The anthology series featured stories of mystery, terror and suspense, and its tongue-in-cheek introductions were in sharp contrast to shows like Suspense and The Whistler. The early 1940s programs opened with Raymond Edward Johnson introducing himself as, “Your host, Raymond,” in a mocking sardonic voice. A spooky melodramatic organ score (played by Lew White) punctuated Raymond’s many morbid jokes and playful puns. Raymond’s closing was an elongated “Pleasant dreeeeaams, hmmmmm?” His tongue-in-cheek style and ghoulish relish of his own tales became the standard for many such horror narrators to follow, from fellow radio hosts like Ernest Chappell (on Wyllis Cooper’s later series, Quiet, Please) and Maurice Tarplin (on The Mysterious Traveler).
When Johnson left the series in May 1945 to serve in the Army, he was replaced by Paul McGrath, who did not keep the “Raymond” name and was known only as “Your Host” or “Mr. Host” (Berry Kroeger had substituted earlier for a total of four episodes). McGrath was a Broadway actor who turned to radio for a regular income. Beginning in 1945, Lipton Tea sponsored the series, pairing first Raymond and then McGrath with cheery commercial spokeswoman Mary Bennett (aka the “Tea Lady”), whose blithesome pitches for Lipton Tea contrasted sharply with the macabre themes of the stories. She primly chided the host for his trademark dark humor and creepy manner.
The Creaking Door: The program’s familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. Himan Brown got the idea from a door in the basement that “squeaked like Hell.” The door sound was actually made by a rusty desk chair. The program did originally intend to use a door, but on its first use, the door did not creak. Undaunted, Brown grabbed a nearby chair, sat in it and turned, causing a hair-raising squeak. The chair was used from then on as the sound prop. On at least one memorable occasion, a staffer innocently repaired and oiled the chair, thus forcing the sound man to mimic the squeak orally.
Guest Stars: Its campy comedy notwithstanding, the stories were usually effective little chillers, mixing horror and humor in equal doses. Memorable episodes included “Terror by Night” (September 18, 1945) and an adaptation of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (August 3, 1941). The latter starred Boris Karloff, who was heard regularly in the first season, starring in more than 15 episodes and returning sporadically thereafter. Other established stars in the early years included Mary Astor, Helen Hayes, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Claude Rains, Frank Sinatra, and Orson Welles. Most of the lead and supporting players were stalwarts of New York radio. These included Santos Ortega, Mercedes McCambridge, Berry Kroeger, Lawson Zerbe, Arnold Moss, Leon Janney, and Mason Adams. Players like Richard Widmark, Everett Sloane, Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Ken Lynch, and Anne Seymour, also found fame via the Inner Sanctum Mysteries.
Out of more than 500 programs broadcast, only about 200 remain in circulation, sometimes minus dates or titles.
The Greatest Story Ever Told originated as a U.S. radio series in 1947, half-hour episodes inspired by the Gospels and running from January 26th 1947 to December 30th 1956, was the first ever radio series to characterize Christ, using a regular actor, Warren Parker, to play the role. Parker, however, remained anonymous for the show’s run and there were never any cast credits.
Tom Corbett is the main character in a series of Tom Corbett — Space Cadet stories that were depicted in television, radio, books, comic books, comic strips, and other media in the 1950s.
The stories followed the adventures of Corbett, Astro, originally Roger Manning and later T.J. Thistle, cadets at the Space Academy as they train to become members of the Solar Guard. The action takes place at the Academy in classrooms and bunkrooms, aboard their training ship the rocket cruiser Polaris, and on alien worlds, both within our solar system and in orbit around nearby stars.
The CBS Radio Workshop was an experimental dramatic radio anthology series that aired on CBS from January 27, 1956, until September 22, 1957. Subtitled “radio’s distinguished series to man’s imagination,” The premiere broadcast was a two-part adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, introduced and narrated by Huxley. It took a unique approach to sound effects, as described in a review that week in Time (February 6, 1956)
Flash Gordon is the hero of a science fiction comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond, which was first published on January 7, 1934. The strip, created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip, has since surpassed Buck Rogers for longevity.
The Flash Gordon comic strip has been translated into a wide variety of media, including motion pictures, television and animated series. The latest version, a Flash Gordon TV series, is currently airing on the US Sci Fi Channel.
Starting April 22, 1935, the strip was adapted into The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, a 26 episode weekly radio serial. The series followed the strip very closely, amounting to a week-by-week adaptation of the Sunday strip for most of its run.
Flash Gordon was played by Gale Gordon, later famous for his television roles in Our Miss Brooks, Dennis the Menace, The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy (the latter two with Lucille Ball). The cast also included Maurice Franklin as Dr. Zarkov and Bruno Wick as Ming the Merciless.
The radio series broke with the strip continuity in the last two episodes, when Flash, Dale and Zarkov return to Earth. They make a crash landing in Africa, where they meet Jungle Jim, the star of another of Alex Raymond’s comic strips.
The series ended on October 26, 1935 with Flash and Dale’s marriage. The next week, The Adventures of Jungle Jim picked up in that Saturday timeslot.
Two days later, on October 28th, The Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon debuted as a daily show, running five days a week. This series strayed farther afield from Raymond’s strip, involving Flash, Dale and Zarkov in an adventure in Atlantis. The series aired 74 episodes, ending on February 6, 1936.
Exploring Tomorrow was hosted by John Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, and later, Analog Magazine. He was also a science fiction writer himself, and penned the short story, Who Goes There?, which was later made into the 1950s classic monster movie, The Thing. So Campbell certainly had the Sci-Fi credentials . Exploring Tomorrow was billed as “The first science fiction radio show of science-fictioneers, by science-fictioneers, for science-fictioneers.” Each week, Campbell would open and close the story by making philosophical observations about how the technology featured in that night’s story might affect mankind. These serious comments were meant to be deep and thoughtful, but the effect was undercut by the choice of elevator background music. (Like a Musak rendition of “As Time Goes By,” complete with muted trumpet and syrupy violins.) It leaves the impression that this is a series that takes itself way too seriously! Yet despite this one rather dated aspect, the program is still quite enjoyable to listen to. It comes across as a poor man’s version of X Minus One. Science fiction fans will find it fun exploring yesterday’s vision of the future by Exploring Tomorrow!