I’d know that voice anywhere

July 10, 2010

KEN LYNCH

Somewhere, within the past few days, I saw the name “Ken Lynch.” It almost has to have been in the credits of a movie or TV show I was watching, but I can’t remember. Maybe I was dozing off at the time. It would not be unusual for me to have seen his name, because he appeared in about 175 television shows and movies — mostly TV. He frequently played a tough cop.

His name is not a household word, but I have been aware of him at least since I was 12 years old. I can recall that, because from 1949 to 1954 he had the title role in a detective series called “The Plainclothesman,” which was broadcast on the old Dumont network. I don’t remember when I started watching that show, but it could have been at the beginning, when I was 7, because Dad bought our first TV at Izzy Kaufman’s appliance store in ’49.

Ken Lynch, left, working in radio.

Television was new, and we had no context for it, so almost anything we saw was mesmerizing. I believe this cop show was especially so because of its unusual approach – namely, that the title character, known only as “the lieutenant,”  never appeared on camera. The viewer, in effect, saw the story through the eyes of the lieutenant. Parenthetically  — I suppose I could have just used parentheses — Dumont also had a detective series that ran from 1950 to 1954 in which one of the characters didn’t appear on camera. That series, which was broadcast live, was “Rocky King: Detective,” starring Roscoe Karns. At the end of each episode, Rocky King would talk on the telephone to his wife, Mabel, played by Grace Carney. Viewers would hear Mabel’s voice, but never see her face. Each show ended when Rocky hung up the phone and said, “Great girl, that Mabel!”

KEN LYNCH

Possibly because the only impression I had of Ken Lynch was his distinctive raspy voice, I recognized it when I was watching an episode of “The Honeymooners,” a show that was very stingy about giving credit to actors other than the four stars. This occurred only a year or two after “The Plainclothesman” went off the air, but as sure as I was that we had finally seen “the lieutenant,” I couldn’t confirm it until much more recently.

JACKIE GLEASON

In that episode, Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) witnesses an armed robbery while playing pool with his sidekick, Ed Norton, and is afraid to tell police what he saw, because the robbers might retaliate. A detective comes to the Kramden apartment to question Ralph, and that detective is played by Ken Lynch. His voice, when he tells Ralph, “If you’re not a witness, you’re not entitled to police protection. And thanks — for nothin’!” is Lynch’s unmistakable file-on-metal sound.

KEN LYNCH with LEONARD NIMOY on "Star Trek"

Having no better way to exercise my brain cells, I wondered about that for decades. It  was only the advent of the Internet and its seemingly inexhaustible resources that I was able to confirm that the invisible “lieutenant” was the visible cop in Bensonhurst.

Ken Lynch was born in Cleveland  in 1910, and he died in Burbank in 1990. Oddly, despite his prolific career, Wikipedia doesn’t have an English language article on him, although there is one in French, but with no real biographical information. There is a short and descriptive profile of him on the International Movie Database web site, at THIS LINK.

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4 Responses to “I’d know that voice anywhere”


  1. At the risk of sounding as though I’m making these things up, I was talking to my son two days ago about that “Honeymooners” episode. When Ralph says he doesn’t know anything about the bank robbery and the detective is leaving, he says his line about police protection, then he says, “And thanks. For nuthin’.” I use that line a lot with my family, but they never know what I’m talking about. So I guess we’ll watch that episode tonight! You’re right about the credits on “The Honeymooners.” And so many of those actors played multiple characters. I keep thinking Ken Lynch appeared in at least one episode of The Andy Griffith Show, but I’m not sure. Do you know?

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    I just looked it up, and you’re right. Lynch appeared in four episodes of “The Andy Griffth Show” as Capt. Barker. And thanks for reminding me of “thanks – for nothin'” — I added it to the post.


  3. Instead, we watched the episode in which Ralph finds the suitcase stuffed with hundred dollar bills. Ralph guesses that it was probably left on his bus by a millionaire, and Ed replies, “I hope so. I’d hate to think it was some poor person who could really need it.”

  4. charlespaolino Says:

    That episode is a good example of what you pointed out earlier — the fact that “The Honeymooners” had a sort of repertory company of character actors who usually didn’t get credit. One of them was Ethel Owen, who played Mrs. Gibson, Alice Kramden’s mother. She had a very long career as a stage and screen actress. She was nearly 104 years old when she died. Her daughter was Pamela Britton, who played the landlady on “My Favorite Martian.” Also in that “Honeymooners” episode was Frank Marth, who played Officer Grogan, the cop who solicited “the usual buck” from Ralph for a police charity. He appeared in 132 television shows. He is still living and is one of the last surviving members of those casts. He also played Harvey Walstatter, who hired Alice as a babysitter, the reporter who asked Ralph the question about who is the head of the house, and a bunch of other bit parts.

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