Suspense: The Pit and the Pendulum (CBS, 1947)
If you’re my age, you may remember your junior high school English teacher assigning “The Pit and the Pendulum” among your required reading. You may also remember, at least once or twice, one of your social studies or history teachers frowning upon the very idea of it, if only because a story supposedly steeped in historicity had an awful little of it in fact.
Stated more simply, Edgar Allan Poe’s idea of reality had more to do with sensation than with the actual Spanish Inquisition in which the story is set, and it only begins with the revelation that a) the worst of the Inquisition wasn’t known to feature anything even close to the kind of nerve-strangling tortures; and, b) the waning days of the Inquisition itself, which we know may be the true setting of “The Pit” since the French Army is busy taking Toledo in the timeframe during which Poe’s skittish protagonist is supposedly facing the creeps on the bench in the robes, weren’t exactly equal to the actual height of the terror.
In other words, boys and girls, your junior high school English teacher probably didn’t mind if your history teacher came in with a bristling reminder that even in Edgar Allan Poe’s day, never mind the day of old-time radio’s signature drama, a lot of writers didn’t mind keeping the facts from getting in the way of a juicy story. In fact, if you told her you knew in your gut of guts that Poe could and did often do much better, she probably would have given you extra credit, if only for chutzpah.
Tonight: Poe’s licentiously non-supernatural tale gets the Suspense treatment (with Jose Ferrer as the maddened protagonist)—and a fine one, even if the treatment doesn’t trouble itself to redress Poe’s inaccuracies. If it makes you feel any better, most dramatisations of the story before and after didn’t bother much, either.
Additional cast: Jeanette Nolan, John McIntire, Elliott Lewis, Joseph Kearns, Eric Snowden, Paul McVey. Music: Director: William Spier. Adaptation: John Dixon Carr.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Goldbergs: Jake is Perturbed (CBS, 1941)—With Molly (Gertrude Berg) still trying to help Way overcome the shady past of a life swallowed by ambition, Orianne seeming to fall in love with Dr. Cater, Way’s former wife freshly arrived with trouble on her mind, and Seymour (Arnold Stang) asking for a raise, Jake (John R. Waters) longs for even one hour without the world’s troubles and troubled finding their way to his living room. Sammy: Alfred Ryder. Rosalie: Roslyn Siber. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Clayton (Bud) Collyer. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Wallace Wimpole, Navy Physical Instructor (NBC, 1944)—In a kind-of homecoming, since the show comes live from Chicago where its protagonists began: Just try to imagine milquetoast Wimpole (Bill Thompson, on leave from his Naval service in World War II), who’s usually afraid of his own wife, mustering in as a Naval instructor, as the McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan) and just about everyone else in their orbit basically can’t, when they get a postcard from Wimpole saying he’s coming home on leave. Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Beulah: Marlin Hurt. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.
The Fred Allen Show: George Jessel Tries to Sneak Into the Roxy (NBC, 1948)—After Fred (Allen) and Portland (Hoffa) scope the Main Street (the former Allen’s Alley) demimonde on whether radio comedy suffers monotony and malnourishment, Fred meets Jessel at Lindy’s . . . and tags along when Jessel has to sneak into his own film’s premiere. Sergei Stroganoff: Kenny Delmar. Titus Moody: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Humphrey Titter: Alan Reed. Announcer: Kenny Delmar. Music: Al Goodman and His Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Robert Weiskopf, possibly Bob Schiller.
Our Miss Brooks: The Sunnydale Finishing School (CBS, 1948)—Planning to join Boynton (Jeff Chandler) for an out-of-town weekend bird watching jaunt, Connie (Eve Arden) misses an invitation to join Sunnydale’s English department that Mrs. Davis (Jane Morgan) doesn’t miss, swinging her into action to stop Connie from leaving Madison High—but there’s one hitch that’s escaped the absentminded landlady’s eye and thrown one and all into the proverbial tizzy trying to stop the departure. Martha Conklin: Paula Winslowe. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis. (Note: Program is delayed by technical difficulties, compelling the station from which it was recorded to switch to organ music until the feed is repaired.)
The Halls of Ivy: A Dinner Party; or, Professor Warren’s Romantic Folly (NBC, 1951)—The Halls (Ronald Colman, Benita Hume Colman) are surprised when breathless bachelor Professor Warren (Arthur Q. Bryan) wants to borrow their lace tablecloth for an unexpected dinner party—which he hopes will impress a woman (Sarah Selby) he met on a lecture tour. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Director: Nat Wolfe. Writers: Don Quinn, Barbara and Milton Merlin.
The Couple Next Door: Thanksgiving Explanation (CBS, 1958)—Betsy (Francie Meyers) unnerves her parents (Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce) by seeming to think Thanksgiving means little more than a brief vacation, but father’s explanation to Betsy and her pals almost makes a turkey out of him so far as at least one outraged neighbour is concerned. Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Music: Unknown. Writer/director: Peg Lynch.
Box 13: Double Right Cross (Mutual, 1948)—Holliday’s (Alan Ladd) old buddy Johnny Cappelli (John Beal)—a World War II veteran turned middleweight boxing contender, who sends him ringside seats for a fight that might mean a title shot—goes down early and severely in a bout he was heavily favoured to win, inspiring accusations of tanking until Holliday learns he was poisoned into near-blindness at fight time. If it sounds a little far-fetched, be advised that boxing itself is thought to be riddled with corruption in these years. Helen: Betty Lou Gerson. Eddie: Alan Reed. Doctor: Possibly Luis Van Rooten. Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Vern Carstensen. Music: Rudy Schrager. Director: Richard Sandhill. Writers: Russell Hughes, E. Jack Newman.
The Whistler: Murder in Paradise (CBS, 1948)—Pianist Danny Williams (possibly Wally Maher), hoping to keep his resolution to stay straight following a prison stretch, is hired for a three-month stand at the Paradise Inn . . . where he learns the hard way about how the disillusioned boss’s amorous wife (possibly Betty Lou Gerson) can keep him from keeping things strictly business. Additional cast: Unknown, but probably including Joseph Kearns, Donald Woods, The Whistler: Bill Johnstone. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: George Allen. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Henderson Matter, Part One (CBS, 1955)—Dollar (Bob Bailey) has to puzzle out whether the death of a Paramount Insurance policyholder and major newspaper stockholder in Montana was murdered, committed suicide, or died in an accident—since the man’s death in a fall from a hotel window looks at first glance like all three at once, with no police investigation to help matters, and an initially uncooperative widow (Lillian Byas) whose youthfulness provokes Dollar to seek a coroner’s inquest. First of five parts, and one of the outstanding entries in the short-lived but impeccable serial version of the long-running crime drama. Tim: D.J. Thompson. Sheriff Holden: Herb Ellis. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: John Dawson.
Suspense: The Strange Death of Gordon Fitzroy (CBS, 1946)—Released from prison after three and a half years, Pete Jones (Chester Morris)—grotesquely disfigured during a safecracking attempt, plotting his revenge against former friend Gordon Fitzroy, who had to hock his jewelry store to pay off bookies, abandoned him when they planned to crack the store’s safe for insurance payments, and testified against him at trial—discovers the hard way how well revenge really tastes as a dish served cold. Fran: Cathy Lewis. Cabbie: Possibly Sheldon Leonard. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ken Niles. Music: Lud Luskin, Lucien Morowick. Director: William Spier. Writers: Bruce Cassidy, Robert L. Richards.
Quiet, Please: My Son, John (ABC, 1948)—A widowed father (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates), who was bereaved anew when his son (Warren Season) was killed in World War II action, turns to an occultist (Kathleen Cordell) who warns him the quest to bring his son back could destroy him. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.
Gunsmoke: Kick Me (CBS, 1953)—In an episode later adapted for the television series, two bank robbers (Lawrence Dobkin, Ralph Moody) may live to regret a cruel prank on an elderly Indian (Byron Kane) whose legendary honour, even among white men, may be compromised by his itch to avenge the humiliation. Matt: William Conrad. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Frank Gerstel, Harry Bartell. Announcer: Ken Peters. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Meston.