Just in case you missed the first time . . .
- 6 June: D-Day On the Air—73 Years Later
- 31 December: Here’s to the New Year
- 24 December: ‘Tis the night before Christmas
- 20 December: From Macy’s to Dickens on the plains
- 12 December: Eden rocked
- 9 December: The aftermath, continued . . .
- 8 December: Immediate aftermath
- 7 December: The date still lives in infamy
- 5 December: The mean widdle man-kid
- 21 November: Freed fall
We’re building a history here . . .
Tag Archives: The Whistler
Yes, this is the same as the 6 November 1944 episode known first as “The Twins.” The original performance was pre-empted, allowing CBS’s national network to carry a speech by Republican presidential aspirant Thomas E. Dewey, the former New York governor challenging Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the first of Dewey’s two failed White House bids.
The Whistler is unique among radio crime dramas for more than the often-underrated point that there was little if any actual violence in a typical episode. And, more than its equally unique second-person narration the title storyteller uses to tell it from the killer’s viewpoint.
This is also one of the earliest such shows to hand a listener the thought, as John Dunning would put it in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, that “this could happen to you,” the “everyday gone haywire . . . These were not mysteries: the identity of the killer was never in doubt, from the first hint that the deed must be done until the moment when the killer trapped himself.”
Twenty-first century old-time radio lovers may not realise The Whistler was never a truly national phenomenon. The CBS crime drama was almost strictly a western U.S. phenomenon thanks to its sponsor, Signal Oil, doing business in the west alone.
Only twice did The Whistler get a crack at a listenership beyond the west, when Campbell Soup sponsored it in the midwest and the east during the summer of 1946, as a replacement for its moderately successful Jack Carson Show; and, when Household Finance Company (HFC) picked it up from March 1947 through the end of September 1948.
James Stewart, who’s done enough guest shots to know, should have been a natural for network radio. His laconic vocal style and ability to immerse himself in even the lightest characterisation should have added radio star to his resume. The problem was, when he finally finds a regular vehicle for his gifts, it comes a decade too late.
It seems perversely appropriate that the nation’s Uncle Miltie-to-be delivers a good-natured satire of radio a year before he becomes Mr. Television. For all his radio years, Milton Berle will probably be the luckiest man alive to land his Texaco Star Theater television job and legend—because he’s actually known as old-time radio’s biggest prolonged failure.