Old Time Radio Tuesday – Three Skeleton Key

tskThe 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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

Usually for OTR Tuesday I post a whole bunch of shows covering a particular genre or a specific series, but I thought today, since we’re well into the spooky season, and especially in light of this week’s release of Robert Eggers’s movie The Lighthouse, it would be a good time to take a look at one of the true classic episodes of the era.

For those unfamiliar with the show Escape, it was broadcast on the CBS radio network from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954. Escape was an anthology series, presenting a new story each week, many of them adapted from short stories such as Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds”, Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen Versus the Ants”, Algernon Blackwood’s “Confession”, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven”, and Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game”.

On of the most popular episodes of Escape was their adaptation of French author George Toudouze’s short story “Three Skeleton Key”. In the story, three men are trapped inside a lighthouse by a horde of thousands of hungry and angry rats. It was first broadcast on November 15, 1949, and was subsequently rebroadcast (with different casts) a number of times, and it also made the leap to Escape‘s “sister show” Suspense.

The version I’m posting below is from March 17, 1950, and stars Vincent Price in the role of Jean.

Okay, that’s definitely enough words from me. Now just sit back, turn out your lights, and have yourself a little… escape… if you can…

By the way, if you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out my previous posts featuring Escape. You can find them here and here.

 

OTR Tuesday – Horror Roundup

wt2The 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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

Happy Halloween!

This week, in honor of the scary season, I thought we’d take a look back at some classic OTR horror.

One of the best things about the old radio shows was that they largely left the perception of what was happening to your imagination. Sure, there would be descriptions of horrific things, but unlike television or movies, in which the special effects are often limited by budget or other considerations, as long as you have an active and engaged mind while listening to these shows, pretty much anything is possible.

That’s a large part of why it is such an effective medium for horror. Take a ghost for instance. If someone in a radio show says they see a spectral figure, well, what that actually looks like is not dependent upon what the special effects team is able to come up with. Instead, if in your mind you simply see a figure covered in a sheet, then that is what is there. If, on the other hand, your mind conjures up a shambling, decaying corpse covered with worms and maggots, then that is what the people in the cast are confronting.

You, and your imagination, are the director and the special effects and makeup people.

Add to that evocative music and sound effects, and soon you have the possibility of an incredibly effective spook show right there in your living room. Or, to be more prcise, in your mind.

So here are just a few tales from this great medium. I suggest getting comfortable, turning out the lights, perhaps closing your eyes, and sitting back and letting the voices you are about to hear take you on a journey through the corridors of mystery and imagination. But be careful. You never know just what might be lurking around that next corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – Suspense (1942-1962) Revisited

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

I thought today might be a good time to take another look at one of the true classics of the Golden Age of radio.

Suspense actually got its start on the CBS program Forceast, which was designed as a tryout show which provided a place for pilots of ideas that the network was considering giving their own slot. The pilot for Suspense, which aired on July 22, 1940, featured an adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ story “The Lodger”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, and Lurene Tuttle. Hitchcock had already filmed the story in England in 126, so he was already familiar with it, and this was his American radio-directing premier. Interestingly, in a very audacious move, Hitchcock holds back the actual ending of the story from the radio audience, thus compounding and confounding the promised emotion. I’ve provided this Forecast audition/pilot as the first item below.

Over its twenty year run the program went through, as would be expected, a number of various iterations and sponsors. Beginning as a sustained program in 1952, it wasn’t until two years later that it picked up its first advertiser, Roma Wines. Eventually, during what most consider the heyday of the program, it was sponsored by Autolite spark plugs.

As indicated by the title, the main focus of the show was mystery/thriller stories, though in later years it did tend to present more horror/science fiction tales along with the mysteries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program, and perhaps one of the reasons not only for its longevity but also for its popularity, was that it wasn’t afraid to re-present stories that proved popular with its audience. These were not actual re-runs, however, but actual new productions of the same script, sometimes with the participation of the original cast, and sometimes without. For instance, Suspense presented Lucille Fletcher’s story “Sorry, Wrong Number” eight different times during its run, first on May 25, 1943, and for the final time on February 14, 1960. Amazingly, every one of these presentations featured the great Agnes Moorehead in the lead role!

Suspense also, especially in its later years, was known for re-using scripts from other popular CBS programs, most notably what some consider to have been in a way its sister show, Escape, and The Mysterious Traveler. (Both of which, btw, I’ll be featuring in upcoming OTR Thursday posts.)

At its height, Suspense was able to draw a number of great Hollywood stars to its microphones, including Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Eve McVeagh, Lena Horne, and Cary Grant.

One final note: the date of Suspense’s last broadcast, September 30, 1962, is often cited as “the day the golden age of radio died”. Though that may not be literally true – obviously there were other broadcasts and shows that continued beyond that point, it is a significant milestone and turning point for the radio drama format, and for lovers of these great radio shows.

But let’s not dwell upon that today. Instead let’s sit back and simply be entertained by one of the truly all-time great radio programs and more tales calculated to keep you in…

SUSPENSE!

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – A (Re)Introduction

Some of the most popular posts here recently seem to have been those dealing with Old Time Radio, so I thought maybe it was time to bring back a regular weekly feature on old radio shows. Back when I first started this blog, a regular feature was Old Time Radio Thursday, so I figured that as a good way to restart the exploration of old radio I’d re-present the introduction that I wrote back in 2013 to give you a taste of what’s to come.


Old Time Radio Thursdays – #001: An Introduction

No real long-winded introduction today. 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.

 People gathered around to listen to the radio in the 1920s and '30s CREDIT: French, Herbert E., photographer.

People gathered around to listen to the radio in the 1920s and ’30s
CREDIT: French, Herbert E., photographer. “Atwater Kent, Standing By Radio, and Seven Other People Listening to the Radio.” National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

These shows encompassed many different genres, including drama, adventure, comedy, science fiction, westerns, soap operas, sports… basically it was the television of its day. Before, that is, television (network television at least) became overrun mostly by unreality tv and CSI clones.

So why am I writing about old radio shows on what is ostensibly a blog about movies? Well, two reasons really. First of all, I have an affinity to these shows that dates back to my childhood when my father collected these shows on cassette tapes that he would either purchase or trade with other collectors, and secondly, many of these shows had definite connections to Hollywood. Many of them would simply adapt popular movies for radio audiences, others would feature or even star Hollywood performers.

Anyway, I said I was going to try not to be too long-winded with this introduction, so for now I’m going to stop there, and let the shows begin speaking for themselves. For this first installment, I’m simply going to give you a variety of different shows to help those unfamiliar with the whole concept get a taste of what I’m talking about. Then, in weeks to come, I’ll feature a specific show and talk more about it and its Hollywood connections, and hopefully. over time, some of you will come to enjoy these shows as much as I do.

Plus, who knows, we might even find some connections between these shows and current movies, too. (As a matter of fact, I know we will.)

For now, though, just sit back, relax, maybe close your eyes, and let the magic of radio transport you back to an earlier time…

(By the way, just a quick note… you’ll notice varying quality on some of these recordings. While many of them are taken from transcription records that would be sent to various stations for playing at the appropriate time, others were simply recorded from the actual broadcasts by listeners who had set up (most likely) reel-to-reel tape machines to capture the broadcasts, and it is from those amateur recordings that the only known copies of those shows still exist. Hopefully, however, these quality variences won’t take away too much from your enjoyment of the shows themselves.)

This last one is actually from a later period, and is a show that I actually grew up listening to. Locally it was broadcast at 9pm on our CBS affiliate, so I got to lie in bed and listen to it each weeknight before nodding off to sleep. One of the interesting things about going back and listening to these today is that many of them, this one included, also include the original commercials and news broadcasts that would round out the hour of programming, and since this one, for instance, was first broadcast in 1974, the news often included coverage of the developing scandal which would become known as Watergate. Just keep listening through the commercials at the end, and you can hear how radio was reporting the latest news coming from the Nixon White House as more facts were coming to light.

(Oh, and yes, there are some definite movie connections in this story also, as you’ll see. Or should I say, as you’ll hear?)

Well, I hope that’s given you at least a taste of what’s to come as we explore the connections between Old Time Radio and the cinema, and be sure to check back next week as we focus in more closely on one of these great shows. And if you have any particular memories of radio shows, or any favorites, or if any of these caught your attention and you want to hear more, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #040: Escape (1947-1954) – Part Two

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.

escEscape!

In some ways, the title itself evokes the very reason for being of Old Time Radio. Along with, of course, movies, television, books, stage plays, and whatever other forms of entertainment you might enjoy. Sure, these forms can be used for other purposes, especially education (though often even there, the two purposes often intermingle and entwine), but quite often, they are purely meant to provide us with a chance to get away, to live outside of ourselves for awhile, to enter someone else’s life or to travel to some exotic setting and leave behind our own troubles if only for a little while.

Or, as one version of the popular opening script to the radio show Escape put it:

Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you … ESCAPE!

esc2I’ve referred to Escape here before as a “sister show” to the series Suspense, but in doing so, I don’t mean to denigrate either show. Actually, I consider them to be on a fairly equal footing, with Escape at times even moving forward in my estimation, purely based on its willingness to include more science-fiction and other fantastical elements than Suspense.

Okay, so let’s shelve the comparisons for a moment and take a look at the show itself, shall we?

Escape was created as a sustaining show on the CBS Radio Network, and had its first official broadcast on July 7, 1947, with an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”. Over the course of the next seven years, it would present a total of approximately 250 shows, most of which are still in circulation today. (Exact figures appear to be a matter of some debate, depending at least partially on how one counts the various rebroadcasts and east-west variants.) The final show was titled “The Heart of Kali”, written by Ross Murray, and broadcast on September 29, 1954.

esc3The show was originally broadcast as a summer replacement for the second half-hour of the time slot then occupied by the Lux Radio Theatre on Monday nights. (The first half hour of the hour-long Lux slot was filled by a show titled CBS Is There.) Though Escape seemed to immediately grab hold of the listeners ears and imaginations, it never did really enjoy the comfort of having a regular, long-time sponsor, and for the largest part of its run, it continued on a sustaining basis. Unfortunately for listeners this meant that it also never really enjoyed the kind of long-running time-slot that many other shows had, and, in a kind of circular catch-22, that also meant that it was continually under budget constraints that were not as much of a concern for those shows that did have bigger budgets thanks to their sponsors.

Escape (radio program)This did, however, in a way prove to be a “less is more” type situation which forced the show to rely on adaptations of popular novels and short stories, and many of those proved to be true classics, As a matter of fact, I’d personally contend that some of these shows are amongst the best that were ever produced during radio’s golden age. Highlights include the William Conrad starring adaptation of Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen vs. the Ants”, Vincent Price‘s incredibly stirring turn in “Three Skeleton Key”(which was taken from a short story that originally appeared in Esquire magazine by George Toudouze,  and John Dunkel’s adaptation of  John Collier’s story  “Evening Primrose,”Other noteworthy adaptations include Algernon Blackwood’s “Confession”, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven,” George R. Stewart’s “Earth Abides”, Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” among many, many others.

Nor was the show lacking for star power, as, alongside the already mentioned voices of William Conrad (who not only starred in a large number of the shows, but also, for awhile at least provided the “voice of the show”, intoning the opening lines and introduction) and Vincent Price, but also such luminaries as Parley Baer, Harry Bartell, John Dehner, Howard McNear, Dan O’Herlihy, Jeanette Nolan, Alan Reed, Bill Johnstone, Sandra Gould, Marvin Miller, Frank Lovejoy, Berry Kroeger, Vic Perrin, Elliott Lewis, and Jack Webb.

Here, of course, is where I would usually leave you with some YouTube samples of the show, but to be honest, there unfortunately aren’t that many posted, and rather than simply repeat the selections from my last post, instead I’m going to direct you to this page at the Internet Archives where you can download a complete collection of the Escape shows known to still exist, along with some other ephemeral material to accompany them.

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #039: Escape (1947-1954) – Part One

 

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.

escLast week in writing about the long-running CBS series Suspense, I mentioned that in its later years the show often reused scripts from its “sister show”, Escape, so it only seems appropriate to follow that post with a couple devoted to that show. So, much like I did with Suspense, this first post will simply be a sampler of some of the shows from the series, and I’ll be back next week with more info and more shows.

So, if you’re “Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you… Escape!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #038: Suspense (1942-1962) – Part Two

 

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.

sus1Last week I provided you with just a sampling of the 900 episodes known to still exist of the 945 that were produced for the long running CBS radio show Suspense. This week I thought I’d go into a bit more of the show’s origins and history.

Suspense actually got its start on the CBS program Forceast, which was designed as a tryout show which provided a place for pilots of ideas that the network was considering giving their own slot. The pilot for Suspense, which aired on July 22, 1940, featured an adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ story “The Lodger”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, and Lurene Tuttle. Hitchcock had already filmed the story in England in 126, so he was already familiar with it, and this was his American radio-directing premier. Interestingly, in a very audacious move, Hitchcock holds back the actual ending of the story from the radio audience, thus compounding and confounding the promised emotion. I’ve provided this Forecast audition/pilot as the first item below.

Over its twenty year run the program went through, as would be expected, a number of various iterations and sponsors. Beginning as a sustained program in 1952, it wasn’t until two years later that it picked up its first advertiser, Roma Wines. Eventually, during what most consider the heyday of the program, it was sponsored by Autolite spark plugs.

sus3As indicated by the title, the main focus of the show was mystery/thriller stories, though in later years it did tend to present more horror/science fiction tales along with the mysteries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program, and perhaps one of the reasons not only for its longevity but also for its popularity, was that it wasn’t afraid to re-present stories that proved popular with its audience. These were not actual re-runs, however, but actual new productions of the same script, sometimes with the participation of the original cast, and sometimes without. For instance, Suspense presented Lucille Fletcher’s story “Sorry, Wrong Number” eight different times during its run, first on May 25, 1943, and for the final time on February 14, 1960. Amazingly, every one of these presentations featured the great Agnes Moorehead in the lead role!

Suspense also, especially in its later years, was known for re-using scripts from other popular CBS programs, most notably what some consider to have been in a way its sister show, Escape, and The Mysterious Traveler. (Both of which, btw, I’ll be featuring in upcoming OTR Thursday posts.)

sus4At its height, Suspense was able to draw a number of great Hollywood stars to its microphones, including Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Eve McVeagh, Lena Horne, and Cary Grant.

One final note: the date of Suspense’s last broadcast, September 30, 1962, is often cited as “the day the golden age of radio died”. Though that may not be literally true – obviously there were other broadcasts and shows that continued beyond that point, it is a significant milestone and turning point for the radio drama format, and for lovers of these great radio shows.

But let’s not dwell upon that today. Instead let’s sit back and simply be entertained by one of the truly all-time great radio programs and more tales calculated to keep you in…

SUSPENSE!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #037: Suspense (1942-1962) – Part One: A Preview

 

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.

I’ll be back next week with a more in depth look at one of Old Time Radio’s most enduring dramatic shows (and one of my all-time favorites) but for now, here are some episodes for you to simply listen to. Consider it a preview, if you will, of these tales calculated to keep you in…

Suspense!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

Enhanced by Zemanta

31 Days of Halloween – 027: Three Skeleton Key Starring Vincent Price

October marches on, and so does our countdown to All Hallows Eve. This year, rather than trying to do a full 31 film reviews or something truly time-consuming like that, most of what I’m going to be posting are favorite trailers, short films, some full-length movies, and other items just to kind of help get everyone in the spirit of what really is one of my favorite holidays.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile now will know that Vincent Price holds a special place in my heart. Of course, if you’ve been following along, you also know that I have a special love for Old Time Radio shows. Today those loves come together as I spotlight one of my all-time favorite shows.

Three Skeleton Key” originated as a short story written by French author George G. Toudouze. It first appeared in English in the January 1937 issue of Esquire magazine. The story concerns three men who inhabit and tend a lighthouse on an island off the coast of French Guiana. One night, an abandoned ship, which has been overrun by thousands of ferocious rats, wrecks on the island. From that point on, the lighthouse, which has meant life for so many, becomes a deathtrap for the three men.

The short story was adapted for the radio by James Poe, and was first broadcast on the anthology series Escape in 1949. It was so popular that it was performed again (these were actual re-performances, not simply rebroadcasts) in 1950 and 1953. It was also performed on the series Suspense at least twice, once in 1956, and another time in 1958. Each of these performances had different casts, but three of them, the 1950 Escape broadcast and the two Suspense performances featured Mr. Price in the starring role.

The version that I’m presenting below is my personal favorite, the March 17, 1950 Escape broadcast.

Also, for those interested in reading the original short story, it’s available in .pdf format here. And, of course, for more Golden Age of Radio goodness, just check back here every week for Old Time Radio Thursday.

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #016: A Halloween Horror Sampler

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.

Last week I gave you a sampling of comedy shows with a Halloween theme. This week, I figure it’s time for a creepier sampling, so here area variety of different horror offerings from the Golden Age of Radio. Again, I’m not going to do a whole lot of writing about these shows today, instead I’m simply going to invite you to kick back and enjoy them with me.

Next week: as we finally reach Halloween itself, we’ll take a listen to some of radio’s detectives and mystery plays as they investigate some spooky goings-on.

Until next time, Happy Listening!