Old-Time Radio Playlist: Till Death Do Us Part (And That Might be Sooner Than You Think)

I put this playlist together after noticing how many old-time radio mystery shows had presented episodes titled “Till Death Do Us Part.”

“Till Death Do Us Part”


Suspense, December 15, 1942
“Just remember, I shall be waiting…out, in the dark and cold, where there is neither marriage, nor giving in marriage…I’ll be waiting, for my little pet to come and join me.”
Story: A professor, jealous of his wife’s love for another man, comes up with a clever plan to eliminate both his problems.
Writer: John Dickson Carr, well known Golden-Age mystery writer, who wrote many Suspense episodes.
Notable Cast Members: Peter Lorre, whose voice oozes creepiness, plays the murderous husband. The same year this episode aired, Lorre played one of his most memorable film roles: Ugarte in Casablanca.
About Suspense: Suspense billed itself, with ample justification, as “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills.” Extremely popular, it ran for 22 years (1940-1962). For much of that time, it attracted top Hollywood stars, who often got the chance to play roles that contrasted with their on-screen image. William Spier produced Suspense in its best years and, according to Dunning, “personally guided every aspect of the show, molding story, voice, sound effects, and music into audio masterpieces.”
Weapon of Choice: Aconite, also known as monkshood, a poison.
My Verdict: An entertainingly over-the-top performance by Lorre and a script with several good twists make this a must-listen.

“Till Death Do Us Part”


The Sealed Book, July 8, 1945
“Oh, no, I’ll never leave you, darling. Never, never, never.”
Story: A man is determined to escape his smothering wife—and she is determined to keep him.
About The Sealed Book: A cheesy mystery-horror show with a very cheesy opening sequence, The Sealed Book was a syndicated show that ran for six months in 1945.
Weapon of Choice: The sea.

My Verdict
: A so-bad-it’s-good kind of entertainment. By a few minutes in, you’ll want to kill Blanche, too.

Till Death Do Us Part”


Murder at Midnight, December 9, 1946
“One life has already paid for yours. And, quart for quart, your blood is worth no more than my family’s.”
Story: A newlywed husband is tormented by fantasies of killing his bride.
About Murder at Midnight: Similar in some ways to The Sealed Book, this was a syndicated show with a cheesy opening and ample organ flourishes. The quality is much higher, though. As Digital Deli Too writes, “Anton Leader, later famous for his Television work, directed the series. The writing staff was also top-notch, with names such as Max Erlich, Joe Ruscoll and Robert Newman, among others.”
Weapons of Choice: Strangulation, a gun.
My verdict: This story is clever and complex, and it uses Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” to eerie effect as a recurring motif. The actress playing the bride gives a good performance.

“Till Death Do Us Part”


Inner Sanctum Mysteries, October 27, 1947
“Oh, baby, how did we ever get into a mess like this?”

Story: Newlyweds are witnesses when a man murders a woman, and their honeymoon just gets better from there.
About Inner Sanctum Mysteries: This was the father of all campy-mystery-horror-with-cheesy-opening shows. Famous for its creaking-door sound effect and its punning host, Inner Sanctum Mysteries ran from 1941 to 1952.
Notable Cast Members: Everett Sloane and Mercedes McCambridge, two prolific radio performers. Sloane was a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater and appeared in the films Citizen Kane and The Lady from Shanghai. Two years after this episode aired, McCambridge would play an Academy-Award-winning supporting role in All the King’s Men. Her movie career would also include providing the voice for The Exorcist’s demon.
Weapons of Choice: A gun, smothering (sort of).
My Verdict: Inner Sanctum has its fans, but it consistently underwhelms me. My mind kept wandering during this one, and the ending didn’t satisfy me.

“Till Death Do Us Part”


The Whistler, April 14, 1948
“He made a mistake–a bad one.”
Story: A shady art dealer meets up with the equally shady young wife of an ailing art collector. This won’t end well for anyone.
About The Whistler: A popular mystery-crime show, The Whistler ran for 13 years. It has similarities to the shows above, except that the episode’s central character is usually the bad guy, whom the narrator addresses directly and tauntingly.
Notable Cast Members: Gerald Mohr was another prolific radio actor whose most memorable role was Philip Marlowe. Doris Singleton would go on to play the recurring role of Carolyn Appleby on TV’s I Love Lucy.
Weapon of Choice: Sleeping pills (sort of).
My Verdict: The Whistler can be hit or miss. This wasn’t an outstanding episode, but it did keep me guessing. I always enjoy Gerald Mohr’s sexy, hard-boiled voice.

“Until Death Do Us Part”


Private Files of Rex Saunders
“It worked. It worked real good.”
Story: A casino owner’s second wife becomes convinced that her husband killed his first wife–and that she is about to be his second victim.
About Private Files of Rex Saunders: This private investigator show was a starring vehicle for Rex Harrison that aired during the summer of 1951. Himan Brown directed the series.
Notable Cast Members: Rex Harrison is best remembered as My Fair Lady‘s Henry Higgins, of course. Leon Janney, who plays the assistant, began his long theatrical career when he was still a child.
Weapons of Choice: Guns.
My Verdict: It’s fun to hear Harrison play a private investigator, and the story has some nice twists.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s