THINGS THAT WILL MAKE SENSE ONLY TO THOSE WHO LISTEN TO 'OLD TIME RADIO'
Suspense produced 'The Black Path Of Fear' twice, once in 1944 and then in 1946.
You might think the Cary Crant version preferable to the one with Brian Donlevy—
and Grant does deliver his lines suavely and with less flubs—but that is not what the role requires,
and Donlevy is more sympathetic as the pursued purloiner of a gangster's wife.
Donlevy also has the advantage of being supported by Jeanette Nolan and John McIntire,
not to mention a brief appearance by Lurene Tuttle (yes, she can over-act effectively even in a cameo).
This is no exceptional episode of Suspense, and it only acquires an asterisk in your heart
because of some memorable lines & sentimentalities in Cornell Woolrich's story,
as uttered in Havanan by Jeanette Nolan.
Husband John McIntire is diffident & deliberate in steering through a Spanish accent,
but as usual, Nolan is fearless and in full speed ahead mode, knocking down all restraint.
Here is yet another non-classic to fondly keep, because of this lady.
In 1959, The Eleventh Hour had an episode titled 'Tavern Of Lost Souls.'
The name of the tavern's proprietess in this Scarlet Pimpernel-type production?
Listen to the June 7, 1959 episode of Have Gun-Will Travel, called 'Roped.'
Note how Vic Perrin pronounces 'sh' like 'ch'--"And I'd chute you now, but I got a better plan."
Later: "Agnes will stay behind you all the way with that chotgun,
and she'll chute you if you don't do what you just said."
William Conrad's radio background shows
when he guest stars as a baddie in 'The Governor,'
an episode of the tv western The Rough Riders.
He modulates the volume of his voice,
and uses Macdonnellian silences and pauses.
His character is an atypical boss baddie,
companionable to the point of pouring coffee for his men.
He uses an intimate sotto voce to speak to a minion,
and speaks in aphorisms.
Of his henchman's beef stew: "It's too thick to drink, and too thin to plow."
Of his hostage: "You'd be a good man to ride the river with--you know how to die standin' up."
Of dynamite: "Plant it where it'll raise a nice crop."
Half the Escapist fun of 'The Shanghai Document'—besides the adventure and intrigue
aboard a Yangtze River boat from Chungking to Shanghai--is the cast hijinks.
John Dehner's character is named Tony Dehner, which becomes a running in-joke.
Joan Banks doesn't just occasionally remind you of Lauren Bacall—impression or not,
she sounds uncannily dead-on like breezy Bacall from start to finish.
Bill Conrad blusters as a 'beefy-looking' scow skipper named Rattigan,
and Ben Wright—no surprise—does a British accent and then a Eurasian one.
Benson Fong and Charles Lung are on hand to play a half dozen Chinese characters,
so more fun is to be had trying to discern which one is rendering
1950s politically correct pronunciations like "Velly dangelous" and "Solly."
The Unexpected didn't exceed thirty episodes,
but these 15-minute segments had Lurene Tuttle plying her patented emotional drama,
and Barry Sullivan deftly delivering crackling wisecrack dialogue.
Sullivan's first episode, 'Eavesdropper,' happens in the same loopy hemisphere
as Donald Fagen's song 'The Goodbye Look' (both his and Mel Tormé's versions).
Have you ever heard James Nusser doing a Spanish accent?
Well, this is the place to go—El Hondas, a banana republic missing a couple of letters
and about to undergo a revolution plotted by would-be despot Col. Juan Domingo,
who wants Sullivan to supply the arms.
Unfortunately, something must go awry, because these two hopelessly hapless men
are inside an episode of a show called... The Unexpected.
No Nusser fan would ever want to miss one of his crunchy laughs,
and here it crunches with a Spanish flavor.
'Green Splotches' is a largely laborious episode of Escape,
mostly because of poor sound, which make half the voices hard to discern.
(For example, whom do Ted de Corsia and Barton Yarborough play?)
However, it may lead you to read the original short story
by the rather interesting author, Thomas Sigismund Stribling.
Explorers in South America encounter a rather effete-accented plant-person
(played by Jay Novello, who else)
who kills, takes on the skin, and impersonates his victim;
he is part of a planetary expedition come to earth to abduct its denizens as specimens.
Mind you, Stribling's story was published in 1920,
predating Don A. Stuart's 'Who Goes There?' (1938)
and Jack Finney's 'The Body Snatchers' (1954).
Take note, you fans of the movie versions of The Thing
and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Not only that, but in 1930 Stribling also wrote 'Mogglesby,'
a story about... rather smart apes.
More non-hi-fi sci-fi radio, more space invaders...
In 1984, 'The Rifleman' star Chuck Connors appeared
in a 13-episode radio serial, 'The Secret of Dominion.'
Who knew??!! Who knew that Will Geer, best known as Grandpa Walton on TV,
also lived poor but enriching lives on the radio prairie?
Geer left us about eighty episodes--in 1942, he started on The Cavalcade of America,
which dramatized passages of our history including the Old West era;
and ended in 1954 with eight episodes of Escape,
including a brace of westerns, 'The Pistol' and 'Sundown.'
Ben Wright's endless accent jobs were more often than not annoying,
but in the Escape episode 'Pass To Berlin,'
he does something riskier for a change—an obvious homosexual accent,
here symbolic of corruption in a Berlin ravaged by war.
Stacy Harris is superb in an unsympathetic role,
that of a murderous unstable soldier who cannot get away
from the touch of a blind clairvoyant.
Copyright © 2011-2013 E. A. Villafranca, Jr.
All Rights Reserved