From the spring of 1931 until the
summer of 1949, a slim figure cloaked in black fought mobsters, evil
scientists, crazed old men and foreign invaders with two blazing automatics
and a laugh that chilled the hearts of evil. Now The Shadow
returns in a series of 2-part episodes, set in the 1930s. Our show ends with
a cliff-hanger. Tune in again next week to see if our hero can escape the
clutches of the evil…
On July 31, 1930 a sinister voice came
over the radio into American homes. The voice of the Shadow appeared for the
first time. In the beginning, the Shadow was not a crime fighter. He was a
mysterious narrator of mystery tales taken from the pages of Street &
Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. The publisher Street & Smith began
to use radio as an advertising medium to promote their fiction publications.
The Shadow was a perfectly creepy teller of tales promoting
Street & Smith.
This format continued until 1935 when
creative differences between Street & Smith and NBC called a halt to
The Shadow on the air.
In December of 1930, a young writer
named Walter Gibson was approached to write fiction accounts of Shadow
adventures. It would begin an incredible writing career for Gibson. He wrote
283 Shadow novels totaling over 15 million words. Gibson’s
Shadow was a mysterious nocturnal creature who fought crime with a mirthless
laugh and two .45 automatic pistols. His black cloak and glowing red girasol
ring brought terror to criminals. He worked with a network of agents who
brought him information and assisted in the pursuit of justice.
On September 26, 1937, The
Shadow reappeared on radio with the voice of Orson Welles playing
the part. The Shadow was now a full-fledged character on radio, not just
narrating and introducing stories. The Shadow had an identity as Lamont
Cranston, a wealthy man about town. He was accompanied by Margo Lane,
originally played by Agnes Moorehead. Margo Lane was the only person who
knew that Lamont Cranston and the Shadow were one and the same. No other
agents assisted the Shadow, as did in the Walter Gibson fictional accounts.
This radio Shadow had hypnotic power to make himself invisible to those
around him and he possessed mental telepathy to read minds. Orson Welles
played the Shadow from 1937 through March 1938. The Shadow
became the highest rated radio show on the air at that time.
In September of 1939, a new voice of
the Shadow appeared in the form of radio actor Bill Johnstone. Later in
1939, Agnes Moorehead left the show and was replaced by Marjorie Anderson as
Margo Lane. The plot lines began to follow the standard formula of Margo
Lane being in danger and the Shadow rescuing her from the clutches of evil.
Bill Johnstone would be the voice of the Shadow for five seasons, until
Bret Morrison took over the Shadow
role in 1943 for one season. John Archer and Steve Courtleigh took the
Shadow role through the 1944-45 season. Bret Morrison then returned to be
the Shadow for the duration of the program’s run which lasted until December
The Shadow radio program
became a part of American culture with its mystic phrase, “Who knows what
evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” The show used its
popularity to try and deter crime with its admonition, “The weed of crime
bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay!” Every listener knew that the Shadow
was out there, fighting the forces of evil and bringing wrong-doers to