The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.
Those who have been following this blog for any length of time will know that I have a special affinity for Mr. Vincent Price. Known today mostly as a horror film icon, Mr. Price was every bit a renaissance man who was involved in an incredible number of ventures, both on- and off- screen. One of his lesser-known ventures, I feel sure is his charming portrayal of Leslie Charteris‘s character Simon Templar, also known as “The Saint”, who Price portrayed on a weekly radio show for four years, from 1947 to 1951.
The Saint, as noted, was the creation of pulp novelist Leslie Charteris who wrote a long-running series of books starring the character beginning in 1928. The lead character in the stories, Simon Templar, is described in the opening of the radio show – and elsewhere – as “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime” as he was basically a thief who would target other crooks, evil politicians, gangsters, and other “ungodly” characters, bringing them down or retrieving stolen goods, then, after extracting a ten percent “tithe” (after all, a man like Templar did have a certain lifestyle to uphold) either returning what he got to its rightful owner, contributing it to a worthy charity, or splitting it among those who worked for him.
As far as Templar’s nickname goes, whenever he would finish a caper, he would leave a calling card or other drawing, depicting a stick figure with a halo above its head, as seen in the drawing at the right. This, combined with the character’s initials (S.T. = St = saint), led to him being known as “The Saint”.
The character had many incarnations over the years, expanding from the pulp stories to comics, films, television shows, and, of course, the radio. There were actually a number of different radio incarnations of The Saint, the first actually appearing on Ireland’s Radio Eireann division Radio Athlone in 1940. In America, the character first appeared, interestingly, on two different networks in 1945. On the NBC network, the character was portrayed by Edgar Barrier, while Brian Aherne filled the role for CBS.
The longest running radio incarnation of the character on the radio, however, was the portrayal by – yep, you guessed it -Vincent Price. As noted above, this particular series ran for five years, and was actually, over the course of those years, carried at various times over three different networks as it moved from NBC to Mutual to CBS.
As always, Price brought his unmistakable voice, charm, and charisma to the show, and no matter how lacking the plots and writing might be at times (let’s face it, in a weekly show that lasted that long, there are going to be some clunkers), he always elevated the material simply by his presence.
After Mr. Price left the show, it did carry on for awhile, with Tom Conway in the lead, but that version only lasted a few months.
There were, as noted, other radio incarnations of the character, and he was also brought to life on television in various series, most famously, of course, in the long-running series which starred Roger Moore (yes, the same Roger Moore who would go on to portray James Bond). As recently as 1997, Val Kilmer starred in a film take on the character, however, that may be a case of the less said about it, the better.
Anyway, for now, once again I invite you to sit back and travel back with me to a time when radio was the king, and enjoy listening to the adventures of The Saint.