Friday, November 20, 2015

The Shadow: The "Lost" 1953 Episodes


Among the holy grails of old time radio broadcasts are the “lost” episodes of The Shadow. Despite the broadcast of more than 200 episodes by Mutual from 1950 to 1954, less than half-a-dozen exist in recorded form from this time period. The fact that many of The Shadow programs were taped for later playback and Mutual’s concern for reusing tape to save money, it remains unlikely that most of those episodes are going to be found. On October 22, 1951, Street & Smith granted permission to the Armed Forces Information and Education Division, through the Armed Forces Radio Service, for overseas broadcast of The Shadow recordings from 1951 through 1952, with the stipulation: “It is further understood that these tapes will ultimately be destroyed and the permission herewith granted is contingent upon that requirement.” Collectors today can only hope the Armed Forces did not destroy the recordings.

Charles Michelson ceased offering The Shadow to regional networks by 1948. It was Michelson who recorded every episode from September of 1937 to April 1944 for transcription, for the purpose of syndication across the country. This is the reason collectors today have many existing Shadow recordings to enjoy. Beginning with the 1944-45 season, Shadow transcriptions were not made; the network show covered so much of the nation that it was not economical to continue transcribing it for the few territories that had not yet broadcast The Shadow and could begin with the 1939-1944 transcriptions. In other words, it was a business decision on Michelson's part to stop transcribing the radio shows, believing he had plenty in quantity to serve his purpose. 

Disc label from a Michelson syndication.
By 1946 and 1947, many territories that had not heard the early episodes were being offered them, so those areas would still be introduced to new adventures — even if they were not The Shadow of 1947. These were Michelson’s final attempts to cash in on the elusive crime fighter. He would continue to market The Avenger, a syndicated transcription series that he produced and many consider a bland rip-off of The Shadow, until 1953.

For your amusement, enclosed are a number of "lost" Shadow adventures that do not exist in recorded form. The plots originate from reading the scripts housed at Syracuse University and the Library of Congress.

Episode #623 “THE RING OF ZANLAGHORA” 
Recorded June 2, 1953. Broadcast June 7, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU35505, November 13, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-126, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Peter Barry.
Plot: Having finished a business transaction in the Caribbean, Lamont and Margot broke the long return trip with a sightseeing stopover at the tiny palm-studded island of Opago. Madame Curlew, owner of a local hotel, plots with Timkins, the beachcomber, to skillfully murder a smuggler in possession of half a million dollars in jewels and diamonds. To cover their crime, they trick a young native named Pamka to dispose of the body and pay him in the form of a ring that supposedly summons Zanlaghora, a dwarf god who seeks murderous revenge against those who use the ring to make a death wish. Lamont quickly discovers the plot after Timkins becomes the latest victim and proves Madame Curlew hired a maniac dwarf to commit the deeds so she could have the loot for herself instead of splitting it three ways. 

Trivia, etc. This episode was a re-write of a former Shadow broadcast titled “The Ring of Mahlalaylee” (March 13, 1949). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Episode #624 “THE HOWLING BEAST”
Recorded June 9, 1953. Broadcast June 14, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34627, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-135, July 27, 1981.
Script written by J.G. Leighton (a pseudonym of John Cole).
Plot: The country estate of David Wakefield is as forbidding a piece of architecture as a death house. Katy, the family servant, calls on Lamont and Margot to solve a mystery that may or may not involve a bloodthirsty werewolf. When Katy is savagely murdered by what appears to be a wild animal and there are wolf tracks that appear to become human, Lamont starts to question the sanity of David Wakefield. Having recently suffered a nervous breakdown, Wakefield is going mad and suspects he has a severe case of lycanthropy. Following wolf tracks through the countryside leading to a cave, Lamont, Margot and groundskeeper Steven venture through the tunnels to find Wakefield hunched in fear. Realizing the game is up when Margot comes upon a chained wolf, Steven attempts to make her the next victim — until The Shadow arrives. Using Lamont’s revolver, Wakefield shoots Steven in anger. It seems the groundskeeper was substituting Wakefield’s sedatives with a mild narcotic that induced the mental exhaustion and wild nightmares that made Wakefield believe he was a werewolf. Between the planted bloodstains and the actual wolf under the window, Wakefield went berserk and escaped to the cave. Steven had married Edna and was hoping that he could get hold of the family fortune after Wakefield suffered a nervous breakdown.

Trivia, etc. The Street & Smith Archives in Syracuse, New York has research notes for this episode, referring to this episode under the title “Terror of the Howling Beast,” with the proposed airdate of July 19, 1953. Numerous sources verify the Archives are incorrect.

Episode #625 “THE INVISIBLE WEAPON”
Recorded June 3, 1953. Broadcast June 21, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34628, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-134, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: Dr. Brenner, a power-mad scientist, is holding Valerie Hastings prisoner in order to force her father to permit the use of his sanitarium and patients for dangerous anti-radiation experiments. On the trail of the missing girl, Lamont and Margot meet Dr. Hastings, unaware that the good doctor is really Brenner in disguise. Suspecting foul play, Lamont sends Margot back to the clinic pretending she forgot her purse. When Margot discovers the real Dr. Hastings is being held prisoner, she becomes the next victim of Brenner’s experiments. His first experiment resulted in success — sort of — but the patient died. Now, he plans to succeed with Margot. The Shadow arrives, saves Margot and locks Brenner behind the iron door so Weston and his men can take charge when they arrive. Later, Lamont reveals to Margot the number of tips that led him to conclude the foul play — including Brenner’s blue eyes. Since Valerie’s mother had blue eyes and the girl was described in the police bulletin had brown eyes, he remembered that two blue-eyed parents couldn’t produce a brown-eyed child. Thus, Brenner was discovered as an imposter.

Photo and press release. (Courtesy of Rick Payne.)
Episode #626 “POLICY OF DEATH”
Broadcast June 28, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34629, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-133, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Max Ehrlich.
Plot: Jonathan Drexel knows all the tricks for collecting insurance claims and death benefits. He operates a shady business in which he loans out large sums of money to clients in need on the condition that, as beneficiary of their life insurance policy, he receives a larger payoff one year from the day of advance. Using strong-arms named Brady and Keeler, he succeeds by creating “accidents” that result in his success. Ellen Wilson needs money to fund her husband’s recovery in a sanitarium, but she deliberately avoids her good friend, Margot. Lamont investigates and discovers the plot. Discovering that today is the one-year anniversary of the loan and Ellen is about to become a victim of the scheme by having poison forced down her throat, The Shadow interferes. Drexel fires his gun at the voice of The Shadow and misses, discovering that he cannot hide from the long arm of justice. 

Blooper! Assuming the actors delivered their lines verbatim, Mrs. Collins, the secretary working for Drexel, refers to Edward Malloy as Fred Malloy.

Trivia, etc. This episode was a rewrite of a former Shadow broadcast titled “Death Pays the Premiums” (October 8, 1944). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Episode #627 “THE CASE OF THE RED-HEADED CORPSE”
Broadcast July 5, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34800, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-132, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: The body of a redheaded girl, Cora Denby, is found in the car of Roger Fleming, a victim of an artificially induced amnesia. When Lamont and the police leave Alfred Miller, the half-crazed chemist who identifies Fleming by name, alone with Fleming for a few moments, Miller seizes the opportunity to give the suspect another shot of the amnesia serum he has developed. Discovering a red welt on Fleming’s arm, Lamont suspects foul play and, with the assistance of Margot, sets a trap for Miller. Caught red-handed with the needle and serum, Miller attempts to evade the law and The Shadow by using the hypodermic needle as a weapon to kill the sleeping Fleming. 

Trivia, etc. The announcer opens the episode referring to the title as “One Shoe Off” but the title on the script cover is “One Shoe Off or The Case of the Red-Headed Corpse.” Nick Carter usually opened with two separate titles in the same manner, and further research verifies this episode was a re-write of the former Nick Carter broadcast of January 15, 1950 titled, “The Case of the Forgotten Murder.” 

Sylvania was one of the last sponsors.
Episode #628 “FULL HOUSE FOR MURDER”
Recorded July 7, 1953. Broadcast July 12, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34801, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-131, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Max Ehrlich.
Plot: A notorious gangster known as the Ace of Spades has recruited a number of thieves named after playing cards to commit daring acts of robberies across town. The Ace of Spades has a macabre sense of humor, leaving a playing card at each scene and on each victim — including dead police officers. While Margot spends time with an old college friend named Rita Curtis, Lamont uses his deduction skills to discover the identity of The Ace — Frank Wakefield of the Equity Underwriters. While Wakefield’s insurance company is being depleted of funds and offers a reward for the apprehension of the killers dead or alive, he has been using his access to the files to gain intimate knowledge of every job planned. The Shadow tricks Wakefield into revealing his scheme and emptying his gun — making it convenient for the arriving police to make an arrest. Rita is arrested too, for helping Wakefield as the Queen of Hearts.

Trivia, etc. This episode was a rewrite of a former Shadow broadcast titled “The Red Domino” (January 23, 1944). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Episode #629 “KILLER OF THE STONE JUNGLE”
Recorded July 14, 1953. Broadcast July 19, 1953
Trivia, etc. Oddly, notes found in the Street & Smith archives state this episode was recorded but never broadcast. Yet, half of this episode is known to exist in recorded form. Obviously, it was recorded on July 14. It is still questionable whether this episode aired on July 19. Perhaps a last-minute, unscheduled pre-emption?
(I am not featuring the plot since half the recording is available in collector hands.)

Episode #630 “THREE MUST DIE”
Recorded July 21, 1953. Broadcast July 26, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34803, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-129, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: On a hot, sultry night in August, while taking a drive in the countryside, Lamont and Margot witness someone trapped in a locked car that has caught on fire. A piece of paper found at the scene of the crime reads, “Three must die slowly, in pain and agony, each by his own hand.” Stranded with no gasoline for their car, the two detectives find themselves taking refuge in a rooming house on the edge of Lookout Cliff. In the morning, Commissioner Weston rules the death as an auto accident but Lamont suspects murder and hangs around long enough to witness another murder. The dead man’s daughter, Rosemary, dies in another auto accident. To prevent a third murder, The Shadow questions Jeff Davenport, the proprietor of the rooming house. It doesn’t take long for Lamont to figure out the motive and method behind the crimes, and Jeff faces justice at the hand of his own weapon.

Information provided in this blog post originates from The Shadow: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954, by Martin Grams. Reprinted with permission from the author and the publisher. For more information, visit www.MartinGrams.com.

1 comment:

Richard McLeod said...

I understand that The Shadow began on early radio about 1931 and was aired in 15 minute segments. I think it was around 1937 the 30 minute segments began. Does anyone know if any of the original 15 minute segments still exist?

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