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Happy Birthday, Joseph Julian!

At the time I borrowed Joseph Julian’s This Was Radio from my hometown public library as a kid, I wasn’t all that familiar with the distinguished actor born Joseph Shapiro in St. Marys, Pennsylvania on this date in 1911.  Granted, most of the radio performers with whom I was familiar were those associated with larger-than-life characters—like Brace Beemer (as the Lone Ranger) or Bret Morrison (The Shadow).  The one thing I took away from reading Joe’s book (published in 1975) was that it was a most engaging account of a working actor in the aural medium.  Julian appeared on a lot of programs, running the gamut from horror to crime to science fiction…and he worked with many of radio’s leading lights, including Arch Oboler, Himan Brown, and Norman Corwin.

While attending Johns Hopkins University, Joseph Julian pursued a career in acting by joining the Provincetown University Players.  Joe would make his Broadway debut in Judgment Day in 1934, and soon after found that acting on radio accommodated his stage exploits quite nicely (and no doubt kept groceries in the pantry to boot).  His earliest appearances would be on NBC shows like Ideas That Came True and Renfrew of the Mounted, then Julian moved over to CBS and worked on the likes of ForecastThe Columbia Workshop, and This is War.  It was on this last program that Joe made the acquaintance of “radio’s poet laureate,” Norman Corwin, who was inspired to cast Julian in the titular role of An American in England.  American was a series based on Corwin’s real-life experiences as a Yank in a strange land, and the series received a great deal of critical acclaim.  (Joe would work again many times with Norman, notably on Columbia Presents Corwin.)

Working radio actors kept working by doing a lot of daytime dramas…and Joseph Julian was no exception.  One of his earliest radio gigs was playing “Danny Stratford” on The Life of Mary Sothern, and he later appeared on the likes of Joyce Jordan, M.D. (as Ollie), Life Can Be Beautiful, and Lorenzo Jones (as Lorenzo’s pal Sandy Matson).  Joe’s most prominent soap opera experience was on the popular Big Sister, on which he played Michael West—a singer friend to the show’s long-suffering heroine, Ruth Evans Wayne.  When the decision was made to spin off Michael into his own series, Bright Horizon, Richard Kollmar took over the role…but Julian would later return to the part.

Throughout the 1940s, Joseph Julian could be heard on such shows as The American School of the AirArch Oboler’s PlaysCasey, Crime PhotographerThe Cavalcade of AmericaCrime Club, Foreign AssignmentThe Henry Morgan ShowInner Sanctum, Keeping Up with RosemaryLawyer QThe Molle Mystery TheatreMurder at MidnightThe Mysterious TravelerNew World A’ComingSecret MissionsThe ShadowThe Sparrow and the HawkThe Sportsmen’s ClubUnder Arrest, and Words at War.  In the summer of 1947, Joe was the star (with Joan Tompkins as leading lady) of Call the Police, a crime drama that also appeared in the summers of 1948 and 1949 as a replacement for Amos ‘n’ Andy.  Julian’s stint as Police Commissioner Bill Grant was brief, however; actor George Petrie took over for the two subsequent seasons.

The fifties proved to be a challenging time for Joe Julian where his acting career was concerned.  He had the misfortune of being listed in Red Channels, a noxious little publication that purported to out “Communists” in the entertainment industry.  You’d be excused if you’re wondering how someone who starred in An American in England would wind up in such a pamphlet…but Julian’s friend Norman Corwin was also listed, as were personalities previously covered here on the blog like John Brown, Howard Duff, Dashiell Hammett, Paul McGrath, Minerva Pious…and yes, even Orson Welles.  Joe refused to take the allegations lying down, however, and fought the charges in order to clear his name.  He continued to work whenever he could, with guest appearances on radio shows like Best PlaysThe CBS Radio WorkshopCloak and DaggerThe Couple Next DoorDimension XGang BustersIndictmentNBC Star PlayhouseNow Hear ThisRocky FortuneThe Search That Never EndsTurning Wheel21st Precinct2000 Plus, and X-Minus One.  Julian would help close out Radio’s Golden Age working on Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and later appeared on both radio revivals like The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and evergreens like The Eternal Light.

His busy radio career kept him in New York City most of the time, but Joseph Julian occasionally managed to appear in feature films, including The Violators and That Night! (both 1957).  Joe found a place on the small screen in his later thespic years, guesting on the likes of Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe DefendersPerry Mason, and The Untouchables; and returned to his radio roots by working on daytime dramas like As the World TurnsThe Edge of Night, and Somerset.  Julian passed at the age of 71, seven years after the 1975 publication the previously mentioned This Was Radio.

Joseph Julian was held in such high regard by his fellow stage performers that a memorial service was held in his honor at the American Renaissance Theatre in New York a week after his passing. We think pretty highly of Joe, too, and invite you to check out his work on two of our science fiction potpourri collections: Great Radio Science Fiction and Science Fiction Radio: Atom Age Adventures.  You’ll also hear today’s birthday boy on sets of Dimension X (Adventures in Time and Space, Future Tense) and X-Minus One (Countdown, Far Horizons, Time and Time Again).  Rounding out our audio tribute to Mr. Julian are his appearances on Casey, Crime Photographer (Blue Note), Inner Sanctum (Pattern for Fear), The Mysterious Traveler (Dark Destiny), Suspense (Fear and Trembling, Final Curtain), Words at War: World War II Radio Drama, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (The Many Voices of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar).  Happy birthday, Joe!

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