|Raymond Edward Johnson
Stage, Screen, Television and Radio Actor
Birthplace: Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Education: Goodman School of Drama, Chicago, IL
1938 Welcome Valley
1938 The Royal Desserts Hour
1939 Arch Oboler's Plays
1939 Great Plays
1940 Mandrake the Magician
1941 Inner Sanctum
1941 Behind the Mike
1941 Metropolitan Opera Auditions Of the Air
1942 Cavalcade Of America
1942 The Man Behind the Masterpiece
1942 Don Winslow Of the Navy
1943 Lights Out
1943 Treasury Star Parade
1943 Doctor Christian
1943 Radio Hall Of Fame
1943 Words At War
1944 The Pause That Refreshes
1944 The Kemtone Hour
1945 War Town
1945 The Radio Edition Of the Bible
1945 The Adventures Of Ellery Queen
1946 Treasury Salute
1946 The Eternal Light
1946 Murder At Midnight
1947 Crime Club
1947 Fibber McGee and Molly
1947 Treasury Agent
1947 The Gabriel Heatter Show
1947 Studio One
1947 Casey, Crime Photographer
1948 A Program About A Lot Of Things
1948 The Golden Door
1948 Gang Busters
1948 The Big Story
1948 Candid Microphone
1948 Ford Theatre
1948 Secret Missions
1948 You Are There
1949 Name Your Poison
1950 Crime Fighters
1950 Mysterious Traveler
1950 Cloak and Dagger
1950 Dimension X
1950 MGM Theatre Of the Air
1950 Chandu the Magician
1952 Best Plays
1953 American Jewish Caravan Of Stars
1953 Tales Of Tomorrow
1953 Twenty-First Precinct
1956 X Minus One
1961 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
The Lone Ranger
The Lonesome Train
Raymond Edward Johnson circa 1941
Raymond Edward Johnson with Arch Oboler circa 1947
Inner Sanctum spot ad from August 4 1944
Raymond Johnson -- stars in Oboler drama on Station WIBA tonight at 7:30.
Inner Sanctum spot ad from 1942
Raymond Edward Johnson . . . plays the star role 'Mr. District Attorney' tonight over Station WIBA at 8 o'clock
|From the September 16, 2001 edition of the The New York Times:
Raymond E. Johnson, Radio Host,
Dies at 90
September 16, 2001
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Raymond Edward Johnson, a versatile radio and stage actor who provided a signature moment for radio as the ghoulish host with the creaking door in the long-running "Inner Sanctum," died on Aug. 15 in Wallingford, Conn. He was 90.
Mr. Johnson was a familiar presence in the radio serials of the 1940's and won acclaim playing Thomas Jefferson in Sidney Kingsley's 1943 Broadway play "The Patriots." But he was best known as Raymond, the original host for the gothic tales of "Inner Sanctum," which made its debut in January 1941 and ran for 11 years, on NBC, CBS and ABC.
"I didn't have Leonard Bernstein and 200 musicians doing `The Ride of the Valkyries,' " Himan Brown, the director of "Inner Sanctum," remembered long afterward. "All I used was a creaking door. There are only two sounds in radio that are trademarked the creaking door and the NBC chimes."
After three bars of organ music, "Inner Sanctum" opened with the sound of Raymond turning a doorknob and then the creaking of rusted hinges. "Good evening, friends," intoned Raymond. "This is your host, inviting you through the gory portals of the squeaking door." Then came a gruesome joke, laughter intended to make his listeners shiver, and finally an improbable episode with ghosts and bloodcurdling sound effects.
When the stories featuring actors like Boris Karloff, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains and Raymond Massey reached their climax, Raymond offered another round of macabre laughter. Then he concluded the evening by wishing his listeners "pleasant dreams."
Mr. Johnson also played the lead role in "Don Winslow of the Navy" and "Mandrake the Magician" in his busy radio career.
In the summer of 1945, after four years of fan mail sometimes accompanied by oil cans for that creaking door, Mr. Johnson stepped down as host of "Inner Sanctum" and was replaced by Paul McGrath.
By then, Mr. Johnson had achieved success in his Broadway debut as Jefferson in "The Patriots," a tribute to democratic ideals in a wartime America fighting fascism.
While appearing in the play, he continued as the host of "Inner Sanctum" on Sunday nights.
In his review of "The Patriots" in The New York Times, Lewis Nichols wrote that Mr. Johnson "conveys excellently the various moods of Jefferson."
Raymond Edward Johnson was born in Kenosha, Wis., worked as a bank teller, and then studied acting at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. His sister, Dora Johnson Remington, who died in 1989, was a radio soap opera actress, best known for playing Evey Fitz, the married daughter in "Ma Perkins."
Mr. Johnson, who suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years, nevertheless revisited his starring years in radio in 1997, when he appeared at a gathering of the Friends of Old Time Radio. He delivered a reading from a portable bed.
His co-star on "Inner Sanctum" was not always a reliable presence, as Terry Ross, a soundman, recalled in telling how a young man setting up the equipment once tried too hard to please.
"We got the hinges and buried them in the dirt out back and watered them down like plants for a couple of weeks or so, till they got nice and rusty, then mounted them on the door a little bit askew, so they would squeak," Mr. Ross recalled in an interview for Leonard Maltin's "Great American Broadcast" (Dutton, 1997). "One of the setup boys came to me and said: `Terry, I fixed the door for you. I oiled the hinges.' This was just before showtime. What do you do when the signature of the show was a squeaky door?"
Mr. Ross became the door. He imitated its creak with his voice, and Raymond and the eerie plot did the rest.
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
Raymond Edward Johnson certainly never let any grass grow under his feet as he pursued one of Radio's most successful acting careers. One of Radio's busiest and longest appearing Radio actors, Johnson's radiography comprises many of the Golden Age of Radio's most popular and longest running programming.
From the July 19, 1947 edition of the Cumberland Evening Times:
''Raymond Edward Johnson left Inner Sanctum approximately two years ago to enter the service and upon his release declined to take over his former role in the mystery thriller. He believed that to continue might type him with other producers as a ghostly voice and hinder his chances of portraying lead characters. Currently he may be heard Saturday mornings over NBC as the father in Archie Andrews, in addition to frequent, appearances on ABC's Theatre Guild On The Air.''
When Raymond Johnson returned from the service, he understandably increased his efforts to distance himself from the supernatural thriller typecasting he'd been most associated with through both Arch Oboler's various productions and Himan Brown's successful Inner Sanctum series. He took the name "Raymond" with him, leaving his replacement on the series, Paul McGrath, to his own devicies.
Reinventing himself payed off, finishing out his last years performing over Radio in a wide variety of straight dramatic roles. Stricken with Multiple Sclerosis while in his forties, Johnson's appearances on the small screen were limited to a few appearances behind the scenes as a narrator. He continued to perform over Radio until the early 1960s by which point the effects of his disability forced his retirement from the acting profession.
As indicated in his obituary above, Raymond Johnson's Radio fans continued to make demands on him for the remainder of his life, in spite of the advancing effects of his infirmity. Indeed, while in his 80s and bed-ridden, the OTR community prevailed upon him to appear at one of their OTR-selling conventions with a portable bed and help re-enact their favorite exemplars of his work. While this doesn't say a great deal about the commercial otr community that took grotesque advantage of his circumstances, it speaks volumes about Johnson's continued dedication to the memory of The Golden Age of Radio that he'd both performed in, and loved, for most of his adult working life.
It's that very sense of dedication and love of the craft of acting that endears so many of these great Radio performers to collectors of vintage Radio recordings. With an estimated 3,000 radio appearances to his credit, and hundreds of those exemplars in current circulation, Raymond Edward Johnson's extraordinary versatility as an actor, announcer, narrator, and personality of the era are increasing his avid fan base with each passing year.