Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Suspense-ful Halloween!

One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 are extant.

Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.

In its early years, the program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy. Notable exceptions include adaptations of Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", but by the late 1950s, such material was regularly featured.

Alfred Hitchcock directed its audition show (for the CBS summer series Forecast). This was an adaptation of The Lodger, a story Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 with Ivor Novello. Martin Grams, Jr.

In the earliest years, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) with many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr.

One of the series' earliest successes and its single most popular episode is Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number," about a bedridden woman (Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960) — each time with Moorehead.

Another notable early episode was Fletcher's "The Hitch Hiker," in which a motorist (Orson Welles) is stalked on a cross-country trip by a nondescript man who keeps appearing on the side of the road. This episode originally aired on September 2, 1942, and was later adapted for television by Rod Serling as a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone.

The well-written Suspense radio dramas are easily some of my all-time favorite vintage radio programs. Below you'll find both of those tantalizing Suspense-ful tales along with others that I've picked for this chilly Halloween night. Though not Halloween themed necessarily, they have been chosen for their particular ability to keep you in....Suspense!

Source: Wikipedia


"Sorry, Wrong Number" originally aired on May 25th, 1943.

"The Hitch Hiker" originally aired on September 2nd, 1942.

"The House in Cypress Canyon" originally aired on December 5th, 1946.

"On a Country Road" with Cary Grant, originally aired on November 16th, 1950.

Halloween with My Favorite Husband

My Favorite Husband began on CBS Radio with Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as Liz and George Cugat. After at least 20 early episodes, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change to Liz and George Cooper. The cheerful couple lived at 321 Bundy Drive in the fictitious city of Sheridan Falls and were billed as "two people who live together and like it." The main sponsor was General Foods' Jell-O, and an average of three "plugs" for Jell-O were made in each episode, including Lucille Ball's usual sign-on, "Jell-O, everybody!" The 1948 radio version opened with:
Bob LeMond: It's time for My Favorite Husband starring Lucille Ball!
Lucille Ball: Jell-O, everybody!
Theme music [composed by Marlin Skiles, conducted by Wilbur Hatch]
LeMond: Yes, it's the gay family comedy series starring Lucille Ball with Richard Denning and is brought to you by the Jell-O family of Red-Letter Desserts:

O! The big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
Oh, the big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
That's Jell-O!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O pudding!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O tapioca pudding, yes sir-ee!
LeMond: Now, let's take a look at the Cooper family, two people who live together and like it.
The program, which aired 124 episodes from July 23, 1948, through March 31, 1951, initially portrayed the couple as being a well-to-do banker and his socially prominent wife, but three new writers—Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, and Jess Oppenheimer—took over the writing, changed the couple's name to Cooper, and remade them into a middle-class couple, which they thought average listeners would find more accessible.

Lucille Ball was asked to do a television version of the show (with Jell-O remaining as sponsor), and CBS insisted on Richard Denning continuing as her co-star. However, Ball refused to do a husband-and-wife TV show without real-life husband Desi Arnaz playing her on-screen husband. The network reluctantly agreed, reworking the concept into I Love Lucy after Ball and Arnaz took a show on the road to convince the network that audiences would respond. When Jell-O dropped out of the show, Philip Morris became the television sponsor.
Carroll, Pugh and Oppenheimer agreed to do the switch to I Love Lucy. They subsequently reworked several My Favorite Husband episodes into I Love Lucy episodes, especially early in the TV show's run. For example, the 1948 radio episode entitled "Giveaway Program" inspired the I Love Lucy episode "Redecorating", with some lines exactly the same. Many actors who had done the My Favorite Husband radio show also appeared on I Love Lucy, sometimes in episodes where they reprised their roles using a reworked My Favorite Husband script.

Sources: Wikipedia and

This Halloween episode originally aired October 28th, 1949:

Life of Riley: Halloween Haunted House

The Life of Riley, with William Bendix in the title role, is a popular American radio situation comedy series of the 1940s that was adapted into a 1949 feature film, a long-run 1950s television series (originally with Jackie Gleason as Riley for 1 truncated season, then with Bendix for 6 seasons), and a 1958 Dell comic book.
The show began as a proposed Groucho Marx radio series, The Flotsam Family, but the sponsor balked at what would have been essentially a straight head-of-household role for the comedian. (Groucho went on to host Blue Ribbon Town from 1943 to 1944 and then You Bet Your Life from 1947 to 1961.) Then producer Irving Brecher saw Bendix as taxicab company owner Tim McGuerin in Hal Roach's The McGuerins from Brooklyn (1942). The Flotsam Family was reworked with Bendix cast as blundering Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. His frequent exclamation of indignation became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s: "What a revoltin' development this is!" The radio series benefited from the immense popularity of a supporting character, Digby "Digger" O'Dell (John Brown), "the friendly undertaker."

The first Life of Riley radio show was a summer replacement show heard on CBS from April 12, 1941 to September 6, 1941. The CBS program starred Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth and had no real connection with the more famous series that followed a few years later.
The radio program starring William Bendix as Riley initially aired on the Blue Network, later known as ABC, from January 16, 1944 to June 8, 1945. Then it moved to NBC, where it was broadcast from September 8, 1945 to June 29, 1951. The supporting cast featured Paula Winslowe portraying Peg, Riley's wife, as well as John Brown, who portrayed not only undertaker "Digger" O'Dell but also Riley's co-worker Jim Gillis. (Brown also played the character of Waldo Binny.) Whereas Gillis gave Riley bad information that got him into trouble, Digger gave him good information that "helped him out of a hole," as he might have put it. Brown's lines as the undertaker were often repetitive, including puns based on his profession; but, thanks to Brown's delivery, the audience loved him. The program was broadcast live with a studio audience, most of whom were not aware Brown played both characters. As a result, when Digger delivered his first line, it was usually greeted with howls of laughter and applause from surprised audience members.

Source: Wikipedia

Original Broadcast date: October 29th, 1944

Father Knows Best: Halloween Blues

Father Knows Best is an American radio and television comedy series which portrayed a middle class family life in the Midwest. It was created by writer Ed James in the 1940s.

The series began August 25, 1949, on NBC Radio. Set in the Midwest, it starred Robert Young as the General Insurance agent Jim Anderson. His wife Margaret was first portrayed by June Whitley and later by Jean Vander Pyl. The Anderson children were Betty (Rhoda Williams), Bud (Ted Donaldson), and Kathy (Norma Jean Nillson). Others in the cast were Eleanor Audley, Herb Vigran and Sam Edwards. Sponsored through most of its run by General Foods, the series was heard Thursday evenings on NBC until March 25, 1954.
On the radio program, the character of Jim differs from the later television character. The radio Jim is far more sarcastic and shows he really "rules" over his family. Jim also calls his children names, something common on radio but lost in the TV series. For example, Jim says, "What a bunch of stupid children I have." Margaret is portrayed as a paragon of solid reason and patience, unless the plot calls for her to act a bit off. For example, in a Halloween episode, Margaret cannot understand how the table floats in the air, but that is a rare exception.

Betty, on radio, is portrayed as a status seeking, boy-crazy teenage girl. To her, every little thing is "the worst thing that could ever happen." Bud, on radio, is portrayed as an "all-American" boy who always seems to need "just a bit more" money, though he gets $1.25 per week in allowance (equal to $11.52 today). Bud is in charge of always having to answer the front door, which he hates. He is also shown as a somewhat dim boy who takes everything literally; for example, Jim might say "Go jump in the lake," to which Bud would reply "Okay, Dad; which lake should I go jump into?" He also uses the phrase "Holy Cow" to express displeasure. On radio, Kathy often is portrayed as a source of irritation. She whines, cries and complains about her status in the family as overlooked. She often is the source of money to her brother and sister, although she is in hock several years on her own allowance.

The Television series began on CBS on October 3, 1954. Originally sponsored by Lorillard's Kent cigarettes in its first season, Scott Paper Company became the primary sponsor when the series moved to NBC in the fall of 1955, remaining as sponsor even after it moved back to CBS in September 1958, with Lever Brothers as an alternate sponsor from 1957 through 1960. A total of 203 episodes were produced, running until September 17, 1960, and appearing on all three of the television networks of the time, including prime-time repeats from September 1960 through April 1963.

Sources: Wikipedia and

Television episodes of Father Knows Best can also be seen on Hulu.

This episode entitled,"Halloween Blues" originally aired October 29, 1953.

Ozzie and Harriet: The Halloween Party

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 to September 3, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series starred Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David Nelson and Eric Nelson, better known as Ricky. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons' friendly neighbor "Thorny". The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US TV history.

When Red Skelton was drafted in March 1944, Ozzie Nelson was prompted to create his own family situation comedy. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet launched on CBS on October 8, 1944, moving to NBC in October 1948, and making a late-season switch back to CBS in April 1949. The final years of the radio series were on ABC (the former NBC Blue Network) from October 14, 1949 to June 18, 1954. In total 402 radio episodes were produced. In an arrangement that amplified the growing pains of American broadcasting, as radio "grew up" into television, the Nelsons' deal with ABC gave the network the option to move their program to television. The struggling network needed proven talent that was not about to defect to the more established and wealthier networks like CBS or NBC.

The Nelsons' sons, David and Ricky, did not join the cast until the radio show's fifth year (initially appearing on the February 20, 1949 episode). The two boys were played by professional actors prior to their joining because both were too young to perform. The role of David was played by Joel Davis from 1944 until 1945 when he was replaced by Tommy Bernard. Henry Blair appeared as Ricky. Other cast members included John Brown as Syd "Thorny" Thornberry, Lurene Tuttle as Harriet's mother, Bea Benaderet as Gloria, Janet Waldo as Emmy Lou, and Francis "Dink" Trout as Roger. Source: Wikipedia

Ozzie and Harriet has long been one of my favorite radio programs and classic television shows. Corny perhaps by today's standards some might say, but there's a wholesome, genuine quality that really appeals to me.

This episode of the radio program is from October 31st, 1948. This is before the real David and Ricky began performing on the program. David and Ricky in this episode are played by Tommy Bernard and Henry Blair respectively.

I've also included a Halloween episode from the popular television series...enjoy!


Halloween with Fibber McGee and Molly

There are people who would argue that Fibber McGee and Molly were the Golden Age of radio. This is partly because of the show's very long (1935-1959) and successful run. But more than just staying power, the show showcased terrific comic and musical talent. Throughout its run, the show was a reflection of its time in the American scene.

The genesis of the program can be traced to a local Chicago show that would become Smackout. Fibber McGee and Molly would go on to great success despite (or perhaps because of) the vaudeville sensibilities of its creators and stars, married couple Jim and Marian Jordan.

Living in the fictional Midwestern city of Wistful Vista, Fibber was an American teller of tall tales and a braggart, usually to the exasperation of his long suffering wife Molly. Life in Wistful Vista followed a well developed formula, but was always fresh. Fibber's weekly schemes would be interrupted, inspired by, and often played upon the People of Wistful Vista, a set of regular players and characters that were as beloved as the stars of the program. The program used a series of running gags that would become part of the common language, many treasures can be found in the Closet at 79 Wistful Vista.

The show began as a comic reflection of Depression Era America, but as time went on and the shadows of war came over the nation, the show again caught the mood of the country. WWII was fought on the Home front on Wistful Vista as surely as anywhere else in America, but here they had the benefit of Fibber's somewhat addled perspective.

The show was formally "The Johnson Wax show with Fibber McGee and Molly." Longtime sponsor S.C. Johnson Wax Company saw the value of saving the episodes they sponsored, thereby preserving this treasure for fans of Old Time Radio today.

One of the funniest, most cleverly written shows you will find. The show ran for an epic 24 years on the radio. The show had a huge influence on popular culture as well. Catch phrases that originated on Fibber McGee and Molly like, "Tain't funny, McGee!" "That ain't the way I heered it!" "Snooky," and "Whatsay?" were common vernacular of the time.

Recently, on an episode of NCIS, Abby Sciutto reprimanded Timothy McGee with the line "T'ain't funny, McGee" as a nod to the show.

Sources: and Fibber McGee and Molly on Wikipedia

Enjoy this Halloween show from October 24th, 1939.

The Great Gildersleeve: Halloween Party

The Great Gildersleeve (1941–1957), initially written by Leonard Lewis Levinson, was one of broadcast history's earliest spin-off programs. Built around Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve, a character who had been a staple on the classic radio situation comedy Fibber McGee and Molly. First introduced to FMAM on 10/3/39 ep #216. The Great Gildersleeve enjoyed its greatest success in the 1940s. Actor Harold Peary played the character during its transition from the parent show into the spin-off and later in a quartet of feature films released at the height of the show's popularity.
On Fibber McGee and Molly, Peary's Gildersleeve was a pompous windbag who became a consistent McGee nemesis. "You're a haa-aa-aa-aard man, McGee!" became a Gildersleeve catchphrase.

The character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly, and on one episode his middle name was revealed as Philharmonic. Gildy admits as much at the end of "Gildersleeve's Diary" on the Fibber McGee and Molly series (10/22/40).
He soon became so popular that Kraft Foods—looking primarily to promote its Parkay margarine spread — sponsored a new series with Peary's Gildersleeve as the central, slightly softened and slightly befuddled focus of a lively new family.

Actor Harold Peary was a much appreciated talent on the old radio series, "Fibber McGee and Molly". Over the course of time, he played a number of different characters, like a butcher or a delivery man. Eventually, the writers created the character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve for Peary to portray. Stuffy "Gildy" was the next-door neighbor of the McGee's, so now Peary could portray the major plot point in some episodes. But even this major supporting role was not enough to contain the actor's talents. So in 1941, "The Great Gildersleeve" spun-off into his very own radio series.

With a dedicated program, Harold Peary and his writers greatly expanded the depths of the Gildersleeve character. The show ran for 13 years (1941-1954), with over 550 shows produced. There were also four "official" Gildersleeve movies, and Peary appeared as Gildersleeve in a number of other films. In the fifties there was a "Great Gildersleeve" TV series, which ran for one season and resulted in 39 episodes.

However, it was not Peary who appeared in the TV series. Back in 1950, Peary's agent saw an opportunity to better his client's deal. He moved Peary from NBC to CBS. Unfortunately, the agent didn't cover all the bases of the deal, as CBS found they could not put him on as "The Great Gildersleeve", NBC still owned the rights to the character. They got Peary but not "The Great Gildersleeve" program. So CBS created a different series for Peary to play in, titled "Honest Harold". Starting on September 6, 1950, Peary's old friend Willard Waterman continued the Gildersleeve character successfully for the remaining four years of its run, then onto the year-run of the television series. Harold Peary showed up two years after that as Mayor LaTrivia on the TV version of "Fibber McGee and Molly".

via Wikipedia and

This show is from October 31st, 1943.

Jack Benny: Jack Gives A Halloween Party

JACK BENNY (Feb 14, 1894 – Dec 26, 1974)

Jack Benny, born Benjamin Kubelsky, was an American comedian, vaudevillian, radio, television, and film actor.

Widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th century, Benny played the role of the comic penny-pinching miser, insisting on remaining 39 years old on stage despite his actual age, and often (although an accomplished violinist) playing the violin - poorly!

Benny was known for his comic timing and ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature wave of the hand with an exasperated "Well!"

His radio & television programs, tremendously popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, were a foundational influence on the situation comedy genre. Dean Martin, on the celebrity roast for Johnny Carson in November 1973, introduced Benny as "the Satchel Paige of the world of comedy."

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny was so successful in selling Jell-O, in fact, that General Foods could not manufacture it fast enough when sugar shortages arose in the early years of World War II, and the company had to stop advertising the popular dessert mix. via

This Halloween themed program originally aired October 30th, 1938. It's entitled: "Jack Gives A Halloween Party."

Inner Sanctum Mysteries

This anthology series featured stories of mystery, terror and suspense, and its tongue-in-cheek introductions were in sharp contrast to shows like Suspense and The Whistler. The early 1940s programs opened with Raymond Edward Johnson introducing himself as, "Your host, Raymond," in a mocking sardonic voice. A spooky melodramatic organ score (played by Lew White) punctuated Raymond's many morbid jokes and playful puns. Raymond's closing was an elongated "Pleasant dreeeeaams, hmmmmm?" His tongue-in-cheek style and ghoulish relish of his own tales became the standard for many such horror narrators to follow, from fellow radio hosts like Ernest Chappell (on Wyllis Cooper's later series, Quiet, Please) and Maurice Tarplin (on The Mysterious Traveler).

When Johnson left the series in May 1945 to serve in the Army, he was replaced by Paul McGrath, who did not keep the "Raymond" name and was known only as "Your Host" or "Mr. Host". (Berry Kroeger had substituted earlier for a total of four episodes). McGrath was a Broadway actor who turned to radio for a regular income. Beginning in 1945, Lipton Tea sponsored the series, pairing first Raymond and then McGrath with cheery commercial spokeswoman Mary Bennett (aka the "Tea Lady"), whose blithesome pitches for Lipton Tea contrasted sharply with the macabre themes of the stories. She primly chided the host for his trademark dark humor and creepy manner.

The program's familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. Himan Brown got the idea from a door in the basement that "squeaked like Hell." The door sound was actually made by a rusty desk chair. The program did originally intend to use a door, but on its first use, the door did not creak. Undaunted, Brown grabbed a nearby chair, sat in it and turned, causing a hair-raising squeak. The chair was used from then on as the sound prop. On at least one memorable occasion, a staffer innocently repaired and oiled the chair, thus forcing the sound man to mimic the squeak orally.

Its campy comedy notwithstanding, the stories were usually effective little chillers, mixing horror and humor in equal doses. Memorable episodes included "Terror by Night" (September 18, 1945) and an adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart" (August 3, 1941). The latter starred Boris Karloff, who was heard regularly in the first season, starring in more than 15 episodes and returning sporadically thereafter.

Other established stars in the early years included Mary Astor, Helen Hayes, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Claude Rains, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles. Most of the lead and supporting players were stalwarts of New York radio. These included Santos Ortega, Larry Haines, Ted Osborne, Luis van Rooten, Stefan Schnabel, Ralph Bell, Mercedes McCambridge, Berry Kroeger, Lawson Zerbe, Arnold Moss, Leon Janney, Myron McCormick, Ian Martin, and Mason Adams. Players like Richard Widmark, Everett Sloane, Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Ken Lynch, Anne Seymour, and Santos Ortega also found fame or notability in film or television.
Of more than 500 programs broadcast, only about 200 remain in circulation, sometimes minus dates or titles.

A series of six low-budget Universal Horror movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and based on the radio show was produced in the 1940s: Calling Dr. Death (1943), Weird Woman (1944), Dead Man's Eyes (1944), The Frozen Ghost (1945), Strange Confession (1945) and Pillow of Death (1945).A Film Classics release Inner Sanctum was made in 1948.

The 1954 syndicated television series featured Paul McGrath as the off-camera host/narrator. The TV shows were produced at the Chelsea Studios in New York City.

In the 1970s, with his CBS Radio Mystery Theater series, Himan Brown recycled both the creaking door opening, and to a lesser extent, the manner of Raymond. The hosts were E. G. Marshall and Tammy Grimes. In later repeats during the 1990s, Brown himself mimicked Raymond's "Pleasant dreeeeaaams, hmmmmm?" for the familiar closing.

Source: Wikipedia

This Halloween night installment of Inner Sanctum Mysteries was originally broadcast October 31st, 1949. And entitled, "A Corpse For Halloween."

More Inner Sanctum Mysteries...

Mercury Theatre on the Air: The War of the Worlds

Perhaps the most famous Halloween radio broadcast of all time, The War of the Worlds. The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated "news bulletins", which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a "sustaining show" (it ran without commercial breaks), adding to the program's realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated.

In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who believed the events described in the program were real. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. The episode secured Welles's fame. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Click PLAY below to listen to the original 1938 broadcast.

BONUS: This is a rare meeting between the author of The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, and the brilliant Orson Welles who adapted his story to the radio. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


This Is Your FBI was a radio crime drama which aired in the United States on ABC from April 6, 1945 to January 30, 1953 for a total of 409 shows. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover gave it his endorsement, calling it "the finest dramatic program on the air".

Producer-director Jerry Devine was given access to FBI files by Hoover, and the resulting dramatizations of FBI cases were narrated by Frank Lovejoy (1945), Dean Carleton (1946–1947) and William Woodson (1948–1953). Stacy Harris played the lead role of fictional Special Agent Jim Taylor. Others in the cast were William Conrad, Bea Benaderet and Jay C. Flippen.

This Is Your FBI was sponsored during its entire run by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States

Monday, October 1, 2012

Challenge of the Yukon

 Challenge of the Yukon was a radio series that began on Detroit's station WXYZ (as had The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet), and an example of a Northern genre story. The series was first heard on February 3, 1938.

The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in November 1951, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television. The program was an adventure series about Sergeant William Preston of the North-West Mounted Police and his lead sled dog, Yukon King, as they fought evildoers in the Northern wilderness during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. Preston, according to radio historian Jim Harmon, first joined the Mounties to capture his father's killer, and when he was successful he was promoted to sergeant. Preston worked under the command of Inspector Conrad, and in the early years was often assisted by a French-Canadian guide named Pierre.

 Preston's staunchest ally, who was arguably the true star of the show and indeed often did more work than he did, was the brave Alaskan husky, Yukon King. Typical plots involved the pair helping injured trappers, tracking down smugglers, or saving cabin dwellers from wolverines. Sergeant Preston's faithful steed was Rex, used primarily in the summer months, but generally Yukon King and his dog team were the key mode of transportation (as signaled by Preston's cry of "On, King! On, you huskies!)."

There is some confusion regarding King's actual breed. The writers seemed to use malamute and husky interchangeably. At least once, Preston answered "malamute" to the question from another character. In one radio episode Preston indicates King's mother had been a wolf, which would make him a wolfdog. In the early radio shows, the cry of "On, you huskies!" would alternate with "On, you malamutes" from show to show.

The theme music was Emil von Reznicek's overture to Donna Diana a now long-forgotten opera, though the overture remains a concert staple to this day. The show's episodes ended with the official pronouncement, Well, King, this case is closed.

Following the success of Lone Ranger and Green Hornet, George W. Trendle, the station owner, asked for a similar adventure show, but with a dog as the hero. According to WXYZ staffer Dick Osgood, in his history of the station, Trendle insisted that it not be "a dog like Lassie because.. this must be an action story. It had to be a working dog." Writer Tom Dougall, who had been influenced by the poems of Robert W. Service, naturally chose a Husky. The dog was originally called Mogo, but after criticism by Trendle, Dougall re-christened the canine King. Dougall likewise created Sgt. Preston and the French-Canadian guide. Fran Striker, who wrote for The Lone Ranger, also contributed scripts.

However, Trendle's criticism of Dougall may have had another reason behind it. Shortly before the two Trendle series aired (Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon), popular author Zane Grey had a book in circulation (Lone Star Ranger) about a Texas Ranger like the Lone Ranger and a comic book series in circulation (King of the Royal Mounted) about the adventures of Sgt. King, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman like Sgt. Preston. It could be that Trendle borrowed both ideas from Grey's work and wanted to retain the name "King" as a tribute to Grey, who died after a long illness one year following the first airing of Challenge of the Yukon.

Challenge of the Yukon began as a 15-minute serial, airing locally from 1938 until May 28, 1947. Shortly thereafter, the program acquired a sponsor, Quaker Oats, and the series, in a half-hour format, moved to the networks. The program aired on ABC from June 12, 1947, to December 30, 1949. It was then heard on The Mutual Broadcasting System from January 2, 1950, through the final broadcast on June 9, 1955. In November 1951, the title changed to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.

 Radio cast:

  Sgt. Preston – The part of Sgt. Preston was played by different actors over the course of the long run. Jay Michael, who had often played villain Butch Cavendish on The Lone Ranger, originated the role, and played the brave Mountie from 1938 through the mid 1940s. Former movie actor Paul Sutton took over the role, followed briefly by Brace Beemer when The Lone Ranger ended in 1954. Sutton took over again, however, by the time of the final broadcast.

Yukon King – The barks, whines, and howls of Yukon King were supplied by one of the station's sound effects men, Dewey Cole, and following Cole's death, by actor Ted Johnstone.

Narrator and supporting players – The original announcer/narrator was Bob Hite, also a narrator for the Lone Ranger, Green Hornet and The Shadow. Hite was replaced by former star Jay Michael when Sutton took over. Lone Ranger narrator Fred Foy also filled the role from time to time. John Todd was heard occasionally as Inspector Conrad, and Frank Russell played Pierre. Episodic performers came from the same talent pool as the other WXYZ shows.

From 1951 to 1958 Dell Comics published 29 issues of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. The first four issues appeared bi-annually, then quarterly, in the weekly catch-all series, Four Color Comics (#344,373,397,419), then assumed its own numbering with issue #5, most-often as a quarterly but also bi-monthly. All issues were written by Gaylord Du Bois (creator of Turok), and illustrated by Alberto Giolitti (best known as the long-time illustrator of Turok). The Dell comic book covers were paintings portraying drama or action, featuring Yukon King and Sergeant Preston in exciting scenes. Once the Sergeant Preston of the Yukon television series premiered, the comic book featured photo covers of the TV series star in character as Sergeant Preston.

 In 1955, the same year the radio show ended, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon premiered as a television series. Richard Simmons starred as Sgt. Preston, and was supported by Yukon King and Rex, now played by real animals. The dog cast as King was not a husky, however, but a large Alaskan Malamute. Charles Livingstone, who had worked on the radio version, directed several episodes. Though no plotlines seem to have been re-used from the radio show, they were generally built upon the same themes. The same few buildings were regularly seen as part of many settlements in the shows. The additional visual component of the snowy Yukon, however, did give the television version a different feel but like all such films when filmed on a stage set, the frosty breath of people in Arctic conditions could not be simulated. Generally, however, there was an outdoor feel though a few times shadows on the skyline could be seen. Genuine outdoor scenes were added to give the show some reality though the viewer could not help but notice a sameness to them as they were all filmed in the same area and reused at times.

Mainly filmed at Ashcroft, Colorado, the series was telecast on CBS from September 29, 1955, to September 25, 1958. The first two seasons were produced by Trendle-Campbell-Meurer, and the show was broadcast in the same time slot as ABC's The Lone Ranger. In its last season, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon was purchased and produced by the Jack Wrather Corporation.

In 1955, the Quaker Oats company gave away land in the Klondike as part of a promotional tie-in with the television show. Genuine deeds each to one square inch of a lot in Yukon Territory, issued by Klondike Big Inch Land Co. Inc., were inserted into Quaker's Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice cereal boxes.

Sergeant Preston comics online!