24 November: Not so quietly hers . . .

Wyllis Cooper---characters before plot?

Wyllis Cooper—characters before plot?

Tonight’s Quiet, Please offering will receive more listener requests for copies of its scripts than any program in Mutual’s lineup. It’s a phenomenon that will continue when the show moves to ABC. It will also inspire a book of the show’s scripts to be published despite the early misgivings of their author.

“My scripts are not intended to be read,” Wyllis Cooper protests. “They’re intended to be listened to.”

Cooper has had only two other annoyances since he launched the show earlier in 1947, according to John Dunning (in On the Air). He isn’t fond of his new creation being compared to his earlier Lights Out, particularly by those who remember that show for Arch Oboler’s involvement. And he has no patience for “acting” “The cast,” Dunning will recall, “was told to play it straight . . . [Cooper] wanted it related with a deadpan sense of ‘here’s how it happened’.”

For a show whose plots will prove as memorable as that deadpan sensibility, though, Cooper “is not long on plot, anyhow,” John Crosby of the New York Herald-Tribune will observe:

His gift is for mood and character. The listener gets so wrapped up in a Cooper character, wondering who he is, what he’s doing there, and how its all going to come out, he’ll sit on the edge of his chair for half an hour. And at the end of half an hour, he may still be pretty fuzzy about what happened depending on how explanatory pending on how explanatory Cooper feels at the moment.

Like Henry Morgan, Cooper has no respect for or interest in listeners who are doing the dishes or who drop out to the icebox for a beer during his stories. He never repeats himself. “Why should I make concessions to the audience that doesn’t pay attention?” he says. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t make very many concessions to the people who do pay attention. At the end of half an hour they may be just as baffled as the dishwashers.

That proves to be only part of why Quiet, Please becomes one of those radio shows heard by few but staying (“for decades,” Dunning will note) with the few.

And very few of the show’s haunters will prove to be quite as unforgettable as tonight’s.




Quiet, Please: In Memory of Bernadine (Mutual, 1947)


Nancy Sheridan as the haunting Bernadine.

Nancy Sheridan as the haunting Bernadine.

A soldier (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) returning from World War II is haunted by the wife (Nancy Sheridan) he left behind after basic training, when working toward his commission, and he’s only too conscious of his life’s emptiness before they met and since he’s lost her.

He’s also only too conscious of and ashamed at having depended so deeply on her love and approval, especially remembering her promise to be with and in him always, his thoughts and memories now all that stand between himself and his fears.

The writing and acting are both so skilled, so straightforwardly poetic, that what could devolve to bathetic melodrama remains charming, even touching.

Harry Foster: Melbe Ruick. Music: Gene Perazo. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


Further Channel Surfing . . .

Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber’s Getting Into Condition (comedy; NBC, 1942)
It Pays to Be Ignorant: Why is Kissing a Girl Like Opening a Bottle of Olives? (comedy quiz; CBS; AFRS rebroadcast, 1944)
The Great Gildersleeve: The Helicopter Ride (comedy; NBC, 1948)
The Hallmark Playhouse: The Courtship of Miles Standish (dramatic anthology; CBS, 1949)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Selling Doc the Ring (comedy; NBC, 1953)
Rocky Fortune: Murder on the Aisle (crime drama; NBC, 1953)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Thanksgiving Dinner (comedy; NBC, 1955)
Fibber McGee & Molly: The McGees Go Bowling (comedy; NBC, 1957)

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