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Orginal Shakespeare Cycle header art

The Shakespeare Cycle Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Shakespeare Cycle

The controversial Cobbe portrait reputed to be of William Shakespeare revealed in March 2009
The controversial Cobbe portrait reputed to be of William Shakespeare revealed in March 2009

From the Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star July 11 1937
From the Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star July 11 1937
Click here for a Hi-Res pdf (17Mb)
Shakespeare On the Radio?  It can't be done!

     Or, can it...?  The Columbia Broadcasting System's announcement of their intention to do a summer series of Shakespearean plays was met with a barrage of opposition and sarcasm--that later turned into a publicity department duel when NBC announced they would do a Shakespeare series to be aired during the same timeslot as the CBS production.  Though CBS claimed previous rights to the idea, NBC pointedly ignored the matter.

     Initial opposition stemmed from the supposition that Shakespeare's plays could not be suitably condensed to an hour format and still maintain the integrity of the play, especially when interrupted even further to allow for sponsor commercials.  Other naysayers argued that even if you could strip the plays down to fit the timeslots, they wouldn't be as popular as other radio dramas.
   
     Brewster Morgan, former director of the Oxford Theatre in England, Broadway producer and the Director/Producer of Columbia's Shakespeare Cycle, laid all doubts to rest with the announcement that the series would be presented without commercial sponsorship as a public service.  He further explained that the creative adaptation of the plays within that one-hour time slot would result in a concentration on the major themes, while less important points would be more condensed.

     As to popularity, "Strip away the Elizabethan language and devices," Brewster Morgan said, "and you will find in them plots like the scenarios of the latest movies."  William A. Brady, the veteran theatrical producer and actor chosen to play the ghost in Hamlet, the first play in the series observed, "Even a Shakespeare flop--and he wrote them--is better than most of the stuff that is put out today in the name of drama.  We moderns--and I claim to be one, despite my years--are just beginning to realize what can be done with Shakespeare." 

     Much thought went into the choice of the lead for Hamlet.  Burgess Meredith, then 28 years old, was about the same age as the Prince Of Denmark, and his recent successes in Winterset and High Tor had him square in the public eye.  Despite this writer's opinion that Burgess Meredith delivered superbly, Shakespeare Cycle got off to an inauspicious start when Radio critics found it lacking.  The critics saw little ado with the second offering, Much Ado About Nothing, but by the third week Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered.  The score evened considerably with a superb production of The Taming Of the Shrew in week four.

     Shakespeare On the Radio?  It can be done, it was done, and done well.  For eight weeks, many of the brightest stars of Stage, Screen and Radio contributed enthusiastically to this major undertaking that is as good today, as it must have been then.

A theoretical reconstruction of the famous Globe Theatre
A theoretical reconstruction of the famous Globe Theatre

Series Derivatives:

None
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Shakespeare Plays
Network(s): CBS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 37-07-12 01 Hamlet
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 37-07-12 to 37-08-30; CBS; Eight, 60-Minute programs; Mondays, 9:00 p.m.
Syndication: None
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): Brewster Morgan [Director]
Principal Actors: Burgess Meredith, Walter Abel, Brian Aherne, Talullah Bankhead, Leslie Banks, Lionel Barrymore, Humphrey Bogart, William Brady, Ruth Challerton, Ina Claire, Walter Connolly, Bette Davis, Florence Eldridge, Errol Flynn, Grace George, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Helen Hayes, Leslie Howard, Henry Hull, Walter Huston, Ian Keith, Pauline Lord, Montague Love, Fredric March, Raymond Massey, Helen Mencken, Frank Morgan, Vincent Price, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Edward G. Robinson, Rosalind Russell, Cornelia Otis Skinner, H.B. Warner, Orson Welles, Esteff Winwood, Dennis Green, Don Davidson, Ben Webster, Jack Smart, Lionel Graham, Conway Tearle, Laura Bankston, Thomas Mitchell, Reginald Denny, Frieda Instalt, Charles Zebron, Lionel Pace, Morris Angstrom, Ernestine De Vectra, Dame May Whitty, Patrick J. Kelly, Eric Snowden
Recurring Character(s): Varied from Play to Play
Protagonist(s): Varied from Play to Play
Author(s): William Shakespeare
Writer(s) Gilbert Saldez, Brewster Morgan [Adapters]
Music Direction: Victor Bay
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Conway Tearle [Narrator]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
8
Episodes in Circulation: 4
Total Episodes in Collection: 5
Provenances:
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.

Digital Deli Too RadioLogIc


OTRisms:

We'd we remiss to fail to note that, judging by the OTRR's Archive.org postings, some rare exemplars of Shakespeare Cycle listed from our own collection below are a few of several hundred Golden Age Radio exemplars over which the OTRR has simply thrown up their hands over and tossed into their ignominiously labeled ''Singles and Doubles Collection'' out of apparent frustration. As best as we can tell, there are literally hundreds of genuinely historic Golden Age Radio exemplars in that catchall collection of theirs--exemplars that deserve far better than to simply be cast aside that way.

Apparently the ''most accurate archive of OTR series in the world'' simply doesn't realize it has rare exemplars of controversial, history-making Shakespeare performances in their catch-all, Singles and Doubles collection, let alone one of Radio's earliest exemplars of an Edward G. Robinson performance in a classical Stage drama. The surviving exemplars also contain some of the last Radio performances of Conway Tearle, one of the most famous Film stars from the turn of the 20th Century. "Most accurate in the world." O.K. I guess if they say so, it must be true, no?


What you see here, is what you get. Complete transparency. We have no 'credentials' whatsoever--in any way, shape, or form--in the 'otr community'--none. But here's how we did it--for better or worse. Here's how you can build on it yourselves--hopefully for the better. Here's the breadcrumbs--just follow the trail a bit further if you wish. No hobbled downloads. No misdirection. No posturing about our 'credentials.' No misrepresentations. No strings attached. We point you in the right direction and you're free to expand on it, extend it, use it however it best advances your efforts.

We ask one thing and one thing only--if you employ what we publish, attribute it, before we cite you on it.

We continue to provide honest research into these wonderful Golden Age Radio programs simply because we love to do it. If you feel that we've provided you with useful information or saved you some valuable time regarding this log--and you'd like to help us even further--you can help us keep going. Please consider a small donation here:

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.

All rights reserved by their respective sources. Article and log copyright 2009 The Digital Deli Online--all rights reserved. Any failure to attribute the results of this copywritten work will be rigorously pursued.







The Shakespeare Cycle Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
37-07-12
1
Hamlet
N
37-07-12 Circleville Herald
"
Hamlet" with Burgess Meredith, Margaret Perry, Walter Abel, Montague Love, Grace George and William A. Brady. 8 p.m. EST, CBS. Premier of new Shakespeare cycle replacing for the summer the Radio Theater. 37-07-12 Syracuse Herald - 'Hamlet' Opens Shakespeare Cycle on CBS.
37-07-19
2
Much Ado About Nothing
Y
37-07-19 Lowell Sun
9:00--Columbia's Shakespeare Cycle:
Much Ado About Nothing with Leslie Howard and Rosalind Russell.

37-07-19 San Antonio Light
In connection with Columbia's Shakespearean cycle, which was launched with "Hamlet" last week, radio opinion among dialers of our acquaintance is just about evenly divided. On one hand we heard listeners describe "Hamlet" as "wonderful" and "simply grand," while on the other hand, some felt the radio adaptation had fallen far short of their expectations. One fan complained there had been too much cutting. Another maintained the action was entirely lost to the invisible audience. It was generally agreed, however, that there was a genuine beauty in the clarity and perfection withwhich the loudspeaker brought the spoken lines.

C.B.S. had planned to present the tragic "King Lear" as the third play in the series next week, but "Julius Caesar" will be heard instead. The postponement of Lear was occasioned by the illness of Lionel Barrymore, who was to play the main role. Barrymore issued the following statement: "Although I originally accepted the invitation of the Columbia Broadcasting system to play the role of King Lear, I regret that, upon doctor's orders, I am forced to rescind my statement." Columbia still has hopes Barrymore will be able to fill the engagement later this summer.
37-07-26
3
Julius Caesar
Y
37-07-26 Charleston Daily Mail
Claude Rains, Raymond Massey, Walter Abel and Reginald Denny head the brilliant cast which will present "
Julius Caesar" over the WCHS-CBS network Monday, from 9 to 10 p.m., as the third production in Columbia's Shakespeare Cycle. Brewster Morgan is to direct the famous tragedy, Conway Tearle will continue to act as the narrator, while the musical backgrounds will be provided by a symphony orchestra under the direction of Victor Bay.
37-08-02
4
The Taming Of the Shrew
Y
37-08-02 Kingston Daily Freeman
DRAMA--WABC-CBS 9, Shakespeare,
Edward G. Robinson and Frieda Inescourt in "Taming of the Shrew.
37-08-09
5
King Lear
N
37-08-09 Kingston Daily Freeman
DRAMA--WABC-CBS--9, Shakespeare, Thomas Mitchell and others in "
King Lear."
37-08-16
6
As You Like It
N
37-08-16 Kokomo Tribune
Shakespeare's "
As You Like It" which Brewster Morgan characterizes as an "Elizabethan Musical comedy," is the drama scheduled for CBS's Shakespeare Cycle Monday night.
37-08-23
7
Henry IV
Y
37-08-23 Kokomo Tribune
"
Henry IV" will be the presentation of Columbia's Shakespeare Cycle, Monday night. Heading the cast will be Walter Huston in the title role and others in the cast will be Brian Aherne, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Connolly and Conway Toarle.
37-08-30
8
Twelfth Night
Y
37-08-22 Oakland Tribune
Orson Welles, brilliant young stage and radio actor, will be starred as Captain Matt Denant, the escaped convict, when the
second part of John Galsworthy's famous play, "Escape," is presented today by the Columbia Workshop over the CBS-KSFO net, from 3 to 3:30 p.m. The drama originally was scheduled to be presented complete on August 15, but Director Irving Reis decided that in order to do full justice to Galsworthy's masterpiece it would be necessary to divide it into equal installments. It is interesting to note that Welles also was the star of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," the only other two-part drama to be produced by the Workshop, and that he will be featured over CBS on August 30 as the Duke in "Twelfth Night," eighth and final production in Columbia's Shakespeare Cycle. "Escape" is a study of man's perception of right and wrong with which its English aurhor projects through the character of Denant. The hero, a cultured gentleman, is convicted of murder after he accidentally causes the death of a policeman during a flight in which he tries to protect a woman. The captain eventually escapes from prison and in the description of his subsequent wanderings Galsworthy traces the attitude of man toward his erring fellow man. The play concludes with a dramatic scene during which a clergyman in whose church Denant has sought refuge from his pursuers is torn between his duty to give sanctuary to an outcast and his duty as a law-abiding citizen.

37-08-30 Corpus Christie Times
Tonight marks the last of the current run of Shakespearean plays with the presentation of the comedy "
Twelfth Night" with Broadway actors, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Helen Menken, Talullah Bankhead and Orson Welles in the cast. KTSA, 7:00. Later in the evening KMOX, 8:30 many of the stage and screen stars who have appeared in the Shakespeare series will be interviewed.






The Shakespeare Cycle Radio Program Biographies




Oliver Burgess 'Buzz' Meredith
(Performer)

Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor;Singer; Producer; Director; Screenwriter
(1907-1997)

Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

Education: Hoosac School; Amherst College

Radiography:
1934 Red Davis
1937 Columbia Workshop
1937 Shakespeare Cycle
1939 Campbell Playhouse
1939 The Pursuit Of Happiness
1939 Texaco Star Theatre
1940 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1941 Lux Radio Theatre
1941 The Free Company
1941 We the People
1941 Forecast
1941 The Spirit Of '41
1941 Cavalcade Of America
1941 Inner Sanctum
1944 The Kate Smith Hour
1944 Freedom Never Dies
1945 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre
1945 Arch Oboler's Plays
1945 Command Performance
1945 Theatre Guild On the Air
1945 Radio Hall Of Fame
1947 Radio Reader's Digest
1948 Studio One
1950 Hands Across the Sea
1950 Hallmark Playhouse
1950 Friday Is A Big Day
1952 Best Plays
1953 End Of An Era
1954 Stagestruck
1960 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1960 Bob and Ray Present the CBS Radio Network
1960 Have Gun, Will Travel
1972 Same Time, Same Station
1976 Goodnight and Good Luck
Burgess Meredith circa 1939
Burgess Meredith circa 1939

Burgess Meredith debuted over Radio on October 1st 1934 as 'Red Davis' in the juvenile adventure series of the same name.
Burgess Meredith debuted over Radio on October 1st 1934 as 'Red Davis' in the juvenile adventure series of the same name.

Burgess Meredith at the CBS Mike circa 1941
Burgess Meredith at the CBS Mike circa 1941

Burgess Meredith with wife Paulette Goddard circa 1948
Burgess Meredith with wife Paulette Goddard circa 1948

Burgess Meredith with Ingrid Bergman at the Forty-Fourth Street Theatre
Burgess Meredith with Ingrid Bergman at the Forty-Fourth Street Theatre

Burgess Meredith with Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, and Artie Shaw
Burgess Meredith with Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, and Artie Shaw

Burgess Meredith goes over script for The Story of G.I. Joe with Ernie Pyle
Captain Burgess Meredith goes over script for The Story of G.I. Joe with Ernie Pyle

Burgess Meredith in Street of Chance 1942
Burgess Meredith in Street of Chance 1942

Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis from the famous Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last  from 1959
Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis from the famous Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last from 1959

Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel in a Hirshfeld caricature from Waiting for Godot circa 1961
Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel in a Hirschfeld caricature from Waiting for Godot circa 1961

Burgess Meredith at Oscar ceremony 1994
Burgess Meredith at Oscar ceremony 1994
Burgess Meredith was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Ida Beth (née Burgess) and Canadian-born doctor, William George Meredith. Speaking of his childhood, he poignantly observed:

"All my life, to this day, the memory of my childhood remains grim and incoherent. If I close my eyes and think back, I see little except violence and fear...In those early years I somehow came to understand I would have to draw from within myself whatever emotional resources I needed to go wherever I was headed. As a result, for years I became a boy who lived almost totally within himself."

He graduated from Hoosac School in 1926, then attended Amherst College as a member of the Class of 1931. In 1933, he joined Eva Le Gallienne's Theatre Company in New York.He became a favored protege of dramatist Maxwell Anderson, premiering in Film in Anderson's Winterset (1936).

He garnered generous criticism playing George in a 1939 adaptation of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and later as war correspondent Ernie Pyle in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). Having served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II as a Captain, Meredith's first-hand experience served him well in the Ernie Pyle role.

Meredith enjoyed a very successful Film and Radio career throughout the 1940s, featured in a wide range of both comedic and dramatic roles. He was featured in three films with his wife, Paulette Goddard, in Second Chorus (1940), Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and On Our Merry Way (1948). He also starred with Lana Turner in Madame X (1966).

Just as his career and both critical and popular fame were arcing, he was named as an unfriendly witness by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his proudly avowed liberal views, at which point his Studio work predictably vanished.

With influential help from Otto Preminger, he soon began to restore his Film career, while continuing to appear on Radio and Television. Meredith had a moment of just retribution 15 years later when he portrayed Joseph Welch, the man who humbled and humiliated McCarthy before the full Committee, in 1977's Tail Gunner Joe Television drama.

Meredith's liberal causes and views continued unabated. An avowed opponent of the Vietnam War, he was also an evironmentalist. Indeed, a fascinating anecdote regarding Meredith's encounter with a dolphin speaks volumes as to his humanity:

"He was fascinated by the subject of non-human intelligence, particularly dolphins. He once believed that a dolphin somehow called to him for help in the middle of the night while he was staying at a friend's home on the beach. He ran out and found the dolphin, caught in a net under a dock down the beach, although there was no way he should have been able to know it was there. He released it, saving its life. He believed it had made some sort of connection with him, perhaps telepathic, to call for help."

Younger audiences know Burgess Meredith best for either the Rocky (1976) or Grumpy Old Men (1993) films, and of course as The Penguin in both the Batman Movie of 1966 and the wildly successful Batman (1967-1968) Television series.

Meredith also did a large amount of commercial work, serving as the voice for Skippy Peanut Butter and United Air Lines, among many others.

Suffering from bouts of melanoma, and deteriorating Alzheimer's Disease, his last years as an actor found him often resorting to cue cards for the first time in his extraordinary career, but trooper that he remained, he continued on for the love of his craft.

The Alzheimer's disease and a host of other complicating ailments ulitimately took him at the age of 89, after a forty year career in Radio, a thirty year career in Television, a sixty year career in Film and a seventy year career on the public stage. He was survived by his fourth wife, Kaja, and son Jonathon, a musician, and daughter Tala, a painter.

"I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type."

"Like the seasons of the year, life changes frequently and drastically. You enjoy it or endure it as it comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows."

Burgess Meredith says goodbye




Conway Tearle [Frederick Levy]
(Narrator)

Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor
(1878-1939)
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Education: West Point

Radiography:
1933 Fleischmann's Yeast Hour
1937 Shakespeare Cycle
1937 Lux Radio Theatre
Conway Tearle circa 1912
Conway Tearle circa 1912

Conway Tearle fan card from 1921
Conway Tearle fan card from 1921

Conway Tearle with Mae Murray in Altars of Desire (1927)
Conway Tearle with Mae Murray in Altars of Desire (1927)

Tearle's famous home, one of the first in the Hollywood subdivision of Los Angeles
Tearle's famous home, one of the first in the Hollywood subdivision of Los Angeles
Conway Tearle was born Frederick Levy in New York City on May 17, 1878 to a family of entertainers. Jules Levy, his father, was a jazz musician, and his mother, Marianne Conway, was an actress. After Frederick's parents divorced, his mother would later marry British Shakespearean actor and theatre manager Osmond Tearle

Frederick Levy was raised in England from the age of 10. He gained his initial acting experience on his stepfather's stage, alternately billed as Frederick Levy and Frederick Conway before ultimately settling on the name Conway Tearle. Sent to West Point for his college education, Conway Tearle ultimately returned to the U.S. for good in 1905, and almost immediately debuted on Broadway in Abigail (1905). Conway Tearle soon found himself performing in predominantely romantic leads for almost ten years before entering Film in 1914. Conway's two half brothers, Godfrey Tearle and Malcolm Tearle, would also become both Stage and Film actors.

Conway Tearle was almost always cast as a dashing, heroic figure or lover. His films were so well received by his female audiences that his subsequent films were deemed women's pictures. In rapid succession he appeared with an enviable selection of the most beautiful and popular young actresses of the era:
  • Helene of the North (1915) opposite Marguerite Clark
  • The Foolish Virgin (1916) and The Common Law (1916) with Clara Kimball Young
  • Stella Maris (1918) with Mary Pickford
  • A Virtuous Vamp (1919) with Constance Talmadge
  • She Loves and Lies (1920) and The Eternal Flame (1922), with Norma Talmadge
  • Lilies of the Field (1924) with Corinne Griffith
  • Dancing Mothers (1926) with Clara Bow

Tearle had no problem transitioning to talkies and continued in leading romantic roles in a series of sound films or in character support of B-pictures. Tearle completed his Film career with Mae West in Klondike Annie (1936) and in Romeo and Juliet (1936) with Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard.

Married four times, he was survived by his fourth wife, Adele Rowland after his death from a heart attack at the age of 60.

Tearle's sumptuous home at 1782 North Orange Drive, Hollywood, CA was later purchased by The American Society of Cinematographers in 1936. They have reportedly preserved and maintained it to this day.




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