Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Regular blog postings begin on DECEMBER 26, Monday.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Interview With OTR Historian Jack French

1. You were an FBI agent. What type of cases did you work on?

I worked nearly every type of case in my 23 years as an FBI Agent. I started out in Dallas Division and worked deserters, car thieves, bad check passers, impersonation cases, etc. But most of my time there was spent working on the JFK Assassination which occurred five months after I got there. I was next assigned to the St. Louis Division and handled fugitive cases, stolen property, assaults on federal property and then later extremist groups, Black Panthers, Weather Underground, and destruction of draft boards and federal buildings. At FBI Headquarters, where I finished my career, I worked Freedom of Information Act requests, inspected FBI Field offices, and handled assistance to authors and historians.

2. When did you first get interested in Old Time Radio. (I suppose it was “new time” to you!)

Well, as a kid during WW II I listened to the radio very much, generally juvenile adventures as Tom Mix, Captain Midnight, Superman, and Jack Armstrong. My entire family listened to True Detective Mysteries, Quick as a Flash, The Shadow, The Whistler, and Twenty Questions. Radio was my primary entertainment until I got to college in 1954 where I listened to the last drama programs, including Gunsmoke and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Not until about 1970 did I learn that many of these programs still existed in audio form. My FBI secretary in St. Louis for my birthday gave me a 33 rpm record which had four kid's shows on it: Tom Mix, Superman, Hopalong Cassidy, and Captain Midnight. Based upon that, I started searching for more shows, both from OTR dealers and from radio clubs, primarily North American Radio Archives. I eventually became editor of the latter's quarterly journal, NARA NEWS.

For the past forty years I've been researching and writing about the Golden Age of Radio. My articles have appeared in over a dozen different publications, including Nostalgia Digest (out of Chicago) and many of my pieces can be found on the Internet.

3. You help out OTR collectors today, on such internet resources as the OTR Bulletin board.

The hobby's main bulletin board, the Old-Time Radio Digest, which I've been a subscriber to for the past ten years, is a sounding board and info-sharing pool of hundreds of collectors and fans, primarily throughout North America and Europe.

When I was working on my book, Private Eyelashes; Radio's Lady Detectives from 2002 to 2004, I frequently got email (and snail mail) from people I didn't even know, who told me they knew of my interest in feminine sleuths so they were sending me an article on an obscure lady detective, or a cassette of a show I couldn't find, and sometimes even a script or two. A gentleman (and a stranger) from Germany sent me a CD of some missing Time For Love, the mystery adventures of Marlene Dietrich, which were only available in the Berlin Museum. Another man (also a stranger to me) send me some previously unknown materials from Australia that related to the detective series It's a Crime, Mr. Collins.

Until it ended this October, the Friends of Old Time Radio (FOTR) Convention in Newark, NJ was the best event for meeting the stars of the Golden Age of Radio and listening to them perform live on stage, using old scripts, but with live sound effects and musical cues. Over the years, I've meet and heard virtually every important radio performer including: Mason Adams, Bob Hastings, Jackson Beck, Win Elliot, Ed Herlihy, Ken Roberts, Alice Reinheart, Grace Mathews, Florence Williams, Raymond Edward Johnson, Fred Foy, Parley Baer, Frank Nelson, Veola Vonn, and dozens of others.

4. As an aside, did you ever meet the Tom Corbett actors, Frankie Thomas, Jan Merlin and so on?

Yes, virtually the entire cast of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was assembled at the 1993 FOTR convention. So I met Frankie Thomas, Jan Merlin, Ed Bryce, Al Markim, Jackson Beck, and George Gould and listened to them re-create with live microphones and sound effects one of their great radio adventures.

5. You wrote Private Eyelashes: Radio’s Lady Detectives for Bear Manor Media. What was the genesis and process of writing that book?

I've always been interested in feminine sleuths. As a kid I read Nancy Drew more than the Hardy Boys. When I started collecting audio copies in the 1970s one of the first lady private eye shows I heard was Candy Matson, YU 2-8209. I started looking for more and found a few: Meet Miss Sherlock and Sarah's Private Caper.

Several pals in the hobby sent me information on more of them and I wrote a few articles on the dozen or so series I had found. When these articles appeared in OTR hobby magazines, I received more information on ones I'd missed. Finally about 2002 I was contacted by Ben Ohmart of Bear Manor Media who publishes books on vintage radio, TV and movies. He'd read some of my material on the Internet and asked me if I wanted to write a book on female sleuths. I said "Sure" and he asked me how many there were. "Well, I've found 19 so far" I responded. "Not enough for a book" he countered, "How about including the wives of the detective, like Pam North, and the gal-Fridays who helped their bosses solve cases, like Margot Lane."

I said I'd do further research on the genre and when I had found over 40 such ladies, Ben and I signed the contract for what would be Private Eyelashes; Radio's Lady Detectives. When it was released in the spring of 2004, it received enormous praise from both the OTR community and the mystery hobby, gathering two favorable reviews in Mystery Scene magazine and eventually winning the Agatha Award for Best Non-Fiction at the Malice Domestic Convention. The book has since gone into its second edition and is available in both paperback and Kindle now.

6. You give speeches on OTR and such other topics as Women in aviation books to this day.

Like many authors, I research and write about what I like. In the case of OTR, I really enjoy all lady detectives, Tom Mix, Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders, all the Royal Canadian Mounted Police radio shows, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, and any series relating to the FBI.

I've been fortunate to be chosen by Radio Spirits, Inc. to write the program guides for several of their excellent CD boxed sets of vintage radio shows (all re-mastered.) For this NJ firm, I've researched and written the program guides for Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Mr. and Mrs. North, Defense Attorney, Frontier Gentleman, Fort Laramie, I Was a Communist for the FBI, Hopalong Cassidy, and several others.

For my research, I try to rely on primary sources if available, which would include listening to audio copies of the show, reading the scripts, interviewing people who worked on the show, reading contemporary accounts of the show in vintage periodicals, etc. By now I can rely on a large group of friends and associates who can usually steer me in the right direction. I frequently dip into any of the 120 reference books I have in my library. If a star's memory differs from some established record I've found, I use both versions and let the reader make what they think is a logical choice.

7. What other OTR organizations do you belong to. SPERDVAC?

At present, I only belong to the Metropolitan Washington OTR Club and edit its journal, RADIO RECALL. Anyone can learn about our club and read articles from past issues by going to our web site,

About 15 years ago, I convinced the editors of other OTR journals and newsletters that we should exchange our publications with each other gratis, and as far as I know, we all do this now. So while I'm not a member of these other clubs, I receive every copy of their publications so I am very familiar with SPERDVAC, Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound, OTR Radio Club of Western NY, Radio Historical Association of Colorado, The Chattanooga OTR Club and other similar organizations.

Selected Links
Listen for Free:

Acquire Shows From:
Radio Spirits:
Radio Showcase:

OTR Organizations (Jack's organization)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Audio Book: Parting Breath, by Catherine Aird

Robin Bailey is my favorite audio book reader. He has read several of the books of Catherine Aird, a couple of Agatha Christies, and a few of Ruth Rendell. I have most of his Airds and Christies. Fan though I am of his work, I do not like Ruth Rendell's work, so won't be acquiring those audio books.

I enjoyed Parting Breath, as ready by Robin Bailey, for all that the mystery is slight and "fair play" non-existent. Truth to tell, I still don't know why the first victim was murdered.

But that's the case with all of Catherine Aird's books featuring Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan of the Calleshire Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The mysteries are slight, and there's certainly no opportunity for fair play, guessing the murderer, as there is, for example, with the Agatha Christies.

But they're are fun for all that. They are the type of book one can read in a single sitting. There are no earth-shaking psychological philosophies expounded, just a fun, entertaining read.

Or in my case - listening experience.

Parting Breath
is not available on CD (yet) - I acquired my set from from Amazon's used book/audio book service, and there are 12 cassettes.

The book begins in the dining hall of the University of Calleshire. The dons and the students have just returned from the long vacation, and are discussing various things. This is the 1970s, a time when, in the US, universities were occupied in response to the Vietnam war, and apparently this happened in England, too.

A student has been sent down, and the Student Union is planning a massive sit-in and protest in order to demand that he be reinstated. The school body makes plans for this sit-in.

During the sit-in, a student, Henry Mullins, is murdered, and no one knows why. In his parting breath, he gasps, "Sixty minutes..." (which has to be one of the silliest "last gasp dying breath clues" I have ever heard.

C.D. Sloan and his sergeant are dispatched to the university, and conduct their investigations while the students continue with their sit in and protest.

Then comes another murder...and it is this murder that gives the clue of why the first murder took place...

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Written Word: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

I have the Vincent Price version of this story, and will be reviewing it here in due course.

Below is the original story.

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (sometimes called "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge"]) is a short story by Ambrose Bierce. It was originally published in 1890, and first collected in Bierce's 1891 book Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. The story is famous for its irregular time sequence and twist ending.

Ambrose Bierce

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners--two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest--a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground--a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle ofa brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators--a single company of infantry in line, at "parade rest," the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a
kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift--all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by--it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and--he knew not why--apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. "If I could free my hands," he thought, "I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest advance."

As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.


Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

"The Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order."

"How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?" Farquhar asked.

"About thirty miles."

"Is there no force on this side of the creek?"

"Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge."

"Suppose a man--a civilian and student of hanging--should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel," said Farquhar, smiling, "what could he accomplish?"

The soldier reflected. "I was there a month ago," he replied. "I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder."

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.


As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened--ages later, it seemed to him--by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness--of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river!--the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface--knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. "To be hanged and drowned," he thought, "that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair."

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort!—what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. "Put it back, put it back!" He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf--he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of the water spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat--all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning's work. How coldly and pitilessly--with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men--with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:

"Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready!. . . Aim! . . . Fire!"

Farquhar dived--dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream—nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

"The officer," he reasoned, "will not make that martinet's error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!"

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

"They will not do that again," he thought; "the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me--the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun."

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round--spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color--that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream--the southern bank--and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of AEolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape--he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman's road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which--once, twice, and again--he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue--he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene--perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon--then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

Several adaptations of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" have been produced.

* The Spy (also released as The Bridge) was a silent movie adaptation of the story, directed in 1929 by Charles Vidor.

* A TV version of the story starring Ronald Howard was telecast in 1959 during the fifth season of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television anthology series.

* La rivière du hibou, a French version directed by Robert Enrico and produced by Marcel Ichac and Paul de Roubaix, was released in 1963. Filmed in black and white, it later went on to win the award for best short subject at the 1962 Cannes film festival and 1963 Academy Awards.[1] In 1964 La rivière du hibou aired on American television as an episode of the anthology series The Twilight Zone. See An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (film).

* Several radio series have adapted the story for broadcast using a script written by William N. Robson, including Escape on December 10, 1947 starring Harry Bartell as Peyton Farquhar; Suspense on December 9, 1956 starring Victor Jory as Farquhar and July 9, 1959 starring Vincent Price as Farquhar; and CBS Radio Mystery Theater on June 4, 1974 starring William Prince.

* Winifred Phillips narrated and composed original music for an abridged version of the story for the Tales by American Masters radio series, produced by Winnie Waldron on May 29, 2001.

* Issue #23 of the comics magazine Eerie, published in September 1969 by Warren Publishing, contained an adaptation of the story.

* Owl Creek Bridge, a BAFTA Cymru-winning short film by director John Giwa-Amu, has been showcased internationally. The story was adapted to follow the last days of Khalid, a young boy who is caught by a gang of racist youths.

* In 2006, Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories was released, which contains adaptations of three of Ambrose Bierce's short stories, among them "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" directed by Brian James Egan. The DVD also contains an extended version of the story with more background and detail than the one included in the trilogy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rich dad’s ‘frame & fortune’ forgeries

Himan Brown (front) was a pioneer in radio drama and suspense at CBS in New York in the 1940s, dying last year and leaving one last mystery to his son and daughter.
From New York Post: Rich dad’s ‘frame & fortune’ forgeries
Talk about an artless exit.

A legendary Manhattan radio producer with a vast collection of paintings and sculptures has given a final, cruel sign-off to his estranged family -- from beyond the grave.

Himan Brown died last year at age 99, after an illustrious career that helped him amass a $40 million estate, including artworks intended to go to his kids after his death.

But instead of leaving his son Barry and daughter Hilda priceless paintings, Himan swapped out nearly two dozen works by Degas, Manet, Renoir and others with worthless forgeries, a new lawsuit alleges.

The deception went unnoticed until December, when Barry Brown finally got the art his father promised him.

“Had these paintings been authentic, they would have had significant value,” Barry Brown claims in a $27 million Manhattan federal court lawsuit against his own dad’s estate.

Himan and Mildred Brown were married for 34 years as he pioneered golden-age radio dramas like Grand Central Station, Dick Tracy, and Inner Sanctum Mysteries.

The couple collected art by the masters until they split in 1967. Many pieces graced the walls of their Central Park West home, and some were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mildred got $1,500 in monthly alimony, the 1966 Corvair, and possession of 34 artworks in the divorce, including the 1921 Pablo Picasso piece “La Maternité.”

There was just one caveat, Mildred insisted: the 34 paintings and sculptures, a fraction of the overall collection, must go to the kids once Mildred and Himan were both dead.

“Throughout [Barry’s] life, his father would discuss the artwork with [Barry] and his mother,” according to court papers. “Himan Brown would review the artwork, the signatures on the artwork, and would represent unequivocally that the artworks were the authentic works of named artists and were very valuable.”

Himan retook possession of the 34 artworks, including “La Maternité” and a Renoir work titled “Paysages à Cagnes,” when Mildred died in 1974.

But the transaction did not go smoothly. In the years that followed, Barry, now 77 and living in Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., accused his dad of trying to sell off the inheritance Mildred secured for her kids. An ugly court battle ensued.

The 2002 case was ultimately dismissed.

The biggest clue: The forgeries all have the same stretchers -- the wood underneath the canvas -- which is an “inconceivable” coincidence, said lawyer Malcolm Taub.

As for what happened to the real paintings? Barry doesn’t know -- but he wants to find out where his dad hid them, or if they were already sold.

Only two significant works were real, according to court papers: The $10 million Picasso, and Armand Guillaumin’s “Rocks on Riviera,” which Barry and Hilda sold at auction last year for $120,000.

“At the end of the day, we have one painting,” Taub said.

His father’s betrayal is the final fracture in a decades-long family rift.

“There’s a lot of blood on the sand,” Taub said. “This is a tortured, tortured case.”

Peter Coke's Paul Temple radio ouvre

The serials starring Peter Coke as Temple, and Marjorie Westbury as his wife Steve (Steve being a nickname because as a journalist she'd used this name as her pseudonym.) (The earlier serials starring Kim Peacock as Temple no longer exist.)

I'll be reviewing the extant ones in chronological order.

All the serials - except the Geneva Mystery, are in 8 parts.

1. Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case (29th March to 17th May 1954). This story was remade in 1959, also starring Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury. Both versions are available.

2. Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery Another remake of a previous serial starring Kim Peacock as Temple. (Aired in June and July of 1955).

3. Paul Temple and the Lawrence Affair. (11th April to 30th May 1956).

4. Paul Temple and the Spencer Affair. (13th November 1957 to 1st January 1958).

5. Paul Temple and the Van Dyke Affair. Remake of a previous serial, in which Peter Coke played one of the villains. (1st January to 19th February 1959).

6. Paul Temple and the Conrad Case. (2nd March to 20th April 1959).

7. Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case. A remake of the 1954 serial. (22nd November 1959 to December, 1959).

8. Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery. (1st January to 19th February 1961).

9. Paul Temple and the Jonathan Mystery. A remake of a previous serial. (14th October to 2nd December 1963.)

10. Paul Temple and the Geneva Mystery. (11th April to 16th May 1965) (Only 6 episodes..

11. Paul Temple and the Alex Affair. A remake of a previous serial. (26th February to 21st March 1968).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Theatre Music: The 39 Steps

I have not seen Patrick Barlow's play, The 39 Steps, but I have seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie, and apparently it is an adaption of the movie, rather than John Buchan's book.

I'm also familiar with Patrick Barlow's work - I love his Theatre of Brent offerings, which you can hear on BBC Radio 4 Extra every now and again.

In his Theatre of Brent stuff, two actors play multiple roles, and it is the same with The 39 Steps - where I believe 3 actors play multiple roles - only on stage rather than on the radio.

I know the play would be a lot of fun...but I sure as heck am not going to pay $100 for a ticket to Broadway to see it... even if I lived anywhere near Broadway. If Patrick Barlow were in the cast I would, admittedly, but otherwise....

Anyway, I love this soundtrack.

The music is not all from The 39 Steps, as you can see from the cover, it is "Music From & Inspired By West End."

So we've got:
1. The 39 Steps: The 39 Steps / Highland Hotel / Mr. Memory / Finale The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 4:04 minutes

2. The Lady Vanishes - Prelude The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 3:04 minutes

3. Dial M For Murder - Main Title / The Telephone / The Trap / Finale The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 7:12 minutes

4. Psycho: Narrative For String Orchestra (prelude / The City / Rainstorm / Murder / Finale) The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 7:24 minutes

5. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Prelude The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 2:15 minutes

6. Vertigo: Scene D'amour The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 5:08 minutes

7. Under Capricorn: Suite The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra -- 7:04 minutes

8. Stage Fright - Rhapsody The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 4:58 minutes

9. Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Title Theme (funeral March Of The Marionettes) The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 4:17 minutes

10. The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex: Love Theme The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 1:39 minutes

11. Coronation Scot Queen's Hall Light Orchestra 3:01 minutes. [This is the theme to the Paul Temple radio mysteries]

12. The Devil's Gallop Queen's Hall Light Orchestra 1:20 minutes

13. Embassy Stomp -- Ambrose And His Embassy Club Orchestra 2:39 minutes

14. Love Is The Sweetest Thing Al Bowlly With Ray Noble And The New Mayfair Dance Orchestra -- 3.29 minutes