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NBC Mystery Theatre with Geoffrey Barnes, Bernard Lenrow, and Dan Seymour

NBC's Mystery Theatre began airing on September 7, 1943. It was aided from the outset by the addition of an 'annotator'--as it was described in the 1940s--named Geoffrey Barnes. The annotator served in the role of expositor, filling in on the plot development as necessary and providing a back-story when needed. The apparent distinction made between a narrator and an annotator, was a matter of degree. Mr. Barnes, a distinguished and celebrated amateur criminologist in his own right, was apparently on hand to help the listener analyze and understand the various mysteries and their underlying crimes within each script.

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NBC Presents: Screen Directors Series with Ken Carpenter

"During its tenure on NBC, "Screen Directors' Playhouse" has presented a balanced ration of serious dramas, comedies, and musicals.  Among the films which have been adapted for the series are "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," "Music for Millions," "A Foreign Affair," "The Magnificent Obsession," "The Human Comedy," and "It's a Wonderful Life."

     The roster of players who have starred in "Playhouse" productions includes James Stewart, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Barbara Stanwyck, Loretta Young, Rosalind Russell, Fred MacMurray, Fred Astair, June Allyson, William Powell, Dana Andrews, Lucille Ball, Dan Dailey, Mickey Rooney, and Charles Boyer."

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NBC Presents: Short Story

NBC Presents: Short Story first aired on February 21, 1951 as a natural extension of NBC's critically and popularly successful NBC University Theater productions, later retitled NBC Theater. Beginning in 1942, NBC had formalized its concept of the NBC University of The Air and its companion NBC Inter-American University of The Air. Throughout the mid-1940s NBC produced some twenty-five productions specifically designed to both educate and entertain. NBC Presents Short Story continued in that vein, devoting the first two minutes of each production to a brief history of the author of the work to be presented that evening.

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NBC Star Playhouse

NBC's Best Plays series--prestigious or not--hadn't seemed to be able to keep up with audience expectations of the era, flooded as they were with competing 'playhouse format' programming both lighter and featuring more popular stars of the era. NBC's solution was the best of both worlds: compelling dramatic vehicles presented and framed by their already established famous critic, John Chapman. Presented in an hour-long format, the full hour afforded the opportunity for both a finer production and to capture their audience for an hour instead of a half-hour--if they could keep the series compelling. Against that backdrop, NBC premiered its NBC Star Playhouse on October 4, 1953, the week following its final production of Best Plays.

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NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays with Eugene O'Neill

 "    Carrying forward the policy established last year of presenting serious drama in the summer, the NBC network announces that for the new season it will broadcast a cycle of Pulitzer Prize plays.
     Starting June 2 and for the next three months, there will be a Pulitzer play on the WJZ-NBC list of stations, each Thursday night drama to last an hour.  The opener is "Craig's Wife," by George Kelly, which won the award in 1925.
     Altogether one or two more than a dozen of the 20 Pulitzer plays will be included in the series, among them "Strange Interlude," "Men in White," and "Both Your Houses."
     It is the intention to use the regular list of radio actors and not "big name" talent.  Adaptations and direction also will be by the regular staff, with the New York studios as the originating point.
     Last summer's series was highlighted with the Shakespeare dramas."

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NBC University of the Air: American Novels

American Novels was one of the many initiatives of the NBC University of The Air and NBC Inter-American University of The Air productions produced between 1942 and 1948. The theme of NBC University of The Air's American Novels was "books that live." These were distinctly American novels that continued to provide the same message and substance irrespective of the era of their first printing. These were timeless stories of human struggle, resolve, and reaffirmation that both encouraged and inspired the reader--or in this instance, the listener.

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NBC University of the Air: The American Story with Archibald MacLeish

As a natural extension of NBC University of The Air, NBC also embarked on several NBC Presents and NBC Theater Presents network-sustained and sponsored initiatives upon reevaluating the success and acceptance of it's University of The Air intiatives of the 1940s. 1948 marked the year that NBC determined that the public was seeking accurate and informative programming, to be sure, but that much of the public audience of the post-War years was somewhat put off by the word 'University' in the titles of such programming. From that point forward, NBC's more prestigious, signature productions bore the "NBC Presents" title in one form or another. As one of the formalized NBC University of The Air initiatives, The American Story was almost certainly its most ambitious and authoritative of the era.

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NBC University of the Air: Tales of the Foreign Service

Tales of The Foreign Service began as a summer replacement for the second season of NBC University of The Air's The World's Great Novels program. Beginning with the productions of 1946, NBC University of The Air embarked on a series of productions emphasizing the importance of The United Nations and international diplomacy. Tales of The Foreign Service was a logical extension of this emphasis which added both educational and adventure elements to the NBC University of The Air programming. Initially planned as a run of some seventeen weeks, the programming was eventually programmed for twenty-seven weeks.

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NBC University of the Air: We Came This Way with Ben Grauer

The series was inaugurated, appropriately enough, with the history of the signing of the Magna Carta, one of modern civilization's most significant universal ideals of a modern legal system. The Magna Carta became the basis for most of the common law employed throughout the civilized world. Such legal concepts as the rights of the accused and the principle of habeas corpus or "you have the body." It established the rights of anyone held for an alleged crime or infraction to have every aspect of their detention or charges to be recorded and defined for any possible challenges to those actions. Other common laws reasserted by the Magna Carta were in regards to the conveyance of property or land, principles of fair trade and taxation, and provisions for establishing a bond of marriage between a man and woman.

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NBC University of the Air: The World's Great Novels

With the reinauguration of NBC University of The Air (and NBC Inter-American University of The Air) on July 6, 1942, NBC directly collaborated with colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada to help create curricula that would grant higher-education credits for some of the University of The Air programming. This collaboration continued through approximately 1948.

NBC University of The Air's The World's Great Novels, while not the most enduring of the NBC University of The Air series', was certainly one of its most ambitious. Running for some one-hundred and forty-nine episodes, the series aired for four complete seasons between October 14, 1944 and July 23, 1948. During that period, The World's Greatest Novels aired a total of sixty, single-episode and multi-part dramatizations of the world's greatest novels (as cataloged in the sidebar at left).

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NBC University Theater with Ernest Kinoy

With the final episode of NBC University of The Air's production of The World's Great Novels in 1948, NBC reevaluated the NBC University of The Air concept and success over the past decade, determined to both continue the educational priorities of its NBC University concept, while at the same time developing further educational programming as equally entertaining as it was instructive. Indeed, NBC University Theater, after airing two 'semesters' and a 'Summer Schedule' of NBC University Theater, changed the title of NBC University Theater to simply, NBC Theater. As reported in Time Magazine, NBC executives felt that the presence of the word 'University' in the title of the program left the wrong impression with its listeners.

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The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe

This brings us to the first full run of Nero Wolfe in circulation--The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe--over the National Broadcasting Company network. This series starred Sydney Greenstreet as Nero Wolfe, and no less than five solid chracter actors in the role of Archie Goodwin: Wally Maher (in one of his last Radio roles), Lamont Johnson, Herb Ellis, Gerald Mohr, and Harry Bartell. This is the series that has most popularized Nero Wolfe on Radio. Indeed, given the truly impressive talent of each of the replacement Archies, the performances over the entire run of this production remain well-mounted, highly listenable, compelling examples of the Nero Wolfe mystery franchise.

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The New Adventures of the Thin Man with Dashiell Hammett, Les Tremayne and Claudia Morgan

Halfway into the fifteen episodes of the Summer of 1948's The New Adventures of the Thin Man NBC realized that the revised format wasn't working, so they scrapped the watered down Thin Man and returned to the detective mystery drama format. But that required them to park it in the only available post-curfew time-slot--10:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights. Of course, rather than salvaging the format, the impromptu revamping virtually assured an exponential drop in its already dwindling audience.

So it was that the Thin Man franchise winnowed down to a mere hint of its former popularity, having been handed down the Network line from NBC, to CBS, back to NBC, back to CBS, down to MBS and finally down to ABC.

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New Theater with Eva Le Gallienne and Ernest Kinoy

When it came time for Ms. Le Gallienne to host her own, long-awaited Radio program, many of her most successful former students were lining up to appear in her Summer Drama anthology of 1951. Le Gallienne could easily have showcased a single one of her former students in each of even fifty-two programs had NBC chosen to shape the series in that manner. As it was, NBC, in typical fashion, apparently had no clue what it had on its hands. After waffling over and teasing the title "Eva Le Gallienne Presents the NBC New Theater" for a couple of months, NBC in explicably reduced the name of the Summer series to simply, New Theater,' a somewhat less ceremonious celebration of a showcase for one of American Drama's most famous promoters, performers, producers and coaches.

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Night Beat with Frank Lovejoy and Joan Banks

According to NBC's timpani-accompanied lead-in to the promotional recording of their proposed Night Beat program, "the mystery program is a good Radio buy. . . low in cost, high in appeal." They further quote Variety: "The Crime sagas enjoy a per-point rating pay-off calculated to make the sponsors do hand-springs." Florid prose, to be sure, but 'calculatedly' persuasive. Indeed, with Radio entering an era of heated competition with Television, NBC's pitch was quite transparently 'calculated' to persuade sponsors to spend a little more money on Radio, while still exploring the wild-wild-west of early Television competition.

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Night Watch with Donn Reed

The post World War II and Korean War era was but a transition to the Cold War years. This was a period of intense fear mongering designed to underscore and gain further support for the 'the military-industrial complex' that President Eisenhower warned the nation to 'beware of', as he prepared to leave office in 1961. We grant that it was a completely different time and place in American history, but by the same token, habeas corpus hadn't been suspended even then. Thus it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief to actually believe all that transpires in the course of these fascinating recordings. We grant as well, that there's clearly an appeal to the voyeur in all of these recordings--and the similiarly themed Unit 99 out of San Diego that evolved shortly after this series. Indeed, Jack Webb had long since tapped into voyeuristic appeal with his long-running Dragnet. The Line-Up was another similiarly themed Crime Drama anthology that used hyper-realistic scripts to lend both a voyeuristic and schadenfreude appeal to the proceedings.

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Nightmare with Peter Lorre

Out of the Dark of Night, from the shadows of the senses comes this, the Fantasy of Fear--'Nightmare' . . . starring your exciting guide to terror, Peter Lorre.

One of Radio's 'Masters of the Macabre,' Peter Lorre, was a plum acquisition by MBS. He'd already appeared in hundreds of individual roles in the thriller genre. He'd even hosted at least three popular thriller Radio programs of his own prior to 1953. One can only assume that MBS made a very generous offer to Lorre for his services--even as late as 1953--and they got their money's worth.

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Now Hear This with Jackson Beck and Larry Haines

Now Hear This was one of the better produced, written, and performed docudrama productions of the post-War era. Co-produced by Navy Recruiting and NBC, the east-coast productions featured some of the era's finest east-coast talent. Well-written, directed and paced, the series provided as many as twenty-one highly compelling vignettes of naval exploits, punctuated by one or two Navy recruiting messages. As indicated in the Billboard review below, the reviewer found the premiere episode, Fire At Sea, equally well-dramatized, performed and written.

Initially conceived solely as a Summer replacement of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings, with the popularity of Now Hear This, the program was extended beyond its Summer replacement run for seven more weeks of programming in some NBC markets. On the east coast, for example, Now Hear This continued on in the 5:30 p.m, Sunday timeslot through November 11, 1951, while in the midwest, the 4:30 p.m., Sunday timeslot was replaced with the TV and Radio simulcasts of Martin Kane, Private Detective, starring William Gargan, then Lee Tracy in the starring role.

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Obsession with C. P. MacGregor

C. P. MacGregor's offerings over the years were an equal mix of independently produced, Government-commissioned, and commercially-commissioned productions. Obsession was an example of one of C. P. MacGregor's independently produced series. Obsession's first subscriber appears to have been WBBM, Chicago; at the time, the CBS Key Station for Chicago and the midwest.

WBBM launched MacGregor's Obsession series on October 9th 1950 as a filler program until January 15th 1951 at which time it began airing on a Monday night regular basis until May 12th 1952.

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Old Gold Comedy Theatre of the Air with Harold Lloyd

Old Gold's The Comedy Theatre premiered on October 29th 1944 in a half-hour format over NBC. For Harold Lloyd fans the series was pure gold. Exercising the same control he'd employed in all of his feature films, Harold Lloyd produced, directed and narrated the entire run of Old Gold's The Comedy Theatre of the Air. Aided by many of Lloyd's Film friends, the series featured different Film or Stage stars each week, headlining a popular light comedy adaptation of the era.

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One Out of Seven Radio Log with Jack Webb

Jack Webb's first solo outing was in One Out of Seven, which premiered over ABC's KGO on February 6, 1946. Airing on Wednesday evenings at 9 p.m. throughout the Bay Area, the series was a commentary on one of the seven most interesting or compelling wire service stories to surface for that week.

As the opener for each episode portentously announced:

"24 hours make a day. Seven days make one week. And from these past seven days, the Editors here in our San Francisco newsroom have chosen the one story which they have judged "most worthy of retelling." This is 'One Out of Seven'! "

And indeed, Jack Webb both prefaced and closed each broadcast with the following disclaimer:

"The material and direct quotations included within the following program have been taken from authoritative files and from dispatches filed by the Associated Press and International News Service. We present these statements without editorial comment. We assume no responsibility for their content."

A prudent disclaimer indeed, given the potentially volatile premiere story: an exposé of the 'honorable' Senator Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, arguably one of the most blatantly racist members of the United States Senate of his era.

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One World Flight with Norman Corwin and Wendell Willkie

It was as an emissary of the United States that Wendell Willkie most contributed to national security. Willkie wasn't simply a rainy day one-worlder. He saw the bigger picture. He witnessed the big picture first-hand. He wasn't simply another chicken-hawk posturing for the war-related industry continuency back home. He put the pieces together as they were presented to him.

In cooperation with Freedom House and The Foreign Policy Association, Wendell Willkie inaugurated the One World Award, awarding a grant of a world tour similar to that taken by Willkie himself, to an individual exemplifying the spirit of the One World ideal. That first annual award was given to Norman Corwin, in recognition of the innumerable other projects he'd undertaken with both CBS and in aid of The CIA, The War Department, or the State Department over the years.

It was that grant that made it possible for Norman Corwin to embark on his own 37,000 mile journey of discovery of the One World ideal that Willkie had envisioned. What had the intervening World War done to that ideal? How had it affected the international community's resolve to approach, reevaluate, or continue to undertake Willkie's obvservations of a One World philosophy? Was a war-weary world even prepared to address such an undertaking?

Those are the questions Norman Corwin and his crew hoped to answer--or at the least address--during their 37,000 globe circling journey.

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Orson Welles Almanac with Orson Welles

Mercury Theatre's penultimate incarnation was another departure--Mercury Theatre's Orson Welles Radio Almanac for 1944. It was a combination of interview and commentary, sketch, and variety. The twenty-six episode series featured some of the biggest stars of Radio, Screen, and Stage in a uncharacteristically laid back type of format. Welles took the opportunity to stage several dramatic and patriotic presentations over the course of the run as well. The series was equal parts poignant, humorous, stirring and refreshingly candid on occasion.

Indeed, it's Orson Welles' far more laid back candor that makes this subset of the Mercury Theatre canon so unique, not to mention the absolutely extraordinary array of Hollywood's elite in guest roles.

Orson Welles' sponsor for at least fifty-two weeks of Welles' 1945 15-minute commentaries was Lear Home Radios and Wire Recorders. Lear had achieved great success with its military aviation controls and radios throughout World War II. As with many successful milliary suppliers of the era, Lear had a great deal of cash on hand and an even greater desire to break out of the post-War era with viable peacetime consumer products and general aviation applications. Almost immediately suffering something of an identity crisis, the program was first promoted as the Lear Radio Show, then Lear Radio Presents Orson Welles, and ultimately, Orson Welles' Almanac. The program premiered on Sunday afternoons in a 15-minute format on September 16, 1945. Even more dramatically reduced in scope than the preceding three concepts for the program, the series ultimately aired featuring predominately Orson Welles and his commentaries, with occasional supporting appearances by guest celebrities and friends in a fairly relaxed, informal setting.

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Our Miss Brooks with Eve Arden, Jeff Chandler and Richard Crenna

Airing sustained for its first six broadcasts, Our Miss Brooks found a solid sponsor in Colgate-Palmolive-Peet beginning with the broadcast of October 3rd 1948, "The Conklin's Anniversary at Crystal Lake." It's just as well that Our Miss Brooks ended up with a soap and beauty sponsor. One of the recurring gags of the series was Mrs. Davis' abominable breakfast concoctions which would have put a definite damper on any potential breakfast cereal sponsors or other food and beverage sponsors. By the time of the Colgate sponsorship, the cast had added Gloria McMillan as Mr. Conklin's daughter Harriet and legendary character actor Gale Gordon joined the cast as Mr. Conklin. Bob Lemond became the show's announcer. The addition of Gale Gordon was the final additive that made Our Miss Brooks an almost instant hit across America. The combination of Gale Gordon's droll, testy quips and Eve Arden's insouciant sarcasm and wise-cracking produced 'Radio Magic' on a par with Howard Duff and Lurene Tuttle, Burns and Allen, or Jim and Marion Jordan.

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The Pacific Story with Gayne Whitman

There's no question that the time was right for relating the story of World War II in the Pacific Theatre. As one of the last, ambitious undertakings of NBC's Inter-American University of The Air presentations, The Pacific Story set out to provide a thoroughly researched series of 'white papers' describing the history and geopolitical backdrop to The War in The Pacific. The initial order of thirteen installments framed the run up to War with Japan as indicated by their titles.

Had the series progressed no further than those first thirteen installments, it would have stood as one of Radio's most comprehensive and scholarly backgrounders on the economics, politics, geography, and geopolitical dynamics of Japan's perceived need for expansion beyond the confines of its own territories.

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Passport for Adams with Norman Corwin, Robert Young and Bernard Herrmann

CBS knew a winner when they had one. Radio's second largest network wasn't particularly altruistic--somewhat the contrary in fact, but its feedback from the cards, letters and telegrams that poured in during all of Norman Corwin's various projects with CBS bore testament to Corwin's vast, diverse--and loyal--following throughout Radio's Golden Age, to the great chagrin of the arch-conservative right wing forces of the era. But irrespective of the waxing and waning political tides of the 1940s and 1950s, CBS simply couldn't dispute Norman Corwin's genius--though Corwin himself consistently denied any genius on his part. Indeed, in spite of the often love-hate relationship between CBS and its brilliant young writer, the unmistakable poetry of Norman Corwin's productions kept their often rocky relationship thriving for almost sixteen years.

Passport for Adams provided Norman Corwin to expand his talents into producing and directing a recurring adventure drama series complete with a big name lead, excellent writing and music underscore, and a topic Norman Corwin was passionate about--the united nations participating in World War II. This was a theme that Corwin had already visited with his An American In England series as well as a theme he'd expand even futher with One World Flight.

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Pat Novak . . . for Hire with Jack Webb, Raymond Burr, William Conrad, Tudor Owen and Fred Foy

'Patsy Novak.' That's the original listing given to what eventually became one of Jack Webb, Richard Breen and William P. Rousseau's most popular brainchildren. One can only imagine that the newspapers were responding to an advance recording of the program--or perhaps that's the way that KGO and Rousseau teased it. The newspapers of the era referred to the program variously as Patsy Novak, Pat Novak Presents, Patsy Novak for Hire, Novak for Hire, then eventually, Pat Novak for Hire. The newspapers finally got it right once Gallenkamp Shoes began placing full-gutter ads at the beginning of the Comics section of the Oakland Tribune (see above) every weekend. While we're not absolutely certain that Miss America of 1946 actually listened to the series, we're taking it as an act of faith in Gallenkamp's Shoes that she did.

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Pete Kelly's Blues with Jack Webb, William Conrad and Tudor Owen

Though only thirteen Pete Kelly's Blues programs ever aired, it's popularity and historical significance far outweigh the length of its run. Pete Kelly's Blues was a favorite project of creators Jack Webb and Richard L. Breen. A short-lived, summer replacement program for NBC, Jack Webb would go on to help develop and star in the feature film Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and an eventual Television version of Pete Kelly's Blues (1959) for his Mark VII, Limited production company. Both the radio program and film met critical success . . . the Television version, not so much.

We went about as far as current information retrieval technology would permit us with this log. We give you the actual numbers that both the Big 7 and the Maggie Jackson [Meredith Howard] song selections to help log the few circulating episodes, as well as revealing what appears to be either a rehearsal or an audition of one of the remaining circulating episodes.

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Philco Radio Time with Bing Crosby and Ken Carpenter

Philco Radio Time was an historic marker in the history of Broadcast Radio. Premiering on October 16th 1946 to great fanfare, Philco launched an all-out campaign to promote the new series. Bing Crosby had ended a ten-year association with Kraft Foods in 1945, the better to provide him more independence in producing any further Radio programs. The sweetener that sealed the deal with Philco was their agreement to allow Crosby to pre-record his programs; initially via E.T. and later via magnetic tape transcription.

Philco was of course no novice in Radio promotion by any measure. Philco's extensive campaign throughout the run of Philco Radio Time not only built on Philco's previous prestige production, Radio Hall of Fame, but also promoted all of Philco's newest developments in both Radio and early affordable Television. The Billboard trade magazine reported that Philco's production budget for Philco RadioTime was $2,000,000, with another $500,000 devoted to Print promotion of the series and Philco's product line. Put in context, the same budget in today's dollars would be in excess of $25 million; a very generous budget to be sure. And indeed, a glance at the the Print ads Philco commisioned to promote Philco Radio Time (sidebar left) underscores the extraordinary good taste and exceptional quality of the campaign.

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The Adventures of Philip Marlowe with Gerald Mohr, Van Heflin and Raymond Chandler

The success of The Adventures of Sam Spade, Detective served as a natural springboard for all manner of both short-lived and long-running Radio Detectives of the era. But it was the extraordinary success of the three Raymond Chandler penned Philip Marlowe movies that made Philip Marlowe a natural gamble for Radio.

So it was that The Adventures of Philip Marlowe came to Radio in the Summer of 1947 as a Pepsodent Program replacement for their wildly popular show starring Bob Hope and his ensemble. Both CBS and Pepsodent promoted the first nine programs to the maximum extent. In all likelihood as much to promote Van Heflin himself, as to keep The Pepsodent Program's time slot nice and cozy for Bob Hope's return in The Fall of 1947. Indeed, the fact that Van Heflin got far greater billing than Raymond Chandler himself, demonstrates the relative celebrity of the two diverse talents for their time.

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Philip Morris Great Moments From Great Plays with Alan Reed

The format here is the key. Acknowledging the talent expense of devoting sufficient rehearsal time to the classic plays of the era, CBS chose instead to promote the very best of a specific play--its 'great moments.' It was an interesting approach. Had CBS mounted the series as a sustained production, it's quite possible that it would have found far greater success than it eventually did. Once Philip Morris signed on to sponsor--and underwrite--the production, it became clear to all parties that simply excising the 'great moments' from the proposed plays wouldn't be enough to meet Philip Morris' target bottom line.

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Philip Morris Playhouse

Philip Morris inaugurated its 'Playhouse' format in 1941 with its Philip Morris Playhouse, running for eight years, on and off, between 1941 and 1949. Airing first over CBS from August 1941 through February of 1944, the Philip Morris Playhouse aired for one more season between October of 1948 and July of 1949.

Airing on the heels of the Philip Morris-sponsored, Great Moments from Great Plays, Philip Morris Playhouse offered a few more options to one of Radio's most experienced advertisers and producers. Great Moments from Great Plays had emphasized abridged versions or excerpts of some of the classic stage plays throughout history. Philip Morris Playhouse, by contrast, allowed the producers to mount fuller versions of more popular, contemporary plays of the era.

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Philip Morris Playhouse On Broadway with Ken Roberts

Philip Morris had inaugurated its own 'Playhouse' format in 1941 with its Philip Morris Playhouse, running for eight years between 1941 and 1951. Airing first over CBS from August 1941 through February of 1944, the Philip Morris Playhouse aired for one more season between October of 1948 and July of 1949.

The first CBS season of Philip Morris Playhouse On Broadway showcased some of the more popular Broadway plays of the era, as well as the talents of some of the finer east coast Film and Stage luminaries of the era. Great Stage and Film character actors such as Joseph Schildkraut, Walter Abel, Louis Calhern, Dane Clark, Marsha Hunt, Edmond O'Brien, Olga San Juan, Martha Scott, Chester Morris, Lucille Watson, Edward Everett Horton, Jessica Tandy, and Hume Cronyn added their solid performances to the half-hour format. That first season also showcased Film and Stage superstars of the era, such as Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Veronica Lake, Margaret Sullavan, Eva LeGallienne, Joan Bennett, Rosalind Russell, Lillian Gish, and Gloria Swanson.

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Philo Vance with Jackson Beck, Jose Ferrer, John Emery, Frances Robinson and Joan Alexander

S.S. Van Dine's Philo Vance remains arguably the most aristocratic of the popular Gentleman Detectives of the modern era of Detective Fiction. He clearly possessed every bit of the arrogance of Sherlock Holmes, Gregory Hood, and even Ellery Queen. But one might argue that, as an aristocrat with no lack of self-confidence, at the very least he wasn't hobbled by either cocaine addiction or an overbearing father. Indeed he's arguably most like Gregory Hood in many aspects of his basic personality.

Our personal preference is Jackson Beck's masterful depiction of Philo Vance, but there's as much to be said for the two Jose Ferrer examples in circulation. Neither can we forget to add the Ellen Deering character to the mix. The Jose Ferrer incarnation of Philo Vance had his personal secretary 'Lane' Randall at his side. And as charming as Frances Robinson always was, that particular combination is more reminiscent of Let George Do It, or The Adventures of Sam Spade.

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Phyl Coe Radio Mysteries with Peggy Allenby, Bud Collyer and Philco Radio

On-air contests weren't unknown to Radio by the mid-1930s. Many early broadcast sponsors distributed premiums--both free and at nominal cost--via their serial adventure programs, serial melodramas or variety programs. But Philco's 1937 national promotion was arguably the most extensive, lucrative and expensive Radio promotion in the history of Radio to that point. Philco mounted a year-long, highly aggressive campaign on many fronts, to coincide with production of their Ten Millionth commerical radio set--"the famous High-Fidelity 116xx with Automatic Tuning on the new Inclined Control Panel." "Phyl" Coe Radio Mysteries (1937) was the third major wave in their 12-month promotional campaign.

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Phone Again, Finnegan with Stuart Erwin, Florence Lake, Harry Stewart, and Frank McHugh

Phone Again, Finnegan had much to recommend it. A situation comedy set in a typical medium-sized town in Anywhere, U.S.A., the focus of the production was The Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel (or apartment house). The fascinating cast included Stuart Erwin as the absent minded Fairchild Finnegan, Manager of The Welcome Arms. But the person who really ran the place was veteran Film actress Florence Lake as the worldly-wise, philosophical switchboard operator with the unlikely name, Fanchon Smith. The other most often recurring role was that of The Welcome Arms' janitor cum poet, Longfellow Larson, a Swedish Renaissance Man portrayed by Harry Stewart essentially reprising his Yogi Yorgesson character from his Al Pearce and The Gang (1934) years on Radio

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Plays for Americans with Arch Oboler

As the World War II effort rolled on, both CBS and NBC brought their brightest stars to bear on patriotic and inspirational wartime drama. In 1941, NBC contracted with Arch Oboler to write a series of new radioplays with a central theme: "dedicated to people of goodwill, everywhere, who believe in the inherent dignity of Man."

Originally approached about the project by the Hollywood Victory Committee, Oboler agreed to undertake the series for NBC, initially intending to produce eight new original radioplays for the series. His "U.S. Ugly Duck" was inspired by the March 20, 1942 news article about one of the first Liberty ships to be commissioned under United States emergency wartime building program. It was also one of the first to have circumnavigated the horn of South Africa to enter the Mediterranean through the Straits of Hormuz--without encountering any U-boat resistance.

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The Police Reporter

"This broadcast inaugurates a new radio series:  true murder mysteries brought to you by The Police Reporter.  Carefully planned crimes which were solved by intelligent effort and clever detective work.  The cases we dramatize for you actually happened.  The following true murder mystery is an example."

So opens the first broadcast of The Police Reporter, a twenty-six show series of some of the most sensational, brutal and gruesome murders in history.  From the 1557 London case of Lord Charles Stourton, to the 1931 case of John "Red" Downing, the convict who built Ohio's first electric chair--only to be executed in it, these were sensational, headline-grabbing crimes, many of which garnered worldwide attention.  Crimes so horrible that you didn't want to hear about them, but then you just couldn't help yourself.

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Ports of Call

First heard simultaneously in the Bay Area and Southern California, Ports of Call appears to have debuted in September 1935, running almost continuously throughout California and as far away as Washington, D.C., as late as 1937 during its first runs. The Los Angeles run premiered over Los Angeles radio station KFWB, a Warner Brothers-owned station. Pierce Brothers Funeral Directors picked up the tab for the entire KFWB run of twenty-six programs as weekend or Monday night features. Don Lee-Mutual network station, KFRC, premiered its first broadcasts of Ports of Call in the San Francisco Bay area as a Sunday afternoon feature.

The full symphony orchestra and chorus that accompanied the musical excerpts throughout each program were exceptional for the musical fare of the era. As a tour of World Music alone, the series holds up as well today as it did in the mid-1930s. As a geography or geopolitics feature, the series shows its wear over the years--or rather, the geopolitical World shows its wear over the years. Coming as it did upon the heels of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, the somewhat idealized world view of the era managed to keep propaganda at a minimum. This lends an even more--at once idealized and dispassionate--even tone to each country highlighted during the productions.

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Powder Box Theatre

Powder Box Theatre got off to a rousing start for its first thirteen installments with a parade of big name stars for its 'guest' segments. The 'theatre' element of Powder Box Theatre was a nod to the infrequent dramatic skits generally performed in participation with the evening's 'Guest' performer. Judging by the sheer quantity of musical pieces included in almost every installment, the dramatized presentations and skits must have been quite abbreviated.


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Presenting Charles Boyer with Charles Boyer

In retrospect, Charles Boyer should have been an inspired choice for a popular Radio anti-hero. He'd already portrayed the notorious Pepe le Moko in Algiers (1938) and several other Film scoundrels and intrigue artists of the era. A summer replacement for Johnson Wax's Fibber McGee and Molly, the series was originally scheduled for a 13-week summer run only.

The series was auditioned as The Adventures of Marcel. 'Marcel' was to be the archetypal suave international rogue. On the pretext of a wager, Marcel (Charles Boyer) cajoles a well-known writer, Mr. Ramsey (Raymond Burr), into gambling the viability of one of Marcel's yarns against $200 and the price of their meal together. In addition to Raymond Burr, the audition is wonderfully supported with Lurene Tuttle, Peter Leeds and Stacy Harris.

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The Price of Fear with Vincent Price

The Price of Fear will always be associated more with Vincent Price the famous American actor and host of the series, than its British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) production history. BBC's World Service first broadcast the intial order of five The Price of Fear episodes in the Spring of 1973. The initial five episodes aired consecutively, Monday through Friday between July 2, 1973 and July 6, 1973, then again between December 17 and December 21 of the same year. The World Service broadcasts were so popular that the BBC ordered another five, which, combined with the previous five episodes, apparently aired weekly on both Tuesdays and Saturdays, from September 1, 1973 to November 6, 1973.

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The Private Files of Rex Saunders with Rex Harrison, Leon Janney and Himan Brown.

As a detective--gentleman or otherwise--Rex Harrison lends a distinctively intelligent and understated confidence to the role. He's not quite as nonchalant as The Thin Man's Nick Charles, not as arrogant as Philo Vance, and not as melodramatic as Sherlock Holmes or Radio's Philip Marlowe. In short, he's both 'just right' and entirely fascinating--and competent--as detective Rex Saunders. Leon Janney's rendition of Saunders' assistant, Alec, complements Harrison's delivery of his Saunders characterization. Not the typical stooge assistant, nor quite as clever as Nero Wolfe's Archie, Leon Janney's Alec is given the same latitude as some of Radio's other more helpful detective assistants.

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The Prudential Family Hour of Stars with Ray Milland and Carmen Dragon

Initially promoted as a rotating ensemble production featuring six major Hollywood movie stars, the build-up to the premiere also promised that major Hollywood Film Sextet in original dramas, whatever that hoped to convey. It was an ambitious undertaking for the era to be sure. The initial six promised Film stars were:

  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Bette Davis
  • Gregory Peck
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Barbara Stanwyck
  • Robert Taylor

A stunning promised line-up to be sure. All six promised actors represented some of Film's most famous and popular names of the era. But managing and scheduling such a prestigious core of feature artists ultimately proved to be--as might be expected-- more like wrangling a herd of cats, even for a sponsor with the deep pockets of The Prudential.

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Pulitzer Prize Plays with Eugene O'Neill

Despite the fact that Streamlined Shakespeare received little critical praise, NBC decided to give classic American drama another serious try in 1938, announcing that the new summer season would include a cycle of Pulitzer prize-winning plays, titled Pulitzer Prize Plays

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Pursuit with Ted de Corsia, Ben Wright and Leith Stevens

Over the course of Pursuit's compartively short run of sixty-five episodes, Pursuit found no less than nine national sponsors to one degree or another. Pursuit aired during a period of innovative sponsorship plans offered by all four major networks. Television was taking hold across America. Television receivers had become more affordable to middle America and the new medium was exponentially eating away at Radio's bottom line. CBS, NBC and Mutual were the most aggressive innovators in creating time-slicing or time-sharing packages for national, regional and local sponsors alike. From durable, big-name sponsors to the 'snake-oil' products of the era, CBS' own time-sharing plan--The Power Plan--provided smaller or low-budget sponsors the opportunity to participate in primetime week night programming by bundling their messages with those of other companies or sponsors. It also afforded some of the conglomerates of the era the opportunity to showcase their major lines over several primetime broadcasts during a predetermined block of popular network programming.

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The Pursuit of Happiness with Norman Corwin and Burgess Meredith

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . of these we sing."

The Pursuit of Happiness was a one-season showcase combining some of Corwin's adaptations with popular, patriotic variety artists and skits of the era. Typical of the overwhelming majority of Corwin's productions, the series was a patriotic celebration of Americans and their heritage. Aired immediately following CBS' weekly Sunday afternoon New York Philharmonic Concert, CBS employed The Pursuit of Happiness as a bumper of sorts since the Philharmonic concerts often ran a bit long--but what a bumper!.

Hosted by Burgess Meredith, who also performed in most of the episodes, the series tagline (above) nicely captured the sense of the series--a variety of celebrations of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" as interpreted through America's greatest performers, writers, and authors. A CBS sustaining production, The Pursuit of Happiness managed to shoehorn an extraordinary amount of entertainment into its 25 to 30 minute format.

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The Queen's Men with Harry Alan Towers

George Weston, Limited had become one of Canada's most successful food producers and distributors by 1954. Founded in 1882 by Toronto bread salesman George Weston, the company survived both World War I and the Great Depression to become one of Canada's most popularly traded growth stocks. Famous throughout the Golden Age of Radio era for its wide variety of biscuits and candies, by 1954 George Weston, Limited had expanded its holdings by acquiring a number of competing bakeries, grocery store chains, and candy and ice cream companies.

So it was that at the beginning of its greatest period of 1950s expansion, George Weston, Ltd. and its various Weston's biscuit and cracker brands determined to sponsor Harry Alan Towers' latest British programme, The Queen's Men over CBC station CKRC, Winnipeg.

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The Quick and The Dead

Radio mounted all manner of scientific, technological and social awareness programming in the wake of the Atomic Age. Most of them, while understandably dry in content were almost immediately quite well received. Atomic energy and technology also found their way into all manner of mystery, detective, science fiction, supernatural and thriller dramas of the era. But the most effective Radio vehicles for educating a public hungry for both the details and explanation of the new technology were the documentaries and quasi-documentaries of the era.

NBC's own carefully prepared contribution was The Quick and The Dead: A Document for Ear on Atomic Energy . Having learned throughout World War II of the persuasiveness of star power in attracting an audience to a message, NBC obtained the services of Bob Hope to host the mini-documentary. Many of the higher profile message series' of the cold war era found no lack of high-profile celebraties to front their presentations. Bob Hope was a particularly inspired choice.

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Quiet! Please with Ernest Chappell and Wyllis Cooper

Quiet Please was promoted by both the Mutual Broadcasting System and Wyllis Cooper as a "new-type psychological drama with the listening audience slated to become part of the program." That description sums up virtually all of the scripts that Wyllis Cooper ever wrote for Radio during the Golden Age. Wyllis Cooper, arguably more than many of his contemporaries, viewed his Radio audience as individuals. He wrote to individuals. He crafted most of his scripts from an individual point of view. Personal dilemmas, personal foibles, personal obsessions, and personal terrors formed the basis for the overwhelming body of his work.

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