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Original The Nation's Nightmare header art

The Nation's Nightmare Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Nation's Nightmare


Broadcasting magazine announcement of September 24th, 1951
Broadcasting magazine announcement of September 24th, 1951

Background

From the July 9th, 1951 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

On the Square
By Ed Brooks

     "The Nation's Nightmare," a series of six weekly broadcasts dealing authentically on a nation-wide scale with organized crime, using actual recorded voices of underworld figures, victims and law enforcement officials, will begin on CBS Thursday, July 19.  With the spotlight still on organized crime, it promises to hold wide interest.
     The series will be narrated by Bill Downs, CBS newsman.  The national crime picture, as put before the country in the recent Kefauver crime investigation hearings, will be dealt with under the headings of six key subjects:  Narcotics, casino gambling and slot machines, racetrack gambling and wire service, policy and numbers racket, waterfront crime, and gambling in sports.
     Each program, using tape recordings of the discussion and statements of leading gamblers and underworld figures, innocent victims, law officers, etc., is intended to present a comprehensive, integrated picture of one of the six phases of crime, its extent, manifestations, who controls it, how it affects individuals and communities, and what is being done to correct the situations in different parts of the country.
     Researchers and field operatives have been gathering material for weeks, preparatory to the start of the series, and a wealth of recorded material is being gathered on the scene.  Object is to build a dramatic story of the extent and causes of crime in America, and to high light communities and individuals whose efforts have been successful in cleaning up crime.
     Prominent officials, public and private, are cooperating to aid presentation of the series.  We'll give you the word soon on whether the program will be carried locally on WWL.

From the August 27th, 1951 issue of Broadcasting magazine:

Threat to CBS

     THREAT that any CBS personnel venturing near the New York waterfront would be "knocked out" was one result of the Aug. 16 broadcast of Nation's Nightmare, on the CBS Radio (8:30-9 p.m.)
     The telephoned warning came during the documentary program which that week was devoted to detailed descriptions of mob rule and crime along the docks of New York and other cities.  The voice claimed the facts on the program were false and said, "you hurt us a lot and now we have to get even with you . . . there's only one way to fight you people and we'll fight in any way we can," according to CBS Radio spokesmen.
     The following day, CBS Radio spokesmen reported, a mobile crew operating at Pier 84 in New York was accosted by a hefty long-shoreman.  Six city detectives arrived on the scene to protect the surprised crew and the man departed.    Meanwhile, with some 40 hours taped for each half hour of The Nation's Nightmare to reach the CBS Producer Irving Gitlin and his documentary crew played excerpts of their collection--unusable for public broadcast--for newsmen last Tuesday.
     Tapes pertained to details of an overlooked Chicago killing, Willie Segretti's analogy between gamblers and fish in the sea, a petty racketeer's sobbing story of failure, and a profane though private discussion of murder between the recently-killed Herbert Noble and a mobster.
     Lamenting that they could not use all the material they had collected, Mr. Gitlin, whose next assignment will be on The People Act for the Ford Foundation, explained, "we couldn't use much of it because of legal problems or because we wanted to keep the secret of our informant's identity."
     CBS will rebroadcast three of the series at 9:30-10 p.m. on consecutive Thursdays:  narcotics, Aug. 30; slot machine and gambling casino operations, Sept. 6; and waterfront crime, Sept. 13.

From the August 31st, 1951 edition of the Canton Repository:

51-08-31 Crosby Review

THE COLUMBIA Broadcasting System, which has not been exactly conspicuous for courage this past year, has at least partially atoned for some of its liberal hesitancies with a fine series of radio documentaries on crime, which, like the man-eating crocodile, is an entirely non-controversial subject.
     In a series of five broadcasts titled "The Nation's Nightmare," the country's criminals were given a thorough going-over which may or may not result in any very drastic action.  This has been a great year for the exposure of crime.  It has not yet been exactly sensational for the conviction of criminals.  Perhaps next year, an imposing array of district attorneys with flashing smiles and telegenic personalities will spring up and send platoons of gamblers, narcotic salesmen and politicians to jail right in front of the leering cameras.  Then the D.A.'s will all go on to become either governors or narrators on "Gangbusters."
     While I still harbor some doubts as to the motives of those who are deploring the practice of murder with such great vehemence, CBS deserves great acclaim for the elaborate research and thorough workmanship of its crime series.
     The most harrowing of them was "Crime on the Waterfront," a real shocker.  CBS picked up a lot of its material for this one right on the New York and New Jersey waterfront and frequently faced physical danger in doing so.
     At one point a crowd of longshoremen threatened to throw a CBS truck in the river.  While this particular broadcast was on the air, a man identifying himself as a longshoreman union official called the network and threatened all forms of retaliation.

     THAT'S NO IDLE threat either.  If you listened to the broadcast, you'd discover they play real rough along the waterfront.  "The record of racketeering, exploitation, extortion, conspiracy and murder is so foul that it's hard to believe even when you have documented proof before you.  But it's true, shamefully and unquestionably true," declared Bill Down, the narrator, at the outset of this program.
     There follows a horrendous sightseeing tour around Manhattan Island.  Each pier area and the men who control them, all men with long police records, was identified by name.  "The waterfront from the Fulton Fish Market on the east to Pier 9 on the west side, the famous tip of Manhattan Island, controlled by Socks Lanza, pal of Lucky Luciano--10 arrests, now out on parole after conviction for extortion.

     THE SLAVE conditions of the longshoremen to their hiring boss has been told often before but it was retold in condensed, simple and dramatic form.  The shipping interests as well as the unions have a marked preference for ex-convicts as hiring bosses because they keep the men in line.  Once in power, the mobsters fleece the longshoremen through a dozen rackets--numbers, bookmaking, kickbacks, loan sharking.  The man who doesn't play along doesn't work.
     But that is small potatoes next to the organized theft of the waterfront which costs the insurance companies $60,000,000 a year.  As explained by one longshoreman:  "yer see, they work with the checker, the fellow who checks the cargo as it comes off the ship.  The checker is supposed to get the longshoremen to put the valuable cargo in certain spots on the dock.
     Let's say they want to steal $500,000 worth of watches from Switzerland.  The hirin' boss tells the checker and the checker has it put somewhere else.  The checker never marks it as coming off the ship, see.  It never did arrive in this country, so it's lost somewhere between here and France or wherever the ship came from."

     SUPPORTING THE appalling conditions on the waterfront, CBS declared, were a united front of shipping interests, unions, influential businessmen and the police, a tough bunch to fight.  As summed up by one longshoreman, no one wanted to monkey with the system because everyone profited by it.
     "The big boys (both business and political) need the tough guys.  They need the tough guys to keep me in line so I don't get too brazen, upset their way of runnin' things.  They also need the police department to keep the tough guys in line.  If the tough guys go too far the police cut 'em down and then they got the politicians to see that the police don't go too far and they've got the politician 'cause--well, he kin use the musclemen to line up the vote for him.  It's a three-ring circus.  The legitimate guy is in the middle."
     There is a lot more, all equally grim, and if you'd like to hear the full picture, CBS plans to rebroadcast it on Sept. 27, 9:30 p.m. E.S.T.

From the October 8th, 1951 issue of Sponsor magazine:

   . . . One of the most important contributions tape is making to radio programming is in the field of the documentary.  Already, tape has been used to produce some of the most effective radio shows of this decade.  And it's the belief of many network executives that forthright, controversial, and arresting documentary-style programming will be an important mainstay in future years.  These executives reason that provocative programming of this type can't be done by television because it would be too costly to duplicate on film what can be done cheaply with tape.
   What is a documentary?  This is the way Irving Gitlin, producer of the recent series Nation's Nightmare (CBS), thinks about it:  "The idea of a documentary is to use tape as a dramatic medium, so as to get close to a real situation.  It's not an editorial exactly, but simply tries to make a strong point about how things really are so that people will be moved to action."
     Gitlin's own six half-hour broadcasts were based on findings of the Kefauver Committee investigating nationwide crime.  They reportedly cost CBS a cool $26,000 to produce, required a staff of six in New York, 20 first-class assistants at CBS affiliates around the country, plus 50 secondary contributors.
     Nation's Nightmare was three months in preparation, with each half-hour program the cream of some 30 hours of original recordings.  It was well worth the hours of editing effort--the results are electrifying.  Pointing out the key to tape's dramatic power, Gitlin says:  "Tape removes any question of 'is that real?'  When you hear the screams of that marijuana addict on Rampart Street, New Orleans, you know it's true."
     CBS has already re-broadcast several of these documentaries at the urging of listeners.  Observers point to this and the success of other well-done documentaries and documentary-type programs (like This is Your FBI, ABC; The Big Story, NBC) as proof of their drawing power.  The Ford Foundation is already dickering with producers of this type program with an eye to education.
     Sponsors, too, would find the documentary well worth looking into as a commercial vehicle.  Besides its public service aspects, a skillfully produced documentary series draws a substantial audience--and it's the size of a program's audience that makes it "commercial."  As for cost, even accepting the ambitious CBS budget for Nation's Nightmare as an average figure, the production cost per program was barely over $4,000 per half-hour show.


Series Derivatives:

None
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Social Documentaries
Network(s): CBS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 51-07-19 01 The Narcotic Evil
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 51-07-19 to 51-09-27; CBS [KNX, KIRO, WTOP, WBBM]; Nine, 30-minute programs (including three repeats);
Syndication: CBS
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): Irving Gitlin [ Producer]
Principal Appearances: Sen. Herbert O'Connor, CBS Reporter Dave Moore, Av Weston, Harry J. Enslinger, "Mabel"--an addict, District Court Judge Thomas F. Murphy, CBS Reporter Skee Wolfe (WBBM), Charles Siragusa, Asst. D.A. David Blatt, Adam Clayton Powell, Fred Geraghis, Assemblyman John R. Brooke, James Walsh, Bill Quinn, Ed Florio, Joseph P. Ryan, Gov. Earl Warren,
Recurring Character(s):
Protagonist(s):
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Irving Gitlin
Music Direction:
Musical Theme(s):
Announcer(s): Bill Downs [Narrator]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
6 scripts; 9 broadcasts
Episodes in Circulation: 2
Total Episodes in Collection: 2
Provenances:
.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were newspaper listings.

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red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]







Nation's Nightmare Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
51-07-12
--
--
51-07-05 Kokomo Tribune
U.S. NIGHTMARE:
"The Nation's Nightmare," a series of six weekly broadcasts dealing authentically on a nationwide scale with organized crime, using actual recorded voices and statements of underworld figures, victims and law enforcement officials, will begin Thursday, July 19 (7:30 p.m., CBS-WIOU.)
Narrated by Bill Downs, each program will present a comprehensive picture of one of hte six phases of crime, its extent, manifestations, who controls it, how it affects individuals and communities, and what is being done to correct the situations in various parts of the country.

51-07-12 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Mr Keen (WKOW): "The Poison Pen Murder Case."

51-07-19
1
The Narcotic Evil
N
51-07-19 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW):
first of series on organized crime; tape recordings of CBS reporter buying heroin on Chicago street, marijuana addict's reaction in New Orleans, statements of victims, visit to narcotics hospital.

51-07-19 New York Times - 8:30-9--"The Nation's Nightmare"--Documentary: "
The Narcotic Evil"--WCBS (Premiere).

51-07-26
2
The Gambling Machine
N
51-07-26 Wisconsin State Journal - 7:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): casino gambling and slot machines.

51-07-26 New York Times
8:30-9--"The Nation's Nightmare"--Documentary: "
The Gambling Machine"--WCBS.

51-08-02
3
The Bookie Business
N
51-08-02 Wisconsin State Journal - 7:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): "The Bookie Business," with Gov. Earl Warren of California; head of wire service, underworld power; bookmakers.

51-08-09
4
The Policy and Numbers Racket
N
51-08-09 Wisconsin State Journal - 7:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): an expose of "The Policy and Numbers Racket."

51-08-16
5
Crime On the Waterfront
N
51-08-16 Long Beach Press-Telegram - The face of "Crime on the Waterfront" will be revealed as a major element in "The Nation's Nightmare" series from KNX at 8:30.

51-08-23
6
Sports Events Fixing
N
51-08-23 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW):
fixing sports events.

51-08-23 New York Times
8:30-WCBS--The Nation's Nightmare--Documentary

51-08-30
--
--
51-08-30 Wisconsin State Journal
WKOW 7:30 Escape





51-09-06
--
--
51-09-06 Wisconsin State Journa
WKOW 8:30 Playhouse on Broadway

51-09-13
1
The Narcotic Evil
N
51-08-31 Syracuse Post-Standard
The Nation's Nightmare, CBS' actuality series exposing the country's pattern of major rackets, will repeat three of its popular broadcasts starting Sept. 13. On that date "
The Narcotics Evil" will be aird. On the 20th it will be "Slot Machine and Casino Gambling" and on the 27th it will be "Crime on the Waterfront."

51-09-13 Wisconsin State Journal
8:30 p.m.--The Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): repeat broadcast of "
The Narcotics Evil."

51-09-20
2
Slot Machine and Casino Gambling
N
51-09-20 Wisconsin State Journal
8:30 p.m.--Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): repeat broadcast of
report on gambling racket.

51-09-27
3
Crime On the Waterfront
N
51-09-27 Wisconsin State Journal
8:30 p.m.--Nation's Nightmare (WKOW): "
Crime on the Waterfront."

51-10-04
--
--
51-10-04 Wisconsin State Journal - WKOW 8:30 Operation Underground










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