Old Time Radio

THE ADVENTURES OF THE ABBOTTS – The Man in the Green Nile Suit. NBC, 29 May 1955. Claudia Morgan & Mandel Kramer as Pat & Jean Abbott. Based on the characters created by Frances Crane.

   Married couples, one of whom is a famous detective, should never take second honeymoons, as this episode of The Abbotts well demonstrates. About to embark on a cruise in the West Indies, they stay overnight in a cabin where they find in the bathroom … a dead body. The captain of the ship insists on taking over, a task Pat Abbott is well willing to step away from

   But not for long. Once on the ship more intrigue breaks out. One man, a Frenchman, quietly suggests to the Abbotts that another man on board is a collaborator and that he wishes him dead. Soon enough, you guessed it. It’s a good thing the Abbotts are on board. The captain would hardly be up to the job.

   You may have already jumped to a conclusion that there is a connection between the two deaths, and luckily for your own safety, you would be correct. It’s one of those things it is difficult to avoid on old radio shows when there is only 30 minutes available to the writer and with no visual effects that can be used to distract the viewer of a contemporaneous television show.

   It is difficult for me to reveal events I read, watch, or listen to whenever I wrote up a report like this, but there is a twist I didn’t see (hear) coming, and that is a good thing, but I’m not so sure it would have worked as well on television as it does on radio.

   I had to go back and listen to the previous scene again, and yes, the script writer wrote it perfectly right — and the player in the role played it just exactly as it should have been done.

   Chagrined I was, that I missed it.

   But you can listen for yourself. Follow the link below and do some scrolling. Quite a few other episodes can also be sampled.  I can’t promise you that there is more than a surface resemblance between Frances Crane’s characters and those you’ll find in this and the other episodes you’ll discover there, but you may find them as amusing as I did this one, co-winky-dink and all.


FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE. “Search in the Night.”. CBS, 05 Nov 1953 (Season 2, Episode 7). Frank Lovejoy (Randy Stone), Frances Rafferty, James Millican, Rhys Williams, Vic Perrin, Colleen Miller. Directed by Christian Nyby. Current streaming on YouTube (see below).

   â€œSearch in the Night” features a reporter for the Chicago Star whose nightly beat takes him through the streets of that city after the sun goes down, looking for human interest stories to tell his reading audience in his next morning’s daily column. On this particular night, he comes a across a small crowd of people watching a man in a deep sea diver’s suit and helmet look for something off a short pier.

   What is he looking for? Who us the woman who hired him? At the rate of $50 per dive, it must be something important. But … a woman’s purse? Randy Stone is puzzled, until the purse is opened. In it is $5000 in a small wad of bills. Also in the purse … a gun. Then the diver reveals something else. The body of man is also down there, caught in the pilings of the pier. Now Randy Stone has his story. But how does it develop from there? And more to the point, how does it end?

   Old time radio fans will have recognized what is going on, almost immediately, I’m sure. This was an effort to transfer a highly successful radio show to TV. Night Beat was an NBC radio drama that was on the air  from February 6, 1950 to September 25, 1952

   Quoting from its Wikipedi page, “Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star, encountering criminals, eccentrics, and troubled souls. Listeners were invited to join Stone as he ‘searches through the city for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness.’”

   This “backdoor pilot” is a good one, filled with just the right amount of mystery and characters who are terrified about what comes next (some of them), while others feel safe as they go about go about their day-by-job, while revealing to Stone what led up to the events he wandered into in the middle of.

   As a pilot, this really ought to have been picked up. On radio, Frank Lovejoy’ gruff but yet kindly voice was perfect for the role. On TV, his square-jawed visual persona fit the role to a tee, and his interactions with the people he encounters and talks to are also finely tuned. (And not all of them are essential to the plot. His encounter with Colleen Miller’s character as a floozie in a bar, for example, lasts no more than a minute or so, but the conversation they have is solid gold.)


COUNTERSPY. “The Case of the Blackmailed Hijacker.” ABC, 09 August 1949. Don McLoughlin (David Harding), Mandel Kramer (Peters).  Available on many sites online, including this one.

   Counterspy was a totally fictitious anti-espionage agency whose case files began on the radio in 1942, telling tales about the Nazis and how their efforts in setting up spy operations here in the US were always thwarted. After the war ended, the series continued, up through 1957, but the enemies of this country became more general.

   In this episode from 1949, for example, truckers driving through the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania with payloads of dynamite and other explosives are being held up and robbed. The bounty is then shipped off and sold to rebels in post-war hotspots around the world, threatening world security.

   As it turns out, the title of this episode is incorrect. When one driver escapes being kill in one such hijacking, he is at first willing to testify against one of the thugs he could identify, but when the rest of gang threaten to reveal his past life as a convict, and worse, threaten his wife, he finds that his memory of the incident is not as sharp as he thought it was.

   It’s a fairly straightforward thriller of a mystery, in other words, but it’s also one with a very effective final scene taking place in the quiet of the night when the men of Counterspy move carefully in on the truck that has been blown to bits.. Who was caught in the explosion – the good guy, or the bad ones? Pictures in the mind can be a lot more effective than those seen acted out on the screen of a black and white TV set.

   Each of the two stars, Don McLoughlin and Mandel Kramer, went on to have long careers in TV soap operas. Both had very effective voices for radio, though, and I suspect the many listeners thought Counterspy was a real honest-to-goodness organization acting on the behalf of Americans everywhere.

DOUGLAS OF THE WORLD. “The Terrorists.” Armed Forces Radio Service, 1953. Jack Moyles, as world-traveling reporter Brad Douglas, with Peter Leeds, Harry Bartell, Karen Steele, Paul Richards. Available online here.

   Brad Douglas, working as a reporter for the (fictional) New York World has a job that takes him to all of the hot spots of the world, including in this episode, Iran, where he goes to talk to the ordinary people of the country about their view of their new prime minister.   Oil is the big news of the day, and some things have never changed since then.

   But while doing due diligence to this week’s assignment, Brad also has an eye out for a pretty girl (played by Karen Steele), but she has an ulterior motive: her brother, a petroleum engineer has gone missing.  Brad offers to help, of course, and fairly soon all three of them are being held captive in a dark room who knows where. Faced with death at dawn as the only alternative, Brad agrees to write the news article their captors want published, only … he has a plan.

   Brad Douglas was portrayed by Jack Moyles, whom OTR fans remember best as the voice of Rocky Jordan, the American restaurant owner in Cairo whose weekly adventures in that exotic city were filled to overflowing with adventure and intrigue of all kinds.

   In spite of a fine cast, Douglas of World isn’t nearly as good — there’s just not enough juice to it — but perhaps the comparison is unfair. Rocky Jordan was one of the finest adventure shows on radio that wasn’t entitled Escape.  Information on DoW is skimpy, but it may have produced directly for the Armed Forces Radio Service. Perhaps only four or five have survived to this day.

YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR. “The King’s Necklace Affair.” CBS, 17 March 1953. John Lund as Johnny Dollar, with Jack Moyles, Howard McNear, Lilian Buyeff, Jack Moyles, Tom Tully. Scriptwriter: Sidney Marshall. Easily found streaming online.

   This is the first episode of Johnny Dollar I remember listening to which has had John Lund in the leading role. He played the part for two seasons, from November 1952 to September 1954, followed by Bob Bailey’s long run beginning in October 1955 and ending in November 1960.

   For most of the time the show was on the air Johnny Dollar, the man with the “action-packed expense account” was a freelance insurance investigator working out of Hartford CT, but traveling all over the country checking out the validity of false claims and the like.

   In “The King’s Necklace Affair,” though, he goes even further, to a small island near Cuba which one man owns in its entirety, complete with a huge mansion and a valuable collection of art objects to go with it. One of these is a necklace worth a small fortune, which he thinks someone is trying to steal. When Johnny gets there, together they open the safe where it should be, only to discover it is only paste.

   When the owner is soon thereafter found dead on a balcony, Johnny finds that he really has a case on his hands. Unfortunately, from the perspective of an armchair detective listening at home, there are less than a handful of suspects, one of which is a sexy-voiced young lady (Lillian Buyeff) one suspects lives there for less than wholesome purposes. Not surprisingly the script does not go in that direction very far at all. Nonetheless, in spite of a paucity of suspects, the scriptwriter (Sidney Marshall) manages to pull off a small trick he had up his sleeve all along, and a well-clued one to boot.

   John Lund had a strong voice for radio, but not a distinctive one. I am speaking for myself, mind you, but if I were listen to another episode in which he was the star, I’m not sure I would recognize it, and for all of the others in the cast, I would.

         Taken from the Murania Press website:

   The award-winning journal of adventure, mystery, and melodrama is back! After a two-year absence Blood ‘n’ Thunder returns as a book-length Annual, its 264 pages crammed with articles, illustrations, and fiction reprints. As always, the emphasis is on pulp magazines, vintage Hollywood movies, and Old Time Radio drama.

   The Annual’s first section is a centennial tribute to the legendary detective pulp Black Mask, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year (an event planned for recognition in the canceled Spring 2020 issue of BnT). In addition to a history of the Mask, our tribute includes two reprinted articles from old writers’ magazines: a 1929 issue analysis by literary agent August Lenniger and a 1934 feature on pulp fictioneering by the Mask‘s most famous editor, Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw.

   Also, Will Murray profiles aviation-pulp writer George Bruce (one of the few pulpsters to hit the big time as a Hollywood screenwriter); Tom Krabacher discusses the fantasy-adventure novels written by Spider scribe Norvell W. Page for Unknown; Denny Lien examines the 1936 one-shot pulp featuring Flash Gordon; Gilbert Colon compares the prose and filmed versions of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic yarn “Dreams in the Witch-House”; Matt Moring reveals the true identity of enigmatic pulpster “W. Wirt”; and Sai Shanker offers a history of the Butterick Company, the New York dress-pattern company that published Adventure, Romance, and Everybody’s magazines.

   Additionally, Will Oliver covers the abortive Weird Tales radio show and a later attempt at supernatural horror, The Witch’s Tale. And there’s a lengthy excerpt from the new book by Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson on the creation and early development of the Lone Ranger radio program. BnT editor-publisher Ed Hulse contributes well-researched essays on the 1929 film adaptation of A. Merritt’s Seven Footprints to Satan, the 1943 Republic serial Secret Service in Darkest Africa, and the early career of well-regarded “B”-movie director George Sherman.

   Finally, the Annual reprints “Mountain Man,” the 1934 first installment in Robert E. Howard’s hilarious Western short-story series featuring Breckinridge Elkins.


   I have just learned that this book starring a new version of my favorite OTR hero will be out in July. The start of a new series? “The Shadow knows!”

OTR News from Karl Schadow:

   There were at least three 1930s mystery radio series with science fiction themes from the pen of Fran Striker, an extremely prolific writer of scripts for Old Time Radio. They predate both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, the two shows he is most known for writing for. Read the latest about Ultra Violet, The Soul of the Robot and Infra Red in The Old Radio Times. PDF link here.

BULLDOG DRUMMOND “The Case of the Double Death.” 16 April 1945. Mutual, sustaining. Ned Wever as Bulldog Drummond.

   One of old time radio most famous introductory openings: Echoing footsteps, a foghorn, shots, and several blasts of a police whistle, then: “Out of the fog … out of the night … and into his American adventures … comes … Bulldog Drummond.”

   Other than Drummond himself, the only other recurring character is Denny, Drummond’s aide-de-camp, so to speak, first or last name not known, nor the actor who played him at this time of the run. I have possible names, but it’s been too long since I’ve been a regular OTR listener to hazard a guess.

   It is also not clear, based on this episode only, what official capacity Drummond has in this country, if any. I generally consider him a gentleman adventurer who consistently gets into trouble.

   He’s friends enough with the warden of a nearby penitentiary where a notorious gangster is to be executed, however, to be asked to witness the death, but Denny arrives too late, his hat and umbrella having been stolen while they were eating before hand, then falling asleep on a train while going back and getting another.

   When the two arrive back home together they find a dead man in the living room. Not knowing what else to do before figuring out a plan of action, they return the body to his hotel room, where they set up a trap for the killer with the dead body as bait, and … well, check the title, and a rather complicated story suddenly makes sense. Well, sort of. It’s the kind of story that’s a puzzler all the way through until the end, when, if you start to think about it, why did the killer make it all so complicated?

   It’s still fun to listen to, though.

   The series ran first from 1941 to 1949, then was picked up again for the 1953-54 season, with Cedric Hardwicke in the leading role. It ran first locally on WOR New York, then expanded nationwide to the Mutual network, sometimes with a sponsor, other years only sustaining.

THE SHADOW “Death Rides a Broomstick.” Mutual, 02 March 1941. Bill Johnstone (Lamont Cranston, a/k/a The Shadow), Marjorie Anderson (Margot Lane). Script: Jerry Devine. Sponsor: Blue Coal.

   Packed into this short 30 minute drama is boatload of old pulp clichés, beginning with a woman accused of being a witch in the Scottish highlands in 1741. Before she is burned to death at the stake, she issues a curse upon the McCavery clan responsible: “death to all male descendants still living 200 years later,” which is when the story then takes up.


   Add a mysterious dark mansion where Margo and Lamont are greeted but turned away by a gangster who calls himself The Smiler, a open graveyard outside, an escaped convict who is a prisoner inside, a dingy tavern by the sea filled with all sorts of thugs, a twist in the tale, ending with the curse fulfilled and a spooky cackle in the air.

   Pure nonsense of course, but with the lights turned down low, nonetheless a lot of fun.

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