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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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Bob Bailey Detective Radio Old Time Radio Radio Detective 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:

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/ytjd_560102_298_caylin_matter_pt_1_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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Debut Episode Old Time Radio Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

Yours Truly Johnny Dollar Debut episode, 2-18-1949

Old RadioIn 1949 today, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar debuted on CBS. Featured is the first episode, titled “Mind in the Shadows.” Charles Russell plays the starring role as the insurance investigator with the action-packed expense account. Please enjoy the debut episode:

[audio:Yours-Truly-Johnny-Dollar-490218-Mind-In-The-Shadows.mp3]

The series continued on for fourteen years with the title role later being taken on by Edmond O’Brien, John Lund, Bob Bailey, Bob Readick, and Mandel Kramer when it ended in 1962.