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Gargan seemed to truly hit his stride in . Many early TV programs were taken from successful radio shows, but this isn't necessarily the case with Martin Kane; Gargan premiered the show on radio in 1949, then took the character to TV three weeks later, and continued until 1951, when the role in both media was given to Lloyd Nolan. But it was that put William Gargan on the map.
Their friendship started during the long run of a very successful play, The Animal Kingdom. William Gargan played a very amusing role, “Red” Regan, the ex-boxer butler with a strong inclination to alcohol. William Gargan talked of his first meeting with Leslie in an interview with Carl Bosworth, published on the July 1934 issue of Photoplay. Young William Gargan had borrowed three dollars from Leslie, who already was a Broadway star. In fact, Gargan had asked five, but Leslie generally went around with empty pockets, and three dollars were all he had been able to gather. Some years laters they had met again. Gargan wanted to give Leslie the three dollars back, and asked Leslie for the Red Regan role in the play Leslie was producing. Luckily, Leslie Howard’s reluctance was overwhelmed by Gargan’s enthusiasm. Howard and Gargan became closest friends, and their wives too. Gargan gave Leslie’s name to one of his children.
Early in his career, William Gargan sold bootleg whiskey to speakeasies in New York. He worked with Dave Chasen, another young actor, who would go on to open the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.