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The Inspector Thorne Radio Radio Program

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Inspector Thorne mp3 Cover Art
Inspector Thorne mp3 Cover Art

Anne Hummert article from Screen and Radio Weekly March 22, 1936
Anne Hummert article from Screen and Radio Weekly March 22, 1936


Inspector Thorne was a short-lived Crime drama anthology that NBC rolled out under the Hummert franchise. Anne and Frank Hummert were two of Radio's most prolific creators, writers, and producers of all manner of serial melodrama--daytime soaps--throughout The Golden Age of Radio. Though almost universally associated with soaps, their talents didn't end with serial potboilers. Indeed most Radio collectors aren't aware of the prodigious output of long-running crime, mystery, and detective dramas they produced. During the 1940s and early 1950s the Hummerts turned their talents to several Detective and Crime fiction dramas:

  • Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons (1940-1944)
  • Front Page Farrell (1944-1950)
  • Mr. Chameleon (1949-1953)
  • Inspector Thorne (1951)
  • Hearthstone of The Death Squad (1951-1952)

They also lent their talents to Variety programs as well, with programs such as Manhattan Merry Go Round (1932-1949) and The American Melody Hour (1941-1948).

The hallmark of most Hummert productions was a very formulaic script arc. The Hummerts were in great demand for their soaps, but their crime and detective dramas lacked a great deal of the novelty, punch, and edge of the more popular competing radio noir dramas of the 1940s and 1950s. They kept things 'safe' for the most part. Their track record for finding, pleasing and keeping commercial sponsors was the stuff of legend in Radio. So it stood to reason that the tried and true formula was the safest. Keeping sponsors happy was almost certainly the overriding impetus of commercial Radio and the Hummerts' record for holding sponsors for as much as decades at a time underscores their talent for playing it safe.

Inspector Thorne premieres over NBC

Inspector Thorne, as short-lived as it was, was something of an anomaly for the Hummerts, but judging from the longer run of Hearthstone of The Death Squad, they seem to have managed to salvage that particular formula somewhat. The comparisons are quite obvious between Inspectors Thorne and Hearthstone. Inspector Thorne is the Chief Detective Inspector of The Homicide Squad of New York City. Inspector Hearthstone is the Chief Inspector of The Death Squad of 'The Metropolitan Police' . Inspector Thorne has his Sergeant Muggins and Inspector Hearthstone has his assistant, Detective Sam Cook. Both productions were more murder-oriented than mystery-oriented, both productions were predictably very melodramatic, and both productions characterized their protagonists as forceful, demanding, and overbearing police officials.

In one of the more interesting character developments of Inspector Thorne, however, Thorne was cast--and characterized himself--as a bumbling, error-prone, and inattentive detective, much in the mold of Peter Falk's brilliant Detective Columbo character of 1970s Television. Indeed one wonders if this short-lived concept didn't inform the creators of Columbo. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a concept or character from The Golden Age of Radio was borrowed for a Television series. But of course, as with Columbo, Inspector Thorne's self-described slow-wittedness was simply a clever ruse to distract or create a false sense of security in the criminal suspects he was investigating.

Indeed, this very approach to character development was tested in CBS Forecast's Deductions Deluxe presentation of its second season in which Adolph Menjou is cast as a befuddled, clueless society detective that somehow manages to brilliantly connect all the dots just in time for the denouement.

Inspector Thorne was portrayed by Karl Weber for the first nine installments, replaced by Staats Cotsworth of Casey Crime Photographer for the last two episodes. Karl Weber had been a mainstay for The Hummerts, having appeared in at least twenty of their productions over the years. Cotsworth maintained Weber's delivery and pace for the two episodes in which he filled in for Weber. Dan Ocko portrayed Sergeant Muggin throughout the production.

Inspector Thorne was both well recorded and produced. The surviving exemplars are well engineered and transferred. The scripts were fast-paced and generally proceeded under the assumption that Inspector Thorne had some predisposition towards the ultimate outcome, but the scripts never cheated the listener. All the pertinent facts were, for the most part, laid out for the listener to try his or her hand at solving them before the denouement. As a well produced and well-transferred example of The Hummerts' take on crime dramas, Inspector Thorne aquits itself well.

Series Derivatives:

Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Crime Dramas
Network(s): NBC
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 51-07-20 01 The Fabulous Divorce Payoff Murder Case
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 51-07-20 to 51-09-27; NBC; Eleven, 30-minute episodes; Fridays at 9 p.m., then Thursdays at 10:30 p.m.
Syndication: None
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): Kenneth MacGregor, Edward Slattery [Directors]; Frank and Anne Hummert [Creators]
Principal Actors: Karl Weber, Dan Ocko, Staats Cotsworth
Recurring Character(s): Inspector Thorne, Sergeant Muggin
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Edward Francis (billed as Eugene Edward Francis), Geraldine Merkin
Music Direction:
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Fred Collins
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 11
Total Episodes in Collection: 11
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenance was the log of the RadioGOLDINdex.

We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Inspector Thorne log, which the OTRR claims to be correct according to their 'OTTER log' they represent as the "most authoritative and accurate vintage Radio database in the world":


We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE to protect our own ongoing due diligence and intellectual property.

In the spirit of cooperation, we'll help them out a bit, as long as they promise to attribute our help. John Penn's detective Thorne was Detective Superintendant Thorne, from Penn's novel, Outrageous Exposures, first published in September of 1988, and subsequently aired over the BBC Radio4's Afternoon Play series in 1993 as a set of three radioplays on successive Mondays:

  • 93-03-01 Thorne Investigates: Unto the Grave
  • 93-03-08 Thorne Investigates: Mortal Term
  • 93-03-15 Thorne Investigates: Double Negative

The Thorne Investigates radioplays were dramatized by Melville Jones from the Omnibus edition of the 1993 publication of Penn's Outgageous Exposures and A Feast of Death. The Thorne Investigates radioplays starred John Castle as Detective Superintendant Thorne and Andrew Branch as Detective Sergeant Abbott. If we're not mistaken, Thorne Investigates has been supsequently aired over the BBC at least twice more over the years.

Two of the actual Inspector Thorne episodes they haven't quite sussed out yet are:

  • The Vintage Radio Place's spelling of The Mastermind Murder Case as The Master Mind Murder Case
  • The Vintage Radio Place's spelling of The Nickels and Dimes Murder Case as The Nickles and Dimes Murder Case

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We don't pronounce our Golden Age Radio research as 'certified' anything. By the very definition, research is imperfect. We simply tell the truth. As is our continuing practice, we provide our fully provenanced research results--to the extent possible--right here on the page, for any of our peers to review--or refute--as the case may be. If you take issue with any of our findings, you're welcome to cite any better verifiable source(s) and we'll immediately review them and update our findings accordingly. As more verifiable provenances surface, we'll continue to update the following series log, as appropriate.

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The Inspector Thorne Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
The Fabulous Divorce Payoff Murder Case
Premiere Episode
51-07-20 The Progress
NBC 9 Inspector Thorne, new police who-dun-it starting with "The Fabulous Divorce Pay-off Murder Case"
The Vacant Lot Murder Case
51-07-27 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne, "Vacant Lot Murder"
The Golden Girl Murder Case
51-08-03 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne, "Golden Girl"
The Defrosted Refrigerator Murder Clue
51-08-10 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne 'The Defrosted Refrigerator"
The High Style Murder Case

51-08-17 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne "High Style Murder Case"
The Mastermind Murder Case
51-08-24 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne "The Master Mind."

51-08-24 Reno Evening Gazette
When a bank is the scene of a spectacular robbery, I N S P E C T O R THORNE is assigned on the case. Because of the manner in which the robbery was executed, Inspector Thorne decides that a powerful underworld organization is behind it and sets out not only to solve the robbery, but to uncover the "Master Mind" that planned the event.
The Dark Cigarette Murder Case
51-08-31 The Progress
9 Inspector Thorne

51-08-31 Portsmouth Times
9 p.m.—NBC: A well-known clarinet player is slain and a young songstress disappears in"The Dark Cigaret Murder Case" which "Inspector Thorne" investigates. Inspector Thorne and his assistant, Sgt. Muggins, uncover a background of intrigue which reveals several suspects in the case.
The Nickels and Dimes Murder Case
Moves to Thursdays

Post-Standard, The
NBC is doing some more program shifting the next few days. Mr. Keen, formerly heard on Fridays,moves to Thursday as of tonight. Inspector Thorne tonight, too.

51-09-06 Portsmouth Times
10:30 p.m. "Inspector Thorne" investigates "The Nickels and Dimes Murder Case" as the radio detective series moves to a new weekly time spot. When a young wife is found bludgeoned to death in the home of her aunt, Inspector Thorne is called in to find the murderer.
The Two Fiances Murder Case
51-09-13 Lowell Sun
INSPECTOR THORNE: starring Karl Weber. "Case of the Two Fiances" WBZ ,10.p.m.
The Empty Ash Tray Murder Case
51-09-20 Lowell Sun
INSPECTOR THORNE. starring Staats Cotsworth in ''The Empty Ash Tray Murder Case"; WBZ, 10.30,
The Society Writer Murder Case
[ Last Episode ]

51-09-27 Lowell Sun
Writer Murder Case"; WBZ, 10.30.

Inspector Thorne Radio Program Biographies

Karl Weber
(Inspector Thorne)


Birthplace: Columbia Junction, Iowa, U.S.A.

Education: The University of Iowa

1941 Lone Journey
1941 The Barton Family
1942 Stepmother
1942 The Woman In White
1943 Author's Playhouse
1944 Words At War
1944 The Romance of Helen Trent
1945 The Strange Romance of Evlyn Winters
1945 When A Girl Marries
1948 The V.D. Radio Project
1948 Mysterious Traveler
1950 Nona From Nowhere
1950 Dimension X
1950 Cloak and Dagger
1950 Inspector Thorne
1952 Best Plays
1952 The Cavalcade Of America
1953 The Marriage
1953 Stroke Of Fate
1954 My Secret Story
1954 Doctor Six-Gun
1954 Inheritance
1955 X Minus One
1962 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1964 NBC Experiment In Drama
1967 The Eternal Light

Karl Weber as Dr. Cromwell in Perry Mason circa 1959

Karl Weber as Dr. Cromwell in Perry Mason circa 1959

Karl Weber as Bruce Chapman in Perry Mason circa 1959
Karl Weber as Bruce Chapman in Perry Mason circa 1959

Karl Weber in Maverick circa 1960
Karl Weber in Maverick circa 1960

Karl Weber in Bourbon Street Beat circa 1959
Karl Weber in Bourbon Street Beat circa 1959

Born and raised in Iowa and a graduate of the University of Iowa, Karl Weber--possibly best-known as the husband of The Woman in White (1938-1948), a medical melodrama heard over NBC--began as an actor with Midwestern Shakespearean troupes before settling in Chicago where many of the nation's top radio shows then originated.

He went to New York in the late 1940s to help found New Stages, an off-Broadway group that helped popularize Jean Paul Sartre's The Respectful Prostitute before it moved to the Broadway Stage. In addition to helping found New Stages, Weber's Stage career spanned almost twenty years, beginning with his debut in Lady of Fame (1943), followed by Lady Behave! (1943), The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden and the above mentioned The Respectful Prostitute--both in 1948, and finally 1961's The Best Man.

His radio credits over the years included featured roles in The Strange Romance of Evelyn Winters and Dr. Sixgun and recurring performances in The Barton Family, Lone Journey, The Romance of Helen Trent, Stepmother and When a Girl Marries.

Karl Weber's Television career was equally successful, with over 200 appearances in many of The Golden Age of Television's most popular dramatic programs. Weber made several appearances each in Studio One (1948), Search for Tomorrow (1955-56), Robert Montgomery Presents (1956), Bourbon Street Beat (1959), Hawaiian Eye (1959), Maverick (1960), Bronco (1959), Dr. Kildare (1961), and Perry Mason (1961)

Karl Weber also recorded more than 200 books in the Talking Book Program of the American Foundation for the Blind and served as president of the New York chapter of the Screen Actors Guild from 1968-69.

Weber was a mainstay on many of the most popular radio shows of the wartime and postwar years. His deeply resonant voice was later heard in commercials for the presidential campaigns of Lyndon B. Johnson and Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Weber was 74 when he died of congestive heart failure near his home in Edgartown, Mass., where he continued to record commercials until his death. He was survived by a daughter, two sons, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. and Anne (Schumacher) Hummert [Anne Ashenhurst]
Stage, Radio, Television and Film writers, producers and directors
Anne Hummert (1905-1996)
Frank Hummert (1887-1966 [or 1879-1966])

Anne Hummert; Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A
Frank Hummert;St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.

Anne Hummert;Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
Frank Hummert;

1931 Beatrice Mabie
1932 Hollywood Nights
1932 Jo-Cur Waves of Melody
1932 Stevens and Son of Scotland Yard
1932-1933 Abe Lyman And Movieland's Favorite Band
1932-1933 Aunt Jemima
1932-1933 Penrod and Sam
1932-1933 Roxy Air Theatre of the Stars
1932-1933 The Girl Who Lives Next Door
1932-1935 Bill the Barber
1932-1949 Manhattan Merry-Go-Round
1933 Jack Dempsey's Gymnasium
1933 Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean
1933-1935 Skippy
1933-1935 The Musical Revue
1933-1936 Melodiana
1933-1938 Album of Familiar Canadian Music
1933-1954 The Romance of Helen Trent
1934-1935 The Life of Mary Southern
1934-1936 Lavender and Old Lace
1934-1936 Lazy Dan
1934-1944 Easy Aces
1935 Blanche Sweet
1935 Chandu the Magician
1935 Don Donnie's Orchestra
1935 Five Star Jones
1935 Marie the Little Princess
1935-1936 Broadway Varieties
1935-1936 MGM Radio Movie Club
1935-1936 The Imperial Hawaiian Band
1935-1937 Rich Man's Darling
1935-1939 Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
1935-1951 American Album
1935-1954 Backstage Wife
1936 Old Doctor Jim
1936 Paris Night Life
1936 Revue De Paree
1936 Your Lover
1936-1937 Broadway Varieties
1936-1937 Gems of Melody
1936-1937 Night Club of the Air
1936-1938 Hammerstein Music Hall
1936-1938 Who's Who in the News
1936-1939 Painted Dreams
1936-1942 John's Other Wife
1936-1945 Second Husband
1936-1948 Waltz Time
1936-1954 David Harum, show number
1937 Broadway Merry-Go-Round
1937 French Mignon Trio
1937-1938 La Gaiete Parisienne
1937-1938 Wife Versus Secretary
1937-1954 Our Gal Sunday
1937-1954Lorenzo Jones
1937-1955 Just Plain Bill
1938 Popeye
1938 Way Down East
1938-1939 Alias Jimmy Valentine
1938-1939 London Merry-Go-Round
1938-1939 Phillips Beauty Creams
1938-1939 Phillips Dental Magnesia
1938-1939 Showland Memories
1938-1954 Stella Dallas
1939 California Theatre of the Air
1939 Detective Reeder
1939 Evening Melodies
1939 Inspector Brooks
1939 Sweetest Love Songs
1939-1940 Doc Barclay's Daughter
1939-1942 Orphans of Divorce
1940 Along the Boulevard, show number
1940 Mystery Chef
1941 Russ Lamb
1941-1942 America the Free
1941-1942 For America We Sing
1941-1942 Rainbow Trail
1941-1948 American Melody Hour
1941-1950 Monday Merry-Go-Round
1942 Matinee Melodies
1942-1946 Chaplin Jim U.S.A.
1942-1950 American Album
1942-1954 Front Page Farrell
1942-1954 Young Widder Brown
1943-1945 Friday on Broadway
1943-1946 Amanda of Honeymoon Hill
1943-1948 Album of Familiar Music
1943-1948 American Melody Hour
1943-1948 Lora Lawton
1943-1949 Inspector Hawkes and Son
1943-1955 Mr. Keen Tracer of Lost Persons
1944-1945 Scramby Amby
1944-1945 Valiant Lady
1945-1946 Barry Cameron
1945-1947 Real Stories from Real Life
1945-1952 The Romance of Evelyn Winters
1947-1948 Rose of My Dreams
1947-1955 Katie's Daughter
1948 Your Song and Mine
1948-1951 Mystery Theatre
1949 Mary Kay and Johnny
1950 Nona from Nowhere
1950-1953 Mr. Chameleon
1951 Inspector Thorne
1951-1952 Heartstone Of the Death Squad
Frank Hummert circa 1936
Frank Hummert circa 1936

Anne Hummert circa 1936
Anne Hummert circa 1936

Anne S. Hummert circa 1936
Anne A. Hummert circa 1936

Anne and Frank Hummert circa 1940s
Anne and Frank Hummert circa 1940s

Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri between 1879 and 1887, depending on widely varying accounts. A great deal of Frank Hummert's past--before partnering in Blackett, Sample & Hummert (BSH) Ad agency--is shrouded in mystery and legend. A former St. Louis and New Orleans newspaperman, Hummert was reported to have ridden with the Texas Rangers prior to his career in advertising. He was reportedly married during that period as well. His wife reportedly died, leaving him a widower and confirmed bachelor.

It was while with BS&H that he met his young assistant, Anne Schumacher Ashenhurst, a former newspaperwoman who'd already married--and divorced--another newspaperman. A newly divorced single mother with a baby son in the big city, Anne Schumacher Ashenhurst failed to acquire another newspaper position in Chicago and was hired on as Frank Hummert's assistant. Their mutual interest and romance percolated for a reported seven years before the couple married in 1934. The marriage would last until Frank Hummert's death in 1966.

The couple formed their own company, Hummert Productions, after their marriage, and moved the operation to New York and Greenwich, Connecticut. But it was while still with Blackett, Sample & Hummert that the Hummerts inaugurated a Radio melodrama empire that would span the entire length--and breadth--of The Golden Age of Radio.

Just Plain Bill (1932) didn't start as a daytime soap-opera. It began in the evening. Just Plain Bill eventually ran for 23 years until 1955. The first of over 120 such melodramas over their storied careers, the Hummerts also produced two of the longest running musical variety programs--An American Album of Familiar Music (1931-1951) and Manhattan Merry Go Round (1932-1949)--and one of Radio's longest running mystery programs--Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons (1937-1955). But the most legendary and durable of all of their productions was The Romance of Helen Trent (1933-1960) which spanned 27 years and an estimated 7,222, 15-minute separate scripts.

The Time Magazine article of January 23, 1939 best describes their operation:

Monday, Jan. 23, 1939
Radio: Hummerts' Mill

"One of the oddest outfits in the very odd business of radio is Blackett-Sample-Hummert Inc. Not only is the company the No. 1 buyer of radio time, it is the No. 1 producer of radio material—and, incidentally, a big source of professional exasperation.

Figures available last week showed that in 1938 B-S-H had placed orders for $9,000,000 worth of air time. This was about one-eighth of all money paid for radio network time and over $3,700,000 more than B-S-H's nearest competitor spent. The commission on this sale was about $1,350,000 for B-S-H.

Practically all the time B-S-H bought was used for 15-and 30-minute dramatic serials spotted in the morning or afternoon to amuse housewives, and to push cereals, headache remedies, tooth paste, floor polish, cosmetics, etc. for 19 sponsors. For many of these spots B-S-H's great, straight-line script mill turned out at mass production prices Just Plain Bill, Second Husband, John's Other Wife, Romance of Helen Trent, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, Lorenzo Jones, Backstage Wife, Our Gal Sunday, Young Widder Brown, Stella Dallas, Alias Jimmy Valentine, David Harum. All these were ghostwritten by some 14 anonymous authors in the names of Adman Frank Hummert and his wife, Anne.

Fifteen years ago the firm Blackett & Sample was organized by Chicago Admen Hill Blackett and John Glen Sample. In 1927 E. (for Edward) Frank Hummert, longtime newspaperman, Liberty Loan slogan writer ("Bonds or Bondage") and pressagent, joined the firm as copy writing chief. In 1930 pretty, brown-haired Anne Ashenhurst, newspaperwoman, was hired to help him. With his young new aide, Frank Hummert discovered that the jackpot in the radio business was the serial "script show."

Their first was Just Plain Bill, a village barber, who has been spouting homely homilies for eight years. Others followed in profusion. By 1935, when Frank married Anne after the death of his first wife, both were vice presidents of the company, Frank with salary and commissions totaling some $117,000, Anne drawing a modest $21,000.

The Hummert mill produces 50 serial scripts a week, a total of some 6,500,000 words a year. In their Greenwich, Conn. home Frank and Anne figure out the trends of their serials four to six weeks in advance, dictate outlines to a battery of stenographers. Outline for an episode (Backstage Wife) may read something like this: "Suspecting that Cynthia Valcourt murdered Candy Dolan with Ward Ellman's gun, after Tess left the fiat, Mary, Larry and Ward rush to Tony Valcourt's penthouse to have a talk with Tony and Cynthia, having sent Tess Morgan to her apartment. Arriving at the penthouse, they are refused admittance by the butler. . . . If Cynthia gets away, Tess may take the rap for the crime. Can they save her? . . . What will Tess do?"

When a script is finished by the ghost writers it goes to an adjunct of the Hummert mill known as Air Features, Inc. for production. No Hummert ghost may even stick his nose inside Air Features' production studios.

By hiring dialogue writers, and not creators, the Hummerts save lots of money. Most serial writers in radio command $200 to $400 a week. For The Goldbergs, Gertrude Berg gets about $2,000. The Hummerts pay a minimum $25 per 15-minute script. Since most Hummert ghosts are glad to add caviar to bread-&-butter from other jobs, they have seldom squawked.

Last year the Hummerts began sending scripts to London to be Anglicized and broadcast from Normandy and Luxemburg to British listeners. Anglicizing largely involved changing cops to bobbies, dollars to pounds, Manhattan Merry-Go-Round to London Merry-Go-Round, Lorenzo Jones to Marmaduke Brown, and most writers felt that some fame or profit from this rebroadcasting should come to them. But every script that went abroad was prudently marked, like those used in the U. S.: "Authors—Frank and Anne Hummert," and B-S-H picked up all the chips.

Not only writers but actors are concerned with B-S-H's system. Radio has no prescribed wage scale, although most big agency production units pay a basic wage of about $25 for a 15-minute stint, rehearsals included. Featured Artists Service, Inc., the Hummert casting agency, pays a basic $12.50 but rehearsals are briefer than most and great numbers of players get fairly steady work (a serial can hold out as long as a sponsor can). But American Federation of Radio Artists (A. F. of L. affiliated) insists that this is not reason enough for half-pay. Last week A. F. R. A., having failed for a year to negotiate minimums of $15 a 15-minute program, $6 for the first rehearsal hour and $3 for each half-hour thereafter, put the case before its entire membership.

This week, at meetings of A. F. R. A. locals all over the U. S., immediate strike action was being considered against all sponsored radio programs whose producers refuse to sign up."

From the New York Times:

July 21, 1996
Anne Hummert, 91, Dies; Creator of Soap Operas

"Faithful followers of soap operas have learned over the years that after a brief and bitter first marriage a young single mother can find love, marriage and singular professional success with a much older man, but now the question is:

Can a career woman who sacrificed her leisure to keep a nation of enthralled housewives glued to their radios for the better part of two decades survive a heart-wrenching regimen of producing as many as 90 cliff-hanging episodes a week to live a full, rich and long life?

No need to stay tuned or wait for a toothpaste commercial. It can now be revealed that when she died in bed at her Fifth Avenue apartment on July 5, Anne Hummert, the woman widely credited with creating the radio soap opera and spinning out many of the classics of the 1930's and 40's, was a 91-year-old multimillionaire who had maintained a vigorous life almost to the end.

At a time when televised soap operas have become a postfeminist cultural sideshow, it is hard to imagine the era when "Stella Dallas," "Helen Trent," "Ma Perkins" and "Lorenzo Jones" were more than household names, and when virtually every woman in America knew that Mary Noble was the "Backstage Wife" and were familiar with every detail of the anguished but inspiring lives of "John's Other Wife" and "Young Widow Brown."

It is even harder to imagine that all of these plus more than a dozen others were the creations of a diminutive dynamo from Baltimore and the man she kept at bay for seven years after taking a job as his assistant at a Chicago advertising agency.

By the time she met E. Frank Hummert in 1927, the former Anne Schumacher had lived something of a soap opera herself. A brilliant student who graduated magna cum laude from Goucher College at age 20 in 1925, she had begun her career as a college correspondent for The Sun, then worked as a Sun reporter before going to Paris in 1926.

She became a reporter for the precursor of The International Herald Tribune her first day in the city, but within a year she had married and divorced a fellow reporter, John Ashenhurst, and was back in the United States with an infant son.

Settling in Chicago, she failed to get a newspaper job but became an assistant to Mr. Hummert, a former St. Louis newspaperman who had become a renowned copywriter and a partner in the Chicago agency Blackett, Sample & Hummert.

He was some two decades older than she and a confirmed bachelor, but then he had never met a woman quite like his captivating 22-year-old assistant with the tinkling voice, who was such a fount of ideas and organized efficiency that she became a vice president just two years later.

She, on the other hand, had already been married to one newspaperman, thank you, and was in no hurry to marry another. The couple didn't marry until 1934, when they began what friends recall as one of the great love matches, which lasted until Mr. Hummert's death in 1966.

At a time when commercial programming in the infant medium concentrated on working people who returned home to sit in front of their radios at night, advertisers were dimly aware that the housewives who stayed home all day were the nation's primary purchasing agents. But these women were considered too busy to pay more than cursory attention to the family radio.

The Hummerts didn't argue with the theory of the distracted housewife. They simply seized her attention and changed the pattern of her life. After "Just Plain Bill" hit the daytime airwaves in 1933, housewives arranged their work so they would never miss an episode of the small-town barber who married above himself.

Although a short-lived 1930 program, "Painted Lives" by Irna Phillips, is regarded as the first radio soap opera, it was "Just Plain Bill," which began at night in 1932, that created the cultural juggernaut that would eventually be nicknamed for the product that often sponsored it.

Within months the show had spawned many copycats, few as successful as those turned out by the Hummerts themselves, who had as many as 18 separate 15-minute serials running at a time for a total of 90 episodes a week, each ending with an unresolved crisis that was heightened for the Friday episode.

The couple, who formed their own company, Hummert Productions, and moved to New York in the mid-1930's, farmed out the writing after they had dreamed up the original idea and mapped out the initial story line. But they were deeply involved in every aspect of each production, from casting to script editing.

Mrs. Hummert, who had a photographic memory, was renowned in the industry for her ability to remember each intricate twist of every one of their creations.

It was a reflection of the grip the Hummerts had on their audience that their programs generated more than five million letters a year, and it was a measure of their commercial success that by 1939 Hummert programs accounted for more than half the advertising revenues generated by daytime radio.

The Hummerts were also well rewarded. At a time when the average doctor made less than $5,000 a year and the average lawyer half that, they were each making $100,000 a year from their enterprise, which included several evening musical programs, like "Waltz Time," and mysteries, including the haunting "Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons."

When television began to displace radio, the couple simply retired and enjoyed a well-traveled life of leisure. After her husband's death, Mrs. Hummert gave up their Park Avenue triplex and cut down a bit on her travels, but she continued her active life, which until a few months ago included daily three-mile walks.

Mrs. Hummert, whose son died several years ago, is survived by two granddaughters, Pamela Pigoni of Hinckley, Ill., and Anne Jeskey of Park Ridge, Ill., and two great-grandchildren."

Staats Jennings Cotsworth Jr.
(Inspector Thorne)

Stage, Screen, Radio and Television Actor, Artist, Writer, Director

Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois

Education: Philadephia School of Industrial Design and Paris Art Institutes

Curriculum Vitae: Art Critic, Editor of 'Smart Set', and detective fiction author.


1937 Pepper Young's Family
1939 Great Plays
1943 Words At War
1944 Casey, Press Photographer
1944 The Sportsmen's Club
1944 The Mysterious Traveler
1944 Cavalcade Of America
1944 Report On the Macquis
1944 Men At Sea
1944 The Eternal Light
1946 The Continental celebrity Club
1946 You Make the News
1946 Casey, Crime Photographer
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1948 Ford Theatre
1948 The Shadow
1948 Grand Central Station
1948 Secret Missions
1948 Roger Kilgore, Public Defender
1948 Decision Now!
1948 You Are There
1949 Theatre Guild On the Air
1949 Front Page Farrell
1949 Marriage For Two
1950 The New Frontier
1950 Dimension X
1950 MGM Theatre Of the Air
1951 Inspector Thorne
1952 Mark Trail
1952 The Chase
1953 Proudly We Hail
1953 Best Plays
1953 Rocky Fortune
1955 Inheritance
1957 CBS Radio Workshop
1964 Theatre Five
1967 Whatever Became Of...
1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre
1974 Faces Of Love
Treasury Salute

Staats Cotsworth circa 1943
Staats Cotsworth circa 1943

Staats Cotsworth as Jack 'Flashgun' Casey circa 1945
Staats Cotsworth as Jack 'Flashgun' Casey circa 1945

Staats Cotsworth circa 1958
Staats Cotsworth circa 1958

Staats Cotsworth, Artist circa 1956
Staats Cotsworth, Artist circa1956

Gifted with multiple talents--all brilliant--Staats Cotsworth was a 20th Century Renaissance man. Unable to sell his paintings during the Depression years, he became an actor with Eva Le Gallienne's New York Civic Repertory Theatre--as an apprentice--in 1932. He progressed to a member of the company with Parker Fennelly and Burgess Meredith. He was recruited by Abby Lewis, who noted his fine voice and introduced him to some of her Radio contacts.

Beginning with Pepper Young's Family (1937), Cotsworth quickly became a fixture in Radio for over forty years. But it's in his role as Jack "Flashgun" Casey in Casey, Press Photographer that most Golden Age Radio fans remember him. Staats Cotsworth portrayed Jack Casey for twelve years, from its first incarnation as Flashgun Casey, to its final run as Crime Photographer. His distinctive voice, unerring timing, great humor, and versatilty over his 400 performances stamped him as 'Casey', Crime Photographer to two generations of Golden Age Radio listeners.

Indeed, Cotsworth, a very serious, accomplished Stage actor, recalled being frustrated with his seemingly never-ending association with the character. But owing to his extraordinary range and rock-solid voice, he managed to break out of the 'Casey' type-casting. He enjoyed twenty more years in a wide range of dramatic performances over Radio and Television.

His Television career took off in 1954, adding over seventy Television appearances to his Drama resume. Cotsworth appeared in many of Television's most prestigious Drama anthologies. He was most often cast in strong, authoritative character roles, such as judges, military commanders, lawyers, politicians, doctors and other professionals.

Those who watched him during his Television career remember him in Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents, Peyton Place, Kraft Television Theatre, Goodyear Theater, Play of The Week, Armstrong Circle Theatre, General Electric Theatre, The Defenders, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Nurses, Brenner, Bonanza, and Dr. Kildare.

But Cotsworth's parallel careers didn't end with Radio And Television. Cotsworth went on to perform in--and direct--several Stage plays (his greatest love), while at the same time pursuing an equally repected fourth career as an artist.

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