Suspense

Suspense – Sorry, Wrong Number

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“Sorry, Wrong Number” was the Suspense radio play that not only gave the series its biggest success, but it also became “radio’s most famous play.” This story was presented eight times between 1943 and 1960, and it created a phenomenon of its own by provoking tremendous listener response. The radio play was written by Lucille Fletcher and, aside from “The Hitchhiker,” it is her best known work. “Sorry, Wrong Number” was the only Suspense story to be made into a film.

Lucille Fletcher had an exceptional flair for writing terror for radio, and nothing demonstrated that more than “Sorry,Wrong Number.” The collection of episodes written by Fletcher and presented on Suspense includes “The Hitchhiker,” “Fugue in C Minor,” “Dark Journey,” “The Thing in the Window,” “The Diary of Safronia Winters,” “The Furnished Floor,” and “The Night Man.”

In the sixty or so years since “Sorry, Wrong Number” was first presented on radio, it has made the transition to film, television, novel, and play. In recent years, it has made its way on to the internet via old time radio websites and YouTube videos.

However, to fully appreciate Fletcher’s unique style of conjuring up suspense, one must listen to the story as it was presented on radio.

All eight versions of “Sorry, Wrong Number” starred Agnes Moorehead in the lead role of Mrs. Elbert Stevenson.

The first time this story was presented was on May 25, 1943. In the East Coast version, there was a flubbed line at the end that made the end of the story confusing. The performance done for the West Coast has the correct ending. William Spier directed.

The second performance was on August 21, 1943.

In response to listener requests, the story was presented again on February 24, 1944. William Spier directed.

Again, due to requests from the public, Suspense presented this story again on September 6, 1945.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” was presented on Suspense for the fifth time in 1948 to coincide with the release of the film.

The sixth version of this episode was presented on September 15, 1952, but there is no known recording of that episode at this time.

In 1957, William N. Robson brought “Sorry, Wrong Number” back to Suspense. As he states in his introduction, he felt that great radio plays, like great stage plays, should be revived from time to time.

Suspense presented this story for the last time on Valentine’s Day in 1960.

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Suspense – Muddy Track
“The Muddy Track” is a radio noir about a bookie who is framed for the murder of a model.

Harry Clark is new in town and down on his luck. He is alone in a bar sipping a Coke when he is descended upon by Brandy. She takes a liking to him, buys him a bourbon, and soon his luck begins to change. Her “friend,” Mr. Persian, arrives shortly afterwards and offers Harry a job as a bookie. Mr. Persian buys Harry another round, but this time Harry asks for a brandy. Mr. Persian warns Harry that, “Brandy lovers often die young.”

Harry goes to work the next day, but when he finds Brandy murdered, he realizes he was set-up. Now Harry is on the run for a murder he didn’t commit, but he can’t get out of town without some help.

“The Muddy Track” was written by Buckley Angell and Bob Shelly. Anton M. Leader produced and directed. Academy-award winner Edmond O’Brien, in one of his four appearances on Suspense, starred as Harry. Ann Blyth starred as Eleanor Grayson. This episode aired on November 11, 1948.

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Suspense – Give Me Liberty

“Give Me Liberty” sounds patriotic, but this Suspense episode is a harsh tale about an escaped criminal unable to free himself of his handcuffs.

Mr. Earl French embezzeled $250,000, was caught, and then sentenced to seven years in prison. None of this bothers him because it was all according to his plan. He never disclosed to the authorities where the stolen money was, and after he completes his prison term, he plans to spend it.

On route to the penitentiary, Mr. French is smug while chatting with the police officer accompanying him. His plan, however, takes a sudden new direction when the train crashes. In the aftermath, he murders the police officer, switches their wallets, and escapes.

Now, the only obstacles to his freedom are the handcuffs that he can’t remove. Mr. French can’t get the tools he needs to break them, and no one will help him. His smugness turns to desperation as his circumstances become worse, and he meets up with a cruel female hobo.

“Give Me Liberty” was written by Herb Meadow and starred William Powell. Ann Morrison played the hobo. This episode aired for the first time on October 21, 1948.

Suspense presented this story again on March 29, 1955 with good results. Television actor/writer Tony Barrett played Mr. French. Also appearing were Michael Ann Barrett, Dick Beals, Helen Kleeb, and Lou Merrill.

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Suspense – A Little Piece of Rope

“A Little Piece of Rope” stars Lucille Ball in the fourth of her six appearances on Suspense. It is a peculiar tale about a baby-faced actress in Hollywood named Isabelle who turns to a life of crime. Her youthful appearance and acting skills worked against her as a professional actress, but as a thief they serve her well. Isabelle’s criminal inspiration came from an article she had once read in a Victorian-era Police Gazette. It had described “vicious females” who dressed as schoolgirls in order to “entice and trap unwary gentlemen.”

Isabelle modernizes the scam and carves out a profitable niche for herself by passing herself off as a schoolgirl. She frequents the areas around high schools, where older men trolling for young girls are to be found, and when one offers her a ride, she accepts. Later, she clubs him with her blackjack and takes off with his cash.

Things are going well but one day she gets into a car with a dangerous man. Isabelle soon discovers that he is the strangler that the police are looking for but how can she prove it to them without exposing her own criminal activity?

“A Little Piece of Rope” was written by Virginia Cross. Anton M. Leader produced and directed. Lucille Ball played Isabelle and Berry Kroeger played the strangler. At the time she appeared on this episode of Suspense, Lucille Ball was promoting her own CBS radio show, My Favorite Husband as well as the movie Sorrowful Jones. This episode aired October 14, 1948.

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Suspense – Celebration

In “Celebration,” a married couple commemorates their anniversary the hard way.

Emily Ward had an accident a while back, and now she lives in a care facility. Tonight, her husband, Todd, is taking her out to celebrate their eigth anniversary. Emily is waiting, with her suitcase packed, because she has also decided that she is going home with him.

What Emily doesn’t know is that her doctor thinks that her condition has worsened, and that she should be transferred to a more suitable facility. Todd arrives and promises Emily a great evening out, but then spends the evening trying to maneuver her towards isolated locations. When she finds a box of bullets in his car, she is confused. What is he planning?

Celebration” was written by Arnold Marquis and Phyllis Parker. Anton M. Leader produced/directed. Virginia Bruce and Robert Young starred as Emily and Todd. Also appearing were Berry Kroeger and Paula Winslowe. This episode aired on September 23, 1948.

Suspense presented this story again on May 5, 1957, but with a very different ending. William N. Robson produced/directed. Joy LaFleur starred. Also appearing were Shepard Menken, Jack Moyles, Joe DiSantis, and Irene Tedrow.

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Suspense 480916 Hitchhike Poker

In “Hitchhiker Poker,” Gregory Peck stars as a hitchhiker who takes a ride with someone dangerous.

As the episode opens, Ridge Fowler, a college student and former vet, is hitchhiking to Ojai to visit his mother. His dilemna appears to be resolved when a yellow convertible pulls up, and the friendly man behind the wheel offers him a ride. Ridge accepts! The driver, Jay Stewart Belden, seems like a good guy. Why, he even buys Ridge lunch, and gives him the coat off his back.

Gregory_Peck_in_Gentleman’s_Agreement_trailer Not long afterwards, Mr. Belden jumps out of the car and leaves Ridge to die an explosive death! Ridge survives the crash…but then Mr. Belden starts shooting at him!

So, why did Mr. Belden offer to give Ridge a ride?

“Hitchhiker Poker” was written by John and Gwen Bagni, and produced/ directed by Anton M. Leader. Gregory Peck starred. Also appearing were Ed Begley and Kay Brinker. This episode aired on September 16, 1948.

 

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Suspense – The Big Shot

In “The Big Shot,” a baby-faced engineer takes a job with an illegal mining operation in Mexico.

As the episode opens, Charlie Morton arrives by bus in a remote Mexican village. Morton is happily greeted by Quinn, the boss of the mining operation that hired him.

Quinn soon discovers that his new engineer is qualified for the job but touchy about his youthful appearance. Very touchy.

Quinn already has his crew mining a rich vein of gold quartz up in the mountains, and Morton’s job is to set up a stamping mill. Their objective is to quickly mine the gold and then quietly smuggle it of the Mexico. The trick is, that they have to do this without the locals, the bandits, or the government discovering their operation.

“The Big Shot” was based on a story by Brett Halliday and adapted for radio by Lawrence Goldman. Burt Lancaster, in the first of his two appearances on Suspense, starred as Charlie Morton. Also appearing were Gerald Mohr and Cathy Lewis. This episode aired on September 9, 1948.

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Suspense – Song of the Heart

“Song of the Heart” is the story of a stifled man and the suffocating, passive-aggressive aunt who raised him.

Van Heflin plays Neil Wilson, a young guy with an overburdened life. Neil was raised by Aunt Alice and as the episode opens, he is turning himself into the police. Neil tells them he has just killed his aunt.

The trouble started when Neil met Muriel Jones at the company picnic. Neil and Muriel fell in love instantly and wanted to marry, but his aunt refused to accept what was really happening. She didn’t like Muriel, and she tried in a not-too-subtle way to communicate those feelings to Neil. Did he understand what his Aunt Alice was trying to tell him?

“Song of the Heart” was written for Suspense by Elliott Lewis and produced/directed by Anton Leader. Van Heflin starred as Neil and Betty Lou Gerson played Muriel. Lurene Tuttle played Aunt Alice.

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Suspense – 480812 Beware the Quiet Man

In “Beware the Quiet Man,” Ann Sothern stars as a woman who decides to change her ways…unless it is already too late.

Ann_Sothern_As the episode opens, Margie arrives at a bar to meet her boyfriend, but instead, she is informed that he will be an hour late. So, she calls her husband and tells him a lie that will buy her more time.

However, there is another man at the bar who wants to buy her a drink, and after a little pushing from the bartender, she agrees.

That is how she meets Lem, a private investigator. He is working on a case that involves a wife cheating on her mousy, bank teller husband. As Lem tries to impress her with the danger of his job and the violent nature of his client…Margie becomes more and more concerned about the similarities between the case he is describing and her own mousy, bank teller husband.

Did Margie’s husband hire him, or is it all just coincidence?

“Beware the Quiet Man” was written by Toby Hall and produced/directed by Anton M. Leader. Ann Sothern and William Conrad starred. The names of the other actors aren’t given. This episode aired on August 12, 1948.

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480805 e301 An Honest Man

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Suspense – An Honest Man

In “An Honest Man,” Charles Laughton stars as a grocery worker who steals money from his employer to cover a bet.

As the episode opens, Freddie’s mother has just died…and he is glad. For most of his forty-four years, his mother has been the center of his life. Now, she is gone!

The next day, he returns to his job at the sandwich counter in Mr. Kelsey’s grocery store. Freddie has been at his job for twenty-six years and his boss trusts him completely. That evening, as he and his coworker, Dora, close up the store, Freddie asks to walk her home.

He is interested in Dora, but she admits that she can’t get serious about a guy unless he has a little nest egg put away. Freddie doesn’t have a nest egg, but he wants Dora, so he tries to figure out how to get one.

The next day, Tom Bass, the local bookie, drops by the store. He provides Freddie with an opportunity to raise money quickly, and all he has to do is borrow a bit from the cash register…

“An Honest Man” was written by Robert L. Richards and produced/directed by Anton M. Leader. Charles Laughton starred. This episode aired on August 5, 1948.

 

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480715 Summer Night

“Summer Night” is based on a story by Ray Bradbury and stars Ida Lupino in a creepy episode about a serial killer.

As the episode opens, Anna is trying to phone her friend Helen, but she can’t get through. The operator is having trouble connecting the call because everyone in town is in a panic about two murders that have recently taken place. The “Lipstick Killer” has struck twice, and the town is terrified he will strike again.

Anna wants Helen to come and stay with her because she doesn’t feel safe alone in her home. Helen finds the request odd because the two of them haven’t spoken for four years, but she eventually agrees to come over. Helen knows that her old friend Anna is a bit strange, but she soon realizes how much stranger Anna has become since she last saw her.

“Summer Night” was adapted by Robert L. Richards from an original story by Ray Bradbury. Anton M. Leader produced and directed. Ida Lupino starred as Anna. This episode aired on July 15, 1948.

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“Summer Night” was also presented on the Suspense television show on February 19, 1952, but that episode is not known to be available at this time.

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