BW - EP132—004: Mutual Mystery Shows Of The 1940s—Quiet Please

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In 1934 Chicago was the center for radio production. Writer and director Wyllis Cooper created a program for NBC affiliate WENR that drastically altered the tone of horror. Cooper had been writing advertising copy in the late 1920s when he entered radio, working first as a continuity editor, then for NBC's Empire Builders. His idea was to offer listeners a late-night terror program, at a time when other stations were mostly airing music. It emphasized crime thrillers and the supernatural. The first series of shows were fifteen minutes and ran on Wednesdays at midnight to local audiences. It was called Lights Out. In April, the series expanded to a half-hour. The following year, it went national. Cooper stayed on until 1936 when he left to write film scripts in Los Angeles. He wrote The Phantom Creeps and The Son of Frankenstein before returning for the final season of The Campbell Playhouse on CBS and The Army Hour on NBC. Then in the Spring of 1947 a new opportunity arose in New York. Quiet Please debuted on Sunday June 8th, 1947 at 3:30PM over the Mutual Broadcasting System. Quiet Please elevated the genre to high art. For the weekly lead, Cooper cast Ernest Chappell, The Campbell Playhouse announcer. He proved a natural, playing Scotsman, oil riggers, drunks, and archaeologists. They were every-men who got tied up in the otherworldly. Few supporting voices could be afforded or deployed. Those few were part of New York radio’s elite like Frank and Claudia Morgan. The cast was told to play it straight. It resulted in an almost dream-like study in horror, like on October 27th, 1947 when Quiet Please presented “Don’t Tell Me About Halloween.” In March of 1948, CBS executive Davidson Taylor sent an internal memo expressing his interest in purchasing the Mutual-sustained series for CBS. Taylor had a keen eye for talent, but nothing materialized. Quiet Please shifted to ABC in September of 1948, but never found sponsorship and went off the air on June 25th, 1949.

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