The Shadow

The Shadow knows!

The Shadow

The Shadow (1930-1954) was an OTR crime series about a young man, Lamont Cranston, amateur criminologist, who secretly used his powers "to cloud men's minds, so they could not see him" in order to twart criminals and protect citizens. The Shadow radio drama series is significant because of its evolution from print stories, for Orson Welles' starring role during the first season, 1937, and its inspiration of other radio dramas, like The Whistler.

Episodes

Totals

Total Episodes: 815 (approximate)
Surviving e\Episodes: 600 (approximate)
Total Orson Welles Episodes: 52
Surviving Orson Welles Episodes: 32

Exemplary Episodes

The first three and last three surviving Orson Welles episodes.

The Death House Rescue
Episode 87, 26 September 1937

Murder by the Dead
Episode 90, 17 October 1937

The Temple Bells of Neban
Episode 91, 24 October 1937

The Tomb of Terror
Episode 125, 19 June 1938

The Caverns of Death
Episode 134, 21 August 1938

Death under the Chapel
Episode 135, 28 August 1938

Background

On 31 July 1930, the first episode of Detective Story Hour was broadcast with a mysterious narrator known only as "The Shadow." After a brief tenure with Detective Story Hour, The Shadow hosted segments of The Blue Coal Radio Revue, Love Story Hour, and a CBS mystery anthology show until March 1935.

The Detective Story Hour radio drama series was created and sustained by Street and Smith Publications, the nation's oldest and largest publisher of pulp magazines in hopes of increasing sales. Stories from Street and Smith publications were adapted to radio and used as content. Detective Story Hour was broadcast 31 July 1930-26 December 1954 by Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS).

During this five year period, Street and Smith developed a lively market for stories and novels about The Shadow, and wanted a radio show starring a master crime fighter like the one described in their publications.

On 26 September 1937, the first episode of The Shadow radio drama series, starring 22-year old Orson Welles in the title role, was broadcast by Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS). The Shadow now had a name: Lamont Cranston, "a wealthy young man about town," who, "while traveling through East Asia," learned "the mysterious power to cloud men's minds, so they could not see him." From 26 September 1937-18 September 1938, Welles starred in fifty-two episodes during both the regular season (26 episodes) and the summer season (26 episodes). For the first time, "The Shadow" was a character in the episodes rather than just the announcer.

Each episode began with the now familiar question and answer, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

The ending of each episode is equally as familiar as the narrator reminded listeners, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. . . . The Shadow knows!"

The recurring cast during this first year included . . .
Lamont Cranston (Orson Welles)
Margo Lane (Agnes Moorehead. Replaced by Margot Stevenson, 10 April 1938)
Police Commissioner Weston
Announcer (Ken Roberts)

Orson Welles was a well known American radio actor and director, noted for his many appearances on The March of Time since 1935, his work with The Columbia Workshop on their production of "The Fall of the City" in 1937, and his starring the title role of The Shadow for its 1937-1938 season. On 30 October 1938 he achieved immediate international notoriety for his production, direction, and starring role in The War of the Worlds with The Mercury Theatre of the Air. Notoriety brought a sponser, and The Mercury Theatre on the Air was renamed The Campbell Playhouse. Wells remained until 31 March 1940. In 1941, 1942, and again in 1946, Welles starred in "The Hitchhiker," a radio drama written for him by Lucille Fletcher. Later, Welles hosted and narrated The Black Museum (1952-1954).

After Welles left in 1938 to form The Mercury Theatre on the Air, The Shadow was played by Bill Johnstone for five seasons, Bret Morrison for ten years, and then John Archer and Steve Courtleigh.

Beyond radio drama, pulp magazine series, and novels, The Shadow became one of the most famous action heroes of the 20th century, inspiring comic strips, comic books, television shows, video games, motion pictures, and other radio dramas like The Whistler.

Resources

Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library
The Shadow radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Orson Welles episodes at Internet Archive website
Plot summaries and credits at Radio Gold Index website