Friday, November 27, 2009

Boris Karloff on Radio


This blog post is part of the Boris Karloff Blogathon.

The moment I discovered the Internet all those years ago, I also discovered the beauty of Old Time Radio (OTR).

In this day and age of constant entertainment it is hard to fathom just how much of an input radio drama had on the lives of millions during the golden age of OTR between the 1930s and 60s. During that time radio effectively took the place of TV in most people's homes and radio drama represented a variety of common genres such as mystery, horror, superheroes, western, Science Fiction, soap opera and much more.

Similar to the way early TV programs were quickly discarded or taped over by the corporations, radio shows were equally got rid off quickly in order to free up shelf spaces in the archives. In actual fact if it wasn't for the efforts of early OTR enthusiasts a lot of the programs would no longer be around. In the early days collecting OTR often required searching in trash dumps for any reels that may have been disposed off.

Over the years and with advances in technology OTR collecting became more accessible to the masses, though it still only constitutes a niche hobby of a small, but highly enthusiastic group of fans. Shows were first of all swapped through reel-to-reel, then tapes and CDs finally in MP3 format, first of all through CD or DVD trades and now as direct downloads through the Internet.

The beauty of OTR is that the classic shows up until Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar are not so much out of copyright, but never appear to be copyrighted in the first place which makes trading a guilt free and perfectly legal affair.

The sound quality of the shows available can vary, but for the most part is decent enough to guarantee perfect enjoyment. OTRs are also available for sale, though most enthusiasts look down upon this and it is perfectly feasible to quickly amass a large collection that will give you pleasure for years to come without ever spending a single penny.

Classic radio dramas not only promise great entertainment value, but are also essential for any fan of classic cinema. If you're into any of the classic Hollywood actors you just need to become a fan of OTR to truly appreciate the scope of those actors' talents as practically everyone of these artists was at some stage involved with recording radio shows. Some recorded very little: Bela Lugosi e.g. was very much compromised by his strong accent that prevented him from making a real impact on radio. Some recorded a lot: The likes of Orson Welles or Vincent Price e.g. have such a broad recording history that it nearly warrants an entire tome just dedicated to that aspect of their acting careers. But whether an actor recorded a little or a lot, the chances that your favourite classic thespian recorded a least a certain amount are very high.

So how does Boris Karloff fit into this?

Just a cursory glance at the listing on the official Karloff site reveals that he was one of the more prolific radio actors. His mellifluous voice was ideal for radio shows and his OTR output was tremendous. There's hardly a month in his career in which he did not record radio shows and in actual fact there was many a period when he was involved in several shows per month. This is a gigantic output especially considering that at the same time he was also busy shooting hundreds of movies and TV shows.

But the sheer numbers of radio shows is not the only thing to hit you when you start looking at Karloff, the radio performer. More important is the sheer range and versatility of these performances. Sure, true to form there are indeed a wide range of macabre performances that come with the territory, but he also appeared in comedy shows often spoofing his own image. And if you were always annoyed that he didn't star in Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace, rejoice as you can listen to him reprising his stage role as Jonathan Brewster in a couple of radio dramas.

Together with his colleague John Carradine he also appeared in Information Please, a celebrity radio quiz show in which he was able to demonstrate a wide range of knowledge that would put most current celebs to shame.

He also was the host of a long running series of factual programs based on stories published in the Readers' Digest.

So if I have managed to wet your appetite a little bit, then what are you waiting for? Luckily for us a large number of his radio shows are available freely on the Internet as MP3s. Though there are already at least two good Karloffian OTR lists around (the one on the official site as well as one on the Radio Gold Index I have decided to run my own here. It is a conglomerate of the other two lists as some of the titles were not listed on both. Also none of the two lists features links to available shows online. Those lists do, however, provide a wealth of extra info about the individual shows well worth checking out.

So my goal with this list is to provide an extensive overview of Karloff's radio work as well as info on where to listen to those shows. A list like this will by its very nature probably remain forever incomplete. From the 12 (or 13) episodes of Creeps by Night that Karloff was involved in, the titles of only seven are still known and of those only two still appear to be available in any shape or form.

I would like to have this list as a constant work in progress and want to keep it as updated as much possible, I would welcome any additional info available, both regarding new episode names or dates as well as links to online availability not mentioned yet.

This list does not cover Karloff's appearances on audio records, some of which can also be found online. The IMDB has provided a short cursory overview into this aspect of Karloff's career.

For those of you not averse to spending on OTR, the OTRcat has 69 Boris Karloff shows available on CD for just $5. Some of them do not appear to be easily available online otherwise.

Boris Karloff Radio Check List:

Unknown Title (January 3, 1932) Format: Variety; Network: CBS.

Hollywood on Parade [aka: Hollywood on the Air] (October 7, 1933)

Hollywood on Parade [aka: Hollywood on the Air] (January 27, 1934)

The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour: "Death Takes a Holiday" (October 11, 1934)

Hollywood on the Air (May 1935)

Shell Chateau (August 31, 1935)

Unknown Title (December 30, 1935)

The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour (February 6, 1936)

The Royal GeIatin Hour (September 3, 1936)

Camel Caravan (December 8, 1936)

The Chase and Sanborn Hour (January 30, 1938)

Baker’s Broadcast [aka: Seein’ Stars in Hollywood] (March 13, 1938)

Lights Out: “The Dream” aka “Darrell Hall’s Thoughts” (March 23, 1938) = “The Dream”

Lights Out: “Valse Triste” (March 30, 1938)

Lights Out: “Cat Wife” (April 6, 1938)

Unknown Title (April 11, 1938)

Lights Out: “Three Matches” (April 13, 1938)

Lights Out: “Night on the Mountain” (April 20, 1938)

Royal Gelatin Hour aka The Royal Desserts Hour aka The Rudy Vallee Hour (May 5, 1938)

The Eddie Cantor Show (January 16, 1939)

Royal Gelatin Hour ( April 6 1939)

Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knnowledge ( September 25, 1940)

Everyman’s Theater: “Cat Wife” (October 18, 1940)

Information Please (January 24, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Man of Steel” (March 16, 1941)

Hollywood News Girl (March 22, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Man Who Hated Death” (March 23, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Death in the Zoo” (April 6, 1941)

The Voice of Broadway (April 19, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Fog” (April 20, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: "Imperfect Crime” (May 11, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (June 1, 1941)

Bundles for Britain (June 14, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Green-Eyed Bat” (June 22, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Man Who Painted Death” (June 29, 1941)

United Press Is On the Air (July 11, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Death Is a Murderer” (July 13, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Tell-Tale Heart” (August 3, 1941)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Terror on Bailey Street” (October 26, 1941)

Time to Smile (December 17, 1941)

Keep ’em Rolling (February 8, 1942)

Information Please (February 20, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (April 5, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Blackstone” (April 19, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Study for Murder” (May 3, 1942)
[No direct link found, but available by email upon request]

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: "The Cone” (May 24, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Death Wears My Face” (May 31, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Strange Bequest” (April 7, 1942)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Grey Wolf’ (April 21, 1941)

The Theatre Guild on the Air: “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1943)

Information Please (May 17, 1943)

Blue Ribbon Town (July 24, 1943)

The Charlie McCarthy Show (January 30, 1944)

Creeps By Night (February 15-June 20, 1944) [series]
“The Voice of Death” (February 15, 1944)
“The Man With the Devil’s Hands” (February 22, 1944)
“Dark Destiny” (March 14, 1944)
“A String of Pearls” (March 28, 1944)
“Those Who Walk in Darkness” (April 25, 1944)
“The Final Reckoning” (May 2, 1944)
“The Hunt” (May 9, 1944)

Blue Ribbon Town (June 3, 1944)

Duffy’s Tavern (January 12, 1945)

Suspense: “Drury’s Bones” (January 25, 1945)

The Fred Allen Show (October 14, 1945)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Corridor of Doom” (October 23, 1945)

Hildegarde’s Radio Room aka The Raleigh Room (October 23, 1945)

The Charlie McCarthy Program (October 28, 1945)

Report to the Nation: “Back for Christmas” (November 3, 1945)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “The Wailing Wall” (November 6, 1945)

Theatre Guild on the Air: “The Emperor Jones” and “Where the Cross is Made” (November 11, 1945)

The Fred Allen Show: Renting a Room (November 18, 1945)

Textron Theater: “Angel Street” (December 8, 1945)

Exploring the Unknown: “The Baffled Genie” (December 23, 1945)

The Radio Hall of Fame (December 23, 1945)

Information Please (December 24, 1945)

Request Performance: "The Reconversion of Karloff" aka "The Bet"  (February 3, 1946)

That’s Life (November 8, 1946)

The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre: “Arsenic and Old Lace” (November 25, 1946)

Show Stoppers (1946)

The Jack Benny Show (January 19, 1947)

Lights Out (July 16-August 6, 1947) [series]
“Death Robbery” (July 16, 1947)
“The Undead” (July 23, 1947)
“The Ring” (July 30, 1947)

Philco Radio Time (aka The Bing Crosby Show) (October 29, 1947)

The Jimmy Durante Show (December 10, 1947)

Suspense: “Wet Saturday” (December 19, 1947)

The Kraft Music Hall (December 25, 1947)

Unconquered (1947)

Guest Star: The Babysitter (September 12, 1948)

The NBC University Theater of the Air: “The History of Mr. Polly” (October 17, 1948)

The Sealtest Variety Theater (aka The Dorothy Lamour Show) (October 28, 1948)

Great Scenes from Great Plays: “On Borrowed Time” (October 29, 1948)

Truth or Consequences (October 30, 1948)

Theater USA (February 3, 1949)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Birdsong for a Murderer” (February 14, 1949)

Spike Jones Spotlight Review (April 9, 1949)

Theatre Guild on the Air (May 29, 1949)

The Sealtest Variety Theater (aka The Dorothy Lamour Show) (June 23, 1949)

Starring Boris Karloff (September 21-December 14, 1949)
“Five Golden Guineas” (September 21)
“The Mask” (September 28)
“Mungahara” (October 5)
“Mad Illusion” (October 12)
“Perchance to Dream,” (October 19)
“The Devil Takes a Bride” (October 26)
“The Moving Finger” (November 2)
“The Twisted Path” (November 9)
“False Face” (November 16)
“Cranky Bill” (November 23)
“Three O’Clock” (November 30)
“The Shop at Sly Corner” (December 7)
“The Night Reveals” (December 14)

The Bill Stern Colgate Sports Newsreel (January 13, 1950)

The Bill Stern Colgate Sports Newsreel (July 21, 1950)

Boris Karloff's Treasure Chest (September 17-December 17, 1950) [series]
“Casey at the Bat” (October 1, 1950)
“Johnny Appleseed” (November 26, 1950)
“Boris Karloff’s Christmas Treasure Chest” (December 24, 1950)

The Theater Guild on the Air: “David Copperfield” (December 24, 1950)

Stars on Parade: “The Big Man” (May 4, 1951)

Duffy’s Tavern (October 1951)

Phillip Morris Playhouse on Broadway: “Journey into Nowhere” (February 10, 1952)

The MGM Musical Comedy Theatre. (February 20, 1952)

The Theatre Guild on the Air: “Oliver Twist” (February 24, 1952)

The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Show (April 18, 1952)
[No direct link found, but available by email upon request]

The Theatre Guild on the Air: “The Sea Wolf” (April 27, 1952)

Phillip Morris Playhouse on Broadway: “Outward Bound” (June 1, 1952)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Birdsong for a Murderer” (June 22, 1952)

Best Plays: “Arsenic and Old Lace” (July 6, 1952)

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: “Death for Sale” (July 13, 1952)

MGM Musical Comedy Theater of the Air: “Yolanda and the Thief’ (November 26, 1952)

Phillip Morris Playhouse on Broadway: “Man Against Town” (December 10, 1952)

U.S. Steel Hour: “Great Expectations” (April 5, 1953)

Phillip Morris Playhouse on Broadway: “Dead Past” (April 15, 1953)

Heritage: “Plagues” (April 23, 1953)

Phillip Morris Playhouse on Broadway: “The Shop at Sly Corner” (June 17, 1953)

Recollections At Thirty. (September 26, 1956)

Tales from the Reader’s Digest aka The Boris Karloff Program
These are short 3-minute shows in which Karloff presents info from the pages of the Reader's Digest. Over the course of that show he recorded so many of these that a complete overview would require a blog post in its own right. A complete list can be obtained by scanning the Radio Gold Index. The following six samples are the ones that still appear to be available.
"Special Message to Station Owners" (December 1957)
"Chung Ling Soo" (December 16, 1957)
"Shakespeare's Hometown (December 17, 1957)
"Story of Wood" (December 18, 1957)
"Dr. Harvey Cushing" (December 19, 1957)
"The White House" (December 20, 1957)

Easy as ABC: “0 Is for Old Wives Tales” (April 27, 1958)

8 comments:

teenybuffalo said...

Thank you for doing this. I enjoy OTR and Boris Karloff's voice very much, and I've been seeking out every radio appearance of his I can find. This is a real treasure trove of information.

Do you know whether any recording is still extant of Karloff playing the lead in a radio production of "Death Takes a Holiday"?

Not to quibble with a wonderful post, but I'm having trouble finding the episode "Drury's Bones". Can you point me to it? The link from that title led me to an episode of "Information Please", which was a lot of fun in its own right.

Holger Haase said...

Thanks for pointing out the boo boo re Drury's Bones. I have now corrected the link. Drury's Bones can be found as part of Archive.org's SUSPENSE collection: http://www.archive.org/details/SUSPENSE2

Not sure off hand whether Death Takes a Holiday is available in any form, but will research and let you know.

Holger Haase said...

Re Death Takes a Holiday: I learned that this was the Fleischmann's Yeast Hour Production from October 11, 1934. I previously didn't have an episode title for it, but have now added it to the list.

According to the OTR site - http://www.otrsite.com/logs/logr1022.htm - there are only snippets of the show still in existence amongst collectors. It says: " Incomplete-missing parts: 1,2,3,7,8,9" I don't know whether the existing parts contain any Karloff material.

teenybuffalo said...

Thank you for doing this legwork. Both "Drury's Bones" and "Death Takes a Holiday" have been lost treasures for me for a while, so I appreciate having DB dished up for me! I've been listening through the list here and enjoying myself immensely.

Holger Haase said...

Glad you're enjoying it. I did a similar exercise preparing for this blog post and it was fun listening to all those Karloffian radio shows. I knew a few of them before, but unearthed a number that were new to me.

Shonen King said...

Boris on the Jack Benny show has got to kill. I'm going look through all the radio shows my buddy gave of good ol' Jack, I pray I have this one. Great Post!!!

James Meehan said...

Dear Webmaster,

I recently came across your blog on Boris Karloff and think it is very interesting and entertaining. I recently created a website on New York City history, rightherenyc.com, which includes a couple of pages on addresses where notable people used to live, Karloff being among them. Right now I am trying to network and set up a links page. I was wondering if I could add your website as a link, and if you would do the same with my website.

Feel free to contact me at any time at webmaster@rightherenyc.com.

Sincerely,
James A. Meehan
rightherenyc.com
webmaster@rightherenyc.com

Holger Haase said...

You got it. I just posted your website in the link roll under other websites of interest. It looks an interesting site: Didn't know that Robert Ryan used to live in the same apartment in the Dakota that John Lennon frequented afterwards.