Thursday, January 21, 2016
Escape was radio's leading anthology series of high-adventure radio dramas, airing on CBS from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954. Since the program did not have a regular sponsor like Suspense, it was subjected to frequent schedule shifts and lower production budgets, although Richfield Oil signed on as a sponsor for five months in 1950.
Despite these problems, Escape enthralled many listeners during its seven-year run. The series' well-remembered opening combined Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain with this introduction, as intoned by Paul Frees and William Conrad:
"Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you... Escape!" Following the opening theme, a second announcer (usually Roy Rowan) would add:
"Escape! Designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half-hour of high adventure!"
Of the more than 230 Escape episodes, most have survived in good condition. Many story premises, both originals and adaptations, involved a protagonist in dire life-or-death straits, and the series featured more science fiction and supernatural tales than Suspense. Some of the memorable adaptations include Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds", Carl Stephenson's "Leiningen Versus the Ants", Algernon Blackwood's "Confession", Ray Bradbury's oft-reprinted "Mars Is Heaven", George R. Stewart's Earth Abides (the program's only two-parter), Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz".
John Collier's "Evening Primrose", about people who live inside a department store, was later adapted to TV as a Stephen Sondheim musical starring Anthony Perkins. Vincent Price, Harry Bartell and Jeff Corey were heard in the chilling "Three Skeleton Key" (broadcast on 17 March 1950), the tale of three men trapped in an isolated lighthouse by thousands of rats; the half-hour was adapted from an Esquire short story by the French writer George Toudouze and later remade for the August 9, 1953 broadcast starring William Conrad, Ben Wright and Jay Novello.
Actors on the series included Elvia Allman, Eleanor Audley, Parley Baer, Michael Ann Barrett, Tony Barrett, Harry Bartell, Ted Bliss, Lillian Buyeff, Ken Christy, William Conrad, Ted deCorsia, John Dehner, Don Diamond, Paul Dubov, Sam Edwards, Virginia Gregg, Lou Merrill, Howard McNear, Jess Kirkpatrick, B.J. Thompson, Shep Menken, Frank Gerstle, George Neece, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Barney Phillips, Forrest Lewis, Robert Griffin, Alan Reed, Bill Johnstone, Sandra Gould, Junius Matthews, Carleton G. Young, Frank Gerstle, Marvin Miller, Frank Lovejoy, Berry Kroeger, Vic Perrin, Elliott Lewis, Eleanore Tanin, Herb Vigran, Jack Webb, Peggy Webber and Will Wright.
Music was supplied by Del Castillo, organist Ivan Ditmars, Cy Feuer, Wilbur Hatch and Leith Stevens. The announcers were Paul Frees and Roy Rowan.
A television counterpart (Escape (CBS TV series)) aired on CBS TV for a few months during 1950.
The program's opening announcement—"Tired of the everyday grind?"—was employed as a slogan for the counterculture magazine, New Escapologist.