A movement for murder: Old-time radio listening, 13 September

Quiet, Please: Symphony in D Minor (Mutual, 1948)

Cesar Franck, as depicted in Jeanne Rongier’s 1885 painting, “César Franck at the console of the organ at St. Clotilde Basilica, Paris.”

In its final episode on Mutual, Quiet, Please‘s creative supermen elect to pay tribute to the symphony whose second movement has yielded the show’s arresting musical theme . . . by deploying it as a murder tool. Which may or may not be more benign, in its macabre manner, than the backstory animating the symphony itself.

Belgian-born Cesar Franck composed most of his signature music, including Symphony in D Minor, toward the end of his life. The symphony premiered, in fact, a year before he died. By French standards of his time it was unique, since French music in that time had begun a slow re-acceptance of a form most French considered a German mainstay for much of the 19th Century.

The problem Franck incurred with Symphony in D Minor involved as much a political crisis as any musical one: he wedded the French cyclic structure inspired by Saint-Saens and Berlioz to a German-influenced sound . . . at a time when anti-German sentiment provoked by and in the Franco-Prussian War might affect any French composition reintroducing Germanic sound elements.

Critics who were caught up in the political clashings denounced Symphony in D Minor as “arid and drab,” “morose,” and “incompetence pushed to dogmatic lengths.” But in those French regions where the music communities refused to permit politics to impede, the symphony became a popular one, enough to inspire regular performances in Europe and, in time, the United States.

Tonight: A rogue (Ernest Chappell, who narrates) spends an evening with a blind psychologist (James Van Dyke) on whose comely wife (Charita Bauer) the rogue has designs, and with whom he disagrees on hypnosis against the will—the rogue believes it impossible, but the psychologist believes it possible.

In fact, the psychologist is only too willing to prove it by putting the rogue under (he thinks) and, among other things, instructing him to play Symphony in D Minor‘s second movement theme on his phonograph. And, to murder the psychologist’s wife when he hears the familiar, haunting English horn theme.

Except that the rogue proves right, which may yet prove him only too wrong about other things . . . while Quiet, Please will prove to have further life when ABC picks up the series the following week.

Police officer: J. Pat O’Malley. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

The Jack Benny Program: Back from Vacation in Hawaii (Season premiere; CBS, 1953)—Jack (Benny) can’t return from vacation soon enough for Rochester (Eddie Anderson), who’s anxious to start his own planned vacation, and who’s slightly bemused by an apparent rash of Benny’s show business neighbours moving out of the neighbourhood; then, Jack can’t get the cast to listen to his delight over his Hawaiian trip while listening to theirs over their vacations. Cast: Dennis Day, Mary Livingstone, Bob Crosby, Frank Nelson. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Mahlon Merrick, the Sports Men’s Wives. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry, Hal Goldman, Al Gordon.

 

Crime Drama

The Whistler: Mirage (CBS, 1942)—Ambitious Fred Adams (possibly Jeff Chandler) prepares to marry the daughter of the district attorney who groomed him as a successor, outraging the former chorine who paid his way through law school hoping to marry Adams herself . . . but now hopes for revenge, which she may get in a twisted way. Cast: Unknown, but possibly including Betty Lou Gerson, Wally Maher, Joan Banks. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Unknown. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts). Writer/director: J. Donald Wilson.

 

Mystery/Thriller

Suspense: The Furnished Floor (a.k.a. Furnished Room) (CBS, 1945)—Talking on the telephone to a friend, boarding house owner Mrs. Hawkins (Mildred Natwick) anticipates the return of a former tenant (Don DeFore) who moved away when his wife died—but returns to live there again with his wife, so he says, leaving Mrs. Hawkins confused, then unnerved. The Man in Black: Possibly Ted Osborne. Announcer: Truman Bradley. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Sound: Berne Surrey. Director: William Spier. Writer: Lucille Fletcher.

 

World War II

Fulton Lewis, Jr.: Czech President Benes Declares Martial Law (Mutual, 1938)—“Tense news that makes your spine tingle and your heart go cold”: the declaration provokes Hitler to demand it be revoked within six hours, all this two days before British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would, infamously, agree to the cession of the Sudetenland to the Third Reich, with no Czech participation in the agreement, believing the cession (erroneously, proclaiming “peace in our time”) to mean the end of Hitler’s territorial ambitions. “It’s not necessary for me to say the world is upside down tonight,” says Lewis, the conservative news analyst and commentator, as the Czech cabinet meets and the country’s ambassador to the U.S. speaks to Lewis on the thinking behind the martial law order and Czech determination and ability to defend itself against Hitler.

Your AAF: A Report to the American People (ABC, special report, 1945)—As none-so-subtle self-promotional early peacetime broadcasting goes, this entry from the Army Air Force—when the end of World War II has still registered only barely among the populations involved—isn’t necessarily terrible, particularly its early-in-show feature on an all-black paratroop unit (the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, who partook in D-Day) in flight as part of Project Firefly, a forest firefighting project. Also: Demobilisation observations, including how soon most of the troops overseas can finally come home; and, a report on the radio-controlled airplane from Wright Field, Ohio—a plane developed by actor Reginald Denny, who also discusses his creation.

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