The transcript below is from the video “Why BRUCE LEE Walked Off The Set Of THE GREEN HORNET” by RerunZone.

RerunZone:

Detroit radio station WXYZ, the local station where the classic series The Lone Ranger debuted, was also the same radio station where another classic series debuted in 1936. That series was The Green Hornet which introduced the world to the masked vigilante and his sidekick Kato. Join us now as we take a look at how The Green Hornet came to be and what was the connection between him and The Lone Ranger, and why during the 60s TV series, did Bruce Lee walk off the set of the show while filming a crossover with Batman.

RerunZone:

Our story begins in 1936 on radio station WXYZ in Detroit. By day, Britt Reid was a carefree playboy and wealthy socialite. By night, he was The Green Hornet and avenger for justice. The Green Hornet was distinguished by its use of classical music for themes and bridges between scenes. The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, a debonair newspaper publisher who fought crime at night as a masked vigilante. With his trusty sidekick Kato, Britt Reid dares to take on criminals and gangsters in the underworld. Risking life and limb, he fights for justice so that they may feel its weight with the sting of The Green Hornet.

RerunZone:

The Lone Ranger was a hit in 1934 and George W. Trendle, the man who co-created the character along with writer Fran Striker wanted to make another radio show that had similar elements to The Lone Ranger but with different characters. Trendle wanted to create a series that would illustrate that a political system could be riddled with corruption but that one man was capable of combating this white-collar lawlessness. He also loved the acoustics of a bee sound and directed it to be used in his new radio program. The radio show used Flight of the Bumblebee as its theme song, giving the show a very distinctive opening. Other famous classical works were also used as background and connecting music on the series.

RerunZone:

The Green Hornet’s vigilante nature resulted in the hero being declared an outlaw himself. As The Green Hornet became known as one of the city’s biggest villains, he would use this to his advantage by provoking the criminals he was after into attacking him. This allowed for an easier victory, leaving them for the police to apprehend. The gas gun is The Green Hornet’s primary weapon of choice since he doesn’t believe in killing. It fires a non-lethal chemical that renders the person temporarily unconscious. The version of the gun used by Van Williams in the 60s only held one cartridge at a time, loaded from the bottom. The Green Hornet also used a telescoping tool called the hornet sting which projected ultrasonic sound waves. It was never used in the radio show or serials but was created specifically for the 60s TV show.

RerunZone:

There was also a little known connection between The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger, as The Lone Ranger had a nephew named Dan Reid. The Green Hornet’s father was also named Dan Reid, making Britt Reid The Lone Ranger’s grand nephew. This was an obvious Easter egg by creators Trendle and Striker to tie their two creations together. Reid’s valet, Kato, was also his chauffeur and bodyguard and was described as being Japanese originally. Later, he was described as Filipino of Japanese descent. When The Green Hornet movie serial was made, the producers gave Kato’s nationality as Korean. The Green Hornet’s co-creator, George W. Trendle, had tried to interest the networks in a Green Hornet TV series as early as 1951 but failed to create any interest. The success of ABC’s The Batman series in early 1966 was finally what got the network’s interest in producing the series. William Dozier, who also produced the popular Batman series, picked up The Green Hornet for television and cast actor Van Williams in the lead role and martial artist Bruce Lee as his sidekick Kato.

RerunZone:

Lee, of course, went on to become a major star of martial arts movies especially, in Hong Kong where he was raised. In fact, he was so popular in Hong Kong that the show was marketed there as “The Kato Show”. Bruce Lee’s insistence that Kato be portrayed as a martial artist led the producers to change the portrayal of the character who formerly used an American fighting style of fisticuffs. Green Hornet’s star, Van Williams, actually took martial arts lessons from Lee in order to do convincing fight moves himself. For the first time, Asian martial arts were shown to a wide American audience.

RerunZone:

The TV series also featured The Green Hornet’s car, the black beauty, which was a beautiful 1966 Imperial Crown Sedan. Two cars were built for the show and both still exist today. Reid kept The Black Beauty hidden away and stored under his garage where it was ready any time he needed it. A series of switches on a hidden control panel behind the wall would turn on the green lights, attach clamps to Reid’s personal cars bumpers and spin the garage floor, hiding Reid’s car and revealing The Black Beauty. The Black Beauty would then depart the garage through a concealed back entrance behind the billboard advertising a fake product called Kissing Candy Mints, which would then split in half and rejoin. The car itself had been upgraded to shoot explosive charges from tubes hidden behind retractable panels beneath the headlights which were rockets with explosive warheads. It also had a hidden drop down gas nozzle, located in the front grille and could also launch flying surveillance devices from a panel in the middle of the trunk.

RerunZone:

At the insistence of producer William Dozier, The Green Hornet and Kato crossed over with the Batman TV series in hopes of gaining some crossover success for the series. In one episode, Reid actually mentions that he and Bruce Wayne had known each other and were rivals since childhood. In a two-part story, The Green Hornet and Kato arrive in Gotham City to try and stop a stamped counterfeiting ring. They attract the attention of Batman and Robin as the public believes they are actually criminals.

RerunZone:

During the making of this crossover, Bruce Lee as Kato and Burt Ward as Robin were scheduled to battle it out in a fight scene. In the original script, Kato was supposed to be defeated by Robin which Lee didn’t like at all. In fact, he was so upset at the idea that he walked off the set in protest. He stated, “There’s no way that anyone believed I would go in there and fight Robin and lose.” It was rumored that Lee then pranked Ward by pretending that he wanted to seriously fight him in the scene. Now, Burt Ward himself was a black belt in Karate but not in the league of Bruce Lee. In fact, Ward and Lee were neighbours at the time and would occasionally spar together. In the end, the scene was rewritten so that the fight resulted in a tie.

RerunZone:

The Green Hornet lasted only one season and 26 half hour episodes. Unlike the campy take on Batman, The Green Hornet was played as a straight crime fighting show, but it just didn’t catch on with viewers at the time. Why it didn’t is anybody’s guess but as a result of low ratings, the show was finally canceled before it could catch on with audiences. From a radio show to movie serials, to a TV show, to comic books, to a big budget movie, The Green Hornet remains a beloved character who was remembered fondly by long time fans as well as newcomers.

In the words of Seth Rogen who played The Green Hornet in the 2011 movie of the same name, “It’s not dying that you need to be afraid of, it’s never having lived in the first place.” And so my friends, The Green Hornet has lived a great life and still lives on to this day. Well, that’s it for today, guys. Tune in again next time for more reviews, trivia and retrospectives on RerunZone. Goodbye for now.




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