Monday, September 23, 2013

Old Time Radio: The Shadow (1937)

"Who knows where evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

So went the intro to The Shadow's radio dramas, which began in 1937, but the character's roots go a little deeper than that.

In 1930, the character debuted not as the crime fighter we all know, but as the anonymous narrator of something called The Detective Story Hour. Frank Readick, Jr., one of the actors essaying the role, is also the man that recorded the above introduction for the later radio dramas, though he didn't continue in the role.

In fact, the radio plays began 2 years after Detective Story Hour had ended, due to Street & Smith insisting on the Shadow being utilized the same way he was in their pulps. A number of different actors followed Readick as the Shadow, whose alter ego on radio and in later comic books was that of Lamont Cranston. Students of the character's history know that originally, writer Walter Gibson, using the pen name Maxwell Grant, established that the Shadow's real name was Kent Allard, who had supposedly coerced Cranston into letting him assume his identity while Cranston traveled the world.

It's this kind of complexity with identities, I think, that led to Marvel Comics' introduction of Moon Knight in the 70's, but that's a completely different kettle of fish........

My first encounter with The Shadow came when WQBK-AM (now WGDJ-AM) had obtained a number of old radio shows to fill time in the early 70's. Not long after, DC began their first Shadow series, set in the pulp era. Dynamite Entertainment currently holds the license to produce the Dark Avenger's comics adventures, and has created a whole line of Shadow books over the last couple of years.

But, it's the radio show we're looking at now. Let's take you back to the Golden Age, to Halloween, 1937, and "The Three Ghosts", starring Orson Welles & Agnes Moorehead.

Hard to believe, isn't it? 30 years later, Agnes Moorehead was better known for her work as Endora on Bewitched, and it wasn't until the radio show returned to syndication, around the time Bewitched ended, that fans discovered the actress' earlier work. Of course, by then, Welles was busy selling wine.........

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

Considering how creepy Orson Wells made the Shadow during the openings, I had originally thought he was a villian!

I had heard a few radio shows including this one, and I can understand why the characters were so mesmerizing.

The first time I'd ever seen Agnes Moorehead in anything that DIDN'T involve "Bewitched" was "Citizen Kane", as she played Kane's mother.

There is a syndicated radio show that rebroadcasts old radio shows from all genres in the wee hours (3am - 5). It's called, "When Radio Was". I think they have a website in which one can also purchase select recordings of shows for personal enjoyment.

The film version of The Shadow (with that Baldwin guy) is a guilty pleasure of mine. Not perfect, but I thought it was well made.

hobbyfan said...

I've got the 1994 "Shadow" (w/Alec Baldwin, before he put on the weight) on VHS. I may just put that in the VCR real soon, just to refresh my memory.

I guess Agnes Moorehead was part of Welles' repertory company, but I never realized she was also in "Citizen Kane". Then again, I've never seen that film from start to finish.......