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The Wanted! Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Wanted

Willie "The Actor" Sutton Wanted circular
Willie "The Actor" Sutton Wanted circular

Willie Sutton during one of his fleeting prison incarcerations during the 1940s
Willie Sutton during one of his fleeting prison incarcerations during the 1940s


NBC and CBS were in a continual battle for Radio audience market share. From the mid-1930s forward, NBC and CBS regularly imitated each others' programming successes, in many cases simultaneously. Sometimes the listening audience was the beneficiary of the intense rivalry, sometimes, not so much.

CBS' various experimental, often ground-breaking Radio innovations were some of the most cutting-edge programming to ever air during the Golden Age of Radio. NBC, for its part mounted a long-running series of educational initiatives with the various incarnations of their University Theater of The Air and NBC Presents productions.

With the explosion in highly realistic crime dramas during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, both NBC and CBS went head to head trying to trump the others' 'true crime' dramatizations, with programming such as the wildly successful Dragnet series over NBC and The Line-Up series over CBS. But for many in their listening audience, the realism of Dragnet and The Line-Up didn't go far enough. The 1950s brought even more realism with the Night Watch series over CBS in the mid-1950s and the similar Unit 99 from ABC in the late-1950s.

Indeed, within a year of Dragnet's first success over Radio, NBC took the Dragnet series to Television. NBC's Dragnet series over Radio and Television were airing during the same period for three years. Columbia, by contrast tried to emulate Dragnet's Radio and Television success with The Line-Up, but managed only one season of The Line-Up over Television.

The clear winners in the rivalry were the listening and viewing audiences. Both networks first began capitalizing on America's growing appetite for realistic crime depictions in 1950. CBS debuted its Somebody Knows series on July 6, 1950, with NBC countering the following day with its Wanted series airing July 7, 1950.

Radio curmudgeon, John Crosby, reviewed both Somebody Knows and Wanted, in the July 20, 1950 edition of the Oakland Tribune:

Real Crimes Basis for Two Programs
      CBS and NBC have both come up with almost identical programs aimed at solving crimes which are still open cases and at apprehending criminals still at large.  Both these programs, NBC's "Wanted" (7 p.m. PDT Friday) and CBS's "Somebody Knows" (6 p.m. PDT Thursday), are, so far as I know, novel, though rather belated, experiments in radio journalism.

     Both programs review actual unsolved crimes, providing listeners with as much information as possible about the suspects in the hope that some listener may come forth with tips leading to the capture and conviction of the criminals.

     The networks would be performing a great public service if they land any criminals.  So far, neither of them has.  Even if they don't, these are both highly educational programs, furnishing the average laymen with sound information on the workings, both of the underworld and of the law enforcement agencies.  Since the public's thirst for crime programs of some sort seems virtually unquenchable, it's nice to have a couple of programs that deal with authentic crimes as opposed to the ordinary run of derring-do on the radio.


     "Somebody Knows," which offers a $5000 reward if you can put a finger on any of these criminals, recently took up the case of a psychopathic killer operating in St. Paul.  It opened with the voice of a Dr. Hathaway, a professor of psychology, addressing a seminar on mental abnormalities and speaking specifically of the repetitive nature of criminal acts by various types of psychopaths.

     This led into the review of the case of a girl named Geraldine.  Geraldine was returning home from her job shortly after midnight on a rainy night.  She was within two blocks of her home--a fact established by the bus driver who let her out there--when she was attacked and killed.  Her body, the throat and wrists slashed, was found three miles away from the scene of the crime.  The girl was neither raped nor robbed.

     Dr. Hathaway, who was called into the case by the police, predicted that the killer would strike again if the same set of circumstances arose again.  Sure enough, about a  year later, a girl named Mary Agnes was returning to her home alone from an evening at the ballet about midnight.  The circumstances were almost identical.  She was within three blocks of her home--a fact verified by the streetcar conductor.  It was a rainy night.  The streets were deserted.  Mary Agnes was killed in the same manner as Geraldine, throat and wrists slashed, and her body was discovered miles from the crime scene.


     There was no direct evidence linking both crimes to the same person, but Dr. Hathaway drew up a list of 21 points of similarity and concluded with what he described as a "personality portrait" of the killer.  Want to hear it?

     The man, says Dr. Hathaway, lived or lives somewhere in the neighborhood of the crime, has an automobile--probably an inconspicuous one--has a chance to roam the neighborhood either on foot or in his car without attracting too much attention, probably had an opportunity to know about Mary Agnes and may even have known her, was between the ages of 25 and 45, is likely to be intelligent with a good job and is the type of man not ordinarily open to suspicion, may have had a recent nervous breakdown, has sullen moody spells, shows less than average interest in women (a rather surprising point), and probably carries a knife with which he commits his crimes around with him at all times.

     The criminal is still at large, and, Dr. Hathaway warned, he will strike again under the same set of circumstances.


     "Wanted" is a somewhat different proposition.  Its producers, Walter and Peggy McGraw, toured the country for months collecting the voices on tape of police officials, newspapermen, district attorneys, prison officials and witnesses involved in some of the Nation's most spectacular unsolved crimes.  No actors are used on this one at all.  The actual persons simply retell what they know of the crime.  Each week an underworld character, kept anonymous for his own protection, gives tips on the habits, appearance and associates of the wanted man.

     The cases "Wanted" has dealt with include that of Willie "The Actor" Sutton, a very skillful jail-break artist, who is wanted for virtually everything.  Another concerned the shocking murder of Sen. Warren G. Hooper, of Michigan, who was to have been one of the principal witnesses in a gambling probe in that state.  Wanted for the latter is a man named Mike Sulik, who, McGraw informed us, is one of the most dangerous criminals at large.

     Both programs employ almost a magazine rather than a dramatic approach, avoid sensationalism and stick to the facts which, after all the crime nonsense on the air, you'll find enormously refreshing.
(Copyright, 1950, for The Tribune)

John Crosby had long been a critic of the 'radio noir' crime and detective dramas of the 1940s, almost invariably panning the majority of them for their questionable plots and far-fetched and implausible situations. But both Somebody Knows and Wanted seemed to strike the right balance for Crosby. For the Radio audiences of the era, not nearly as much.

Though both series achieved respectable ratings during their brief summer runs, neither were renewed beyond their Summer seasons. Both series were more docudramas than dramatizations. For American audiences, both series' remained simply 'a Summer fling' and little more. Dragnet continued to climb the charts and CBS' The Line-Up was gaining both an audience and sponsors.

Production notes and history

Summertime is, afterall, a time of escapism for most of America. Somebody Knows differed from Wanted by focusing on an unsolved crime of a particularly gruesome or notorious nature. Wanted by contrast focused on the career fugitive. Wanted's thirteen installments traced the 'careers' of criminals who'd acheived the lofty heights of the FBI's infamous 'Ten Most Wanted' list. These were con-artists, repeat prison escapees, and killers of the most notorious stripe. Many of the names were still quite familiar to early 1950s audiences: Willie Sutton, Mikey Melik, 'Two Gun Kinnie' Wagner and Glen Roy Wright in particular. And while many of these desperadoes were more regional sensations in nature, Willie 'The Actor' Sutton and 'Two Gun Kinnie' Wagner had made headlines across the U.S. during their various crime sprees.

While Somebody Knows had offered a standing $5,000 reward for further insights into their unsolved crime depictions, Wanted focused only on fugitives either currently or previously at large--with no reward offered other than America's unspoken obligation to assist in the fugitive's capture, or recapture.

Wanted's format framed each docudrama with the actual, first person accounts of those involved in the crimes commited by the fugitive at issue. The interviews were intermixed with Fred Collins' and Walter McGraw's expositions to move the dramatizations to their conclusion. At the conclusion of each program, the narrator(s) would provide clues as to the possible whereabouts of the fugitive(s) at large.

The circulating exemplars are uniformly taut, well paced and informative, even by today's standards. Dramatizations were kept to a minimum, relying primarily on the first-person accounts and interviews to move the plots along. Morris Mamorsky's scores added to the pace and suspense of each episode, and the expositional writing in support of each episode was both succinct and informative.

Both series--Somebody Knows and Wanted--were also examples of series' conceived, shaped, promoted, produced and directed by a single, independent producer for network consumption: Jimmy Saphier for Somebody Knows and Walter McGraw for Wanted. These types of entrepreneurial productions would see far greater exploitation throughout the 1950s, as major networks sought to reduce or restrain Radio production costs in favor of their Television offerings.

For Crime fans of the era, Wanted clearly fired the imagination and provided a radio verite realism to each installment rarely ever heard before over Radio. For the sociologist or student of the police science of the era, the surviving exemplars illustrate the evolving sophistication of both criminal forensics and fugitive pursuit technology of the era.

Series Derivatives:

Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Crime Dramas
Network(s): NBC
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): 50-07-01 [Aud] Willie 'The Actor' Sutton
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 50-07-07 01 Willie 'The Actor' Sutton
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 50-07-07 to 50-09-29; NBC; Thirteen programs; Fridays, 9 p.m. C.S.T
Syndication: McGraw Associates
Director(s): Walter McGraw [Producer/Director/Host]
Principal Actors:
Recurring Character(s): None
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): None
Writer(s) P.L. Mayer; James Kovac [Supervisor]
Music Direction: Morris Mamorsky [Composer/Music Director] ; Elliot Jacoby [Conductor]
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Fred Collins [Announcer/Narrator]
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 12
Total Episodes in Collection: 5

RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

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

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The Wanted! Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
50-07-01 Willie 'The Actor' Sutton
Willie 'The Actor' Sutton

50-07-07 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): new series based on interviews with crime witnesses, police officials; story of
Willie "The Actor" Sutton, sought for armed robbery and jailbreak.
Myron 'Mike' Selik
50-07-14 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): case against
Myron "Mike" Selik, sought for murder of Michigan state senator.
Edward Sadowski
50-07-21 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA):
Edward Sadowski, sought for Cleveland murder since May 13, 1949.
'Angel' Fred Tenuto
50-07-28 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): story of
"Angel" Fred Tenuto, one of nation's 10 most wanted fugituves.
Glen Roy Wright
50-08-04 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): story of
Glen Roy Wright, sought for murder, armed robbery, narcotics peddling, prison break.
Kenneth 'Two-Gun Kinnie' Wagner
50-08-11 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA):
Kenneth "Two-Gun Kinnie" Wagner, killer of six.
Omar August Pinson
50-08-18 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): story of
Omar August Pinson, killer of Hood River, Wash., police officer.
James Joseph Sweeney
50-08-25 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA):
James Joseph Sweeney, for attempted murder and bail-jumping.
Troy and Thurman Seay
50-09-01 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): Two alleged swindlers,
Troy Eugene and Thurman Seay.
Troy and Thurman Seay
50-09-08 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA):
Troy and Thurman Seay
Henry Clay Tollett
50-09-15 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA):
Henry Clay Tollett, bank robber.
Thomas Kling
50-09-22 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Wanted (WIBA): New York hoodlum sought for armed robbery.
Alvin And Gladys Stewart
50-09-29 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Red Feather Roundup (WIBA, WISC, WKOW, WIBU): Pres. Truman officially opens 1950 campaign;…

50-09-29 Lima News
10:00 Wanted Drama--nbc

The Wanted! Program Biographies

Fred Collins
Radio Announcer, Narrator, and Actor

Birthplace: ??

1944 Eddie Condon's Jazz Concert
1948 The Eternal Light
1949 Author Meets the Critics
1949 Radio City Playhouse
1949 Bill Stern Colgate Sports Newsreel
1950 Wanted
1950 The Joe DiMaggio Show
1950 The Big Guy
1950 Top Secret
1950 Dimension X
1950 The People Act
1951 The Magnificent Montague
1951 Living
1951 Mr I.A.Moto
1951 The Amazing Mr Malone
1951 New Theater
1951 Roy Shield and His Orchestra
1951 Inspector Thorne
1951 The Silent Men
1952 The Falcon
1952 The Chase
1952 Best Plays
1952 Concert In Miniature
1953 Stars In Jazz
1953 My Son Jeep
1953 Concert Encores
1953 Medicine U.S.A.
1953 Second Chance
1953 My World Is Music
1953 NBC Star Playhouse
1954 Count Basie and His Orchestra
1954 Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars
1954 Dave Brubeck With the Paul Desmond Quartet
1954 Crime and Peter Chambers
1954 Best Of All
1954 Charlie Parker
1954 Meet the Press
1955 X Minus One
1955 Biography In Sound
1956 Recollections At Thirty
1956 Woody Herman and His Orchestra
1957 Five-Star Matinee
1958 Health Magazine Of the Air
1959 Monitor
Let's Go To Town
Fred Collins mugs for a series of WNBC promos for Billboard Magazine from November 7 1964
Fred Collins mugs for a series of WNBC promos for Billboard Magazine from November 7 1964
Fred Collins' unmistakable voice and delivery remained one of the highlights of NBC's offerings during the waning days of The Golden Age of Radio.

For fans of X Minus One and Dimension X in particular, Collins' delivery was part and parcel of the entire experience of those remarkable Sci-Fi adventure series'. For fans of Collins' entire radiography, simply hearing his voice seemed to ensure that whatever program he was announcing would be worth a listen, irrespective of the content or format.

There's no question that he hitched his star to some winners during the era. Collins' bell-clear delivery ushered in some of the Golden Age's finest and most prestigious offerings over NBC. He was also the NBC announcer most associated with some of the more 'hip' offerings over the years. Programs such as Concert in Miniature (1952), Stars in Jazz (1953), Concert Encores (1953), and My World Is Music (1953) made Colllins a natural to announce the Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, and Woodie Herman spotlights of the mid-1950s.

Collins' natural rapport with the artists and performers, combined with his own extensive knowledge of the great Jazz and Swing proponents of the era made him an integral element of those productions. This, in an era during which NBC had an embarassment of outstanding announcers on staff.

Our personal favorites, in addition to his work on Dimension X and X Minus One and the Jazz and Swing artists he announced for, was his work with Eva le Galliene on New Theater and Ilona Massey on Top Secret. He also got to act occasionally, most notably in an episode of Radio City Playhouse.

But he was also a natural element of the many adventure and detective programs he either hosted or announced: The Falcon, Mr I A Moto, Inspector Thorne, and The Chase, among others.

Collins rounded out his broadcasting career with NBC on Monitor, NBC's historic, 20-year attempt to extend Golden Age of Radio programming a bit further in an albeit more abbreviated weekend-only format. For NBC announcing staff fans, the NBC Monitor series was Christmas every weekend. And Fred Collins was right there with them to the end.

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