Thursday, January 30, 2014

Box 13

Box 13 was a syndicated radio series about the escapades of newspaperman-turned-mystery novelist Dan Holliday, played by film star Alan Ladd. Created by Ladd's company, Mayfair Productions, Box 13 premiered in 1947. In New York City, it first aired December 31, 1947, on Mutual's New York flagship, WOR.

To seek out new ideas for his fiction, Holliday ran a classified ad in the Star-Times newspaper where he formerly worked: "Adventure wanted, will go anywhere, do anything -- write Box 13, Star-Times." The stories followed Holliday's adventures when he responded to the letters sent to him by such people as a psycho killer and various victims.

Sylvia Picker appeared as Holliday's scatterbrained secretary, Suzy, while Edmund MacDonald played police Lt. Kling. Supporting cast members included Betty Lou Gerson, Frank Lovejoy, Lurene Tuttle, Alan Reed, Luis Van Rooten and John Beal. Vern Carstensen, who directed Box 13 for producer Richard Sanville, was also the show's announcer.

Among the 52 episodes in the series were such mystery adventures as "The Sad Night," "Hot Box," "Last Will And Nursery Rhyme," "Hare And Hounds," "Hunt And Peck," "Death Is A Doll," "Tempest In a Casserole" and "Mexican Maze." The dramas featured music by Rudy Schrager. Russell Hughes, who had previously hired Ladd as a radio actor in 1935 at a $19 weekly salary, wrote most of the scripts, sometimes in collaboration with Ladd. The partners in Mayfair Productions were Ladd and Bernie Joslin, who had previously run the chain of Mayfair Restaurants.

 At least one attempt to convert the series for television was tried when Ladd appeared in an adaptation of "Daytime Nightmare" (retitled "Committed") on CBS' General Electric Theater (December 5, 1954). Box 13 was also re-imagined (rather than a straight adaptation or continuation) as a comic book series in 2010 by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis and published by Comixology. It is published digitally by comiXology and published in print by Red 5 Comics.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Shadow Knows!

Easily one of the most favorite old time radio programs in my house is The Shadow. It was one of my dad's favorites growing up, and he passed that love on to my brother and I. Growing up when I did in the 70's and 80's of course these programs were no longer on the radio, so my interest in old time radio began with seeking out AM radio stations rebroadcasting these shows and buying them on cassette tapes.

Today with the advent of the internet and the availability of so many shows in MP3 format for free online, it has been really great to indulge my love of these wonderful old gems.

The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in pulp magazines, then on 1930s radio and then in a wide variety of media, that follow the exploits of the title character, a crime-fighting vigilante in the pulps, which carried over to the airwaves as a "wealthy, young man about town" with psychic powers. One of the most famous pulp heroes of the 20th century, the radio drama is well-remembered for those episodes voiced by Orson Welles.

Introduced as a mysterious radio narrator by David Chrisman, William Sweets, and Harry Engman Charlot for Street and Smith Publications, The Shadow was fully developed and transformed into a pop culture icon by pulp writer Walter B. Gibson.

The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. After gaining popularity among the show's listeners, the narrator became the star of The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931, a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Gibson.
Over the years, the character evolved. On September 26, 1937, The Shadow radio drama officially premiered with the story "The Deathhouse Rescue", in which the character had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him." This was a contrivance for the radio; in the magazine stories, The Shadow did not have the ability to become literally invisible.

The character and look of The Shadow gradually evolved over his lengthy fictional existence.

As depicted in the pulps, The Shadow wore a black slouch hat and a black, crimson-lined cloak with an upturned collar over a standard black business suit. In the 1940s comic books, the later comic book series, and the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin, he wore either the black slouch hat or a wide-brimmed, black fedora and a crimson scarf just below his nose and across his mouth and chin. Both the cloak and scarf covered either a black doubled-breasted trench coat or regular black suit. As seen in some of the later comics series, the hat and scarf would also be worn with either a black Inverness coat or Inverness cape.

But in the radio drama, which debuted in 1937, The Shadow became an invisible avenger who had learned, while "traveling through East Asia," "the mysterious power to cloud men's minds, so they could not see him." This revision of the character was born out of necessity: Time constraints of 1930s radio made it difficult to explain to listeners where The Shadow was hiding and how he was remaining concealed. Thus, the character was given the power to escape human sight. Voice effects were added to suggest The Shadow's seeming omnipresence.

In order to explain this power, The Shadow was described as a master of hypnotism, as explicitly stated in several radio episodes.

Even after decades, the unmistakable introduction from The Shadow radio program, long-intoned by actor Frank Readick Jr., has earned a place in the American idiom: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" These words were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a musical theme, Camille Saint-Saƫns' Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel", composed in 1872). At the end of each episode, The Shadow reminded listeners, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.... The Shadow knows!"

For more information regarding The Shadow on the radio, in pulp magazines, comic books, comic strips, television, video games, and motion pictures (including the 1994 feature film starring Alex Baldwin, see below.) check out the extensive Wikipedia page here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Bob Hope Show

 Bob Hope, born Leslie Townes Hope, (May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003) was an English-born American comedian and actor who appeared on Broadway, in vaudeville, movies, television, and on the radio. He was noted for his numerous United Service Organizations (USO) shows entertaining American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1942 and 1988. Throughout his long career, he was honored for this work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress declared him the "first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces."

Over a career spanning 60 years (1934 to 1994), Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts, including a series of "Road" movies co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards fourteen times, he appeared in many stage productions and television roles, and was the author of fourteen books. He participated in the sports of golf and boxing, and owned a small stake in his hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. He was married to Grace Troxell from 1933 until 1934 and to Dolores Hope from 1934 until his death.

In the early days, Hope's career included appearances on stage in Vaudeville shows and Broadway productions. He began performing on the radio in 1934 and switched to television when that medium became popular in the 1950s. He began doing regular TV specials in 1954, and hosted the Academy Awards fourteen times in the period from 1941 to 1978. Overlapping with this was his movie career, spanning the years 1934 to 1972, and his USO tours, which he did from 1942 to 1988.

Hope's career in broadcasting began on radio in 1934. His first regular series for NBC Radio was the Woodbury Soap Hour in 1937, a 26-week contract. A year later, The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope began, and Hope signed a ten-year contract the show's sponsor, Lever Brothers. The show became the top radio program in the country. Regulars on the series included Jerry Colonna and Barbara Jo Allen as spinster Vera Vague. Hope continued his lucrative career in radio through to the 1950s, when radio's popularity was overshadowed by television.

For a more detailed account of the legendary Bob Hope's personal and professional life, start with his Wikipedia Page.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger is a fictional masked Texas Ranger who, with his Native American companion Tonto, fights injustice in the American Old West. The character has become an enduring icon of American culture.

He first appeared in 1933 in a radio show conceived either by WXYZ radio station owner George W. Trendle or by Fran Striker, the show's writer. The show proved to be a huge hit, and spawned an equally popular television show that ran from 1949 to 1957, as well as comic books and movies. The title character was played on radio by George Seaton, Earle Graser, and most memorably Brace Beemer. To television viewers, Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger. Tonto was played by, among others, John Todd, Roland Parker, and in the television series, Jay Silverheels.

Departing on his white stallion, Silver, the Lone Ranger would shout, "Hi-yo, Silver! Away!" As they galloped off, someone would ask, "Who was that masked man anyway?" Tonto usually referred to the Lone Ranger as "Ke-mo sah-bee", meaning "trusty scout" or "trusted friend." These catchphrases, his trademark silver bullets, and the theme music from the William Tell overture are indelibly stamped in the memories of millions who came of age during the decades of the show's initial popularity or viewed the television series.

While details differ, the basic story of the origin of the Lone Ranger is the same in most versions of the franchise. Six Texas Rangers are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Barthalamo "Butch" Cavendish. Later, a Native American named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, John Francis Reid, as the man who had saved his life some time in the past. He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid's comrades, among them Reid's brother, Captain Daniel Steven Reid who is the Captain of the Texas Rangers. John Reid fashions a black mask using material from his brother's vest to conceal his identity, so that Cavendish will think there were no survivors. Even after the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight evil under the guise of the Lone Ranger.

In every incarnation of the character to date, the Lone Ranger conducts himself by a strict moral code put in place by Striker at the inception of the character. Actors Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels both took their positions as role models to children very seriously and tried their best to live by this creed. It reads as follows:
I believe...
that to have a friend, a man must be one.
that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
that God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
that a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
that 'this government of the people, by the people, and for the people' shall live always.
that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
that sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
that all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.

The Lone Ranger was a TV show that aired for eight seasons, from 1949 to 1957, and starred Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. Only five of the eight seasons had new episodes. It was the ABC television network's first big hit of the early 1950s. Moore's tenure as the Ranger is probably the best-known treatment of the franchise. For the show's third season, Moore sat out due to a contract dispute and was replaced by John Hart. Moore returned for the final two seasons. The fifth and final season was the only one shot in color. A total of 221 episodes were made.

In 1948, Western Publishing, with its publishing partner Dell Comics, launched a comic book series which lasted 145 issues. This originally consisted of reprints from the newspaper strips (as had all previous comic book appearances of the character in various titles from David McKay Publications and from Dell). However, new stories by writer Paul S. Newman and artist Tom Gill began with issue #38 (August 1951). Some original content was presented as early as #7 (January 1949), but these were non-Lone Ranger fillers. Newman and Gill produced the series until its the final issue, #145 (July 1962). The Dell series came to an end in 1962. Later that same year, Western Publishing ended its publishing partnership with Dell Comics and started up its own comic book imprint, Gold Key Comics. The new imprint launched its own Lone Ranger title in 1964. Initially reprinting material from the Dell run, original content did not begin until issue #22 in 1975, and the magazine itself folded with #28 in 1977.

The Lone Ranger has also seen incarnations on the silver screen, most recently in the 1981 box-office failure, The Legend of the Lone Ranger starring Klinton Spilsbury.

Walt Disney Pictures announced in September 2008 that Johnny Depp would be portraying Tonto in the latest adaptation entitled 'The Lone Ranger' with a projected release date of May 31st, 2013.

Sources: Wikipedia,, and

Episodes of the Lone Ranger television show can be viewed on Hulu.

Enjoy this large assortment of episodes of The Lone Ranger radio program via