Mr. and Mrs. North
are fictional American amateur detectives. Created by Frances and Richard Lockridge, the couple was featured in a series of 26 Mr. and Mrs. North novels, a Broadway play, a motion picture and several radio and television series.
The characters originated in 1930s vignettes written by Richard Lockridge for the New York Sun, and he brought them back for short stories in The New Yorker. These stories were collected in Mr. and Mrs. North (1936). Lockridge increased the readership after he teamed with his wife Frances on a novel, The Norths Meet Murder (1940), launching a series of 26 novels, including Death Takes a Bow, Death on the Aisle and The Dishonest Murderer. Their long-run series continued for over two decades and came to an end in 1963 with the death of Frances Lockridge. The series was unusual in that it was Mrs. North who often solved the cases, while Mr. North was just background much of the time. In his article, “Married Sleuths,” Charles L.P. Silet captured the flavor of the novels:
The Mr. and Mrs. North novels contain carefully crafted puzzles and the Lockridges usually play fair with their readers. The series also features Pam and Jerry’s warmly humorous domestic environment and the couple’s witty exchanges with the duller members of the police force. Although the Norths remain the focus of the series, the books contain a good deal of political and social commentary, a richly detailed look at the changing life in New York City, as well as glimpses of the outlying suburban counties. Also, the North’s stable marriage relationship presents a marked contrast–and a welcome one–to the traditions of the lone detective characteristic of much other American mystery fiction. Even though the Mr. and Mrs. North novels now may appear overly deliberate in their pacing, they still prove wonderful reading as mysteries, and the glimpses they provide of our past social history give them a nostalgic and authentic period flavor. Aficionados of classic crime fiction have always appreciated this long-running series, and new readers should be encouraged to discover this witty and charming couple.
Broadway and film
Albert Hackett and Peggy Conklin had the title roles in the Broadway production Mr. and Mrs. North, which ran 163 performances at the Belasco Theatre from January 12, 1941, to May 31, 1941. Alfred De Liagre, Jr. produced and directed the play written by Owen Davis. In that version, the North’s apartment is located on Greenwich Place, Manhattan, realized in a scenic design by Jo Mielziner.
The Owen Davis play became a 1942 MGM movie (Mr. and Mrs. North), starring Gracie Allen and William Post, Jr. with Millard Mitchell repeating his role of Detective Mullins from the Broadway production. Others in the cast were Paul Kelly, Rose Hobart and Keye Luke.
In 1946, producer-director Fred Coe brought the Owen Davis play to television (on New York City’s WNBT) with John McQuade and Maxine Stewart in the leads and Don Haggerty, Joan Marlowe and Millard Mitchell repeating their Broadway roles.
Barbara Britton and Richard Denning starred in the TV adaptation, produced by John W. Loveton, seen on CBS from 1952 to 1953 and on NBC in 1954, sponsored by Revlon cosmetics. Francis De Sales starred in 25 episodes as police Lieutenant Bill Weigand, only his second screen role. Guest stars included Raymond Burr, Hans Conried, Russ Conway, Mara Corday, I. Stanford Jolley, Carolyn Jones, Katy Jurado, Jimmy Lydon, Dayton Lummis, Julia Meade, William Schallert, and Gloria Talbott. Sixteen episodes of the TV series have been released in the “Best of TV Detectives” box set. A larger set of 8 DVDs containing 32 episodes has also been released by Alpha Video Distributors and is featured by the online store http://www.oldies.com.