Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons

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Mr. Keen

Mr. Keen was introduced on October 12, 1937, as Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, a 15-minute program that ran three days a week. Six years later, at the end of 1943, the program graduated to 30 minutes once a week, but Mr. Keen had apparently run out of people to find. He and his stereotyped Irish assistant, Mike Clancy, were solving crimes, primarily murders, but the title of the program stayed. Despite unrealistic plots, overly simplistic, repetitive dialogue and highly unlikely situations, listeners adored the program and the little man who was introduced at the beginning of every show as the “kindly old investigator.”

Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons logged an astounding 18 years on the air before the program ended on April 19, 1955. It’s an outstanding example of the early years of radio, when broadcasters sold airtime to advertising agencies, which then had to locate advertisers to underwrite it. That meant advertising agencies also had to provide appropriate programming to fill the airtime in between breaks for their clients’ advertising. Mr. Keen fit the profile and was one of at least 125 programs created by Frank and Anne Hummert, giants in radio and advertising during the Golden Age of radio. The couple was so successful that their system was referred to in the industry as The Hummerts’ Radio Factory, and indeed it was, with notoriously low pay, high-pressure writing and formula scripts. And listeners loved it.