Friday, January 27, 2012

MAVERICK: "The Third Rider"

Maverick has always been a favorite of cowboy fans, especially for those who believe James Garner was the only true Maverick, regardless of the others that followed. Regardless of what most reference books and web-sites claim, the rumor claims Jack Kelly's role as Bart Maverick was originally supposed to be just a one-shot deal. However, the producers saw the chemistry he had with James Garner, and decided to keep him on as a series regular. This however, in inaccurate. From the first day Roy Huggins created Maverick, he wanted two Mavericks in the series -- it gave the series something fresh and original. After all, the television viewers would not come to expect same thing every week. Huggins did the same for another of his television series, 77 Sunset Strip: sometimes only one cast member was the star, others were paired and on a number occasions, the entire detective team was in full force.

For the first season, James Garner played Bret Maverick in the majority of the stories. On July 29 and August 6, 1957, before the series went went before the camera, the studio had produced screen tests with the intention of hiring someone to play the role of Bart Maverick, Bret's brother. In the screen tests, James Garner played the role of Bret Maverick and Don Durant as Bart Maverick. (Rod Taylor also played the role of Bart Maverick for the August 6, 1957 screen tests.) Les Martinson was the director. Jack Kelly ended up getting the role, not Durant or Taylor.

Actor Jack Kelly
In September of 1957, it was Jack Kelly (not James Garner) who was filmed for a promotional film for Kaiser Motors, the sponsor of the television series. Many years later, when Jack Kelly ran for mayor of Huntington Beach, California, he used the slogan: "Let Maverick solve your problems!"

I asked a friend (Bill Wright) what his favorite Jack Kelly episode was and he chose "The Third Rider," from the first season, in which Bart Maverick must clear his name of a murder charge, and smooth-talking every approach just doesn't work. As my gift to Bill, here are some details (including a blooper) that won't be found in any reference book.

And in case anyone is wondering where this information came from, stay tuned for a Christmas 2012 surprise!

Episode #15, “THE THIRD RIDER”
Production #6375
Filming Locations: The Jungle, Stage 19, Stage 23, Stage 24 and the Western Street
Total Production Cost: $54,484
Dates of Production: November 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 18, 1957
Initial Telecast: January 5, 1958
Cast: William Boyett (Deputy Collins, un-credited); Fred Coby (train passenger #2 and man in saloon, un-credited); Robert Contreras (Jose, un-credited); Michael Dante (Turk Mason); Frank Faylen (Red Harrison); Dick Foran (Sheriff Edwards); James Garner (Bret Maverick, un-credited); Charles Kane (the conductor, un-credited); Jack Kelly (Bart Maverick, un-credited); Morris Lippert (Jimmy Ellis, un-credited); Dennis McCarthy (train passenger #1, un-credited); Tom Monroe (train passenger #1 and man in saloon, un-credited); Barbara Nichols (Blanche); Felice Richmond (the female passenger, un-credited); Kasey Rogers (Dolly); and Dan White (the cowboy outside the blacksmith shop).
Script/Story: Teleplay by George Slavin.
Directed by Franklin Adreon.
Plot: A pair of fleeing bank-robbers from Elm City overtake Bart Maverick on the trail just as the pursuing posse shows up. A rifle-shot kills one of the robbers. The second, Red Harrison, rides off and escapes. The posse, led by Sheriff Edwards, arrests Maverick, mistaking him as one of the gang. The Sheriff admits there is insufficient evidence against Maverick, and strikes a bargain with his jail bird: if he will help hunt down Red, they’ll split the reward. Maverick agrees, only to discover the whereabouts of Red and the third member of the gang, Turk Mason. Tied to a bed in Turk’s cabin, Bart convinces Blanche, Turk’s girlfriend, to let him go. Following a trail that might lead to the stolen loot, Bart meets up again with Red and his girlfriend, Dolly, and Turk shoots Red. Sheriff Edwards shows up and suspects Bart tricked him, until Turk accidentally shows his hand.

Music Cues
Vignette (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :14 and :15);  Maverick (by David Buttolph, :17); Fanfare (by Mac Gregor, :05);  Maverick (by David Buttolph, :34);  Anita’s Woes (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter,:12);  Ready Now (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :12);  Footprints In The Sand (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :12);  Raven’s Dirge (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, : 12); Be True (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:05); Fight On (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :46); Interlude (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :26);  Bart’s Advice (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :50);  Subway Caverns(by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:00); Untamed (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:27); Watch That Man (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :14);  Funny Story (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :24 and :11); Wah Wah (Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :07);  Maverick (by David Buttolph, :05 and :07); Drackola (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1 :11) ; Waltz Time (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :46);  Poisoned Dart (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, : 16); Geri’s Woes (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter,  :55);  Bart’s Mistake (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:06);  Interlude (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :10);  Dark Clouds (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :09); Sad Affair (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter,:50); Who’s There? (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :06); Poisoned Dart (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :07); Maverick (by David Buttolph, :05 and :05); Echoes (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:46); The Skeleton (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :24); Interlude (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :15 and :15); Dark Night (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:58); He Likes It (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:58); Svengali (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, 1:58);  The Refuge (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :15); Maverick (by David Buttolph, :21); Meadow Lark (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :41);  Interlude (by Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter, :46);  Maverick (by David Buttolph, 1:10); and Fanfare (by Mac Gregor, :05).

Production Credits
Produced by Roy Huggins
Director of Photography: Harold Stine, a.s.c.
Art Director: Howard Campbell
Supervising Film Editor: James Moore
Film Editors: Elbert K. Hollingsworth
Production Manager: Oren W. Haglund
Sound: Stanley Jones
Set Decorator: Ralph S. Hurst
Makeup Supervisor: Gordon Bau, s.m.a.
Assistant Director: Rusty Meek
Executive Producer: William T. Orr

Production Credits (un-credited)
Best Boy: Harold Sherman
Grip: Weldon Gilbert
Set Dresser: Frank Miller
Prop Man: John Moore
Mixer: Stanley Jones
Wardrobe: Claude Barie
Hairdresser: Ann Saunders
Makeup: Jack O’Bringer

Actor James Garner
When Bart Maverick leaps from the baggage car, he's wearing a different suit and hat than the stunt double (tho it’s possible the stunt double was nothing more than stock footage from a different movie). Either way, the editors hoped the television audience would not notice the difference in such a short time.

Barbara Nichols, whose last role at Warner Bros. was in The Pajama Game, agreed to play this role if she would not be involved in much physical labor. As it turns out, it was her first appearance in a Warner Bros. television drama and her first acting chore since being seriously injured in an automobile accident in New York last summer.

James Garner is not credited on screen but still appears in this episode in the opening narration.

The blacksmith sign hanging outside the horse shop is the same featured in the previous episode (the scene where Ruta Lee and James Garner are escorted into a building so the hired gun can shoot them).

Special thanks to Steven Thompson (who writes the BookSteve Rarities blog).

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Shadow of Fu Manchu

“The chimes of old Big Ben, London’s historic clock, ring out.  A sharp rap on a door is heard.  The door creaks and warns of a stealthy entrance.  A girl gasps and piercingly screams.  A shot is fired.  The Yellow Peril Incarnate laughs terrifyingly and sends shivers through millions of listeners from coast to coast.  Dr. Fu Manchu, Mastermind of Crime, is on the air!” 

Boris Karloff in The Mask of Fu Manchu (a great movie, I might add)

Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in the novel The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1913). This was the first of a series of extreme racial stereotype of “Yellow Peril” sub-genre and Fu-Manchu was the most popular character to come from it. Often imitated, this series of adventures never made it to the top of the popularity charts, but today, fans of Fu Manchu can never get enough of him. Like The Saint novels, they are enjoyable reads and offer escapism in the blood 'n' thunder mold. Fu Manchu's exploits were many, but documentation about the radio series has been cursory at best. Fu Manchu has been brought to radio in a number of incarnations.

Version #1
The first was The Collier Hour, broadcast over the NBC Blue Network starting in 1927. Designed to boost magazine circulations, this hour-long program was divided into segments, each dramatizing a story or serial installment from the current issue of Collier’s. The segments were introduced by a host called The Editor, portrayed through the years by John B. Kennedy, Phil Barrison, and Jack Arthur. Malcolm LaPrade created and produced the series; his brother Ernest LaPrade supplied the music scores. Directed by Colonel Davis, this series was a mere amateur performance, with music and sound effects improvised during rehearsals. Three separate serials were dramatized, based on those that appeared in Collier’s:
“The Day the World Ended” (12 installments, May 1, 1929 to July 17, 1929)
“Daughter of Fu Manchu” (12 installments, March 9, 1930 to May 25, 1930)
“Yu’an Hee See Laughs” (12 installments, March 1, 1931 to May 17, 1931)
Arthur Hughes played the role of Fu Manchu (and also doubled as host “The Editor” for a majority of these broadcasts). For the first year, The Collier Hour was broadcast on Wednesday evenings preceding publication of the magazine. Beginning in 1928, the program was broadcast on Sunday evenings following publication. According to the files at NBC, Sax Rohmer appeared in person on the broadcast of March 1, 1931, for the premiere broadcast of “Yu’an Hee See Laughs.” It’s been suggested that “The Emperor of America” was another 12-chapter serial, broadcast circa 1927-28, but no information has been found to confirm it. The Collier Hour originated from New York radio stations and was heard only on the East Coast. Luckless listeners on the West Coast never had a chance to hear the first radio adventures of Fu Manchu.
It should also be noted that the first three Fu Manchu novels written by Sax Rohmer, were actually compilations of twenty-nine short stories that Rohmer wrote for Collier’s magazine.
Version #2
By far the most ambitious Rohmer adaptation was the second of the four series, this time recorded in the WBBM studios, and broadcast over the CBS Chicago affiliate, WGN. On Thursday, September 15, 1932, Sax Rohmer and his wife Elizabeth sailed from Southampton, bound for the Big Apple. On Wednesday, September 21, the White Star line Majestic arrived in New York port. Mr. and Mrs. Rohmer stayed at the Ritz for a few days, and went sightseeing till Sunday the 25th, when Rohmer made one of his rare radio appearances for a fifteen-minute interview with CBS writer Steve Trumbull. The purpose of the interview was to publicize the new radio series, again heard only on the East Coast. Within weeks, the program brought hundreds of positive letters to CBS, and a nationwide hookup was established so that certain stations on the West Coast could carry the program.
“I am deeply interested in radio and the dramatic technique,” Rohmer commented, “which has been enormously developed on your [the American] side.” Rohmer claimed crime was on the increase in England and attributed it largely to the influence of American crime (courtesy of newspapers and motion pictures) and the fact that some American criminals had transferred their activity to London. He believed that Scotland Yard was capable enough when dealing with ordinary crimes, but frequently ineffective when faced with organized gangs.
On Monday, September 26, Fu Manchu Mysteries premiered on CBS radio, nationwide. Instead of a serial, the show presented a single 30-minute adventure. The opening episode, an adaptation of Rohmer’s "The Zyatt Kiss," varied slightly from the rest of the series, the drama lasting only 20 minutes instead of the customary 25. Introductory remarks and commercial credits usually took up the remaining five minutes, but the premiere instead featured a talk by Sax Rohmer.(Sadly, both this series with John C. Daly and The Collier Hour are not known to exist in recorded form.)
Unlike the other Fu Manchu series, this one went all out for preparation and performances. The actors had to dress in full costume, and instead of the performance being acted out in a small sound studio, it was performed on stage before a live audience, recorded, and later broadcast via transcription disc. "Sound effects were as authentic as possible," according to a press release. The solemn note of Big Ben and the background traffic noises of the Thames embankment were as true as could be, since they were actual recordings specially made and imported from England. G. Fred Ibbett, director of radio for the McCann-Erickson Company, and in charge of the production, would have nothing but exact sound effects. He knew his native London, having been an engineer for the BBC previous to his service with NBC and CBS. When Nate Caldwell, with an option on the radio rights to Rohmer’s mystery in his pocket, convinced Mr. Ibbett that Fu Manchu was a natural, the radio director readily agreed. Ibbett convinced the Campana Company to sponsor the dramas, and began a diligent search for the right actors and actresses to make Rohmer’s characters spring realistically to life.

Movie poster from 1932
Most of the characters were British, with a wide variety of types required, and the problem of finding them in Chicago was a hard one to solve. “From all corners of the world (if you can believe a 1932 CBS press release), even far off china itself, the cast was drawn.” John C. Daly (as Dr. Fu Manchu) spoke French, Chinese, Arabian, and Hindustani. (Note: This was fairly common for many radio actors, as Virginia Gregg, during the forties and fifties, doubled as old English ladies and young Chinese women in many radio westerns.) Charles Warburton, one of the first to bring Shakespeare to radio (as Shylock), would play the role of Nayland Smith, the Devil Doctor’s nemesis. A few years later, Warburton returned to the New York radio studios to star in 35 big dramatic programs, among them Eno Crime Club, Sherlock Holmes and K-7: Secret Service Spy Story.* 
* (footnote) Oddly enough, although Warburton was signed to play roles in these shows, one Sherlock Holmes radio expert insists that Warburton did not act in any Holmes radio plays, but with so many radio incarnations of the Holmes character, and so little recordings existing in recorded form (compared to the thousands broadcast), it still remains a possibility that Warburton did play the role.
Bob White, who played Smith’s “Watson,” Dr. Petrie, was born in England and experienced on the stage. Betty, his wife, was an experienced radio actress specializing in juvenile parts, and took an un-billed role in a couple of the Fu Manchu episodes. When not excelling as Petrie, White headed his own successful radio-producing company.
Many hours were spent daily during the week preceding the Monday night broadcast, which took but 30 minutes air time. There was no music for the production. Ibbett explained that “The chance of irritating the listener, instead of creating a mood fitting the play, is too great. I prefer to omit music which might distract from the setting.” The actors performed their roles in costume, so that fans could attend the stage performances and be thrilled by the spectacle of the Oriental settings. During the early productions, Ibbett drafted plans for the scenery and lighting effects, for the purpose of allowing the audience attending the “horror chambers” of the criminal mastermind.
Part way through the series, John C. Daly, (not, by the way, the John Charles Daly of television’s What's My Line? fame) was replaced by Harold Huber, and Sundra Love were replaced by Charles Manson. In the thirties, Huber became a popular character player for Warner Bros., as well as a radio actor. He is known to Charlie Chan fans for playing police inspectors of various nationalities in the 20th Century Fox Chan film series. Huber also wrote radio scripts for Suspense in 1943 and 1944. Sponsored by Campana Balm. Helen Earle and Urban Johnson supplied the sound effects.
Fu Manchu Mysteries ran for a total of 31 half-hour programs, heard Monday evenings at 8:45 p.m.  It lasted until April 24, 1933.
Version #3
During the thirties, the pirate commercial radio programs transmitted from the European continent had vast English audiences. By law, the British Broadcasting Corporation had a complete monopoly on radio transmission within Britain, and was charged by its license holders, and by the British Parliament, with the task of providing radio entertainment for all tastes. Commercial radio, banned in Britain and able to operate only from transmitters on the Continent, capitalized on this situation. With the financial backing of sponsors such as Ponds, Colgate-Palmolive, and other large firms, the pirate stations attracted quality writers and performers to provide showcases for their talents, which the BBC could not match. From the inception of their transmissions until they were closed down in the late thirties, the pirate IBC stations in Luxembourg, Normandy, Lyons and Toulouse offered a continuous flow of high-quality entertainment. In 1936, Radio Luxembourg decided to feature a series of mystery adventures built around a single character. This series would originally be written and supervised by Sax Rohmer himself.
“Sax himself wrote the scripts during the first half of the series,” Rohmer biographer Cay Van Ash recalled. “When the series continued beyond his original expectations, he found it too great an imposition on his time. He continued to write some of the scripts, but others were written either by Elizabeth or myself. I came in on only the last six months or so of the project. I had first met Sax in November 1935, and he had had my education in hand for just over a year. Whether the draft scripts were written by Elizabeth or by me, they were carefully edited afterwards by Sax, for which reason I described the series in Master of Villainy as the most faithful version broadcast. The adaptation was not a very difficult job.  I don’t recall that any particular selection of episodes was made. As I remember it, we just went straight through the books in their natural sequence. The dialogue did not require changing very much. On the other hand, we did our utmost to avoid narration and to translate action directly into dialogue or sound. This often required additional material, and I think we also used a great many more sound effects than there were in the American Shadow of Fu Manchu radio series.”
Frank Cochrane, who played the Luxembourg-broadcast Fu Manchu, was a distinguished stage actor and eminently suited to play the part. He had lived for many years in China, studying the native habits and mental makeup. He had also played numerous Chinese roles on the stage. (Cochrane had won acclaim for the part of The Cobbler in the long-running show, Chu-Chin-Chow.)
“Fu Manchu,” Cochrane said in a 1937 interview, “has a definite personality and a definite purpose. He is a keen wit and possesses a quick Oriental brain. He is a demon for power and wants to mold the world to his way of direction and thinking. The adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu are full of unlikely happenings, which have been so well treated that they convince the listener as being highly probable. Before settling down to listen, I suggest you turn out the lights in the room the moment you hear the gong, and take your mind into serious channels. This will help you enormously to catch the illusion.”
All of the IBC recordings were produced in London. There were no live broadcasts. It’s believed that Rohmer and the crew recorded the shows at a disused theater. The leading light in the operation was producer Eddie Pola, who also took part as an actor in some episodes. There was actually a plan to follow up the 52 Fu Manchu broadcasts with a series adapted from Rohmer’s The Quest of the Sacred Slipper (1919), Cay Van Ash distinctly remembering having written the first two episodes. However, the BBC exerted legal pressure to close down the rival operation, and thus ended the Fu Manchu broadcasts.
D.A. Clarke-Smith, a well-known stage actor who had appeared in Rohmer’s stage plays The Eye of Siva and Secret Egypt, played the role of Nayland Smith. “I’m getting hardened to it now, but the nerve strain is still almost unbelievable,” commented Clarke-Smith, as the atmosphere in the studio grew more intense with each passing moment. “I have to talk so fast, six or seven prop men are grouped round another mike, to provide the dramatic effects. And, when I’m supposed to be swimming for my life in a swirling river, I have to try to forget that at the other mike a man is vigorously shaking a half-filled hot-water bottle.”
The program’s producer, swift-thinking Eddie Pola, rehearsed three radio installments in the space of two hours. “Funniest thing, rehearsing one dramatic scene,” recalled Eddie, “was when we came to the line, ‘Shoot the man at the window.’ The effects man fired the gun, but it just didn’t go off. Again we repeated, ‘Shoot the man at the window.’ Again the gun refused to function. We tried again. ‘Shoot the man at the window!’ But still the gun was silent. ‘Oh, cut his throat,’ I said. And at that moment, the gun went off and nearly blew me out of my skin!”
“There is only one female role in Dr. Fu Manchu,” Frank Cochrane said. “This is the part of the heroine. The girl who takes this character, Karameneh, is Rani Walker. She’s brilliant! There is a good cast in these programs, all exceptionally good actors, and with Rani in the only female role – who, as I have said, is excellent. It is a well-balanced cast.”
The supporting cast who performed the incidental character parts included Arthur Young, Mervyn Johns (father of actress Glynis Johns), and Vernon Kelso. As was common in radio drama, the actors often took several parts in the same episode and program, and sometimes switched roles whenever necessary. For example, in episode 43, Arthur Young portrayed Dr. Fu Manchu, Inspector Weymouth, and Sir Frank Narcombe, while Vernon Kelso took on three other parts.
With the completion of the Fu Manchu series, Cochrane and Clarke-Smith were rated such a successful team that they were featured in another long-running series of radio plays, this time concerning Inspector Brooks of Scotland Yard. Clarke-Smith played the Inspector, while Cochrane played the – perhaps inevitably – Chinese villain, La Sante.
Version #4
In 1939, a lengthier Fu Manchu program was produced, probably the most popular of them all because so many episodes exist in collector circles. This was a series of 156, fifteen-minute episodes, under the overall title of The Shadow of Fu Manchu. The series was recorded, transcribed, and released through Fields Brothers in Hollywood. After the recordings were completed, all 156 episodes were pressed and copied onto transcription discs, and distributed to radio stations across the country. This allowed the stations to play the episodes in any time slot they wanted. Some presented the series on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while others broadcast on all five weekdays.
Ted Osborne played Dr. Fu Manchu, with Hanley Stafford as Nayland Smith, Gale Gordon as Dr. James Petrie, Paula Winslowe as Karameneh, and Edmund O’Brien as Inspector Rymer. It has not been confirmed whether O’Brien or Gerald Mohr was the announcer. (It was common for radio announcers to double in an acting role, which would give credence to the claim that it was O’Brien, but until someone turns up a recorded interview with either actor providing that information, or can find the original scripts with cast credits included, neither name should be taken as the gospel.) It should also be added that a lot of people would swear O'Brien was the announcer, others swear it is Mohr. Without archival documents to prove who it is, the announcer still remains a mystery. Frank Nelson and Norman Fields played supporting roles.
Sample of Archival Documents as described above.
40 episodes from The Shadow of Fu Manchu have definitely been floating about in circulation among collectors for decades, 39 of them were from the first serial. The single out-of-sequence episode that has been in circulation was not (as many people have assumed), episode number forty.  In fact, from observation, and narrowing down possibilities (and applying a little common sense), I suspect that the out-of-sequence episode many people label as episode #40 is either episode #136, 137, 138, 139, 140 or 141.
The adaptations was quite faithful to the original books, though in the middle of the series the episodes occur in somewhat jumbled order.  From what is known so far:
Episodes #1 to #21, for example, is an adaptation from The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (1913)
Episodes #22 to #27 from The Hand of Fu Manchu (1917)
Episodes #28 to #39 from The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1916)
Episodes #40 to #78 from Trail of Fu Manchu (1934) and President of Fu Manchu (1936)
Episodes #79 to #94 from Daughter of Fu Manchu (1931)
Episodes #99 to #117 from Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
Episodes #118 to #135 from Drums of Fu Manchu (1939)
Episodes #142 to 156 from Bride of Fu Manchu (1933)

Many sources wrongly list the 1939-40 Fu Manchu series as a 77 or 78 episode broadcast run. Truth is that 156 were actually recorded and aired. Four separate serials were recorded, each 39 episodes in length, each composed of more than one Sax Rohmer story. Each serial ran 39 consecutive installments. It’s been rumored for the past decade that selected discs from the other three serials, episodes #40 to #156, are in existence, but not yet released in circulation, being held on to by a profiteering collector in Niles, Ohio. In 2001, I personally tracked down and made contact with the collector, who verified over the phone that he had come across a huge stack of 16-inch transcription discs and, among them, were many of the episodes from the third and fourth serials of The Shadow of Fu Manchu. Neither serial is complete. Sixteen of the thirty-nine episodes are missing from the third serial, and fifteen of the thirty-nine episodes from the fourth and last serial, which means there are still more to be discovered elsewhere.

There were a number of collector items produced to promote this series. The photo above is a 1.25" button featuring the character of Fu Manchu, created by Sax Rohmer. The button was a premium designed to promote the 1939 thrice-weekly broadcast based on Rohmer’s novels. Gale Gordon was Dr. James Petrie and Bruno Lang was Fu Manchu. Three years earlier they were, respectively, radio’s Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless. According to one price guide, the price varies from $75 to $200, depending on the condition.
For more information about this particular series, check out Ray Stanich's write-up of "Radio Fu Manchu" in  The Rohmer Review, issue 12. This out-of-print fanzine is available through major book outlets and collectors.
Version #5
The fourth and final Fu Manchu broadcast was a one-time presentation. The Molle Mystery Theatre was an anthology series, aired over a decade under different titles. The program featured the best in mystery and detective stories, all adaptations of short stories, stage plays and novels by such stalwarts as Raymond Chandler, Jack London, W.W. Jacobs, Rufus King, and Craig Rice. On the evening of Tuesday, October 3, 1944, from 9 to 9:30 p.m., EST, the 1913 novel, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, was dramatized and originated from NBC studios in New York. The program was narrated by Roc Rogers and selected by Geoffrey Barnes (the on-the-air pseudonym of Bernard Lenrow, who had recently played Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, in a series that ended in June of 1943). Jack Miller supplied the music.  
Newspapers of the times reported The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu planned for broadcast on August 22, 1944, but it's a known fact that newspapers only listed what was "planned" and not verified as broadcast. No true researcher uses newspapers as a means of compiling broadcast logs (I have yet to meet a college professor or university scholar or published author who claims they uses newspapers as a source for logs), and verifying both the NBC files and the actual scripts as they were registered for copyrighted at the Library of Congress proves that "The Case of the Talking Pills" was broadcast on August 22, and the Fu Manchu story was truly broadcast on October 3.
Version #??
According to Gordon Payton (a.k.a. “The Sci-Fi Guy”), in 1945, Sax Rohmer wrote a series of eight radio plays for the BBC. Fu Manchu was a bit too politically incorrect for the BBC, in light of England’s large Asian population, and they liked to avoid criticism from any quarter, so Sax created for them a character named Sumuru, who, in effect, was a female Fu Manchu. Described as “a glamorous witch of totally untraceable nationality, heading an international crime organization which employed strange and bizarre devices.” This series aired from December 30, 1945 to February 17, 1946. No copies survive, but Rohmer later wrote a series of five books based on his BBC plays.
Closing notes: Most of this article originally appeared in the thirty-ninth issue of Scarlet Street Magazine, © 2000. Reprinted with permission and courtesy of the editors of Scarlet Street, and the author. Since the article’s initial printing, the discs described above, held by a collector in Ohio, had been purchased and released on audio cassette and CD by Ted Davenport, who paid the collector his very large ransom. Thanks to Ted, these shows are currently available through RADIO MEMORIES (and your support in purchasing these from RADIO MEMORIES will help reimburse Ted for his generosity). After all, if you spent $1,000 out of your pocket for the discs, then paid additional expense to have them transferred to CD, wouldn't you want people to buy your CD sets rather than download them for free?

Friday, January 13, 2012

For Film Buffs of Syracuse: Cinefest

The Genesis of the Syracuse Cinephile Society itself is somewhat obscured in the mists of yore, but according to John Weber, sometime in the spring of 1967 Phil Serling was talking with Sam Goldsman, an old friend who had a passion for silent film. Sam often told anyone who would listen that as far as movies went 'My mind is a blank after 1927.' Sam didn’t care for most modern films, and was an admirer of Douglas Fairbanks, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, and John Barrymore. He suggested to Phil that a society of like-minded individuals might prove to be a sustainable venture. Phil was intrigued, and ultimately he and Sam pooled their resources and rented a silent film and a projector from an agency. They secured the back room of the old Regent restaurant next door to the Regent Theatre on East Genesee Street. A small crowd turned up for the event, and at show time, Phil said 'Okay, Sam' and Sam said 'Okay, Phil.' Then 'All set?' 'Yep.'   'Let’s roll.' 'Okay.'  This went on for about a full minute until they both realized that neither of them knew how to either thread or run a 16mm projector! It could have been a complete and utter disaster, but one of the attendees, Herb Kantor, saved the day. After the screening, Phil always maintained that the last he saw of Sam that evening, Sam was running down Genesee Street yelling 'You’re on your own!' Such were the auspicious seeds of the Syracuse Cinephile Society.” The Syracuse Cinephile became a going concern, at first monthly, and later going weekly when both interest and attendance bloomed. Sam Goldsman, who passed away in the spring of 2009, continued to be a stalwart supporter of the Society, and an ardent advocate of Cinefest. 

As to Cinefest, it all began circa 1980 during one of the regular Monday evening Syracuse Cinephile Society screenings at the Civic Center,” John continued. Whilst the patrons were enjoying the feature presentation, a small coterie was in the lobby having an earnest discussion. The conspirators were: Phil Serling, president of Syracuse Cinephile and general mover-and-shaker in many local arts organizations; Bob Oliver, booking manager for the Civic Center; George Read, projectionist; Russ Thomas, public relations coordinator; and John Weber, general nuisance. The 'Boys (and Girls) From Syracuse' had recently successfully hosted Cinecon, the annual convention for the national Society for Cinephiles, on the 1978 Labor Day weekend. Phil wondered about the feasibility of holding a regional film convention on a regular basis. We were all amenable to the idea and all thought that if we could get about 50 to 75 attendees it could make for a most pleasant and diverting weekend. First, however, we would have to have a name. Various suggestions were floated about until Bob Oliver suggested 'Cinefest.' Certainly brief, unpretentious and to the point. Next came the all-agonizing decision about when to hold the festivities. If anyone needs to kick someone in Syracuse about gathering in March, you may direct your pedal extremities in the direction of my tail feathers. My rationale was that we shouldn’t assemble in the late spring as that would be cutting into the time frame of Cinevent in Columbus, summer would be disastrous as that is the heavy vacation season when most families are traveling, at the beach, or simply enjoying the good weather, and Labor Day weekend is the bailiwick of the Cinecon.

Cinefest 1 kicked off at 1 p.m. on Friday March 13, 1981, with a screening of John Ford’s 1935 classic Steamboat Round the Bend, starring Will Rogers. They hoped to attract around 75 attendees and to their amazement, over 200 guests turned up. That number more than doubled over time and since then, Cinefest has offered cinephiles an opportunity to sit in a dark room and watch old movies.

Colleen Moore
In the second year, cinephiles were graced with the presence of one of the great stars of the silent and early sound era, Colleen Moore. She was petite and pert, with a vigor that belied her 81 years,” John recalled. She held a superb Q&A session at the Civic Center, after a screening of her 1926 film Irene. Three more of her films were run that weekend, Twinkletoes (1926), Success at any Price (1934), and Orchids and Ermine (1927). Perhaps my most vivid memory of Miss Moore is an incident which occurred on the one-block walk from the hotel to the Civic Center. The weather was turbulent that particular weekend, and the wind was exceptionally tempestuous. One fully expected to see a small girl in a gingham dress running across the way screaming 'Auntie Em! Auntie Em!' Just as our group was about to cross the street to the Civic Center entrance, a ferocious gust wailed against us and I heard Colleen yell 'I can’t move!' Indeed, the gale force blast was so intense that she could barely keep standing. Ted Larson and Rusty Casselton quickly went on either side of her, proceeded to pick her up, and carried her across the street. It just doesn’t get any more adventurous than that (at least by Cinefest standards).
"Any film that we screen at Cinefest is considered 'rare and special,' and the rarity is our main criteria for booking film titles," explained Gerry Orlando. "Some other conventions/festivals show a combination of rare and more common titles, but Cinefest will only show rare, long-unseen titles. Many times we have plans to screen something in March, but if it shows up on TCM or on commercially-released, studio-authorized DVD before then, it's scratched off the list.... usually painfully."

The convention has seen outstanding film presentations over the years; titles that have not been seen since their original release and on occasion, they were able to secure the sole surviving prints, such as the 1933 Fox production of Face in the Sky with Spencer Tracy; prints that existed in abbreviated form but had been restored to their original length, as with the 1925 classic The Lost World; and films that actually had their American premières, such as Jean Renoir’s 1924 French classic Catherine, or A Joyless Life. Films originate from film archives such as the Library of Congress, the George Eastman House, Brigham Young University, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the American Film Institute, the British Film Institute, Cinémathèque Luxembourg, NYU Film School, the Walt Disney Organization, Turner Entertainment, the Vitaphone Project; the personal collections of such film archivists as William K. Everson, Herb Graff, James Card, Richard Gordon, Alex Gordon, Kevin Brownlow, Ted Larson, Rusty Casselton and David Shepard. John Weber also offered special acknowledgment to the late Mr. Gene Autry, who provided new prints of his films for the Saturday afternoon enjoyment for many years.

As the author of Information, Please, I found it quite pleasing to view the RKO film shorts of the same name, which were screened in 2010 and 2011. Based on the popular radio program of the same name, the quiz program remained popular to this day. The one from 1940 with Boris Karloff featured a packed house and standing-room-only.

In 2000, the long-lost Keaton/Arbuckle short, Oh, Doctor! was screened. Roscoe is a doctor who falls in love with a pretty woman whose boyfriend, in turn, falls in love with Roscoe's wife's jewelry. Fans of the recent 3-D revival might be surprised to find the 1921 Anatlyp Test of interest, since it is historically known as the first 3-D test film. Attendees were given the rare treat of viewing this bit of celluloid history on the big screen. In 2001, the 2-Strip Technicolor test of Mary Pickford from 1926 was screened, followed by Scarlet Letter (1913), an early Kinemacolor film recently restored. In 2006, the uncut version of Silver Spurs was presented for all the cowboy fans. Sadly, that movie has never been available uncut on the home viewing market and thousands of Roy Rogers fans who attend Western Film Festivals still wish the owner of that print arrange for a DVD transfer. Only attendees at Cinefest was able to watch what is considered by Western fans as one of the Holy Grails of Roy Rogers movies.

"Something that we have started over the past couple of years, and which may be of interest is having 'East Coast Premieres' of recently-restored films," remarked Orlando. "Last year we had The Story of Temple Drake (1933), and this year we'll have another big 'East Coast Premiere' of a newly-restored silent film."

As with most silent film festivals, musical accompaniment was performed live. Such talented pianists as Jon Mirsalis, Phil Carli, Gabriel Thibaudeau, Ben Model, Makia Matsumara, Jon Mirsalis and Donald Sosin have assisted.
"Then there was the year of the blackout," recalled John Weber. "During one of the evening screenings, the projector suddenly slowed down and ground to a halt. Immediate blame was directed on the electrical system of the hotel, but we quickly found out that the blackout was much more extensive than initially thought. A rather large power grid had failed, knocking out service for a wide area. Almost everyone repaired to the bar, where the bartender, Laura, more than earned her salary that night, and hopefully received some substantial tips, as she certainly provided yeoman service. Another year, I came back from dinner to find that the hotel was undergoing a fire alarm! I could see some lights in hotel rooms going on and off, and the fire department was at the ready. It was another electrical failure, and the event was over in a comparatively short time."

One of the other benefits of attending Cinefest is wandering the vendor room. There, movie posters, lobby cards, 16mm movies, photographs, books, videos and DVDs are available for sale. Serious collectors of 16mm prints examine the film (as seen in the photo on the right) before making their purchase.
In short, if you live within driving distance of Syracuse, New York, I recommend you check it out. Cinefest offers a list of movies they plan to screen, on their web-site, as soon as everything is finalized. Information about the hotel, directions and dates of the March 2012 event can all be found at

Friday, January 6, 2012

Recent Preservation Efforts

With a declined economy and an aging fan base, it's nice to know that preservation efforts have not been handicapped. In what director Martin Scorsese was once quoted of saying was one of the eleven scariest horror movies of all time (The Daily Beast, Nov. 15, 2009), The Uninvited received a recent film restoration courtesy of Universal Studios. Universal, for those not aware of it, owns the rights to 700 plus early Paramount Studios movies, including the 1944 ghost story, which I highly recommend you catch the next time it's on TCM. (Turner licensed the movie for telecast and I am not sure if it will be screened again in the future. If you wish, you can purchase a gorgeous copy at Besides a ghost story, it's also a heck of a movie and why it has yet to be commercially released on DVD baffles me. But knowing it's been digitally restored from the original 35mm archival print offer a deep breath of relief. 

Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) buy a house in Cornwall, only to find it is haunted. Doors open and close by themselves, strange scents fill the air, and they hear sobbing during the night. Soon they are visited by a woman (Gail Russell) with an odd link to the house -- her mother is the spirit who haunts the place Chilling and unforgettable, this is one of the first films to deal seriously with ghosts. And it leaves an impression.

UCLA restored a Cecil B. DeMille classic, Eve's Leaves (1926), with William Boyd and Leatrice Joy. Yes, that's the same William Boyd who later became famous as Hopalong Cassidy to juveniles across the country. I love DeMille's movies. They often depict some form of Biblical sin which becomes a subplot in itself. After forming his own studio in 1925, Cecil B. DeMille produced this exuberant blend of orientalist melodrama and gender-bending comedy featuring his leading lady Leatrice Joy. An over-protective sea captain forces his daughter Eve to pass as a boy. But she craves romance and sets her sights on a handsome American tourist (Boyd) who still thinks she's a boy when she shanghais him aboard her father's ship; then a lustful Chinese pirate (Walter Long) takes them prisoner. Joy, an appealing comedienne whose career nosedived when talkies came in, sparkles in both her tomboy and love-hungry phases.

William Boyd in Eve's Leaves (1926)
Funded by Paramount Pictures Corporation, Strangers in the Night (1944), a 56 minute film noir, was digitally restored from an archival master. Short, strange, and stuffed with bizarre plot twists, Strangers was Anthony Mann's first significant step into the film noir style that would lead to such classics as Raw Deal and He Walked By Night.  A wounded marine starts up a correspondence with a stateside gal who shares his literary tastes, but, when he tries to visit her, he finds a gothic mansion, a creepy mother, and no sign of his mysterious pen pal. In her book Anthony Mann, film scholar Jeanine Basinger finds this to be the first film in which Mann develops his signature visual style, based on "deep focus, daring camera angles, exaggerated close-ups, and deeply shadowed environments."

Cry Danger (1951), a Republic film noir that many regard as one of Dick Powell's better efforts (and I agree it's better than Murder, My Sweet), is seedy, the tone bitter, and the humor hardboiled in this intriguing low-budget crime thriller, set primarily around a shabby trailer court in L.A.'s lamented Bunker Hill neighborhood. Deadpan par excellence Powell plays a recently-released convict who was framed for a heist and has a lingering yen for his best friend's wife (Rhonda Fleming). The central couple are nearly upstaged by the vivid supporting characters of a cynical one-legged veteran (Richard Erdman) and a good-natured blonde pickpocket (Jean Porter). Preservation was funded by the Film Noir Foundation. I can only assume that if this was released to DVD, we'll be treated to the restoration and not the version that was released commercially on VHS through Republic.

Since I neither have the funds or the time to help preserve Hollywood motion pictures (that is a job I would relish), I continue to devote my time preserving old-time radio programs with the assistance of good friends. 2011 was perhaps one of the best years for restoration on the radio front. Neal Ellis has continued to restore the sound quality of The Cavalcade of America, a radio program spanning the years of 1935 to 1953, featuring every Hollywood celebrity you can think of from Errol Flynn, Orson Welles, John Hodiak, James Stewart, Bette Davis, Agnes Moorehead and many others. His project progresses every month with a report on the number of episodes (working chronological) he has completed. The sound quality is far superior to anything that has been in collector circles for decades. Neal, of course, has access to the original masters and my shelf is getting full of all the CDs I continue to buy. For more information, contact Neal at

Since we're on the subject of Cavalcade, in October of 2011, I offered a slide show presentation consisting of more than 240 photographs scanned from an archive. Some of the photos can be found here (click this link) and yes, candid photos of Hollywood celebrities are featured prominently. The photo below, for example, displays Walter Pidgeon arriving at the train station for his appearance on Cavalcade

Friends of Old Time Radio 2011

Photo above courtesy of the Noir Dame. (

Now I'd like to state that in my opinion, restoration is not just cleaning up the picture and sound quality of a recording or photograph. Preservation and restoration also means creating off-site backups to ensure we don't lose a piece of our pop culture history. I often find the people who shout the loudest are the people who do the least. I've personally met a large number of people who, over the years, hail their museum or their archive as a means of preservation and brag simply because they want that proverbial pat on the back. "Hoarding" is the best way to describe some of these collectors. Why? Because they kept the only existing copies on one site. There's an old saying: "How much money someone has doesn't impress me. What they did to make that kind of money, can impress me." Same adage applies. How large a collection or what they have in their collection won't impress me if they haven't done anything to preserve it.

Years ago at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention, Leonard Maltin sat on stage and pounded his fist on the table and remarked that old-time radio programs were facing extinction simply because of the lack of preservation and restoration. Making copies of what you have in your own collection isn't the answer. And I agree with Leonard. What needs to be done is to consult the original discs and tapes the radio shows originated, transfer them to digital format using the most sophisticated and reliable audio restoration software money can afford, and after a restoration, numerous off-site backups be created. Everyone in the room cheered but since that day I discovered many of those same individuals who have archival materials at their facilities have done nothing.

Going back to the Cavalcade photos... Once I had the 200 plus photographs scanned at the archive, my next step was to create an off-site backup on multiple flash drives. Those drives now reside in three houses across the country. A number of photographs required restoration, as I demonstrated on the big screen at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention. Steve Forster in New Jersey was kind enough to volunteer some of his valuable time to work with Adobe Acrobat Photoshop to eliminate the blemishes and mistakes. A restoration was made and the photos look much better (see two examples below). An off-site backup was made on CD of those very same photos. Now we can proudly state they have been restored and preserved.

Photograph was warped due to water damage.
The photo above and below features actor Philip Merivale meeting the United Daughters of the Confederacy when he went to Virginia to broadcast the show on location at the Richmond Theatre Guild. The radio broadcast was on April 23, 1940.
After restoration. You barely see any flaws.

The printed press release imprinted ink on the photo.
Same broadcast, Donald Vorhees gets the chorus and orchestra ready for broadcast. Every "original" photo comes with a press release, usually folded on the back. Someone accidentally folded the press release over the front and over time the black ink imprinted itself on the photograph. Thanks to Steve, the ink is no longer there.

My apologies for inserting a logo in the center of the photos. I can assure you that the logo appears only on the photos in this article and not on the backup restorations. Because unscrupulous people like to pluck pictures and insert them on their own site and then claim they did the restoration, I was forced to do this for my blog. As stated in a previous post, if you need a copy of a photo, contact me. I'll be more than glad to help. Just don't be discourteous and steal someone else's work.

Speaking of photographs, the enclosed photo was sent to me. It's a radio premium of Tom Mix. But we all know that is not the actor Tom Mix. And since young children had gone to the movie palaces to watch Tom Mix on the silver screen, I sometimes wonder just how many of them were fooled by this giveaway? Anyway, we don't know who the actor is. Can anyone identify him? 

Who is this Tom Mix impersonator?
Among the other preservation movements I was involved with was saving a number of old-time radio scripts. One archive suffered from a flooded basement. Hundreds of radio scripts quickly became dog-eared, saturated, ink smeared (ink also became gooey slime) and the mold and mildew was so bad that the boxes of damaged scripts required numerous blankets to muffle the smell. I traveled four states away to pick up the cargo and drive it back home. Within days I and a friend, Alex, stood in front of two copy machines at Staples. Via tag team, we managed to photocopy all but two scripts that were beyond repair and the black and white hard copies replaced the damaged scripts. Of course, the dollar value of the originals were no longer valued and in their present condition, required a trip to the dumpster. We also verified that copies of the same scripts exist on microfilm at the Library of Congress, an off-site backup. The scripts are important because for many of them, the recordings were not known to exist. Without the scripts, how would we know what the plot and dialogue was? This was, by the way, a text book example where, as I said above, how large a collection and what they have in their collection isn't impressive. The more people brag about their collections, the less interested I am. If they took the time to create off-site backups, then I will be the first to praise their efforts.

Original Radio Scripts

Preserved Radio Scripts Copied on a Copy Machine

A few months ago, I expressed my "off-site restoration" opinion in a posting on Charlie Summers' Old-Time Radio Digest. Soon after, I received an e-mail query from a volunteer at a famous non-profit organization, asking what format I thought their radio scripts should be scanned. jpg or tiff? It's nice to know that some organizations are now taking this into consideration. After all, it only takes a flood or fire to lose it all and guess what? It's happened before. But I have yet to hear a follow-up and regrettably, I suspect my posting got their attention and gave them something to think about and plan for the future, but nothing more. I can only pray and hope a movement of off-site preservation is in the works.

Scanning inter-office memos and scripts and other valuable reference materials isn't uncommon in my house. I don't think a week goes by that I am not spending at least half a day scanning papers and mailing CD backups to friends across the country to serve as off-site storage. I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn and I'm not saying this for bragging purposes. But only one question remains.... while I (just myself) plan to spend much of 2012 continuing to restore photographs, documents, scanning inter-office memos and scripts and documenting some of my findings in articles and blog posts, how much of an effort will organizations, museums and major archives accomplish with a staff of more than one volunteer?