Wednesday, December 17, 2014

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 17 - The Whistler's Christmas Episodes

Working on sending out one blog entry each day in December to showcase great Old Time Radio for the Christmas season.  Here is a link to all the entries.  Here is day 17 - The Whistler's Christmas Episodes.  The Whistler is just one of the best mystery programs on Old Time Radio.  If you have not heard these shows before - you are in for a treat.

If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#82). He has a number of great programs available throughout the month of December on his great show.  You can also get a large number of these programs at a variety or resources on the web. One place to find these shows is the 500 OTR Christmas Shows from the Internet Archive. This is a great resources for many of these wonderful radio shows!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck at Orlando Wetlands Park (Christmas, Florida) - October 31, 2014

Black-bellied Whistling Duck at Orlando Wetlands Park (Christmas, Florida) - October 31, 2014 - See what I did here?

The Whistler is one of the greatest old time radio programs.  This mystery series aired from May 1942 to September 1955 on the West-coast network from CBS Radio.  The show was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company.  The lead in for the show was: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler."  The Signal Oil Company was one of the biggest west-coast oil companies.  They became part of AlliedSignal and then Honeywell.  The Signal Oil Company as an entity phased out in the 1960s, but in the years before, they were a leading gas supplier int he Western United States.

One of the best parts about The Whistler is that each episode was a self-contained story, using new characters and situations.  They were able to bring in many big names on radio and film into the studio to report the episodes.  These actors included Frank Lovejoy, Betty Lou Gerson, William Conrad, Jack Webb, Gerald Mohr, Doris Singleton, Lurene Tuttle, Joseph Kearns and Bill Forman (who played the title role of The Whistler more than any other actor).  The Whistler was the omniscient voice in the story, who started the episodes with the same refrain: "I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak."  These are wonderful 30 minute mysteries that do a great job of keeping the listener interested.  They are also one of my favorite mysteries.

These Christmas episodes are a real treat.  In many of the recordings, it referenced the fact that these episodes were transcribed (or recorded) in order for the production company to be home with the family on the holidays.  You will hear the term "transcribed" often in old time radio, these are the large discs that were used to record the performances for playback later.  This was very common among dramas in the late 1940s and 1950s.  Here are some brief descriptions of the episodes.

Christmas Bonus (December 25, 1944)

Summary: When money is stolen from a department store, there seems to be little doubt that the ex-con is the one that did it.  But it wasn't.  He was straight and honest since serving his time.  But when he is fired without cause, he realizes that crime is his only future.

Letter From Cynthia (December 25, 1949)

Summary: It's Christmas Eve in Southern California, but when you work at a hospital, there is no time off.  The peaceful evening is disturbed when a letter arrives and a doctor needs to confront his past.

Three Wise Guys (December 24, 1950)

Summary: Based on Damon Runyon's 1933 short story, this episode features Bill Forman, John Brown, Jack Moyles as the Three Wise Guys.  These three moved in between the straight and, well, not-so-straight paths.  On Christmas Eve, the three guys find themselves in Pennsylvania trying to find the loot from a payroll job.  They followed the star to the location where the loot was stashed.  When they arrive, they are surprised to find a former girlfriend of one of the guys.  And she is about to have a baby.  Well, you can see where this is going.  It is a great Christmas story and well worth the listen.

Christmas Gift (December 23, 1951)

Summary:  Betty Lou Gerson plays a singer who ran away to Panama City to get away from troubles in the United States.  She took on a new identity and performed in a small club far from those who knew her.  But then at Christmas time, a visitor from the States changes everything.  And while things look grim for the singer, there is a happy tune at the end.

Here are some links to programs relating to the Whistler:
25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas:

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