Suspense! was one of the most well produced, acted, and written dramas on radio, as well as one of the most prolific. There were an estimated 945 episodes broadcast, most of which have survived. During the twenty year run, probably the most exciting times were from the late 40's and early 50's under Autolite Autoparts sponsorship. Pitchman Harlow Wilcox wasn't as big part of the show as he had been on Fibber McGee and Molly, but his over the top plugs for sparkplugs and car batteries were entertaining and informative. The direction and production by Anton Leader, Gunsmoke co-creator Norman Macdonnell, and Elliot Lewis were all of the highest quality.
An important feature of the program that all three directors made the most of was the use of famous movie actors and comedians, and playing them "out of type". It is a bit of a shock for audiences to hear Lucille Ball or Bob Hope as potential murderers, but Suspense! made it work very well.
In early 1949, probably the most radical "out of type" casting took place when a pair of beloved silver screen dancers appeared in consecutive episodes of Suspense! Gene Kelly was known for his talent as a choreographer and for making the athleticism of ballet commercially acceptable in Hollywood. He was also noted for his "nice guy" characters. So imagine the fun he must have had playing a raging psychopath in "To Find Help" with Ethel Barrymore. Kelly plays a seemingly meek drifter who is hired by Ms Barrymore's character to handle some odd jobs around the house. The shock comes when we find the murderous intent of a young man who had been turned down by the Army because there was "something wrong with my Mind".
Danny Kaye would emphasize his physical humor as much as his talent as a dancer in the movies, and usually played the nice guy/clown in his various roles. When he winds up a murderer in "The Too Perfect Alibi" he turns in a great performance. He is a rich man who has lost his sweet heart to another, which becomes his motive for murder. Although he "gets away" with the murder, he is soon punished in a way that he never anticipates.
Danny Kaye's episode "Too Perfect Alibi" is one of my favorites as was the Khandi Tooth" w/gale gordon's brother, sounding amazingly like, Sydney Greenstreet.ReplyDelete
I think it was on Suspense I heard the "Wreck of the Old 97." It was very good. Sad but true. Suspense also had a Bible story in December.ReplyDelete
Danny Kaye on "Suspense", "The Too Perfect Alibi" and "I never met the dead man", shows his class one more time. There was nothing in show business this guy couldn't do.ReplyDelete