Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. The Shadow knows.
Between comics, movies, and pulp novels, the Shadow has used his psychic abilities, especially the power to cloud men’s minds, to strike at the criminal element. But The Shadow began on radio. Just not how you might think. Yes, there was a radio show, which we’ll be looking at in tonight’s Showcase, but he actually started as a narrator for a series of advertisements for a series of crime books by Street & Smith Publications. The voice, provided by James LaCurto and later Frank Readick Jr., introduced adaptations of their stories for The Detective Story Magazine Hour. And people asked for the magazine with the Shadow, so they knew they had a potential hit here. And obviously they did.
The Shadow would return to the radio voiced by the late great Orson Wells. While his team of agents in the pulps was reduced to just his fiance, Margo Lane, and Lamont Cranston (for simplicity) would be his only identity, the series would continue on from 1937 to 1954, and would have other actors in the role of the Shadow. Tonight we listen to the first episode, “The Death House Rescue”, which features his origin in exposition, as the Shadow and Margo help clear a framed man of bank robbery and murder. And it’s the only bit of good luck the man and his wife has had lately. So turn down the lights, sit back in your favorite chair and see what evil gets up to. The ShadowWING knows. Because I already listened to it. 😀
What, you knew I had to get that pun in somehow! I chose this screenname and I have to work with it! (And know The Shadow had no influence on my screenname.)
The name for The Shadow is credited to Harry Charlot, who came up with the name for the mysterious narrator suggested by David Chrisman and Bill Sweets. They though having the narrator be a character himself of sorts would had some flavor to the show, not realizing he would become the breakout character. Readick was the one who created the voice’s haunting tone, which is a staple of the character, as is his classic attire. He doesn’t turn invisible but he can “cloud men’s minds” so they can’t see him. I’m guessing that may not work as well nowadays with security cameras and smartphones everywhere though.
The character has undergone a few changes over the years. Some were fine and others was that time he was turned into a cyborg because darned if I know why. The first Shadow production I saw was sadly the 1990s movie with Alec Baldwin, and let’s just say they didn’t understand how a superHERO operates. The character was actually popular enough that the original Muppet Babies cartoon once parodied it when Gonzo was pretending to be a Shadow-like detective called “The Weirdo”. It’s strange I still remember that. This was my first time hearing the radio drama and I thought it was rather interesting. I checked out another episode, mistaking it for the first, and that was good as well.
While there is an official releaser of the show on CD (or at least the episodes that hasn’t been lost), you can find the show online since I’m guessing it’s public domain by now. You can check the Internet Archive or even YouTube or old time radio sites for episodes, and if you liked what you heard tonight it should be worth checking out.