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Happy Birthday, Maurice Tarplin!

A 1946 issue of Radio Mirror noted that “practically everyone connected with the Boston Blackie show is a former athlete.” Radio Mirror was not publishing “fake news”: the show’s star, Richard Kollmar, was a member of the tennis team while attending Tusculum College (Tennessee) and later, at Yale, became an outstanding water polo player.  (I’ll spare you the old joke about the horses.)  Kollmar’s female co-star, Lesley Woods (who played girlfriend Mary Wesley), was captain of the women’s basketball team during her matriculation at Northwestern.  The third member of the Blackie triumvirate—actor Maurice Tarplin (Blackie’s nemesis Inspector Farraday), born in Boston on this date in 1911—attended William and Mary, where he showed his stuff on skates as a member of that institution’s championship ice hockey squad.

Maurice Tarplin was not only a William and Mary alum—he attended both Phillips Exeter and Harvard during his pursuit of higher education.  As for a post-graduate career, Maurice decided an actor’s life was for him and he found that his memorably sardonic voice lent itself beautifully to the new medium of radio.  He arrived in New York in 1937 and became a working thespian in the world of daytime dramas. He appeared on Myrt and Marge (as Barnie Belzer), Valiant Lady (Barclay), The Guiding Light (Richard Hanley), and When a Girl Marries.  Tarplin would eventually become a member of the stock company on The March of Time, where his impersonation of Winston Churchill was always in high demand. Supplementing his gigs on the aforementioned shows were appearances on The ShadowIdeas That Came TrueGang Busters, and The Columbia Workshop.

One of Maurice Tarplin’s high-profile radio jobs was playing Agatha Christie’s sleuthing creation Hercule Poirot on Murder Clinic, a show heard briefly over Mutual in 1942.  Tarplin also starred (and announced) on Manhunt, a syndicated crime anthology in which Maurice’s homicide detective Bill Monroe assisted the investigations of forensic cop Andrew “Drew” Stevens.  Manhunt was a quarter-hour production from the Ziv people, who put Maurice to work (as Farraday) when they resurrected Boston Blackie as a Mutual (and ABC) offering that ran from April 1, 1945 to October 25, 1950.

Maurice Tarplin’s best-remembered stint in front of the microphone was as the titular train passenger on The Mysterious Traveler, a mystery-horror anthology that became one of Mutual’s most popular programs.  Tarplin’s interpretation of that series’ omnipresent terror tale narrator was described by author/radio historian John Dunning as conveying “good-natured menace, the kind of mischievous malevolence inspired by The Whistler or Raymond of Inner Sanctum Mysteries.”  Traveler aired from 1943 to 1951, and at one time Mutual recycled many of the show’s scripts for a quarter-hour series along similar lines in The Strange Dr. Weird.  (Maurice played that role as well.)

Other radio programs on which Maurice Tarplin made the rounds include The Adventures of the AbbottsBy the PeopleCasey, Crime PhotographerThe Cavalcade of AmericaThe ChaseCloak and DaggerCounterspyDid Justice Triumph?Easy MoneyEchoes of a CenturyEye Witness NewsFamous Jury TrialsHallmark PlayhouseHigh AdventureHollywood’s Open HouseMr. and Mrs. NorthMurder by ExpertsThe New Adventures of Sherlock HolmesNew World A’Comin’Nick Carter, Master DetectiveNow Hear ThisOut of the ThunderThe Sealed BookSecret MissionsWe Came This WayWhat’s the Good Word?Worlds at War, and You are There/CBS is There.  Tarplin also had the distinction of appearing on the radio versions of two early TV favorites, Tales of Tomorrow and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet—both rare examples of programs that made a TV-to-radio transition.

Maurice Tarplin was first and foremost a radio actor.  He made the occasional appearance on shows like Danger and Naked City, but he went the distance where radio’s last hour was concerned—working on shows like X-Minus One, Exploring Tomorrow, IndictmentSuspense, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.  Even after “the Golden Age of Radio” had come to an end, Tarplin could be heard on such series as The Eternal Light and Theatre Five.  Maurice was a man of many interests: he penned a short story, Seven Casks of Death, which was published in a 1948 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine.  Until his passing at the age of 64 in 1975, Tarplin kept busy doing voiceovers on television commercials and providing translations on the English soundtracks for foreign films.

Radio Spirits is pleased to offer a fine collection of broadcasts featuring today’s birthday celebrant in his signature role as The Mysterious Traveler. Not only can you listen to Maurice Tarplin on Dark Destiny, but you can enjoy his exploits in two Traveler episodes featured among the many on our Great Radio Horror compilation.  Maurice plays Inspector Farraday on our Boston Blackie sets Boston Blackie Delivers the Goods (and he does!) and Death Wish, and gives it his all on the Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar compendiums Medium Rare Matters and Mysterious Matters.  We hope you saved room for the “ice cream and cake”: Tarplin’s showcases on Casey, Crime Photographer: Blue NoteThe Sealed Book: GhostmakersThe Shadow: The Story of the ShadowSuspense: Final Curtain, Words at War, and X-Minus One: Far Horizons.  Happy birthday, Maurice!


  1. Jeffrey Tarplin says:

    Thanks to Mr. Shreve for honoring my father Maurice Tarplin with this excellent biography. I would be very interested in learning whether you have collected any other materials documenting his career.
    All the best, JFT

  2. Karl Schadow says:

    That novel mentioned above is actually a short story from the June 1948 issue of Dime Mystery Magazine. Contact me via bluecar91 at for a scan of this item. Moreover, Maurice Tarplin was purported to have been cast in The Scoundrel (Paramount, 1935). Does anyone have this film?

  3. Bob Wilson says:

    This is great! So much I did not know about the Tarplin patriarch. The second photo (the upshot) is a dead ringer for a younger Jeffrey Tarplin. I’m sure my parents must have enjoyed Maurice at work in their younger days.

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