On The Air

I am the Whistler and I know many things for I walk by night.  I know many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows.  Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak!

This is the introduction to what was, in my opinon, the greatest radio show ever aired, The Whistler.  Running from 1942 to about 1955, The Whistler was sponsored (most of that time) by the Signal Oil Company, and aired on the West Coast, “from Canada to Mexico.”

It is hard to listen to this show and not note how it clearly influenced such later programs like The Twilight Zone and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, because they all use the same gimmick:  “The Whistler” is a mysterious narrator who introduces the story, sets the context, and occasionally interjects a comment on the course of events.  The listener is aware of the problem, the villian, and their motive, and for twenty-five minutes, it’s a matter of listening to the scheme play out.  Then “The Whistler” will reveal the story’s “twist-ending:” something that the villian either didn’t know or overlooked that ultimately leads to his or her doom.

The interesting thing is that so many of the stories involve the same motive – an adulterous relationship that someone either wants to punish or legitimize, and the scheme to make it possible.  It also reminds me a lot of Dragnet, as it’s clear that the producers used a stable of actors who appeared in every episode, sometimes in the same basic role.  The best episodes – the ones with the most consistency – seem to be those that aired after World War II.  They’re available online and are certainly worth a listen – a really interesting look at mid-century values and beliefs.

 

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