Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cavalcade of America

 Cavalcade of America is an anthology drama series that was sponsored by the DuPont Company, although it occasionally presented a musical, such as an adaptation of Show Boat,and condensed biographies of popular composers. It was initially broadcast on radio from 1935 to 1953, and later on television from 1952 to 1957. Originally on CBS, the series pioneered the use of anthology drama for company audio advertising.

Cavalcade of America documented historical events using stories of individual courage, initiative and achievement, often with feel-good dramatizations of the human spirit's triumph against all odds. This was consistent with DuPont's overall conservative philosophy and legacy as an American company dating back to 1802. The company's motto, "Maker of better things for better living through chemistry," was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation.

The show started as part of a successful campaign to reinvigorate DuPont. In the early 1930s, the Nye Committee investigations concluded that DuPont had made a fortune profiteering in World War I. The company stood accused of encouraging an arms race between WWI enemies, after being heavily subsidized by the Allies to increase black powder production. The negative effects of the investigation left the company demoralized, directionless and with a tarnished corporate image in the middle of the Great Depression.

DuPont's products were primarily not for public consumption, so there was no purpose in promoting them through advertising. As a solution to DuPont's troubles, Roy Durstine, then creative director of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, proposed the creation of Cavalcade of America using the company motto. This was to be an important element in the successful re-branding of DuPont as an American legacy engaged in making products for the well-being of Americans and humanity in general.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Sealed Book

The Sealed Book was a radio series of mystery and terror tales, produced and directed by Jock MacGregor for the Mutual network. Between March 18 and September 9, 1945, the melodramatic anthology series was broadcast on Sundays from 10:30pm to 11:00pm.

 Each week, after "the sound of the great gong," host Philip Clarke observed that the mysteriously silent "keeper of the book has opened the ponderous door to the secret vault wherein is kept the great sealed book, in which is recorded all the secrets and mysteries of mankind through the ages, Here are tales of every kind, tales of murder, of madness, of dark deeds strange and terrible beyond all belief." After this introduction, the dramas began, occasionally interrupted by curiously extended organ solos. These were probably included in the recorded transcription so that local stations could insert their own commercial spots. Although this anthology series did not have recurring characters (other than the Narrator and the Keeper of the Book), the writers often used the same names for different characters from week to week, including "Hester," "Drake," and most especially "Roger."

At the end of an episode, Clarke told listeners to tune in the
following week when "the sound of the great gong heralds another strange and exciting tale from... the sealed book." Scripts were by Robert Arthur, Jr. and David Kogan, who also were responsible for The Mysterious Traveler, and recycled many of the more popular stories from that parent program. "The Hands of Death" was the first of the 26 episodes which concluded with "Death Laughs Last."

Philip Clarke pictured above, Robert Arthur, Jr. at work in 1940 at right.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mystery Playhouse

Mystery Playhouse was an American radio drama hosted by Peter Lorre which aired on the American Forces Network from July 1944–June 1946.

The series aired during World War II specifically for the purposes of entertaining the troops serving during the war.

Mystery Playhouse was created by the American Forces Network in 1944 for the entertainment of the troops during World War II.

Every week, the series aired rebroadcast of episodes of many popular radio shows of the time. Some include rebroadcast of The Whistler, Mr. and Mrs. North, Inner Sanctum Mystery, and Nero Wolfe.

Peter Lorre's way of introducing each episode was noted as "...part plot summary, and part philosophical about the human condition".

These are two typical intros that a viewer could find when watching the series;

Host: "Two pairs of footsteps echoed down the alley. He stopped. Waited. Waited for Jack the Ripper to Strike! But this is not London in 1888. No, this is Chicago in 1945! Yet, Jack the Ripper is loose again to knife, to butcher his victims... without a trace!"

Host: "Hello... Creeps. This is Peter Lorre opening the doors to the Mystery Playhouse. If you recall, some 50 years ago, London was terrorized by a one man crime wave. A murderer, who was never captured and never seen. And tonight, we follow the investigations of Sir Guy Holless, who firmly believes that Jack the Ripper is still alive. That it is he that is the fiend, that once again slashes and kills! There is an element of the supernatural in this story, that will amaze you. For it seems that the spirit world has given the black heart of Jack the Ripper, the power of everlasting life!"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Crime Club

The Crime Club was an imprint of the Doubleday publishing company, which later spawned a 1946-47 anthology radio series.

 Many classic and popular works of detective and mystery fiction had their first U.S. editions published via the Crime Club, including all 50 books of The Saint by Leslie Charteris (1928-1983). The imprint also published first editions in Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu series.

The Crime Club began life in 1928 with the publication of The Desert Moon Mystery by Kay Cleaver Strahan, and ceased publication in 1991. In the intervening 63 years, The Crime Club published 2,492 titles.

Stories from this imprint were first dramatized on The Eno Crime Club, a detective series broadcast on CBS from February 9, 1931 to December 21, 1932, sponsored by Eno Effervescent Salts. The Crime Club novels were not adapted for the later Eno Crime Clues, heard on the Blue Network from January 3, 1933 to June 30. 1936.

The Crime Club returned on the Mutual Broadcasting System as a half-hour radio series with adaptations from the Doubleday imprint. Each installment was introduced by the series host, The Librarian, portrayed by Barry Thomson and Raymond Edward Johnson (who was better known as the host of Inner Sanctum Mysteries). The series began December 2, 1946 and continued until October 16, 1947.

In the late 1930s, Universal Pictures made a deal with Doubleday to use The Crime Club imprint for a series of 11 Crime Club mystery films. These films were released from 1937 to 1939, starting with The Westlake Case.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Black Museum

The Black Museum was a 1951 radio crime-drama program independently produced by Harry Alan Towers and based on real-life cases from the files of Scotland Yard's Black Museum. Ira Marion was the scriptwriter, and music for the series was composed and conducted by Sidney Torch. Although often mistakenly cited as being produced for the BBC, the series was produced and syndicated
commercially by Towers throughout the English-speaking world.

 Orson Welles was both host and narrator for stories of horror and mystery, based on Scotland Yard's collection of murder weapons and various ordinary objects once associated with historical true crime cases. The show's opening began:

"This is Orson Welles, speaking from London."
(Sound of Big Ben chimes)
"The Black Museum... a repository of death. Here in the grim stone structure on the Thames which houses Scotland Yard is a warehouse of homicide, where everyday objects... a woman’s shoe, a tiny white box, a quilted robe... all are touched by murder."

Walking through the museum, Welles would pause at one of the exhibits, and his description of an artifact served as a device to lead into a wryly-narrated dramatised tale of a brutal murder or a vicious crime. In the closing:

"Now until we meet again in the same place and I tell you another tale of the Black Museum", Welles would conclude with his signature radio phrase, "I remain, as always, obediently yours".

With the story themes deriving from objects in the collection (usually with the names of the people involved changed but the facts remaining true to history), the 52 episodes had such titles as "The Tartan Scarf" and "A Piece of Iron Chain" or "Frosted Glass Shards" and "A Khaki Handkerchief". An anomaly to the series was an episode called "The Letter" as this was the only story not about murder, but about forgery.

In the United States, the series aired on the Mutual Network between January 1 and December 30, 1952.

Beginning May 7, 1953, it was also broadcast over Radio Luxembourg sponsored by the cleaning
products Dreft and Mirro. Since the BBC carried no commercials, Radio Luxembourg aired sponsored programs at night to England.

In the United States, there was a contemporary programme called Whitehall 1212 written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and broadcast by NBC, that was similar in scope to The Black Museum. It was hosted by Chief Superintendent John Davidson, curator of the Black Museum. It used many of the same picked cases as The Black Museum, and it nearly mirrored its broadcast run. The two shows

were different in the respect that while Whitehall 1212 told the story of a case entirely from the point of view of the police starting from the crime scene, The Black Museum was more heavily dramatized and played out scenes of the actual murders and included scenes from the criminal's point of view.


Two episodes, "The Car Tire" and "The Gas Receipt," were the same story with minor differences between the two. Another pair of episodes, "The Baby's Jacket" and "The Spectacles," were based on the same case, as were "The Tan Shoe" and "The Leather Bag."

Four famous murder cases were dramatized on The Black Museum: John George Haigh, the "Acid Bath Murderer"; George Joseph Smith, the "Brides in the Bath Murderer"; Adelaide Bartlett, whose husband died from chloroform poisoning; and Florence Maybrick, who allegedly used arsenic from fly-paper to murder her husband James Maybrick (who was recently suspected of being Jack the Ripper courtesy of the 1993 publication of The Diary of Jack the Ripper).

In "Open End Wrench" it's mistakenly stated that the culprit was executed in Dartmoor. No 20th century executions were carried out in Dartmoor. Built during the Napoleonic Wars to contain French and American POWs, it was, after lying idle from 1815 to 1850, later commissioned as a convict gaol and used for dangerous long-term prisoners only.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pete Kelly's Blues

Pete Kelly's Blues was an American crime-musical [radio [drama]] which aired over NBC as an unsponsored summer replacement series on Wednesday nights at 8pm(et) from July 4 through September 19, 1951. The series starred Jack Webb as Pete Kelly and was created by writer Richard L. Breen, who had previously worked with Webb on Pat Novak for Hire; James Moser and Jo Eisinger wrote most of the other scripts. Set in Kansas City in the 1920s, the series was a crime drama with a strong musical atmosphere (Webb was a noted Dixieland jazz enthusiast).

 Pete Kelly was a musician, a cornet player who headed his own jazz combo, "Pete Kelly's Big Seven." They worked at 417 Cherry Street, a speakeasy run by George Lupo, often mentioned but never heard. Kelly, narrating the series, described Lupo as a "fat, friendly little guy." The plots typically centered on Kelly's reluctant involvement with gangsters, gun molls, FBI agents, and people trying to save their own skins. The endings were often downbeat.

The supporting cast was minimal; apart from the off-mike character Lupo and occasional speaking parts by the band members (notably Red the bass player, played by Jack Kruschen), the only other regular role of note was Maggie Jackson, the torch singer at another club (Fat Annie's, "across the river on the Kansas side"), played by blues singer Meredith Howard. In one episode, Bessie Smith is mentioned as the singer at Fat Annie's instead of Maggie Jackson. Boozy ex-bootlegger Barney Ricketts would show up occasionally, an informant not unlike the character Jocko Madigan on Webb and Breen's Pat Novak for Hire. The episodic roles were filled by William Conrad (as various mob bosses), Vic Perrin, and Roy Glenn, amongst others. The music dominated the series. In addition to one song by Maggie Jackson, each episode boasted two jazz numbers by the "Big Seven." The group was actually led by Dick Cathcart, the cornet player who was Pete Kelly's musical stand-in. The other members of the group, all well known jazz musicians, included Matty Matlock on clarinet, Moe Schneider on trombone, piano player Ray Sherman, bass player Morty Corb, guitarist Bill Newman, and drummer Nick Fatool. The show's announcer was another frequent Webb collaborator, George Fenneman, who would open each show with "This one's about Pete Kelly."

The series lasted only three months, but inspired a 1955 film version of Pete Kelly's Blues, in which Jack Webb produced, directed and starred. It used many of the same musicians, including Cathcart, and Ella Fitzgerald was cast as Maggie Jackson. A lesser-known television version, still produced and directed by Webb but with William Reynolds in the lead, aired in 1959, using scripts originally written for the radio version.

After the film, two albums were released, a soundtrack recording and Pete Kelly Lets His Hair Down, an instrumental album using the musicians from the series with songs arranged by tempo - "blue songs" and "red songs" with names such as "Peacock," '"Periwinkle," "Midnight," "Rouge," "Flame'" and '"Fire Engine." This LP was released by Rhino Records as one-half of a Webb compilation disc, Just The Tracks, Ma’am.

Jack Webb Pete Kelly's Blues Original Full Length Movie Trailer

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Jeff Regan, Investigator

Jeff Regan, Investigator was one of the three detective shows Jack Webb did before Dragnet (see also Pat Novak For Hire and Johnny Modero: Pier 23). Originally a Summer radio series, it debuted on CBS in July 1948. Webb played Jeff Regan, a rough-and-tough private eye working for the Los Angeles-based International Detective Bureau, run by Anthony J. Lyon. Regan introduced himself on each show "I get ten a day and expenses...they call me the Lion's Eye." 

The show was fairly well-plotted, Webb's voice was great, and the supporting cast were skillful.

Regan handled rough assignments from Lyon, with whom he was not always on good terms. He was tough, tenacious, and had a dry sense of humor. The voice of his boss, Anthony Lyon, was Wilms Herbert. The show ended in December 1948 but was resurrected in October 1949 with a new cast; Frank Graham played Regan (later Paul Dubrov was the lead) and Frank Nelson portrayed Lyon. This version ran on CBS, sometimes as a West Coast regional, until August 1950. Both versions were 30 minutes, but the day and time slot changed several times. A total of 29 episodes from this series are in trading currency.

Info via

Frank Graham Episodes-