The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet (above) and Kato (below).
The Green Hornet (above) and Kato (below).

The Green Hornet was a United States radio program that ran from January 31, 1936 to 1952, created by George W. Trendle, who also created The Lone Ranger. It was later made into a 1966-67 television program starring Van Williams as the Green Hornet and Bruce Lee as Kato.

The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, debonair newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighting masked hero at night, along with his trusty sidekick, Kato. Kato was Filipino of Japanese ancestry. With the outbreak of World War II his Japanese heritage was down-played, leading to the common misperception that the character's nationality had been switched by the show's writers. (When the characters were used in a pair of movie serials Kato's nationality was inexplicably given as Korean.) Lee's popularity in his native Hong Kong was such that the show was marketed there as "The Kato Show". Reid is said to be a descendant of The Lone Ranger. The character of Dan Reid, who appeared on the Lone Ranger program as the Masked Man's nephew was also featured on the Green Hornet as Britt's father.

The original introduction of the radio show proclaimed that the Green Hornet went after criminals that "even the G-Men (F.B.I. agents) couldn't reach". The shows were called by F.B.I. chief J. Edgar Hoover who prompted them to remove the line implying that some crime fighting was beyond the abilities of the F.B.I.

The Green Hornet was adapted into a pair of movie serials in the early 1940s. It is best known through the 1966-67 TV series adaptation, which introduced martial arts master Bruce Lee to American audiences and starred Van Williams as the Green Hornet. The television program was inspired by the success of the campy Batman series. Unlike Batman, the TV version of Green Hornet was played straight, but in spite of the considerable interest in Lee, it was cancelled after only one season. However, the rise of Lee as a major cult movie star ensured continued interested in the property to the point where proposed Green Hornet productions typically have the casting of some major martial arts film star as Kato as the first order of business.

In the 1990s a comic book series attempted to reconcile the different versions of the character. The Britt of the radio series was the version of the Hornet who fought crime in the 1930s and 1940s before retiring. The television character was revealed to be the nephew of the original Britt Reid, who took up his uncle's mantle. In the comic a young descendant named Paul Reid takes on the role of the Hornet and is assisted by a new, female Kato.

As of the summer of 2004, Kevin Smith was writing a screenplay for a new rendition of The Green Hornet which is scheduled for release in 2005 or 2006. It is rumored that Jet Li will portray Kato, and Jake Gyllenhaal will play as the Green Hornet

The radio show's name was used as a codename for SIGSALY, secret encryption equipment used in World War II.

One of the best-remembered elements of the TV series was the Green Hornet theme. Whereas the radio show used Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" as its theme song, the series used a jazzed-up variation played on trumpet by Al Hirt. Years later, this recording was featured during a key scene in the 2003 film, Kill Bill, which paid tribute to Kato by featuring dozens of swordfighters wearing Kato masks during the film's key fight Hornet fr:Le Frelon vert


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