Dick Barton - Special Agent, on BBC Radio
Dick Barton - Special Agent
First Uploaded July 10 2000 Updated October 18 2001
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Films of Dick Barton


    From the 'Golden Age of Radio' surely no character is better remembered than Dick Barton. I still recall as a small boy, waiting impatiently for the dramatic, staccato announcement - 'Dick Barton Special Agent!' followed by the fast and furious signature tune. The serial was broadcast in 15 minute episodes, Monday to Friday at 6:45pm. Each story spanned 2-4 weeks.

    Luckily it was broadcast on the very powerful Light Programme so I could even listen on a 1920's crystal set. On a Saturday at 11:00 am. there was a full hour of Barton. This was called an omnibus edition and consisted of the previous week's episodes linked into one long programme.
<<<Noël Johnson
    Sadly, I understand that only three episodes from the original series still exist in the BBC archives. In 1972 the BBC broadcast a new, abridged, 10 episode version of the very first Barton serial - 'The Secret Weapon.' This was issued on audio cassette which I noted in a local bookshop and duly bought. This rekindled my interest and ever since I have been gathering info. on the greatest of radio secret agents:

In the early years the main writers were Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb. Apparently they sometimes wrote each episode in turn - leaving the other to resolve the cliff hanging conclusion. During the second series Basil Dawson joined the script writing team.
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The Cast:

Dick Barton = Noël Johnson (1946-49), Duncan Carse (1949-51), Gordon Davies (1951). Snowey White = John Mann (1946-51), Jock Anderson = Alex McCrindle (1946-51).

Friday 31 May 1947 - The last episode of the first Dick Barton series. The series was an immediate success and a second series followed later in 1947. Year by year the listening audience grew until figures of 14-16 million listeners were being quoted.
<<<The original Team - Noël Johnson, Alex McCrindle and John Mann.
Christmas 1949 - 'Dick Barton Annual' issued. My references say that Convoy was the publisher but my copy seems to be published by a company called Contact. This is a very useful source of information as it is written by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb and contains 3 stories which were broadcast - 'Dick Barton - Wanted for Murder.', 'The Vulture Strikes Again.' and 'Jordan's Folly.'.

Friday 30th March 1951 - The last programme (number 711) is broadcast. The series was killed off because of its supposed 'bad influence' on children. In the plot Barton as a reservist gets his call up papers to return to the army.

Circa 1972 - The BBC broadcast a new 10 part version of the very first Barton serial using the original cast - available on BBC audio cassette.

BBC Audio (Spoken Word); ISBN: 0563226331

THE FILMS: Hammer later to become famous for their horror productions made 3 films all in black and white:

'Dick Barton - Special Agent.' 1948 70 minutes. Dick tackles a gang of ex-nazis using germ warfare.

'Dick Barton Strikes Back.' 1949 73 minutes. - In my view this is the best of the Barton films involving a great climax on the Blackpool Tower which is being used to radiate a death ray.

'Dick Barton at Bay' 1950 68 minutes. - In the opening sequence it states that the screenplay is based on one of the radio serials but I haven't been able to confirm this. A death ray again - this time housed in the Beachy Head lighthouse.

Don Stannard played Barton in all 3 movies. The series ended when Stannard died in a motor accident.

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Around 1978 Southern Television produced a series starring Tony Vogel (Dick), Anthony Heaton (Snowey) and James Cosmo (Jock). Scripts were by Julian Bond and Clive Exton. Star books issued a series of novels based on the series:

     'The Great Tobacco Conspiracy.'
     'The Mystery of the Missing Formula.'
     'The Case of the Vanishing House.'
     'The Gold Bullion Swindle.'

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'Dick Barton - Special Agent' - an article by Colin Morgan in the magazine 'The Comic Journal' Number 21. Published by A & B Whitworth, 17 , Hill St., Colne, Lancs. This is slanted toward the comic collector but contains a wealth of information on the radio programmes.

'Dick Barton - Special Agent.' by Elwyn Jones published by Arthur Barker in 1977. This contains the dossiers on Dick
Barton, Jock Anderson and Snowey White. There are three stories which closely follow the original scripts: 'Dick Barton and the Secret Weapon.', 'Dick Barton and the Cabatolin Diamonds.' and 'Dick Barton and the Lucifer Adventure.'.

The recent Radio 4 programme : 'Still a Special Agent.'. This contains interviews with all 3 actors who played Barton together with Alex McCrindle and the widow of John Mann.

'The Dick Barton Special Agent' annual published by Contact in 1949. Contains 3 broadcast stories plus another 9 - all written by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb.

'An Encyclopaedia of SF Movies.' - By Phil Hardy published by Octopus.

'Dick Barton Special Agent.' - A series of novels written by Alan Radnor published by Star Paperbacks.

This article was written by STEVE DALY, and is used with permission.

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Formating & pictures scanned by Greg Marshall. 10 July 2000.
Additional REFERENCE:
The Wireless Stars.' by George Nobbs published by Wensum Books in 1972 contains an interview with Noël Johnson and provided the 2 photographs. 1