Supermoon Sunday: Dragnet’s “Werewolf” Old Time Radio Episode


With the Supermoon coming on Sunday, we remember one of our all time favorite werewolf stories. Dragnet‘s “Werewolf” aired June 17, 1949.

The women are left half-dead, victims of robbery and horrible attacks. “The Werewolf” as dubbed by the local papers, was a maniac that attacked, beat, and robbed 18 victims. The attacks are so brutal leaving the women in the hospital with horrible wounds, that Joe Friday fears the Werewolf will kill…and he’s right. 


Joe Friday makes plans to have decoy 14 policewomen walk around between 3:00 A.M. 5:00 A.M. in the morning when the Werewolf was known to prowl on waitresses leaving work. After the werewolf is not caught with the decoys, the police are grasping for clues.

A set of stolen licence plates during the night leads Joe Friday to the car used in the crimes. Later a woman is attacked taking a letter to the mailbox and describes a large, hairy man that tried to grab her. When a young mother of three is found dead in an empty lot, a huge dragnet is called around the city to find the murderer.

Will they find the “The Werewolf” before more women are attacked and murdered?

For more werewolf action, see the Old Time Radio Dog Collection.

Esther Williams Obituary Old Time Radio

Rest in Peace Esther Williams

It is often said that the secret to success is to be in the right place at the right time. The life and career of swimming sensation Esther Williams proves that it has to be the right person in the right place at the right time.

Ms. Williams was born in Inglewood, CA, on Aug 8, 1921, the youngest of five children. Her parents grew up on neighboring Kansas farms, courted for nine years, eloped, and ran off to California. However, they ran out of money in Salt Lake, where they settled until their oldest son was discovered by actress Marjorie Rambeau, allowing them to complete their journey to the Golden State.

Underwater1An older sister taught Esther to swim at Manhattan Beach and the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The two got a job counting towels to pay their entrance fee of five cents apiece. While working at the pool, the life guards taught Esther the “male only” swimming strokes, including the butterfly. By the time she was 16, she was winning national championships, and was in training for the 1940 Olympic Games in Helsinki. When the Games were canceled due to the War, Williams dropped out of competition to earn a living.

Esther-Williams-Van-JohnsonShe found a job selling shoes and modeling for the I. Magnin department store on Wilshire Blvd when she was discovered by showman Billy William, who put her in his Aquacade show at the San Francisco World’s Fair. Here, she caught the eye of MGM talent scouts. Louis B. Mayer was convinced that MGM needed and “athletic leading lady” in its stable to promote as Fox had with Sonja Henie. Williams’ contract included a clause that she be allowed nine months before appearing on camera so she could take acting, singing, dancing and diction lessons. The contract also provided her with a guest pass to the Beverly Hills Hotel so she could use the pool on a daily basis.

Esther_questionShe worked in a number of short subjects before being cast opposite Mickey Rooney in Andy Hardy’s Double Life, followed by Hollywood’s first “swimming movie”, Bathing Beauty. In Bathing Beauty, Red Skelton enrolls in an all girl college to win the heart of the swimming coach played by Ms. Williams. Skelton was demoted to supporting lead, and Bathing Beauty‘s success was second only to Gone With The Wind when it was released.

When MGM send its top stars on War Bond tours, Esther was asked to tour military hospitals. She was a natural pin-up girl, not only beautiful, she actually belonged in a swimming suit. For the hospital visits, she would listen to the Bob Hope and Jack Benny radio programs on the radio and repeat the best gags for the G.I.s. Her visit usually included dancing with the soldiers, and mock screen tests where the script called for her “co-star” to refuse her advances until the end of the skit.

2737FFA7-A2C6-4B9B-BF82-304BA3463B00_mw1024_n_sEsther Williams made several appearances on Lux Radio Theater, usually in support of her movies, but also as part of an “Esther Williams pin” premium. She was a popular guest and hostess on Command Performance, as well as appearing in several public service announcements on popular programs.

Esther Williams passed away in her sleep at her Los Angeles home on June 6, 2013.

A Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 1560 Vine Street honors Esther Williams’ contribution to the Motion Picture industry.

Good night, Esther Williams.


Lone Ranger: The Road From Radio To Hollywood Blockbuster

Bringing The Lone Ranger to the big screen for its anticipated Independence Day 2013 weekend release has been a story of Hollywood politics and egos. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood A-List Royalty will do with this simple concept and characters which were created just over eighty years ago.

Michigan radio pioneer George W. Trendle had been a tough lawyer who helped to negotiate the breaking of Paramount’s movie theater monopoly in Detroit. Part of the deal was that Trendle leave the theater business. With his partners he went into broadcasting, first with WXYZ Detroit, and soon expanding with two more stations in Grand Rapids.

Trendle was a notorious penny pincher. Allegedly, his partners kept a second set of books to show employees to convince them that the stations were losing money and could not afford higher wages. WXYZ was affiliated with CBS when Trendle first purchased the station, but went independent within a year, creating its own music and drama productions. Several shows were written by freelancer Fran Striker.

There is ongoing debate whether to credit Striker or Trendle with creating the Lone Ranger. Several elements of the character had appeared in previous Striker scripts, but when it became obvious to Trendle that The Lone Ranger was destined to become a hit, he bought all rights to the show and characters from his alleged co-creators. Trendle did call for a western hero in the vein of Douglas Fairbanks’ Zorro and Robin Hood, both highly action based but highly moral heroes.

Neither Trendle or Striker had any background it Western lore beyond what they had read in pulp fiction or seen in the movies. The Lone Ranger is very much a swash-buckler, albeit with his mighty six-guns rather than a sword. Because the target audience was kids, the violence was kept to a minimum.

An important part of The Lone Ranger‘s success was based on its high moral tone. Bad guys were never shown as successful or glamorous, and the Ranger never shot to kill, depending more on his wits than violence. This moral tone allowed Mom’s to feel good about tuning in, but there was still enough action to appeal to the kids.

The Lone Ranger was first aired on Jan 30, 1933 and became an immediate hit. In fact,  it became a major factor in the early success of what would become the Mutual Network. When ABC bought out Trendle’s stations in 1946, they took over the Lone Ranger concept and used it for the network’s first big TV success.

The ABC TV show starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels seems to be a closer inspiration for the 2013 film than the radio characters. The indications from Disney are that the film will use the a version of the Ranger’s origin story as told on the radio.

The character of Tonto is expected to have a more important role in the film. A-Lister Johnny Depp, star of Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise will play the “spirit warrior”. On the radio and TV Tonto was the Lone Ranger‘s sidekick, but Depp is expected to have a stronger role in the story.

Ginger Rogers

Eve Arden: Old Time Radio Voice Actress

EA019In an era of radio that was filled with stereo types, Eve Arden managed to rise above them as her own woman and developed on of radio’s best loved characters.
Eve Arden, who was born Eunice Quedens, related that she had an unhappy childhood. She was torn between divorced parents and continually self conscious about her looks (she claims to have needed therapy because her mother was so much more beautiful than she was). Probably her best therapy was to join the magical world of show business. She quit school at the age of 16, joined a touring company, and changed her name (taken from a jar of cold cream on her dressing room table).
Whatever insecurities she may have faced as a child, Eve Arden carried herself with the undeniable swagger of a depression era business woman or highly desirable sophisticate. During the early part of her film career she was often cast in supporting “second banana” roles. Eve Arden would be the sensible friend who took the leading lady by the shoulders to tell her to “snap out of it” or she would play the smart mouthed but sophisticated comic relief. No matter what character she was called to play, she unabashedly played Eve Arden.

Arden made a number of friends and connections while a starlet, which would serve her well later in her career. While working on Stage Door (1937) she became good friends with Lucille Ball. When the movie was adapted to radio’s Lux Theater, stars Ginger Rogers, Rosalind Russel, and Adolphe Menjou appeared, but Arden, who had made a career out of snappy comebacks, stole the show and proved that she was a natural for radio.
Her first regular radio role was again the sensible second banana to contrast the lead’s zaniness on the short lived Danny Kaye Show. Arden and Kaye were long time friends, and had carried on a discreet affair for years. In the end Danny was unwilling to leave his wife, and the professional collaboration came to an abrupt end.

Arden was too tough to be knocked down, and soon landed what would be her best known role. CBS wanted to develop a comedy around a “smart” female character, and the role was offered to Lucille Ball. Lucy was already committed to My Favorite Husband, but recommended her old friend Eve Arden. The project became everyone’s favorite high school teacher, Our Miss Brooks. The show trod over several stereotypes. The teachers in typical teenage comedies like Henry Aldrich, Archie Andrews, or A Date With Judy existed to make life miserable for the kids. Connie Brooks was young and attractive enough to be a confidant, but mature and respectable enough to be taken seriously. She was just man-crazy enough to hold a continuing flame for her absentminded science teacher boyfriend, but tough enough to stand toe to toe with her stack-blowing principal Osgood Conklin, played by Gale Gordon.

Our Miss Brooks had a nine year run on radio, and was thought to do enough to humanize the portrayal of educators that Arden was awarded an honorary lifetime membership to the NEA. When the show made the transition to television, production was turned over to Desilu Studios, the production company belonging to Lucille Ball and her husband.
Arden returned to “educational comedy” in the 1978 movie musical Grease. She played the role of Rydell High School principal as a female parody of Gale Gordon’s Osgood Conklin.
Eve Arden has been honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 6714 Hollywood Blvd for her work in Television, and for her contributions to Radio at 6329 Hollywood Blvd.

Bob Bailey Detective Radio Old Time Radio Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

Case Closed “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”

Johnny Dollar was not your typical gumshoe chasing wayward husbands and garden-variety murderers. As an independent insurance fraud investigator, Dollar worked without the assistance of a colleague, secretary or partner. Each case began with a phone call from Pat McCracken at the Universal Adjustment Bureau, a fictitious clearinghouse for insurance claims. When a suspicious claim crossed his desk, McCracken enlisted Johnny’s help in cracking the case. Based in Hartford, Connecticut, these “matters,” as Dollar liked to refer to them, took him across the U.S. and abroad. More often than not, these “matters” involved some element of danger.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar premiered February 11, 1949 on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio station, as a 30-minute weekly series. Initially, Yours Truly, Lloyd London, the title was changed shortly after the first audition for the lead role. Created by Jack Johnstone, each case was presented to the listening audience in hindsight. As Dollar reviewed and reconciled his expense account, each expenditure led to a recollection of a particular moment or aspect pertinent to the investigation and conclusion of the case.

In the earlier episodes, Johnny was known for the silver dollar tips he left behind to food servers and hotel personnel, but eventually the writers stopped emphasizing the gratuities. Johnny tended to stick to business; however, when not on an active case, he loved to spend his free time fishing. Before the introduction of his serious girlfriend, Betty Lewis, Johnny occasionally interacted with the opposite sex.

Several actors portrayed Johnny Dollar over the years. After his 1948 audition, Dick Powell was scheduled to take on the role; however, he left before the show began taping. Powell had accepted the leading role in Richard Diamond, Private Detective. The Johnny Dollar role fell to Charles Russell, who played the character until January 14, 1950. Edmond O’Brien picked up the mantel and played Dollar, until John Lund took over the reigns in 1952. The program stopped production during the 1953/54 season, only to reemerge a year later.

In 1955, Bob Bailey replaced Lund. CBS also changed the format of the program, turning each storyline into a 75-minute episode spread out over 5 nights. The new, live 15-minute episodes aired Monday through Friday. Unfortunately, the daily commitment for a 15-minute broadcast by cast a crewmembers proved to be overwhelming and within a year, the series reverted to its 30-minute, once a week format. Bob Bailey continued in the role, until 1960, when CBS ceased production on the West Coast. Bailey, who was not prepared to relocate to New York, was replaced by Bob Readick. In June of 1961, Mandel Kramer assumed the role of Johnny Dollar, until its final episode aired on September 30, 1962.

During its run, the program featured numerous guest performers. Vincent Price, Jeanette Nolan, Vic Perrin, Harry Bartell and Tony Barrett are only a few of the actors, who found their way to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Several scriptwriters also worked diligently during the show’s lifetime. They included creator, Jack Johnstone, Les Crutchfield, Robert Ryf and Blake Edwards, many of whom also wrote episodes under various pseudonyms.

After the series ended, there was a brief attempt to revive Johnny Dollar for a television audience. Bob Bailey reprised the role in a made-for-television pilot that aired in 1962; however, television executives dropped the project, citing that Bailey did not have the “right look” for the television version. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar aired for nearly 12 years. Over 800 episodes were produced, in which more than 700 recordings are still in existence today.

Enjoy this episode of Caylin Matter part I: