Friday, June 29, 2018

The Tenor With the Broken Voice

Here's a brief synopsis and notes of The Shadow radio episode, "The Tenor With The Broken Voice" that originally aired on June 5, 1938.  (Note:  I've seen other dates listed as the original air date, but the June 5 date is based on what I found at a vintage radio log.)

Margo Lane and Lamont Cranston attend a night at the opera to watch the opera "Pagliacci."  They both comment on their anticipation to hear the star, Hagen Radcoffe, as he sings the aria "Vesti la giubba" which closes out the first act.  As Radcoffe sings the aria, the audience is shocked as Radcoffe's voice cracks and he is led off the stage.  

Replacement singers are brought in for other performances and death and tragedy strike them as they sing the "Vesi la giubba" aria.  Cranston, as The Shadow, investigates and foils the villain before he can set off an explosion in the crowded opera house!

It's interesting to see the conflict between Commissioner Weston and The Shadow as they both work to solve the crime and keep the public safe.  I also enjoyed hearing Detective Joe Cardona and The Shadow's agent, Clyde Burke, in this adventure.

Lamont Cranston/The Shadow:  Orson Wells
Margo Lane:  Margot Stevenson
Announcer:  Ken Roberts (some have noted that Roberts may have played the part of one of the tenors in this episode!)

Sponsor:  B. F. Goodrich

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Let No Man Tempt You Into Crime...The Shadow Knows!"

I was listening to some of The Shadow radio shows from a collection I purchased on Audible and heard a unique closing to an episode that I had not heard before.  It was from the episode, "Murder in E Flat" which aired on December 14, 1938.

The Shadow ending that I'm most used to is, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.  Crime does not pay!  The Shadow knows!"  

Here are the words to this unique ending from "Murder in E Flat.":  "Let no man tempt you into crime.  For crime is like a strangling serpent, it crushes him who feeds it most.  Beware lest the serpent of crime ensnare you in his folds.  Remember, crime does not pay!  The Shadow knows!"  Of course, there is The Shadow's sinister laugh before and after the quoted words above.  I like the ending

I like that ending and I'm sure there are others that are different as well.  The ending to the program was just one more way they tried to impress on the listening audience that crime doesn't pay!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Shadow Legends of Radio CDs by Radio Spirits

I came across a CD collection of The Shadow radio shows that was made by Radio Spirits.  It is a great little collection of 10 CDs with 20 episodes.  They feature episodes with Orson Welles, Bill Johnstone, John Archer, and Bret Morrison as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow.  Each of these men played The Shadow on the radio show, so it's nice to have a selection from each actor.  The episodes have all been digitally remastered to improve the sound quality of these old recordings.

Another nice feature of this collection is a small 32-page booklet on The Shadow radio show.  It's entitled, The Shadow: Radio's Greatest Man of Mystery and was written by Shadow scholar Anthony Tollin.  For a little booklet, it's chock full of information on The Shadow radio and pulps.

I got this collection off of eBay and it was in very good shape.  If you want to listen to The Shadow radio episodes, I highly recommend this collection!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Death to The Shadow!

A man bent on revenge accidentally learns the true identity of The Shadow and now he's offering to sell that information to gangdom!  Will his nefarious plan fail?  That's what we have to learn in The Shadow radio episode of "Death to The Shadow!"  This episode originally aired on March 12, 1944.

The story begins with Professor Petro showing of his latest invention to Howard Crane.  Crane leads us to believe he represents a group of wealthy investors who might want to purchase this invention.  Professor Petro's invention is a television-like apparatus that enables him to see things by dialing in street addresses or coordinates.  Wherever there is a tiny bit of light, he can look at that location and watch what is happening there on a small screen.  Crane gives Professor Petro the address to one of his so-called business associates, Dan Gordon.  Petro's invention allows them to look and listen in on Dan Gordon as he gives the combination of his safe to his personal secretary.  In the safe they have just locked up half a million dollars!

Howard Crane seems to pick an address at random and Professor Petro adjusts the dials and they look in on gangster Finger Fenton.  They see another man in the room but Finger doesn't see him!  They listen in as The Shadow warns Finger Fenton that he must stay on the straight and narrow since he just got out of jail and so he doesn't end up in the electric chair like his brother, Killer Fenton.  Crane and Petro are astonished that Finger can't see the other man in the room (The Shadow) and come to the conclusion that Fenton must be hypnotized!  Crane recognizes Lamont Cranston, and hears him talk as The Shadow - now Crane knows the true identity of The Shadow!!!

Crane kills Professor Petro and steals his invention.  He sets up a meeting with Finger Fenton and lays out his plan for profiting off of Petro's invention.  He will give Fenton information on where to steal and rob, and they will split the profits.  And, for a nice sum of money, Crane will tell Fenton who is The Shadow!  Fenton wants to know so he can avenge the death of his brother who was sent to the chair by The Shadow.  The felon Fenton agrees to the plan and the first job is to remove the half million dollars from Dan Gordon's safe as well as exact revenge on men that Crane wants to make pay for ruining him!

With Professor Petro's device, Crane eavesdrops on the police and stymies The Shadow's every move.  Lamont Cranston laments to Margo Lane while visiting her apartment.  Margo opines, "It's like they're able to watch everything you do!"  Margo's comment jogs Lamont's memory  - Professor Petro had talked with Lamont about his device before!  Lamont then figures out he's probably being watched right then and there and so he sets a trap.  He tells Margo that he will be going to an apartment at 10:30 that night to meet an informant with information on the crime wave.  If he is being watched, he expects someone will show up at the apartment and The Shadow will be waiting!

At 10:30 The Shadow finds Lefty waiting for someone in the apartment.  The Shadow unarms him and gets Lefty to rat out the plans.  Meanwhile, Crane has sent henchman to pick up Margo Lane and bring her to him!  After dealing with Lefty, Cranston returns to Margo's apartment to find a scuffle has taken place.  Watching on the television device, Crane calls him and gives him specific instructions on where to go if he wants to see Margo Lane alive again!  Crane watches the television device and sees Cranston obeying his orders!

Crane's plan is quickly foiled as The Shadow suddenly shows up and confronts him and Finger Fenton!  The Shadow is able to smash the television device while Finger Fenton uses his machine gun to try and shoot The Shadow.  Fenton sprays the room with bullets and ends up killing Crane, the man who knew The Shadow's true identity!  

After the police mop up matters at Crane's, Lamont and Margo talk.  Margo asks how Lamont could be seen on the television device and yet show up at Crane's as The Shadow.  It turns out that Cranston had just enough time to contact Commissioner Weston and have a detective that strongly resembled him to act as a decoy - that's who Crane was watching!  This allowed Cranston, as The Shadow, to rescue Margo and destroy the television device.

This was a great radio episode and even I was trying to figure out how Cranston could be watched and yet show up to rescue Margo.  This is an action packed episode and I highly recommend you give it a listen!

In this radio episode, according to the radio logs I was able to find, The Shadow/Lamont Cranston was played by Brett Morrison and Margo Lane was played by Marjorie Anderson.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Silent Avenger

"The Silent Avenger" was first aired on March 13, 1938 and it was the 25th episode from season 1 of The Shadow radio show.  This story is thrilling, compelling and unique.

The story begins in a courtroom where Joe Brecker has just been found guilty of first degree murder and receives the death sentence.  Joe Brecker then gives his own judgment by passing sentence on Judge Wilson, the prosecuting attorney, and the jury saying that they will all die.  And, if his sentence isn't commuted to life in prison by the Governor, the Governor will die!  Joe also passes sentence on the man who caught him - The Shadow!

Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane are witnesses to Brecker's outburst in court.  As people leave the room, comments are made about what just happened and how worried people would be if The Shadow was on their trail.  Lamont opines, "Unfortunately the mystery surrounding The Shadow inspires fear and terror in the innocent as well as the guilty."

Joe Brecker is in prison, waiting to be moved to the death house, and is visited by his brother, Danny.  (Throughout the story we will learn Danny Brecker is a decorated veteran of World War I.)  Joe has given Danny a mission - Danny is to kill the people responsible for sending Joe to jail and to the death sentence.  Joe tells Danny that the same people that sentenced him to death are the ones responsible for Danny being drafted into the Army and being sent to fight in France during World War I.  They are responsible for Danny getting "shell shocked" so that he can't remember things.  Then Joe warns Danny about The Shadow.  He tells Danny that The Shadow will come after him and he will only hear his voice but will not see him.  Danny asks if The Shadow is dead, like his buddies that still talk to him.  Joe tells him that The Shadow is very much alive and when Danny hears The Shadow's voice he is to throw a hand grenade at the sound of The Shadow's voice and that will kill The Shadow!  Danny indicates that he will fully carry out this mission assigned to him from his brother.  After Danny leaves, Joe says about Danny, "That poor dope!"  In other words, Joe has taken advantage of his own brother to exact his vengeance.

After Danny left, Joe received a new visitor, a visitor he didn't expect and didn't want.  Joe is visited by The Shadow!  The Shadow knows Brecker is willing to carry out his murderous threat, and now he's trying to find out how Brecker will do it.  Using his telepathic powers, The Shadow reads Joe Brecker's mind and learns Brecker's plan.  But now The Shadow must find Danny Brecker in time to prevent the murders of innocent people.

The Shadow is searching desperately for Danny Brecker and members of the jury that put Joe Brecker in jail are beginning to be killed - killed by a highly trained sniper.  Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane discuss these tragic events as Cranston has exhausted himself searching for Danny.  Cranston tells Margo that he looked up Danny Brecker's war record and found him to be a decorated sniper in WW I, and he also learned Danny is suffering from "shell-shock."  Cranston tells Margo, "Society trained him (Danny) to kill men.  They told him they were enemies and he should kill them off.  And now, with a shell-shocked mind, he's remembering what society taught kill.  To the people who have been through this experience, life is cheap.  He is a product of our own folly:  teaching men to kill in time of war and yet expecting them to respect life in time of peace."

The Shadow determines they need to set a trap for Danny so he and Margo put that plan in motion.  Margo goes to the home of Danny and Joe Brecker's mother, posing as a reporter, on the day Joe is scheduled to die in the electric chair.  The Shadow is there as well, but he is unseen.  Just a few minutes before 5pm, when Joe is scheduled to die, Danny appears and talks with his mom.  Mrs. Brecker knows in her heart that Danny is the one that's been killing people.  5pm comes and there was no action by the Governor to save Joe Brecker and so the death penalty is carried out.  Danny mentions that he will be going to a tower in the city to take care of the Governor.  The Shadow confronts Danny, but Danny is prepared and throws a hand grenade at where he hears The Shadow's voice.  The Shadow is able to throw the grenade out a window before anyone can get hurt, but Danny escapes in the turmoil.

Cranston and Margo are pouring over a map of the city trying to find what tower Danny was speaking of.  They determine it can only be the Wardman Tower which is still under construction but would be a perfect sniper's nest for Danny to shoot the Governor who will be in a parade.

The Shadow finds Danny on the 30th floor of the Wardman Tower.  The Shadow speaks to Danny and is able to get him to put down the rifle.  But then Danny pulls the pin on the hand grenade he has and threatens to throw it into the crowd below.  The Shadow is able to use the powers of his mind to have Danny hold on to the grenade, but then Danny drops it and it explodes, killing Danny.

Police Commissioner Weston has finished talking about the case with another officer when The Shadow speaks to him.  Weston says The Shadow was too late to take care of Danny Brecker and asks if The Shadow now wants to take credit for solving the case?  The Shadow responds, "There is no credit, no glory in the death of Danny Brecker, Commissioner Weston.  He was a victim, a human weapon of destruction, fashioned by mankind that teaches men to kill their enemies in time of war yet expects them to forget their murderous art in time of peace.  Danny Brecker was an enemy of society - a killer - but only because you, and I, and countless thousands made him one.  No Commissioner, there is no glory in this for you, or The Shadow, or for any man."

I listened to this episode many times to prepare for this article.  Each time I listened, I found a different nuance to it that might be missed with just one listening.  For example, Lamont Cranston spends many secluded hours away from Margo Lane in his attempt to find Danny Brecker.  This case demanded a lot physically from The Shadow.  I also noticed how Joe Brecker took advantage of his war-traumatized brother to exact his vengeance.  To me, that is shameful and indicates the type of criminal Joe Brecker really was.

In this story, The Shadow used his mesmeric powers to read Joe Brecker's mind, similar to what he did in the episode, "Death House Rescue."  The Shadow also used his ability to cloud people's minds so as to be invisible to them.

As part of preparing for this article I also did some research into World War I as Danny Brecker is a veteran of the war.  There were 4.7 million Americans that fought in WW I.  204,000 were wounded in action and 116,516 were killed in action.  There are still around 3,000 soldiers that are missing in action/unaccounted for.  The war began in 1914 but the US didn't enter the war until 1917, and the war ended in November of 1918.  At the height of US involvement, around 10,000 US troops a day were being sent to France.

World War I introduced us to the first use of chemical warfare and the first use of snipers.  It also introduced us to a condition called "shell-shock" which we would later know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Here's some information I found on the US Department of Veterans Affairs website:  "In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first observance of Armistice Day, the day World War I ended. At that time, some symptoms of present-day PTSD were known as "shell shock" because they were seen as a reaction to the explosion of artillery shells. Symptoms included panic and sleep problems, among others. Shell shock was first thought to be the result of hidden damage to the brain caused by the impact of the big guns. Thinking changed when more soldiers who had not been near explosions had similar symptoms. "War neuroses" was also a name given to the condition during this time."  WWI veterans with "shell shock" were characterized as having a lack of courage, character flaws, etc. and were not treated as the heroes they were.

Six years prior to this radio episode airing, another event happened involving WW I veterans.  In 1932 approximately 17,000 veterans and their families marched on Washington, DC asking the government to pay out immediately the bonus money promised to veterans.  The demand was rejected and the veterans were forced out of Washington by the Army and the police.  You can read more about these veterans here.

Knowing some of these facts helped me put this radio program into an historical context.  It has become one of my favorite Shadow radio episodes and I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the show and some of the history behind it.  I also want to thank Pete Blatchford for bringing this radio show to my attention!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Temple Bells of Neban

On October 24, 1937 The Shadow radio program aired the story, "The Temple Bells of Neban."  It was the fifth episode in the first season of the radio show.  It is one of my favorite Shadow radio episodes.  When you combine this episode with Death House Rescue, you get a more clear picture of how Lamont Cranston learned his powers as The Shadow!

The story begins with Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane on their way to the Club Khalif to enjoy an evening out.  On their way, they discuss the opium problem that has been impacting the city and that The Shadow needs to get involved. 

At the Club, they are entertained by an Indian dancer named Sadi Bel-Adda.  She entertains the crowd with the Dance of the Cobra where she seems to mesmerize a live cobra on stage.  Sadi Bel-Adda approaches Lamont and Margo's table, offering Margo a bracelet.  Lamont and Saadi talk briefly yet cryptically - have they met before?

After the show, The Shadow pays a visit to Sadi Bel-Adda.  Sadi warns The Shadow that she can command The Temple Bells of Neban, a powerful spell that will reveal The Shadow and disable him from clouding the minds of men!

Lamont speaks with Margo about his encounter with Saadi Bel-Adda, and Margo is worried.  Lamont recounts where he first learned the power to cloud men's minds.  He tells Margo, "Years ago in India, a yogi priest, keeper of the Temple of the Cobras at Delhi taught me the ancient mysteries.  He taught me the mesmeric trick that the underworld calls invisibility.  There was a small girl, his niece, that use to sit and listen...she was very clever..."  Yes - Sadi Bel-Adda was the niece of the yogi priest that taught Lamont Cranston!

The radio show reaches it's climax when The Shadow confronts Sadi Bel-Adda.  Sadi releases her cobra and begins to command The Temple Bells of Neban to destroy The Shadow's invisibilty.  But unbeknownst to Sadi, The Shadow had switched her de-fanged cobra for one with fangs.  The cobra bites Sadi Bel-Adda and she dies before she can command the Temple Bells of Neban.

This is only a brief summary of the show and I encourage you to give it a listen!  I really enjoy this episode as it not only puts The Shadow up against a foe with equal powers, it also gives us insight into how Lamont Cranston learned the mesmeric trick to cloud men's minds!

The Temple of the Cobras mentioned in this radio show became a part of the 1994 The Shadow movie.  It is in the beginning of the movie where Cranston is taken captive and brought to see the Tulku, the Tibetan holy man who trained him to use his "black shadow to fight evil."

The radio cast for this episode was:
  • Lamont Cranston/The Shadow:  Orson Welles
  • Margo Lane:  Agnes Moorehead
  • Sadi Bel-Adda:  Jeanette Nolan
  • Commissioner Weston:  Ray Collins

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Death House Rescue

"Death House Rescue!" was the very first radio program episode for The Shadow.  It originally aired on September 26, 1937.  This is one of my favorite radio episodes of The Shadow and I've listened to it many times.

In the radio dramas, Lamont Cranston is The Shadow.  Cranston is a millionaire who fights crime as The Shadow.  Only his companion, Margo Lane, knows this.  Margo Lane is a new character and had never appeared in any of The Shadow pulp magazines.  (In The Shadow pulp magazines, The Shadow is Kent Allard who sometimes disguises himself as millionaire Lamont Cranston.)

In this story we hear about a down-on-his-luck husband, Paul Gordon.  Paul and his wife, Grace, have a sick child named Sally.  Paul is trying to find work as Sally needs medical help.  Paul ends up being duped by two hoodlums who offer to pay him for driving them around.  What Paul doesn't know is that they are going to frame him for a crime they are about to commit!

The two hoodlums, Red and Lefty, hold up a bank and kill a police officer in the process.  They jump into Paul Gordon's car and order him to drive away.  With the police in high pursuit, Red and Lefty are able to escape and leave incriminating evidence in Gordon's car.  Paul Gordon ends up being convicted and is now in the death house with his execution only hours away!

The Shadow knows Paul Gordon is innocent and is quickly on the case.  He sends Margo Lane to visit Grace Gordon to let her know The Shadow is on the case, and that he will not fail!  Margo also gives Grace $1,000 to help with her living expenses since Paul is now in jail.

Disguised as a prison guard, The Shadow visits Paul in prison and uses his powers of mental telepathy to find the clue that will prove Gordon's innocence.  He sees into Paul's mind as Paul replies the events of the crime in his head.  The Shadow sees the events as if he were watching a television broadcast of those events!  Using this power The Shadow finds the clue that will set Gordon free!  The Shadow promises Paul that he will not die in the electric chair now that he has this clue.

Now The Shadow must spring a trap for the two rats that framed Paul Gordon!  Using mental telepathy, he sends a message to Margo Lane and has her get in touch with Police Commissioner Weston.  He then calls Lefty on the phone at the local bar and reveals that there was indeed an incriminating clue left in Paul Gordon's car - Lefty has left his fingerprint on the car's review mirror!  Lefty and Red go to rub out the incriminating evidence and are met by the police.  One of the crooks is mortally wounded but confesses the truth about the crime before they die.

While all that was playing out, Paul Gordon has been moved to the room where is the electric chair.  The hour for his execution has come.  Paul is distraught as The Shadow had promised he would not die in the chair.  The Shadow did not fail as the call comes from the Governor to release Paul Gordon as he is an innocent man who was framed!

In this radio drama, The Shadow disguised himself as a prison guard.  He used his mental powers to cloud minds so as to make himself invisible.  He also used his powers of mental telepathy to read minds and send messages.