Friday, June 29, 2012


  Suspense, 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 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.

"This is The Man in Black, here again to introduce Columbia's program, Suspense. Our stars tonight are..."

The well-written Suspense radio dramas are easily some of my all-time favorite vintage radio programs.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mr. Moto

From May to October 1951, the NBC Broadcasting network produced and aired 23 half-hour episodes starring James Monk as Mr. I.A. Moto, International Secret Agent. Mr. Moto is an American of Japanese descent born in San Francisco but still retaining his international connections. The show focused on Mr. Moto’s fight against Communism although occasionally he also solved more mundane mysteries such as murder and blackmail.

  Mr. Moto is a fictional Japanese secret agent created by the American author John P. Marquand. He appeared in six novels by Marquand published between 1935 and 1957. Marquand initially created the character for the Saturday Evening Post, which was seeking stories with an Asian hero after the death of Charlie Chan's creator Earl Derr Biggers.

 In various other media, Mr. Moto has been portrayed as an international law enforcement agent. These include eight motion pictures starring Peter Lorre between 1937 and 1939, 23 radio shows starring James Monks broadcast in 1951, a 1965 film starring Henry Silva, and a 2003 comic book produced by Moonstone Books. The graphic novel Welcome Back, Mr. Moto by Rafael Nieves and Tim Hamilton published by Moonstone Books in 2008 (originally published in 2003 as a 3-issue comic book miniseries) portrays Mr. Moto as an American of Japanese descent helping Japanese-American citizens after World War II.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father Knows Best

  In honor of all the great father's out there, including my own...

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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fort Laramie

 When Norman Macdonnell created FORT LARAMIE in late 1955, he made it clear to his writers that historical accuracy was essential to the integrity of the series. Correct geographic names, authentic Indian practices, military terminology, and utilizing actual names of the original buildings of the real fort, was insisted upon. So when the radio characters referred to the sutler’s store (which is what the trading post was called prior to 1870), the surgeon’s quarters, Old Bedlam (the officers’ quarters) or the old bakery, they were naming actual structures in the original fort. While Macdonnell planned to use the same writers, soundmen, and supporting actors in FORT LARAMIE that he relied upon in GUNSMOKE, he naturally picked different leads. Heading up the cast was a 39 year old, Canadian-born actor with a long history in broadcasting and the movies, Raymond Burr. He had begun his career in 1939, alternating between the stage and radio. He turned to Hollywood, and from 1946 until he got the part of Captain Lee Quince in FORT LARAMIE in 1956, he had appeared in thirty-seven films. A few were excellent (“Rear Window”, :The Blue Gardenia”) some were average (“Walk a Crooked Mile”, “A Place in the Sun”) but many were plain awful (“Bride of Vengeance”, “Red Light” and “Abandoned”). With Burr in the lead, Macdonnell selected two supporting players: Vic Perrin as “Sgt. Goerss” and Jack Moyles as “Major Daggett”, the commanding officer of the post. (The original Fort Laramie usually had a Lieutenant Colonel as the C.O. but Macdonnell probably preferred a shorter military title.) Perrin, a 40 year old veteran radio actor had been in countless productions, but had achieved name recognition only on THE ZANE GREY SHOW where he played the lead, “Tex Thorne.” Jack Moyles was also a busy radio actor, having started in 1935 in HAWTHORNE HOUSE, with later major roles in ROMANCE, TWELVE PLAYERS, NIGHT EDITOR as well as the lead in A MAN CALLED JORDAN. From 1947 to 1948 he was a regular in THE ADVENTURES OF PHILIP MARLOWE, which Norman Macdonnell directed, although I’m not sure that this was their first association. By the mid-1950s when FORT LARAMIE began, most of the actors on the west coast were doing some television and movie work so the program was rehearsed and taped for transcription during the evening. Once a week the cast and crew gathered at CBS Studio One in Hollywood to tape the show. In 1956 this was the last radio production studio in use in California. The series debuted on January22, 1956 with an episode entitled “Playing Indian.”

info via

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Whistler

"I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes... I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak." -Opening to The Whistler

The Whistler was an American radio mystery drama which ran from May 16, 1942 until September 22, 1955. It was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler." The program was adapted into a film noir series by Columbia Pictures in 1944.

 The stories followed formula in which a person's criminal acts were typically undone either by an overlooked but important detail or by their own stupidity. On rare occasions a curious twist of fate caused the story to end happily for the episode's protagonist. Ironic twist endings were a key feature of each episode. The Whistler himself narrated, often commenting directly upon the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, taunting the criminal from an omniscient perspective.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Green Lama

The Green Lama was an American pulp magazine hero of the 1940s. In many respects a typical costumed crime-fighter of the period, the Green Lama's most unusual feature was the fact that he was a practicing Buddhist. Slightly different versions of the same character also appeared in comic books and on the radio. He is part of a legion of vintage characters being revived in the 21st century in new prose, comic book, and audio adventures. The Green Lama character and Double Detective stories are not in the public domain (although the original comics are), as the author "wisely retained all rights to his creation."

 The Green Lama first appeared in a short novel entitled The Green Lama in the April 1940 issue of Double Detective magazine. The novel was written by Kendell Foster Crossen using the pseudonym of "Richard Foster". Writing in 1976, Crossen recalled that the character was created because the publishers of Double Detective, the Frank Munsey company, wanted a competitor for The Shadow, which was published by their rivals Street & Smith.

The Green Lama's first comic book appearance was in Crestwood Publications' issue #7 of Prize Comics (December 1940), where he continued to appear for 27 issues (through 1943). All stories were written by Ken Crossen, with art by Mac Raboy and others. In Prize Comics #24, he teamed up with Black Owl, Dr. Frost, and Yank and Doodle to take down Frankenstein's Monster. This version of the character bears considerable similarities to his pulp counterpart, most notably his costume design. However, this version was more of a sorcerer with the ability to travel through time, resurrect the dead and often battled Lucifer's minions. There were also minor changes to his supporting cast such as Jean "Parker" and the inclusion of a character known as Tashi Shog.

  More than three years after the demise of his comic book, the Green Lama was resurrected for a short-lived CBS radio series that ran for 11 episodes from June 5 to August 20, 1949, with the character's voice provided by the legendary voice actor Paul Frees. This version of the Green Lama was also written by creator Kendell Foster Crossen, along with several co-writers.

CBS Television considered producing a television version of the Green Lama for the 1950 season. The proposal never got the green light.

For a much more extensive look at the Green Lama, be sure to check out the Wikipedia page. And his entry at the Comic Book Database.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Bonus--The Avenger

The Avenger is a fictional character whose original adventures appeared between September 1939 and September 1942 in the pulp magazine The Avenger, published by Street and Smith Publications. Five additional short stories were published in Clues Detective magazine (1942–1943), and a sixth novelette in The Shadow magazine in 1943. Newly-written adventures were commissioned and published by Warner Brother's Paperback Library from 1973 to 1974. The Avenger was a pulp hero who combined elements of Doc Savage and The Shadow though he was never as popular as either of these characters. The authorship of the pulp series was credited by Street and Smith to Kenneth Robeson, the same byline that appeared on the Doc Savage stories. The "Kenneth Robeson" name was a house pseudonym used by a number of different Street & Smith writers. Most of the original Avenger stories were written by Paul Ernst.

In 1941 Walter Gibson turned The Avenger into a radio series that lasted 26 episodes. His origin and powers were so radically altered that this Avenger should probably be considered a brand new character. In the radio version The Avenger is biochemist Jim Brandon, who secretly fights crime using his inventions, a "Telepathic Indicator" which allows him to pick up thought flashes, and a "Diffusion Capsule" which provides a black light of invisibility. He is assisted by Fern Collier, the only person he trusts with his secret identity. per The Avenger page at International Catalog of Superheroes.

 For a more in depth look at The Avenger, check out the extensive Wikipedia page.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Blue Beetle

  The Blue Beetle had a short career on the radio, between May and September 1940. Motion picture and radio actor Frank Lovejoy was the Blue Beetle for the first 13 episodes, while for the rest of the shows, the voice was provided by a different, uncredited actor. The Blue Beetle was a young police officer who saw the need for extraordinary crime fighting. He took the task on himself by secretly donning a superhero costume to create fear in the criminals who were to learn to fear the Blue Beetle's wrath. The 13-minute segments were usually only two-parters, so the stories were often simpler than other popular programs, such as the Superman radio serial.

The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garret, first appeared in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (cover-dated August 1939), with art by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski (as Charles Nicholas); though the Grand Comics Database tentatively credits Will Eisner as the scripter.  A rookie police officer, he used special equipment, a bulletproof costume and a superstrength-inducing "2-X vitamin", and the assistance of a neighborhood pharmacist to fight crime. He starred in a comic book series, comic strip and radio serial, but like most Golden Age superheroes, he fell into obscurity in the 1950s. The comic book series saw a number of anomalies in publication: 19 issues, #12 through #30, were published through Holyoke Publishing; no issue #43 was published; publication frequency varied throughout the run; and there were gaps where issues were not published, with large ones occurring in early 1947 and between mid-1948 and early 1950.

Charlton Comics obtained the rights to the Blue Beetle and reprinted some stories in its anthology titles and in a four-issue Blue Beetle reprint series numbered 18-21. In 1964, during the Silver Age of comics, Charlton would revise the character for a new Blue Beetle series.

Two other men called themselves The Blue Beetle in comics published by AC Comics and DC Comics. For more info check out The Blue Beetle Wikipedia page.