Day: December 9, 2023

Dragnet: The Brick Bat Slayer (EP4256)

Todays Mystery:

Friday and Romero search for a serial killer who breaks into the homes of women and murders them with a red brick.

Original Radio Broadcast Date: September 24, 1949

Originating from Hollywood

Starring: Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday; Barton Yarborough as Sergeant Ben Romero; Raymond Burr as Ed Backstrand, Chief of Detectives; Herb Butterfield as Lee Jones

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Join us again tomorrow for another detective drama from the Golden Age of Radio.

Old Time Radio 101: Popular Dramatic Anthology Programs

Previous Article: Popular Sitcom/Variety Programs Popular Sitcoms and Game Shows Popular Western and Adventure Programs Popular Crime and Detective Programs

The Lux Radio Theatre

Did you ever wonder how people enjoyed previously released films in those days before television and home video? There were second-run theaters, plus it wasn’t unheard of for Hollywood studios to re-release old film, but one of the best ways people enjoyed films no longer playing in movie theaters was by listening to them on the radio. The Lux Radio Theatre is best known for adapting films into radio plays, cutting 75-90 minute films down to 45-minute radio dramas. Oftentimes, they got the lead film actors to reprise their roles for the radio, like  Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster in Sorry, Wrong Number, or Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One NightOther times, different stars would perform the radio play. Some of these would seem to be kind of random casting choices based on who was available, but other choices would lead to alternate takes on film performances, like Edward G. Robinson starring in The Maltese Falcon in place of Humphrey Bogart.

Originally, Lux Radio Theatre was based in New York and adapted Broadway stage plays.  Eighty-two weeks were done this way (only one of these is in circulation). Starting in 1936 and continuing on for nineteen years, Lux was the premier source of Hollywood film adaptations, and the majority of these episodes are in circulation. It’s a great series to listen to if you want to experience a radio take on a favorite film, listen to a radio version of a film that you can’t find on home video, or maybe get a feel for what a film is like before deciding to watch it. It’s a great audio treasure trove direct from classic Hollywood.

Mercury Radio Theatre/Campbell’s Playhouse

The Mercury Radio Theatre is perhaps the best-known of all time Old Time Radio programs, but it’s not really well-understood. The Mercury Theatre is remembered for its historic Halloween Broadcast of The War of the Worlds that led many Americans to believe the Martians were invading, causing a national panic. It’s been the subject of TV specials, and YouTube videos. Everyone knows The Mercury Theatre.

Or everyone knows about that one episode. But The Mercury Theatre was more than that. It ran for nearly two years. It was network-sponsored as The Mercury Theatre, but landed Campbell’s Soup as its sponsor and became The Campbell’s Playhouse. During its nearly two years, it adapted great stories to radio in ways that were fresh and innovative. Orson Welles starred in most productions and maintained creative control throughout the series run, which told stories of classic literature, and then went into more modern works by authors such as Noel Coward and Eugene O’Neil. Welles was supported regularly by talented performers such as Ray Collins, Alice Faye, and Agnes Moorhead, in stories ranging from The Pickwick Papers to Private Lives.

While it lasted less than two years, it left a definite impact on radio, and stands out as the crown jewel of Welles’ radio career.


During its twenty years on and off the air, Suspense was a lot of things. The series motto was that it served up, “Tales well-calculated to keep you in…Suspense”. The series had several show-runners, and each took it in his own direction. The series’s popularity led to sponsorships from Roma Wines and later Auto Lite, which allowed it to command the top talent in Hollywood, including stars like Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Edward G. Robinson, and Anne Baxter. Radio fixtures in light comedy like Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Ozzie and Harriet could appear in dramatic roles that saw them playing more serious but good characters, or going totally against type.

While much of the series output could be viewed in the mystery genre, a lot of Suspense falls into categories like true crime, westerns, science fiction, and adventure. Under show-runner Elliot Lewis, Suspense featured a two-part adaptation of Othello. The series is probably best known for it original play, “Sorry, Wrong Number,” starring Agnes Moorhead in a one-woman show about a woman who overhears two men planning a murder on the phone. The play was performed eight times on Suspense and Welles called it, “The greatest single radio play ever written.”

The series marked the times of network radio, beginning as a sustained program in New York, going to Hollywood and becoming a star-studded showcase, then as advertising revenue for radio dropped, the series began to rely on Hollywood character actors before the series returned to New York. Its final episode (along with Yours Truly Johnny Dollar) marked the end of The Golden Age of Radio.

Currently, there’s an ongoing blog called The Suspense Project, which has detailed daily regular blog posts on each episode of Suspense and includes links to the best available versions of each episode, as well as detailed information on stars and stories. It’s well worth reading and following for fans of the series.


Escape was another CBS anthology series that ran from 1947-54. It’s an anthology that has gotten less respect than Suspense. It bounced around the schedule and most often didn’t have a sponsor. Nevertheless, it earned itself a place in the hearts of Golden Age of Radio listeners.  Like many great programs, it developed a memorable opening line: “Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you … ESCAPE!”

What would follow is a story of adventure. As with Suspsense, the sort of stories told ran the gamut from mysteries to science fiction and tales of horror and magic. The series tended not to feature the sort of huge stars that appeared on Suspense, but this allowed lesser-known actors and comers like Jack Webb and Edmond O’Brien to take on big roles over the radio and show what they could do, often with surprising results. Escape has several episodes that are well-beloved and were performed multiple times both on Escape and on Suspense, such as, “A Shipment of Mute Fate,” “Three Skeleton Key,” and “Leiningen Versus the Ants”

Next week: Horror and Science Fiction Anthology Programs