Suspense Upgrades

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by chasedad on 9/17/2018, 10:33 pm

greybelt wrote:THIS IS WHY I LOVE COBALT!!

Yes indeed it is the same script!!

Chasedad -- please send me a PM

Glad to be of help! Tried sending you a PM but got a message saying I hadn't reached my post limit so I was unable to do so.

Since you also seem to be interested in acquiring scripts for the missing episodes: there's an anthology of writings by John Dickson Carr called "Door to Doom" which contains several of his radio scripts, including "The Phantom Archer" and "The Hangman Won't Wait". Paperback copies are available through Amazon and Ebay for only a few dollars.

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by chasedad on 9/18/2018, 8:05 am

greybelt,

Argh! I got your PM and want to reply but I'm continuing to get that message about not having reached the post limit before I can send a PM or reply to one. Anyone know how many posts I need to make before I can access this?

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 9/18/2018, 8:29 am

I you purchased "Suspense Collector's Companion - 2019" download this update note (1 page) to keep with your book. [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

CHASEDAD -- look for a new PM from me re your problem sending a PM
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 9/19/2018, 6:02 am

Mission of the Betta remains a missing single-performance of Suspense.

From the November 11, 1951 Shreveport Times

Because of a recently acquired script, we now know the author: "Christopher Anthony." This is a pseudonym of William N. Robson.

Some very lucky research thanks to Google led us to find out that Mission of the Betta used part of a script from a program Robson was deeply involved in, Man Behind the Gun.

In 1943, Man Behind the Gun presented Incident in the Pacific about a submarine operation in the Pacific. A repeat 1944 performance is in circulation and is at OTRR Library.

From the March 7, 1943 Des Moines Register
This is the same date as the first broadcast of Incident in the Pacific. Their ages at this time were Robson 37,
Beck and Lovejoy are each 31.

This is a newspaper clipping that summarizes the plotline of the original Man Behind the Gun script.

From the March 3, 1943 Circleville OH Herald


I first heard of Man Behind the Gun when I met Jackson Beck 40 years ago. He said it was his most rewarding radio effort for its support of armed services personnel during WW2. Robson produced and directed in the series, and also wrote some of its scripts. He had great affection for the series and was quite proud of it.

About three pages of dialogue in Mission of the Betta originates from that Incident in the Pacific script. From there the scripts diverge into different plotlines.


Author Neil Verma cites this Man Behind the Gun scene and production technique in his book Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama (Amazon [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]


Verma teaches at Northwestern University.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by wich2 on 9/19/2018, 11:28 am

Gb, GUN was indeed a very good show - and, as mentioned in that last note, a wonderful production technically.
The Gotham Players did a Lost Episode a few years ago; for me, it's the best thing of theirs that I ever heard. And it features one of the last performances by voice actor Jeff David.
- Craig

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 9/22/2018, 8:14 pm

On the OTRR Facebook page, a collector noted that they have the AFRS disc for Fury and Sound, one of the more curious missing episodes of Suspense. Background about the episode is in my book starting on page 111 and ending on page 114.

This particular collector is a noted record and transcription collector. He is seeking Marx brothers material he does not have... and he already has a lot. But there are still many discs and other recordings that he does not have. If I had to guess, You Bet Your Life is not the kind of thing he is looking for. He was a friend of Groucho in his last years and is working on projects about Groucho and the career of the Marx Brothers. If anyone has anything that might pique his interest, or might know about something that could be of interest, please send me a private message.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by Tom-In-Ohio on 9/23/2018, 11:59 am

Thanks Greybelt & Wich2 for the information and shows. Gun is new to me so I will look it up.

The thing I enjoy best about Cobalt is the knowledge transfer on top of being able to download shows. Thanks again. - Tom

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/15/2018, 8:23 am

AFRS recordings have proven to be very important to the collection of Suspense from completion and sound quality perspectives. So many AFRS/AFRTS discs have surfaced over this past decade that it's hard to keep track of what's available and what might be new to collectors. There is now an online spreadsheet that can help the process. If you run into AFRS/AFRTS discs and all you have is the program number, this can be very helpful in determining if the recording already exists and if it does not, what the likely episode is.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Any additions or suggestions for the spreadsheet are greatly appreciated.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/21/2018, 9:20 am

Research sadness in the Greybelt Suspense project: confirmed that missing episode and first Auto-Lite production Last Chance and Death Sentence produced later are not the same Sad

Many steps forward in recent months, and now a biiiigggg step back.

The support and encouragement of Cobaltians in this hour of gloom is greatly appreciated.


Last edited by greybelt on 10/21/2018, 10:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by chasedad on 10/21/2018, 10:54 am

greybelt wrote:Research sadness in the Greybelt Suspense project: confirmed that missing episode and first Auto-Lite production Last Chance and Death Sentence produced later are not the same Sad

What information have you uncovered that confirms that they were different scripts?

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/21/2018, 11:11 am

After the book's publication, I got the script to Last Chance. And I have now listened side by side, and it's not a match. All the other information I had from show summaries and newspaper descriptions, and some prior research by others pointed to a re-performance. But now we have hard proof that it is not. Rats Sad

At some point I will be able to post the script but it needs some imaging clean-up.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by chasedad on 10/21/2018, 11:17 am

Well, that's kind of an unfortunate development, but it's best to know for sure what the actual broadcast consisted of. And thanks in advance for posting the script!

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/21/2018, 7:17 pm

Despite the setback we're plugging away at the keyboard here figuring out curious aspects of the different Suspense eras. William N. Robson was a top radio producer, director, and writer. Unfortunately (for him), or perhaps thankfully (for listeners), he was assigned to produce Suspense while the radio drama world was collapsing around him. The "suits" upstairs at CBS were always cracking down on costs. CBS had some marvelous dramas that it could pull scripts from and produce again. Someone asked me how many scripts were new in the later years, and I guessed that it was half.

This is a preliminary tally of Robson's 147 productions, and the guess was right, original productions exceeding repeat performances by one. There may be some that had title changes or are from other series that might swing it to the other direction.


The discovery of the Casanova one was pure search engine luck, when it came up in researching the Star of Thessaly episode. I've found out more stuff by fortuitous and serendipitous accident than I ever thought possible.

Robson had a series that you usually only see referenced in terms of how it affected the production and casting choices of Gunsmoke. That was a cold war drama Operation Underground that aired from mid-1951 to mid-Spring 1952. It is suspected that some of those scripts may have snuck into the Suspense canon. We already know a The Man Behind the Gun came in through the back door for a brief visit in The Mission of the Betta, and that was a Robson writing effort (under his Christopher Anthony pseudonym).

In the process of searching for info on Operation Underground, which has no logs, no script resources, and no meaningful newspaper mentions, we discovered that Freedom This Way, the Suspense episode from January 27, 1952 was originally named "Flight to the West." That phrase is used often at the time of broadcast as civilians and military personnel from Hungary were fleeing the downside aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution. BTW, the audition program for Operation Underground is in circulation and is titled Operation Danger.


There was a discussion at the Facebook group "Old Time Radio Lovers" about whether or not Sorry, Wrong Number deserved to be held in such high regard. As one might suspect, newer and younger collectors think not. The show is quite dated not just from a technology standpoint (phones? you mean the thing in my pocket that I take pictures with and listen to baseball games and watch videos on?) but also from a context of radio drama content. Audiences are used to seeing subjects of their stories not be saved at the last minute, where when that happened on SWN it was shocking. Some of the folks on the thread started to come around a bit to seeing it from a different perspective. I was never a big fan of the episode, but I do understand and respect it significant change it had on the history of the series and how the franchise expanded to movies and television and recordings and books and... as we know... opera! Smile

Speaking of records, I can find no cast attribution for the Decca records release of SWN. It was a Spier production and you'd have to think he brought sound effects artist Surrey with him, and some of his most reliable cast members. But there's no official credit anywhere. The liner notes mention only Fletcher, Spier, and Moorehead.

SWN had five different titles before Spier gave it its name (hat tip to Don Ramlow for some of these from his research).

  • You Can Always Telephone (this one is mentioned in the Decca liner notes)
  • I'm So Nervous
  • She Overheard Death Speaking
  • She Overheard Murder Speaking
  • If at First You Don't Succeed

You get a sense of how big the SWN franchise was becoming from the Stanwyck movie trailer


More to come...
We're less than 2 weeks away from starting to post Suspense upgrades and versions again.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by wich2 on 10/22/2018, 12:50 am

A hearty salute, from one of those FB defenders of Aggie's classic!

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by wich2 on 10/22/2018, 12:52 am

P.S. - Re: reuse of scripts...

It can be annoying to voracious collectors today; but back in those pre-rerun days, maybe not so much?

- Craig

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/22/2018, 7:38 am

Re the re-use of scripts

There were a few that the audience wanted to hear again, like SWN and Dead Ernest.

The biggest factor is that the audience is always changing, so the people who listened in 1948 were not the same people in aggregate as who were listening in 1953.

NBC TV exec Pat Weaver was a pioneer in understanding this fact for that medium (probably his background in advertising) but audience nature and size were affected by day, time slot, and competition. Even though something was broadcast at a particular time, there was still a large audience that wanted to see that program, but could not. In that sense, Suspense reruns weren't a big deal. It would not surprise me if 80%, or more, of the audience churned in the mid-1950s just because of natural demographic patterns and media habits, meaning that the overwhelming majority of them were new.

If they got to hear a legendary Escape script on Suspense because there was no way to hear these classics unless they were newly presented, that's a good thing.

TV was ravenous for scripts, and actors, making the supply of both for radio less available. Robson had a rich reserve of superior scripts to draw from and the CBS ensemble of highly skilled actors and production personnel. The hardest cut was in music production, with no live orchestra. Robson navigated that limitation quite well. The Robson productions were solid, even if they were constrained by the the eyeshade and sleeve protector pencil pushers of CBS who were throwing pennies around like manhole covers at the time.

He kept the series on the air; we wouldn't have had any new performances in the period unless he made good decisions, even about selection of the scripts that would be worth repeating.

I'm a voracious collector, and have been from the start. At first I was annoyed by it, but now I'm much closer to gratitude about it.

Leader is still my favorite producer because his work saved the show after its near-cancellation and the failure of the 60-minute format, and got it back on track. I have more appreciation for Robson now, knowing what he was up against.
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by emruf7 on 10/22/2018, 1:29 pm

greybelt wrote:This is a preliminary tally of Robson's 147 productions...

In '58, Robson produced a version of E. Jack Neuman's "A Statement of Fact." This debuted in '53 on CBS' On Stage series.

While looking this up, I ran across a 1963 TV version of the play (with music by Bernard Herrmann) from The Richard Boone Show. Here's a link:

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/22/2018, 3:00 pm

THANKS VERY MUCH
forgot to look at On Stage!
Thanks for reminding me!

Updated table


Now it's more on the repeat side than the original side of the ledger.

THANKS for the video link!
The cast listing is at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Some familiar OTR names in there!
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/24/2018, 10:56 am

Now we turn to a different way of finding possible repeat productions in the Robson era: the chance that a writer like E. Jack Neuman reworked a script for Suspense. Neuman was a master of "search and replace" long before word processing Smile  Often, he would use a pseudonym for that, "John Dawson." The best article about it all is at
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There are two scripts that I have narrowed things down to that were not simple repeat performances (same name, same script) from earlier in Suspense. They are

  • Well-Dressed Corpse
  • For Old Times Sake

I can find no other instance of these in any other series, but Neuman would change titles and some aspect of the script to make it fit a particular series. There are no scripts authored by "Dawson" on Suspense.

Does anyone have a sense if either of these two programs may have been used elsewhere?

Perhaps someone can see something I can't at these RadioGoldindex pages
Neuman [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Dawson [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

The RadioGoldindex Suspense page is at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 10/28/2018, 2:41 pm

The 60-minute period of Suspense started with great hopes of dominating its new time slot on Saturdays. The series was saved from cancellation after Roma Wines dropped its sponsorship in November 1947. At the end of The Black Curtain, the first episode in the new format, Robert Montgomery read a list of authors whose works would be presented in this new version of Suspense. They certainly had ambitious plans for some top notch talent! The authors were:

Marie Belloc Lowndes
Dashiell Hammett
Agatha Christie
John Buchan
Graham Greene
Raymond Chandler
Arthur Conan Doyle
Shakespeare
Eric Amber
James M. Cain

Many of their works were used in Suspense productions earlier in the series.
Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Story of Ivy (1945)
Dashiell Hammett, Two Sharp Knives (1942, 1945)
Agatha Christie, Philomel Cottage (1942, 1943, 1946)
Raymond Chandler, Pearls are a Nuisance (1945)
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost Special (1943)

The chaos of the format change and the management issues with Montgomery and Spier led to the series using prior Suspense scripts by padding them, adding back content from their first production that was pulled in the effort to get stories to fit into the original 30 minute format, or by combining scripts that were split into two parts. Donovan’s Brain is the best example, but they even combined a two-part Adventures of Sam Spade script from 1946, The Kandy Tooth.

It took until near the end of February before an original script, tailored to the 60-minute format, was presented.

In the end, only TWO scripts from the authors Montgomery mentioned were used, and those were repeat performances.
James M. Cain, Love's Lovely Counterfeit
Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger

Four different Cornell Woolrich stories were used, and he wasn't even in the Montgomery list!

Eventually, works of the other authors were used on Escape and Suspense.
Story used on Escape during the 60-minute Suspense episodes
John Buchan, The Grove of Ashtaroth (1948)

Post-60 minute episodes on Suspense
Agatha Christie, Where There's a Will (1949)
John Buchan, The Thirty-nine Steps (1952)
Graham Greene, The Man Within (1953)
Shakespeare, Othello (1953)

Post-60 minute episodes using these authors works on Escape
Graham Greene, Confidential Agent (1949)
Eric Amber, Journey into Fear (1950)

What brought all this up was the news that a Raymond Chandler script, Trouble is My Business, is coming up for auction, announced at the OTRR Facebook page.


With the help of the Thousand Oaks Library, where the KNX Collection is maintained and has two copies in its archives, we were able to determine that the script is for a half-hour format Suspense program. It’s not the script used for the 1947 NBC Marlowe series. (I have heard that Chandler was not very happy with that series; most collectors I know seem to like it, and some prefer Van Heflin's Marlowe over Gerald Mohr's; I'm a big fan of the Mohr run).

There are markings and notes on one of the KNX Collection scripts by the script editor sending the script by office mail to Anton M. Leader, who was the director at the time. There is no documentation as to whether that script was under consideration to be expanded into the new format or if the prior script from 1945 (Pearls are a Nuisance) was going to be enhanced for the new format. There is a second copy of a the script with a different treatment of the storyline (we don't have full details but maybe we can get a look at it one day) and it, too, is for a 30 minute program. We don't know which script will be up for auction, and we don't know if this is yet a third script.

The Chandler and Marlowe connection is interesting in this period because Montgomery was in the movie adaptation of The Lady in the Lake released in 1947
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He starred in the Lux Radio Theatre presentation of it in early February 1948. Lux had bigger ratings than Suspense, which was one of the reasons why some CBS executives thought the 60 minute format was a brilliant idea to save the Suspense series and raise it to a new level.

It is plausible that the 1953 two-episode presentation of Othello by Suspense was in the works or perhaps just planned for the 1948 60 minute program. Things came to a messy halt for the brief 60 minute run, and it is my belief that their production of Crossfire was hastily prepared using a script that was originally intended for Lux.

It all ended rather bumpily, but thankfully Auto-Lite would save the day starting in July 1948 and all would be right with the Suspense world yet again.

(Hat tip to collector Keith Scott for his input into these observations)
28 Oct 2018
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 11/1/2018, 5:41 pm

The Man Who Threw Acid - The News Drives a Storyline and a Title

On the evening of April 5, 1956, labor reported and commentator Victor Riesel was blinded by an assailant hurling sulfuric acid. Riesel had campaigned against corruption in labor union and the activities of the Communist party in the US labor movement. Riesel’s commentary was always straight to the point, and his investigative activities made mob leaders very uncomfortable. He was assisting the U.S. District Attorney of New York’s probe into labor racketeering. Riesel was held in very high esteem by rank and file workers as he was on their side while years of union corrupt practices were in the courts and in the news. The attack on Riesel, for that reason, received nationwide coverage. The culprits were not apprehended until August.

1956-04-06 Harlingen TX Valley Morning Star


Suspense announced a program for May 1, 1956, The Man Who Threw Acid, based on the incident, less than a month after it happened. Under Elliott Lewis, many Suspense episodes took on a “ripped from the headlines” approach with storylines that followed a pattern of a major news story but did not recreate it. Antony Ellis continued that approach in this episode.

Newspapers announced the episode, noting the tie-in with the Riesel story.
1956-04-29 Rochester NY Democrat & Chronicle

Some listings had more detail.
1956-05-01 Syracuse NY Post-Standard


While the Riesel case was about labor union activities, author Antony Ellis changed it to the numbers racket and a political figure. The presence of organized crime was a common element.

The Man Who Threw Acid
was not broadcast on May 1, but was delayed. In the meantime, Riesel was recovering but would not regain his sight. His ability to “touch type” allowed him to continue to use a typewriter and continue his work.

The Big Story, now a television program, had him as the focus of its June 29, 1956 program.
1956-06-14 York PA Gazette and Daily


That Big Story TV program was broadcast as planned and also included a filmed message from Richard Nixon. There are no copies of the program available, although there are some episodes of The Big Story on YouTube.

Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover were well-acquainted  with Riesel. The FBI would often feed Riesel information and vice versa. One has to wonder if Riesel may not have been view with some suspicion in entertainment circles as he would sometimes out celebrities for suspicion in Communist activities or sympathies.

The broadcast of The Man Who Threw Acid was scheduled for July 11, but again delayed, replaced by Want Ad.

1956-07-11 Los Angeles Times
The reference to “a new day for this thriller” refers to its change from Tuesdays to Wednesdays.


Some papers got the information on time.
1956-07-11 Boston Globe


The program finally appeared on July 18. No information about why it was delayed twice is available. I was suspicious that the originally planned May performance was “too close” to the news, and was changed, but the newspaper listings clearly indicate the numbers racket storyline was already in place. We may never know the backroom machinations about settling on the final broadcast date of this episode.

1956-07-15 Lubbock TX Avalanche Journal


There are two recordings of this episode available. An AFRS recording in very nice sound has been available in recent years.
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A network recording in low quality sound is available, but it sounds suspicious to me and may actually be an AFRS recording that someone attempted to use as a base, adding network elements to it.
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Please check your collections, especially older collections, to see if there are any other recordings of this episode. I'm not wholly certain if we have a valid network recording or not.

Some Victor Riesel resources
Wikipedia (very good) [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
The Daily Beast (2017) [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
The Mob Museum website [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Life Magazine 1956 [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
YouTube has many clips of Riesel through the years. I selected this one because it’s the way I remember Riesel on WNEW-TV channel 5 in New York, where I grew up. He’s on at about 2:20 of the clip – audio and video are a bit out of sync [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by chasedad on 11/2/2018, 7:18 pm

greybelt wrote:Now we turn to a different way of finding possible repeat productions in the Robson era: the chance that a writer like E. Jack Neuman reworked a script for Suspense. Neuman was a master of "search and replace" long before word processing Smile  Often, he would use a pseudonym for that, "John Dawson." The best article about it all is at
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

There are two scripts that I have narrowed things down to that were not simple repeat performances (same name, same script) from earlier in Suspense. They are

  • Well-Dressed Corpse
  • For Old Times Sake

I can find no other instance of these in any other series, but Neuman would change titles and some aspect of the script to make it fit a particular series. There are no scripts authored by "Dawson" on Suspense.


Maybe I'm misreading the question, but "The Well-Dressed Corpse" was not performed for the first and only time on "Suspense" during the William M. Robson era; it was initially done on 1/18/51 starring Eve Arden.

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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 11/3/2018, 6:23 am

Well-Dressed Corpse is included in my count of re-performed scripts, but for some reason I included it in my post of Neuman shows to be investigated. Hmmmm.... You are correct, chasedad -- the count is correct in the "repeat" table, but I slipped up in my post about it. For Old Times Sake remains a Neuman script that we have to wonder if he adapted from somewhere else. Your eagle eye is why Colbaltia is such a blessing when working on these kinds of projects!
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by greybelt on 11/3/2018, 6:56 am

Here goes... about six weeks of Suspense upgrades -- US Thanksgiving holiday week will have no posts, so you may want to save a few of these up for your travels if you observe the holiday where we are grateful we see certain relatives only once a year. Smile

The discs from an aircheck recording of The Hitch-hiker we recently re-recorded. This was not the first time this script was performed. It was first broadcast in 1941. Background information about the script can be found at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

The Summer 1942 season of Suspense ended with the August 19 broadcast. There was a week off for the series, while CBS ran a promo show for the new movie Holiday Inn. This performance of this Lucille Fletcher script followed on August 2, with no details offered in newspapers, but that was not uncommon for the series at that point, since "Suspense was not Suspense yet" in terms of its profile. Then Suspense had another week off, making room for a broadcast speech by Averill Harriman who had just met with Churchill and Stalin about the progress of the war and the cooperation of the three countries.

The series starting in earnest as a full-fledged weekly production on September 16. Despite the weeks off, Suspense appeared in many newspaper radio timetables of August 26 and September 9, a reminder that they can't always be relied on for historical detail: after all, the timetables were published before the broadcasts based on what the networked planned to do as of a couple of weeks before (that difference in time was printing, mailing, and delivery of the network press releases). This is especially true for Suspense when it was a fledgling series without established roots in the listening habits of the public and CBS' own executives.

There is also a network recording of this program, making this one of those "completist" entries in this Suspense collection.
Suspense_1942-09-02_Hitchhiker_wOrsonWelles FROM DISC AIRCHECK UPGRADE.mp3
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

Post by artatoldotr on 11/3/2018, 9:53 am

Thanks greybelt

Best regards

Art
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Re: Suspense Upgrades

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