On Strips: Trip Henley, Detective

By | Friday, July 21, 2017 1 comment
In the mid-1930s, Richard Lockridge started writing some detective-style vignettes for the New York Sun, featuring a husband and wife team who were amateur detectives solving crimes and aiding local residents and the police. They were popular enough that Lockridge expanded them to short stories for The New Yorker. After these were collected into a book, Lockridge continued on to write full-length novels. This series, collectively known under the "Mr. and Mrs. North" title, continued to grow in popularity, eventually spawning a stage play, an MGM movie, a radio serial, and ultimately a television show.

The TV show began in 1952 and featured Richard Denning and Barbara Britton in the title roles. Although sitting here in the 21st century, it can look exceptionally chauvinistic and misogynistic, I get the impression that making Mrs. North a more-or-less equal partner with her husband would have been seen as somewhat progressive. (When I say "more-or-less" I should probably emphasize the "less" portion though.)

In any event, the December 5, 1952 episode of the show was called "Comic-Strip Tease" and featured a local, immigrant grocer, Mrs. Helsir, who's being shaken down by a gang of young boys. (Well, they're supposed to be young boys; the leader looks like he's in his late 30s at least.) Mr. and Mrs. North enlist the help of Walter McCoy, who happens to have stopped by for dinner when they learn of the plight. You see, McCoy is in a unique position as he's the cartoonist behind the wildly popular comic strip Trip Henley, Detective which seems to be something of a Dick Tracy style strip. McCoy was complaining about having trouble coming up with ideas, and it's Mrs. North who suggests he write in Mrs. Helsir's dilemma in order to show people what the gang is up to without having to involve the police.

Which doesn't really make sense as a strategy. I mean, aren't cops going to read this too? And why would anyone assume the strip is suddenly based on a true story and not just another fictional one as before? Why not talk to reporters and get the story on the front page instead of buried in with the comics? And what good does telling other people about it do if you don't involve the police? And on top of all that, Mr. North eventually calls the police anyway.

Back in February, I wrote about a comic strip themed story for another television show, in which the artwork for the in-story comic was drawn by Dick Ayers. In that instance, Ayers was credited on screen. The strip in this piece, however, provides no such credit. The portrait McCoy does of Mrs. Helsir looks a bit like the work of Joe Sinnott, but I've never seen or heard Sinnott recollect ever doing work for TV. Parts of the strip itself remind me of Joe Simon, who was actually ghosting the Dick Tracy comic books for Harvey Comics around that time. But here again, I've never heard Simon reference doing television work.

There's not a lot to go on in this case, but take a look at the episode yourself and see what you think...

Newer Post Older Post Home


Unknown said...

Those two comic strips according to Aldfredo Castelli:
The untitled strip with the detective was drawn for a
“The Comic Strip Tease”, a 1952 episode of “Mr and Mrs North”;
The “tease” consists in the fact that the two detectives provoke
a group of young hoodlums with a comic strip in which they are
humilited by its eponimous hero, “Chip Hanley” “by Walter McCoy” (
actor George Oppenheimer). The same paper publishes – guess –
“A Day at the Fair”, apparently featured here for the first time.
“A Day at the Fair” is the most ubiquitous of the fictional strips:
you may see it retitled “The Colonel” in an episode of “I Led Three
Lives” (No title known, 1955). The character reminds to me the
“actualized” version of Foxy Grandpa as drawn by the Harry A.
Chesler shop in the 1940s
“A Day at the Fair” accompanies the main fictional strip of the
telefilm: “Captain Champion” by Charley Niby (actor Alan Harris),
a cartoonist blackmailed by the commies.

Much more from historian Alfredo Castelli and cartoonist Ron Harris
about fake tv and movie newspaper sections can be read at
(Where you can also see the complete strips clipped above.)