Friday, November 25, 2011

Margot Lane: A Character Study

The dramatic serial offered numerous women a lucrative income that grew with their wide variety of dialects and voices: Elsie Hitz, Elsie Mae Gordon, Agnes Moorehead and Peggy Allenby, to name a few. The role of Margot Lane was interpreted by at least 10 actresses. Attractive, intelligent, well educated, and generally demonstrating pretty good common sense, Margot somehow, nine times out of ten, wherever she goes, encounters some kind of monster, mechanical man or plain crackpot lurking in the vicinity. There was one occasion when she got mixed up with a mad scientist, and in no time at all, he was preparing to exchange her vocal chords for those of a cat. The Shadow saved her from that with only two minutes to spare — and those, of course, had been reserved for the sponsor’s sales talk.
Display banner for The Shadow program.
Armed with an independent spirit, Margot joined Lamont on numerous adventures as an invaluable assistant who rarely questioned his motives. On uncommon occasions she suffered wounds in the line of duty, such being hypnotized into suffering a series of murderous nightmares in “The Dreams of Death” (April 28, 1946) and scars from a gas explosion in “The White Witchman of Lawaiki” (May 5, 1946).
In “The Mark of the Black Widow” (October 27, 1940), a homicidal maniac was doing a very successful business with poisonous spiders encased in gelatinous pellets. He would secretly deposit one on his victim and after body heat melted the substance, the spider was free to take a bite, and that was that. In Margot’s case, the clever fellow was less subtle and had just decided to dispense with the gelatin when the ubiquitous Cranston arrived to go into his “Shadow” act with the usual effect. The poor fiend lost his wits completely and died a horrible death.
In the episode “Murder Incorporated” (December 17, 1939), she was described in the newspapers as a “prominent society girl.” Her means of income was never disclosed throughout the series, but a brief mention that she had “investments” was made in one episode during the early fifties. A shopaholic, she often purchased trinkets and items that were overpriced, on occasion driving Lamont into a fit of concern though he never questioned whether she could afford it. She had a weakness for hats; one of her purchases led her and Lamont on a mystery during Easter Sunday. The January 26, 1941, issue of PM Weekly described her as “a nimble-witted, CafĂ© Society number designed on [1930s debutante] Brenda Frazier lines.” George A. Mooney of the New York Times once described her as being 26 years old, but her true age was never disclosed on the radio program. What little we do know comes from close observation of the radio broadcasts.
Margot attended City College (nickname of City College of New York), as evident in “The Chill of Death” (February 1, 1953) when she reminds Lamont that she flunked chemistry. Another mention that Margot attended college was in “The Mad-Dog Murders” (August 17, 1952).

There are two different ways of spelling Margot’s first name. In the radio scripts, she is spelled “Margot” with a silent ‘t.’ In the pulp magazines, she is spelled “Margo” without the ‘t.’

Margot evidently smoked cigarettes — almost as much as Lamont. In “The Headsman of the Camerons,” (September 28, 1941), she not only excuses herself for a second to put out her cigarette, but the stub later verifies to Lamont that she was on the premises when others insist they never saw her. Her lipstick was found on the cigarette stub. Margot gave Lamont a gift in the form of a cigarette case in “Murder Deferred” (March 22, 1942), which later deflected a bullet meant to kill him. A cigarette case also saves Lamont’s life in “Assignment With Murder” (October 5, 1941). In “The Four Giants of Amsterdam” (November 25, 1945), a small town in the Midwest suffers a series of brutal murders and a dead man returning from the grave.  Frightened by the events, Margot asks Lamont for a smoke to settle her nerves. She also smokes a cigarette in “The Ghost of Caleb MacKenzie” (January 26, 1941).

Her personality varied from episode to episode on the radio programs, a result of multiple writers spanning the years. The few scripts authored by the Ellery Queen team feature a Nikki Porter-style Margot. Arch Oboler made sure Margot was repulsed by whatever gruesomeness she witnessed. She asserted notions of female individuality and self-respect in many episodes, something that Lamont once confessed was what attracted him to her. In “The Three Mad Sisters of Lonely Hollow” (December 14, 1947), Margot’s independent spirit is revealed when, spending the night at the old Sheldon mansion where a dead sister has returned from her grave, Lamont orders her to stay behind and lock the door while he ventures into the attic. Alone in the room, Margot can be imagined as crossing her arms as she speaks to herself: “Sometimes I get so provoked at Lamont. He treats me like a baby. You’d think I couldn’t take care of myself.”
Lamont attempts to solve a mystery involving Rodney Serling, suffering from amnesia and bent on clearing his name for a murder he may — or may not — have committed in “The Lost Mind of Death” (June 25, 1950). At the end of this episode, Margot discovers she was sent on a wild goose chase when Lamont asked her to find a unique water fountain on the grounds of the sanitarium. “Well, to tell the truth, Margot,” Lamont explains, “I… well, I was afraid it might be dangerous for you in the sanitarium, so I… well, I sent you on an errand just to keep you out of the way.” Angry, Margot questions her own sanity for trusting him. “This girl is going to come to her senses,” she threatens. The script originally called for Margot to remark, “I could beat your head in, you… you cheat.” But the line was scratched out and replaced with a more friendly closing comment.

When Margot insists on tagging along with Commissioner Weston on a dangerous mission in “The Shadow in Danger” (September 9, 1945), she responds appropriately:

MARGOT: I’m going in with you.
WESTON: You’re about as stubborn as a —
MARGOT: As a mule, Commissioner. That’s what my father always said. 

The question of the Cranston-Lane relationship was modestly suggested by the announcer in the beginning of every broadcast — except the initial 26 episodes. It was not until the first episode of the Goodrich series, “The Hypnotized Audience,” that she was introduced as “…constant friend and aide, Margot Lane…” This same introduction continued through to the 1938-39 Blue Coal season until “The Isle of Fear” (October 30, 1938) when Margot was “. . . friend and companion, the lovely Margot Lane.” This became the standard through June 4, 1950, when the D.L.&W. Coal Co. ended its two-decade relationship with The Shadow.

Agnes Moorehead
Beginning June 11 and running till the end of the series, Margot was simply “…Cranston’s friend, Margot Lane.” “Friend and companion” did not go overlooked by the adults who heard something more. The second script for the series, “The Red Macaw” (October 3, 1937), scripted by Edward Hale Bierstadt, established the relationship between Margot and Lamont. Shortly after completion of the script, it was decided to move that scene to the season premiere, “The Death House Rescue” (September 26, 1937), where it remains today. All through the scene, Margot attempts to encourage Lamont to drop The Shadow identity and live a life of normalcy.
MARGOT: I’m serious, Lamont Cranston. When I foolishly let you know that — do you remember what you said? It will be exactly five years next week.
LAMONT: But there’s still so much to do, Margot.
MARGOT: Well, then let somebody else do it. Don’t you realize that you can’t keep on like this forever? Someone is certain to identify you and when that someone does, that someone else is certain to kill you.
LAMONT: Perhaps, but until they do… Oh darling, stop frowning.
MARGOT: I don’t necessarily mean for you to give up your work, Lamont. But this ‘other’… let the Shadow just disappear and come out openly. You and the organized forces of law and police.
LAMONT: Don’t you realize Margot, my entire usefulness to the organized forces of the law and police lies in my remaining outside those forces. Remaining always as The Shadow. Would they approve my methods? Would they believe in my science?
MARGOT: You would make them believe. You could make them approve.
LAMONT: And in doing so revealing my secrets. My knowledge. Reveal them and eventually let them fall into the hands of organized crime. No Margot, no one must ever know. No one but you.
In the third episode, “Danger in the Dark” (October 10, 1937), Margot makes a second effort by confessing her love for Lamont and pleads for him to call off his Shadowy escapades.

MARGOT: Oh Lamont, why do you take these chances? Won’t you ever give it up — this masquerade as The Shadow?
LAMONT: And then what?
MARGOT: Then perhaps — you could settle down — and be like other people. We might even — oh, I don’t know.
LAMONT: You mean — get married?
LAMONT: My dear, that is something that has been close to my heart for a long time. You know that. But until the Shadow finishes his work — I cannot allow myself to think of anything else! Just be patient, dearest. Some day — (CHANGE OF BRISK MANNER) Well — I’m afraid I’ve got to run off now — 

Throughout the remainder of the series, their relationship is not given significant exposure, leaving the scripts to focus on Cranston’s deduction and investigative skills to thwart criminals. To diminish any hint of a sexual relationship, Lamont and Margot never slept together in the same room no matter what the situation. In “The Giant of Madras” (May 16, 1948), Lamont and Margot are passengers on a deluxe transcontinental train, and they slept in separate berths, Lower 10 and Lower 11. In “The Loom of Death” (July 1, 1951), Lamont attempts to solve the case of a horrible burning and hissing emanating from a tapestry depicting the frightful curses of Satan. On a train bound for the origin of the radioactivity that causes the phenomena, Lamont and Margot sleep in separate compartments — Compartments 10 and 12. In “Ghost Town” (October 6, 1940), Lamont checks into a hotel and asks Mr. Evans to have their rooms (plural, not singular) on the same floor of the hotel. Back home, listeners who paid careful attention knew that both Lamont and Margot resided in separate apartments.
Bill Johnstone and Agnes Moorhead
Scriptwriters never failed to take advantage and throw teases into the scripts. Two such examples include the closing scene of “Death is a Colored Dream” (September 26, 1948) where Margot is trying to solve a crossword puzzle and asks Lamont for a four letter word that fits. He suggests closing the episode with “love.” And in “The Case of the Curious Easter” (April 9, 1950), Lamont proposes to Margot that they go “for a spin around the park.” 

When D.L.&W. dropped sponsorship, producer and director John Cole made room for Harry Ingram, who supervised the productions with a change of direction in Lamont and Margot’s “modest” relationship. When Lamont introduces Margot to the shady Manuelo in “Corpse in a Straw Hat” (June 18, 1950), he struggles while searching for the right description to refer to Margot as more than his lady friend, and Manuelo interrupts before Lamont finds a word.

In “The Mark of the Shark” (July 9, 1950), Lamont directly refers to Margot as his “girlfriend,” while Margot’s love for Lamont and her disgust for his failure to propose after all the years they have been together becomes a custom on the series. In a scene between Margot and Ruth, the woman struck down by polio questions why Lamont would help her husband Joe:
RUTH: But - we’re not important.
MARGOT: Every human being is important, Mrs. Adams. Lamont Cranston knows that.
RUTH: He must - love people very much.
MARGOT: He does - love people. (ACID) In the plural. 

The same episode closes with Lamont purposely avoiding the subject of matrimony — a complete change of character from the Orson Welles version.
LAMONT: They’re a nice couple.
MARGOT: Ruth and Joe? Wonderful.
LAMONT: They’ll have a good life. I envy Joe.
LAMONT: Uh-huh.
MARGOT: (HER BIG CHANCE) You mean - because of his wife, and his home?
MARGOT: But Lamont — you can have them. (SO SOFT) If you want.
LAMONT: (TRAPPED) Well, I — I — (THEN SUDDENLY) No. I can’t. I can’t have Joe Adams’ wife and home.
MARGOT: Why not?
LAMONT: Because, Margot — (LAUGHS TEASINGLY) They’re his.
During the summer and autumn of 1950, the Shadow broadcasts often closed with a discussion leading to Margot making a brief suggestion regarding matrimony or a romantic gesture. Lamont was now depicted as avoiding commitment, and whether he was unable to understand her suggestions or too preoccupied with other thoughts to concern himself with romance, his smart remark would conclude with Margot’s sarcasm and crossed arms. Their relationship, however,was more obvious. At the end of “The Factory of Death” (October 7, 1951), Margot comments in the recap that Lamont had kissed her just an hour ago. At the conclusion of “The Curious Corpse” (July 16, 1950), Margot learns from Lamont that he suspected the killer of being a foreigner because in Europe, unlike America, women wear their wedding rings on the right hand, and the corpse had the ring on the right hand instead of the left. Margot asks, “You never thought much about wedding rings before this case came up, did you?” Lamont asks her what she meant by that remark and disgusted, Margot tells him, “never mind. Just skip it.”
On two occasions, however, Margot did receive a favorable response at the conclusion of their adventures — both holiday offerings. In “Out by Christmas” (December 24, 1950), after helping clear young Jimmy and Patty Ryan’s father from a murder charge so he can return home to his children in time for Christmas, Lamont and Margot celebrate in the Ryan home.
MARGOT: (HUSKILY) You did it. Out by Christmas.
MARGOT: A good job of earning your four dollars and eighty three cents.
LAMONT: Do I get a bonus?
MARGOT: What do you mean?
LAMONT: From you. After all, it’s Christmas.
JIMMY: (COMING IN) Say, there’s some ice skates under the tree. Isn’t Christmas swell? Gee, I wish it’d come every day in the year, don’t you?
MARGOT: I certainly do, Jimmy — I certainly do.
Vintage newspaper ad
In “Murder by Midnight” (December 31, 1950), Lamont attempts to start the new year with a bang when he organizes papers that will convict Lefty Benay, head of a dope ring. Margot forces Lamont to attend a masquerade party, unaware that Benay arranged for an actor who looks and sounds like Lamont Cranston to remain masked during the ball so the crooks can kidnap the real Lamont. Forcing the handcuffed Lamont, Lefty applies whatever tactics he can to make the detective reveal who in his organization leaked the information Lamont has gathered. Lamont becomes invisible, but Lefty isn’t fooled into thinking he has run away, realizing he now knows the identity of The Shadow. Giving chase on a winding road, the crooks attempt to run Lamont over. The car goes out of control and over a cliff, and they are killed instantly. Meanwhile, Margot discovers the ruse when the fake Lamont gets romantic and actually kisses her. She waits for the real Lamont to arrive and take her home, and the episode closes with her standard disgust for his lack of romance. 

MARGOT: I knew that man couldn’t have been you. He paid me compliments, he got me out in the moonlight — he even started to propose.
CRANSTON: He did? Good Lord! That’s terrible.
CRANSTON: What’s so funny?
MARGOT: Brand new year — same old Lamont.
After saving another innocent from an unwarranted charge by exposing a numbers racket in “The Doll With Yellow Hair” (December 23, 1951), Lamont and Margot gift wrap a doll with yellow hair for the man’s daughter and arrange for him to get a new job starting the day after Christmas. Alone in her apartment, Margot attempts to take advantage of the holiday fever pretending to be the same little girl to whom they’ll deliver the doll.

MARGOT: (SOFT) Hey, Mr. Cranston — you know something, Mr. Cranston?
LAMONT: What’s that?
MARGOT: You’re a pretty nice kind of a type fella.
LAMONT: So’s Santa Claus. The old gentleman gave me the steer I needed in this case.
MARGOT: That’s just peachy and I’m real grateful to him, but the old gentleman doesn’t happen to be here right now.
MARGOT: He’s not here, but I am.
LAMONT: Oh — I see what you mean. (SOFT) You’re a very forward girl, Miss Lane.
MARGOT: You’re a very backward lad, Mr. Cranston.
LAMONT: (GRRR) Oh, yeah?
LAMONT: (COMING OUT OF IT. WEAKLY) Merry Christmas, darling.
MARGOT: (THREE FEET OFF THE GROUND) Oh, Merry, Merry Christmas!

Consistency was not established in any form of guidelines for the scriptwriters. The producers and directors of The Shadow oversaw the content and made revisions when necessary, but with the changing of the guard over the years, continuity was sure to be off-centered. In “Death Prowls at Night” (March 23, 1941), Margot is kidnapped by a hypnotist from Central Europe who turns out to be a werewolf. Lamont, questioning the locals on Margot’s whereabouts, describes her as five-feet, five-inches tall, weighing 118 pounds and having brown hair. In “The Three Queens of Death” (November 13, 1949), a painter determined to complete a masterpiece murders his models so they can pose properly for the canvas. After murdering a redhead and a brunette, he sets his sights on Margot, described as “a golden, blue-eyed, blonde.” In the episode “The Wig Makers of Doom Street” (November 28, 1948), wig makers selling their product to a dealer in illicit merchandise stop kidnapping and killing blondes for their hair and center their attention on a brunette. Margot would have been their final victim if it weren’t for the interference of The Shadow. In the episode “House of Fun” (October 22, 1939), Lamont remarks that Margot is a spitting image of Dorothy Andrews, described as blonde, medium height and slender. In “The Death Ride” (February 27, 1944), a friend named Cora asks Margot if she wants any sugar in her hot chocolate. Margot thanks her but rejects the sweets. “How I envy you slender people,” Cora remarks. In “The Girl and the Doomed Tiara” (January 29, 1950), two criminal geniuses named Claude and Mary, involved in a theft and murder, find a young lady suffering from a temporary amnesia and convince her that she is an escaped killer. Margot Lane is twice referred to as a blonde by Mary in this episode.
Agnes Moorehead, the first Margot Lane
Lamont Cranston admitted he was an animal lover, but never had a pet of his own. Margot, however, received a puppy as a Christmas present from Lamont in “The Stockings Were Hung” (December 24, 1939). She had a pet cat in “The Man Who Dreamed Too Much” (November 19, 1944) and a Cocker Spaniel named Brownie in “The Curse of the Cat” (January 20, 1946). In “The Case of the Red-Headed Corpse” (July 5, 1953), Margot’s dog, Caesar, had recently been returned from dog college. Margot’s family members were featured on rare occasion. The first was “Murder By The Dead” (October 17, 1937) when murderer Peter Swift apparently returns from the gallows to seek vengeance on the men he felt were responsible for his conviction. Margot’s father, Ross Lane, was the jury foreman on the case and is targeted by Swift, making the matter more personal for Lamont and Margot. Her mother never makes an appearance in the series, but in “Halloween in Vermont” (October 29, 1944), her mother’s name is revealed: Helen Lane. Helen apparently had sisters.

Margot had a number of aunts, and on occasion paid them a visit — they all lived north of New York City. In “Halloween in Vermont,” Margot’s Aunt Emma resided on a small farm on Baldtop Mountain. In “The Witch Drums of Salem” (summer of 1938) Lamont and Margot venture through New England to meet Margot’s Aunt Henrietta in Maine. In “Dragon’s Tongue Murders” (October 12, 1941), Oriental mysticism pervades a country weekend when three potential murderers gather in an effort to appropriate a fabulous emerald. During their investigation, Margot tells Lamont that her Aunt Augusta attended Vassar.

Venturing near the island of St. Jude, rumored to be dominated by zombies in “The Isle of the Living Dead” (October 13, 1940), the announcer opened the episode commenting that Margot’s aunt was on board the boat. Not only did she not have a speaking role, but no further mention of her was given during the broadcast, suggesting the woman played a role in an earlier draft of the script, but was written out in the final version (and it was overlooked by all concerned up to broadcast time). Lamont and Margot are Christmas shopping in the bustling Bronford Department Store, not for each other but for their families, in “The Case of the Santa Claus
Killer” (December 21, 1952). As the announcer explains, “Christmas comes but once a year and Margot and Lamont, each with young nephews and nieces to shop for….” Two of the nieces are mentioned by name — Susie and Debbie.
Margot had a number of maids, presumably not all at the same time. In “The Firebug” (summer 1938), the name of her maid was Ellen. In “The Secret of Valhalla Lodge” (October 31, 1943), the name of her maid is Amanda

In “The Hiss of Death” (February 24, 1946), Margot’s new maid, Angie Patrini, plays an important role. Angie is a member of a snake-worshipping cult and though it was thought harmless at first, Lamont uses Angie as a means of uncovering the truth — the leader of the cult killed members who were also faithless wives as his twisted way of revenge. Mary Granger was described as Margot’s former secretary in “The Lost Dead” (December 19, 1948) and “Death and the Twin Cadavers” (October 18, 1953). The second production was a repeat performance of the 1948 script, simply re-titled.

This article features excerpt from the book, The Shadow: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954, by Martin Grams Jr. Reprinted with permission. For more information, visit the author's website at

Friday, November 18, 2011


With the advent of television, many advertising agencies representing high-profile sponsors attempted to convince their clients to branch away from radio. Television was the popular “rave” and they were convinced the boob tube would become profitable only if they jumped in with both feet during the earliest stages of experimental broadcasting. Numerous successful television programs made the crossover into radio, the exact opposite of what would be expected, in an effort to commercially promote products through both markets. Space Patrol, Tom Corbett and Howdy Doody began on television first, then attempted to branch out into radio. On the Western frontier, Have Gun-Will Travel became another statistic.
John Dehner dressed in black in The Rifleman.
“There was a story to Have Gun-Will Travel,” John Dehner recalled months before his death in 1992. “Dick Boone was doing it on television and while he was doing it, we also were doing the radio version. They thought it would be a good idea -- whoever the ‘they’ are -- but they thought it would be a good idea to take the scripts that were being used on television, convert them to radio and whola, you have a radio show, not having to pay any money for a new script.”

It isn’t known exactly who came up with the idea of doing HGWT on radio, but theories have been tossed around. Some believe that CBS wanted to bring another western to radio simply to sell commercial time and make a profit. Larry Dobkin, a supporting actor on both the radio and television version, commented: “Well, there was little stirring interest in radio westerns because Gunsmoke held its audience in radio… It could be that somebody said, ‘That’s a good idea. Why don’t we add another Western?’ But I don’t know that as a fact.”

Another and more logical theory (supported by paperwork that suggests these are the true facts) is that Norm Macdonnell was the man responsible. “There were definite ill feelings between Norm and the television crew responsible for Gunsmoke,” actor Ben Wright explained. “They took that [radio] show away from him. He had no say in who or what went on the [television] air. He later became a producer for the [television] program and that settled a little. I think Norm came up with the idea for doing the radio version of Have Gun, possibly to show them that ‘Hey, look what I can do with your program and I did it even better.’ But don’t take my word for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Norm originated the idea of doing the radio version.” 

On November 8, 1958, Norman Macdonnell conducted three voice tests, hoping to choose the right actor for the role. Harry Bartell, Vic Perrin and John Dehner delivered the lines from the opening scenes of “Strange Vendetta.” “We three were called in for those tests,” Harry Bartell recalled. “I don’t know if it was Norm Macdonnell who suggested us or not. I know we were the only three to do those voice tests.” What should be noted is that none of the four primary actors on radio’s Gunsmoke were tested for the role, suggesting Macdonnell’s involvement.

John Dehner ultimately won the role, ironic when you consider that Dehner was among the men offered the role of Matt Dillon in early 1952, but turned it down because he didn’t want to be typecast in a Western. Dehner chose to play the role of Paladin his own way, without attempting to reproduce the television counterpart. “I didn’t pay any attention to him [Boone] at all. It was whatever came out of me. I knew that it would be deadly if I were to imitate him or do anything that was even vaguely similar to him. His Paladin was strictly Dick Boone. And I am not about to imitate. So I just did it the way I felt it.”

“John Dehner was a very sweet guy. I was fond of him,” Lillian Buyeff recalled. “He was a very serious person, but he did have a sense of humor. One of my favorite people. I remember Norm MacDonnell -- both of them were treasures. Words cannot express the company I kept.” 

John Dehner dressed in black in The Rifleman.
Three days after the voice tests, an audition was cut, acted out by a staff of talented radio actors, to the script of “Strange Vendetta.” The board at CBS approved and four days later, “Ella West” became the first fully-recorded episode of radio’s Have Gun-Will Travel. “Ella West” would, however, become the third broadcast in the series. In the beginning, for the first couple of months, there was a mad dash to record the episodes for scheduled broadcast. “Strange Vendetta” was recorded a second time, one that would pass for network airing, as opposed to the audition. It was recorded two days before the series premiere. “Road to Wickenburg,” the second episode of the series, was performed and recorded only hours before network airing. (Had the recording session been late, “Ella West” would instead have probably aired in that time slot.)

The first 30 plus radio scripts were adaptations of television dramas, all from the first or second season of the television program. The script writers who wrote the teleplays were never paid any residuals for the reuse of their scripts or plots, which at times were dramatized on radio word-for-word. “We were give a huge stack of television scripts and asked by Norm to try and make radio scripts from them,” John Dawson recalled. “We had to shorten the 26 to 30-page scripts into short 22-page radio dramas. We kind of divided the scripts, Frank Michael and Ann Doud and I, by the authors. I was in admiration of Gene Roddenberry’s work, so I grabbed all of his scripts. We were allowed to use any dialogue from the scripts, but I found I had to re-word some of it so descriptive actions could be portrayed.”

Norman Macdonnell directed the episodes himself, using most of the same crew from his Gunsmoke radio program. “We were all of a group that stayed pretty much together,” Dehner recalled. “There was Bill Conrad, Tony Ellis, myself, Norm Macdonnell, John Meston, Parley Baer, Harry Bartell, Virginia Gregg, Larry Dobkin… we saw each other every week. We all got along and we were all very talented, friendly group of people. It was fun, too. You’d arrive on the first sound of Gunsmoke or Have Gun-Will Travel or Frontier Gentleman, we’d arrive in the morning and open up the Danish pastries and pour the coffee and sit for a solid hour shooting the breeze. Then we’d get down and read the script and work out the sound patterns and then we’d take -- very often -- we’d take the dress and that would be it. But it was clean and fun. Boy, that was great.”

(L to R) Ray Kemper, Tom Hanley and Norman Macdonnell.    (Photo courtesy of Roy Bright.)

Ray Kemper, sound technician, had also turned writer by the time Have Gun premiered in 1958. “I do recall an incident on the very first show,” Kemper recalled. “John was really trying hard to do the Paladin character just right. At one point I stopped the rehearsal and asked Norm in a loud voice if he wanted ‘Big Dome’ (referring to Paladin) to wear spurs. Dehner looked stricken and asked, ‘Big Dome?’ In the booth, Norm was laughing like crazy -- he hit the talk back and said, ‘John, you just shrank about a foot.’ Of course, Dehner laughed too.”

After more than 20 episodes, Macdonnell realized that the show was not as successful for radio as it was for television. Perhaps it was because the television audience had a strong impression of what the Paladin character should look -- and act -- like, courtesy of Richard Boone’s treatment for the small screen. More importantly, adapting television scripts into an audio medium was egregious at best. “Well, it turned out they were totally inappropriate for radio, and they were forced to write new and original radio shows which is really what happened,” Dehner recalled. “But they were simultaneously on the air, one on television and one on radio.”

In “The Hanging Cross,” Paladin attempts to thwart a lynching on Christmas Eve, and make peace between the Sioux Indians and the white men on Nathaniel Beecher’s ranch. The television version concludes with Paladin taking down some of the boards from the homemade gallows, and rides off observing the shadow on the ground, from the gallows, depicting a cross. This kind of imagery could have be captured in an audio medium.
Comparing both the radio and television version was fairly easy when you consider the fact that a few of the episodes aired back-to-back on both CBS Radio and CBS-TV. “Death of a Young Gunfighter” aired on CBS Radio on March 15, 1959. The television version aired the night before, March 14. “Maggie O’Bannion” aired on CBS Radio on April 5, 1959. The television version also aired the night before, April 4.

The first person to submit an original script, not adapted from a television episode, was Ray Kemper, one of the six men responsible for the sound effects on the radio version (and radio’s Gunsmoke). Episode twenty-three, “The Gunsmith,” provided an intriguing story of anguish and retribution. In the town of Woodland, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range, Paladin meets Hans Reicher, a German store keep and former gunsmith who suffers from the abuse of Link Dobey, the town bully. An old friend of Hans died by the hand of his faulty craftsmanship, and swore off making handguns ever since. The sheriff lost respect from the town citizens when he was unable to maintain peace and order with Dobey around. Paladin, after discovering the bully beat Hans in order to acquire the last (and most beautiful) of the gunsmith’s talent, faces off against Link Dobey. Good prevailed, but only because the gun exploded in Dobey’s face. Hans confesses to the man in black that due to recent events, he felt wise to create a flaw in the gun, just in case Dobey got his way.

“I wrote a few scripts for Have Gun-Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen and other programs,” recalled Kemper. “Writers were paid pretty good money and anyone who wrote a good script could be guaranteed a sale. Norm was always open for suggestions and idea, no matter how fantastic they would be. Years before, I wrote scripts for a series called The Count of Monte Cristo and I was then using a pen name of N. Clint Reynolds on the [script] covers when I submitted them. When I submitted this script -- and I think I did the same for a couple others -- Norm said, ‘Oh, Ray, we know who you are so you’re going to get credit for this. That’s why the cover of some of the radio scripts I wrote have N. Clint Reynolds on them, instead of my name. But that’s me!”

Of the first 39 radio episodes, 35 were adaptations of television scripts. Beginning with episode 40, the series consisted completely of original radio plots. Ray Kemper would ultimately script a total of nine episodes, and the majority of his submissions are now considered some of the best episodes of the radio series. Reference guides continue to inaccurately state Gene Roddenberry was a script writer for five Have Gun-Will Travel radio broadcasts. The correction should be noted: John Dawson adapted all five of those episodes from Roddenberry’s television scripts and Roddenberry himself had no personal involvement with the radio program.

For more information, click on the book.
There’s an old saying, don’t believe everything you read. A number of web-sites are inaccurately stating facts with nothing to found the basis of their claims. The following corrections should be noted: One, John Dehner was not hired to play the role of Paladin because of his role as J.B. Kendall on the Frontier Gentleman series, nor is his portrayal as Paladin an extension of his former characterization. (We can look back at both series and compare the two radio productions and romantically “assume” this is so, but it’s not a fact.) The radio version of Paladin was an adaptation of the television series -- plain and simple. Second, the cost factor to adapt a television script into a radio script was the same as purchasing an original radio script from the open market. Macdonnell’s insistence to dominate the series, in the eyes of CBS, with his radio version was the purpose behind the adaptations in the first place. There was no cost factor under consideration. Third, it’s been reported that half of the television scripts were adapted for the radio program. This was not so. There were 225 television productions and only 35 of them were adapted into radio scripts. Four, the audition recordings are dated November 8, not November 11. I tracked down the person who retains the original CBS masters and the date November 8 was handwritten 8 on the boxes with the tapes. Fifth, Elliott Lewis and Lew Ayres was not among the actors in the audition recordings.

Episode #1  “STRANGE VENDETTA”  Broadcast November 23, 1958
Recording Date:
November 21, 1958, 12:00 a.m. to 12:24 a.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Don Miquel Rojas); Lillian Buyeff (Maria Rojus); Howard Culver (Wilkins), Joseph Kearns (Doctor Mayhew); Ralph Moody (Farley, the border guard); and Victor Perrin (Timmons).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Ken Kolb, originally telecast October 26, 1957.
Script writer: John Dawson
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes and Pine-Scented Lysol
Opening narration: Sit down gentlemen and sit still. I’ve come to order a coffin for the first one of you who make a move. 

Episode #2  “ROAD TO WICKENBURG”  Broadcast November 30, 1958
Recording Date:
November 30, 1958, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Susan); Harry bartell (Sol Goodfellow); Jack Edwards (Pete Keystone); Frank Gerstle (Sheriff Jim Goodfellow); Eve McVeigh (the lasy); and Victor Perrin (Sheriff Jack Goodfellow).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Gene Roddenberry, originally telecast October 25, 1958.
Script writer: John Dawson
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes and Pine-Scented Lysol
Opening narration: There are four of you gentlemen and I’ve only one bullet left in my derringer. So my choice is very simple. I’ll kill the first man who speaks.

Episode #3  “ELLA WEST”  Broadcast December 7, 1958
Recording Date:
November 15, 1958, 8:00 to 8:25 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Clarisse); Harry Bartell (the barkeep and Tomahawk Carter); Lawrence Dobkin (Mr. Breed); Sam Edwards (Tracy Calvert); Virginia Gregg (Ella West); Barney Phillips (the stage driver); and Ben Wright (the manager).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Gene Roddenberry, originally telecast January 4, 1958.
Script writer: John Dawson
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes
Opening narration: I promised I’d avoid a gunfight if possible. But it looks as though it isn’t possible. I have one bullet left. You may draw when you’re ready.

Episode #4  “THE OUTLAW”  Broadcast December 14, 1958
Recording Date:
December 6, 1958, 7:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Cast: Jeanne Bates (the woman and Sarah Holt); Frank Cady (the hotel clerk); Lawrence Dobkin (Manfred Holt); Sam Edwards (Abe Talltree); Joseph Kearns (Ned Alcorn); and Ralph Moody (Sheriff Jake Ludlow).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Sam Rolfe, originally telecast September 21, 1957.
Script writer: Frank Michael
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes and Look Magazine
Opening narration: Mister, you killed nine men. I never heard anyone say you made allowances for your opponent’s ability with a gun.

Episode #5  “THE HANGING CROSS”  Broadcast December 21, 1958
Recording Date:
December 13, 1958, 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Dick Beals (Chiwah, a.k.a. Robbie); Virginia Christine (the lady); John James (various ad libs), Jess Kirkpatrick (Tater); Ann Morrison (Maudie); Victor Perrin (Nathaniel Beecher); Roy Woods (Cha-la-te); and Ben Wright (Pete).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Gene Roddenberry, originally telecast December 21, 1957.
Script writer: John Dawson
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes
Opening narration: In all my life, I’ve only seen a dozen real killers. But I’ve seen ten thousand people who will sit back and let murder happen. Which is the greater evil?

Trivia, etc. Ralph Moody was originally scheduled to play the role of Cah-la-te, but for reasons unknown, Roy Woods took the role. Woods would later replace Moody again in another HGWT radio episode, “A Matter of Ethics.”

Episode #6  “NO VISITORS”  Broadcast December 28, 1958
Recording Date:
December 20, 1958, 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Jeanne Bates (Clara Benson); Virginia Gregg (Dr. Phyllis Thackeray); John James (the man); Lou Kurgman (Davis, the townsman); and Victor Perrin (Jeremiah Mulrooney).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Don Brinkley, originally telecast November 30, 1957.
Script writer: John Dunkel
Commercials: Kent’s Filtered Cigarettes
Opening narration: You came to me with a torch and a gun. You call it righteousness. Call it by its real name... Murder.

In a future blog post, I will discuss the calendar year of 1959. (To be continued...)

Martin Grams Jr. is the co-author of The Have Gun-Will Travel Companion (2000) now out of print. Copies can still be purchased on a number of web-sites including

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Quiz Kids: The "Lost" 1946 Episodes

Courtesy of the Wade Advertising Agency, Miles Laboratories, Inc. sponsored a long-running radio quiz program, The Quiz Kids. Listeners were not just treated to Alka Seltzer and One-A-Day Vitamin commercials, they featured a novel idea that involved youngsters not over fifteen years of age, chosen from the regular schools on a basis of school records and preliminary “Quiz Kid” examinations. The kids stayed on as long as their answering rank continued high or until 16 years of age. The “Kids” answered questions of general information plus some specialized knowledge; as one of the youngsters may be the “arithmetic expert;” another the “literature expert,” etc. Joe Kelly, “teacher of the Quiz Kids,” was emcee of the program.

The program was a “Schoolkids’ Questionnaire” and the youngsters who take part are all-‘round American school kids. They attended the regular schools in addition to working with Joe Kelly for their parts in the program. The questions used on the program were strictly unrehearsed and were submitted by radio listeners, ala Information, Please. (The kids were often considered smarter than the regular grown-up panelists of Information, Please and it's a wonder that someone didn't consider having one of the kids as a guest on Please.) If the listeners’ question was used, the listener received a portable Zenith radio equipped with both standard and shortwave facilities; if the Quiz Kids missed the question, the listener who stumped the youngsters received a console Zenith radio-phonograph combination with the two FM bands and a cobra-tone record-playing arm. The five Quiz Kids on the program each received a $100 Savings Bond for taking part and the three with the highest score at the close of each broadcast were invited back for the next program. (Occasionally, a fourth place winner is also back on the next broadcast.)

The announcer for the series was Bob Murphy. From time to time, guests assisted Joe Kelly.

Ironically, Joe Kelly was a third-grade dropout, a seasoned vaudevillian, and host of the hayseed music program, The National Barn Dance. “His height of intellectual polish before The Quiz Kids was to ring a cowbell and chortle, ‘I’m tea-kettled pink to be here’,” wrote John Lear in the Saturday Evening Post.

I should note that the information above is not indicative to the prior seasons of The Quiz Kids, and only refers to the NBC season that began in September of 1946. Prior, the series was heard over NBC, the Blue Network and ABC. Only three episodes from the calendar year of 1946 are known to exist, March 24, March 31 and June 16, all three of them from the ABC season. The following are the first fourteen episodes when the series made the move back to NBC, and are the first fourteen of the 1946-1947 season. None of these episodes are known to exist in recorded form, hence they are referred to as “lost” episodes. 

Episode #1  Broadcast of September 29, 1946 
Special guest on this broadcast is Mrs. Edith Binker, the winner in the nation-wide scholarship contest to find the best school teacher of 1946. This contest was conducted on The Quiz Kids program while the show was on ABC -- the winner received a cash prize of $2,500 and a year’s graduate study scholarship, plus a week of entertainment in Chicago last spring when she was in the Windy City and when she appeared on the program to receive her award. (The contestants in the “best teacher of 1946” were nominated by their own students.) Mrs. Binker was the teacher of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades of Warren Township School, in New Jersey.

On this broadcast, she did some of the quizzing with Joe Kelly and was also interviewed about her plans for the future. She remarked how she was coming right back to her old job at the Warren Township school. One of the questions used on the program was sent in by Mrs. Binker’s principal, Ralph Juppe, and addressed toward Binker. He asked her to outline her own study plans while doing her graduate work and suggested that she ask the Quiz Kids for some of the study habits they found useful. The Quiz Kids taking part of this broadcast were Naomi Cooks, Ruthie Duskin, Joel Kupperman, Jack Rooney, and the “baby” Quiz Kid was Richard Weixler, age six. The three top scorers were Joel, Ruthie and Jack.

Allan Jones
Episode #2  
Broadcast of October 6, 1946 
The guest on this broadcast was Allan Jones, famous star of Hollywood and concert stage (best known for appearing in two Marx Brothers movies, A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937). Jones sang a few bars from each of four love songs. The Quiz Kids listened to identify the songs and then tell if the man in the song marries the girl and if they live happily ever after. The Quiz Kids on this program were Joel Kupperman, Ruthie Duskin, Jack Rooney, Naomi Cook (age 8) and Lonny Lunde (age 10). Winners were Jack first, Joel and Ruthie tied for second.

An announcement was made that next week this regular program would not be heard but the Quiz Kids would be heard as a guest on the special NBC broadcast of Parade of Stars -- a special program which gave NBC listeners a chance to get an overall picture of the programs and stars heard over the network.

Broadcast of October 13, 1946 
The program was canceled on this date in order for the network to have a special Parade of Stars broadcast. The program went to the studio audience only and The Quiz Kids program had a spot on this special. Joe Kelly explained that the broadcast was a part of the “regular session” of the Quiz Kids.

Episode #3  Broadcast of October 20, 1946 
The program regularly originated from Chicago, Illinois. An exception was made for this broadcast and was instead was heard from both Chicago and Washington D.C. A breakdown of this particular broadcast is included below. The Quiz Kids on this evening were Joel Kupperman, Ruthie Duskin, Jack Rooney, Naomi Cooks and Lonny Lunde.

4:00 p.m. Regular opening announcement and introductions.
4:05 p.m. Switch to Washington, D.C. for a two-way set-up with the guest of honor, John W. Snyder, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Mr. Snyder asked the Quiz Kids to name three reasons why the Treasury Department was continuing to sell U.S. Savings Bonds.
4:10 p.m. Back to Chicago. The Quiz Kids answer questions about the United Nations.
4:26 p.m. Second switch to Washington, D.C. for a special talk by U.S. Secretary of Treasury Snyder, who announces the presentation to the Quiz Kids program of a U.S. Treasury Silver Medal Award for distinguished service to the Treasury and the Nation, as a result of the active part taken by the program’s cast and sponsor in the War, Victory and Savings Bond drives. The Quiz Kids sponsor had, during the past several years, awards 235 contestants a total of $165,000 in U.S. Bonds. During the War years, the Quiz Kids themselves visited 38 of the country’s cities and presented broadcasts which were open only to the purchasers of War Bonds, resulting in the sale of $120 million dollars worth of E Bonds. Mr. Snyder then announced that the actual presentation of the Award would be made by the U.S. Treasury personal representative who was in the Chicago studio at that time.
4:27 p.m. Switch back to Chicago, where Arnold J. Rauen, Director of the Savings Bond Division for the State of Illinois, presented the U.S. Treasury Silver Medal Award for distinguished service to The Quiz Kids program. (Mr. Rauen spoke for less than a minute.)

Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes
Episode #4  Broadcast of October 27, 1946
Guests included Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes. The Quiz Kids on this broadcast included Joel Kupperman, Ruthie Duskin, Jack Rooney, Naomi Cooks and Lonny Lunde. This broadcast had a 2-minute spot on the subject of the Community Chest (Red Feather) drive for funds. Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers and Joe Kelly talked about the good the Community Chest was doing in the world. For fans of the cowboy actors, my apologies but this is the most info I have for this particular broadcast. One can only assume Roy sang a song.

Episode #5  Broadcast of November 3, 1946 
Not only did this episode originate from Chicago, but New York City as well. The two-way set-up allowed for guest Bennett Cerf, columnist and writer of books, to speak to the kids. Cerf was currently the president of Random House and the “Modern Library.” In Chicago, the Quiz Kids were Joel Kupperman, Lonny Lunde, Jack Rooeny, Judy Graham (age 14) and a new Quiz Kid who was making his first appearance in the form of Robert (Bobby) Burns, age six. Lonny, Joel, Judy and Jack were winners and would return the next week.

The beautiful Virginia Mayo
Episode #6  
Broadcast of November 10, 1946 
Celebrity guest for this broadcast was Virginia Mayo, famed movie actress. The Quiz Kids on this broadcast were Lonny Lunde, Joel Kupperman, Judy Graham, Jack Rooney and the “pocket-sized student,” Sparky Fischman, age seven. Sparky was the young brother of Harve Fischman, a retired Quiz Kid, who was now in Hollywood working as a correspondent to Hollywood for a Chicago newspaper. An announcement was made on this program that next week’s program would feature questions sent in by servicemen or women in one of our Army, Navy or Government hospitals.

Episode #7  Broadcast of November 17, 1946 
The entire program was in salute to the hospitalized veterans of World War II, with all questions used on the program sent in by men and women vets. If a question was missed by the Quiz Kids, the vet who sent in the “stumping” query received a $200 Zenith Radio-Phonograph combination. All whose questions were used received the usual portable radios. As a surprise gift, all servicemen and women who sent in questions postmarked before midnight, Saturday, November 16, each received a monogrammed Zippo cigarette lighter as a gift from the Quiz Kids -- over 100 hospitalized vets, men and women, received the lighters.

The Quiz Kids on this broadcast were Lonny Lunde, Joel Kupperman, Judy Graham, Sparky Fischman and Richard (Dick) Sedlack, age 15. The celebrity guest was Dr. Paul R. Hawley, Chief Medical Director of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in the Veterans Administration. Dr. Hawley thanked the Quiz Kids for the “morale-building job” they had done both in their personal appearance visits to the various veterans’ hospitals and by the way they used the veterans’ questions in their program. Dr. Hawley’s talk was from 4:26 to 4:28 p.m. (2 minutes). Winning Quiz Kids were Joel, Lonny and Richard.

Neil Hamilton
Episode #8  
Broadcast of November 24, 1946 
Celebrity guest was Neil Hamilton, a famed actor who would later gain pop culture fame playing the role of Commissioner Gordon on television’s Batman. Hamilton was currently starring in the Chicago production of “State of the Union” on stage. The Quiz Kids on this broadcast were Lonny Lunde, Joel Kupperman, Naomi Cooks, Richard (Dick) Sedlack, and a little new Quiz Kid, nine-year-old Danny Martin. The Quiz Kids included a brief discussion about Thanksgiving on this program. Top winners were Joel, Richard, Lonny and Naomi.

Episode #9  Broadcast of December 1, 1946 
From Chicago and Washington, D.C. The entire program was in honor of the National 4-H Club members who were attending the 25th National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago. The studio guests were 150 prominent 4-H Club members from all parts of the nation. The Quiz Kids panel included a guest Quiz Kid, Dianne Mathre, 4-H Club member and 14-year-old president of the DeKalb, Ill. 4-H Club. Other Quiz Kids taking part in this broadcast were Lonny Lunde, Joel Kupperman, Richard (Dick) Sedlack and Naomi Cooks. 

During the program, there were two switches to Washington with two-way set-ups between Chicago and Washington so that the guest in Washington would talk with the Quiz Kids in Chicago. Joe Kelly also introduced Phyllis Bonnater, owner of the new 4-H Championship steer.

4:02 to 4:04 First switch to Washington so U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Clinton P. Anderson, could ask the Quiz Kids a few questions.
4:27 to 4:28 Second switch to Washington for a talk by Anderson, who congratulated all of the 4-H Club members of America on the excellent work that they are doing. Secretary Anderson also thanked the Quiz Kids for the part which they played in the life of boys and girls all over the nation, both in the cities and in rural districts.
4:28 Back to Chicago for the conclusion of the program. Joe Kelly announced the winners as usual. Lonny Lunde and Dianne. However, Kelly explains that next week’s program would be broadcast from Washington, D.C. where Lonny Lunde, Joel Kupperman, Naomi Cooks, Jack Rooney and Danny Martin would be the participants. This would be the first “Quiz Kid” trip for every one of the children except for Joel.

Episode #10  Broadcast of December 8, 1946 
The entire broadcast originates from Washington, D.C., instead of Chicago. The broadcast originated from the Library of Congress. Durward Kirby, the New York radio personality who was known at the time as being the emcee of Honeymoon in New York program, was the announcer instead of Bob Murphy. The entire broadcast was dedicated to the good will between North and South America. The Quiz kids taking part were Joel Kupperman, Naomi Cooks, Lonny Lunde, Jack Rooney and Danny Martin. Martin was born in Peru and came to the U.S. in 1944. He was one of the children from the Peruvian Embassy. 

A portion of the program was devoted to a tribute to Dr. Leo S. Rowe, late director-general of the Pan-American Union. Dr. Rowe was fatally injured in an automobile accident on Thursday, December 5, 1946. He had been scheduled to be the honor guest for the Quiz Kids on this date. Paying tribute to Dr. Rowe and taking part of the program were Senor Roberto Aguilar Drisgueros, El Salvadorian delegate to UNRRA; and U.S. Senator Carl A. Hatch (D) of New Mexico, who spoke for approximately two minutes and told of the work and significance of the Pan-American Union.

Another guest on this program was William Randall Jones, 16, of Little Rock, Arkansas, winner of the $1,000 study award for writing the winning nation-wide high school essay on the subject, “The Economic Influence of Coffee.” The essay contest was sponsored by the Pan-American Coffee Bureau and the Council for Inter-American Cooperation. The award was made on the program. Another guest was Inez Elvira Santamaria, the young daughter of the Columbian ambassador to the U.S. Inez talked in both Spanish and English in her conversations with the Quiz Kids.

Episode #11  Broadcast of December 15, 1946 
The entire program was dedicated to hospitalized veterans of World War II. All of the questions used on the program were sent in by vets. Every veteran who sent in a question, even if it was not used on the program, received a gift from the Quiz Kids -- a Reynolds Rocket pen that wrote for 15 years without filling.

The guest celebrity was Maurice Evans, the great Shakespearean actor. Joe Kelly said Evans was a veteran too, with the rank of Major in the United States Army. Evans was in charge of all troop entertainment in the Central Pacific Area.

The Quiz Kids taking part of this broadcast included Joel Kupperman, Dianne Mathre, Lonny Lunde, Patrick Conlon (age 9) and Richard Weixler, the six-year-old. Winners were Joel, Lonny and Patrick. However, little Richard Weixler was invited to partake again next week, because the broadcast would be heard from Richard’s Sunday School class Christmas part with Richard as host.

Gertrude Lawrence during rehearsals.
Episode #12  
Broadcast of December 22, 1946 
Only the commercials originated from the Chicago studios with Bob Murphy. The rest of the broadcast originated from the Kenwood Church Sunday School Room on Chicago’s South Side, where Quiz Kid Richard Weixler’s class is having a Christmas party. Special guest at the party was well-known Gertrude Lawrence. The Quiz Kids taking part were Joel Kupperman, Naomi Cooks, Lonny Lunde, Patrick Conlon and Richard Weixler.

Following a few questions, the Quiz Kids took part in a regular Christmas program to entertain the Sunday School class. Naomi Cooks did a condensed version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Patrick Conlon did his especially-prepared tracing of the line of descent from Adam down to Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Lonny plays an excerpt from Schubert’s “Impromptu in A-Flat Major” (on the piano). Joel Kupperman read an original poem titled “Christmas Greetings to Joe Kelly.” A little girl named Betty Diaz, a member of the Sunday School class, was asked to recite a little poem which she knew. She obliged because she liked Joe Kelly, who had been sitting beside her on the front row for the entire program.

Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs. Santa Claus distributed candy and Christmas stocking gifts to the entire assemblage of little guests. Lawrence also made a one-minute talk in behalf of the little children of Europe -- children who may not be having a Christmas at all this year. She asked all American children who may be listening to send a little portion of their Christmas cheer to those less fortunate. She told of the Personal Parcels Service, operated by the Gertrude Lawrence Branch of the American Theater Wing. These Personal Parcels contained food and other basic necessities for children abroad -- the work of the Branch was voluntary and every contribution, food or money, went directly and completely to the cause. “If you want to contribute, send your offering to Quiz Kids, Chicago.” Following Gertrude Lawrence’s talk and a few games, Richard Weixler closed the program by talking about prayer and then repeating the Lord’s prayer.

Episode #13  Broadcast of December 29, 1946
This was the New Year’s program and in keeping with the tradition of getting together with old friends for the New Year, the Quiz Kids invited some of their ex-Quiz Kids to take part as program guests. Regular Quiz Kids on the program are Joel Kupperman, Lonny Lunde, Naomi Cooks, Patrick Conlon and Richard Weixler. Naomi Cooks and Joe Kelly took a portable microphone and interviewed briefly as many of the Quiz Kid graduate guests as the time permitted. When time grew short, Joe Kelly just called out the names of the Quiz Kid grads and asked them to answer in one brief statement telling what they were currently doing.

Scan of a Quiz Kids promotional postcard.

Okay… For those asking for more, I’m going to go into 1947 a bit...
Episode #14  Broadcast of January 5, 1947 
The Quiz Kids on this program were Joel Kupperman, Naomi Cooks, Lonny Lunde, Patrick Conlon and Richard Weixler. Joe Kelly remarked that the new year is only five days old and the five Quiz Kids on today’s broadcast were an unusually young group -- they averaged only 8 4/5 years apiece and the total birthdays of all five of them just about equal the age of their teacher, Joe Kelly. Patrick, Lonny and Joel were the three winners who would return to the show next week.  

Closing Note 
The spelling of the kids originate from a variety of sources and regrettably, varied. Lonnie Lunde or Lonny Lunde? I chose to go by the names as they were spelled in John Dunning’s On the Air encyclopedia, since he often turned to periodicals for information and would have reprinted the names as spelled in those periodicals. Could those periodicals have the names mis-spelled? Of course. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. But I had to use something to base the spelling. The spelling of names are subject to revision, but only if someone can send me something that verifies the correct spelling. Far as I know, they are accurate above.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Martians Invade Grover's Mill

It has become an annual tradition for old-time radio fans to listen to the 1938 "War of the Worlds" panic broadcast on Halloween Eve. After listening to the broadcast more than a dozen times, it still surprises me that I catch something I overlooked the prior times, from bloopers to historical references. This year, however, I made the trek to the Grover's Mill Coffee Roasting Company, inspired by the 1938 panic broadcast.

Four years ago, I joined my good friends Neal Ellis, Ken Stockinger, Dr. Mike Biel and his daughter Leah Biel, to Grover's Mill, New Jersey, the real-life town where the fictional Martians invaded. Visiting the supposed landing site is like a Civil War buff touring the Civil War battlefields. After talking to locals and discovering new facts behind the broadcast, the significance of Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast has more meaning today than it did when I was a kid.

Bronze monument at Grover's Mill.

On October 29, 1988, the citizens of West Windsor Township dedicated a monument to the memory of the Martian Invasion. The bronze monument depicts a skyscraper-high Martian war machine in the upper right corner; in the left center, a brilliant, twenty-three year-old Orson Welles stands in front of a microphone; and in the lower two-thirds, a fairly typical American family listens to the radio broadcast. It not only reminds us of the broadcast that panicked Americans but also recalls the fateful night when America lost its innocence. Naturally, we went there to visit the monument, located a few miles away from the coffee shop.

We were shocked to learn, during our first visit to Grover's Mill, that tourists flocked to the memorial every Halloween, but after the 50th Anniversary of the broadcast, interest has diminished and rarely does anyone come by to check out the memorial, or question the local citizens about the Martian scare. This is dis-heartening, but a fact of life as the fan base continues to age.

Supposedly during the night of the Martian scare, locals unfamiliar with the territory, took pot shots at the Martian machine that roamed the city. In reality, what they shot was the water tower which was found, weeks later, to have buckshot inside. One of them was a farmer, Bill Dock, who admitted afterwards that he was among the people who took aim and fired at the outer space intruder. It didn't take long for Life magazine to pick up on the story, and asked Mr. Dock to pose for their camera (pictured below).

Bill Dock posing for a photographer of Life magazine.

The end result was that many of the locals in Grovers Mill wouldn't talk to the press. When Ken and Neal wandered about Grovers Mill a few years ago, they discovered some of the locals still won't talk to people about it! More amusing, they found the mill (pictured many times as a local landmark around the corner from where the monument is) which is where Mr. Dock posed for the photographers. The owner of the mill would not talk to us about the Martian scare, initially, until he was convinced we were historians and then opened up about the local tourist attractions.

Franc Gambatese
On the plus side, a recent visit on the anniversary, October 30, 2011, sparked an attempted revival from Franc Gambatese, originally from Patterson, NJ, owner of the Grover's Mill Coffee Company. Franc and his wife have been in the coffee business for seven years and three years ago opened the Grover's Mill Coffee House and Roastery, located at 295 Princeton Hightstown Road, Southfield Shopping Center, in West Windsor, New Jersey. Every year on the weekend of the "War of the Worlds" anniversary, they organize a celebration which includes re-creations.

"We're deadly serious in the coffee business, as much as we are in preserving Grover's Mill," Franc told me. "Our place has become a museum and all of the donations originate from other people. They've even given us radios. People seek us out and make donations and we put them on display for everyone."

Inside the Grover's Mill Coffee House

Martian machine made of coffee pots.

Martian cupcakes

Robert Hummel painting

Whether it was a Martian war machine made out of coffee pots or an original newspaper from 1938, the most impressive display was an original painting by Robert Hummel, created in 2008 specifically for the coffee shop. "I know Robert as a friend and I saw him one day and told him we were opening a coffee house and asked him to make a contribution. We gave him an old coffee pot and he used it as the model of the Martian machine. What he did was wonderful. Robert even has copies of the painting available on his website."

For anyone wanting a copy should visit Robert's website,
Photos on display at the Grovers Mill Coffee Shop.

During an interview on Radio Once More, broadcast live from the coffee shop, we learned that Franc also wrote a thesis about Orson Welles and the "War of the Worlds" panic broadcast, while attending the William Paterson College. His passion for the "War of the Worlds" broadcast was clearly evident (though he remarked that his wife was the brains behind the business). They offer tee shirts, DVDs, CDs and books for sale, all related to the panic broadcast.

The crew of Radio Once More broadcasting live.

Anyone who came in with a costume got a free coffee.

The coffee shop not only offers a museum of artifacts from posters, models and autographed photos, but some great coffee and tea. During our visit, they served Martian Moca Java. Turns out they have their own specialty blends, which are really good. I'm not a coffee drinker, so I chose the caramel apple cider and it was fantastic.

If you ever want to check out their inventory, purchases can be made at

If you are looking for something different to do next Halloween, why not consider visiting the Grover's Mill Coffee House & Roastery in New Jersey next year. You won't regret it.