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Happy Birthday, Robert Readick!

Actor Frank Readick’s voice is a familiar one to those fans who remember old-time radio–he was one of the busiest thesps in the aural medium, starring on such programs as Smilin’ Jack and Meet Mr. Meek. He was also a member-in-good-standing with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre, with roles in such Wellesian triumphs as Les Miserables and the later Mercury Theatre on the Air (Frank played doomed reporter Carl Phillips on the classic “War of the Worlds” broadcast). Readick is best remembered for portraying the Shadow from September 1931 to March 1935. In fact, when his future boss Orson took over the role, the producers had to depend upon Frank’s recorded Shadow laugh because Welles could never quite master the sinister chortle.

For a time on the daytime drama This is Nora Drake, Frank Readick portrayed “William Arnold”…and the actor who worked alongside him as “Tom Morely” was none other than his son Robert Readick, who was born in New York City on this date in 1925. Young Bob was clearly anxious to follow in his pop’s footsteps and began his radio career as a member of the juvenile cast of CBS’ Let’s Pretend. Readick also played a character endearingly titled “Pesky Brat” on Home of the Brave and appeared on several of radio’s dramatic series, including Arch Oboler’s PlaysThe Cavalcade of AmericaThe Columbia Workshop, and The Sportsmen’s Club. Bob was also a regular on The Adventures of Father Brown, a Mutual series inspired by G.K. Chesterton’s famed literary sleuth (played by the ubiquitous Karl Swenson).

Robert Readick had a very brief career in Hollywood as a juvenile actor, appearing in both Harrigan’s Kid (1943)—where he received top billing as “Bobby Readick”—and The Canterville Ghost (1944). Readick also did stage work, appearing in such productions as George Washington Slept Here (1941), All in Favor (1942), and The Biggest Thief in Town (1949). He would later be in the cast of Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) toward the end of its run in 1960, replacing Rip Torn as “Tom, Jr.” when Torn took over for star Paul Newman.

For Robert Readick, however, radio was his mistress; one source reports that he had appeared on 7,000 broadcasts by the time he turned 23 in 1950. Many of those broadcasts were undoubtedly, like most industrious radio actors, daytime “soap operas.” Bob’s role on This is Nora Drake has already been mentioned, but he also worked on Aunt Jenny’s Real Life StoriesHilltop House (as Dr. Ricky Browning), Pepper Young’s Family (Dave Wallace), Road of Life (Dr. John Brent), Rosemary (Bill Roberts), The Second Mrs. Burton (Don Cornwell), Whispering Streets, and Young Doctor Malone (Dr. Ted Mason).

Robert Readick also co-starred on Marlene Dietrich’s foray into radio, Time for Love (a.k.a. Cafe Istanbul), as her love interest “Michael Victor,” and had a recurring role on the 1951 Naval dramatic anthology Now Hear This. Rounding out Bob’s radio resume are appearances on such shows as 21st PrecinctThe Big StoryThe CBS Radio WorkshopThe FBI in Peace and WarGang BustersThe Phil Harris-Alice Faye ShowSpace PatrolSpecial AgentSuspenseThe Theatre Guild On the Air, and You Are There.

If Robert Readick is remembered by old-time radio fans today, it is unquestionably for his stint (29 episodes) as “the man with the action-packed expense account” on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Bob was assigned the role of “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” when production of the series moved from Hollywood to New York. Readick would play Johnny from December 4, 1960 to June 18, 1961 after which actor Mandel Kramer took over until the series turned in its last expense report on September 30, 1962. Bob dabbled in a little in television (the IMDb credits him with an episode of The Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1963 yet leaves out his role on the TV soap As the World Turns). But he remained a creature of radio, with appearances on The CBS Radio Mystery TheatreThe Eternal Light, and Theatre Five in his later years. Robert Readick was the victim of a tragic automobile accident in 1985, dying at the age of 59.

To celebrate the natal anniversary of Bob Readick, why not check out his performances in his signature role on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: Medium Rare Matters, Mysterious Matters, and The Many Voices of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. You can also find Bob on the sets Great Radio Science Fiction, Suspense: Final Curtain, and Theater 5. Mr. Readick also makes an appearance in our digital downloads store on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Hotel Harris. Happy Birthday, Bob!

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