Saturday, December 23, 2017

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 23: The Whistler's Three Wise Guys from Damon Runyon (1950)

As we are getting close to Christmas, I thought I would feature a pairing that gives me 'great pleasure' to be sure.  I have decided to match one of my favorite series with one of my favorite authors.  In my first year of doing this blog for Christmas, I showcased all of the episodes from the great West-coast series - The Whistler.  And a few days ago, I featured Palm Beach Santa Claus on the Damon Runyon Theater (1949) .  So today - we pull a mashup that even Reese's Peanut Butter Cups would approve of - hey - you put Damon Runyon in The Whistler -  or - You put The Whistler into a Damon Runyon story!  Either way - it is a great way to greet the holidays this year.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). It is particularly good this week with all Christmas themed programs.  Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).

Views from the Road - Driving in Gujarat, India (November 23, 2017)

Not really Christmas - but it is three travelers - so I will go with that.  
Views from the Road - Driving in Gujarat, India (November 23, 2017)

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 in the 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.  On December 24, 1950th, the Whistler staff had the night off.  The broadcast was transcribed (or recorded) to enable the cast and crew to spend the holiday with their families.  The program opened in a perfect match of The Whistler and Damon Runyon:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse.
Even Broadway, that glamorous avenue of make believe in far away New York seemed empty, deserted.  
Most cafes and eating places were closed.  But the doors of an occasional refuge for those hardy souls who prefer to walk alone were still open.  Such a place was Good Time Charley's Bar on 49th Street, where on another Christmas Eve, a series of unusual events began.  Ending in one of the most unusual stories Good Time Charley had ever listened to.  
The story opens with poor Blondy Swanson.  Sitting at a bar and lamenting a lost love and his switch to an honest life.  He is talking with the storyteller (Al) - when in comes the Dutchman who tells them that he has a treasure in Pennsylvania that he needs help collecting.  50Gs to be specific from a factory payroll.  So the three of them head to the west from New York City on Christmas Eve to collect this money - conveniently hidden in a barn somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania.  When they get to the barn where the money is, they find something that they clearly were not expecting.  It was Blondy's former love - Miss Clarabelle Cobb!  And she was ready to give birth to a newborn! Her husband was on the run because they thought he was involved in the payroll theft - but he was not.  In typical Damon Runyon fashion - there were lots of moving parts - but a well oiled story underneath!  As they said, it was "quite a night for surprises."  The program stars Marvin Miller, John Brown, Jack Moyles & Bill Forman as the voice of the Whistler.  Great recording and lots of fun for the holidays.

Three Wise Guys - The Whistler - December 24, 1950

Story Text options:
Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and The Whistler:

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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