Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Gold Standard of Old Time Radio

If you've got an iPod and an DSL connection, you really should be loading up on the free episodes of old time radio (OTR) shows floating around out there on the internets. Before television, OTR = The Big Leagues. The biggest stars and best writers all spent time in OTR. Established screen idols dropped by for special guest appearances, and talented writers and producers like Orson Welles parlayed their OTR success onto the big screen.

One OTR's very best writers was a man named Carlton E. Morse.

Morse earned his fame writing a proto-soap opera called "One Man's Family." It ran for 27 years, with Morse writing over 3,000 episodes.

But Morse had a hard-boiled side, too. Starting in 1937, he developed, wrote and produced the legendary "I Love A Mystery," a groundbreaking serial that expertly blended action, adventure, mystery, suspense & horror. The show revolved around the exploits of three globetrotting soldiers of fortune, and their adventures played out over the course of as many as 25 fifteen-minute episodes. The storylines were dense epics, with titles like "Snake With the Diamond Eyes," and "Terror of the Frozen Corpse Lodge."

Because of the success of "One Man's Family," Morse was basically free to develop "ILAM" as he saw fit. The scripts absolutely buzzed with energy and excitement, and the acting was always first rate (Mercedes McCambridge was a frequent guest, and a young Tony Randall starred in the late 40's).

Morse's adventure show saw several incarnations: "I Love A Mystery" became "I Love Adventure" which became "Adventures By Morse." The basic approach stayed the same, though: exotic adventures in mysterious locales.

Unfortunately, most of the original shows disappeared into the ether. We have a good chunk of extant recordings, but not nearly enough. From time to time, modern fan clubs stage re-enactments from the original scripts, but legal tangles with the Morse estate have stalled further productions.

If you like high adventure, download some free mp3s to you iPod. Keep in mind that these shows were aimed at 10 year old boys. If you've still got some of your own 10 year old left inside, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Click here to grab some free mp3's.

(side bar: "ILAM" was the inspiration for TV's "Scooby Doo." Then head of programming at CBS, Fred Silverman, was a huge ILAM fan)

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