Erle Stanley Gardner was the creator of some of the popular mystery stories of his era. Yet, his best work is not well represented in radio. Perry Mason came to radio as a five-minute daily serial with soap operatic undertones. While the show has some fans, there are no complete story lines in circulation. Gardner also created the character of Christopher London. While the series was good, it only lasted 19 episodes, until star Glenn Ford moved on to pictures.
However, the forgotten, underrated Erle Stanley Gardener radio work A Life in Your Hands remains a diamond in the rough. It was a summer replacement for NBC in four different seasons with three different actors playing the lead role. Still, the series had an intriguing concept.
In many ways, it was a legal fantasy. Jonathan Kegg, a wealthy lawyer who was allowed to enter cases as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. He would enter the courtroom representing neither prosecution nor defense and would cross-examine witnesses in order to determine what really happened. He’d never take a fee and never had a client other than truth.
While Gardner didn’t write the scripts, it reflected his high ideals. In real life, he and some colleagues worked for The Court of Last Resort, which would come to the aid of people who they believed may have been wrongfully accused. They would use all of their resources to uncover injustices, and if they found new evidence to suggest innocence, they’d fight to clear the innocent. A TV series was made based on their exploits.
The show encouraged its listeners to be alert, and brought home the point that delivering accurate testimony was vital to the American legal system.
Over four summers, A Life in Your Hands was an interesting, stimulating, and educational mystery program that’s well worth listening to for radio fans today.
Carlton Kadell (1904-75): Kadell was a well-known radio actor and announcer. He played Tarzan in the 1935 serial, The Diamonds of Asher. He was perhaps best known as an announcer, spending nearly a decade on the Amos ‘N Andy program.
- The Final Curtain Call (Original Air Date: June 7, 1949)
- The Rooming House Murder (Original Air Date: September 13, 1949)
- Carol Carson Murder (Original Air Date: May 25, 1950)
- The Arson Case (Original Air Date: July 18, 1950)
- Carl Fortune (Original Air Date: July 25, 1950)
- Judge Cook Murdered (Original Air Date: August 29, 1950)
- Gangster Murder (Original Air Date: July 10, 1952)
- Truck Engine Murder (Original Air Date: July 17, 1952)
- The Randall Marsden Murder (Original Air Date: July 24, 1952)
- Murder in the Eye Doctor’s Office (Original Air Date: August 7, 1952)
- Captain Mendosa’s Treasure (Rehearsal of Show that Aired August 14, 1952)
- Professor Allenby Murdered (Rehearsal of Show that Aired August 21, 1952)
- Alderman Murdered (Original Air Date: August 28, 1952)
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