Sunday, March 28, 2021

KATO: The Green Hornet’s Faithful Sidekick

By Martin Grams, Jr.

Great controversy has been discussed among fanboys regarding Kato’s nationality, the faithful sidekick of The Green Hornet, who rendered valuable assistance in the crusade against crime. On the radio program, Kato usually remained in the shadows should a situation become dangerous, to apply assistance when the risk was too dangerous for The Green Hornet to act alone (such as shooting the lights out or remaining behind the wheel of the Black Beauty to speed away and make haste an escape). 

On television, Kato played a larger role as he stood alongside The Green Hornet to demonstrate muscle against henchmen under employment. George W. Trendle, producer of the radio program, once wrote a letter to William Dozier with a complaint about Kato’s role on the television program, emphasizing how villains would be able to assume Britt Reid was The Green Hornet because few had an Asian sidekick and chauffeur… leading Dozier to explain to Trendle that television viewers did not apply such logic because, well, it was a television program.

Kato (spelled Cato with a “C” in the first two episodes of the radio program) was introduced in the premiere episode as a Japanese butler: The opening scene of the first adventure of the Hornet finds Britt Reid just being seated at the breakfast table in his luxurious bachelor apartment. He seems about thirty years of age and moves with the easy and confident grace of a trained athlete. 

His manner and appearance are those of a wealthy clubman. Mounted heads of big game, silver trophies, and various pictures in the place, show him to have been an outstanding college athlete and later something of a big game hunter. Kato himself was something of a trophy, brought back from a trip to the Orient by Britt Reid. Kato seems to serve Britt in every capacity; valet, cook, chauffeur and handyman.

Kato’s ethnicity, however, was put in question a number of times throughout the years — supposedly his country of origin changed during the turbulent years of the Second World War. Rumor has it that the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kato’s nationality changed from Japanese to Filipino. As it turns out, the myth is false. Kato was Japanese beginning with the premiere broadcast of 1936. But truth be known, he was Filipino before the U.S. entry into the war.

On January 9, 1937, Japan’s army took control and conquered Shanghai, China. Newspapers reported the country’s negative image throughout the year (especially in July of 1937) when the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident led to the Japanese occupation of Beijing and Tianjin. 

Shortly before the fall of Nanking on December 13, 1937, and especially on the radio broadcast of December 9, 1937, Reid and Kato had discussions about the turmoil overseas. While Kato’s nationality was not referred to in this episode, he was indeed sad when he read the news in the papers.

KATO: Mr. Britt, I am unhappy about the war ...

BRITT: I know, Kato.

KATO: As long as war things are sent to the East, it will keep on.

BRITT: That’s the curse of civilization, Kato! Those who profit by it, sustain war.

Yet, Kato was referred to as Britt Reid’s “faithful Japanese valet” one week later in the broadcast of December 16, 1937, and in the remainder of the December broadcasts. Beginning with the broadcasts of January 1938, Kato was again referred to as Reid’s “faithful valet” or “oriental” purposely to avoid any mention of his nationality. 

In the script for “War on the Waterfront” (July 18, 1939), the announcer comments, “That evening in his apartment, Britt Reid showed a copy of the photograph to Kato, his Filipino valet and the only living man to know that his employer was really the Green Hornet!” The word “Filipino” was scratched out and the word “faithful” substituted. This is the earliest indication found that script writer Fran Striker chose to change Kato’s race without explanation and hope the radio audience would not question it.

Beginning with the episode “Man Wanted — For What?” (June 21, 1941), Kato was clearly referred to as Filipino, months before the U.S. entry into the war escalating overseas. The Philippine Islands were ceded to the United States in 1898 and became a self-governing commonwealth in 1935. With the Japanese occupation of the islands during the war, it seemed logical to make Kato a Filipino when given the choice of another race.

So where did the myth of Kato changing from Japanese to Filipino the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor originate? This error apparently began in 1966 with Raymond Meurer, the attorney for George W. Trendle, when he was interviewed for a local newspaper for publicity about the television program, and mistakenly remembered the situation. 

Throughout November and December 1941, no reference was made about Kato’s nationality. Striker’s scripts for The Green Hornetwere written weeks in advance, so it wasn’t until the broadcast of January 10, 1942, that Kato was referred to again as a Filipino. Concern after the attack was obvious since all the broadcasts from January 10 to March 7 not only referred to Kato as a Filipino, but Striker did so numerous times in each script.

Prior to the war, questioning Kato’s country of origin remained a constant problem regarding marketing. After mailing out a number of photos (minimum of 11 known to exist) to the 23 current radio stations for inclusion in local papers, Charles Hicks, manager of the sales promotion department at King-Trendle, explained in a letter dated October 20, 1938: “We hesitate to take new views of Kato because he is a most difficult subject to photograph, particularly for the one reason that unless you get the right angle, there is danger of making him look like a Chinese, which of course to a Jap is next to hari-kari. For this reason, it was determined to take the photograph of Kato encased in the automobile.”

One photo of Kato in the car wearing a chauffeur’s cap and puttees was definitely used by N.W. Ayer for Detroit Creamery publicity. While there was never a problem with the general public accepting Kato as a Japanese chauffeur, the same photo was reprinted in late 1938 and only at that time did the photo premium start to cause a bit of negative feedback. 

It was decided to leave off the Japanese characters on the photo because of (according to an inter-office memo dated February 16, 1939) one or two complaints that the Japanese characters might imply a “code.” At least one Michigan visitor from California, where “Japs” were watched very closely, reported his concern to station WXYZ.

For the radio program, actor Tokataro Hayashi was the first to play the role of Kato (beginning in January of 1936). His talent contract assured him $25 per week to play the role, “whether by radio or visual broadcasting and for as many performances as are necessary.” 

As of September 8, 1938, his salary went up an extra $5 per week. Hayashi was renamed by Jewell as Toyo, and he is sometimes credited on paper as Raymond Hayashi and/or Raymond Toyo. Sometime in 1942 (the exact date remains unknown), Raymond Toyo Hayashi came upon a problem that offered no solution. Because of the war, the U.S. government sent official notice that Toyo was to be sent back to Japan. Since Dick Osgood was broadcasting a series called March of Victory for the Hi-Speed Gas Stations, and a number of scripts had to be cleared through six departments in Washington, the little Japanese believed that Osgood might have an “in” with the government. 

But it was not so and Osgood could do nothing to aid Toyo. Trendle had no influence with members of Congress to have the notice served on Toyo waived. According to Osgood, the Japanese actor disappeared, “presumably to a concentration camp in the west.” No one at WXYZ ever saw Toyo again. At least, that was what Osgood reported in his book, W.Y.X.I.E. Wonderland, but a few years ago it was discovered that Tokataro Hayashi went to the West Coast and became a servant for a wealthy family, ultimately getting married and having a family of his own which included children and grandchildren. 

Replacing Toyo in 1942 was staff member Rollon Parker. Parker was hired as an actor and announcer in the mid-’30s, and would deliver commercials when called upon. Parker also doubled in the role of the newsboy during the closing of each Green Hornet broadcast; his earliest known role as the newsboy was the broadcast of April 26, 1938.

When Universal Studios began production of the 1940 cliffhanger serial, The Green Hornet and in 1941, The Green Hornet Strikes Again, the studio voted to make Kato a Korean to avoid any possibility of complaints. (Oddly, an article in the January 1940 issue of Radio Variety incorrectly stated Kato was Korean on the radio program). 

While Kato’s nationality was never referenced on the television program of the 1960s, paperwork in William Dozier’s archive stated Kato was Korean on the program, but indirect reference in press releases and publicity for the series claimed he was Chinese.

About the Author

Martin Grams Jr. is the author and co-author of numerous books about old-time radio and retro television. Winner of numerous awards in the Best Book categories, author of more than 100 magazine articles and co-author of the up-coming THE LONE RANGER: THE EARLY YEARS, 1933-1937.

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Bonanza Vs. DeQuille: The Paiute War

By MonetteBebow-Reinhard

“The Paiute War was the most accurate portrayal of real events on the TV series Bonanza. It appears that the Bonanza writers used Dan DeQuille’s book, “The Big Bonanza,” for a number of their early episodes. Virginia City is near the top of Mount Davidson, also called Sun Mountain, and somewhere near the bottom, in the valley, the Paiute War took place in 1860. In reality the final war took place somewhere on the way to Pyramid Lake, but since the route north to Pyramid Lake is mostly through desert, that’s not what was represented here. In fact, most of the Bonanza episodes were shot in California.

When they realized they were being overrun by settlers, the Paiutes, Shoshones, and Bannocks held a conference to decide how to deal with these intruders. Numaga or Young Winnemucca, chief of the Pyramid Lake Paiutes, talked for peace until a band of possibly renegade Indians killed four white men at Williams Station in retaliation for the drunken whites having stolen some Indian women. At the time the war started, no one knew who killed those men, or why, noted DeQuille.

But in this Bonanza episode, the reality of what caused this war was detailed. This is what made Bonanza amazing; its use of the fictional Cartwrights to create the reality of what could have been known by a few people at the time.

After the war ended, they learned that the men at Williams Station had abused Paiute women and kept them locked up for a day or two. The Bannock husband of one came to find her, but he was beaten up and driven away. They threatened to kill him if he did not leave. The women were Paiute who had married into the Bannock tribe. This was portrayed on the episode, with Adam finding the beaten Bannock who told him what happened. Adam tried to convince people that the Bannocks were the ones who’d sought this vengeance, not the Paiutes.

The chief of the Bannocks sent thirty men to avenge these wrongs. After killing those men, and burning the station, they left a further trail of blood behind them on the way back by killing several small parties of unarmed prospectors. It is not known if they got their women back, but on the episode they were safe in the Cartwright house.

 It was for this attack on the Bannocks that the Paiute War began, with a misunderstanding of who had caused that attack, or why. This was accurately played out on Bonanza, in the form of actor Jack Warden as one of the drunken miners who attacked the women, but escaped to lie about it and place the blame on the Paiutes.

According to DeQuille, who wrote this book in 1876 and worked at the Territorial Enterprise as early as 1862 with Sam Clemens, a report came in by Pony Express that Paiute Indians, who had been friendly, attacked two or three men at Williams Station, killed them and burned the stations. This led to a call for volunteers to go after the Paiutes.

On May 9th in Virginia City, 105 volunteers gathered for the purpose of catching and chastising the Indians but “the rest of the men sobered up.” Under Major William Ormsby, they were poorly armed, badly mounted, drunk, and wholly unorganized. On the episode Adam tried to tell them they were wrong to go after the Paiutes, but Ormsby couldn’t be stopped.

We will never know if anyone knew the truth of the attack at the time, but we can believe, that if anyone had tried to stop these volunteers, they would have been ignored.

As the volunteers approached Pyramid Lake three days later, the Indians demanded a parlay. On the episode, Bill Stewart, town attorney, demanded that Ormsby parlay first. So Ormsby agreed to meet with Old Winnemucca, and Adam and Ben Cartwright went along as friends of the Paiutes.

Before the first fight began, Young Winnemucca showed a white flag and said he wished to talk. But one of the volunteers under Ormsby got his sight on an Indian up behind a rock and fired. The episode broke with reality by having Old Winnemucca agreeing to parlay under the white flag, and Young Winnemucca as the one wanting war. But it’s true that one of the volunteers fired the first shot at an Indian up in the rocks.

The volunteers were outnumbered and out positioned, and made a completely disorderly retreat, with lots of personal items left behind as they ran to save their hides. Of the 105 who volunteered, 76 were killed or injured. “Enough Injuns for you, Mike,” said one volunteer on the episode before he died. Major Ormsby was among those killed, and this was portrayed as happening right after he saved Ben’s life.

Dispatches were sent to California for regular troops and soon an army of several hundred was in the field. Many of the people in the towns panicked and started running off for California. Others holed up in the stone hotel that Peter O’Riley was building.

DeQuille described a particular weapon that was not used by the volunteers but was discharged afterward. It was kind of wooden log hollowed out, filled with gunpowder and bits of scrap iron, chain and “the like.” They didn’t get to use it in real life, so shot it off afterward. “When the explosion finally came, the air was filled in all directions, for many rods, with pieces of scarp iron, iron bands, and chunks of wood. Had it ever been fired in the fort, it would have killed every man near it.”

On May 24th the second expedition, including the army from California, left Virginia City with 756 total and well armed, including two 12-lb. howitzers. On June 2nd Paiutes were found at Pyramid Lake and the army opened fire, killing 160 and injuring many. The Bonanza episode showed this battle as well, although not at Pyramid Lake; it was in this second battle we see army cannons fired against the Indians in a kind of 3D effect. Here Young Winnemucca died just before killing Adam.

Ben was told that Adam was hostage and protection against this attack; that if the army attacked, Adam would die. Ben was supposed to try and get to the Bannocks in time to stop the war, to confess to the killings.

He didn’t get there in time; although, of course, Adam wasn’t killed. After this war, they learned the truth of what had happened at Williams Station, called Wilson’s Station on Bonanza.

After that war, Fort Churchill was built to prevent further trouble.

In September of that year Chief Winnemucca visited Fort Churchill and said he always desired peace with the whites, and that that trouble was caused “by a few Bannocks, a lot of Shoshones and Pitt River Indians, with a few bad Paiutes.”

A number of early settlers left after the first attack, though, convinced that the area was still too wild for settlement. I suspect they weren’t told that the white men were the wild ones. Some left, however, because they’d become convinced that getting at the silver was more work than it was worth.

One of the realities demonstrated here was that miners and soldiers, and not cowboys, fought Indians. I haven’t found any of those kinds of stories and I’ve done a lot of research on “the wild west.” I challenge readers to uncover where that myth comes from. My own feeling is that it comes from Teddy Roosevelt, the “cowboy president” and his dislike for the native cultures. Certainly the Cartwrights, especially in the early years, never fought Indians.

About the Author

Bebow-Reinhard is working on a book called “A Cartwright Ride Through Virginia City History,” to help uncover where the series got it right, and where it, and other historians, got Virginia City history wrong. It’s a fun and serious look at the cultural divide between what we believe, and what is really true. She is an authorized Bonanza novelist, and earned a master’s in history in 2006.

To review her WMD Partner Page, click here.
To visit her website, click here.


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