THINGS THAT WILL MAKE SENSE ONLY TO THOSE WHO LISTEN TO 'OLD TIME RADIO'
Nancy Kelly's voice gives you more of a spin than Barbara Whiting's,
making the Escape version superior to Suspense's, of 'The Rim Of Terror.'
A girl from Vermont picks a hitchhiker with her Bentley, and gets in trouble with spies.
Female protagonists don't usually drive episodes of these shows, so join this ride.
The only reason to heed the warning signs on the road
is the 1950s-eventual brain death of the otherwise sensible and able Elizabeth:
her lovable protector of a pet dog is shot and killed,
a helpful motorcycle policeman is shot and killed—
but she quickly gets over the first and hardly notices the second death,
because... she's finally falling into the arms of her dream of a man.
If you had no idea a romance was developing between the two,
you missed the writer cueing you earlier, with hammer-like subtlety:
"Why do you suppose we're bickering like this?" the woman wonders.
This road sign may have been necessary because Hans Conried's voice,
unlike a Harlequin cover, hasn't the slightest power to make you swoon;
nor does Ben Wright's accent in the Suspense version.
(If you want the Wright voice and accent to make you swoon,
listen to the Romance episode 'Den of Thieves').
'Den Of Thieves' is a perfect episode of Romance.
In Romance's best episodes, for example 'Pagosa,'
people speak softly as if they are lost together
in the fog of dusk, dawn, or a romance novel.
In 'Den Of Thieves,' Virginia Gregg and Ben Wright
speak to each other as though they were
the two most quietly beautiful people in the world.
When Gregg stroked and unfolded the soft side of her voice,
she sounded like a movie beauty of radio. Ben Wright responds and in voice
becomes Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, and James Mason, all in one.
Not a lover but not to be left behind, Parley Baer lisps & wisps out
a sinuously slithering character evil of tongue and soul.
His name? Mr. Ipsilanti.
Always-a-boy Richard Beals' giggle evokes a whole school of the damned.
Add the menace of small town mores, smugglers, and Communists,
and you have just enough elements to threaten a vocally perfect romance.
Call it lightweight, call it light & breezy, call it a minor mystery.
The episode of Romance titled 'Isle To The Windward'
seems so airy that it threatens to tear into tatters
like a tissue in the Caribbean air.
Joan Bank's silly French accent takes away
the usually considerable weight and appeal of her voice.
Bob Bailey has to provide all the ballast.
But wait!! There is... the revealing last line,
the final few fateful words. They will make you cry
if you are sentimental, a sentimental fool, or just a fool.
When it comes to reading Daphne du Maurier's novel Frenchman's Creek—
and being uncomfortable with it—there are two kinds of people in the world:
those who think it is a mere romance, and those who think it is too literary.
The Romance radio version strips down Du Maurier's story,
and this minimalism diminishes the romance vs. literature argument down to moot.
Here it is indeed a romance (although the word 'escape' is repeated so often,
you would think it would have been more appropriate as an Escape episode).
However, adaptor E. Jack Neuman dwells on the idea of a woman
needing escape, and her pirate paramour understands.
What is left after all the stripping down (there no boobs, bustieres, or blades),
is something uncannily near to feminism.
"Mary, my wife, lying over on the davenport
with a bourbon breath you could use for a cutting torch."
That's the best line in "Motive For Murder,"
an unremarkable Suspense episode about a cop trying
to prove his wife innocent of murdering a salesman
sitting in their living room couch with a knife in this chest.
Alan Ladd's performance is merely routine,
but there are firecracker supporting bits by CBS radio actors
Joseph Kearns, Lawrence Dobkin, Jeanette Nolan,
Howard McNear, and Georgia Ellis.
In addition to these beloved familiar voices,
there are some period lines:
"Hey--that him backing a roadster out of the carriage house?"
"Beat it, sister."
A plug at the end of the show says:
"Next Thursday for Suspense, our star will be Ronald Reeegan."
"Created especially for radio by the most widely read mystery story writer
in the world--Erle Stanley Gardner! Produced and directed by William N. Robson!
And starring... Mr. Glenn Ford!"
It's difficult to live up to the promise of that pompous opening,
and the detective series Christopher London yielded no more milk than its ilk,
in terms of thrills, mystery, creativity.
Still, you'll like it if you're a Glenn Ford fan.
The series did not last long (the total number of episodes is uncertain,
but there were at least fifteen episodes). The fact that only three remain today,
adds fascination to the fun, and one wishes the others could be found.
"I am Christopher London--private investigator,
and sometimes student of the teachings of the Orient.
In the faraway monastery of The Moon of Yesterday in the hills of western China,
I learned many things. I like to think that one of them was tolerance.
But I find it hard to be tolerant of greed and murder... "
Thus began the premiere episode, with something of a leaning towards
what used to be termed 'Oriental.'
Ford's words were even preceded by a gong,
which radio Asians can never refrain from striking.
Christopher also had a 'Chinese boy' who of course served up aphorisms,
played well (i.e. without Ah-So-isms) by Charles Lung.
By the 4th episode, however, the show was breathlessly Lung-less,
although the adorable Joan Banks was again the guest star.
The last remaining episode, the 15th, features the ravishing voice
of Georgia Ellis, whose duplicitous character is described thus
by Christopher London: "Yes, I'm partial to lavender eyes and red hair."
Suspense's "The One Way Ride To Nowhere"
has Alan Ladd as an annoyingly brash and cocky dick detective,
surrounded by radio actors doing movie gangster voices.
Nothing special, even for Alan Ladd fans.
Don't be put off if the intro & outro bookends
of the first episode of Inheritance, "Dorothea Lynde Dix,"
sound as if they were produced & populated
by the Daughters of the American Revolution,
the John Birch Society, and the Tea Party.
The radio drama itself, written by Earl Hamner,
is surprisingly (and almost impossibly and incredibly)
frank and honest for a program aired in 1954.
Dorothea Dix, the reformer who brought to light
the execrable conditions in which the mentally ill
were housed and kept, is superbly played by Margaret Hayes.
Two naive haberdashers go to Haiti and get in a bit of trouble
with locals who are supposed to be nasty, vicious, and deadly.
One of the haberdashers is likable, one is not. That's about it.
If you like 'Night Of The Guns,' you really, really like Escape.
If 'Night Of The Guns' fails in just about every way,
'Judgment Day At Crippled Deer' excels on just about every level.
Four accusers and one accused,
tense and trapped in an 'isolated trading post somewhere
in the Yukon territory,' with a blizzard approaching.
The end may be predictable, but this is still Escape at its best.
In addition, in lieu of commercials,
announcer George Walsh reads four plugs for other CBS shows--
'Gangbusters,' 'Young Dr. Malone, every Monday to Friday on the daytime,'
a western series called 'Gunsmoke,' and next week's Escape episode,
written by someone called Kathleen Hite.
Copyright © 2013 E. A. Villafranca, Jr.
All Rights Reserved