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Happy Birthday, Sydney Greenstreet!

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Despite appearances in only two dozen films in an eight-year time span, Sydney Hughes Greenstreet—born on this date in 1879—remains one of the motion picture industry’s best-remembered character actors.  Greenstreet was fortunate to make an indelible impression in so many movie classics:  Signor Ferrari, the owner of The Blue Parrot nightclub in 1942’s legendary Casablanca (Sydney has only to swat at a simple fly, and his character is immediately revealed to the viewing audience);  Jerome K. Arbutny, the shady shyster whose downfall is brought about by a sweepstakes ticket in Three Strangers (1946);  Evan Llewellyn Evans, the crass network sponsor (based on George Washington Hill, the real-life president of Jack Benny’s longtime sponsor the American Tobacco Company) who unforgettably hocks a loogie on a conference table in The Hucksters (1947); and perhaps most memorable of all—Kasper Gutman, the effetely corpulent villain in The Maltese Falcon (1941) …a role which served as the actor’s silver screen debut at the age of 62 (and garnered him his only Academy Award acting nomination).

sydney8Sydney Greenstreet was born in Sandwich, Kent, England to Ann Baker and John Jarvis Greenstreet, who made his living at various times as a tanner, a leather merchant, and a Merchant Marine.  As for Sydney—he had ambitions to be a tea planter, and at age eighteen he left home for Sri Lanka, where he had planned to make his fortune.  Unfortunately for the tea business—but lucky for us movie fans—a drought put a quick end to Greenstreet’s farming motivations, and he returned to England five years later to undertake a series of odd jobs, including managing a brewery.  To alleviate the boredom of the beer business, Sydney took up acting lessons under the tutelage of Ben Greet, the manager of an English Shakespearean company.

Greenstreet’s theatrical debut was in 1902, playing a murderer in a production of Sherlock Holmes.  He followed Greet to the U.S. two years later, and made his Broadway debut in Everyman.  Sydney appeared in a variety of productions, many of them Shakespearean plays like The Merchant of VeniceAs You Like It, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.  (Legend has it that the actor not only landed roles in every play composed by The Bard of Avon, but had committed 12,000 lines of Shakespearean verse to memory.)  His success in the American theatre persuaded Greenstreet to make the U.S. his permanent home.  By the mid-1930s, Sydney found himself working alongside the legendary Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontaine in many of their Theatre Guild productions, including The Taming of the ShrewIdiot’s Delight, and The Seagull.

sydney11Sydney Greenstreet’s turn as Uncle Waldemar in a Theatre Guild presentation of There Shall Be No Night in 1940 attracted the attention of John Huston.  The director felt that Sydney was perfect for the dignified dandy that was Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon, and cast the 300-pound actor despite Greenstreet’s never having appeared in a motion picture.  Sydney’s association with The Maltese Falcon would lead to two felicitous collaborations with Falcon’s star, Humphrey Bogart (as anti-hero Sam Spade), and supporting player Peter Lorre (who portrayed Joel Cairo, Gutman’s confederate).

Greenstreet, having signed a contract with Warner Brothers, would later appear with Bogie in Across the Pacific (1942), CasablancaPassage to Marseille (1944), and Conflict (1945).  Sydney’s onscreen partnership with Peter Lorre was even more prolific: in addition to FalconCasablanca, and Marseille, the two actors were teamed up for Background to Danger (1943), The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), The Conspirators (1944),The Verdict (1946), and Three Strangers—plus a gag appearance in the all-star Warners’ production of Hollywood (1944).  At the risk of making an awful pun, Sydney was Warner Brothers’ “Merchant of Menace” …but to broaden his movie range, Greenstreet also appeared in lighter fare like Pillow to Post and Christmas in Connecticut (both 1945).  Sydney would continue to demonstrate his versatility by playing heroic parts (1948’s The Velvet Touch) and villains (1949’s Flamingo Road)…and yet never being afraid to poke fun at his screen image, as with his cameo in the Dennis Morgan-Jack Carson-Doris Day frolic It’s a Great Feeling (1949).

sydney5Sydney Greenstreet’s cinematic swan song was 1949’s Malaya, in which he co-starred with Spencer Tracy and James Stewart.  For all intents and purposes, Greenstreet announced his retirement from acting in 1952…but this didn’t discourage him from seeking out new venues to demonstrate his thespian prowess.  One such setting was radio.  In his capacity as a motion picture actor, Sydney was frequently requested to reprise his silver screen triumphs over the airwaves on such dramatic anthologies as Academy Award TheatreThe Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre, and The Lux Radio Theatre.  He also joked and sent up his movie persona alongside such radio funsters as Fred Allen, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll (Amos ‘n’ Andy), Bob Hope, and Alan Young.  Greenstreet’s radio resume includes appearances on The Andrews Sisters ShowCommand PerformanceG.I. JournalThe Radio Reader’s Digest, and Repeat Performance.

sydney16Beginning October 20, 1950, Sydney Greenstreet began making weekly appearances in radio listeners’ living rooms as the star of The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe, NBC’s attempt to successfully bring author Rex Stout’s literary sleuth before a microphone.  It was the third try at Nero Wolfe series (there had been previous versions in 1943-44 and 1946), and Greenstreet seemed to be a perfect fit as “the detective genius who rates the knife and fork the greatest tools ever invented by man.”  (The Wolfe in the novels tipped the scales at 286 pounds—he was even heftier than Brad Runyon!)  But the NBC series was beset with problems: the network had difficulty obtaining a sponsor (Plymouth expressed a brief interest, then abandoned the show) and despite the presence of Sydney, the ratings for the series were abysmal.  Greenstreet was convinced that the dismal numbers were the fault of the actor emoting as Wolfe’s leg man Archie Goodwin…which is why there was high turnover in that role.  Wally Maher, Lawrence Dobkin, Herb Ellis, Gerald Mohr and Harry Bartell all took a shot at playing the part.  The show was given its pink slip on April 27, 1951, and it would be Sydney Greenstreet’s final acting gig before his death in 1954 at the age of 74.

19576Sydney Greenstreet is well represented here at Radio Spirits, with two collections of broadcasts from The New Adventures of Nero WolfeThe Case of the Midnight Ride and Other Tales and Parties for Death.  (Parties also includes an April 16, 1945 appearance by Sydney on The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre, reprising his role from the 1944 film The Mask of Dimitrios.)  As befitting an actor who started out on stage performing in musicals and comedies, Sydney had a laugh that would rattle the rafters…and he gets the opportunity to guffaw from the gut alongside Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy in a March 7, 1943 broadcast of their show that’s one of the many highlights on the recent Radio Spirits release Smile a While.  By gad, sir, he was a character.  There was never any telling what he’d say or do next, except that it was bound to be something astonishing.  Happy birthday to the wonderful Sydney Greenstreet!

Happy Birthday, Brace Beemer!

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On April 8, 1941, an actor named Earle Graser was killed in an automobile accident.  A tragic event to be sure, but what compounded this tragedy was that Graser had a devoted fan following as the voice of The Lone Ranger.  This popular radio western adventure series had been broadcasting from the WXYZ Detroit studios since January of 1933.  To ease into the transition of a new actor taking over as the Ranger, the show broadcast five episodes in which the character was so injured that he could barely speak above a whisper. (His faithful Indian companion Tonto found himself at the center of the show’s action during his friend’s convalescence.)  At the end of that story arc, The Lone Ranger then introduced the thespian who would portray “the daring and resourceful Masked Rider of the Plains” until the series’ cancellation on September 3, 1954.  That man was born in Mount Carmel, Illinois on this date in 1902—Brace Beemer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrace Beemer was the son of Bertina (Bell) and Joseph D. Beemer, and attended high school in Vincennes, Indiana (the birthplace of another radio great, Red Skelton).  Beemer didn’t concentrate on his studies for long, however; he made the decision to enlist at the age of 14.  Successfully misrepresenting his actual age, he served during World War I as the youngest sergeant in that conflict.  He was wounded in action in May of 1918 in France as a soldier with the 150th Field Artillery, Battery E.  This resulted in his being sent home and discharged once his true age was discovered.

In 1922, Brace entered radio with a job at an Indianapolis station.  A few years later, a sales manager from Detroit’s WXYZ heard Beemer reading poetry over that station, and hired him to work for WXYZ on the spot.  At “Wxyie Wonderland,” Brace did some announcing in his capacity as station manager…and at one time, could have taken over from George Stenius (future film director George Seaton) when that actor quit the role of the Ranger after a few months in 1933.  (Brace briefly left WXYZ to start his own advertising agency.)  Upon his return to the station, Beemer was pressed into service to portray The Lone Ranger in publicity appearances…since he physically looked the part, was an expert horse rider, and a crack shot.

beemer11Brace Beemer’s appearances as the Ranger in public and on radio made him a natural choice to replace Graser.  Beemer’s deep, mellifluous voice (and his real life riding and shooting prowess) eventually convinced the public that he was The Lone Ranger.  “Never cheat the public and never fake an act,” was the actor’s credo, as he attended rodeos, circuses, benefits, football games, etc. as radio’s most famous Masked Man.  He enjoyed friendship from celebrities as wide-ranging as Eleanor Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover, and brightened the day of many hospitalized children, who unquestionably received a real treat when Brace showed up in full Ranger regalia.  (Truth be told, the reason why Beemer became so identified with the character is that he was contractually obligated to play that role—and only that role—until the program left the airwaves.)

beemer13The Lone Ranger transitioned to a television series that premiered over ABC-TV on September 15, 1949.  Despite all the public appearances he had made as the character, Brace Beemer was ultimately eliminated from consideration for the TV role because he had little experience in film.  (Beemer preferred live action to television, anyway.)  Clayton Moore, an experienced movie veteran, imitated Beemer’s “sound” as the small screen Ranger, playing the part (though the role was also briefly played by John Hart after Moore was let go due to a salary dispute) until the TV show was cancelled in 1957.  Brace’s tenure as the radio Ranger ended in September of 1954, and he moved on to portray another WXYZ hero in Sergeant William Preston on Challenge of the Yukon (Sergeant Preston of the Yukon), taking over for Paul Sutton.

Brace Beemer 2In retirement, Brace Beemer became a resident of Oxford Township, Michigan, where he lived on a 300-acre farm affectionately known as “Paint Creek Acres” with his wife Leta, raising thoroughbred horses and subdividing land as a contractor.  The equine who played “the great horse Silver” also made Paint Creek his home (and rumor has it that Silver was eventually buried on the property upon his death).  For a time before his death in 1965, Beemer had resurrected his famous role on a series of automobile commercials broadcast over several Michigan radio stations.  A Radiola Records release of The Lone Ranger in the 1970s featured the last recorded interview with the actor before he passed away while playing bridge on March 1, 1965.

20499“Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!” enthused announcer Fred Foy during many a Lone Ranger broadcast, and you can “return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” with any number of Radio Spirits collections spotlighting today’s birthday boy.  The Lone Ranger sets in our library include The Lone Ranger Rides Again, Masked Rider, Plains Thunder, and Six Gun Hero (I wrote the liner notes for this one!).  For dessert, why not try Generations—which explores the fascinating connection between the Old West crimefighter and his modern-day counterpart, The Green Hornet!  Happy birthday to a true radio legend in Brace Beemer!

“…I take this same train every week at this time…”

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Seventy-three years ago on this date, one of the Mutual Broadcasting System’s longest-lasting and most popular programs premiered in the form of The Mysterious Traveler.  It was created and written by the team of Robert Alan Arthur, Jr. and David Kogan—the duo became acquainted when Arthur encountered Kogan in a radio writing class.  Kogan had already established himself as a contributor to programs such as The Shadow and Bulldog Drummond, while radio novice Arthur had been working hard as a pulp magazine author on publications like Amazing Stories and Pocket Detective Magazine (a concept that Arthur sold to pulp giants Street & Smith, and on which he served as editor).

travelerThe Mysterious Traveler was a dramatic anthology, narrated by an enigmatic individual who unquestionably enjoyed train travel…for that’s where listeners could find him every week.  The Traveler spun tales of “the strange and the terrifying” in a fashion not dissimilar to Dark Destiny, a supernaturally-tinged series that Arthur and Kogan also created for Mutual and broadcast from 1942-43.  “I hope you will enjoy the trip,” The Traveler would intone in a menacing but good-natured way (over the sound of a distant locomotive), “that it will thrill you a little and chill you a little.  So settle back, get a good grip on your nerves, and be comfortable—if you can!”  The identity of The Traveler was shrouded in mystery…though a few sources have written that early broadcasts hinted he was “Dr. Smith,” once associated with the medical profession.

tarplinA few notable radio veterans auditioned for the titular role of The Mysterious Traveler—Lon Clark, Lawson Zerbe, Larry Haines, etc.  There was no doubt in the minds of Arthur & Kogan, however, that actor Maurice Tarplin was their man.  (Kogan later related in an interview: “Maurice was far and away the best.  We’d never worked with him before, but there was no comparison.”).  Tarplin was a busy performer who had appeared on a slew of daytime dramas and popular programs like The March of Time and Gang Busters; he would later be a regular as Inspector Farraday on Boston Blackie, another Mutual favorite.  Maurice also had the enviable ability to “double,” or play multiple characters in a single broadcast, which was no doubt appealing to a program that often had to keep a keen eye on its strict shoestring budget.

minerAssisting Tarplin in his weekly train travels was a repertory company of accomplished radio thespians that included Roger DeKoven, Elspeth Eric, Jan Miner, Joseph Julian, Santos Ortega, Bryna Raeburn, Ralph Bell, and Luis van Rooten; surviving broadcasts of the series reveal that future Academy Award winners Mercedes McCambridge and Art Carney also acted on the show.  Sherman “Jock” MacGregor was the show’s producer-director, overseeing the scripted plots of Kogan and Arthur, which ran the gamut from crime/mystery to fantasy/science-fiction.  The former stories tended to rely on a time-worn formula of jealous spouses driven to murder their respective better halves (love triangles were also a frequent plot device), so it’s no surprise that the fantasy and sci-fi episodes remain in the memories of listeners.  A good example is “Behind the Locked Door,” in which a pair of archaeologists finds themselves trapped in a dark cave due to a landslide…and discover to their horror that they’re sharing that space with the descendants of wagon train survivors, who have learned to adapt to their sightless world.  (It was broadcast on the series on multiple occasions.)

weirdThe success of The Mysterious Traveler led to two similar Mutual series.  One was The Strange Dr. Weird (broadcast from November 7, 1944 to May 15, 1945), which not only recycled previous Traveler scripts (shortened to a quarter-hour), but utilized the talents of Maurice Tarplin in the role of the titular host.  (Weird had something that Traveler didn’t, though: a sponsor in Adam Hats.)  Traveler scripts were also borrowed for The Sealed Book, a Mutual offering heard from March 18-September 9, 1945.  Philip Clarke was the host of Sealed (as “the Keeper of the Book”), relating “tales of every kind, tales of murder, tales of madness, of dark deeds and events strange beyond all belief.”  Traveler’s Jock MacGregor also held the director-producer reins on this program, which was re-broadcast as The Teller of Tales in 1950.  (Traveler later got a facelift when some broadcast outlets recycled the show as Adventure Into Fear.)

comicThe Mysterious Traveler even made in-roads beyond its weekly radio visits into the world of publishing, both in pulps and comic books.  A one-shot comic released by Trans-World in November of 1948 (as Mysterious Traveler Comics) led to thirteen issues (how appropriate!) of Tales of the Mysterious Traveler published by Charlton Comics between 1956 and 1959.   The series eventually returned to Robert A. Arthur’s pulp fiction roots beginning in November 1951; Grace Publishing introduced a digest-sized Traveler pulp that ran for five issues under the supervision of publisher David Kogan and containing stories from managing editor Arthur.

Kogan and Arthur would win their second Edgar Award (for excellence in radio mystery drama writing—their first was for their efforts on Mutual’s Murder by Experts) for The Mysterious Traveler in 1953…shortly after that the show ended on September 16, 1952.  (It would seem the team’s active participation in the Radio Writers’ Guild did not meet with the approval of the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC], who leaned heavily on Mutual to cancel the show.)  Kogan decided to continue working in the world of publishing, while his former partner Arthur worked on such TV series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Thriller.  Toward the end of the long run of Suspense, a good number of the duo’s Mysterious Traveler scripts were recycled for “radio’s outstanding theatre of thrills.”

21126Radio Spirits’ Great Radio Horror collection features two classic broadcasts from The Mysterious Traveler: “If You Believe” (12-29-46), and one of my personal favorites, “The Man the Insects Hated” (07-27-47).  (In my case, the insect animosity works both ways.)  But if you want pure, undiluted Traveler you need to check out Dark Destiny, a set that features twenty episodes from that series—and as a bonus, six installments of The Strange Dr. Weird!  So have your tickets ready when the conductor…oh…you have to get off here…I’m sorry…but I’m sure we’ll meet again…

Happy Birthday, Howard Duff!

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Have you ever wondered why a lot of the announcers from the AFRS versions of your radio favorites sound like Howard Duff?  The answer to this is devastatingly simple: it is Howard Duff!  The actor entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as World War II got underway and, after a brief stint in the infantry, Howard was soon transferred to AFRS on the strength of an acting-announcing career that he pursued before “doing his bit.”  In a 1975 interview with old-time radio author/historian Chuck Schaden, Duff was very proud that both he and “Mr. Radio”—Elliott Lewis—played an integral role in shaping AFRS’ programming.  “We took all the best commercial shows off the air and then we had to take all the commercials out and certain editing references and then reassemble them,” he explained.  The actor who would later achieve radio immortality as “the greatest private detective of them all” was born Howard Green Duff in Charleston (now Bremerton), Washington on this date in 1913.

duff11Howard Duff’s future career as a thespian took root only after he had been cut from Roosevelt High School’s basketball team.  Before graduating in 1932, Duff performed in various school plays…and his love of acting soon encouraged him to join a theatrical troupe at the Seattle Repertory Playhouse.  In the evening hours, he rehearsed the likes of Ibsen and Chekov—while paying the rent by working days in a department store.  He then landed a job at Seattle’s KOMO doing news and “everything,” then later gravitated to San Francisco to do more of the same.  He worked for two years on a local kids’ program entitled The Phantom Pilot (which later moved to Hollywood), and then found a good deal of freelance work after that on Big Town and The Screen Guild Theatre.  After five years in the armed services, Howard was ready to get back in the radio game.

duff3Duff soon found himself in great demand performing on “radio’s outstanding theatre of thrills”—Suspense—and he had developed a good working relationship with the show’s director-producer, William Spier.  So, when Spier was planning a series based on the Sam Spade character from the Dashiell Hammett novel The Maltese Falcon, Howard decided to audition.  The legend goes that Bill Spier wasn’t particularly sold on Duff as Spade—he only agreed to give Howard the gig after Mrs. Spier (Kay Thompson was his wife at the time) persuaded the director-producer that Howard was the one.  The Adventures of Sam Spade, which premiered over ABC Radio on July 12, 1946, would soon make Howard a radio favorite—even though he had other shows on his extensive resume, including The Amazing Mr. Malone, The Cavalcade of America, Encore Theatre, Favorite Story, Mr. President, The Philip Morris Playhouse, and The Whistler.

duff13Howard’s duties as Sam Spade kept him busy in radio—still, he always seemed to find time to poke fun at his hard-boiled character by guest starring on such shows as The Life of Riley and Sara’s Private Caper, and joshing alongside big names like George Burns & Gracie Allen, Jack Carson, Bing Crosby, Joan Davis, and Rudy Vallee.  It wasn’t too surprising to learn that Howard Duff had a lighter side…because The Adventures of Sam Spade was a program that never took itself too seriously; Duff’s chemistry and badinage with co-star Lurene Tuttle (as Sam’s loyal secretary Effie Perrine) would be right at home in any screwball comedy movie.  Sam Spade had moved to CBS in the fall of 1946, and was a solid performer there for three years, until it switched over to NBC in October of 1949.

duff7Then, storm clouds began to appear on the horizon.  The Adventures of Sam Spade suffered a serious blow when Dashiell Hammett, the creator of the insouciant gumshoe, started to attract the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee. His named had surfaced in the notorious publication Red Channels…as had Duff’s. (The reason for this always puzzled the actor— “I was just kind of a half-liberal!”)  NBC cancelled the program in September of 1950, but a letter-writing campaign was responsible for bringing it back two months later (with actor Steve Dunne replacing Howard as Spade).  Duff tried to apply paddles to his radio career with an audition for a series called The McCoy (a sly wink at the fact that another actor was playing the role that made Howard famous) but there were no takers.

duff9The terrible thing about Howard Duff’s blacklisting is that it put a temporary hold on his movie career, which began with a standout performance in the 1947 noir classic Brute Force.  Howard was even billed as “Radio’s Sam Spade” in this film, directed by Jules Dassin who was later a victim of the blacklist as well.  Jules used him again in his 1948 feature The Naked City.  Duff’s film career at that time was en fuego; he had roles in such features as All My Sons (1948), Red Canyon (1949), Illegal Entry (1949), Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949), Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), and Shakedown (1950), to name just a few.  The actor was only able to beat the blacklist by taking some advice from his agent: “I just did any show they threw at me.”

duff8Howard’s marriage to actress-director Ida Lupino in 1951 would also provide the necessary shot-in-the-arm to resurrect his career; the husband-and-wife duo made five pictures together—Women in Hiding (1950), Jennifer (1953), Private Hell 36 (1954), Women’s Prison (1955), and While the City Sleeps (1956).  Howard and Ida also headlined a sitcom entitled Mr. Adams & Eve; the series—about a husband-and-wife acting duo—ran from January 1957 to July 1958, and was created/produced by Collier Young (Ida’s second hubby).  Duff was starting to become more and more a familiar small screen face with guest shots on the likes of Bonanza, Combat!, and The Twilight Zone.  In the 1960-61 season, he starred in Dante, an hour-long drama about an ex-gambler running a San Francisco nightclub (Dick Powell had previous played the character in several installments of the TV anthology Four Star Playhouse).

duff6Howard Duff’s biggest television success was his three-season stint as Detective Sam Stone on ABC’s The Felony Squad—a series that also starred former Dragnet detective Ben Alexander and newcomer Dennis Cole.  The actor continued making the rounds on the likes of The Virginian, Medical Center, The Mod Squad and other iconic television shows from that era, occasionally grabbing plum assignments in movies like The Late Show (1977; perfect as Art Carney’s ex-partner) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979; as Dustin Hoffman’s lawyer).  He played the part originated by Sydney Greenstreet in the 1949 film Flamingo Road for a 1981-82 TV show based on the movie, and guested on such series as Dallas, Magnum, P.I., and Knots Landing (he had a recurring role as Paul Galveston).  Howard’s last credit before his passing in 1990 was in Too Much Sun, directed by Putney Swope’s Robert Downey, Sr.

20828Even after Howard Duff refocused his attention to movies and television, he never completely abandoned radio: he gave his old AFRS chum Elliott Lewis an assist by appearing on Lewis’ radio revival attempts like The Hollywood Star Theatre and The Sears Radio Theatre in the 1970s.  Radio Spirits offers a number of collections featuring today’s birthday boy: Dark Venture, Suspense: Ties That Bind, The Whistler: Skeletons in the Closet…and Howard’s signature role as Sam Spade in our Spade compendium Lawless.  There’s a Sam Spade episode (“The Queen Bee Caper”) on our Great Radio Detectives set, and on Burns & Allen and Friends, guest star Duff winds up in the sneezer with George Burns in one of the funniest half-hours in the history of George & Gracie.  Check out Mary Ann Anderson’s history of the Howard Duff-Ida Lupino series Mr. Adams & Eve in a profusely illustrated book about the now-lost TV sitcom, too!

One last note before you sit down to some turkey and giblets: the TCM premiere this evening (8pm EST) of The Life of Riley (1949)—based on the radio sitcom starring William Bendix—features a voice cameo by our birthday celebrant!  Try not to miss it!

“San Francisco, 1875…the Carlton Hotel…headquarters of the man called…Paladin!”

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By the beginning of the 1950s, television had started to make major inroads as the preferred home entertainment source for household families…leaving radio to play the unenviable role of middle child.  The small screen was a most ungrateful sibling when you consider that most of its content originated from the aural medium; comedians like Jack Benny and George Burns & Gracie Allen were slowly making their transfer to the boob tube, and popular programs like The Lone Ranger and Suspense were also becoming TV favorites.  And yet, a television show would occasionally go in the opposite direction: for example, two years after the series’ small screen debut, the cast of ABC’s Space Patrol wound up emoting in front of a radio mike, later joined by What’s My Line? and My Little Margie.  On this date in 1958, another TV-to-radio rarity premiered over the CBS Radio Network: Have Gun—Will Travel.

hgwt1The television incarnation of Have Gun—Will Travel debuted on CBS on September 14, 1957.  Created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow, the show starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a professional gun-for-hire.  Paladin’s services did not come cheap; hence, his fee of $1000 (the going rate as a rule) tended to attract more well-to-do patrons…and yet, the gunfighter would offer his gun to more downscale clients on a pro bono basis whenever the need arose.  Paladin was a cultured gentleman (he spoke several languages, and frequently quoted from the classics), who loved good food and fine wines…and often found himself the center of romantic attention from the opposite sex.  His base of operations was the luxurious Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, where his needs were attended to by an Asian bellhop (played by Kam Tong) answering to “Hey Boy.”

hgwt4Paladin’s origins would remain a mystery for most of the TV run (the story of who he was and how he came to be would eventually be dramatized in “Genesis,” the premiere episode of the series’ sixth and final season. Viewers would eventually learn that he was a West Point graduate, who served as a Union cavalry officer and was a veteran of the American Civil War.  He was not an individual who reveled in violence—in fact, he tried to avoid gunplay whenever possible, but when required he proved quite handy with his fists (not to mention an impressive mastery of the martial arts).  Have Gun’s loyal viewers never learned whether or not Paladin had an actual first name (his moniker was inspired by the principal knights of Charlemagne’s court).  In fact, because the business card that he carried around read “Have Gun Will Travel, Wire Paladin, San Francisco,” more than a few people joked that their hero’s first name was “Wire.”

dehner3Have Gun—Will Travel premiered on television at a time when viewers couldn’t get enough of Westerns; it ranked #4 among all TV shows in its first season (according to the Nielsens), and was the third most-watched program for three seasons from 1958 to 1961.  (It was ranked #29 in its fifth and sixth seasons, still a solid favorite.)  As such, CBS thought a radio version might revive their fading aural fortunes, and so a little over a year later (November 23, 1958) veteran actor John Dehner took on the role that Richard Boone was still playing on TV.  To Dehner’s credit, his approach to the role could be boiled down to “Richard who?”  “I don’t imitate,” he forcefully stated in an interview about the series, and indeed the radio Paladin was a little more no-nonsense than his boob tube counterpart (Boone took pains to at least give his Paladin a sense of humor).  Character great Ben Wright played the radio version of Hey Boy, and a secondary character was added in “Missy Wong,” Hey Boy’s girlfriend (played by Virginia Gregg).  (It should be noted that the Miss Wong character appeared before the TV version introduced a “Hey Girl” character [portrayed by Lisa Lu] in its fourth season; regular Kam Tong had landed a gig on a series called The Garland Touch, but returned to HGWT when Garland folded after one season.)

dehner5At first, the radio Have Gun—Will Travel borrowed liberally from previously telecast episodes (adapting many scripted by future Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) …but eventually transitioned to original scripts penned by the likes of William N. Robson, Ann Doud, and Frank Paris (who directed and produced the radio version).  (Sound patterns artists Tom Hanley and Ray Kemper also contributed the occasional script, as did actor Jack Moyles!)  One distinction between the radio and TV HGWTs was that the radio incarnation provided a finale.  Toward the end November of 1960, the CBS Radio Network said “fare-thee-well” to several of their long-running shows (including the daytime dramas Ma Perkins and The Romance of Helen Trent).  On November 27, “From Here to Boston” found HGWTs protagonist leaving Frisco for the East Coast to settle his late aunt’s estate in Beantown.  (Meanwhile, Paladin continued to offer his gun for hire on television for several additional seasons.)

21256My good friend and fellow Radio Spirits colleague Martin Grams, Jr. wrote the book on Have Gun—Will Travel…literally.  In 2001, a paperback (co-written with Les Rayburn) entitled The Have Gun—Will Travel Companion was published, an extensive documentation of the history behind both the TV and radio shows.  (It’s out-of-print, so you might have to pore through the stacks of your local library to find it.)  As such, Martin was the perfect choice to write the liner notes for the Radio Spirits collection Have Gun—Will Travel: a 10-CD set containing the first twenty broadcasts of the radio series.  It’s essential “must-hear radio” for fans of both radio drama and the classic TV series, so we invite you to spend a little time with the adventures of “a knight without armor in a savage land.”

“It’s round-up time/On the Double-R Bar…”

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“America’s favorite singing cowboy,” Gene Autry, began his long-running radio series Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch in January of 1940.  It was fitting that the man who began his lengthy motion picture career in 1934 with In Old Santa Fe would launch an on-the-air vehicle for his sagebrush talents; Autry was a solid favorite of any kid who ever plopped down in a theatre seat for Saturday matinees (and more than a few “grown-up” kids, too).  It took his friendly B-Western rival, Roy Rogers, a little longer to establish himself in radio, however; even though Roy had performed before a microphone as far back as 1931 (as a member of “Uncle Tom Murray’s Hollywood Hillbillies”), the actor-singer wrestled throughout his show business career with bouts of mike fright.  That all changed on this date in 1944; the “King of the Cowboys” screwed up his courage and began broadcasting for Mutual with The Roy Rogers Show.

youngroyBorn in 1911—in a section of Cincinnati, Ohio where Riverfront Stadium now stands—Roy Rogers’ eventual rise to cowboy stardom was a slow and steady one.  His family called Duck Run, OH (about twelve miles from Portsmouth) home for many years. His father purchased a little farm while still working in a shoe factory, and in between ridin’ and a-ropin’ young Roy learned to play guitar and mandolin—as well as singing in the church choir.  The Rogers family decided to move west to California in 1930, and Roy continued to pursue his musical ambitions as a sideline while working at such jobs as fruit-picking and driving trucks.

A talent contest in Inglewood, CA would be the catalyst for Roy’s eventual decision to build a show business career.   He performed with various musical aggregations before making the acquaintance of fellow musicians Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer.  This trio formed the nucleus of The Sons of the Pioneers, and that Western music group not only enjoyed chart success with tunes like Cool Water and Tumbling Tumbleweeds, they found themselves in demand whenever background music was needed for B-Westerns.  Roy Rogers slowly started to make a name for himself in features like The Big Show (1936), The Old Corral (1936), and The Old Barn Dance (1938).  All three of those movies starred Gene Autry, who unintentionally gave his future rival’s silver screen career a shot in the arm when he walked out of Republic Pictures due to a contract dispute.  Republic head Herbert J. Yates then cast Roy as the lead in Under Western Stars (1938), and his new star would go on to make 86 additional oaters for the company through 1951.

roy2By the time The Roy Rogers Show premiered in the fall of 1944, its star was the number-one Western hero at the box office (Rogers would hold that position from 1943 to 1954—though in all fairness, he benefited from Gene Autry’s decision to enlist during WW2).  “The King of the Cowboys” would be introduced by announcer Verne Smith: “The greatest name in rubber, Goodyear, invites you to meet America’s greatest Western star, Roy Rogers!”  The Rogers show was similar to Autry’s Melody Ranch; a half-hour of homespun banter and music around the campfire (supplemented with the occasional comedic or dramatic skit) with the Sons of the Pioneers, Pat Friday, and Perry Botkin conducting “The Goodyear Orchestra.”  The Roy Rogers Show only lasted a season on Mutual; but resurfaced a year later on NBC as a Saturday night offering for Miles Laboratories.

roydalegabbyRoy’s “Alka-Seltzer” years would bring mikeside two familiar folks from his feature films: George “Gabby” Hayes was Rogers’ faithful sidekick (Gabby brought his patented brand of comic relief to Roy’s movies beginning in 1939 with Southward Ho), and Dale Evans (a one-time female vocalist for Edgar Bergen’s program) was Roy’s love interest.  (Dale was also her co-star’s love interest when they weren’t broadcasting, by the way—the two of them would become Mr. and Mrs. King of the Cowboys on December 31, 1947…though Dale’s official title was “The Queen of the West.”)  The Roy Rogers Show would run on NBC until March of 1947.  After a hiatus, it landed a new sponsor in Quaker Oats (“The Giant of the Cereals!”) with its return on August 29, 1948 over Mutual.  By this time, The Roy Rogers Show had started to de-emphasize its earlier variety show leanings (though there was always time for a song from Roy, Dale, or Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage), and instead shone its spotlight on rootin’-tootin’ juvenile adventure (described by The Christian Science Monitor as “a little song, a little riding, a little shooting, and a girl to be saved from hazard”).  Gabby and Dale continued as Roy’s co-stars; with Hayes still spinning tall tales and Dale buying a ranch next to Roy’s famed Double-R-Bar spread.  (Gabby was replaced in the 1950-51 season by “Clackity,” an equally longwinded codger played by Horace Murphy.)

roydale2By the fall of 1951, The Roy Rogers Show had returned to NBC in yet another incarnation sponsored by Post Cereals.  (Quaker Oats was a little skittish about continuing to sign the checks due to a legal skirmish between Roy and his movie studio Republic over the Cowboy King’s decision to get into television.)  Replacing Clackity was Jonah Wilde—“the wisest trail scout of them all”—played by Forrest Lewis in genuine Gabby Hayes-like fashion.  The following season, Jonah was out and Pat Brady—an old friend of Roy’s from their Sons of the Pioneers days—was providing the show’s comic relief (a job he had performed in several of Rogers’ feature films and on TV, where he tooled around in a jeep affectionately named “Nellybelle”).  Musical numbers from Roy and Dale featured backup accompaniment from The Whippoorwills and The Mellomen.

roydale1As for Dale—she had started a career as an entrepreneur running The Eureka Hotel and Café (eat your heart out, Miss Kitty!), located in Mineral City, the center of the show’s action.  (Herb Butterfield was also a regular, as Mineral City’s sheriff.)  Roy and Dale continued their adventures for General Foods/Post until January of 1954, when Chrysler took over sponsorship to plug Dodge trucks.  The Dodge years of The Roy Rogers Show found the program’s format once again undergoing a makeover: the series adopted a mystery-thriller tone, with episodes concentrating on plot threads like diamond smugglers and a stolen stamp collection.  On July 21, 1955, The Roy Rogers Show had ridden as far as it could (a reference to the show’s opening theme, which told listeners “saddle your horse, ‘cause we’re gonna ride far”) on radio—though the TV version of The Roy Rogers Show would last until 1957 (and then it put down stakes at The Old Syndication Ranch).

21409Radio Spirits features several DVDs of telecasts from TV’s The Roy Rogers Show, most notably on the collection TV Guide Spotlight: TV’s Greatest Westerns.  You can also enjoy solid western action with double features of some of Roy’s classic movie westerns: Colorado (1940)/Hands Across the Border (1944); Ridin’ Down the Canyon (1942)/On the Old Spanish Trail (1947); South of Santa Fe (1942)/In Old Cheyenne (1941); and Eyes of Texas (1948)/Grand Canyon Trail (1948).  (Take it from me—you don’t want to miss Eyes of Texas!)  Finally, Radio Spirits’ Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys—sixteen broadcasts from Roy’s inaugural season broadcasting for Post—will be available soon, so be sure to grab a copy (I say with no modesty whatsoever that the liner notes are first-rate…because I wrote them).  Happy anniversary to The Roy Rogers Show, and till the next time we meet—“Goodbye, good luck, and may the Good Lord take a likin’ to ya!”

Review: Partners in Time (1946)

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In 1937, Chester Lauck and Norris Goff began to express interest in bringing the characters from their popular radio show, Lum and Abner, to the big screen.  Talent agent Jack William Votion, a Hollywood veteran, also thought “the fellers from the hills” could make an easy transition to motion pictures…but in his conversations with the major studios, none of them were particularly enthused about a Lum and Abner picture.  Chiefly among the naysayers was RKO—though in their defense, they were a little gun-shy after their experience with 1930’s Check and Double Check, the vehicle responsible for introducing radio’s Amos ‘n’ Andy (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll) to moviegoing audiences.

dreamingAfter three years of studio rejections, Jack Votion sold his ranch in California…and with a financial assist from Roger Mardiette (who provided matching funds), went into partnership with songwriter Sam Coslow (“Cocktails for Two”) to form Voco Productions—an independent company that planned to produce at least three Lum and Abner feature films.  Voco’s first venture was Dreaming Out Loud (1940—its working title was Money Isn’t Everything), which was filmed on the RKO-Pathé lot—and released by RKO as an 81-minute “A” film (the subsequent L&A entries were B-picture programmers) featuring stellar radio names like Frances Langford and Phil Harris.  Dreaming was a smash for RKO, earning an estimated $745,000 and paving the way for five additional follow-ups.

partnersposterAudiences seeing Dreaming Out Loud today are at a disadvantage because, since the film slipped into the public domain, most extant copies are short by fifteen minutes (from a choppy TV print).  The overall batting average on the L&A features was often hit-and-miss: some of the entries, like The Bashful Bachelor (1942; with a story contributed by stars Lauck and Goff) and Goin’ to Town (1944; I think this is the most underrated of their features) are delightful entertainments, while Two Weeks to Live and So This is Washington (both 1943) may only appeal to diehard fans of the show.  Curiously, the last of the L&A vehicles would turn out to be the best of the bunch (unusual in that many movie franchises start out strong before eventually running on fumes): 1946’s Partners in Time.

partners4There are two major plot points in Partners in Time: the first being that Pine Ridge’s resident “Kingfish,” Squire Skimp (Dick Elliott), is introducing to the town’s populace an equally conniving scalawag named Gerald Sharpe (Charles Jordan).  Sharpe is the grandson of Lucky Parker, a Pine Ridge-ian who once owned all of the land in town, and whose son Jeff sold said land to the townsfolk, including Lum Edwards (Chester Lauck) and Abner Peabody (Norris Goff), who built their Jot ‘Em Down Store on the property.  Sharpe maintains that Jeff wasn’t Parker’s son, and he’s insisting that everyone who bought land from Jeff pay him $500—a sum no one in town could possibly cough up (Abner remarks, “This town couldn’t raise $500 on lend lease.”).  Our heroes are tasked with finding proof that Jeff is Parker’s son lest they surrender Pine Ridge to the clutches of the loathsome Sharpe.

partnersintimelobbyThe second storyline involves Lum’s niece Janet (Teala Loring) and her boyfriend Tim Matthews (John James).  Tim has been away from Pine Ridge for two years, serving a hitch in the Army, and Janet spent that same amount of time with her aunt in the big city.  The young couple pledged to marry upon Tim’s return and put down stakes in Pine Ridge, but Janet is beginning to have second thoughts.  Lum then proceeds to tell the two lovebirds the tale of how Abner arrived in Pine Ridge circa 1906; he, too, was “just passing through” and he ended up staying put.  By flashing back to their past, the boys’ memories are jogged about Jeff Parker and they are able to present to necessary proof to foil Skimp and Sharpe’s dastardly scheme.

partners5In Partners in Time (wonderfully scripted by Charles E. Roberts, who expertly blends both pathos and bucolic comedy), we learn that Lum and Abner first met in the Philippines during the Spanish American War.  Abner is headed west to California, and he stops by Pine Ridge to say “howdy-do” to his war buddy Lum.  To be honest, Abner’s stopover in Pine Ridge was unplanned: he’s arrested for speeding (going 20 m.p.h. in his “horseless carriage”) by constable Milford Spears (Danny Duncan)—who Abner addresses as “Grandpap” even at their first meeting.  Grandpap brings Abner before Pine Ridge’s justice of the peace—none other than Lum himself, who is surprised and pleased to see his old war chum.  Lum then introduces Abner to his friends in Pine Ridge (including a young Squire Skimp!), notably a young woman named Elizabeth Meadows (Pamela Blake); Lum desperately wants to marry Elizabeth but he just can’t seem to find the proper words of proposal.   As you may have already guessed, Lum also invites Abner to become his partner in his new business venture: The Jot ‘Em Down Store.

partners6Chet Lauck and Norris Golf play Lum and Abner in the 1906 flashbacks sans their old-age makeup, allowing viewers to see and hear more of the real Lauck and Goff than their well-known radio personas.  (Both men would have to spend three hours in the makeup chair daily when filming their movies…and the results weren’t always convincing, sad to say.)  Nevertheless, the two men display some very impressive acting chops—Lauck conveys an effective sadness when his best friend marries the woman he loves…and to add insult to injury, Lum must perform the ceremony (in his capacity as justice of the peace) when the minister is unable to officiate.  What is so heartbreaking about this is Abner never learns of his pal’s sacrifice, and the audience is only let in on the secret in a sequence where Lum remembers telling a dying friend on her deathbed that he plans to ask for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage very soon…proving he who hesitates is lost.  Lum’s niece eventually figures out the mystery, but is silenced when Lum places a finger to her lips, effortlessly communicating that he’ll carry this secret to his grave.  (I puddle up every time I watch this scene…and if you don’t do likewise, I suspect you may be a cyborg.)

partners3Partners in Time was directed by B-movie veteran William Nigh, who had an impressive career at MGM in silent films.  He later eked out most of his living at Monogram in the 1930s and 1940s, guiding the sterling efforts of detective Mr. Wong and the East Side Kids.  The movie also features a first-rate cast, with Blake, Elliott, Duncan and Grady Sutton (as Cedric Weehunt) all turning in fine performances supporting stars Lauck and Goff.  Sutton is hysterically funny as always, particularly in a scene in which he’s been enlisted to warn the other merchants of Pine Ridge of Skimp’s scheme, and as the Squire enters the doorways of the various businesses he keeps running into Cedric.

21208Since Lum and Abner was the program that introduced me to old-time radio, I’m understandably enthusiastic about always seeing “what’s going on down in Pine Ridge”; it may take you a little time to track down Partners in Time (you may have to use The Google), but I guarantee that it will be time well spent.  Here at Radio Spirits, we feature Messrs. Lauck and Goff in seven CD sets featuring vintage Lum and Abner radio broadcasts from 1942 and 1943 (as part of our Radio Spirits Archive Collection).  Wonderful world!

“Extra, extra—get your Illustrated Press!”

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The Golden Age of Radio—and this may be a good or bad thing, depending upon your opinion of the Fourth Estate—was a regular breeding ground for newspaper folk.  Superheroes like The Green Hornet and Superman were journalists when they weren’t out fighting crime (the “Har-nut” was newspaper editor Britt Reid, and Superman’s Clark Kent punched a time clock at The Daily Planet).  The aural medium also brought us the dramatic sagas of Front Page Farrell and Casey, Crime Photographer, not to mention Chicago reporter Randy Stone of Night Beat fame.  Real-life tales of newspaper scoops were even featured on the anthology program The Big Story.  Head-and-shoulders above them all, of course, was Big Town—which premiered over the airwaves on this date in 1937.

bigtown4Big Town was created as a vehicle for actor Edward G. Robinson.  Eddie G. had actually played an editor in the 1931 film Five Star Final (one of Robinson’s finest roles), but moviegoers knew him best at the time for his gangster portrayals in movies like Little Caesar (1931), Smart Money (1931), and The Last Gangster (1937).  An attempt to escape his typecasting as a bad guy, Big Town starred the actor as “fighting managing editor” Steve Wilson of the Illustrated Press, a crusading newspaper operating in Big Town (yes, that was the name of the burg).  (Eddie G. didn’t entirely shed his “bad guy” image—in some of the early Big Town broadcasts his Wilson comes across as a bit of louse.)  Created, written and directed by former newspaperman Jerry McGill and sponsored by Rinso, there was no question that Big Town was a star showcase—as related in an anecdote by actor Jerry Hausner in Leonard Maltin’s The Great American Broadcast:

Edward G. Robinson [the show’s star] had a card table with a typewriter on it. The author of that week’s script had to sit there all day long, every day, and rewrite as we went along. He’d read a line and Eddie’d say, “I don’t like that one, cut that out, change this, change that.” He was a stickler for all these things, and that’s what made it a good show, but we had to sit there while this was being done. They rewrote and rewrote all week long, and if you were cut out, they waved you goodbye and you didn’t get any money at all. You had no protection of any kind. If your part stayed in and it was a minor supporting role, you wound up with $15, $20 for the week, $35 if you had a good part.

robinson-trevorBig Town was a blend of no-holds-barred melodrama and socially conscious soap-boxing, as Robinson’s Wilson crusaded against society’s ills and on behalf of freedom of the press.  Controversial subjects tackled on the program included examinations of racism, drunk driving, and juvenile delinquency.  The show’s memorable opening intoned from an echo chamber: “The power and freedom of the press is a flaming sword! That it may be a faithful servant of all the people…use it justly…hold it high…guard it well…”  Listening to surviving broadcasts today, a new generation might be puzzled by the adversarial approach of the paper’s reporters (no cozy palsy-walsy with the individuals they’re supposed to cover)—but this was a time when periodicals actively pursued investigative journalism, “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” to use one of my favorite quotes.

trevorHaving a big name like Eddie G.’s on any radio program would be a feather in that show’s cap…but Big Town was graced with another silver screen presence in Claire Trevor, who played Lorelei Kilbourne, the paper’s society columnist (and Steve Wilson’s love interest).  Though Trevor’s performance in Dead End (1937) was just making the rounds in movie theatres shortly before Big Town’s debut, the actress wouldn’t really make it big until two years later opposite John Wayne in Stagecoach (1939).  (While working on Big Town, Robinson and Trevor would star in 1938’s The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and later teamed up for Key Largo [1948]—the film that would win Claire a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.)

Other Big Town regulars included Ed MacDonald (as “fearless, imaginative reporter” Tommy Hughes), Gale Gordon (as District Attorney Miller), Paula Winslowe (as Wilson’s secretary Miss Foster, also played by Helen Brown), Lou Merrill, Cy Kendall and Jack Smart.  As for co-star Trevor, she would exit the program in 1940 (she later complained that her role had been reduced to two lines: “I’ll wait for you in the car, Steve” and “How’d it go, Steve?”).  Ona Munson took over as Lorelei…but by 1942, the program had put out a classified ad for a new Steve Wilson despite still ruling the ratings roost.  A decision had been made to move the show to New York, and Edward G. Robinson decided not to follow it.

carlon-pawley2In the fall of 1943, with the series now sponsored on CBS by Sterling Drugs (Ironized Yeast, Bayer), Robinson was replaced by Broadway veteran Edward J. Pawley, with Fran Carlon as Lorelei.  (Pawley would play Steve until the final months of the program in 1952, when Walter Greaza inherited the role.)  New characters were introduced to the program, notably a colorful cabbie named Harry the Hack (originated by Robert Dryden, but also essayed by Mason Adams and Ross Martin), who knew the back alleys and byways of Big Town (it was a big town, you know) like the back of his hand.  There was also a blind piano player named Mozart (Larry Haines) who owned a small bistro and provided underworld tips to Steve and Lorelei on the side, along with Willie the Weep (Donald MacDonald), a waterfront denizen who sobbed when he talked.  Other New York acting vets included Lawson Zerbe (as the Press’ photographer, Dusty Miller), Ted de Corsia, Dwight Weist (who doubled as the show’s announcer), Bill Adams, Bobby Winckler and Michael O’Day.

icoverbigtownWhen Big Town moved to NBC in the fall of 1948, the sponsorship reverted back to Lever Brothers (though this time they pushed Lifebuoy soap instead of Rinso detergent).  Its popularity was such that it inspired a short-lived B-picture franchise at Paramount beginning with Big Town (a.k.a. Guilty Assignment) in 1947, and followed by I Cover Big Town (1947), Big Town After Dark (1947), and Big Town Scandal (1948).  Phillip Reed played the silver screen Steve Wilson, with Hillary Brooke portraying Lorelei.  (The Big Town films were produced by William C. Thomas and William H. Pine…whose talent for low-budget filmmaking earned them the nickname “The Dollar Bills.”)  Big Town later transitioned to the small screen on October 5, 1950 on CBS-TV, then moved to NBC in 1954 for two additional seasons.  (The boob tube incarnation was then laid to rest in reruns, appearing under three separate titles: Byline: Steve Wilson, Headline and Heart of the City.)  The radio version of the long-running series finally added its “-30-” on June 25, 1952.

21121Radio Spirits’ Big Town collection Blind Justice not only features the premiere episode of the popular series, but previously uncirculated episodes and a pair of broadcasts from the Pawley-Carlon years.  You can also check out the first Big Town feature film on Big Town Collection, which is supplemented with two episodes from the TV version of the show, starring Mark Stevens as Steve Wilson.  In Big Town: Volume 1 and Big Town: Volume 2, it’s Patrick McVey as the “fighting managing editor,” aided and abetted by the lovely Jane Nigh as Lorelei.  Grab all these collections and use them justly…hold them high…guard them well!