Man Called X

First, lets distinguish between the radio serial and the TV series. The original radio series, The Man Called X aired on CBS and NBC from 1944 to 1952. The TV series was adapted from the radio series, and it's 39 episode syndicated series ran from 1956 to 1957. But in many ways, it's creator was more mysterious than Mr. X himself.

That radio series originally aired from July 10th, 1944 to May 20th, 1952. There were 108 episodes. The lead character, was Agent Ken Thurston, who was portrayed by Herbert Marshall. His sidekick, Pagan Zeldchmidt, was played by Leon Belasco. The Zeldchmidt character was a bit of a comedic foil for the more stoic Thurston. Like any good cold-war spy series they took on dangerous cases that took them to a variety of exotic locations: Greece, Hawaii, India, Guatemala, Australia, Italy, Philippines, Egypt, Antarctica, Venezuela, Luxembourg, Mexico, Turkey, Peru, Austria... the list goes on.

The series was created by Jay Richard Kennedy, [LINK] who later adapted it for the television series. Kennedy was a mysterious figure, even for a Hollywood screen writer. His real name was Samuel Richard Solomonick. At different times he claimed to have been born in Chicago, Russia or the East Bronx, alternately in 1904, 1906 or 1911. I favor the East Bronx origin because his Surname is uncommon everywhere in the U.S. except New York City, and he appears in the book The FBI and Martin Luther King, in that neighborhood in 1934.

In 1934, he quit his job managing the Ritz theater to become a full-time anti-fascist organizer. In 1938, He became the full-time circulation manager of the Daily Worker. In August of 1939, when Hitler and Stalin formed a non-aggression pact he walked out on the communist newspaper. He found it hard to get new work, possibly because of burned bridges at the paper.  That when he began using the pseudonym Jay Richard Kennedy.

So far as is known, his first radio-writing for a Spanish language radio show called "El Mysterioso" that was only broadcast in Latin America. It was basically propaganda with it's pro-American and anti-Fascist angle. It was funded by the state department. He re-worked the show to air in the U.S. and those scripts were the beginning of The Man Called X. He followed that up by producing a anti-drug propaganda film for the Bureau of Narcotics, called To the Ends of The Earth.

The house band for The Man Called X was the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra. It may have been through Jenkins that Kennedy met Harry Belafonte and Frank Sinatra. Jenkins composed extensively for Sinatra in the 1950s. In 1953 he managed Harry Belafonte, and published a novel, titled Prince Bart. On the dust jacket of the book, Kennedy claimed to have already been a plasterer, a share-cropper, a munitions maker, an investment broker, and a brick layer.  But Belafonte changed managers not because Kennedy wasn't experienced enough, but because he believed that Kennedy was an FBI informant. [Spoiler: Belafonte was a communist] In 1961 he published a second novel, Short Term. In 1965 he published another novel, Favor the Runner. In 1966 Kennedy became vice-president of Sinatra Enterprises where he headed the record and music-publishing divisions. In 1969 he published another novel The Chairman, It was a return to his anti-communist schlock. That didn't stop it from getting made into a feature film of the same name.

In the 1970s, Kennedy studied psychotherapy and founded a strange cult around his Center for Human Problems Inc. He held no medical degrees, nor did he hold any license to practice psychotherapy in the State of California. Nonetheless he told patients they couldn't leave, but could live to be over 100 in his care. He was eventually was sued by some of his former patients.