Old Time Radio


REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:


GILDERSLEEVE’S GHOST. RKO, 1944. Harold Peary, Marion Martin, Richard LeGrand, Frank Reicher, Amelita Ward, Freddie Mercer, Margie Stewart, Emory Parnell, Jack Norton as the Drunk and Charles Gemora as the Gorilla. Screenwriter: Robert E. Kent, based on characters appearing on the long-running radio program, The Great Gildersleeve (1941-1958). Director: Gordon Douglas.

   Some folks think it kinky of me, others merely shrug and roll their eyes, and a few have damned me from the pulpit for it, but I always thought Harold Peary was funny. Just something about that chuckle of his and the trademark hem-and-hawing, always gets a laugh out of me.

   So I’m tempted to give Gildersleeve’s Ghost much more praise than it deserves from a discerning critic like myself. I can’t honestly recommend it to any serious movie buff either. But damitall, this movie has everything: ghosts, an old dark house, a mad doctor with a sinister assistant, an invisible woman, insulting comic relief, and an escaped gorilla. Who — I ask you WHO? — could ask for anything more?

   Peary skips through it with his usual aplomb, and Gordon Douglas, whose career included Rio Conchos, Tony Rome, and Sincerely Yours, directs with the flippancy it deserves. I should also mention writer Robert Kent, who went on to a long and bizarre career with Sam Katzman, writing things like Hootenanny Hoot and The Fastest Guitar Alive.

   As for Gildersleeve’s Ghost, it’s fast, light, and outrageous enough to keep you saying “Whuzza?” even if you don’t find it funny. Catch it if you can.

FOUR FAILED PILOTS
by Michael Shonk


   It’s pilot season at the major TV networks as the networks look for new shows for the 2018-19 season. Here is a link to Deadline’s “Primetime pilot panic” where you can read what each network is looking at for next season:

         http://deadline.com/category/primetime-pilot-panic/

   The creation of the pilot dates back to radio days when audition shows were used to find a sponsor or stations to support the show as a regularly appearing series. While radio used the word “audition” for the first example of the possible series, TV uses pilot from “pilot project.”

   In the summer of 1940 CBS aired FORECAST, a series of radio episodes with the hope the audience would help them become a network series. Of these auditions two would become hits and continue to be remembered today, SUSPENSE and DUFFY’S TAVERN.

   Below is DEDUCTION DELUXE, an episode from FORECAST second and final season. Despite its pleas to the radio audience DEDUCTION DELUXE did not survive for a second episode.

DEDUCTION DELUXE “Problem of the Painted Poodle.” CBS Radio, July 28, 1941, Monday at 9pm (Eastern). Cast: Adolphe Menjou as Roger Boone, Verree Teasdale as Twyla Boone. Other Voices include: Arthur Q. Bryan, Verna Telton, and Gerald Mohr. Written by Keith Fowler and Frank Galen.

   The episode sounded like a vaudeville sketch with its simple character types and non-stop patter of gags, many still funny. The mystery of who painted a rich lady’s poodle green was better than average as the writers for the most part played fair with the clues.

   Real life married couple Adolphe Menjou and Verree Teasdale certainly had the right chemistry as PI Roger Boone and his wife Twyla Boone. The fatal flaw for the show was in the character of husband Roger Boone, a man who handled “clues, blondes and horses with equal enthusiasm.” Twyla seemed resigned to her husband sleeping with other women but I doubt the 1941 radio audience was as forgiving.


RUSSELL. Paramount Television – CBS Films Production; date unknown. Fess Parker as Charles Russell, Beverly Garland as Bonnie, Jay C. Flippen as Windy, and Paul Carr as Tracey. Created and written by Borden Chase. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Executive Producer: Gordon Kay. Produced by Frank O’Connor.

   I can find nothing about this pilot beyond the on screen credits and the copyright is unreadable. The pilot was done by Paramount. Fess Parker worked for Paramount between 1958 and 1962. The credit for CBS Films and the sales pitch epilogue probably makes this a pilot for a possible syndicated series. Since Fess Parker was starring in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in 1962 we can narrow the time for this show even further to 1958-61.

   While the story and characters were overly simple the show had a certain charm helped by a talented cast and a script that kept things moving.

   Fess Parker played Charles Russell one of the greatest artists of the Old West, and a man of many talents and experiences. He was a good man who was as good with the gun as he was with a brush. Russell wrote about his times and travels through the Old West in books such as TRAILS PLOWED UNDER. Link from Project Gutenberg Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700941h.html.

   In an interesting twist, the premise of the series was not to be just a loosely based biography but instead the stories were to be based on Charlie Russell’s artwork. The pilot episode featured the famous painting “Innocent Allies.”

   The story had Charlie partnering with a man called Windy to run a cattle drive. When Charlie and a young hothead cowboy witness a stage robbery, the young cowboy overreacts and runs off to stop the robbery. His gunfire starts a stampede. Charlie warns others of the approaching stampede and rescues the beautiful and feisty Bonnie, the new owner of the saloon. Charlie tries to help the young man grow up while he paints for Bonnie “Innocent Allies” – his eyewitness account of the stage holdup.

   RUSSELL had the makings for a successful series but Westerns were fading during the years 1958-1961 as the PI and modern detective was growing in its popularity.


GLOBAL FREQUENCY . WB, 2005 Cast: Michelle Forbes as Miranda Zero, Aimee Garcia as Aleph, Josh Hopkins as Sean Flynn and Jenni Baird as Dr. Katrina Finch. * The on-air credits were clipped from this YouTube copy of the 45-minute pilot. The series was created by Warren Ellis based on the popular award winning graphic novel series. John Rogers wrote the script, or at least he was the main writer for the pilot that was directed by Nelson McCormick. (Sources: IMdb and Wikipedia.)

   Before WB had made its decision about the fate of GLOBAL FREQUENCY the episode was leaked to the Internet. According to an email by creator Warren Ellis sent out to fans he claimed WB was so unhappy over the leak they rejected the pilot (CBR.com, July 29, 2005). It would not be the first time or the last Hollywood egos destroyed a quality program.

   Here is a YouTube clip explaining the premise.

   Global Frequency is a secret independent organization created to do the dirty jobs that threaten the world. Run by Miranda Zero, a former top spy, with the aid of Aleph, a young female computer expert who from a high tech base assists and contacts field agents.

   Global Frequency’s agents are a group of people with various talents and connections from all over the world waiting for that call that they are needed to save the world, or at least part of it. This is one of my favorite plot devices and the way it is handled would have hooked me on the series.

   The story began when disgraced ex-cop Sean finds the dead body of a Global Frequency agent. It seems San Francisco will be destroyed in 55 minutes. Sean joins in to help find the man who killed the agent and now is a threat to destroy San Francisco.

   Everything works here. The writing based on an award winning graphic novel series, the cast, the direction, the production, all are excellent. The characters are likable and developed. This even has the most elusive of all qualities, excellent chemistry between the actors.

   Every time I watch a TV thriller like GLOBAL FREQUENCY that blends technology and the human hero so entertainingly, I remember the objections that Hugh O’Brian had during SEARCH (NBC 1972) that the technology not upstage him and again I realize how better SEARCH could have been.


CALLAHAN. ABC – Carsey/Werner Company Production in association with Finnegan Associates, September 9, 1982. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis as Rachel Bartlett, Hart Bocher as Callahan, John Harkins as Marcus Vox, and Peter Maloney as Mustaf. Created by Ken Finkleman. Developed and Written by David Misch and Ken Finkleman. Directed by Harry Winer

   This funny pilot spoof of the Indiana Jones movie unfairly faced some challenges that had nothing to do with the quality of the episode entitled “Appointment In Rangoon.”

   Plucky innocent Rachel Bartlett applies for the job of assistant to the Director of Research (Callahan) at the Regis Foundation. The job interview quickly expands from Callahan’s academic office into a dangerous thrill-filled chase across the world.

   Overly focused on his work, Callahan is clueless to how unaccustomed Miss Bartlett (as Callahan calls her) is to the action. But Rachel does not let the constant dangers to her life or her torn and increasingly disappearing dress stop her from helping Callahan to recover the object, stop the villain and save the world.

   However quality writing and acting does not always lead a pilot to series. CALLAHAN wanted to become an ABC series for the 1982-83 season. But TV cop spoof POLICE SQUAD had just bombed on ABC during the 1981-82 season. ABC’s pilots for the 1982-83 season had contained more than one Indiana Jones inspired pilot. ABC chose the action drama TALES OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY.


   YouTube continues to be a great place to find failed pilots, so coming soon I will look at four more failed pilots from the past.

   I’ve asked Ian Dickerson, the editor of the following book to tell us more about it. Once again he’s most graciously agreed:

IAN DICKERSON, Editor – Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Radio Scripts, by Leslie Charteris & Denis Green. Purview Press, softcover, November 2017.

   I find the effect of television on the young quite interesting. Bear with me, this isn’t as off-topic as you think…

   I was nine years old when I first watched Return of the Saint. I think it’s fair to say that show corrupted me and changed my life. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t just the show that did that, but the books by Leslie Charteris as well. I spent years making sure I collected every possible Saint adventure, joined The Saint Club and was privileged to know Leslie and Audrey Charteris. I’ve also written a number of books about the Saint and Leslie Charteris and yes, there’s more to come.

   I wasn’t much older when, thanks to the BBC, I watched The Falcon on TV and I’ve written a book about that character as well (more here: http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=53840 )

   Around the same time I discovered The Falcon, the BBC were kind enough to show many of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. Now that wasn’t my introduction to Holmes and Watson for I’d already read the works of Conan Doyle, but for many, many years after to me Rathbone and Bruce were Holmes and Watson.

   Then one day, whilst having a post-prandial coffee with a certain Mr Charteris, worlds collided for he mentioned that he wrote some Sherlock Holmes scripts with his friend Denis Green.. Over the course of our subsequent lunches (in a pre-internet age) he graciously answered my questions about them but since it was almost fifty years ago that he worked on the, his memory was not replete with the details I wanted.

   As the internet matured I managed to find out more details about the shows but no recordings or scripts from them.

   After Leslie died I got to know Audrey fairly well and we talked at length about many things. Occasionally she dropped hints that she thought some of Leslie’s Holmes scripts had survived and might be in their Dublin flat, but that was as far as I could get.

   After Audrey died in 2014 Leslie’s family asked me to go through their flat in Dublin. There indeed I found a stack of Leslie’s Sherlock Holmes scripts alongside many other gems. I was, needless to say, rather delighted. More so when his family gave me permission to get them into print.

   So thanks to television, here’s the first volume of a missing chapter in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson…

   I’ve asked Ian Dickerson, the author of the following book to tell us more about it. He’s most graciously agreed:

IAN DICKERSON – Who Is The Falcon?: The Detective In Print, Movies, Radio and TV. Purview Press. softcover, December 2016.

   Back in the dim and distant past, when I was just a lad, I discovered the adventures of the Saint. (I know, I know, I’ve kept that quiet….) In those heady days I was a sucker for any new Saint-like adventure so when the BBC ran out of old black and white Saint films to show and moved onto something called ‘The Falcon.’ my place in front of the television was assured for a few more weeks.

   Those early Falcon films were remarkably Saintly, and although the later ones got a little more creative — The Falcon and the Co-Eds anyone? — they were still firmly in the gentleman detective genre and my teen -aged self was happy.

   Fast forward a few years — well, okay, quite a few years — and I discovered old time radio shows. But I soon had a problem, I had all the episodes of The Saint on tape and being greedy I wanted more. Then I discovered the Falcon had also appeared on radio! Aha, problem solved I thought! But when I listened to the tapes I discovered the Falcon — that radio Falcon — was a hard boiled 1940s PI and bore virtually no resemblance to the gentleman detective of the George Sanders and Tom Conway films. At a time when the Internet was only really just booting up, I had no way of establishing what had happened, but I rather enjoyed those hard-boiled PI adventures so quickly ordered some more.

   Fast forward a few more years and with the help of the now mature Internet, I discovered that not only had the Falcon also appeared in books, magazines and on TV, but that the radio show had run for over a decade and there had been over four hundred and eighty episodes.

   I wanted to learn things; to find out why there were two different characters and how they’d come to be changed, to find out more about the Falcon’s TV adventures and see if I could find copies of them, I also wanted to know more about his stint on radio — who played him? Who wrote the stories? What were they about? And for the geek in me … had I listened to all the ones that were available? (I certainly have now!)

   And I wanted to celebrate a character that had survived sixteen films, a handful of books, thirty-nine episodes of television and that long run on radio.

   So I wrote a book.

   Who is the Falcon? tells the story of all the Falcon’s adventures in print, on radio, in film and television. And there’s even a Falcon short story from the 1940s thrown in for good measure.

SPECIAL AGENT K-7. C.C.Burr Productions / Puritan Pictures, 1936. Walter McGrail, Queenie Smith, Irving Pichel, Donald Reed, Willy Castello, Duncan Renaldo, Joy Hodges. Based on the radio series character created (or played) by George Zimmer. Director: Bernard B. Ray (as Raymond K. Johnson).

   The espionage adventure radio series referred to appeared on the NBC network between 1932 and 1934, as I understand it. This is a long time ago, and information is hard to come by when it comes to radio this old. No copies of any of the episodes are known to exist. This movie was made in 1936 or 1937, and another radio series came along in 1939, one called Secret Agent K-7 Returns.

   This second series was carried by CBS and starred Jay Jostyn, an actor best known by OTR fans for his long-running lead role in the program Mr. District Attorney. The second series of K-& adventures lasted for 78 episodes, many of which are generally available and in circulation. See The Digital Deli website for more details.

   Any resemblance between the movie and the second radio series is next to none. In the movie, agent K-7, by name “Lanny” Landers and played by Walter McGrail, is not a spy of any kind, but an undercover agent for the FBI. Home from abroad, he’s asked to help crack down on organized crime in a city filled with hoodlums, gamblers and gangsters of all sorts.

   Most of the activity in the film takes place in and around a nightclub owned by Eddie Geller, who has just been the beneficiary of a hung jury. When he is killed in his office, it is the fiancé of reporter Olive O’Day (Queenie Smith) who is the primary suspect. She, of course, asks Landers for help.

   The detective story that follows is a complicated one, with lots of suspects and false trails, as many as can be squeezed into a cramped 70 minutes worth of running time, which also includes a song by one Joy Hodges, later known for helping Ronald Reagan launch his acting career. The killer is obvious, though, from the very first moment he appears on the screen, taking the sheen off most of what follows. There are glimpses of what otherwise could have been, but “could have been” never counts for very much.

THE OLD TIME RADIO HOST/ANNOUNCER
by Michael Shonk


   One of old time radio’s (OTR) characters most fondly remembered is the series host/announcer. Radio programs needed a way to introduce the series and episode to the listener. Limited to just words and sounds radio created the host role.

   Perhaps one of the appeals of listening to radio drama was how often the fourth wall was ignored. It began with the host/announcer who would talk directly to the listener. It gave the program and the listener at home a personal connection, as if the story was being told directly to you.

   There were several basic types of host/announcer. It could be an announcer or famous celebrity or a fictional character. He or she could exist separate from the story or be a fictional character narrating the story or a real celebrity who introduces the story and at times joins the cast and performs as one of the characters in the story, or in rare cases a real announcer could interact with the fictional characters (usually to promote the sponsor).

   One of the earliest radio series to have a fictional character as host was the 1930 CBS anthology DETECTIVE STORY HOUR. The character with the strange eerie voice was The Shadow, a character that has had a long successful career. For those who wish to learn more about the pulp/radio icon I recommend the book SHADOW SCRAPBOOK by the character’s creator Walter B. Gibson (with Anthony Tollin).

   Here is the first episode from the Mutual Network version of THE SHADOW. “Death House Blues” aired September 26, 1937 and introduced him to the Mutual audience. In the story The Shadow played by Orson Welles works to save an innocent man from the electric chair.


   Characters such as Philip Marlowe, Rocky Jordan, and Archie Goodwin for Nero Wolfe would break the fourth wall to talk to the audience, set the mood and begin narrating the story.

   LIVES OF HARRY LIME was a BBC production and syndicated in America, airing various places including Mutual radio network. The series was based on the character from the film THE THIRD MAN, star Orson Welles would return to play Harry Lime in this prequel to the 1949 British film.

THE LIVES OF HARRY LIME “Too Many Crooks” (Mutual, August 3, 1951), It begins when Harry receives a letter asking for his help rob a bank in Budapest. As zither music sets the proper THIRD MAN mood, Harry profits from the plans of some very untrustworthy bank robbers.


   The Shadow’s spooky voice fit radio well for establishing mood. Hosts for series such as LIGHTS OUT began to warn the listeners of the terrors to come. Some of the more entertaining hosts would go beyond the spooky voice to the rantings of an insane lunatic. Among the better ones were GUEST OF DOOM, DARKNESS, WITCH’S TALE, STRANGE DR WEIRD, WEIRD CIRCLE, HERMIT’S CAVE, and BLACK CHAPEL.

   Forgotten BLACK CASTLE remains one of the best examples of the madman host. BLACK CASTLE featured host The Wizard and his pet raven Diablo. Don Douglas not only played the host but he also did all of the voices.

   A warning about the episode “Jungle Adventure,” it was done during WWII and has a un-PC attitude about the Japanese and island natives.

BLACK CASTLE “Jungle Adventure” (Mutual, September 25, 1943). Two American airmen crash on a small Pacific island.


   Some hosts could be downright judgmental towards the fictional characters in the story (THE WHISTLER) or some hosts were notably uncaring to what happened to the people of the story (THE CLOCK, DEVIL’S SCRAPBOOK and THE CROUPIER).

   One who was judgmental and uncaring was Fate in DIARY OF FATE, played by Herbert Lytton.

DIARY OF FATE “The Entry of Tyler White” (ABC, April 6, 1948). Tyler White is about to be executed for a murder he did not commit.


   Not all hosts were scary some were quite friendly such as in WORLD ADVENTURERS CLUB, and THE CASEBOOKS OF GREGORY HOOD.

   The CRIME CLUB host The Librarian (Barry Thomson) was always eager to help us with that book or manuscript we wanted. Many of the stories were adaptations of actual books published by Doubleday’s Crime Club imprint .

CRIME CLUB “Mr. Smith’s Hat” (Mutual, January 22, 1947). Gilbert Shannon calls Inspector McKee to report his own murder. A few moments after he hangs up the Inspector gets a call from Shannon’s daughter who has discovered her father’s dead body. Witty dialog highlights the story based on a book by Helen Reilly and adapted by Stedman Coles.


   Celebrities were popular choices to host drama anthologies, such as radio producer Arch Oboler (LIGHTS OUT), writers such as John Dickson Carr (MURDER BY EXPERTS) and actors such as Peter Lorre (MURDER IN THE AIR).

   CREEPS BY NIGHT aired on the Blue network with Boris Karloff as host and actor. The series was done on the West coast. When the series moved to the East coast with episode #13 “The Walking Dead (May 16, 1944) Karloff stayed behind and the mysterious Dr. X took over as host. The name of the actor who played Dr. X was never revealed.

CREEPS BY NIGHT “The Final Reckoning” (Blue network, May 2, 1944). George Miller is out of prison after serving 20 years for a murder he did not commit. George feels his life has been wasted and is obsessed with revenge against the man who framed him.


   One of the most important roles for the host/announcer was to promote the sponsor. Series such as MYSTERY HOUSE would take a comment made by the characters to remind everyone about the sponsor. INNER SANCTUM Mr. Host enjoyed his creaking door and pun filled introductions but then he would turn to Mary to discuss the perfection and joy the sponsor’s product would bring to the listener’s life.

   But no host/announcer was more interested in the sponsor than the host of a kid’s show, radio serials such as CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, JACK ARMSTRONG ALL AMERICAN BOY, DICK TRACY, and endless others push their promos like maps and code rings and nagged kids to get their Mom or Dad to buy the sponsor’s product.

TOM MIX RALSTON STRAIGHT SHOOTERS “The Green Man” (Mutual, June 30, 1944). A swami arrives and tries to buy Longwind Wilson house that keeps disappearing because of a former cactus now anti-social Green Man. Not the most PC but still fun. In this episode Tom Mix was played by Joe “Curley” Bradley.


   Not all serials were aimed at kids and their parents’ bank account. There would be soap operas for Mom (ROMANCES OF HELEN TRENT and BACKSTAGE WIFE), adventure (ADVENTURES BY MORSE and SHADOWS OF FU MANCHU), mysteries (CHARLIE CHAN and I LOVE A MYSTERY), and spies (ANN OF THE AIRLINES).

   But no matter the type of radio serial all of them needed the host/announcer to keep the audience up to date on the continuing story that usually aired three to five times a week.

   Here is an episode from PERRY MASON, a radio series that would evolve into TV soap opera EDGE OF NIGHT.

PERRY MASON “The Case of the Puzzled Suitor’ (CBS, June 7, 1944). A rich scientist wants Mason to write his will, but a woman had early warned Mason that the scientist was being coerced.


   One of the things the Internet has given us is access to the past unlike ever before. You can listen to OTR at YouTube, Internet Archive (archive.org) and various other places on the Internet. Whether you remember when the shows first aired or you are listening for the first time, OTR offers a variety of wonderful entertainment, shows more often than not introduced by a host/announcer.

SOURCES::

RadioGOLDINdex     http://radiogoldindex.com/

ON THE AIR THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OLD-TIME RADIO (Oxford University
Press, 1998) by John Dunning

MY FRIEND IRMA GOES WEST. Paramount Pictures, 1950. John Lund, Marie Wilson, Diana Lynn, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Corinne Calvet, Lloyd Corrigan, Don Porter, Harold Huber, Kenneth Tobey. Screenplay: Cy Howard & Parke Levy. Director: Hal Walker.

   Marie Wilson, who made a career of playing ditsy blondes, will be remembered best for her portrayal of Irma Peterson, the impossibly vacuous New York City secretary with a mind the size of a paper clip. This was the second film to feature Irma, who began her career on radio in 1947, but as usually the case, of all the people who were in the cast on the radio program, only Marie Wilson managed to make the transition into the movies.

   And even though creator Cy Howard was also involved in the movie production, much of the magic her character created in her original form is gone. In fact, Irma is on the screen far less than the up-and-coming comedy team of Martin and Lewis. Incidentally, they also appeared in the first Irma picture as well — their screen debut, no less.

   The plot is simple enough — Dean Martin, who plays the boy friend of Irma’s friend Jane, gets a shot at Hollywood, or so he thinks, and the whole gang goes along. It;s to bad that, unknown to them, the boys in the white suits come along afterward to pick up the “producer” who hired him. (But what about the French actress with eyes for Dean?)

   Irma continued on the radio for four more years, until 1954, but there weren’t any more movies. It’s no wonder why. When writers lose the roots of their own creations, chances of a successful transplant are next to none.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #24, August 1990 (very slightly revised).


REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


BRIGHT STAR. Syndicated, Frederic W. Ziv Company; September 24, 1951. Voice Cast: Irene Dunne as Susan Armstrong and Fred MacMurry as George Harvey. Announcer: Harry Von Zell.

   Syndication studio Frederic W. Ziv Company is best remembered for its several low budget syndicated TV series such as Sea Hunt and Highway Patrol. The company also had its successes in radio, and many of those series would continue their success in TV, shows such as Boston Blackie and The Cisco Kid.

   Despite the falling popularity of radio in the 1950s due to the rising interest in TV, Ziv found a way to convince famous movie stars to star in transcribed radio series. Their first success was with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Bold Venture (reviewed here and its TV version reviewed here ).

   Next Ziv convinced Irene Dunne and Fred MacMurray to star in the radio series Bright Star. This was Ziv’s first comedy. Unlike many other Ziv’s radio series, Bright Star apparently was never adapted for television.

   So how was Ziv able to convince such famous movie stars as Bogart, Bacall, Dunne and MacMurray to star in a weekly radio series? They gave them a huge amount of money.

   According to Broadcasting (August 13,1951) Dunne and MacMurray each were paid $300,000 for a 10 year radio contract with an opt-out clause after 52 episodes. Three episodes were taped each week with a budget of $12,500 per half-hour episode. Broadcasting claimed this was the second highest budget in radio next only to Bold Venture. Billboard (August 18, 1951) claimed Bright Star was higher than Bold Venture by $2,500.

   Both Broadcasting and Billboard reported writers were to include Milton Geiger, Carl Gass, and Richard Powell. Henry Hayward would direct. Broadcasting added that additional cast members would include Elvia Allman and Michael Miller.

   Bright Star was about the daily operation of the small town newspaper, the Hillsdale Morning Star. Susan Armstrong voiced by Irene Dunne was the paper’s publisher and editor. George Harvey voiced by Fred MacMurray was the paper’s top reporter. As required by romantic comedy rules the two constantly argued when not trying to romance the other.

      George and the Informer:

   George was getting increasing attention due to a series of articles he was writing exposing a mob leader. Susan began to worry when George refused to tell her his source.


   This was one of the better episodes but still far from great radio. The soft character humor ruled over any realism in the plots. Not surprisingly after fifty-two episodes were transcribed the two stars opted out of their contract and the series ended.

   According to Broadcasting (September 10. 1951) Ziv claimed Bright Star that was due to debut in two weeks had been sold in 183 cities including 21 of the 63 television cities in the United States. While not the success of Bold Venture, which was in 427 stations when it debuted in March 1951 (Broadcasting April 2, 1951), the transcribed episodes of Bright Star would remain on the air for years.

   It was the fifties and the networks were turning their attention from radio to television. As Billboard examined in its October 16, 1954 issue, this left the local radio stations searching for programming. Ziv’s transcribed radio series became popular with stations and local advertisers. Shows such as Bright Star would continue to air on the radio at least into the mid-50s.

DANGER ON THE AIR. Universal Pictures, 1938. Nan Grey, Donald Woods, Jed Prouty, Berton Churchill, William Lundigan, Richard ‘Skeets’ Gallagher, Edward Van Sloan, Lee J. Cobb, (Peter) Lind Hayes, Louise Stanley. Based on the Doubleday Crime Club novel Death Catches Up With Mr. Kluck, by Xantippe. Director: Otis Garrett.

   Despite too many characters and too much plot to be crammed into a 70 minute running time, this proved to be an enjoyable little murder mystery. This is, of course, what happens when a full length detective novel is the basis of a film — “crammed” is exactly the right word.

   As perhaps the title would suggest, most of the movie takes place in a radio studio, setting that movie audience in 1938 would have little chance seeing for themselves on their own. Dead is one of the biggest sponsors the Cosmopolitan Network has, an obnoxious micro-manager and lecherous old goat named Caesar Kluck. He’s someone who people take objection to at first meeting, so the killer could be almost anyone.

   Teaming up to solve the case are a studio technician (Donald Woods) and a girl production assistant (Nan Grey). They’re somewhat of a mismatched couple. He’s studious and dull; she’s vivacious and very pretty. There are loads of veteran character actors on the scene as well, but the film also includes some relative newcomers such as Peter Lind Hayes (who does voice imitations of then current radio stars, including Bing Crosby) and Lee J. Cobb, who at a very young age played an aged ethnic janitor with considerable ease.

   Because of the short running time, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, zigzagging this way and that so that everybody in the studio is shown as a possible suspect, and worse, the killer’s motive comes right out of some magician’s hat. Bear with it though, and you may enjoy this one as much as I did.

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL, PART TWO:
HORROR RADIO
by Michael Shonk


   Welcome to part two of a three part series on horror and suspense for Halloween. Part One can be found here.

   Horror is at its most terrifying when it exists in our own imagination. This is why the genre works so well in radio. Few radio series did not attempt a scary story or an episode with a horror theme. From BABY SNOOKS to PHILIP MARLOWE, the comedic or the typical whodunit, all took advantage of the success of horror in radio.

   A good example is this episode from my favorite radio series ADVENTURES OF SAM SPADE (reviewed here ).

“The Fairly Bright Caper.” (CBS, October 31, 1948) Written by Bob Tallman and Gil Doud. Directed and Produced by William Spier. Cast: Howard Duff as Sam Spade and Lorene Tuttle as Effie.

   Sam is hired for a Halloween high society engagement party that is spoiled by murder. What does the Witch really know?

   It is radio’s version of Sam Spade, so jokes are as common as clues and the character of the witch gave it a perfect Halloween feel.


   The most common form of the horror radio series was the anthology. Many of these series are still fondly remembered today, shows such as INNER SANCTUM, LIGHTS OUTS and SUSPENSE. So of course I will ignore them and turn to some forgotten ones.

   MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER aired on Mutual Network between 1943 and 1952. Each week you the listener would board a train only to have the Mysterious Traveler approach you and tell you a story.

   The series was created, written, produced and directed by the team of Bob Arthur and David Kogan. Arthur and Kogan won the Edgar award for this series as the best radio drama in 1953.

   Mysterious Traveler was also adapted for comic books and a Mysterious Traveler magazine that featured short stories for the radio show as well as stories from such writers as John Dickson Carr, Craig Rice, Dorothy L. Sayers, Brett Halliday, Ray Bradbury, and Lawrence Blochman. The magazine lasted five issues and was edited by Bob Arthur.

“Locomotive Ghost.” (Mutual Network, July 6,1947) Written, directed, and produced by Bob Arthur and David Kogan. Voice of Mysterious Traveler: Maurice Tarplin.

   To steal a large payroll carried by train two robbers destroy the train. They get away with the money but can they escape the Judgment Special?


   While fictional characters hosted many of the radio anthologies, other anthologies used an announcer or the writer/producer or a famous star to introduce the story. The host star often acted in the episodes.

   MYSTERY IN THE AIR featured the talents of Peter Lorre as each week the series would adapt some of literature’s best horror stories such as Edgar Allen Poe’s THE BLACK CAT, Alexander Pushkin’s QUEEN OF SPADES and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. The sadly neglected series was on NBC as a summer replacement (July – September 1947) for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW.

“The Horla.” (NBC, August 21, 1947) Based on short story by Guy de Maupassant. Cast: Peter Lorre, Peggy Webber and Lorene Tuttle. Announcer: Henry (Harry) Morgan.

   Lorre plays a man who slowly becomes convinced an invisible monster is stalking him.


HALL OF FANTASY (KALL, Salt Lake City, 1946-47; WGN 1949; Mutual 1952)

   Richard Thorne was the creative force behind HALL OF FANTASY. The series began in 1946 on Salt Lake Utah station KALL and produced by Thorne and Carl Greyson. The series ended in 1947. In 1949 Thorne (with Greyson in some accounts) revived the series for WGN and by 1952 HALL OF FANTASY was airing nation-wide on Mutual Network.

“The Judge’s House.” (April 6, 1947) Based on story by Bram Stoker, adapted by Bob Olson. Directed by Richard Thorne. Produced by Thorne and Carl Greyson.

   A young student comes to a small town to find a quiet place to study. Despite the locals warnings he rents a house where an evil judge had lived fifty years ago.


   While it is common belief that original dramas for radio died when TV took over, that is not totally true. Shows such as SUSPENSE and YOURS TRULY JOHNNY DOLLAR hung on until 1962.

   CBS tried to bring back radio with CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER (1974-82). While many talented artists from radio’s glory days contributed to the series, the writing was never able to recapture the magic of old type radio. Perhaps the focus was misplaced in trying to recreate the magic of the past instead of bring radio up to the present.

   Radio drama continues today at the BBC. Canada has shown success with radio series such as JOHNNY CHASE: SECRET AGENT (1978-81), THE MYSTERY PROJECT (1992-2004), and the anthology series NIGHTFALL (1980-1983).

   Created by Bill Howell the series NIGHTFALL remains best known for its scary episodes such as “Porch Light” (not on Youtube), but tried nearly every genre in fiction, even adapting a folk song by Stan Rogers for an episode.

NIGHTFALL (CBC, 1980-1983)

“Fatal Eggs.” (April 17, 1981) Written by Arthur Samuels. Based on a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. Produced by Bill Howell. Cast: Douglas Campbell, Neil Dainard and David Calderisi.

   Russian scientists develop a red ray that can grow animals in size. But things go bad when the communist bureaucrats take over the project.


NEXT: PART THREE – TELEVISION.



SOURCES:

ON THE AIR: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning (Oxford University Press, 1998)

Wikipedia

The Digital Deli http://www.digitaldeliftp.com

Old-Time Radio catalog http://www.otrcat.com

Radio Horror Hosts http://www.radiohorrorhosts.com

OTR Plot Spot http://www.otrplotspot.com/mainMenu.html

THE NIGHTFALL PROJECT http://www.thenightfallproject.org

Next Page »