The Shadow

A Short Radio History


It is Thursday night, July 31,1930. The time is 9:40 PM. Radio listeners tuned to CBS hear the first appearance of "The Shadow" as James La Curto portrays the part in the Detective Story Hour. Street and Smith publishers sponsored this show (which lasted about a year), along with their magazine series The Shadow, A Detective Monthly.

In September 1931, The Blue Coal Radio Revue, starring Frank Readick, Jr. (who was the star in the later Detective Story Hour shows), continued the adventures of "The Shadow". The show remained an hour long, but was heard on Sundays at 5:30 PM.

For a short time, lucky CBS listeners were able to hear The Shadow on both Thursdays and Sundays. In October, 1931, the 9:30 Thursday slots were taken by Love Story Drama or Love Story Hour (sponsored by Street and Smith), which also had portrayals of The Shadow!

A year later (October, 1932), the series moved to NBC, and continued what was to be a long relationship with the sponsor: Blue Coal. Frank Readick Jr. remained the star for the weekly Wednesday presentations. In October 1934, NBC aired the program on both Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30PM. Mr Readick starred in most of the shows, with Mr LaCurto appearing in a few.

The program shifted to Mutual on September 26, 1937, and was heard on Sundays at 5:30 PM. It maintained the same sponsor (Blue Coal), but had a new voice for Lamont Cranston, the young and relatively new theater and radio personality: Orson Welles. The 1937 programs also began to feature "The Shadow" as a character in the stories, rather than merely as a narrator. (Mr Welles was "The Shadow" through 1938, while the now syndicated program was sponsored by Goodrich.) Here is a log of The Shadow while Orson Welles played the part, as well as the famous "Weed of Crime" ending from 1938. [Experts state this voice is really that of Frank Readick rather than Orson Welles]

Blue Coal again became the sponsor in late 1938, and Bill Johnstone became the new voice. Here is a sound sample from November, 1939. Bret Morrison was the voice of The Shadow for most of 1943, and John Archer took over near the end of 1944. Bret Morrison returned in September, 1945, and remained the voice through 1954, when the program ended. Here is a sound sample from May, 1948

Blue Coal remained the sponsor until September, 1949, when Grove Labs sponsored the show for a year (The show remained on Mutual, but shifted a half hour earlier, to 5:00 PM, Sundays). In January 1951, the US Army/Air Force became The Shadow's sponsor, after it was "sustained" for a few months by Mutual. Wildroot was the sponsor from about September '51 to Sept. '53, when various sponsors began to appear. The program was again "sustained" by Mutual until the last show on the day after Christmas, 1954.


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