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Country Western Music Detective Radio Dragnet Escape Fibber McGee and Molly Gunsmoke Have Gun Will Travel Horror Show Inner Sanctum Mysteries Old Time Radio Radio Detective Suspense X Minus One Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

Recommended Series For First Time OTR Listeners

There are so many facets to the world of Old Time Radio, it is hard to know where to start enjoying it. The truth is there is so much to enjoy in OTR, it is easy to imagine that almost anything you pick out will delight you.

But that still leaves you with the difficult job of choosing! Lets look at a few of the options: Most OTR fans get started by choosing a genre of shows they enjoy. There are Adventure programs for action fans, for those who enjoy a good puzzle there are a number of great Detective and Mystery shows. If your day isn’t complete without a few good laughs there are several comedy programs, ranging from sketch driven variety programs to character rich situation comedies.

The great thing about enjoying OTR today is that there are so many ways and places you can enjoy it. For many of us there is nothing that makes a commute enjoyable than following an exciting adventure serial program. At the end of the day it helps to remove the stress of the work day by trying to solve a mystery along with a hard boiled detective during the drive home. Time spent working in front of the computer goes a lot better listening to the songs and jokes of a variety show. With a good set of noise-reducing earbud speakers attached to our pocket MP3 player or cellphone, some of us are even known to enjoy listening to the cowboys in Western programs while mowing the lawn!

Many purveyors of Old Time Radio try to sell their programs on the nostalgia appeal. Sadly, most of the people who are nostalgic for these shows are no longer with us. Most of the series and shows are very enjoyable in their own right, but we feel that knowing a little bit about the actors and the programs make them even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will whet your appetite to know more about these great shows.

Some of our favorite genres and and shows include:

Mystery and Horror:

These are the late-night shows that make you want to pull the bedsheets up over your eyes! Most will agree that the most blood-curdling ghost story is even more frightening on radio!

Mystery In The Air features one of the creepiest voices and personalities ever to grace the screen, Peter Lorre.

The Whistler is a collection crime stories where the justice always comes to the villain, but not a way that he or the listeners would expect!

Suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat with nearly a thousand episodes of “Radio’s Outstanding Theater of Thrills!”

Lights Out! was one of the original late night thrillers with stories written by two of radio’s greatest talents, Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries is like having Halloween every week with creepy stories, dark jokes, and creepy thrills.

Weird Circle brings us a collection of classic ghost stories.

Adventure:

These shows will take our imaginations to the far corners of the world.

Escape! features some of the greatest stars Hollywood, Broadway and radio in some great original and adapted stories.

Cloak and Dagger is based on true stories of the Operatives of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

The Adventures of Superman. Much of the legend of the original comic book hero was actually developed on the radio.

 

Comedy:

There can never be enough things for us to laugh at, and Radio brings us some of the best!

You Bet Your Life, developed as a sort of game show, the program was really a chance for Groucho Marx to simply be Groucho!

Fibber McGee and Molly is nothing but good-hearted fun featuring a well meaning schemer who seems to have never held a steady job and his long suffering but happy wife along with his friends and neighbors.

The Jack Benny Program is a collection of music and skits built around a character who was everything that the real Jack Benny wasn’t, vain, cantankerous, and cheap!

Crime and Detective:

Whether we are following the wits and bravery of hard working policemen and brave private eye, or pitting our wits against one of the great detective, everyone enjoys Crime and Detective stories.

Dragnet starring Jack Webb is a series of exciting stories based on true cases of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tales of the Texas Rangers brings us more true crime stories from the Oldest and Most Well known law enforcement agency in North America.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is the story of an investigator for insurance companies with an “action-packed expense account”.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a humorous collection of the cases of a rather eccentric but incredibly intelligent crime solver whose effectiveness isn’t hampered by his girth.

Drama:

More serious stories, but still greatly entertaining, our dramas include tales from literature, great movies, and even “serial dramas”.

Academy Award Theater, adaptations of Hollywood’s best movies, all Oscar Winners.

Dr Christian was one of the great wash-tub-weepers that kept house wives entertained with their continuing stories and weekly cliffhangers.

Lux Radio Theater brought the stories of the best movies to the radio, featuring a full orchestra, and usually the film’s original stars performing before a live audience.

 

Science Fiction:

Sometimes condemned as “kid stuff”, several radio programs treated Sci Fi as serious literature.

Dimension X and X Minus One had stories from the pages of great SciFi magazines and the best and most influential SciFi writers.

Space Patrol was meant for kids, but the space-opera was based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

 

 

Westerns:

Some of these are kid shows, and others are serious adult drama, while others are treasures of great country music!

Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were serious drama that never allowed the gritty reality of the rough and tumble West get in the way.

The Six Shooter featured the acting talent of the great James Stewart and some of the best written stories of any radio genre.

Melody Ranch featured the music of one of the screens great singing Cowboys, as well as a story or two of genuine ranch life.

 

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Agnes Moorehead Alfred Hitchcock Old Time Radio Suspense William Spier Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

July 22: 73rd Anniversary of Suspense on the Radio…

Suspense_1946_Title

On July 22,  we celebrate the anniversary of one of Old Time Radio’s greatest treasures, Suspense. Soon fans will argue that the anniversary is actually June 17, 1942. That is when the fully developed program launched as a weekly series. However, that night in July of 1940 was the first time the public heard a Suspense radio program, and the premiere caused its own share of ruckus for a program which would go on to last for twenty years as a weekly feature, right to the very end of the Radio age.

The Columbia Broadcasting Service, the “Tiffany Network”, built a reputation for bringing the highest quality programming to the airwaves, no matter the expense. This pursuit of The Best manifested itself in many ways, from the almost cinematic productions of Norman Corwin to the infamous NBC “Talent Raids” when CBS chief William Paley outbid the older network for some of its most profitable acts (and helped to establish CBS as the dominant presence in Post War radio).

Fun With Hitchcock

Alfred_Hitchcock_by_Jack_MitchellCBS was not afraid to take risks on new shows and concepts, but like anyone else playing for high stakes, they did their best to minimize the risks. One way the network developed to try out new shows was to introduce them as a summer replacement series for the radio. Another device was a weekly program called Forecast (Forecast itself filled a Monday night summer slot). Forecast was designed as a preview of new radio programs, presenting two audition shows each week. Other great shows that got their start on  Forecast include Duffy’s Tavern.

English movie director Alfred Hitchcock had already established himself as “the master of Suspense” by 1940. Having established himself as one of England’s greatest movie directors, Hitchcock was brought to America by producer David R. Selznick. His first American film, Rebecca, won best picture, and he was getting ready to repeat that success with Foreign Correspondent. Part of the promotion for both films was to have Hitchcock direct the audition program for Suspense. To sweeten the deal, Edmund Gwenn and Herbert Marshall, both of whom were working on Foreign Correspondent, were included in the package.

Hitchcock chose to dramatize the short story “The Lodger” which he had brought to the silent screen in 1926. It was the story of a London boarding house keeper whose guest may or may not have been the infamous Jack The Ripper. In an effort to keep the audience in “Suspense”, at the end of the broadcast Hitchcock neglected to reveal whether or not the Lodger really was the Ripper. This was a major coup for the show-to-be. If listeners wanted to find the answer, they had to write to the network. The show received hundreds of letter, not all of it favorable. Many were upset over the cliff hanger, but CBS was convinced.

Establishing a Weekly Favorite

SuspenseadHowever, even the Tiffany network could not afford Hitchcock every week, so the project was turned over to William Spier, “the Hitchcock of the airwaves”. Suspense began as a sustained program, but soon sponsor Roma Wines was paying the bills.

A number of factors went into making Suspense an incredible Radio success. The production values were kept very high. Spier and the producers that followed him were able to attract an impressive selection of actors to Suspense, not just radio heavyweights, but big names from the screen, as well.

For the actors, Suspense gained a reputation for being a fun project to appear on. The anthology format meant that there would be a variety of different characters to play and develop. Rarely were they the sort of characters that the actors were used to playing. It is very interesting to hear comics like Jack Benny playing a Martian laborer or a clueless bank robber, or Jim and Marian Jones (Fibber McGee and Molly) as kidnap victims. Listeners have their ear ready for a quip or joke, but it never comes. Instead, the anticipation draws the listener even deeper into the story.

agnes1

Even more than the production and the actors, the stories were the big attraction of Suspense. Pretty much anything was fair game, as long as it would keep the audience in Suspense. One of the earliest successes was an adaptation of Lucille Fletcher’s “Sorry, Wrong Number”, Agnes Moorehead plays a woman who panics when she overhears part of the murder plot but cannot convince anyone of what she heard. “Sorry,
Wrong Number” would be repeated seven times over the 20 year run of Suspense. Fletcher also penned “The Hitch Hiker”, which featured Orson Welles as a man stalked by a mysterious stranger across country.

Endings, Remembrance, and Rebirth

suspense5The coming of television took a toll on Suspense, but not as big as it would appear. Budgets were slashed, both sponsors and producers left for the small screen, but the stories were still presented every week, keeping audiences in Suspense. Eventually, CBS gave up on dramatic radio completely on September 30, 1962. The last two programs broadcast were Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense.

Suspense was simply too good of a show to die with the Golden Age of Radio. The existing episodes are a cornerstone of any OTR collection.

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Agnes Moorehead Barbara Stanwyck Sorry Wrong Number Suspense

70th Anniversary of “Sorry, Wrong Number”

On May 25, 2013, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of Old Time Radio’s truly magnificent treasures. One that evening in 1943, CBS’s “Outstanding Theater of Thrills”, radio’s Suspense!, presented for the first time the chilling tale “Sorry, Wrong Number”.

Lucille Fletcher, one of the female mystery writers who dominated the genre, wrote the radio play. In contrast to other types of fiction, there was relatively little “gender-gap” for mystery writers. In part, this was due to Agatha Christie’s work popularizing the genre, but the editor’s need to gather compelling stories whereever they could be found was also a factor. Ms. Fletcher also penned “The Hitch Hiker” script that was hugely successful for Orson Welles in 1941. Welles would later opine that “The Hitch Hiker” and “Sorry, Wrong Number” were the best suspense plays ever written for Radio.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” was as simple as it was effective. The program as originally written as almost a one woman show and radio veteran Agnes Moorehead handled it masterfully. The story opens as she is trying to reach her late-working husband, but finds that his office telephone is constantly busy. Seeking aid from the operator, she overhears two men plotting a cold-blooded murder. As the program progresses, the woman (and the audience) come to realize that she is the intended victim of the crime.

There were two performances of the episode on the evening of May 25, 1943; first for the East Coast and then for the West. One of the supporting actors missed a cue near the end of the East Coast broadcast, which resulted in some confusion among listeners as to the actual outcome of the story. Producer William Spier aired a clarification at the beginning of the following week’s episode, “Banquo’s Chair”, and also announced that the story would be repeated on the coming weeks due to the outstanding audience response. Suspense would present “Sorry, Wrong Number” seven times, each time starring Ms. Moorehead. Each time she assumed the role, Moorehead used her original, dog-earred script.

Producers hired Ms. Fletcher to expand the story for the 1948 film starring Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck received a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar for the role, but many fans of noir fiction feel that the expanded plot of the movie loses the taut simplicity and sheer terror of the original radio version. Ms. Stanwyck appeared on the Jack Benny Program plugging the film and supporting Jack’s parody. She also reprised her movie role for the Jan 9, 1950, Lux Radio Theater presentation.

Enjoy the “West Coast” version of “Sorry Wrong Number” starring Agnes Moorehead in radio’s Suspense!:

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Suspense-430525-043-SorryWrongNumber–OTRCAT.com.mp3

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John Dickson Carr Radio Plays

If one thing could be said about John Dickson Carr it was his love for England. It was prevalent in the mysteries he created, because the “blessed plot, this earth, this realm” of his writings was England. His character detectives had to use the logic of the English mind to solve the riddle set before them…when it seemed impervious to the radio listener to try and conquest.

One of John Dickson Carr‘s most beloved of characters was Dr Fell. This paunchy purveyor of impossibility seemed to circuit the storyline of mystery with impossible grace. The listener to the program would get the facts, as convoluted as they may seem, and end up equally at a loss to figuring out the answer. Yet Dr Fell, who could not do much physical because of grandiose size, brought a conclusion to each mystery without breaking much of a sweat…unless you count moving his fork hand to his mouth as great feats of endurance. Dr Fell could see what most people could not even imagine. This was character was indicative of Carr’s resolve to offer detective stories that used the off-beat to control the outcome. Dr Fell may have had obese issues, he also had a heart for civility. His character never treated people with anything less than true gentlemanly discourse.

In contrast to the grace and sensitivity of Dr Fell is Carr‘s other detective…Sir Henry Merrivale. This large man (Carr seemed to be fascinated by the “fat” of society) was always impatient and in a snit about something. If his temper did not get the best of him, his boisterous presence created an environment of “egg-shell” walkers. yet, as with Dr Fell, Merrivale brought out the only possible solution from an otherwise impossible case.

Whether it was for America’s radio broadcast of “Suspense” or the equal, “Appointment with Fear”, Carr created many radio plays that courted lovers of mystery and resolution. The radio audience could not get enough of Carr’s works and always contacted the radio studio for more.

England may have been carr’s place of preference, but America loved his offerings with almost relatable insistence.

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/John-Dickson-Carr-Suspense-431109-065-Cabin-B13-OTRCAT.com.mp3


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Obituary Old Time Radio Suspense Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

Sept 30, 2012: 50th Anniversary of the End of Old Time Radio

Fifty Years ago on this date, old time radio symbolically ended its reign as the primary source of entertainment in American homes.

On September 30, 1962 the final broadcast of Suspense and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar went over the air for the final time.  Click here to learn more about the end of the old time radio shows and listen to the final broadcasts of Suspense and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar.

Click here for a compilation of
“Final Broadcasts of Old Time Radio”

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Lucille Ball Suspense

Redhead On Suspense!

We’ve been looking at the way that Suspense! liked to cast actors far away from their type. One of the favorite comedians on Susspense was Lucille Ball.

Lucy was many peoples favorite. She was America’s Queen of Comedy, a favored pin-up girl, a pioneer in television acting and production, and the first woman to head a television studio. But she will always be remembered as the lady who made us all laugh with the classic routines from “I love Lucy” and her other great TV shows.

Early in her career was a time that many starlets appeared on the radio to help make ends meet. As her star began to rise, Lucy made several appearances on Suspense! In her earliest Suspense roles Lucy plays hard working girls on Broadway whom fate puts in the path of desperate men, and the third, “A Shroud for Sarah”, she becomes a cold and calculating black-widow who more than gets what she deserves. In “A Little Piece of Rope” Lucy is an ambitious girl in Hollywood who can’t get a role because she looks so young, but she can take advantage of men who like to pick up little girls, even “the Strangler”.

After she married, she appeared in “The Red Headed Woman”, playing a good girl who falls for temptation when her boss gives her the payroll money to put in the safe. She embezzles the money and makes her escape, and while driving to Mexico hears the report of a murderous bank robbery, and that the robber looks a lot like Desi Arnaz. And he has an accomplice who has red hair. And who does she see along the side of the road? Could it be Desi?

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Comedians-in-Suspense-491117-359-Red-Headed-Woman-Lucy-And-Desi-Arnez-OTRCAT.com.mp3