Kitty Keene

Created by Walter K. Norman

Kitty Keene, Inc. was the only soap opera to have a private eye in the leading role (unless you want to count radio’s Perry Mason which came out a few years later). The series ran for four years, beginning in September 1937. It was sponsored by Dreft and was on CBS for a year and Mutual for the remaining three. Like most soaps, it was a 15-minute serial.

The star of the show, though, was KITTY KEENE,  an “ex-Ziegfeld Follies gal” who started her own detective business. Of course, since this was a soap, it took her umpteen weeks to solve each crime, but they weren’t just “lady stuff”–she regularly faced off against kidnapers, blackmailers and murderers.

In the four surviving episodes, Kitty (introduced as “a beautiful woman of the world”) sounds tough but tender, with no clue to her exact age, but she’s old enough to have a grown daughter. In fact, in the show’s final year on the air, her daughter Jill apparently gives birth– so Kitty may be radio’s only grandmother private eye. No pushover even then, though– soon after Kitty berates a grand jury who almost exonerated a rackets boss, and gets an indictment.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show for viewers of this site is the fact that pulpster Day Keene (under his real name of Gunnar Hjerstedt) was one of the main writers for the show, cowriting the first 410 episodes with the the show’s creator, Wallace K. Norman.

Through the years, at least three actresses played Kitty. KITTY KEENE: Beverly Younger, Gail Henshaw and Fran Carlon. Hjerstedt shared the script writing responsibilities with Wally Norman. After that, he wrote most of the episodes alone.


    (1937-41, CBS, Mutual)
    15-minute episodes
    Premiere: September 1937
    Final episode: April 1941
    Writers: Walter K. Norman, Gunnar Hjerstedt
    Starring Beverly Younger (later Gail Henshaw and Fran Carlon) as KITTY KEENE
    Also starring Bob Bailey, Dorothy Gregory, Cheer Brentson, Phil Lord, Louise Fitch, Ginch Jones, Josephine Gilbert, Angeline Orr, Peggy Hillias, Loretta Poynton, Herb Butterfield, Carlton KaDell, Stanley Harris, Ian Keith

    • “Little Lost Lady”  (February 8, 1935)
    • “John Brown, Gentleman” (February 22, 1935)
    • “The Eternal Light” (May 10, 1935)
    • “Mountain Music” (March 20, 1936)
    • “Dear Aunt Lulu” (April 10, 1936)
    • “Preliminary Girl” (October 23, 1936)
    • “Star of Peace” (December 25, 1936)
    • “Last Curtain” (January 22, 1937)
    • “Jill & Kitty At Hospital” (January 20, 1939)
    • “Jill On Trial Tomorrow” (April 4, 1939)
    • “Kitty Speaks to Grand Jury” (April 8, 1939)
    • “No Word From Kitty in NYC” (date unknown)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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