Monday, March 30, 2015

Lighthouses on Old Time Radio - Thunder Rock on Studio One (1947)

Here is the 11th entry in my lighthouses on old time radio series.  I hope you are enjoying all these great old time radio programs with a lighthouse theme.  I am staying on the CBS Radio Network with some of the creative programs that they produced over the years.  This program took place 10 years before Lightship was on the CBS Radio Workshop.  This showcased episode comes from Studio One,  a one-hour program that ran from 1947 through 1949 on the CBS Radio Network.  The series was produced and directed by Fletcher Markle who pulled together a great group of actors and actresses to perform longer adaptations of plays and novels.  The works that were adapted for the radio through this program include Alibi Ike, Red Badge of Courage, Wuthering Heights, The Thirty-Nine Steps and many others.

In a review from Variety (May 7, 1947, p52) for its first episode (Under the Volcano), there is a great summary of the problem that CBS was facing on Tuesday nights.

For some years CBS has been coping with the problem of how best to compete against the two top-rated shows in radio, Fibber & Molly and Bob Hope in the 9:30-10:30 Tuesday night stretch on NBC.  Bill Paley's sales boys have virtually resigned themselves to the awareness that so long as the Fibber-Hope combo remains in the public favor, any sponsorship nibbles for the Tuesday hour are pretty much out of the question.  That's why the CBS 60-minute period has become a favorite sustaining stamping ground for the networks' programming dept.

They've now hit on an idea that may eventually pay off, certainly in prestige, and (or more importance to the web since it's already loaded down with prestige programming), in audiences.  For its new hour-long series of 60-minute dramatic series, the network has imported Canda's 25-year old Fletcher Markle, who as writer-actor-director-producer in his Canadian broadcasting ventures, has already been likened somewhat to Orson Welles.  (The pair, incidentally, teamed up last summer of Welles' Pabst commercial series on CBS.)

Apparently not for nothing has the Welles-Markle comparison cropped up, for when it comes to unorthodox techniques, young Markle can virtually throw the book at his audience.

Port Austin Reef Lighthouse (Michigan)

Port Austin (Michigan) Reef Lighthouse 
(Lake Huron - OK wrong Great Lake - but it works) - June 2008

The program we feature today Thunder Rock from September 2, 1947.  The radio play was adapted from the 1939 stage play by Robert Audrey.  Audrey was a playwright and screenwriter who later became a paleontologist. While the play closed after only 3 weeks on Broadway, it ran longer in London and inspired the wartime British movie to be made in 1942 staring Michael Redgrave, Barbara Mullen, James Mason and Lilli Palmer.  The adaptation opens with Fletcher Markle reading the plaque that was used to dedicate Thunder Rock lighthouse:

On the night of May 16, 1849, the sailing ship Land O' Lakes out of Buffalo, bound for Milwaukee, encountered a northwest gale.  800 yards north of this spot, she stuck the reef and floundered.  All hands were lost, including 60 immigrants, passengers on the unfortunate vessel.  To the memory of the sailing ship Land O' Lakes, lost in these northerly waters of Lake Michigan, this lighthouse is dedicated.  Thunder Rock A.D. 1901.

Thunder Rock was a fictional lighthouse in Northern Lake Michigan, and a refuge for a newspaper man (David Charleston) who sought to run away from his problems, and the problems of the world.  So content was he to be far removed from the work of man that he would not even accept a radio to keep in touch with the outside world.  Besides monthly supply and inspection visits, there was no one to communicate with out on the Lighthouse, but that was not a problem for David.  Joining him in his solitude were people that were the creation of his imagination.  They were the crew members and passengers on the ill-fated Land O' Lakes.    To create a better world, David created in his mind personas for each of the passengers and crew on that ship.  And after sending off his former mate Streeter, who went off to fight the Japanese in China, David retreated to the world of 1849 and the optimism that existed among people who would leave everything for a new chance.  The lonely lighthouse was not only the setting for the play, but practically a character itself.  Through its history and in particular, the dedication plaque, David found meaning in a world on the brink of war.

The Studio One cast included director Fletcher Markle in the staring role, with Clarence Derwent, Hester Sondergaard, Robert Dryden, and Stefan Schnabel.

Thunder Rock (September 2, 1947)

Please enjoy these great episodes.  This is a real treat and a great way to continue my Lighthouse Old Time Radio series.  I will have another entry in about a week!

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and Studio One:

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