|Robert Jay Arthur, Jr.
Author, Adapter, Director, Producer, Magazine Editor, Screenwriter, Activist
Birthplace: Fort Mills, Corregidor Island, The Philippines
William and Mary College
M.A. in Journalism,
The University of Michigan
The Mysterious Traveler
Adventure into Fear
The Sealed Book
Murder By Experts
The Teller of Tales
'Edgar' for Best Radio Drama for Murder by Experts
'Edgar' for Best Radio Mystery Drama for The Mysterious Traveler.
Robert Arthur, Jr. at 'work' at his typewriter, c. 1940
Early Photo of Robert Arthur, Jr. at Ann Arbor, Michigan, ca. 1929
Robert Arthur, Jr. at 'play' at his radio, c. 1942
The Mysterious Traveler Magazine, from November 1951
The Writers Guild of America--East, sucessor to the Radio Writers Guild of 1942.
|Robert Jay Arthur, Jr. was born November 10, 1909, on Corregidor Island, The Philippines. His father, Lieutenant Robert Arthur, Sr. was stationed in the United States Army Expeditionary Forces with his wife, Sarah Fee Abbey. As an Army brat, Robert, Jr. spent much of his childhood moving from Army base to Army base. He was educated in the public schools of Massachusetts, Michigan, Kansas, and Virginia.
The Valedictorian for his high school graduating class, Arthur had won appointments to both Annapolis and West Point, but declined the appointments, enrolling instead at William and Mary College in 1926. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English.
After a brief stint as editor of one of the Munsey Publications, he returned to the University of Michigan, receiving an M.A. in Journalism in 1932. During 1938 he met and married Susan Smith Cleaveland, a Radio soap opera actress, but by 1940 the couple divorced. He moved Greenwich Village and began writing for pulp magazines. By 1940, he'd published stories in:
- Wonder Stories
- Detective Fiction Weekly
- Illustrated Detective Magazine
- Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine
- Amazing Stories
- The Shadow
- Street & Smith Mystery Reader
- Detective Tales
- Thrilling Detective
- Double Detective
- Startling Stories
- The Phantom Detective
- Argosy Weekly
- Black Mask
In addition, Arthur worked as a writer and editor for pulp western, fact detective, and screen magazines for Dell Publishing, becoming associate editor of Photo-Story, a ground-breaking picture magazine published by Fawcett Publications. He then conceived and edited Pocket Detective Magazine for Street & Smith, the first pocket-sized, all-fiction magazine, which published several of his stories. .
The Mysterious Traveler also aired as Adventure Into Fear and 26 of its scripts aired as The Sealed Book. From 1948 to 1951 Arthur and Kogan produced Dark Destiny, an early, well-received, television thriller series.
In 1940 he met the woman who would become his second wife, Joan Vaczek, in a class on The Short Story while attending Columbia University. Joan Vaczek was the daughter of a Hungarian diplomat and a budding science-fiction writer in her own right. During the same year that he met his future writing partner, David Kogan, with whom he eventually wrote and produced his first radio show, Dark Destiny (1942). Soon after that the team wrote and produced The Mysterious Traveler (1943), which aired over the Mutual Broadcasting System and eventually won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Radio Show of the Year for 1952 by The Mystery Writers of America. He'd also won the 'Edgar' for Best Radio Drama for 1950 for Murder By Experts.
Robert Arthur and Joan Vaczek eventually married in December 1946, moved to Connecticut and then New York, where they had two children, Robert Andrew Arthur and Elizabeth Ann Arthur.
1953 brought the end of his relationship with The Mutual Broadcasting System. He and his partner, David Kogan were both active members of The Radio Writers' Guild. The House Commitee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) had 'determined' that The Radio Writers' Guild was a 'Communist front group'.
History has shown that this was simply another of the numerous, shameful union-busting attempts by the HUAC. Their basic aim was to link a growing collective bargaining movement with Communism, so as to benefit the Radio, Television and Film industries by keeping their employees from forming collective-bargaining units--or unions. The Supreme Court of the United States, in 1937, had ruled the 1935 National Labor Relations Act to be constitutional, but when ultra-conservatives came to power during the Cold War years, they determined to find other ways to undermine the collective bargaining provisions of the Act.
The HUAC's naked fear-mongering tactics succeeded for several of the most shameful years in American history. The Committee's sham hearings were eventually brought down by the very industries they were attempting to benefit--Radio and Television.
To its shame, The Mutual Broadcasting System and its radio station WOR, caving under pressure from their affiliates and corporate sponsors, abruptly canceled The Mysterious Traveler and Robert Arthur's career as a Radio Writer effectively ended. The Mysterious Traveler had consistently been rated among the top sixteen most popular Radio programs of the era. Robert Arthur, Jr. had written and produced over five hundred radio scripts for his two shows as well as for Dark Destiny, The Sealed Book, The Shadow, and Nick Carter, Master Detective.
After 1952, Arthur worked as a co-producer for ABC's radio show Mystery Time as well as continuing to write and publish pulp fiction. In 1959, he moved to Hollywood where he worked in television, writing scripts for The Twilight Zone. He also worked as a story editor and script writer for Alfred Hitchcock's long-running Alfred Hitchcock Presents for television. Robert Arthur, Jr. is also credited with writing most of Hitchcock's droll prologues for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents programs.
He moved back to New Jersey in 1962, where he lived with his father's aunt, Margaret Fisher Arthur, until his death in 1969 at the age of 59.
Among pulp fiction fans and Golden Age Radio fans alike, Robert Arthur's stories and scripts remain some of the most rivetting, compelling fiction from the Golden Age. He and his partner, David Kogan, continue to acquire new fans with every passing generation through the enduring magic of Golden Age Radio.