Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 8, 2020

Stand By For Crime! (radio crime series, circa 1953)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 5:25 pm
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As those of you who read my reviews over at BTC know, I have always been a devoted fan of what’s called “old time radio,” the surviving drama and comedy and mystery and music and variety shows broadcast between the early 1930’s and 1962, when YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR went off the air on CBS, generally considered to be the end of the radio drama era.

No one would consider STAND BY FOR CRIME! to be an all-time classic, but upon listening to an episode today while working, I just had to alert others to the show…and one particular episode.

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It stars the real-life husband and wife couple of Glenn Langan and Adele Jergens, who met during the making the 1949 Lippert production TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (which is available on one of those VCI/Kit Parker Films DVD collections devoted to obscure noir films). Langan plays Chuck Morgan, a radio newscaster/crime reporter at station KPO in Los Angeles. Jergens plays his secretary, Carol Curtis, whom he annoying calls “glamourpuss” multiple times in each episode.

This is a relatively low-budget radio show, so most of the episodes are narrated by Morgan who leads us into and provides the frame for shorter dramatic scenes with other actors. Sound effects are kept to a minimum, and the music is the old-fashioned organ accompaniment that was common in 30’s radio but somewhat old-fashioned by 1953. It required only one musician, though, and I would not be surprised to find, if I listened to ten episodes in a row, that there is a library of maybe 30 or 40 organ cues used in all episodes, put down on tape in an hour and then re-used whenever needed.

The episode I just listened to (I’ve heard most of the 26 surviving episodes at one time or another over the decades) is a gem, THE COMMUNIST MENACE. Chuck Morgan is getting ready to do his evening broadcast when the station owner gives him some new copy to read. After perusing the material, he storms into the owner/manager’s office and refuses to read it because it’s “pure Red propaganda.” The owner demands he read it on air (I wish we listeners could have heard a few lines ourselves), and then Chuck threatens to quit rather than read it. Then, when the owner sees he is serious, he tells Chuck the real reason for asking  him to do the Red broadcast. Have you ever seen one of those police films (I’ve seen this plot going back to the 1920’s!) where an officer agrees to be framed for some crooked act, taking a bribe or whatever, and is fired in public and only the chief and the officer know what’s going on, that it’s all phony. He loses all his friends, he gets spit on in the street, he doesn’t get service at the local hash-house in the neighborhood, and even his family members don’t want anything to do with him. He is shamed in the local newspaper and everyone knows he’s crooked. Eventually, broke and alone and defeated, he agrees to go over to the criminal side, but he’s really a plant, a deep undercover agent infiltrating the organization. That’s what’s going on here, but it’s the Communist Party, not the mob (this plot has been used in dozens of westerns too). Evidently, the FBI knows there is a Mr. Big Communist out there in L.A. but they do not know who it is. Good Citizen that he is, the radio station owner decides to volunteer his star reporter to go undercover and he agrees. He’s insulted, beaten up in the street, loses his friends, and can’t get a job. Then one night, a woman in a bar with a foreign accent chats him up, and when he says, “I have no friends,” she offers to introduce him to some “new friends.” Anyone familiar with I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE FBI can fill in the rest of the story. This kind of hyperventilating, hard-boiled Red Scare entertainment has always been enjoyable for me–as a ten or twelve year old I saw on TV films like THE WHIP HAND and MY SON JOHN, and I later read old 1950’s comics of a similar bent. In the last year, I reviewed a classic Columbia picture, shot on location in Boston, called WALK EAST ON BEACON (1952), based on a magazine story by J. Edgar Hoover himself. You can read that review here:              Bill Shute review of WALK EAST ON BEACON

It’s an excellent film that anyone who enjoys a hard-boiled Cold War police procedural will love–and the Boston location shooting circa 1952 is priceless. Agents even pose as Howard Johnson’s ice-cream men! It’s on You Tube–look for it.

If you don’t want something of feature film length, though, check out the 25 minute episode of STAND BY FOR CRIME called “The Communist Menace” at the link below. If you like it, there are 25 more episodes you can enjoy, and it will feed them to you one after the other without your having to do a thing. SO….

While you are stuck at  home, why not listen to some episodes of this vintage early 50’s cold-war era crime melodrama acted by a very talented couple who bring their salty B-movie personas to the show, making each episode sparkle and crackle with over-the-top hard-boiled excitement….if that’s what you want. I certainly do!

26 episodes of STAND BY FOR CRIME!

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