490120 e324 If The Dead Could Talk

Suspense – If the Dead Could Talk

Suspense’s “If the Dead Could Talk” was adapted from the short story by Cornell Woolrich, which was first published in Black Mask, (February, 1943) and later published in the anthology Dead Man Blues (1948). The French film Obsession (1954) was adapted from the Woolrich story “Silent as the Grave (1945),” but also from “If the Dead Could Talk.”

As the episode opens, Joe explains how all of the trouble started. How he became desperate to killl…

Joe, Tommy and Fran were trapeze artists in the circus. Things were going well for them until one fateful night on the train to St. Louis. It was then that Fran broke the news that she and Tommy were going to be married!

Joe was stunned. He pretended to be happy for them, but he wasn’t. Joe loved Fran, and couldn’t stand to see her married to Tommy.

Instead of telling them how he felt, he bought a gun to kill Tommy. When that idea failed, he decided the easiest thing to do was to create an accident on the highwire…

“If the Dead Coul Talk” was adapted for radio by Larry Marcus. Anton M. Leader produced and directed. Dana Andrews starred. Also appearing were Ted de Corsia, Verna Felton, and Jeannette Nolan. This episode aired on January 20, 1949.


Suspense – The Too Perfect Alibi

Suspense’s “The Too Perfect Alibi” stars Danny Kaye as man with an obsession for his friend’s fiance.

Danny Kaye plays Sam, the sweetest friend a couple could ever have. Jack and Catherine think he is wonderful, but honestly, Jack thinks Sam is too wonderful. Sam gives them a house for a wedding present, he gives Catherine a high-paying job, and he always picks up the tab when they do things together. All of this annoys Jack because it makes him look cheap.

Sam doesn’t care what Jack thinks. He is consumed with a fairy tale perception of love, and he is determined to get Catherine for himself. The first part of Sam’s plan to win Catherine involves getting rid of Jack, but the first part of his plan goes too well. As a result, the second part doesn’t work out the way it was supposed to.

“The Too Perfect Alibi” was written by Martin Stern and produced/directed by Anton M. Leader. This was the first of two appearances that Danny Kaye made on Suspense. Also appearing were Hy Averback, Wally Maher, John McIntire, and Paul Frees. This episode aired on January 13, 1949.


481216 No Escape
Suspense – No Escape

In “No Escape,” James Cagney stars in a cautionary tale about a man who wins an award for being a safe driver but then kills several people while driving to the award banquet.

As the episode opens, Harry Graham explains that he is just like anybody else. He is just like the next guy. So, what happened to him? Why, it could have happened to you.

Harry lives in a small town with a highway running through it and lots of problems with speeding drivers. In response, the town council established a safety campaign and created a “Safe Driver of the Year” award. This year, they awarded their prize to him.

On the night of the banquet, Harry said goodbye to his kid brother,Ted, and got in his car to pick up his girlfriend, Eve. He was running late, so Harry decided to take Canyon Road, where there wasn’t as much traffic.

As he was driving down the center of the dark mountain road, he reached for the cigarette lighter, and when he looked up…

“No Escape” was written by Larry Marcus and produced/directed by Anton M. Leader. James Cagney starred. Lurene Tuttle played Eve. This episode aired on December 16, 1948.


Suspense – The Sisters

“The Sisters” begins with the purchase of a coffin for someone who has not yet died. Lydia Haskell explains that she has had a premonition of her own death and wants to plan her own funeral arrangements. The mortician and the police don’t believe her story and think she is suicidal. It appears, however, that Lydia may have someone else in mind for that coffin. Her sister, Ellie, is a madwoman who lives in the attic of Lydia’s house. One of them is going to die, but which one?

“The Sisters” was written for Suspense by screenwriter George Wells and was presented three times. The script is more or less the same in each version, but the performances vary with the actresses in the lead roles. The first time this story aired, Ida Lupino starred as the cold and calculating Lydia Haskell and Agnes Moorehead put in a gentle performance as Ellie. This episode was produced/directed by William Spier and aired on February 3, 1944.

The second time Suspense presented this story, Rosalind Russell and Lurene Tuttle starred. In this version, the sister fight scenes are the best and we get a better sense of how disturbed Lydia is. This episode was produced/directed by Anton Leader and aired on December 9, 1948.

The third time this story was presented Francis Farmer and Cathy Lewis starred. This version is shorter and less intense . It was produced/directed by William N. Robson and aired on March 30, 1958.

(Image of Rosalind Russell and Lurene Tuttle performing “The Sisters” from Library of Congress/American Memory)


481202 Hands Of Mr Otter Mole
Suspense – The Hands of Mr. Ottermole

In “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole,” Claude Rains and Vincent Price star in an episode based on the story by Thomas Burke, first published in his 1931 book, The Pleasantries Old Quong. Burke died in 1945, but in 1949, critics voted “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” the best mystery of all time. Suspense’s adaptation is a faithful one, but they added a dollop of drama for Claude Rains by extending the ending.

As the episode opens, a newspaperman interviews a sergeant from the London metropolitan police force about the strangler who has committed five murders but is still on the loose.

The sergeant tells him how the strangler suddenly went to work in the district. What was the gain? Only the strangler knew. No one could understand the purpose of his crimes. He appeared to step out of the dark and strike at random.

Which leaves them to wonder if the strangler will be caught or will he just disappear into the shadows….

“The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” was adapted for radio by Ken Crossen and produced/directed by Anton M. Leader. Claude Rains and Vincent Price starred. Also appearing were Verna Felton and Raymond E. Lawrence. This episode aired on December 2, 1948.


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.


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.


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.



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.