|Genre||Drama and suspense|
|Running time||30 minutes or one hour|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Home station||CBS Radio Network|
|Original release||June 17, 1942- September 30, 1962|
|No. of episodes||946|
One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 still exist.
Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.
In its early years, the program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy. Notable exceptions include adaptations of Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", but by the late 1950s, such material was regularly featured.
Alfred Hitchcock directed its audition show (for the CBS summer series Forecast). This was an adaptation of The Lodger a story Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 with Ivor Novello. Martin Grams Jr., author of Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills, described the Forecast origin of Suspense:
On the second presentation of July 22, 1940, Forecast offered a mystery/horror show titled Suspense. With the co-operation of his producer, Walter Wanger, Alfred Hitchcock received the honor of directing his first radio show for the American public. The condition agreed upon for Hitchcock's appearance was that CBS make a pitch to the listening audience about his and Wanger's latest film, Foreign Correspondent. To add flavor to the deal, Wanger threw in Edmund Gwenn and Herbert Marshall as part of the package. All three men (including Hitch) would be seen in the upcoming film, which was due for a theatrical release the next month. Both Marshall and Hitchcock decided on the same story to bring to the airwaves, which happened to be a favorite of both of them: Marie Belloc Lowndes' "The Lodger." Alfred Hitchcock had filmed this story for Gainsborough in 1926, and since then it had remained as one of his favorites.
Herbert Marshall portrayed the mysterious lodger, and co-starring with him were Edmund Gwenn and character actress Lurene Tuttle as the rooming-house keepers who start to suspect that their new boarder might be the notorious Jack-the-Ripper. [Gwenn was actually repeating the role taken in the 1926 film by his brother, Arthur Chesney. And Tuttle would work again with Hitchcock nearly 20 years later, playing Mrs. Al Chambers, the sheriff's wife, in Psycho.] Character actor Joseph Kearns also had a small part in the drama, and Wilbur Hatch, head musician for CBS Radio at the time, composed and conducted the music specially for the program. Adapting the script to radio was not a great technical challenge for Hitchcock, and he cleverly decided to hold back the ending of the story from the listening audience in order to keep them in suspense themselves. This way, if the audience's curiosity got the better of them, they would write in to the network to find out whether the mysterious lodger was in fact Jack the Ripper. For the next few weeks, hundreds of letters came in from faithful listeners asking how the story ended. Actually a few wrote threats claiming that it was "indecent" and "immoral" to present such a production without giving the solution
One of the series' earliest successes and its single most popular episode is Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number", about a bedridden woman (Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960)--each time with Moorehead. The popularity of the episode led to a film adaptation in 1948. Another notable early episode was Fletcher's "The Hitch Hiker", in which a motorist (Orson Welles) is stalked on a cross-country trip by a nondescript man who keeps appearing on the side of the road. This episode originally aired on September 2, 1942, and was later adapted for television by Rod Serling as a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone. The episode's primary plot device of a motorist being relentlessly pursued by a diabolical hitchhiker was also featured in the 1986 horror classic The Hitcher, with 18-year-old C. Thomas Howell assuming Welles's role as the young protagonist.
After the network sustained the program during its first two years, the sponsor became Roma Wines (1944-1947), and then (after another brief period of sustained hour-long episodes, initially featuring Robert Montgomery as host and "producer" in early 1948),Autolite Spark Plugs (1948-1954); eventually Harlow Wilcox (of Fibber McGee and Molly) became the pitchman. William Spier, Norman Macdonnell and Anton M. Leader were among the producers and directors.
The program's heyday was in the early 1950s, when radio actor, producer and director Elliott Lewis took over (still during the Wilcox/Autolite run). Here the material reached new levels of sophistication. The writing was taut, and the casting, which had always been a strong point of the series (featuring such film stars as Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Eve McVeagh, Lena Horne, and Cary Grant), took an unexpected turn when Lewis expanded the repertory to include many of radio's famous drama and comedy stars--often playing against type--such as Jack Benny. Jim and Marian Jordan of Fibber McGee and Molly were heard in the episode "Backseat Driver", which originally aired February 3, 1949.
The highest production values enhanced Suspense, and many of the shows retain their power to grip and entertain. At the time he took over Suspense, Lewis was familiar to radio fans for playing Frankie Remley, the wastrel guitar-playing sidekick to Phil Harris in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. On the May 10, 1951 Suspense, Lewis reversed the roles with "Death on My Hands": A bandleader (Harris) is horrified when an autograph-seeking fan accidentally shoots herself and dies in his hotel room, and a vocalist (Faye) tries to help him as the townfolk call for vigilante justice against him.
With the rise of television and the departures of Lewis and Autolite, subsequent producers (Antony Ellis, William N. Robson and others) struggled to maintain the series despite shrinking budgets, the availability of fewer name actors, and listenership decline. To save money, the program frequently used scripts first broadcast by another noteworthy CBS anthology, Escape. In addition to these tales of exotic adventure, Suspense expanded its repertoire to include more science fiction and supernatural content. By the end of its run, the series was remaking scripts from the long-canceled program The Mysterious Traveler. A time travel tale like Robert Arthur's "The Man Who Went Back to Save Lincoln" or a thriller about a death ray-wielding mad scientist would alternate with more run-of-the-mill crime dramas.
The series expanded to television with the Suspense series on CBS from 1949 to 1954, and again in 1962. The radio series had a tie-in with Suspense magazine which published four 1946-47 issues edited by Leslie Charteris.
The final broadcasts of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense, ending at 7:00 pm Eastern Time on September 30, 1962, are often cited as the end of the Golden Age of Radio. The final episode of Suspense was Devilstone, starring Christopher Carey and Neal Fitzgerald. It was sponsored by Parliament cigarettes.
There were several variations of program introductions. A typical early opening is this from April 27, 1943:
The familiar opening phrase "tales well-calculated to..." was satirized by Mad as the cover blurb "Tales Calculated to Drive You... Mad" on its first issue (October-November 1952) and continuing until issue #23 (May 1955).
Radio comedians Bob and Ray had a recurring routine lampooning the show called "Anxiety." Their character Commander Neville Putney told stories that were presented as dramatic but were intentionally mundane, with the opening line "A tale well designed to keep you in... Anxiety."
For the Poway Performance Art Company, the 70-year-old San Diego actor-director Robert Hitchcox mounted a 2006 stage production recreating Suspense, complete with commercials, in a stage set designed like a CBS radio studio.
|June 17, 1942||The Burning Court||Charlie Ruggles (narrator)|
|September 2, 1942||The Hitch-Hiker||Orson Welles|
|September 30, 1942||One Hundred in the Dark||Eric Dressler and Alice Frost|
|November 10, 1942||Will You Make a Bet with Death?||Michael Fitzmaurice|
|January 5, 1943||Nothing Up My Sleeve||Elissa Landi|
|February 2, 1943||The Doctor Prescribed Death||Bela Lugosi|
|June 22, 1943||The Man without a Body||John Sutton, George Zucco|
|July 6, 1943||The White Rose Murders||Maureen O'Hara|
|August 3, 1943||A Friend to Alexander||Robert Young, Geraldine Fitzgerald|
|August 21, 1943||Sorry, Wrong Number||Agnes Moorehead|
|August 28, 1943||The King's Birthday||Dolores Costello, Martin Kosleck, George Zucco, Ian Wolfe|
|September 9, 1943||Marry for Murder||Lillian Gish, Ray Collins, Bramwell Fletcher|
|November 2, 1943||Statement of Employee Henry Wilson||Gene Lockhart|
|November 16, 1943||Thieves Fall Out||Gene Kelly, Hans Conried, William Johnstone|
|January 6, 1944||One Way Ride to Nowhere||Alan Ladd|
|January 13, 1944||Dime a Dance||Lucille Ball|
|January 20, 1944||A World of Darkness||Paul Lukas|
|January 25, 1944||The Locked Room||Virginia Bruce and Allyn Joslyn|
|February 3, 1944||The Sisters||Ida Lupino and Agnes Moorehead|
|February 10, 1944||Suspicion||Charlie Ruggles|
|February 24, 1944||Sorry, Wrong Number (rebroadcast)||Agnes Moorehead|
|March 2, 1944||Portrait without a Face||Michèle Morgan, Philip Dorn, George Coulouris|
|March 9, 1944||---||Alan Ladd|
|April 6, 1944||---||Katina Paxinou|
|May 11, 1944||The Visitor||Eddie Bracken|
|May 18, 1944||Donovan's Brain (Part 1)||Orson Welles|
|May 25, 1944||Donovan's Brain (Part 2)||Orson Welles|
|June 22, 1944||The Ten Grand||Lucille Ball|
|September 7, 1944||Voyage Through Darkness||Olivia de Havilland and Reginald Gardiner|
|May 24, 1945||My Own Murderer||Herbert Marshall|
|August 16, 1945||Short Order||Joseph Kearns, Gerald Mohr and Conrad Binyon.|
|September 20, 1945||Library Book||Myrna Loy|
|February 21, 1946||Consequence||James Stewart|
|March 21, 1946||The Lonely Road||Gregory Peck|
|June 27, 1946||Return Trip||Elliott Reid|
|August 8, 1946||Dead Ernest||Wally Maher|
|October 24, 1946||Dame Fortune||Susan Hayward|
|November 21, 1946||Drive-In||Judy Garland|
|December 5, 1946||The House in Cypress Canyon||Robert Taylor|
|May 22, 1947||Her Knight Comes Riding||Virginia Bruce|
|June 19, 1947||Dead of Night||Elliott Reid|
|October 2, 1947||The Story of Markham's Death||Kirk Douglas|
|January 3, 1948||The Black Curtain||Robert Montgomery|
|January 10, 1948||The Kandy Tooth||Howard Duff |
|July 22, 1948||Deep Into Darkness||Douglas Fairbanks Jr.|
|September 2,1948||The Morrison Affair||Madeleine Carroll and Gerald Mohr|
|February 3, 1949||Backseat Driver||Jim and Marian Jordan|
|April 21, 1949||The Copper Tea Strainer||Betty Grable, Raymond Burr, and William Conrad|
|November 24, 1949||The Long Wait||Burt Lancaster|
|December 1, 1949||Mission Completed||James Stewart|
|December 15, 1949||The Flame Blue Glove||Lana Turner|
|February 9, 1950||The Butcher's Wife||Kirk Douglas|
|March 2, 1950||Lady Killer||Loretta Young|
|March 23, 1950||One and One's a Lonesome||Ronald Reagan|
|November 16, 1950||On a Country Road||Cary Grant|
|January 4, 1951||Alibi Me||Mickey Rooney|
|May 10, 1951||Death on My Hands||Phil Harris and Alice Faye|
|September 24, 1951||The McKay College Basketball Scandal||Tony Curtis|
|June 2, 1952||A Good and Faithful Servant||Jack Benny|
|December 22, 1952||Arctic Rescue||Joseph Cotten|
|February 9, 1953||The Man Who Cried Wolf||Joseph Kearns|
|February 16, 1953||The Love And Death of Joaquin Murrieta||Victor Mature|
|May 4, 1953||Othello||Elliott Lewis, Cathy Lewis, and Richard Widmark|
|May 11, 1953||Othello||Elliott Lewis, Cathy Lewis, and Richard Widmark|
|December 21, 1953||'Twas the Night Before Christmas||Greer Garson|
|March 8, 1954||Circumstantial Terror||Ronald Reagan|
|March 29, 1954||Somebody Help Me||Cornel Wilde|
|April 12, 1954||Parole to Panic||Broderick Crawford|
|August 3, 1954||Goodnight, Mrs. Russell||Virginia Gregg and Vic Perrin|
|November 18, 1954||Blind Date||Shirley Mitchell and Vic Perrin|
|April 5, 1955||Zero Hour||John Dehner (narrator)|
|July 26, 1955||Greatest Thief||Ben Wright |
|October 25, 1955||To None a Deadly Drug||Harry Bartell|
|November 15, 1955||Once a Murderer||Ben Wright |
|December 13, 1955||A Present for Benny||Jack Kruschen|
|March 1, 1956||The Waxworks||William Conrad (narrator)|
|July 25, 1956||The Tramp||Ben Wright |
|October 23, 1956||The Doll||Patty McCormack|
|June 30, 1957||"The Yellow Wallpaper"||Agnes Moorehead, Joe DeSantis|
|August 18, 1957||Peanut Brittle||Skip Homeier|
|December 17, 1961||Yuletide Miracle||Larry Haines and Santos Ortega|
|December 31, 1961||The Old Man||Leon Janney|
|September 30, 1962||Devilstone||Christopher Carey and Neal Fitzgerald|
This section needs to be updated.September 2016)(
In 2012, John C. Alsedek and Dana Perry-Hayes of Blue Hours Productions revived Suspense for Sirius XM Radio, recording all-new scripts including originals and adaptations of works by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Cornell Woolrich, and Clark Ashton Smith. The Suspense revival is currently airing on nearly 250 radio stations worldwide, and has been nominated for a Peabody Award. Season One is also available as video on YouTube.
Season Two is under production, with episode #25 slated to premiere March 1, 2015. For more information on the Suspense revival, please visit www.bluehoursproductions.com.
Since 2007, Radio Classics, on Sirius XM channel 82, has been airing episodes of Suspense in its daily lineup among other classic shows, such as The Whistler, The Mysterious Traveler, and The Hermit's Cave. The show is also streamed nightly at 7 pm Pacific time on kusaradio.com from the original masters.