The Adventures of Philip Marlowe was a a radio series that began in 1947, and ended in 1951. It was usually heard on CBS, on Saturday or Sunday nights, at about 8:30 PM. Norman Cox here presents a series of 15 short reviews of the episodes in this series.
Based loosely on a character created by Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe had two lives on radio. The first was a series in 1947 that starred the film actor Van Heflin. The second series, and the shows that will be reviewed, had the perfectly cast Gerald Mohr as the lead.
"From the pen of Raymond Chandler, outstanding author of mystery, comes his most famous character and crime's most deadly enemy. Listen as we present The Adventures of Philip Marlowe". The series was produced and directed in its second life by the then young Norman Macdonnell who always would make sure of a tight script and a cast of competent actors. At the same time he was working on this show, he was also in charge of the highly regarded Escape series. Many of the actors from these series would find themselves in a few years working with Norman on his Gunsmoke shows. (Which was also a sustaining show during its first two seasons)
Gerald Mohr, a personal favorite of this reviewer, was perfect as the tough PI working in and around LA and Hollywood for $50.00 a day. He worked alone but would let us tag along with him on all his cases. He would also keep up a running description of the things that were happening to him while he tooled around town trying to break the case. With no side kicks (Margo Lanes, Harringtons or Mike Axfords) to get in the way (Holy Cow) we get to take their place. At the end of the show we light up a cigarette with him as he tells us where the bad guys made their mistakes and how he closed the case.
The show was sustaining for most of its life and all of the reviewed NARA shows (except one that has Ford for a sponsor) have CBS filling the ad spaces with teasing reminders to us OTR listeners. "Don't miss Pursuit later on tonight. Tune in on Sunday to The Green Llama, Call The Police and Sam Spade. Gangbusters is next". Now doesn't that sound better than another ad for Duz, Swan Soap or L & M's ?
NARA Cassette 7217 Side A. The August Lion It looks like it's going to be a quiet evening for Philip. He is padding around his apartment in his robe and slippers. Just one martini and a last cigarette before he turns in. But he has unexpected guests. An old friend drops by, lugging the body of his dead girl friend and asks Philip for his help in finding the murderer. We run into a great bunch of characters, courtesy of the show's three talented writers: Mel Dinelli, Robert Mitchell and Gene Levitt. Pay close attention to the close of the show as it gets wrapped up faster than yesterday's leftover fish. The tag at the end of the episode tells us that the identity of The Phantom Voice was solved last week on the Sing It Again Show. Does anyone remember who it was? NARA Cassette 7217 Side B. The Indian Giver A wholesale curio dealer calls up Philip for his services. Hans Conried slips easily into his best Dutch accent as the shop owner trying to get back an intriguing piece of Apache pottery shipped to him from New Mexico and then stolen. A good multi layered story worthy of your listening. The tag at the end mentions that Basil Rathbone's (ill fated) adventure show, The Tales of Fatima, will be on later this evening.
NARA Cassette 7229 Side A, 5/21/49. Night Tide It's high tide at the San Pedro waterfront and a hot tempered kid has murder on his mind. A knife is held at Philip's throat...A corpse will be found on the beach before the tide goes out again...A parolee is out for revenge and a new client is looking for some protection. This time we find ourselves following our fearless PI around the docks, offices and cafes of San Pedro. The three writers of these shows always deliver an exciting script with good sound pictures of the people and places our hero runs into while solving his cases. "CBS will be making random calls around the nation tonight asking you to identify the Phantom Voice. If you can solve the riddle and identify him you can win $50,000.00". NARA Cassette 7229 Side B, 5/28/49. The Ebony Link Vicious blackmail mushrooms into murder and this is all because of a wild artist on a hilltop, a man in a wheelchair and a red headed manicurist. One of Marlowe's friends doesn't want it noised around that his wife spent some time in jail and an anonymous blackmailer is asking for $50,000.00 to keep it quiet. A small ebony cuff link is found and starts our PI's search for the villain. Tonight the prize for the Phantom Voice is up to $52,000.00.
NARA Cassette 7230 Side A. The Unfair Lady A millionaire's secretary tries to get Philip to take his boss's case but he doesn't want to leave Hollywood's cement and macadam and tromp around the desert of Mexico. A couple of $500.00 checks change his mind and he is off to find out who is stealing diamonds from his client's mine. The supporting cast includes Parley Baer and Hans Conreid. Throughout his career this show's producer/director, Norman Macdonnell, had the smarts to use only the best radio actors and he would keep them busy working for him on his other projects like Pursuit and, later on, Gunsmoke. NARA Cassette 7230 Side B. The Pigeon's Blood A fashion magazine illustrator has Philip tracking down a stolen collection of rubys. He immediately becomes quite smitten with his new French client. He will run into an old geezer who is always out of matches, a parolee, a blond and a double cross. He doesn't ever really solve this case. He just seems to be around while the bad guys bumble and fumble and make all kinds of mistakes, ending up with the cops hauling them all off to jail. Gloria Blondell, Joan's sister, is part of the excellent cast.
NARA Cassette 7231 Side A, 6/18/49. The Busy Body Philip meets his new client at a coffee shop and is hired to find her fiance and some missing bonds. He has no trouble finding the fiance but he's dead. The body doesn't stay found for long. It is moved around more times than your last piece in a checker game. This episode, as with many others in the series, uses exisiting streets and locations around LA and Hollywood. Is there really a coffee shop on the corner of Franklin and Bronson in Hollywood? What's located just off of Los Feliz at 312 Normandie in LA? "Listen tomorrow night for the Green Llama, Call the Police and Sam Spade. Now, Gangbusters is next. NARA Cassette 7231, Side B, 6/25/49. The Key Man This time Marlowe meets his client in the newsreel theater near Cahuenga Boulevard. Some of his client's competitors are mad about a questionable real estate deal. All Philip has to do is make sure the client makes it to the airport that night. He doesn't. Clues lead Philip to 300 pounds of meaness called Hippo Link. Get out your map of LA and Hollywood and follow him around town while he tells you where he is heading while he works the case. (Even though he no longer has a client)
NARA Cassette 7232 Side A, 7/2/49. The Dude From Manhattan One of Philip's friends, running a dude ranch south of San Bernardino, invites him down for a short vacation. When he arrives he finds out he's there to keep an eye on everything. Even with Marlowe hanging about, one of the guests checks out a bit prematurely. Running in and out of the stables and bunkhouses instead of up and down his normal alleys and freeways, the whodunit is solved and he heads for the more comfortable, exhaust filled air of Los Angeles which he shouldn't have left in the first place. The end tag tells us to tune in next week to The Quiet Number. I don't see it in our lending catalog so I guess we will have to miss it. NARA Cassette 7232, Side B, 7/16/49. The Headless Peacock Philip is looking for a client's missing boyfriend. Just before she hires him, she stops off at her boyfriend's bungalow and gets mixed up with a natty little man (read Peter Lorre) who is looking for a priceless, jeweled peacock (read Maltese Falcon). Philip follows some leads to a hat shop in Beverly Hills that is fronting for a bookie joint. (Bookies in Beverly Hills? Never!) A typical LA driver slips into the show and offers some choice comments about Philip's driving skills. In this episode the case is wrapped up with the help of his police detective friend Matthews (Larry Dobkin).
NARA Cassette 7218 Side A 8/20/49. The Lady Killer Marlowe is offered a couple of hundred bucks to be a bodyguard for a part time gigolo and composer but his ethics get in the way and he declines even though his bills are piling up. A desperate phone call from the prospective client sends Philip out to Coldwater Canyon where he finds that he's taken the case whether he wants to or not. A familiar scenario: a rich old husband, a bored young wife and a too handsome male friend. We almost find out Philip's office address on Cahuenga. Was there ever a motel at 1000 Santa Monica Blvd? NARA Cassette 7218 side B 8/27/49. The Eager Witness Philip starts off in an unusual setting. He is in court testifying as a prosecution witness in a murder case against a notorious bookie. The case falls apart because of an iron-clad alibi from an unimpeachable source. Court is adjourned and he has only the one evening to straighten everything out. Court room dramas always have a large mob of babbling spectators and I can imagine anyone who happens to be in the studio at the time (musicians, producer, director, janitor and the coffee gofer) being pressed into service. "One more outburst like that and I will be forced to clear the courtroom".
NARA Cassette 7219 Side A, 2/7/50. The Long Arm Our hero is taking a shower when the telephone rings, mercifully ending his attempt to serenade us listeners. It is an ex con and friend who is being framed for the murder of his ex wife. The case unfolds in the mythical town of Bay City where we meet the cast of characters who include a fat fry cook with a deep secret, a dapper professional gambler and a mean cop. The tag at the end of the show for the rest of the Wednesday's upcoming shows sounds like good listening. Let's not turn on tv tonight. NARA Cassette 7219, Side B, 2/14/50. The Grim Echo After a weekend of skiing, Philip heads home but instead, gets snowbound in a mountain lodge with a beautiful girl, a widow sick with rage and a jealous man; all who for some unknown reason, hate him as soon as they hear his name. This is not your typical "Let's make angels in the snow" trip. The distinctive voice of Verna Felton is heard as the matriarch of the slightly off base family group.
NARA Cassette 7221 Side A, 3/7/50. The Monkey's Uncle Philip gets a call from a mad Scotsman trying to track down an unusual actor playing the part of a butler in a night club act. He runs into a phony English Lord, a beautiful blond corpse and a weird assortment of other characters. The cab driver sounds like a male version of Ms. Nussbaum of Allen's Alley. "Radio and Television Life Magazine has this week named our star, Gerald Mohr, as the best male actor on radio". This reviewer agrees. When you hear Gerald on these shows your hearing an actor at the top of his game. NARA Casette 7221 Side B, 3/14/50. The Vital Statistic When Philip stops his car at a corner to get a newspaper, a woman jumps in to escape someone following her. During this case he gets knocked down a flight of stairs, finds a woman strangled by a green silk scarf and a simpering dandy gets murdered. On one of his trips around town we get to stop off with him for a nostalgic cup of coffee at a drive in restaurant at the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega. This time, just for fun at the end of the show, open Philip's car door and slide yourself in along side him, light up a forbidden cigarette and listen while he wraps up the case for you. Class A work by all: Gerald Mohr, writers, actors and even the musicians.
NARA Cassette 7222 Side A, 3/21/50. Deep Shadow In this episode Philip has to track down a bride-to-be that's missing on her wedding day along with $50,000.00. One of the clues is an old photo taken in front of the stalls on Olivera Street. The villains can't keep their mouths shut. "You're not taking me coppers". "Don't miss our star, Gerald Mohr, in Republic Pictures upcoming movie, The Blonde Bandit". NARA Cassette 7222 Side B, 3/28/50. The Sword of Cebu A short dumpy man with wild black hair tries to hire Marlowe to recover a missing sword. Philip gets misled in a Philippine jungle, chases an English accent to Venice and winds up at a Shinto shrine with a friend from Siam. All this without leaving Los Angeles. With Paul Frees. Stay tuned for Pursuit.
NARA Cassette 7223, Side A The Man On The Roof, 4/4/50 An old Spanish woman hires Philip to prove that her son is not a thief. A red head in a mink coat plus a green button will lead him to a wounded man with a gun on a rooftop; cornered there by the cops. A flashback technique is effectively used to tell the story of how Philip finds out who has been hijacking truckloads of furs. NARA Cassette 7223, Side B The Anniversary Gift, 4/11/50 For this episode the show finally gets a sponsor. Ford Motors picks up the tab and runs ads for their 1950 autos but our star, Gerald Mohr does not show up. Instead we get to hear our old friend, William Conrad, taking his place. Norman Macdonnell, the producer of this show, will use Conrad again in a couple of years when he starts up Gunsmoke. With "Bill" Conrad, as he is listed in the credits, we get a much tougher version of Philip Marlowe which is fun to hear. Marlowe has to get back a missing platinum Benrus watch for a grieving widower. A helpful motorcycle cop steers him in the right direction. No clues as to where Gerald Mohr is tonight.
NARA Cassette 7224 Side A, 4/18/50. The Angry Eagle This week Gerald Mohr is back but last week's sponsor is gone. Tonight Philip poses as a reporter to help out a fight trainer friend who's having trouble with his fighter. High in the hills above Santa Monica, at the training camp, the boss is murdered and clues lead to the person he was hired to help. Howard McNear is part of the good supporting cast. NARA Cassette 7224 Side B, 4/25/50. The High Collared Cape Philip settles in for the rainy evening with a good book and a drink but a ballerina sticks her dainty toe into his doorway and hires him to find a missing friend. He soaks up a bit of culture at a recital hall and chases down a blackmailer. That has to be Hans Conried doing his Mad Russian impersonation but he's not listed in the credits. Anyone agree with me?
NARA Cassette 7225 Side A, 9/29/50. The Big Book While wrapping up a case with Lt. Matthews, Marlowe decides to ride along with him to answer a police call about an apparent suicide of a former actress. Her scrapbook leads the two of them to the office of the biggest theatrical agent in LA and a case of blackmail. John Dehner has a choice part playing an ageing character actor handing out generous slices of ham everywhere he goes. Between this episode on side A and the next episode on side B of this cassette, the two remaining capable writers, Robert Mitchell and Gene Levitt, leave the show and we pick up a new writer. NARA Cassette 7225, Side B, 7/7/51. A Seaside Sabbatical I hope they swept out the studio for Philip because tonight he's taking over this time slot for 10 weeks as a replacement for the vacationing Hopalong Cassidy and his horse Topper. The credits give the name of the new writer as Kathryn Hite. I can't find her in The Big Broadcast or Dunning's Tune In Yesterday. She does bring a different, more deliberate pace to the show. A prospective client asks Philip to meet him in Long Beach but when he arrives he finds out he is no longer needed. He collects $25.00 for his trouble and starts home but a voice out of the fog calls him to a new adventure where he has to deal with an informer, a priest and a Sister Superior.
NARA Cassette 7226, Side A, 7/14/51. Dear Dead Days Philip is looking forward to a quiet Saturday with a good book, a comfortable chair and a fresh pack of cigarettes but a telephone call from an ageing dowager (Verna Felton) gets him involved with a missing jade collection. NARA Cassette 7226, Side B, 7/21/51. Life Can Be Murder Our hero stops off to wet his whistler at a pseudo English style pub just off Hollywood Blvd. with the then unusual feature of a lady bartender. Although he may disagree with me, Philip is picked up by a beautiful redhead with green eyes. (Sounds like a traffic signal) Again we find a different pace to the show with the new writer, Kathryn Hite.
NARA Cassette 7227 Side A, 7/28/51. Good Neighbor Policy. It has been a slow day for Philip and he is home in his apartment trying to keep cool. A mix up by the telephone company has his incoming calls going to next door's apartment #three. Boy does his neighbor get mad over a few wrong numbers. I don't think Philip ever gets a client in this episode. Chalk it up to pro bono work. "Our star, Gerald Mohr, can be currently seen in the Santana production of Sirocco". (A Bogart flic). NARA Cassette 7227 Side B, 8/4/51. The Long Way Home A kindly old gentleman is looking for his missing wife. She left home two days to drop off some clothes to the Laundromat and now hubby is getting worried. The trail leads from the Laundromat to a camera store and a garden supply store. I'm getting worried about Philip. He has been doing a lot of work lately but I don't think anyone is paying him his $50.00 a day. The show doesn't have a sponsor but I don't think he should have to work for free.
NARA Cassette 7228. Side A, 8/18/51. The Young Man's Fancy A Moscow Mule sounds like a good idea to Philip on a hot smoggy day in Hollywood but he is out of limes and ginger beer. Off to the grocery store to pick up his supplies, and just minding his own business, he still manages to get his car sideswiped and get into a bar fight. We find out (don't let it get around) that Philip is really a soft hearted guy. Tonight he is helping protect the kindly old gent running the produce stand from some of life's hard knocks. There is a gap of a few weeks between this cassette and the show on side b. I would like to think that there are more of these fine shows for me to listen to sometime in the future. NARA Cassette 7228 Side B, 9/15/51. The Sound and the Unsound One of Philip's former clients has him investigating some mysterious tappings coming from one of her rental bungalows. Next week, we are told, Hoppy and Topper will return from vacation and reclaim their time slot. In spite of Gerald Mohr's statement at the end of the show that he will be seeing us again and soon, this is the last of the series and one of the better private eyes rides off into the brown tinted Hollywood sunset for the last time. Norman Macdonnell, who began producing and directing Philip Marlowe when he was only 28, is going to be busy next year in 1952, starting a new show called Gunsmoke. I hope it is a success". CBS's new winter season starts tomorrow night with Jack Benny, My Friend Irma and The Contented Hour with Tony Martin". How about that for a good lineup. The producer/ director, Macdonnell and the Marlowe writer Kathlene Hite, will continue their collaboration on something called Romance for Jergens Lotion in 1952. This show will bring with it most of the fine performers from the Escape and Philip Marlowe shows but in an entirely different format: light romantic comedy.