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Happy Birthday, Bernard Lenrow!

When the popular radio crime anthology known as The Mollé Mystery Theatre premiered over NBC in the fall of 1943, the host of that series—”annotator” Geoffrey Barnes—was portrayed by an actor named Roc Rogers.  Barnes, who described himself as “the connoisseur of mysteries” (eat your heart out, Thomas Hyland!), served as the audience’s introduction to dramatized tales from the likes of authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Raymond Chandler…but Rogers quickly relinquished the role of Barnes to another radio veteran born in Binghampton, NY on this date in 1903.  Bernard Lenrow was one of the hardest working thespians in the business, with regular roles on such classic radio programs as Casey, Crime Photographer and The Eternal Light.

Bernard Lenrow was bitten by the acting bug early in life. Educated at Cornell, he did graduate work in speech and dramatics, and later became an instructor at the university’s department of public speaking (not to mention assistant director of Cornell’s dramatic club).  Lenrow later taught speech at New York’s Hunter College before moving on to the University of Iowa where he also served a stint as the director of the Iowa State Players.  Bernard moved comfortably back-and-forth between academia and broadcasting (he had his first radio audition in 1928) before deciding in 1936 to make radio his permanent career.  Encouraged by the fan mail that he received after his commercial radio debut, Lenrow never wanted for work as a freelance actor, narrator, and announcer.

If you were a working radio actor in New York throughout the 1930s/1940s, chances are you spent a lot of time in front of a microphone on daytime dramas.  Bernard Lenrow was no exception; one of his busiest gigs was on the long-running Valiant Lady, on which he portrayed an unscrupulous real estate agent named Carson.  Bernard also emoted on The Road to Life (as Dr. Ollie Ferguson) and Joyce Jordan, M.D. (Dr. Howard Starr). One soap opera that didn’t require him to wear a stethoscope was The Light of the World, which was heard on NBC and CBS from 1940 to 1950. This series was inspired by The Good Book itself (Lenrow played Nebuchadnezzar).  Bernard’s work on World paved the way for one of his longest radio engagements: The Eternal Light, a dramatic anthology that featured both Biblical reenactments and tales of human perseverance.  Light, produced by the Jewish Theological Seminary, ran on radio for over forty years (and transitioned to TV in 1952).

Portraying “Geoffrey Barnes” on Mystery Theatre was undoubtedly Bernard Lenrow’s most recognized radio work…but the actor had regular roles on other series as well.  Bernard played Commissioner Weston for a time on The Shadow and could also be heard as Captain Bill Logan, the police contact for the titular shutterbug of Casey, Crime Photographer.  Lenrow also made recurring appearances on the likes of The Mystery ManDoc Savage, Man of Bronze (a 1943 New York series based on the pulp hero), and Secret Missions, an espionage series that aired on Mutual from 1948 to 1949.  In addition, Bernard’s radio resume includes Adventure AheadThe Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Cavalcade of AmericaThe ChaseDimension XFamous Jury TrialsGreat PlaysThe Hallmark Hall of FameIdeas That Came TrueThe Jack Benny ProgramNew World A’ComingNow Hear ThisThe Silent MenStroke of FateSuspenseVoice of the ArmyWe Came This Way, Words at WarX-Minus OneYou Are There, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Bernard Lenrow’s movie credits include an uncredited bit in 1945’s The House on 92 Street and a somewhat larger role as a judge in The Violators (1957; directed by One Step Beyond’s John Newland).  His small screen resume includes appearances on shows such as Tales of TomorrowOmnibusDecoy, and The Defenders. Clearly, Lenrow was a creature of radio and devoted most of his time to that medium, save for the occasional stage play. (He had impressive showcases in productions of Compulsion [1958] and The Gang’s All Here [1959]).  His appearance in the “Everybody Else is Dead” episode of The Defenders would be his final role before his passing in 1963 at the age of 59.

To celebrate Bernard Lenrow’s natal anniversary, Radio Spirits invites you to purchase our latest collection of Mollé Mystery Theatre broadcasts: Close Shave.  You’ll also hear Bernard as Commissioner Weston in our Shadow sets Knight of Darkness and Strange Puzzles, and as Captain Bill Logan in our Casey, Crime Photographer compendium Blue Note.  And while we’re on the subject—since your shelf is looking a bit bare—check out Mr. Lenrow in Sherlock Holmes: Well Staged MurderSuspense: Final CurtainX-Minus One: Far Horizons, and our potpourri set Great Radio Horror (with a Mollé Mystery Theatre episode from 1945, “The Beckoning Fair One”).

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