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The Ellery Queen Mysteries (30 min)

Show Description

If Perry Mason is the greatest fictional attorney of American literature, Ellery Queen is arguably the greatest fictional detective of American lit­erary creation.

Each Ellery Queen episode begins with a opening sound montage, in which the announcer says something like, “This famous song-writer is about to be murdered. Who is guilty? Is it...” Each suspect is profiled in a brief sound bite, speak­ing a short phrase (some­times deliberately skewed to sound off-beat and humor­ous), then: “Or is it… someone else? Match wits with Ellery Queen and see if you can guess… who done it!”

Adding to the authentic feel of the radio series is the “challenge to the listener” in which Queen turns to the in-theater audience and then invites them to add up the clues and name the guilty party. These are based on the “Challenge to the Reader” sections in the various Ellery Queen novels.

Show History

For nine years The Adventures of Ellery Queen was a weekly favorite on the radio; and in 1950 TV Guide gave the Ellery Queen program its national award for the best mystery show on TV. Ellery Queen has won five annual Edgars (the national Mystery Writers of America Awards, similar to Hollywood’s Oscars), including the Grand Master award in 1960, and both the silver and gold Gertrudes awarded by Pocket Books, Inc.[21]

Ellery Queen was one of two brainchildren of the team of cousins, Fred Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest, envisioning a stuffed-shirt author called Ellery Queen who solved mysteries and then wrote about them. Queen relied on his keen powers of observation and deduction, being a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson rolled into one. But just as Holmes needed his Watson—character with whom the average reader could identify—the character Ellery Queen had his father, Inspector Richard Queen, who not only served in that function but also gave Ellery the access he needed to poke his nose into police business.

Dannay and Lee chose the pseudonym of Ellery Queen as their (first) writing moniker, for it was only natural—since the character Ellery was writing mysteries—that their mysteries should be the ones that Ellery Queen wrote. They placed first in the contest, and their first novel was accepted and published by Frederick Stokes. Stokes would go on to release over a dozen “Ellery Queen” publications.

At the beginning, “Ellery Queen” the author was marketed as a secret identity. Ellery Queen (actually one of the cousins, usually Dannay) would appear in public masked, as though he were protecting his identity. The buying public ate it up, and so the cousins did it again. By 1932 they had created “Barnaby Ross,” whose existence had been foreshadowed by two comments in Queen novels. Barnaby Ross composed four novels about aging actor Drury Lane. After it was revealed that “Barnaby Ross is really Ellery Queen,” the novels were reissued bearing the Queen name. Even after the cousins’ identities were disclosed, their novels continued to be published under their now-famous pseudonym.[22]

In a rare development, the character of Ellery Queen was adapted to radio by its creators. Dannay and Lee, as former advertising writers, knew the promotional power of radio. The authors brought to the new medium the “challenge to the reader” from their earlier books. This said, in essence, “You now have all the clues; can you solve the crime?” On radio, this took the form of the fictional Ellery stopping the action and delivering the challenge in person to the listener at home and, in some incarnations, to a celebrity sleuth there in the studio. The Ellery Queen radio show ran in one form or another on CBS, NBC, and ABC. Scripts were by Dannay and Lee, and later by Lee assisted by others, most notably Anthony Boucher. Ellery was played by Hugh Marlowe (who would later take the role on television, as well), Larry Dobkin, Carleton Young, and Sidney Smith. Marion Shockley was the first actress to portray Nikki Porter, Ellery’s secretary and low-key love interest. This character appeared in films, short stories, and novels, but was created for radio.

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