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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Lurking in the Hearts of Radio Lovers, August 11, 2011
This review is from: Shadow: Greatest Radio Adventures (20-Hour Collections) (Audio Cassette)
Radio buffs all certainly agree that The Shadow was among the greatest radio shows of all-time. It is often stated that The Shadow began as a magazine, but that is not quite the case. The character of The Shadow originated as the announcer for Street & Smith's Detective Story, a radio show designed to help sale the magazine of the same name. When listeners began calling in requesting "The Shadow Detective Magazine," something had to de done.

Walter Gibson brought The Shadow to life for over a decade in pulp-type novels. The Shadow Magazine made its way to the public for the first time on March 6, 1931. There were two of these novels each month and between 1931 and 1949, Gibson, a former magician turned journalist, churned out 283 of the 325 shows, creating Commissioner Weston and many other characters later brought to life on the airwaves.

It may surprise some casual Shadow fans to note that Lamont Cranston was originally only one of The Shadow's many personas. Street & Smith wanted to continue The Shadow as the pulp detective of Walter Gibson's novels, rather than the mysterious announcer and storyteller fans had come to love. But their lack of foresight could not kill, The Shadow.

Though a transcribed serial production of 15 minute shows originating in San Francisco, with Carl Kroenke as The Shadow, was syndicated and hung around for 10 years, it wasn't until September 26, 1937 that, The Shadow, as we now know him today, returned to network airwaves via the Mutual Broadcasting System. Orson Welles was the "man-about-town" Lamont Cranston, using a strange power he had learned in the mysterious orient to cloud men's minds so that his alter ego, The Shadow, could fight crime.

While Welles' Shadow was very good, and his stint as The Shadow sent people running to his Broadway production of Julius Caesar in order to get a look at the face of The Shadow, I have always been partial to Bill Johnstone's portrayal of Lamont Cranston. One of my favorite shows ever, The Chess Club Murders, is included here and stars Bill Johnstone as The Shadow.

Over the years, Lamont's constant companion, Margot Lane, would be portrayed by Agnes Moorehead, Margot Stevenson, Marjorie Anderson, Judith Allen, Lesley Woods, and Grace Matthews. Margot Stephenson was the beautiful Broadway actress who had actually inspired the character of Margot Lane.

This is one of the best collections around of The Shadow, and while by no means definitive, a ton of terrific shows are here to enjoy. Since the individual shows have already been listed, I will only list what I believe are the most enjoyable from each of the three men who portrayed the greatest single figure in the history of radio.

ORSON WELLES---Welles was only 22 when he starred in The Shadow. He managed to strike a deal with the sponsor, Blue Coal, which allowed him to do the show "cold" without rehearsal. It served to give his performance as The Shadow an edge. Welles would show up a few moments before airtime, perform a few magic tricks for the cast, then bada bing-bada boom, he would grab the script and run with it.

What Welles could not do, however, was the signature and sinister laugh of The Shadow. Frank Readick (the voice of The Shadow on Street & Smith's Detective Story) continued to both open and close the program.

FAVORITE SHOW---SOCIETY OF THE LIVING DEAD

BILL JOHNSTONE---He began as The Shadow on September 25, 1938. He had trouble with the laugh also, but finally managed to perfect it. My favorite Shadow.

FAVORITE SHOW---THE CHESS CLUB MURDERS

BRET MORRISON---He became The Shadow in 1943, was replaced by John Archer a year later, then returned as Lamont Cranston late in 1945.

FAVORITE SHOW---A TIE---PREVIEW OF TERROR and THE PHANTOM OF THE LIGHTHOUSE

This great collection comes with a stunningly researched booklet by Anthony Tollin, who uses a number of sources to give a far-reaching look at the history of radio's greatest man of mystery, both in print, on radio, and in film.There are marvelous program notes on each episode included in the booklet, supplemented by photos of many of the key players. For fans of radio, the theatre of the imagination, this Shadow collection is not to be missed!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 13, 2011 4:30:38 AM PDT
Mary Whipple says:
My husband and I still joke about how "the Shadow knows." Great idea for a birthday present.... Thanks. Mary

Posted on Aug 13, 2011 4:31:45 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 13, 2011 4:31:54 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2011 4:40:20 AM PDT
I own a couple of big The Shadow sets, this being one, and some smaller collections. I love this one. Some great shows here, and a nice booklet. I left the next biggest set with my mom when I came to Australia because she loves the show as well. :-)

Posted on Oct 22, 2011 6:55:01 PM PDT
This radio show is one of the first I remember as a wee one. We of course did not have T.V. and I use to listen to these things and then would have my mom retell the tale over and over again the next day. She was actually pretty good at it.
Thanks for the memories.
don

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 7:05:15 PM PDT
Yes, before television we used our imagination and it was terrific. Love old radio, and The Shadow was one of the best all-time. Fortunately, we still have access to quite a few shows. I'm fortunate enough to own this and quite a few more I've picked up over the years. Your mom probably enjoyed that too and it was no doubt a wonderful memory of you growing up.
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Bobby Underwood
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Tumut NSW, Australia

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,942