Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 267 – Suspense – Til Death Do Us Part

John Dickson Carr On November 30th, we celebrate the 110th birthday of mystery writer and radio dramatist, John Dickson Carr (right).

Carr was a master of the locked room mystery and his most famous detective was Dr. Gideon Fell. However, he wrote a number of suspense thrillers including helping the CBS series Suspense get its start in the early 1940s. For a period of time then, he was the primary, in-house, scripter with his original mysteries.

One is “Til Death Do Us Part” which is a good one in terms of radio production and stage craft. Its use of sound within the drama enhances the suspense of the play. It starred Peter Lorre who was a much better radio actor than film star in my opinion except for a few unique film performances. When you listen to this play, listen for the use of sound effects as well as the musical bridging.

Music under is Beethoven’s String Quartet, Opus 74 “The Harp” – the Adagio Ma Non Troppo performed by the Cleveland Quartet.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 266 – The Chase

Actor Lester FletcherBy the early 1950s, radio drama was becoming a thing of the past. Television was the new “it” and advertisers were making money hand over fist in the home visual world. One anthology series on NBC was “The Chase” written mostly by Lawrence Klee.  The producers, music, staff were all in-house NBC, which was a huge cost savings. The musical bridges were the same ones heard in other NBC series of the past.

“The Chase” followed another series from several years previous called “Pursuit.”  Both were themed around a hunter and the hunted, though neither really stuck to that theme.  This episode is a detective story, but one in which one wonders who is the hunted and who is doing the hunting – who is pursuing and who is being pursued. The episode, “Elliott Preston is framed for Murder” is very British in sound and might even originated over there. Both leading actors are British and the story takes place in Europe.

The story-line is actually quite good given the short broadcast time frame to develop. It manages to hold some surprises and twists with a touch of suspense. Told in a first person narrative style from the lead character’s point of view, it does draw you in and is a taut suspenseful drama.

Music under is “All I Need” performed by Over the Rhine

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 265 – Suspense: The Night Reveals

Cornell Woolrich In 1934 at the height of the Great Depression, writer Cornell Woolrich decided to try to reinvent himself as a writer. He had spent most of the late twenties and early thirties attempting to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald and he was getting nowhere despite a number of novels and short stories behind him some of which had a modicum of success. All of these were stories of romance and adventure. But in 1934 with the rise of the pulps in detective fiction, the success of writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Woolrich decided to give crime fiction a try.

After writing crime fiction for the pulps – mostly Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly and Dime Detective, Woolrich wanted to try to return to the main stream. Story Magazine in 1936 was a prestigious publication of short fiction with writers such as Norman Mailer, JD Salinger, John Cheever, Tennesee Williams and others writing for them. Woolrich offered a story to them, which they ultimately published in 1936 called “The Night Reveals.”

As radio began to discover Cornell Woolrich mostly through early adoption by the CBS series Suspense, more and more of his stories were being adapted as radio plays. “The Night Reveals” was picked up because then producer William Spier was a fan of Woolrich’s fiction and felt his themes fit well into the structure of the series he was producing and directing.

Music under is “Blue in Green” performed by Miles Davis.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 264 – New Adventures of the Thin Man

d_hammett-posterizedPrior to either of the two series I featured over the last two podcasts, one which began as a single fictional story, moved to film, then radio, for the most part maintained the female lead role in pretty much the same fashion of the time. This was the Dashiell Hammett story titled “The Thin Man.” The role of women in forties drama was usually second class and while Nora Charles is bright and intelligent, she defers to her husband, Nicky, who though cocky is a brilliant detective.

The original story first appeared in Redbook Magazine in 1933 in serial form, was published as a novel in 1934 and would be the final novel Hammett would ever write again. Unless one is a follower of Hammett’s bibliography, you might not know that Hammett wrote an original “Thin Man” story in 1930 he never published. It was initially the same “Thin Man” story involving a missing scientist but much darker. No Nora, no Nick. The detective was named John Guild who had what biographer William Nolan calls “the businesslike Agency approach of the Continental Op and the ultra-coolness of Sam Spade.”

Music under is “My One and Only Love” performed by Art Tatum Group.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 263 – Adventures of the Abbotts

Claudia Morgan Part two of a look at Husband/Wife detective duos and the role women played in the dramas. The Adventures of the Abbotts was the model for the last podcast offering – It’s a Crime, Mr. Collins and the drama on the former is much meatier and overall better played. The scripts were written by Howard Merrill, a former actor and better writer than those on the latter series. The 1950s version (there was also a late forties version) starred Claudia Morgan (right) and Les Damon as Jean and Pat Abbott.

The role of women hadn’t changed much from the forties, though this series based upon Author Frances Crane’s Abbott novels in which Jean Abbott is the main protaganist, shows a little less silliness of character written for women.

Music under is by the Bill Evans Trio and is called “Young and Foolish.”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 262 – It’s A Crime, Mr. Collins

Mandel Kramer

Mandel Kramer

In this podcast, I look at the role of husband/wife detectives and how radio treated the role of women within the world of radio drama and production. This is the first of several parts looking at various husband/wife detective series over the years of radio drama.

It’s A Crime, Mr. Collins debuted on American radio via the Mutual Broadcasting System in August 1956. Unfortunately, it was a short run ending in February 1957. But Mutual continued to broadcast an Australian version of the series. There appears to be no American version audio extant. The American version starred Mandel Kramer (left) as Greg Collins. The woman who portrayed Gail, his wife, is not known. The Australian version gives us a flavor of the American version, but it seems we won’t know how the other actually sounded unless audio appears.

Radio did not treat women well as attested through the situation involving one of the premier sound effects persons ever in radio drama – Ora Nichols. For more on this listen to http://cpa.ds.npr.org/kuow/audio/2014/04/20140417_ks_soundeffects.mp3.

Music under is Art Tatum playing My Ideal.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 261 – One Hundred in the Dark

Eric Dressler Here is a mystery play where no clues are given. Sometimes with “clueless mysteries” we can enjoy the story for the curiosity and not worry about the “who” or “whydunnit.” This is a good example of an attempt to solve a crime in which the reader or the listener is not given any clues to help solve the crime. In fact it seems the crime is not solved – or is it?

In 1913, Owen M. Johnson wrote a short story in which theories of what makes a good detective story are discussed followed by an example of one which focuses on the crime itself and not the solution. One Hundred in the Dark as heard over Suspense and adapted by Jack Anson Finke quite closely to the original story and which can be found online here.

One Hundred in the Dark starred film, radio and stage star, Eric Dressler (right) in the role as Peters/Harris.

Music under is the Alec Wilder Octet in two pieces: “The House Detective Registers” and “Walking Home in Spring.”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 260 – The Cross-eyed Bear

Dorothy B. Hughes

Wanted: A beautiful girl. One not afraid to look on
danger’s bright face. Room 1000, The Lorenzo.

This simple advertisement in a newspaper begins one of Dorothy Belle Hughes (left) psychological thriller crime stories. Hughes, whose works are only recently finding resurgence being re-published by The Mysterious Press were written mostly in the forties of which this story was first published in 1940 as The Cross-eyed Bear Murders. Hughes preceded even Jim Thompson whose The Killer Within was considered a seminal psychological crime story. But Hughes, for seem reason, arced and seemed to have lost traction in the publishing world until recently.

Suspense adapted two of her stories, of which this one is from 1943. The adaptation leaves you wanting and I would recommend reading the original works by this fabulous crime writer.

Music under is the Bill Evans Trio performing Young and Foolish.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 259 – The Eleventh Juror

Vincent Starrett Vincent Starrett was a Chicago-based journalist and crime fiction writer in the early part of the 20th century. He was an intense bibliophile and became interested in all things Sherlockian writing what is probably one of the best pastiches of Holmes in 1920 called The Adventure of the Unique ‘Hamlet.’

It is Starrett’s other fiction that this podcast is concerned about. In 1927, Starrett wrote probably his best short story called “The Eleventh Juror” which some have called an “experimental mystery.” The original story is mostly arranged differently from the radio adaptation which was heard on the Molle Mystery Theater in April 1945. Whether you come to this story via the written word or the radio play, I think you’ll find it is unique in its approach and filled with fascinating plot twists.

Music under is Chopin’s Waltz No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2 performed by Janusz Olejniczak.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 258 – Eno Crime Clues

Stewart Sterling Eno Crime Clues is a good example of early radio detective stories from the earliest time of radio programming. Often there were very little or crude sound effects, somewhat thin plotlines and the acting was a bit stilted. These series definitely were not the sophisticated versions of later detectives such as Nick Carter, Nick Charles or Philip Marlowe. I always find them hard to listen to as the pacing is so slow.

But that said, they are still part of the radio history of detectives on radio and I am presenting it here for that reason. This series was after the original Eno Crime Club moved to NBC and the writing was picked up by Stewart Sterling (left), a pseudonym for Prentice Winchell, who also wrote occasionally for the pulps and later published a number of crime detective books. Sterling called this his “Manhunter” series featuring his detective Spencer Dean and his aid Dan Cassidy.

Music under is Annette Hanshaw singing “Say It Isn’t So” and “Body and Soul.”

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