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Posted May 22, 2004 - 10:51 PM:
Various mentions of Ernest Chappell and Wyllis Cooper in old newspapers. In chronological order, more or less. Items separated by a line. Text in brackets is for context or clarification.
[January 8, 1933 Washington Post "Radio Dial Flashes" column by Robert D. Heinl]
... "Tales of the Foreign Legion," formerly presented over WBBM and a limited Columbia network, will move to WABC and a coast-to-coast hook-up of this same system with the broadcast tonight. WJSV, 8:30 o'clock.
Each of the weekly series is an original drama from the pen of Willis Cooper. In addition to writing the dramas, Cooper also plays the role of Mendoza, the Spanish soldier. Several voices familiar to the followers of other dramatic programs will be heard in the "Legion" shows. Vinton Haworth, who is the Jack Arnold of "Myrt & Marge," is Corpl. Smith in this series. Ray Appleby, the Jimmie of the back-stage series is the director of Cooper's show. He also plays the part of the hard-boiled sergeant.
John C. Daly, who plays the radio role of "Fu Manchu," will be heard as Achmet Ali in the "Legion." Others in the Sunday night series are Douglas Hope, as Lieut. Vibart; Goldie Cassin, as Amelia Le Blanc, the only woman in the cast, and Charles Calvert as Kraus, the German soldier. ...
[March 2, 1933 Washington Post "Radio Dial Flashes" column by Robert D. Heinl]
... "Tales of the Foreign Legion," dramatic program originating in Chicago, will be heard on WJSV at 10 o'clock tonight. This is a change in schedule from Sundays at 10:30 o'clock. The leading roles are taken by Marigold Cassin, Douglas Hope, Vinton Haworth, a local boy, Willis Cooper, Stanley Andrews, John Daly, Ray Appleby and Tom Shirley. ...
[May 11, 1933 Washington Post "Radio Dial Flashes" column by Robert D. Heinl]
... "Tales of the Foreign Legion," broadcast over WJSV Thursdays, 9 o'clock p.m., will leave that schedule after the presentation tonight, moving into the Friday period, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on May 19.
Written by Willis Cooper, who also plays the role of Mendoza, the Spanish legionnaire, this sustaining series is produced in Chicago. John C. Daly, the late "Fu Manchu," takes the role of Achmet Ali; Stanley Andrews is cast for Tchernov, the Russian; Douglas Hope is Vibart, the Frenchman, and Ray Appleby plays the hard-boiled American sergeant.
With the change of time, a new character will enter the script, Slattery, a New York taxi driver, who has joined the Legion. This role will be played by Frank Dane. ...
[February 11, 1934 Washington Post article headlined "Washington V.F.W. Prepares For 'Hello America' Initiation"]
... All veterans belonging to the District of Columbia Department No. 1, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, will assemble to honor National Commander James E. VanZandt, Thursday night, at the Mayflower Hotel.
A record class of thousands of recruits will stand before approximately 3,000 radios in all parts of the country on that night, to take the oath of obligation given over a Nation-wide network of the National Broadcasting Co. by Commander in Chief VanZandt. The ceremony will be a feature of the third annual V.F.W. "Hello America!" radio broadcast. During the hour on the air, starting at 11:30 p.m., the D.C. department will participate by presenting a large class of recruits. Addresses will be made by Senator Patrick A. McCarran, of Nevada, and by Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, U.S.M.C. There will also be appropriate musical selections by the United States Marine Band. Another feature will be a dramatic sketch, "Remember the Maine," written especially for the V.F.W. by Willis Cooper, continuity editor of the N.B.C. in commemoration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of that historic disaster. ...
[IMMORTAL DRAMAS 1935
Cooper directs (and writes?) these half-hour adaptations of stories from the Old Testament. Sponsored by Montgomery Ward. Excerpts from the second movement of Franck's Symphony in D minor (the QP theme!) are used in the premiere as the hero's theme. Dates and titles from various radio listings:]
01-13 "David and Goliath"
01-20 "Exodus From Egypt"
01-27 "Daniel in the Lion's Den"
02-03 "Story of Samson"
02-10 "Story of Esther"
02-17 "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors"
02-24 "Joseph in Egypt"
03-03 "Solomon and the Queen of Sheba"
03-10 "The Story of Gideon"
03-17 "The Walls of Jericho"
03-24 "Ruth and Naomi"
03-31 "Saul and Jonathan"
[January 12, 1935 The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota) article headlined "Dramatizes Old Testament In New Series Over Radio / 'Immortal Dramas,' Program Sponsored by Montgomery Ward, Opens Sunday"]
"Immortal Dramas," a panoramic series of stories from the Old Testament, dramatized against a background of choral and instrumental music, will be introduced over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network Sunday, Jan. 13, by Montgomery Ward.
Recreating famous characters and events from the Old Testament on the air for the first time in the history of radio, "Immortal Dramas" will be heard each Sunday afternoon from 1 to 1:30 p. m. (CST), from the NBC Chicago studios. No commercial announcements will be made during the program.
The series will also mark a new departure in music technique. Works of old masters like Richard Strauss, Franck and Tschaikowsky and original compositions for the orchestra and vocal ensemble will be used as definite dramatic devices to heighten emotional effect. Heretofore radio music has always been employed only for transition or background. The adaptation and script are the work of Lloyd Lewis.
Will Employ Narration
Drama, music, and exciting narration will be employed as an effective combination in the presentation of the famed story of David and Goliath, which has been selected as the first episode on the "Immortal Dramas" series.
As the drama begins David, his father and brothers, are heard discussing the struggle between the Israelites and the Philistines and mention of the mysterious giant, Goliath, fills everyone with fear except David. Action then shifts to the Philistine stronghold where Goliath is cheered by his soldiers as he roars his challenges of combat to his already weary opponents.
The story reaches the exciting climax when David, having received permission from his father to take food and a word of cheer to the Israelite soldiers, enters the camp and accepts the challenge of Goliath to engage in man-to-man combat and kills his adversary by cunning.
Music Selected Carefully
Carefully selected music will be used throughout to aid the narrator in bridging transitions from one scene to another and will also serve to heighten the dramatic effect of the spoken word.
As a theme for David, excerpts from the second movement of Franck's Symphony in D minor will be played by the orchestra. Bars from Richard Strauss' spirited "Don Juan" will introduce the braggart Goliath and "Pines of Rome," Respighi's fourth dimensional conception of vast marching armies, will help build the mental picture of the Israelite and Philistine hosts massed in the Vale of Elah. Tschaikowsky's dramatic "Pathetique" will prepare the audience for David's encounter with Goliath. Ancient battle chants of the two armies will be sung by an a cappella choir.
[Photo caption:] Introducing Lloyd Lewis, author of the "Immortal Dramas" series which will be broadcast over NBC each Sunday.
[January 13, 1935 Washington Post radio column item about the premiere episode of Cooper's "Immortal Dramas"]
... Drama goes biblical in the first of a series of heroic events of the Old Testament, NBC this afternoon. David and Goliath, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, exploits of Samson and others, will be given musical and dramatic interpretation. David and Goliath occupy first place in the series.
Fifteen N.B.C. actors, a chorus of 24 and 26-piece orchestra complete the set-up. ...
[February 24, 1935 Washington Post radio column by Katherine Smith]
... "Joseph in Egypt," an immortal drama series, WRC, 2 p.m. ...
... And while in a critical mood, the Immortal Dramas, WRC, 2 p.m., series make you feel far from "religioso." Perhaps because it sounds odd to hear a modern voice mouth "Hark Ye, My Sons," and such-like. The acting is extreme -- in the extreme, the delivery affected. As it is, the dramas sound neither mortal nor immortal -- at least, not genuinely human. ...
[March 11, 1935 The Hammond Times (Indiana) "Radio Short Circuits" column by Paul K. Damai]
... Lights Out fans are registering kicks with this column over the new half-past midnight time on Wednesdays. ...
[April 11, 1935 New York Times article headlined: RADIO PROGRAMS WIN FOUR PRIZES]
... Anning S. Prail, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, presented the citations in behalf of the [Women's National Radio Committee], which was formed last Summer for the advancement of higher standards of radio entertainment. ...
[Prize-winning programs were "The March of Time," "Columbia Concert Music Hall," "You and Your Government" and General Motors' symphony concert series.]
... In making the awards it was stressed that the determining factors considered by the judges were their entertainment and instructional value, their contribution to the cultural tastes of the radio audience and the dignified manner in which the advertising material was handled.
The character and content of the advertising received special consideration, it was pointed out by Mme. Yolanda Mero-Irion, advisory chairman of the committee. She said that if in the judges' opinion the advertising was too long, too persistent or lacking in good taste, the program on which it appeared was eliminated from consideration, however excellent the material might otherwise be.
Programs that received honorable mention ... "Immortal Dramas," which was praised for its brief advertising; ...
[April 17, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column]
... Three premieres today -- Gertrude Berg starts off in "The House of Glass" at 8:30 p. m., WMAL, and WJSV offers his "Johnnie and His Foursome," a quartet at 8 p. m. Then on WRC at 12:30 a. m. "Lights Out" is prepared to chill the marrow of your bones. This is probably the worst horror drama you've ever heard. It is not intended for children nor yet for adults with weak hearts. ...
[April 17, 1935 The Lima News (Ohio) radio column headlined: Spooks To Branch Out On Network Program Wednesday / "Lights Out" Series To Become Regular Eerie Hour Feature Thru WEAF; ...]
"Lights Out," the series of ghost and horror dramas which has thrilled and chilled midnight listeners of station WENR, Chicago, for more than a year, will come to the WEAF network Wednesday and will be heard regularly thereafter at 12:30 a. m. Originally planned as a spine-tickling novelty for those hardy listeners who prefer something different in the way of late broadcasts, "Lights Out" has proved enormously popular. It is distinctly not a program for the children, nor for adults who are faint of heart. ...
[December 13, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H. which describes in part one of Cooper's lost Lights Out episodes -- apparently a warm-up (ha, ha) for QP's "Tap the Heat, Bogdan"]
The old clock on the mantel had stopped. So I sat down at the radio, turned the switch and waited for the first break which would indicate the hour. It was, I figured, between 12:15 and 12:45 a. m.
In a few seconds, with the heating of the tubes, came a sudden crescendo of agonized, screaming pleadings. "Don't keel me. I'll do anything ... but not that ... I geeve you my money ... $2,000 in the mattress ..."
The blood-curdling dialog was doubly impressive because I had expected to find a dance band playing at that early morning hour, whatever the station last tuned in.
I was fascinated with the hair-raising awfulness of the script lines. Suddenly it became apparent that the victim was protesting being dumped in a ladle of -- liquid steel! And while I was dwelling on this gentle situation as a plot for an air play -- the unfortunate gentleman was, in truth, thrown into the white-hot cauldron, with his last earthly screams imposed on the throaty, chuckling observations of his murderers.
The scene faded into a conversation between a steel-mill employe and a visitor, in which it was explained that a man recently had lost his life in a ladle of liquid metal -- but the process of fashioning steel rails, bridge girders and so on had not been stopped. The jolly part of it all was (laugh, laugh) that the victim even now was a fragmentary part (ho, ho, ha, ha) of the finished pieces before them.
Again, a transition -- and the voices of the three slayers are heard, one week or so later. One, named Sampson, set the plot. He was to be a victim of the slain man through an overwhelming desire to work, to go down to the nearby bridge under construction and work. From that point, the unfortunate mill worker dealt out his revenge.
The manner in which the three assailants died is not appropriate for reporting in a column that is scanned by many at the breakfast table. Let it be said that this attempt to be baldly, deliberately revolting in details -- ghastly, shocking in realism -- can be reported as notably successful. Finesse and subtleness were eliminated in favor of gory, crude obviousness.
Sometimes the mass radio audience becomes a mystery to me. There can be no doubt about it, many persons like this N.B.C. feature. It would not be continued if it did not meet with the approval and pleasure of some listeners.
Yet -- many a bell-ringing idea, many a delightful bit of entertainment has been refused with arched eyebrows because it was in bad taste, or too "in the raw" or otherwise deemed offensive to the public mind. Many a capricious alteration has been made in scripts and speeches by the same authorities who put the stamp of approval on "Lights Out," thus putting a crimp in the author's work and usually aiding the presentation in no way whatever.
"Lights Out," if I got a fair sample, is the most blatent [sic] evidence of policy inconsistency coming to my attention in many a day. ...
[December 14, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H.]
... Shannon Allen, production manager of N.B.C., in Washington, has risen to the defense of "Lights Out," which I took occasion to give space to yesterday. Mr. Allen has nothing whatever to do with the production of "Lights Out" as the midnight hour drama originates in the Chicago studios.
But Mr. Allen is first and foremost a production man and instinctively puts up his mitts in behalf of any show which, as he calmly and smilingly maintains, attracts the large audience as does "Lights Out." It seems, among other things, that in missing the opening announcement last Wednesday night, I missed the subtle tongue-in-the-cheek foreword explaining that the half-hour is slightly on the burlesque side, somewhat inclined to be sly hokum. Further, it is spotted at 12:30 a.m. for the express purpose of providing a "lights out" shocker for those who wish to be "shocked."
No one has even faintly suggested I lack imagination or am intolerant of any entertainment simply because I do not like it personally. As an example of showmanship, "Lights Out" is tops. I still maintain, however, that it is at fault in dealing with plot situations and climaxes that are stomach-turning. Mr. Allen contends that a "thriller" is not intended to be successful on finely drawn finesses.
After all, you, as the composite radio listener, are the judge. And I guess the mass audience likes "Lights Out." ...
[June 2, 1936 The Lima News (Ohio) radio column which mentions a 15-minute, 5-day-a-week serial of Cooper's that seems to have run from 06-25-1935 to 12-07-1936]
Willis Cooper, author of two dramatic programs, will start for Hollywood soon to begin work on movie scripts. Cooper will continue to write for "Flying Time," an aviation serial, and "Lights Out," a ghost drama. The former is heard over WEAF at 5 p. m. Tuesday and "Lights Out" at 12:30 a. m. Wednesday over the same network.
[September 9, 1936 - LA Times]
... It looks like Chicago has moved to Hollywood. Willis Cooper, former Windy City continuity chief, is here authoring the next Shirley Temple picture. ...
[June 6, 1937 The Lima News (Ohio) article about Chicago radio headlined "Where Radio Names are Made" -- "Dan Harding's Wife" ran on NBC's Red network from 01-20-1936 to 1939]
... Willis Cooper, former assistant continuity editor is now responsible for the Dan Harding's Wife serial ...
[April 7, 1938 The Lowell Sun (Massachusetts) "Notes Over the Air Waves" radio column]
... Brewster Morgan, who takes over production reins from Fred Ibbett on "Hollywood Hotel" May 15, has been signed to a year's contract at a reported salary of $500 a week. He will also collaborate on the scripts with Willis Cooper.
[May 22, 1939 - LA Times column headlined "Film Sleuth Now Going 'High Hat'"]
... Super-Super Horror
A super-super horror picture -- that's the advance tip on "Friday, the 13th," which Universal schedules with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the screen bogey men, featured. Willis Cooper wrote the yarn which concerns a genial chap who commits a murder every Friday, the 13th. ...
[January 8, 1939 - Washington Post radio column]
... "Show of the Week" -- with Ernest Chappell as master of ceremonies, Harry Salter's orchestra and vocalist Buddy Clark -- WOL, 6:30 p. m. ...
[November 7, 1940 - Washington Post column "The New Yorker" by Leonard Lyons]
... The first radio serial about conscription will be called "This Man's Army." Wyllis Cooper will write it for N.B.C. ...
[December 13, 1940 - Washington Post "Listen! with Glynn" column]
"Charlie and Jessie" is the name of the new Columbia network dramatic serial which you'll hear over WJSV Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m., starting today.
Starred in it will be Donald Cook, of the stage -- his most recent stage hit was "Skylark," with Gertrude Lawrence -- and Florence Lake, of the films -- she's been in "To Mary With Love," "Quality Street," "Love in a Bungalow" and "I Met Love Again."
Together they'll portray the adventure of Charlie and Jessie, a newly-married and entirely irresponsible couple who, as the author Wyllis Cooper expresses it, were married in a madhouse and walked down the aisle festooned with haywire. Charlie is a young and ernest advertising man, but a fairly frantic husband. Jessie is an enthusiastic, but somewhat scatterbrained wife.
The new series replaces "Short Short Story" and represents an unusual radio development in that listener enthusiasm for what was originally written as a complete-in-one broadcast resulted in its being elongated into the series. The story of "Charlie and Jessie" was an immediate hit and the demand for more of the daffy dramas resulted, establishing them as a thrice-weekly feature on the network. They'll be presented by the same sponsor. [Campbell Soup]
To give you an idea of how certain that sponsor is that the series will be a success, look at the date he's starting it on -- Friday the thirteenth!
[GOOD NEIGHBORS 1941
Cooper directs and writes this weekly NBC propaganda series about Latin America from 05-22-1941 to 10-16-1941, Thursdays, 10:30 P.M. to 11. Featuring Concert Orchestras (led by Dr. Frank Black, H. Leopold Spitalny, and others), a troupe of twenty actors, and speeches by appropriate Latin American diplomats. In the New York Times radio listings, the program is at first called "Good Neighbors" but, increasingly, the title is simplified as "Salute to _____" with the name of that week's country filling in the blank. Here's a rudimentary log from the NYT and other radio listings:]
05-29 Peru; Don Manuel de Freyre y Santander, Peruvian Ambassador to U.S.
06-05 Argentina; Don Felipe de Espil, Argentine Ambassador to U.S.
06-12 Mexico; Don Francisco Castillo Najero, Mexican Ambassador to U.S.
06-19 Ecuador; Sixto Duran Ballen, Consul General in New York
06-26 Brazil; Fernando Sabota de Madeiros, of Brazilian Embassy
07-03 Venezuela; Don Arturo Lares, Venezuelan Charge d'Affaires
07-10 Colombia; Dr. Gabriel Turbay, Colombian Ambassador to U.S.
07-17 Panama; Julio Briceno, Counselor Panama Embassy
07-24 Chile; Don Rodolfo Michels, Chilean Ambassador to U.S.
07-31 Cuba; Aurelio F. Concheso, Cuban Ambassador to U.S.
08-07 Guatemala; Enrique Lopez-Herrarte, Guatemalan Charge d'Affaires
08-14 Uruguay; No diplomat listed. Concert Orchestra; Soloists.
08-21 El Salvador; Don Hector D. Castro, Minister; Rosita Arguello, Soprano.
08-28 Dominican Republic; Dr. Julio Vega Battle, Charge d'Affaires
09-04 Bolivia; Carlos Dorado, First Secretary of Bolivian Legation
09-11 Nicaragua; Don Leon de Bayle, Nicaraguan Minister
09-18 Honduras; Dr. Julian R. Caceras, Honduran Minister
09-26 Costa Rica; Don Luis Fernandez, Costa Rican Minister
10-02 Paraguay; William W. White, Paraguayan Consul General
10-09 Haiti; Elie Garcia, Secretary Haitian Legation
10-16 Henry Wallace, U.S. Vice President; Niles Trammell, president of NBC; Dr. Manuel de Freyre y Santander, Ambassador of Peru; Albert Spalding, violinist; Emma Otero, Cuban soprano; Dr. Frank Black conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 'a program of music of the Americas, including the "Symphonie Espagnole" of Edouard Lalo, the aria from "Il Guany" and Ernesto Lecuona's "Malaguena." Also broadcast was a synthesis of the works of Archibald MacLeish, librarian of Congress, and Walt Whitman.'
[June 2, 1941 - In an article about the series, Time Magazine reports that Cooper changed the spelling of his first name (from "Willis" to "Wyllis") in order "to please his wife's numerological inclinations." That same article also mentions that by the time Cooper left "Lights Out" in '36, the series had inspired around 600 fan clubs and that he had visited one in Kansas City, MO which was so organized that it had officers and by-laws.]
[August 26, 1941 Christian Science Monitor "The Mid-Week Dialer" column headlined "Good Neighbor Policy Is Again Emphasized on Air"]
... The Dominican Republic, said to be the first land sighted by Columbus in the Western Hemisphere on his first voyage in 1492, will receive a salute from NBC's "Good Neighbors" program on its tour of the Republics of Latin America on Thursday evening.
Dr. Julio Vega Battle, Chargé d'Affaires and First Secretary of the Dominican Embassy at Washington, will speak, and an NBC concert orchestra, under the direction of H. Leopold Spitalny, and a Dominican orchestra will play native tunes. ...
The dramatization, prepared by Wyllis Cooper and produced by Charles Schenck, will depict highlights in the history of the Republic. NBC Red network, 10:30. Beamed to Latin America over NBC's International Shortwave stations WARC and WNBI the following day. ...
[October 17, 1941 Washington Post article headlined "Radio Lauded For Linking Two Americas"]
Vice President Wallace complimented the radio industry last night for playing "a most important part" in "the phenomenal progress which we have witnessed in our inter-American relations during the last decade. "
The Vice President spoke at impressive ceremonies broadcast from the Hall of the Americas at the Pan American Union, where an unprecedented testimonial was given by the Latin American diplomatic corps to the National Broadcasting Co. in recognition of N.B.C.'s "Good Neighbors" series of programs.
A scroll signed by the ambassadors and ministers of the 20 Latin American countries was presented to Niles Trammell, president of N.B.C., by Dr. Manuel de Freyre y Santander, Ambassador of Peru and dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington.
Spalding, Otero Soloists
The ceremony, which comprised the final program in the "Good Neighbors" series, included a concert by the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra with Albert Spalding, celebrated United States violinist and Emma Otero, noted Cuban soprano, as soloists.
It was dedicated to "all of the Americas."
"This inter-American cooperative effort," Wallace said of the N.B.C. series, "is but one example of what has been happening during the past few years in every phase of American life.
The phenomenal progress which we have witnessed in our inter-American relations during the last decade is due not only to the efforts of the governments themselves, but also to an awakened public interest in inter-American affairs; and in this the radio companies have played a most important part."
Still Task Ahead
Nevertheless, Wallace warned, much remains to be done.
"If we in America can bring about cooperation in times of peace as well as in war, who can foretell what may be the effect of the example thus given by the American nations upon world affairs after the war in bringing about better understanding among nations?"
In order to attain the goal, said Wallace, "we must act in common agreement and realize that the progress of one country in the American family of nations is intimately tied up with the progress of the others."
The Peruvian ambassador said the value of the "Good Neighbor" broadcasts "cannot be overemphasized."
The symphony orchestra, under direction of Dr. Frank Black, presented a program of music of the Americas, including the "Symphonie Espagnole" of Edouard Lalo, the aria from "Il Guany" and Ernesto Lecuona's "Malaguena."
Also broadcast was a synthesis of the works of Archibald MacLeish, librarian of Congress, and Walt Whitman.
MacLeish was in the audience. Others who accepted invitations to attend included British Ambassador Halifax and Viscountess Halifax. Ambassadors and Ministers of 19 other countries, Supreme Court Justice and Mrs. Robert H. Jackson, Undersecretary of War and Mrs. Robert P. Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State and Mrs. A. A. Berle, jr., Mrs. Frank Knox, wife of the Secretary of War, and a number of Senators and Representatives.
[Photo caption:] "GOOD NEIGHBORS" -- Top -- Emma Otero (center), Cuban soprano, is congratulated on her performance at last night's "Good Neighbors" broadcast by Cristina Michels (left), daughter of the Chilean Ambassador, and Leda Fernandez, daughter of the Minister from Costa Rica. Lower -- Among those attending the concert in the Pan American Union Building were Niles Trammell (left), president of the National Broadcasting Co., and Vice President Wallace.
[November 16, 1941 - Washington Post record review headlined "Dickens 'Christmas Carol' Tops Children's Yuletide Albums" by Jay Walz]
We turn for a minute to the Children's Corner where a large variety of things are being piled up, possibly for the help of Santa Claus. For example, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is done up in an attractive four-disc Victor album which means you can have the famous Yuletide without reading it. Ernest Chappell who has been associated with the annual radio broadcast of the carol for several years, adapted and produced the piece for the records. He also narrates it with the help of a score of actors and musicians. It is all done with the utmost sympathy for the Christmas spirit, with the appropriate exception of the part of Scrooge who is played most villainously by Eustace Wyatt, Lew White supplements traditional Christmas tunes with original music, and plays it all on the organ. The album, G-29, is listed at $3.50.
[Chappell - a supernatural story - and organ music? Sounds like a blueprint for QP.]
Mr. Chappell has another Christmas album, "The Christmas Adventure of Billy and Betty" (two discs). Only this time Chappell (Daddy) does most of the listening, while little Betty Philson does the story telling, which isn't a bad idea, as it works out. ...
[SPIRIT OF '41 / SPIRIT OF '42
In late 1941, early 1942, Cooper travels the country as a contributor to this half-hour CBS documentary-propaganda series about war preparations. Apparently, Cooper leaves the series in March to work on "The Army Hour."
12-28-1941 Series title changes to SPIRIT OF '42]
[March 1, 1942 - Washington Post "Today's Radio Highlights" column]
... 2 [p.m.], WJSV -- Fort Benning's Officers Candidate School, how it functions and its importance, occupies Spirit of '42 with Brewster Morgan, Wyllis Cooper and Rush Hughes. ...
[April 5, 1942 - Washington Post article headlined "This Is the Army Hour -- A War Department Presentation" by Richard L. Coe]
The Army Hour begins this afternoon at 3:30 on WRC.
This precedent-shattering program marks the first time the United States War Department has written and produced a radio program to accomplish a military mission. That mission is "to serve as a reference point to which the American people can turn each week to find out what their Army is doing and how they, the civilians, can best work to help the fighting men."
Shortwave will bring the Army Hour to an Army scattered over the face of the earth as well as to the men and civilians on the home front. Its purpose is clearcut: to give an informative view of the war as the War Department sees it.
United Nations leaders will take part in the series, speaking from all parts of the globe; their identities will be military secrets previous to their appearance, so as not to give advance hint to the enemy of their whereabouts.
"If, for example," says the program's author, Wyllis Cooper, "we announced that Gen. MacArthur was to broadcast from a certain place at a specific date, we'd be courting bombs from the Japs. Listeners, though, can expect quite a few surprises in the roster of men who will be heard during the series."
Other features of each Army Hour will include pickups from training centers in the United States, Australia, Hawaii, Ireland, Iceland and the Caribbean to show the development of our armed forces.
Each program will normally close with an on-the-spot broadcast from one of America's great national shrines, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Independence Hall and Monticello. This portion of the broadcast usually will include dramatic and musical features.
The War Department makes specific point of the fact that this is an official, Government-sponsored series, written and produced entirely by the United States Army.
This gives the one-network Army Hour a decided advantage over the confusing position of the four-network This Is War! in the background of which lurks the shadow of the Office of Facts and Figures but which on the surface is a program promoted privately by the four important networks. This openly official character should give The Army Hour the clarity whose lack has vitiated This Is War! so frequently.
Author Wyllis Cooper is an Army man from way back to his seventeenth year. He began as a bugler in 1916, chased bandits down along the Mexican border when things weren't so friendly, was wounded on the Somme, gassed in the Argonne, served in the Army of occupation in Germany and returned to this country for work with the Army Intelligence. In 1933 he retired as a Captain in the National Guard.
Shortly before that he began radio work, entering through advertising. He did a pack of dramatic series, most notable of which were the Lights Out chillers beside which contemporary hair-raisers fall back into a neat part. Arch Oboler finally succeeded Cooper in this when the latter went to Hollywood for assignments that ranged from Shirley Temple to Frankenstein.
Last year he went back to the more serious side of radio writing, authoring the Good Neighbors series of N.B.C. which, practically speaking, prepared him for a return to the Army and The Army Hour. Now 43, paunchy Cooper has given up all other chores for his new task. He's been covering the country for the past eight months as civilian correspondent with all Army maneuvers. He rode tanks in Louisiana and lay in the Carolina mud. He boasts that he's tried out every vehicle on the Army's list -- from jeep to bomber.
As your own tribute on the eve of Army Day, why not hear what the Army's got to say?
[April 4, 1943 New York Times article headlined: "THE ARMY HOUR: A YEAR OF SUNDAYS" - Article is accompanied by photo with caption which reads: "Colonel R. Ernest DePuy, who presents the weekly news summary on the Army Hour (Sundays, 3:30 P. M. to 4:30, WEAF-NBC)."]
At 3:30 P. M. today, and for an hour thereafter, there will go winging across the country -- and later, by shortwave, around the world -- the program known as the Army Hour, which has been making this trip for just a year of Sundays. It was on April 5, 1942, that "the Army's own show" was launched over WEAF-NBC, since which time it has acquired a reputation as one of the very best of government radio shows. More than 3,000,000 American radio-equipped homes, or 39 per cent of those having sets in operation during the Army Hour's sixty minutes, are tuned into this program, the government estimates.
The reason for this popularity might just be that the Army Hour began with a sound, businesslike idea and has stayed with it. Among the objectives it has kept in mind are these:
-- The American people should have a weekly opportunity to hear about the progress of the war in the Army's own words. The welfare of the sons, brothers and fathers who have gone into the service is the Army's principal public relations problem. The global aspect of the war must be emphasized; ditto the relationship of the home front and the fighting fronts. The enemy's attempt to create mistrust among the United Nations must be counter-attacked. With increasing America[n] casualties, our dead are to be honored with reverence, but without sentimentality.
Standing on that platform, and described by Secretary of War Stimson at its première as "a military operation of the United States," the Army Hour was off on a career that has included:
Three hundred and one field broadcasts, of which sixty-nine originated in fifteen foreign countries and 232 in the Continental United States (thirty-two states and the District of Columbia).
Special messages by 216 speakers (186 United States speakers, thirty Allied representatives).
A total of 144 broadcasts from ninety-one military installations, chiefly from Army posts and stations.
Forty-seven demonstrations of weapons -- three by the Army Service Forces, six by the Army Air Forces, eighteen by the Army Ground Forces and twenty other demonstrations of weapons common to all branches.
From the beginning, the program has represented something like a triumph of radio technique. Indeed, so smoothly are the complex "remote-pickups" handled that probably only a small minority of listeners appreciate the engineering and organizational problems that are surmounted by the Army working in collaboration with the National Broadcasting Company.
A speech from London, a report from Cairo, an interview from Sydney, a demonstration of thirty planes in flight, aerial gunnery training in Texas, a special new war song from New York -- all this, on one show, takes some doing. A single "remote" broadcast within the United States calls for an announcer, a production director, an engineer, at least one microphone, a field telephone direct to Radio City. When the program goes overseas, channels must be cleared, tests conducted, cues exchanged and important information cleared by the censors.
In a year there have only been a few hitches, and those were due to bad reception and other unavoidable circumstances. On the other hand, the highly dramatic moments have been many, doubtless topped by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's heroic saga of the South Seas.
Others, to name only a few among a wide range of speakers whom Army Hour listeners have heard, were Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, Irving Berlin, Joe Louis. Among general officers the major generals have been heard most often -- twenty-five of them -- and, among field officers, the colonels lead the list with fifty-eight.
Wyllis Cooper is the writer-producer of the program.
[January 2, 1944 - brief Washington Post article headlined "Penicillin Provided For Claudia Morgan"]
New York, Jan. 1 (INS). -- Claudia Morgan, daughter of Frank Morgan, screen star, and a radio star in her own right, was critically ill of pneumonia in Lenox Hill Hospital tonight. An allotment of penicillin was obtained for her.
Miss Morgan was married to Ernest Chappell, radio announcer, last May. He said that her blood is of a type not susceptible to the customary sulfa treatment.
[December 24, 1944 - Washington Post article headlined "Big Christmas Programs Ready for Radio Listeners"]
... At 10:15 Ernest Chappell will read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." [on Mutual-WOL] ...
[But that same day, December 24, 1944, in a Washington Post column headlined "Selected Listening For Today":]
... "A Christmas Carol" will be dramatized. Everett Sloane plays Scrooge in this Ernest Chappell version of Dickens' book. WOL--10:15 p. m. ...
[August 31, 1947 - Washington Post "Radio in Review" column by John Crosby, refers to the lost QP episode "A Mile High and a Mile Deep"]
... "Quiet, Please"
The author and director of a fairly new and rather unusual dramatic series called "Quiet, Please" is Wyllis Cooper and the principal actor and narrator is Ernest Chappell. These two make an excellent team and between them they have given this series a personality all its own. Cooper writes fanciful stories, some of them dripping deeply into the grotesque, which consistently quiver with suspense.
There was a recent one in which two young men, the sons of prosperous mining executives in Butte, Mont., tagged along with a group of politicians on an inspection trip of the mines. They descended 3700 feet. When the time came to return, the cage was quickly filled with politicians and went up to the surface without them. The two boys were left alone 3700 feet down. One boy named Lincoln had been in and out of the mines many times; the other, Louis, had never been down there and was scared to death.
To reassure his timorous friend while waiting for the cage to return for them, Lincoln invited him to proceed down a passage about 20 feet from the elevator shaft and inspect an odd and totally unexplainable tunnel. Apparently it had been there for centuries 3700 feet straight down, and the strangest part of all was the fact the shaft was covered with what looked like Indian hieroglyphics.
While looking over the Indian pictures, though they were only 20 feet from the elevator shaft, the boys found themselves inexplicably lost, their miners' lamps blown out. Soon they were several hundred miles into the earth, led by a spectral figure. I don't think I'll tell you any more than that. After that, the story began to dissolve a little bit into total malarkey. However, it is Cooper's gift to lead you into these macabre stories so skillfully that you don't really mind his denouements.
"Quiet, Please" is broadcast at 10 p. m. (EDT) over the Mutual Broadcasting System (WOL) on Sundays. ...
[October 5, 1947 - brief publicity blurb in The Washington Post headlined "How to Get Rid Of That Salesman" about the QP episode "Be a Good Dog, Darling"]
There's more than one way to skin a cat and to get rid of a book salesman, too. Wyllis Cooper, who kills people weekly with his pen on "Quiet Please" (WOL-Mutual, Wednesdays) got a persistent encyclopedia salesman off his mind by changing him into a dog in one of his scripts.
Unfortunately, he also had to buy the books to make the matter permanent.
["Student Plagiarists Make Hay With Free Radio Scripts" by Hal Boyle - This syndicated article appeared in various papers. This version is from The Berkshire Evening Eagle, December 22, 1947]
NEW YORK (AP)--Wyllis Cooper is helping a lot of kids through college -- and he doesn't like it.
His doctor tells him he shouldn't get excited, but everytime Cooper thinks about how the students are milking him his blood pressure goes up like an Arizona thermometer in August.
Here is how enterprising young scholars across the land capitalize on Cooper, author of "Quiet Please," a weekly half-hour dramatic show on the Mutual network.
"They write in fan letters to the network saying they enjoyed the program and asking for a copy of the script. When they get it, they stick in a few 'he saids' and 'she saids,' and turn it into their English classes as original themes.
"Most of them don't even have energy or brains enough to change the names of the characters."
What angers Cooper and other bigtime radio writers even more than this collegiate petty larceny is "the plagiarism extant in radio itself today -- by people on small isolated waffle-iron stations who ask for scripts, of your shows, then change them only slightly and broadcast them as their own."
He said many broadcasters were beginning to combat this "idea thievery" by curtly refusing most pleas for program scripts.
Cooper specializes in radio drama, an art which he thinks many writers abuse "by trying to cut their stories in the same old corny pattern."
Phrases for Ear
It is lonely, exacting work, this framing phrases tuned to give a picture to the ear rather than the eye.
"My definition of a writer is a man who hates to write," Cooper said.
He speaks with bitter knowledge. For a quarter of a century he has been putting clean white sheets of paper into his typewriter and pulling them out again all broke out with high-priced prose.
He wrote "Son of Frankenstein" and several "Mr. Moto" scripts for the movies, but he prefers radio writing. He originated the NBC "Lights Out" mystery series and also wrote scores of NBC "Army Hour" scripts in wartime.
"In 1935 I wrote 18 shows a week for a year -- all original stuff," he said. That required an output of 30,000 words every seven days, each conceived in pain and delivered in anguish.
Cooper now writes in a small Greenwich Village hotel room he rents for the purpose. He recalled how a friend once tried to help Bob Benchley out of the periodic creative paralysis all writers get at times.
"He told Benchley to sit down and write the word 'the' on a sheet of paper and the rest would be easy," Cooper smiled. "Benchley tried it. He typed out 'the' and sat staring at it for two hours. Then he typed 'hell with it' -- and got up and left."
[Monday, March 22, 1948 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
9:30 P. M. -- QUIET PLEASE -- Another Wyllis Cooper Thriller. ...
... Wyllis Cooper, writer-director of Mutual's weird "Quiet Please" air tales, has titled tonight's 9:30 to 10 p. m. offering "A Night to Forget." The story describes the plight of a man who wishes he could forget, but can't. Ernest Chappell will play the role of the man faced with this strange dilemma.
[Monday, June 7, 1948 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
Electronic microscopes are said to magnify objects to approximately 20,000 times their normal size. However Wyllis Cooper, writer-director of Mutual's "Quiet Please" fantasy series has constructed one that magnifies up to "100,000 diameters" which he'll audibly display on tonight's broadcast at 9:30. Ernest Chappell is cast as a scientist who sees too much through the lens.
[Monday, July 19, 1948 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
9:30 P. M. -- QUIET PLEASE -- A drama written especially for the radio. ...
A whirlwind of swift, unique and terrible revenge engulfs narrator Ernest Chappell during tonight's "Quiet Please" presentation entitled "As Long As I Live" at 9:30 over WESB. The story, created by Wyllis Cooper, once again finds Chappell in a chilling dilemma.
[Monday, August 9, 1948 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
Fourble board! Doubletalk? No, it's just oilmen's lingo for the platform half-way up the derrick holding oil well drills. And it's "The Thing On the Fourble Board" that provides Wyllis Cooper, writer-director of Mutual's "Quiet Please" series with a story of a haunted oil well during tonight's chill-cast at 9:30 over WESB. Ernest Chappell is narrator.
[June 3, 1950 - Associated Press item in Washington Post]
"The Pay-Off," Wells Robinson's prize-winning play in the CBS Awards competition for original drama scripts by collegiate writers, will be presented on "Stage 13" over CBS-TV (WOIC) Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
Robinson, a 26-year-old former G.I. undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, is majoring in radio and has produced successful broadcasts for the university's communications center.
"The Pay-Off," an exercise in the integration of plot and character, tells the story of two miserly spinster sisters whose avarice proves their undoing.
The script attracted the interest of Wyllis Cooper, producer of "Stage 13," widely known for his origination of such series as "Lights Out," "Volume 1" and "Escape," when announcement was made of the prize award to Robinson.
"Stage 13," a new series launched in April, is devoted to dramas of fanciful adventure and mystery.
[June 11, 1950 - Associated Press item in Washington Post column headlined "Adelphi to Conduct Radio Festival"]
The summer radio and television workshop of Adelphi College, Garden City, New York, will hold an International Radio Festival July 5 to August 15. Among the personalities scheduled to lecture at the festival are Robert Q. Lewis, star of the radio-TV "The Show Goes On" and "ABC's of Music"; Wyllis Cooper, director-producer-writer of "Stage 13"; and Joseph Liss, writer for "Studio One," "Suspense" and other radio and television shows.
[October 1950 "Radio In Review" column by John Crosby, possibly refers to QP episode "Bring Me to Life" or to a similar "Lights Out" episode]
On Lights Out, the N.B.C.-TV show, a couple of weeks ago, a disfigured playwright locked himself in a tenement of an office to write a play. He created a couple of characters, as playwrights do, but these characters, unlike those of, say, Robert E. Sherwood, instantly sprang into existence in his dirty little office. One was a blind girl. The playwright had deliberately created her that way so she couldn't see his maimed face. Love ensued. The other character was her brother, a reptilian individual, who was the playwright's self or Inner Self, or something like that. I forget how it ended.
The other day on Stars Over Hollywood, a TV show filmed in Hollywood, another author set himself down in an old New England town to write a novel about the Puritans and was immediately confronted by a Puritan girl who had been dead for 289 years. She wanted her diary back. The author, as authors will, was shamefully pilfering ideas from it. He kissed her, her first kiss since 1668, and all sorts of complications arose.
I bring it all up now because the device of authors creating characters who suddenly loom up in front of the typewriter had better be given a rest for a while. Years ago, Wyllis Cooper did the same thing on the old Lights Out, the radio version. On this one, a radio writer created a bunch of pirates who chased him all over the house. And, of course, Pirandello experimented with the same thing in Six Characters in Search of an Author. (Nowadays they find the author.) ...
[March 30, 1951 - LA Times - "Drama" column by Edwin Schallert]
... FU MANCHU DUE FOR RETURN TO SCREEN
Herbert Bayard Swope Jr., who produces "Lights Out" for TV in New York and who expects to enter picturemaking, has acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer stories for the video medium as well as the screen. He intends to inaugurate a new series of Fu Manchu features, these having been very popular in the past, and has Writer Wyllis Cooper working on both the TV and film features. ...
[New York Herald Tribune "Radio and Television" column by John Crosby, which appeared in The Washington Post, July 27, 1955, headlined "Both Mediums Will Miss This Talentd Artist" refers to two QP episodes: "Motive" and "Never Send to Know"]
Broke and all but forgotten by the industry to which he had devoted his life, Wyllis Cooper died last month, mourned only by a small coterie of admirers who considered him one of the few genuine creative talents radio ever produced.
If he will be remembered at all, it will be chiefly for his eerie radio series, "Lights Out," and later "Quiet, Please." But he was far more versatile than that. In radio for 27 years, Cooper had turned out more dialogue than a truck driver could lift. Not many remember "Immortal Dramas," one of the great radio series of all time, based on bible stories, written, directed and produced by Cooper. These had tremendous casts, symphony orchestra and a cappella choir -- but in those days actors worked for money they wouldn't pay a baby sitter now.
Cooper also created one of the first radio adventure series, "Tales of the Foreign Legion," with Don Ameche in the lead, and later he wrote and produced one of the first domestic comedy shows, "Charlie and Jessie." In this period he was also a redoubtable script doctor. Whenever some writer had written his actors into a corner -- that is, got them into a situation he couldn't get them out of, he'd call on Cooper. Cooper could get anyone out of anything.
He was a tireless innovator and a good many of the devices which are standard routines in radio drama and TV drama (some of them have even filtered into the movies), were invented by Cooper. He invented the stream of consciousness style of telling a story. A man would open saying: "Oh, the heat! The heat! I can't stand it ..." and end up killing his wife.
He always loved sound effects, and he used them long before the experts took over and made a science of it. Never a man to be squeamish, Cooper would have somebody break chicken bones to sound like human bones, or break an egg to sound like somebody's eye being splashed out. If necessary, he'd build a gallows, and once he dropped a sound man through a real gallows to get the proper sound.
He had a million ideas about radio acting, and the old-timers who worked with him had some memorable experiences. He had actors walking around darkened studios, acting out their parts into different mikes, rather than just standing there. Way back in 1932 he was talking about binaural effects -- placing two speakers at opposite ends of a room. Even today that's considered avant garde.
His stories dwelt heavily on the macabre, which he diluted with strong doses of puckish humor. I recall one about a private detective named Kramer who opens with: "I wouldn't be caught dead in an alley with a derby hat. I have a 45 calibre automatic which I never call a roscoe or a rod. I have never been called a private eye."
The story was about a timid Casper Milquetoast of a ghost who wanted Kramer to find out who murdered him. The murderer turned out to be Kramer himself in a drunken brawl of such small moment that both murderer and murderee had clean forgotten it.
They were that kind of story - satire, slightly morbid, definitely offbeat. As radio got to be big business, less of an art form, there was less and less room for him to experiment, less patience with the offbeat. Always a stubborn man, Cooper would not yield to convention, would not alter his convictions. At the close of his life, he was almost out of the industry to which he had contributed so much altogether.
[January 7, 1973 Washington Post "Radio: The Lost Medium" by Michael Kernan]
... True radio technique was pioneered by Wyllis Cooper, whose midnight horror show, "Lights Out," was taken over in 1935 by Arch Oboler. ...
Reached last week at his home in Malibu, Oboler said he now works in TV and radio -- he has just completed work on a 3-D film -- but still regrets the radio days.
"It was a great art form, and we didn't know it at the time," he said, "I think Cooper was the first to realize this. ... "
Miami Herald, The (FL) - July 6, 1983
ERNEST CHAPPELL, 80, VETERAN RADIO-TV ANNOUNCER
Veteran radio and television announcer Ernest Chappell has died after suffering a stroke last month at his home. He was 80.
Famed for his deep, pleasantly firm voice, Mr. Chappell, who was retired, was best known as the spokesman for Pall Mall cigarets, for whom he worked 27 years. He also was the host and star of "Quiet, Please," a radio mystery series in 1947-48.
He died Monday. Memorial services will be Thursday.
A broadcasting pioneer whose career spanned more than 50 years, Mr. Chappell began in radio production in 1926 in his native Syracuse, N.Y. Shortly afterward, he moved to New York City to continue as a producer for a young radio network now known as CBS.
Later "Chappie," as his friends called him, became one of the top announcers in the golden era of network radio in the 1930s and 1940s. He also was a newscaster in the early days of the Mutual Broadcasting System.
At his request, his body will be cremated, according to his widow, Helen.
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - July 6, 1983
Deceased Name: Ernest Chappell
Ernest Chappell, 80, a veteran of 50 years in radio and television announcing, died Monday at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla. He had suffered a stroke.
A spokesman for Pall Mall cigarettes for 27 years, he was host and star of a number of programs, including "Quiet Please," a mystery series.
Memorial services will be held Thursday in North Palm Beach.
Chicago Tribune (IL) - July 06, 1983
Deceased Name: Ernest Chappell
NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. [AP] -- Ernest Chappell, 80, veteran radio and television announcer, died Monday, a month after suffering a stroke.
With his deep, pleasantly firm voice, Chappell was best known as the spokesman for Pall Mall cigarettes, for whom he worked 27 years. He also was the host and star of "Quiet, Please," a radio mystery series in 1947-48.
A broadcasting pioneer whose career spanned more than 50 years, Chappell was a charter union member of the American Federation of Radio Artists, which later became the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
A GRADUATE of Syracuse University, he began in radio production in 1926 in his native Syracuse, N.Y. Shortly afterward, he moved to New York City to continue as a producer for a young radio network now known as CBS.
Later, "Chappie," as his friends called him, became one of the top announcers in the golden era of network radio in the 1930s and 1940s, working on leading variety and dramatic shows.
PHOTO CAPTION: Ernest Chappell in 1942
Boston Globe, The (MA) - July 8, 1983
Deceased Name: ERNEST CHAPPELL, 80;\ RADIO, TV ANNOUNCER\ ASSOCIATED PRESS
NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. - Veteran radio and television announcer Ernest Chappell died Monday after suffering a stroke last month at home. He was 80.
Famed for his deep, pleasantly firm voice, Mr. Chappell, who was retired, was best known as the spokesman for Pall Mall cigarettes, for whom he worked 27 years. He also was the host and star of "Quiet, Please," a radio mystery series in 1947-48. Memorial services were yesterday.
Mr. Chappell was a broadcasting pioneer whose career spanned more than 50 years.
"Chappie," as his friends called him, became one of the top announcers in the golden era of network radio in the 1930s and 1940s, working on leading variety and dramatic shows. He also was a newscaster in the early days of the Mutual Broadcasting System.
He leaves his wife, Helen; three daughters, Susan, Barbara and Marilyn; a son, James; two stepdaughters, Olivia and Pamela; 15 grandchildren and one great-grandson.
[Feb 23, 1986 article from the Chicago Tribune SUNDAY MAGAZINE in FINAL EDITION, section C, pg. 7, headlined "Way We Were / A look at Chicago's past / '30S 'LIGHTS OUT' WAS A SHINING HALF HOUR IN RADIO HORROR" by Bob Hughes. For some reason, Arch Oboler's name is spelled incorrectly throughout.]
Turn off the lights. Turn on the radio. Now sit with your back to the radio, alone in the dark. And listen to a sinister voice tell you that something ... something ... is creeping up behind you ... reaching for your neck ... but don't turn around ....
And then, suddenly ... .
But that would give away one of the terrifying taped episodes of "Lights Out," a radio show that originated in Chicago and chilled the blood of listeners for several years. "Lights Out" debuted on April 17, 1935, as a 15-minute show on NBC's Red Network out of Chicago but was so popular that it was expanded to a half hour. It ran until Aug. 16, 1939, according to Chuck Schaden, host of WNIB-FM radio's "Those Were the Days" show and WBBM-AM's "Radio Classics."
Willis Cooper was the writer who originated the show, but he left for Hollywood in 1936. Arch Obeler took it over "and made it his," according to Schaden. "Lights out, everybody," was the announcer's greeting during the show's Chicago run.
The spirits, ghouls and other minions of evil on "Lights Out" were very real to the regular fans, who often literally turned out their lights and sat close to each other in the dark to listen. Such masters of the macabre as Hollywood's Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre appeared in episodes, as did a whole host of talented shrieking and screaming local dramatic personnel.
A column about radio in The Tribune in 1936 notes that one local star of the show, Sidney Ellstrom, "has been put to death in the show more than 100 times. And his endings have all been grisly and gruesome. He's been skinned alive, boiled in oil, devoured by a man-eating jungle plant, strangled by a vampire. He has been drowned, electrocuted, poisoned, buried alive, decapitated and dismembered."
Another column notes that hard-boiled fans after one episode accused Cooper of "going soft." The previous night's episode had been too tame, they charged. The episode "concerned a guy harassed by his subconscious mind and wound up mildly with three suicides," the columnist related, noting that Cooper admitted it was not quite up to standard. [Apparently, the episode is "Man in the Middle," a version of which survives from the 1945 revival season of "Lights Out"] Cooper "brooded for several days," then cooked up a "masterpiece of fiendishness" which he called, "Sepulzeda's Revenge."
"It will satisfy all who insist on HORROR with capital letters," Cooper said. "In this one," the columnist recounted, "Cooper warms up on a cleaver and trunk murder and tops it off with an episode in which a husband beheads his wife."
Jules Herbuveaux, 88, former vice president of the National Broadcasting Company and first general manager of radio station WMAQ, remembers "Lights Out" as "a good, scary show." He notes that radio writing can sound somewhat stylistic and stilted, compared with television drama. In a radio show, a character might have to say, "Hand me that wrench over there. I've got to get this bolt loose." (GRUNT!) (SCREECH). On television, there's no need for such a monologue. The viewer sees the wrench and the bolt and the effort it takes to loosen it ... and thereby gains realism but loses what can only be created by personal imagination, Herbuveaux says.
No picture can convey the horror expressed by the doctor who enters a room to find a man turned inside out by "The Dark," while a crazed hag laughs in the background, or his scream of terror when the creeping dark engulfs him.
The sound-effects man played a more important role on "Lights Out" than on most radio shows. Herbuveaux chuckles as he recalls one "who was the first man to drop a pumpkin off a 12-foot stepladder onto a concrete slab to simulate a body hitting the pavement."
Probably one of the sound man's triumphs on "Lights Out" came when a dentist strapped down a patient and drilled his teeth away--without anesthetic --in revenge for some atrocity the miscreant had visited upon a young wife named Mary. The sound of the drill was most compelling.
In 1942 Obeler revived the show in New York, over CBS. It went off the air in 1946 but returned adapted for television from 1949 to 1952, Schaden says.
The most famous of all "Lights Out" programs -- the one most listeners recall -- had overtones of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." It involved a chicken heart that ran amok in a scientist's laboratory ... beating ... beating ... and doubling in size every hour until the pulsating organ burst out of its building, engulfed the town and threatened to engulf the world. Efforts to stop it were too little and too late.
Springfield News-Leader (MO) - January 31, 1999
Deceased Name: Albert J. "Bert" Buhrman
Albert J. "Bert" Buhrman, Jr., 83, Springfield, a professional musician, died at 5:45 p.m. Friday in St. John's Regional Health Center. Arrangements will be announced by Gorman-Scharpf Brentwood Chapel.
Joined: Mar 14, 2003
Total Topics: 73
Total Comments: 251
Posted Jun 26, 2004 - 2:00 PM:
newspaper clippings plus some census data:
June 1900 census data: lives at 604
Court Street in Pekin, IL with widowed grandmother Jeneitta (?) P. Oswald (b. March 1839 in New York, father born in New
Jersey and mother born in Scotland), uncles (Jeneitta's sons) Clifford E. Oswald (b. April 1881, a grocery clerk) and Clyde
D. Oswald (March 1884, an errand boy), mother Margaret E. (Oswald) Cooper (b. November 1870, (claims to have been married for
three years at that point) and younger brother Harry Edgar Cooper (b. April 1900).
[From "In the House Where I
Was Born": The house was painted red when I lived there. Red with white trimmings. And there was a big caladium plant in
the front yard - "elephant ears," my grandmother used to call it. My brother and I used to pull 'em up and make
umbrellas out of 'em and Grandma'd jaw us till our ears hurt. Can't even tell where the caladiums were. And the old
woodshed - that two generations of us had carved our initials on -- I remember "C.D.O. 1884" -- and my brother's
initials, 1905. And all the others. That's gone, too. ... the Spanish War wasn't so long ago. And my father that was
battalion sergeant-major - hadn't come back from Chickamauga. ...]
April 15, 1910
census data: lives on Market Street in Pekin with grandmother Jeneta (?) P. Oswald (a seamstress), mother Margaret E. (who
claims to have been married for twelve years at that point) and brother Harry. Perhaps working as a "news boy" (?)
-- it's hard to read the census taker's handwriting.
January 1920 census data:
works as a photographer and for traction company (presumably the Peoria Railway Terminal Company which ran to Pekin); rents
an apartment at 504 North Monroe Street in Peoria, IL with wife Beatrice L. (Fryer?) (born in Iowa, age 20, a stenographer
for an insurance company) and brother Harry, a boarder (an engineering draftsman).
[The February 10, 1930 episode of the NBC series "The Empire Builders"
takes place in an unusual setting, the copper mines under Butte, Montana -- the same locale as the QP episode "A Mile
High and a Mile Deep." The title (printed, perhaps by mistake, in the January 20 New York Times) is apparently
[February 10, 1930 Decatur Evening Herald]
... A half
mile below the surface of the earth in the vast honeycombed recesses of the Copper mines which underlie the city of Butte,
Mont., lies the scene of the drama which the Empire Builders, featuring Harvey Hays and Virginia Gardiner, will broadcast
through the NBC system at 9:30 o'clock tonight.
[February 10, 1930 The Helena
RADIO PLAY ON BUTTE TO BE ON AIR TONIGHT
The city under the richest hill on earth is the
locale of a melodrama which Empire Builders will broadcast tonight. The Old Timer, played by Harvey Hays, takes the listeners
a half-mile underground with him, into the copper mines underlying Butte.
The rescue that is effected when a crazed
employe seizes control of the hoisting apparatus on the surface and attempts to run the elevator cage at its mile-a-minute
pace up over the hundred foot frame at the top of the shaft, is said to be the most difficult bit of radio melodrama ever
attempted. The heroine whose quick wit saves the situation is played by Miss Virginia Gardiner.
Musical effects are by
Andy Sanella and his orchestra. Bob McGimsey, the three-part harmony whistler, also will be heard on the same program. ...
[March 16, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent]
GREAT NORTHERN STAGES
RAILWAY DRAMA TONIGHT
A railroad melodrama appropriate to St. Patrick's day will be put on the air by Empire Builders
tonight. With some of some of the scenes laid in the railroad yards, the sound effects crew will have a busy night of it.
Incidentally, all of the trains and many of the other sounds heard on Empire Builders are produced by ingenious mechanical
devices designed by the Great Northern railway's representative in charge of these programs.
Monday evening's half
hour will be packed with thrills, action, suspense and last, but not least, the fighting spirit of the Irish. Harvey Hays as
the "Old Timer," Bernadine Flynn (both Irish themselves), Lucille Husting and Don Ameche will be featured in a
strong cast of veteran actors. The musical setting was written by Joseph Koestner, conductor of the Great Northern orchestra.
The story was written by W. O. Cooper.
Empire Builders is broadcast every Monday evening at 10:30 o'clock (E.S.T.);
9:30 (C.S.T.); 8:30 (mountain time); and 7:30 (P.T.), over many stations.
September 25, 1932 NYT]
... ADVENTURE STORIES--"Tales of the Foreign Legion" dramatic adventure stories will
return to the air via the WABC network at 5:30 P. M. on Oct. 2. William Cooper, who is responsible for the script, will also
play a leading role. Others in the cast will be Vinton Haworth, John C. Daly and Marigold Cassin. ...
[January 1, 1933 NYT]
"Tales of the Foreign Legion," presented
over WBBM and a small network, will move to WABC and a coast-to-coast hook-up on Jan 8 from 8:30 to 9:00 P. M.
[January 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
The new [Montgomery] Ward program,
"Immortal Dramas," is an exceptional piece of dramatic work. Those great stories of the Old Testament really come
to life in this new [half] hour. It makes a fine addition to Sunday afternoon radio fare. The program is in perfect taste for
a program utilizing the scriptures. There is no sales talk -- in fact, no commercial copy.
[January 23, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
"Lights Out," that Wednesday
midnight horror series written by Willis Cooper, NBC continuity ace, will be restored on Jan. 30.
[January 25, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
After television things like this
won't be allowed: On last Sunday's "Immortal Drama" program at NBC the story of David and Goliath was dramatized.
Tall slim Bill Farnum towered over squat Cliff Soubier as Goliath. ...
1936 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper will leave for Hollywood next Tuesday to write dialog for the movies. He will
continue to write the radio serial "Betty and Bob," and the horror series, "Lights Out," on the coast.
[November 18, 1940 Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, WI)]
the Army Now," a new once-a-week serial which began on Armistice day, will be heard at 8 o'clock over WENR. It's a
story of life in the new civilian army camps. The author is Willis Cooper who got his knowledge of army life first hand
during World War I. He is best known to radio listeners as writer of the old "Lights Out" thrillers.
[December 30, 1940 Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, WI)]
You're in the
Army Now, drama, starring Edmund Lowe. WENR.
[January 12, 1945 NYT]
TELEVISION URGED TO 'FIND NEW DOOR'
[A TV station owner spoke at] ... the monthly meeting of the American
Television Society at the Museum of Modern Art before several hundred members and guests ...
... Among the other
speakers at the meeting were ... Wyllis Cooper of the Compton Agency ... Various phases of the video art were discussed.
[Saturday, June 7, 1947 - Dixon Evening Telegraph]
Another batch of summer
shows goes into replacement spots on three networks Sunday. ... .. on MBS -- 2:30 Quiet Please, eerie drama, temporarily for
Juvenile Jury; ...
[July 19, 1947 - The Era, Bradford, PA., plugs various QP
episodes, not always accurately. Here's the blurb for "Cornelia":]
10:00 p. m. QUIET PLEASE. A strange,
macabre tale of a dead woman's revenge -- which prompted her husband to commit murder, featuring Ernest Chappell as
[October 15, 1947 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
8:30 p.m. --
QUIET PLEASE. Wyllis Cooper, series writer-director presents an eerie story based on the famous "Camera Obscura.
[November 5, 1947 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
8:30 p.m. -- QUIET
PLEASE. Suspense and thrills in dramas written for the medium of radio. Ernest Chappell stars in vehicles written by Wyllis
[November 26, 1947 - The Era, Bradford, PA.]
ERNEST CHAPPELL, the
narrator on QUIET PLEASE tonight at 8:30 on WESB, will tell the story of a strange and wonderful love entitled "In
Memory of Bernadine."
[January 14, 1948 The Era, Bradford, PA]
being imprisoned in a room that doesn't exist. That's the plight of actor-narrator Ernest Chappell, who visits "The
Room Where the Ghosts Live" on tonight's WESB-Mutual broadcast of "Quiet Please" (8:30 to 8:55 p. m., EST).
[February 2, 1948 The Era, Bradford, PA - Chappell actually plays a computer
operator in this episode]
Wyllis Cooper, writer-director of Mutual's eerie "Quiet Please" series, has
titled and plotted his stories on many subjects. He plans to dramatize a figure of speech when he presents "Pathetic
Fallacy," as the program moves to a new MBS time period tonight (9:30 to 10 p. m., EST) over WESB. Ernest Chappell will
play the role of a college professor of philosophy who learns that even inanimate objects hold strange secrets.
[February 16, 1948 The Era, Bradford, PA - the episode actually takes place in
Egypt, not Mexico]
For most people Mexico is a land of gay senoritas, breath-taking scenery -- and romance. But
Mutual's "Quiet Please" story for its broadcast tonight (9:30 to 10 p. m., EST), will tell how that land, for one
archeologist, held only fear and terror. The story of this historian will be told by narrator Ernest Chappell in the eerie
Wyllis Cooper written tale, "Whence Came You?"
[April 12, 1948 The Era,
Disc jockeys who work the graveyard shift, spinning records from "12 to 5," come under writer
-director Wyllis Cooper's surveillance when he presents tonight's "Quiet Please" story over Mutual. Ernest
Chappell is narrator-actor.
[March 1, 1954 The Star, Marion, OH]
Actor Seriously Ill With Lung Disease
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Veteran Actor Ralph Morgan, 71, seriously ill with a lung
disease, remained in an ambulance plane here today as arrangements were being made to transport him to his daughter's home
at Glen Gardner, N. J.
The plane was grounded here yesterday by a heavy snowstorm and weather conditions remained poor
Morgan's son-in-law, radio and television Actor Ernest Chappell, said if a larger plane isn't available today
to carry the party out, they will travel by train.
Morgan is enroute from Hollywood to his daughter's home. She is
Actress Claudia Morgan.
Joined: Mar 14, 2003
Total Topics: 73
Total Comments: 251
Posted Jul 14, 2004 - 7:23 PM:
clippings. Almost nothing about QP but stuff about other Cooper series like Lights Out, Immortal Dramas, Spirit of '41, The
Army Hour, etc.
[September 4, 1927 Los Angeles Times]
CHAPPELL TAKES NEW
Syracuse Announcer Will Manage Station WHAM at Rochester in Future
The new 5000-watt broadcasting
station WHAM, Rochester, N. Y., which is owned and operated by the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Manufacturing Company, will be
under the management of Ernest E. Chappell.
Mr. Chappell came to WHAM after successfully managing the Onondoga Hotel
station, WFBL, in Syracuse, raising that station from a low-powered organization to its present popularity. Coupled with a
thorough understanding of the radio broadcast field is his ability before the microphone. In Syracuse his announcing gave him
the title of "the voice with a smile." On the air from WHAM even a larger audience will learn to know his voice.
In his new position he is completeing [sic] the work preparatory to placing the station on the air in the near
future. The newest Western Electric five-kilowatt transmitter is already installed in a building constructed for the purpose
on Phillips Hill, about fourteen miles outside the city. In the building also will be living quarters for the operators,
which will include the very latest in accommodations. The steel towers at each end of the hill rise 450 feet above the
surrounding territory to insure a field for the station.
[January 10, 1935
Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)]
To Broadcast Bible Stories
Chicago, Jan. 10.--A new radio program
will be inaugurated by Montgomery Ward beginning Sunday, January 13, it was announced here today by company officials.
The program will be broadcast over the NBC red network and also a group of other selected stations each Sunday at 2
p. m. eastern standard time from the Chicago studios of NBC.
Entitled "Immortal Dramas," the program will
consist of a series of dramatizations of famous stories from the Old Testament. Beginning with "David and Goliath,"
the series will include such episodes as "Noah's Ark," "Ruth and Naomi" and others. Each will be of a
half hour duration.
A cast of 80 will interpret the characters of the Bible, and the drama will be supplemented by a
complete symphonic orchestra and special choir.
The program marks the first time in the history of the stage and radio
that a series of famous stories of the Bible has been dramatized.
1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Daniel in Lions' Den Next in Radio's 'Immortal Drama'
TALE INSPIRED BY OLD TESTAMENT TO BE PROGRAM THEME
New Venture in Field of Radio Receives Praise of
Public and Press
Oldest Thing in Our Common Literature Becomes Newest Thing in
Chicago Jan. 26 --Daniel in the Lion's Den, a tale inspired by the Old Testament account of the Handwriting on
the Wall, will be presented on a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network as the third of a series of "Immortal Dramas"
Sunday, Jan. 27, at 1 p. m., (CST).
The dramatic qualities of such scenes as Daniel's interpretation of the
handwriting on the wall and the episode of his being thrown in the lion's den are further enhanced by appropriate symphonic
music and special song effects by an A Capella choir.
"Immortal Dramas," a new venture in the field of
radio, has been receiving the praise of the public and press alike. Ashton Stevens, veteran dramatic critic of the Chicago
American, stepped out of his immediate field of the stage to laud the production of David and Goliath, the first of the
"I heard over a nation-broad broadcast ... the oldest thing in our common literature, the Old Testament,
become the newest thing in drama," writes Stevens. "... what might be called the mental visibility of the piece was
the highest I have known in the air since Maud Adams last season radioed 'The Little Minister,' and 'Peter Pan.
"This illusion ... was obtained by the enthusiastically articulate enactment and rich musical
embellishment of a nervously dramatic script by Lloyd Lewis ... It was, anyway, an author's pioneering job, discreetly and
Referring to the absence of a commercial announcement on the program the review continues:
"And I hope I am not exceeding the liberty of the press by congratulating the sponsor for sponsoring it without trying
to sell an ether-sickened world whether that establishment deals in Bibles or breakfast foods.
[February 2, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Story of Samson Immortal Drama Sunday
Much of Music of Saint Saens Will Be Used by Symphonic Orchestra
the world's most famous stories will be offered to the radio when the story of Samson is presented over a coast-to-coast
NBC-WEAF network Sunday, Feb. 3, at 1 p. m., (CST), as the fourth of a series of "Immortal Dramas."
bitter disappointments which befall Samson, the powerful Israelite, when his Philistine wife, Raamah, is taken from him and
then when the secret of his strength is divulged by Delilah to the Philistines, are handled authentically and with expert
Much of the music of Saint Saens, from the famous opera, will be used in proper balance by the
symphonic orchestra, and an A Cappella choir will sing several of the most famous airs.
Sound effects will play an
important part in adding realism to the scenes where Samson sets fire to the Philistine city and again when he pushes aside
the pillars which support the palace of his enemies, bringing death to all who have taunted him.
[February 23, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
EGYPT IS IMMORTAL DRAMA SCHEDULED FOR SUNDAY
Much Time and Effort Given to Choice and Arrangement of Music
Chicago. Feb. 23--Joseph in Egypt, to be treated as the second part of the story of Joseph and His Brethren, will
be presented as the next of the "Immortal Dramas" series over an NBC-WEAF network Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p. m., (
This program follows the episode of the Coat of Many Colors which was produced last Sunday.
takes up at the point where Joseph is in the prison of Pharaoh and accurately interprets the dreams of his fellow captives
who have fallen in ill favor with the king. Pharaoh, also perturbed by a dream which he has had, and finding his magicians at
a loss to tell him what it means, is told of Joseph and seeks his counsel.
Plenty and Famine
the dream to mean that there will be seven years of plenty in the land to be followed by seven years of famine and is
promptly rewarded by being made Pharaoh's first man.
His subsequent meeting with his brothers and their happy reunion
offer passages which will rival those already presented on this series for dramatic effectiveness.
Music of such
composers as Ravell [sic] and Schumann, together with modern classical and original compositions, will be scored in proper
balance and played by a symphonic orchestra. Vocal choruses and chants by an A Capella choir also will be blended to the
Emphasis on Music
Much time and effort has been given to the choice and arrangement of the
music used in these "Immortal Dramas." Since surprisingly little classical music has been composed with stories
from the Old Testament as the inspirational theme, it has been necessary to select a variety of compositions of the great
masters which, because of their prevailing mood or tempo, are found suitable for the script.
After appropriate music
has been chosen many hours of patient rehearsal are required for proper volume control and timing.
Of the programs
thus far produced music of such composers as Rachmaninoff, Respighi, Brahms and Liszt have found particular favor while music
by the Russian group of Moussorzsky, Borodin, Gliere and Glazounow also have been used extensively.
The Faith Motif
from Wagner's Parsifal is used in the introduction of each program.
1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Story of Gideon Will Be Ninth 'Immortal Drama'
False God, Baal, Will Be Dramatized Over Radio Sunday
Selected as the ninth of the series of "Immortal
Dramas," the story of Gideon will be presented over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network Sunday, March 10, at 1 p. m., (
This story from the Old Testament will portray the character of Gideon who, while the other Israelites prayed to
the false god, Baal, to deliver them from the Midianites and the Amalekites, continued to worship Jehovah.
destroyed the altar of Baal, restored confidence in his people, and led them from their captivity of seven years' duration,
will be dramatically told.
Since the story offers frequent opportunities for the use of choral music, the A Capella
choir will be featured more than in any of the previous programs of the series. Much of the music to be played by the
symphonic orchestra will be original.
[March 31, 1935 Lima Sunday News (Lima,
.. The story of "Saul and Jonathan," father and son who led the Israelites to victory over the
Philistines, will be presented by a dramatic and musical cast as the Immortal Drama episode over WEAF at 2. ...
[September 25, 1937 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
OUT' WILL BE BACK SEPT. 29
Scores of Petitions from Radio Fans Brings About Resumption of Ghost Program
of petitions, bearing from five to 50 signatures, and hundreds of letters from individual listeners, have resurrected the
horror drama program, "Lights Out," for the second time in its three year history.
After an absence of two
months the program will return to the NBC-KFYR network at 11:30 p.m. (CST), Wednesday, Sept. 29, and will be heard weekly
"Lights Out," which first went on the air in 1934, was discontinued for a few weeks in 1935, but
had to be brought back because of the clamor set up by its hardy, ghost story loving audience. And again during the past
summer when it was cancelled, listeners proved loyal as ever and vehemently demanded its return, with the result that it is
now being reinstated.
"Glacier Woman," a weird story of Russian Polar explorers, will be broadcast Sept. 29.
In this production, Author Arch Oboler uses the flashback device. As the script opens, one of the explorers is on trial for
treason; then the action flashes back to events on a Polar glacier. Oboler heightens the dramatic intensity by using the old
"Lights Out" trick of presenting a dramatic monologue against a background of sound effects importing the mood of
Oboler, youthful Chicago writer, is one of the best-known and one of the most prolific of all radio
authors. He has written "Lights Out" programs since June 1936, and has been author of many plays and playlets on
Campana's First Nighter, Grand Hotel and Rudy Vallee broadcasts. The Irene Rich dramatic series, also on NBC, is from
[September 27, 1941 Salisbury Times (Salisbury, Maryland)]
"Spirit of '41" will broadcast "from Submerged Submarine" on September 28.
[October 11, 1941 Clearfield Progress (Clearfield, Pennsylvania) reports that
"Spirit of '41" is scheduled to broadcast "a general description of the air defense plan" for the United
States on October 12.]
[October 28, 1941 Long Beach Independent HIGHLIGHTS of the
... One of the peak dramatic moments of the Navy Day programs will be today over Columbia's
"Spirit of '41" broadcast when a description of an attack direct from a Navy dive bomber will be given by Chet
Huntley of the CBS-KNX announcing staff. As Lieutenant Bowen tips the [nose?] of one of the Navy's latest dive bombers for
the power dive descent from 15,000 feet in a simulated attack on a target boat, Huntley will describe the "thrill"
over shortwave. On the target ship itself will be Hal Sawyer, another KNX announcer, to describe the bomber's attack on the
ship. "Spirit of '41" is heard at 2 p. m. ...
[November 9, 1941 Long
Beach Independent HIGHLIGHTS of the AIRLANES column]
... In honor of this anniversary of one of Uncle Sam's most
colorful military units, "Spirit of '41" devotes its broadcast today to a salute to the Leathernecks, KNX, 11:00
Major General Thomas Holcomb, Major General Commandant of the Marines, is to read the traditional Marine Corps
Birthday a standing order of the Marine Corps Manual which is read before members of the Corps on every anniversary. The
Marine Corps Birthday outlines the purpose and traditions of the Marines, whose first active engagement was with Washington
at the Battle of Trenton, and who were organized as landing parties to fight from ships on the Great Lakes. ...
[October 11, 1942 Washington Post]
'Army Hour' Radio Program Ranks In
Importance With Fighting Fronts
By Ernest L. Schier
A radio program that ranks in importance with many of the
fighting fronts. Sounds unbelievable doesn't it? Yet this is the verdict handed down by some of the top-ranking officers of
the United States Army. The "Army Hour" wings its way across the country every Sunday at 3:30 p. m., over WRC and
the National Broadcasting Company. Shortwaved to various parts of the world, it represents an official military mission and
its creation is due entirely to a group of War Department experts.
How does such a broadcast get its start? Who writes
the scripts and plans the pick-ups? What is its purpose? Let's take a look behind the scenes for an explanation of one of
the most exciting shows ever fostered over the airwaves, with a nod to Capt. H. B. Rorke of the War Department's Bureau of
Public Relations who supplied the vital statistics.
The guiding genius behind the program is Maj. Gen. A. D. Surles,
director of the WDBPR, who sets the direction of the "Army Hour" series with Col. R. E. Dupuy, chief of the Bureau
News Section, and Lt. Col. Ed M. Kirby, chief of the Radio Branch.
Within this broad outline, individual broadcasts
result from weekly conferences between Colonel Kirby and his associates in the Radio Branch. In every move to assemble an
"Army Hour" program is the hand of Wyllis Cooper, civilian War Department consultant who writes, directs and
supervises details of the actual production. The only writing he doesn't do is for scripts of speakers overseas, which are
prepared by Public Relations Officers at the scene.
Assuming that it was decided to put on the air a bombardier of the
Army Air Forces to describe his experiences over Germany, a War Department message would be prepared in Washington to the
commanding general of the European theater of operations. It would read before coding something like this:
"REQUEST COOPERATION ARMY HOUR FOR TALK ON EXPERIENCES OVER GERMANY BY BOMBARDIER THREE REPEAT THREE MINUTES N.
B. C. REPRESENTATIVE LONDON WILL CONTACT YOU CONFIRM EARLIEST. SURLES."
Phraseology of actual cables varies
widely because messages which follow a rigid pattern tend to help enemy decoding experts who are also busy on messages of
combat significance. But it is no secret that important points of military messages are emphasized to avoid error, as in the
expression above "three repeat three."
The message is then coded and cabled to England. At the message
center attached to headquarters of the commanding general of the European theater the message is decoded and referred by way
of the chain of command to the Public Relations Officer.
That officer gets permission for the bombardier to broadcast
from the general and the flying officers concerned and, if there is no objection, sends a confirmation back to this side
where an officer relays the news to N.B.C. traffic men in New York City and to Producer Cooper, who works from a War
Department office in New York also.
Having made the arrangements for overseas shortwave transmission the Public
Relations Officer next discovers which bombardiers among the many who have attacked Germany will be off duty at broadcast
time, chooses one, and writes a script to fill three repeat three minutes of radio time.
That script is then checked
with a military intelligence officer in England to make sure no information of value has unwittingly been included. And if
all has gone well in each step, one-twentieth of the next Sunday's "Army Hour" is ready to broadcast.
the "Army Hour" undertakes to present General Wavell of the British Army from India or Generalissimo Chiang Kai-
shek from Chungking, or the commander at Leopoldviller, Belgian Congo, as it already has, there are many more complications.
The ambassador to the United States of each Allied power must arrange approval through diplomatic channels, the things which
diplomats are particular about are not always the same as those which concern generals. In all of these pick-ups there must
be no cost to the Army involved and no interference with training or other military requirements.
Many of the
broadcasts are controlled at the scene by an expert sent from Washington, but it is often the case that Public Relations
Officers attached to the command have radio experience, then they supervise their portion of the broadcast themselves.
And so it is that the "Army Hour" has been arranged and broadcast over N.B.C. for more than six months.
These programs will continue to be broadcast until the war is over. These broadcasts tell the families they left behind them
how well their boys are doing as soldiers.
It is helping to bring America closer to our Allies and to understand what
a gigantic job it is to fight all over the world, and how important is the all-out effort of every United States citizen in
properly backing up the Army. The home front and the fighting front are blending into one.
These shows are rebroadcast
to friend and foe alike so that the whole world may know the growing strength that our country is throwing into the fight
against Axis slavery.
[Article is accompanied by photos, including one of Cooper and Jack Joy with the following
Conductor Jack Joy and Writer-Director-Producer Willys [sic] Cooper go into a huddle with a script of the
"Army Hour." Although civilians, both men are official consultants of the War Department and much of the success of
the program rests with them.
[November 8, 1942 The Sunday Times-Signal (
"All the World's a Studio For 'Army Hour' Broadcast"
Pickups from Combat Areas
Used Unique Sunday Radio Program
By NORMAN SEEGEL
Written for NEA Service
Six hardy Yugoslav guerilla
fighters -- members of the famed "Chetniks" -- will take part in "The Army Hour," the War Department's
unique Sunday afternoon military radio program some time this month. (It may be today, for the army does not give exact
details of its programs in advance.)
That they will not broadcast from a secret mountain hideaway in their native land
is due more to the fact of their presence in this country than to the difficulty such an overseas hook-up might present to
the Army Hour engineers. For arranging just such difficult and dangerous transmissions is the unprecedented job being done by
BUILDING YUGOSLAV SQUADRONS HERE
The Chetniks are busy in Arizona organizing the first
Yugoslav Squadron to fight with American forces overseas. They are all veterans of the guerilla warfare that has been such a
thorn in the side of the vaunted German army of occupation. Two of them escaped to this country from Nazi prison camps. A
feature of their broadcast will be participation by their exiled ruler, young King Peter, who will speak from abroad.
The Army Hour has become a world-wide show from the war fronts to the home front, having for its "studios"
the war's combat sectors and American training centers. Many of the pickups are military secrets until they are actually on
Bringing in voices from odd corners of the world, sometimes from enemy-held territory, often requires the
utmost ingenuity of radio technicians.
It takes 50 engineers, announcers and production men throughout the world to
put the show on the air, as there are usually 6 to 10 hookup points involved. No advance announcement can be made of the
overseas points involved, to prevent the bombing of those places and jamming by Axis stations while they're on the air.
BRITISH STATION JAMMED THEM
Once it was arranged to have a Russian general speak from an airport near Moscow.
The preliminary tests were fine. The afternoon of the broadcast there was a great deal of interference from an unknown
station, making reception almost impossible. The interference was finally traced to a friendly British station, which didn't
know it was interrupting the important pick-up.
On one of the programs a pick-up was scheduled from an airport near
Newfoundland. When engineers arrived there they found a single telephone line running out of the place and this was on the
ground for a distance of three miles. Hasty technical adjustments were made and the program was short-waved part of the
distance from the pick-up point to St. John's, Newfoundland. It was then re-transmitted to Montreal, from where it was sent
over landlines to New York.
The "Army Hour" has had the only broadcast during the war from Curacao in the
Netherlands West Indies. An RCA engineer happened to hear an unknown short wave station operating at that point. He advised
the War Department, which contacted the "ham" operator and 10 days later had a program on the air from Curacao.
HEARD IN U.S. THE "DAY BEFORE"
Engineers in United Nations countries have been very cooperative in
setting up these broadcasts. When General Wavell spoke from New Delhi, India, a few weeks ago, he was heard in America on
Sunday afternoon at 4 p. m., although he was speaking at 1 a. m. Monday in India. General Chiang Kai-Shek spoke from
Chungking at 6 a. m. Monday morning when he was heard here Sunday afternoon. General Emmons faced the "Army Hour"
mike in Honolulu on Sunday morning at 10 a. m. for the afternoon broadcast.
The Army's history-making program was
developed by the radio section of the War Department, headed by Lieut. Col. E. M. Kirby. The direction of the program is in
the hands of Wylis [sic] Cooper, well-known radio script writer; Lathrop Mack, of the NBC special events department, and
coordinator of the show in Washington.
[Photo with caption reading: An Army Hour pickup of the sound of
"battle" during realistic maneuvers near Fort Bragg, N. C. Arrow indicates pickup microphone.]
["G.I." -- a booklet about the Army Hour copyrighted June 1944 by NBC
-- mentions Cooper only once:]
... NBC's Edwin Dunham is the Executive Producer of the Army Hour, having been
appointed for that purpose to the post of Expert Radio Consultant to the War Department by the Secretary of War. Dunham
succeeded Wyllis Cooper, who was retained full-time by the Army as writer-producer during the first year of The Army Hour.
[July 13, 1945 Dixon Evening Telegraph -- Day by Day On the Air by C. E.
BUTTERFIELD, Associated Press column]
New York, July 13-- With three of its ordinarily sponsored series taking
vacations from Saturday night radio, NBC has decided it's a good time to fill one of them with an eight-weeks revival of
part of the old "Lights Out". This was the eerie series of nearly a decade ago which tried to scare listeners in
the last half-hour of a mid-week night through the writing efforts of Arch Oboler, Willys [sic] Cooper and others.
the revival, to run through Sept. 1 and to have the time of Truth or Consequences at 7:30, only those Cooper scripts which
stressed fantasy rather than horror will be used. Because of the earlier time it was thought best not to stir things up too
[May 22, 1949 The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) TELEVISION TALK
column by Andy Jackson]
... Television quote of the week by writer Wyllis Cooper who is preparing a new television
program, his first: "I look on the television screen not as a motion picture screen but as a window through which the
observer looks, not at a stage or cinema production for a large audience but as a series of episodes of which he is the sole
[December 31, 1951 Washington Post - column by Walter Winchell]
... A refreshing new program is "Whitehall 1212," based on actual Scotland Yard cases. The only top flight
radio mystery that registers solidly without shootings, stabbings and other familiar hokum ...
[September 1, 1955 Post Standard (Syracuse, New York) "Personal Notes"
... Ernest Chappell of Newark, N. J., and his recent bride, the former Mrs. Mary Sharp of Miami, Fla., have
returned after a few days' stay with Mr. Chappell's mother, Mrs. Emma Chappell and brother, Wilfred Chappell of
Surviving episodes of Cooper's "You're in the Army
Now" at the Library of Congress:
RWA 4870 B1-2 11/11/1940 A comedy about Army life, written by Willis Cooper and
starring Donald Briggs and Ray Appleby.
RWA 5537 B1-2 11/18/1940 A program about military life and army camps.
RWA 5537 B3-4 12/23/1940 A program about Christmas in the army.
RWB 5282 B3-4 02/10/1941 Captain Donald
Preston tells all about his anti-tank corps.
Surviving episodes of Cooper's
"Good Neighbors" at the Library of Congress:
LWO 16659 51A1-2 05/22/1941 Premiere hosted by Milton Cross
LWO 16659 61A1-2 05/29/1941 Peru
LWO 16659 61A3-4 06/05/1941 Argentina
LWO 16659 61B1-2 06/12/1941 Mexico
16659 61B3-4 06/19/1941 Ecuador
LWO 16659 62A1-2 06/26/1941 Brazil
LWO 12736 11B4-12 07/02/1941 Venezuela
12A2 07/10/1941 Colombia (quality is "poor")
LWO 12736 12A3-B1 07/24/1941 Chile
LWO 12736 89A2 10/09/1941
Haiti (first half missing)
LWO 12736 89A3 10/16/1941 (second half missing)
Cooper-related "Lights Out" recordings at the Library of Congress:
Fantasies from Lights out
RWA 7212 B3-4 07/28/1945 Rocket ship - Cooper, William. (writer of underlying work)
Lights out rehearsals
RWA 7905 B3-4 07/13/1946 Coffin in Studio B - Radio recording, not necessarily broadcast (
Four odd "Lights Out" recordings at the Library of
11/03/1950 (15 minutes), 11/10/1950 (20 minutes),
Radio recording, not necessarily broadcast - A dress
rehearsal with no announcements, sound effects or music. Actors not named. Story title not named.
/1952 (5 minutes), 04/05/1952 (15 minutes)
Duplicated from an NBC radio program broadcast of Apr. 1, 1952; time unknown.
Excerpts from the mystery-suspense program.
Joined: Mar 14, 2003
Total Topics: 73
Total Comments: 251
Posted Jul 26, 2004 - 8:17 PM:
Still more newspaper clippings -- Chappell goes bankrupt and Cooper creates the earliest surviving network radio drama series (Great Northern's 1929-1931 The Empire Builders). And, apparently, Cooper's 1930s "Lights Out" scripts were too grisly for Boris Karloff in 1947!
[July 11, 1931 Christian Science Monitor]
A Bright Spotlight for Coty in This Summer's Radio Stage
Radio listeners are promised at least one island in the sea of radio advertising this summer in the announcement of Coty, perfume manufacturer, that there will be no commercial announcements during its new program to be inaugurated on July 16 at 9:15 p. m., eastern daylight savings time, over the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Welcome Lewis, well-known radio singer, will be known simply as the Coty Melody Girl. This is Miss Lewis's first contract appearance on the Columbia chain. Her voice is pitched somewhat below the customary contralto register. Harry Salter, already well known as a radio conductor, will lead the orchestra. There will be no regular announcer, incidental announcements being made by Ernest Chappell.
[April 17, 1939 Los Angeles Times]
Universal Boosts Budget to Make 44 Feature Films
Large-Scale Productions on Program Outlined for Studio's Coming Season
... "Friday the 13th"--Starring Karloff and Lugosi--Planned to be the horror box office triumph of the season. The story is by Willis O. Cooper.
[January 6, 1939 NYT column BUSINESS RECORDS]
BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS / SOUTHERN DISTRICT ...
... Petitions Filed--By ... ERNEST E. CHAPPELL, radio announcer, 1,260 6th Ave.--Liabilities $9,037; assets $300. ...
[June 29, 1939 NYT column BUSINESS RECORDS]
BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS / SOUTHERN DISTRICT ...
Bankruptcy Discharges ...
... Ernest E. Chappell, radio announcer, 1,260 6th Ave.; ...
[April 16, 1944 NYT ONE THING AND ANOTHER ALONG RADIO ROW column by Jack Gould]
... The postponed première of "Arthur Hopkins Presents" at 11:30 P. M. Wednesdays over NBC will occur this week. Advance announcements of the program had indicated that the program would be linked to the many Broadway successes of Mr. Hopkins, so perhaps it is just radio's way that the initial attraction should turn out to be "Our Town," which Jed Harris brought to the Rialto. Many of the original Broadway cast will be in the radio version, including Frank Craven, Evelyn Varden, Helen Carew, Thomas Ross and Phil Coolidge, the wry wit from New England. ...
[December 8, 1946 excerpt from advertisement of Wheeler and Healy advertising agency in Washington Post]
... W. O. ("Army Hour") COOPER / Here is another definitely "top flight" member of the personnel of WHEELER & HEALY. His national reputation as an advertising agency copywriter; radio script writer and producer; motion picture script writer and editor and familiarity with television is acknowledged.
Mr. Cooper originated the famous Great Northern Railroad program, featuring "The Old Timer;" "Lights Out," and the "Army Hour;" writing, directing and participating in all of them at different times. Mr. Cooper is now available to the clients of WHEELER & HEALY as a regular staff member in the capacity of Director of Radio, Motion Picture and Television. ...
[July 11, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) DAY by DAY ON THE AIR column]
Henry Morgan's ABC sponsor, in making a rather drastic change from his satirical comedy to the eerie type of Lights Out dramas for a nine-week vacation period, will start next Wednesday night with Boris Karloff as guest. It is planned to revive outstanding scripts of past broadcasts by this decade-old series. ...
[July 14, 1947 Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, WI)]
Boris Karloff on "Lights Out" Radio Program
Boris Karloff, Gauleiter of the Goose Pimple, will be starred on the premiere broadcast of Lights Out, summer replacement for the Henry Morgan show, on Wednesday, July 16, at 9:30 p. m., (CDT) over the American Broadcasting company, and WHBL.
By general agreement one of radio's most chilling programs, Lights Out is a perfectly balanced compound of terror, mystery and mayhem. In the decade in which it has been on the air, it has won a large following of fans who regard it as an effective antidote for heat waves.
In the current series, which will run until Henry Morgan's return in September, some of the most popular scripts of previous years will be revived.
The summer series will open with a thriller about a doctor who is a deft hand at bringing dead people back to life. After his wife is killed in an automobile accident, he uses his mysterious powers to bring her back to life. Questioning her about the trip, he learns that she has lost her soul, whereupon he decides to kill her in a way that he hopes will be permanent.
[July 15, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) DAY by DAY ON THE AIR column]
... Chilling thought for a July evening: Boris Karloff will star in the 10 year old "Lights Out" when the series succeeds the Henry Morgan show at 10:30 tomorrow night on ABC. ...
[August 10, 1947 Zanesville Signal (Zanesville, OH) Joe's Radio Parade column by Joe Rathbun]
... Boris Karloff leaving the "Lights Out" program ...
[September 8, 1947 The Agitator (Wellsboro, PA) STAR DUST STAGE SCREEN RADIO column released by Western Newspaper Union and written by Inez Gerhard]
... It's said Boris Karloff wants to leave ABC's "Lights Out" because his roles are too grisly. ...
[June 2, 1950 Washington Post version of syndicated Radio in Review column by John Crosby]
... "Lights Out," which, I guess, is NBC television's answer to CBS' "Suspence," [sic] appears to have settled permanently in the realm of the supernatural. This is a happy device for the writers, because you don't have to explain how old Cyrus McFlint was pushed out the window of a locked room. He was pushed by the ghost of old Horace Pruneface, his former business partner, who was discontented with the way Cyrus was handling his estate.
Convenient as this is for the writer, I find it totally exasperating to the listener. [sic] The writing of ghost stories requires more skill than the invention of hants [sic] who can walk through locked doors two minutes before the half hour is up to wreak vengeance on the guilty. The writers of "Lights Out" also have a great addiction to water. At various times, I've seen a murdered husband rise out of the deep, blue sea to strangle his murderous wife and another murdered husband, festooned with seaweed, haul himself out of a river to inflict justice on his wife and her lover. Every time a stretch of water appears on "Lights Out," a specter crawls out of it. It's enough to frighten a man away from his own bathtub.
Level Even Lower
Last Monday's "Lights Out" touched a level even lower than seaweed. In this little horror, a nuclear physicist was pursued about his own house by a ghost which he described as "a soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh." This soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh had, it developed, fallen in love with the nuclear physicist. It kept fondling him, caressing him even when he was delivering lectures before the institute. The scientist found the whole thing revolting. So did I.
"Lights Out" used to be a pretty good show back when Wyllis Cooper was writing it for radio. It was full of imaginative little strategems to make your flesh crawl, but it was also written in a vein of sardonic humor and it contained some pretty interesting, if spooky, characters. It has retained nothing except the spooks.
[January 1952 syndicated Radio and TV Comments column by John Crosby]
Back in June, Herbert Bayard Swope, jr., was awarded a citation of merit by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority for "his pioneering efforts in the fields of intercultural art designed to integrate the talents of all people as expressed in the television production 'Lights Out'" -- a real jawful of a citation if ever I read one.
I'm an avid collector of the starchy prose on citations and I've even been known to write a citation from time to time for the Peabody Award committee. "Intercultural art," though, never occurred to me. Neither did "integrate." Wait till next year. The citations I have in mind will rattle the back teeth of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, them and their intercultural art.
The particular intercultural art of "Lights Out" has been the subject of considerable scrutiny by me and some alarmed concern by parents. I have a whole basketful of interculture here, most of it lurid enough to integrate the wits out of the more timorous members of the audience.
Just a week or so ago on that program, a trio of lunatics were conducting a Black Mass. Or at least they were trying to initiate a smallish boy into the society of the Devil over his (the boy's) strenuous objections. It was a lovely scene. The boy was writhing on the ground. The lunatics stood over him, alternately slavering for his blood and wheedling. "Join up, Sedgewick, give your soul to the Devil." "Mustn't keep the Devil waiting."
Eventually, through the intercession of another lunatic who was also a ghost (as were the three Devil-worshippers), the boy escaped into the protective custody of a more proper Deity. I'm not going to raise a clamor over such goings-on on television. The worship of the Devil was celebrated much more persuasively in George Bernard Shaw's "Don Juan in Hell," an entirely respectable operation on Broadway, and there's no reason why Mr. Swope shouldn't explore the subject, too.
I only bring it up as the sort of interculture that hovers over "Lights Out." They're looney over lunatics on that show, especially if the lunatics are also ghosts. I've collected a lot of "Lights Out" plots for you to hand on to the children who may have got to bed too early to see them. There was the one, for instance, about a newspaper columnist who hounded a politician to suicide in his column and somehow wound up in possession of the politician's ouija board. The ouija board spilled [sic] out some wonderful tips on who would be next president, next supreme court justice and so on, and ultimately lured the columnist into the stock market and catastrophe.
As ghost stories go, on "Lights Out," that was a rather mild one. Having made a pretty thorough study of the situation, I've concluded that the most vengeful, vindictive and menacing spirits are not men but women. My favorite was a young lady who appeared only as an image in a mirror. Scared hell out of a young bride who kept expecting to find her own reflection in the mirror and got this sinister babe instead. Interesting dilemma, though not entirely an unhappy one. (Many's the time I've wished to find some more presentable phiz in the mirror than the one that's there). The favorite hobby of another female spectre on "Lights Out" was leading engineers off cliffs so their little brains would be bashed out on the rocks below.
If this sort of ghostly interculture gets too pallid for you, you might switch to "Suspense," where they go in more for live people. Just the other night, on that show, a young female scientist got lost in a Florida swamp and came upon a cabin inhabited by a male scientist whose particular passion was head-hunting. Hers was a splendid specimen.
Oh, yes, girls still meet boys in this form of literature. Object: mayhem.
[March 30, 1952 Washington Post article excerpts]
'Lights Out' on Television
How Does a Girl Get to Be a Creep's Creep?
By Sonia Stein
The vision of pure delight in the accompanying picture has elected to become "the creep's creep." Newly assigned to produce NBC-TV's eerie "Lights Out" series when it goes sustaining April 7 (Mondays, 9 p. m., WNBW), Caroline Burke wants to be as creepy as the next guy or maybe a little more so. ... [Photo shows attractive smiling woman, caption: MISS BURKE]
... For her latest venture -- this eerie series -- Caroline leans toward the classical and expects to open with Edgar Allen Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum." Caroline credits Poe with writing all the camera and audio directions, since the story has such minute detail of sound and movement. For noises, Caroline hopes to try tympani, and for atmosphere some Goya drawings. "It may not come out at all -- it's really not a drama" but a study of apprehension and agony, admits Caroline, but she's willing to try for something different. She's already lined up a new Arch Oboler TV drama about a dog and some murders in which the camera is the dog.
Because -- as a sustainer -- this show must now operate on a low budget, Caroline isn't sure she can afford to keep Narrator Frank Gallop to speak spookily from the candlelight's flickering shadows. "The only real gimmick we need is quality," she consoles herself. But then she gets an idea. "I wish we could afford Peter Lorre: I'd have him introduce the shows like a creepy Robert Montgomery."
[December 8, 1998 article in The Syracuse New Times (Syracuse, NY)]
"Radio Pioneer Recalled" by Russ Tarby
When radio was in its infancy during the 1920s, Syracuse native Ernest Chappell became one of the industry's first ever production managers at WFBL in Syracuse and at WHAM in Rochester. As the Roaring Twenties roared its last, Chappell worked as a producer for the Buffalo Broadcasting System, according to Art Pierce, the Rome-based author and one of the producers for _WRVO Playhouse_ on WRVO-FM 90 out of Oswego.
About 1930, Chappell moved from Buffalo to New York City, where he worked on CBS radio mysteries, and produced opera broadcasts before becoming director of the NBC Artists Bureau. "Chappell, who died in 1983, is probably best known today as a radio announcer, heard on such shows as _The Campbell Playhouse_ which ran from 1938 to 1941, and _The Big Story_ from 1947 to 1955," Pierce said. "But it was on the supernatural/horror series _Quiet Please_ that his abilities as an actor were displayed. Chappell starred in every broadcast, convincingly portraying a remarkable range of characters."
_WRVO Playhouse_ is currently airing five programs from that Mutual network series' 1948-'49 season, including "Northern Lights" (about a caterpillar transported to earth from outer space) airing Wednesday, Jan. 28, at about 10:55 p.m.; and "If I Should Die Before I Wake" [sic] (about a scientist who agonizes about the possibility his work could lead to an atomic war) [sic] airing Feb. 25.
The Syracuse Walk of Stars committee should consider Chappell--who also wrote radio scripts and screenplays--as a future honoree.
Joined: Dec 21, 2001
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Posted Jul 28, 2004 - 12:15 AM:
In an article about the series, Time Magazine reports that Cooper changed the spelling of his first name (from "Willis" to "Wyllis") in order "to please his wife's numerological inclinations."
Ah... it'd been driving me crazy trying to find the proper spelling, now I can finally rest knowng why there seemed to be no consistency in references to it.
Joined: Dec 21, 2001
Location: Northern California
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Posted Jul 28, 2004 - 12:22 AM:
Last Monday's "Lights Out" touched a level even lower than seaweed. In this little horror, a nuclear physicist was pursued about his own house by a ghost which he described as "a soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh." This soft, shapeless, mindless lump of undulating flesh had, it developed, fallen in love with the nuclear physicist. It kept fondling him, caressing him even when he was delivering lectures before the institute. The scientist found the whole thing revolting. So did I.
Interesting bit there... that was "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" on Escape, but I don't think the radio Lights Out series had anything like it. Plot theft seems to have been even more common then than now.
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Posted Jul 30, 2004 - 10:18 PM:
It looks like Cooper might have changed his name when he left the movies and went back to radio full time. The earliest appearance of the "Wyllis" spelling I've seen is a January 1940 New York Times item. Somebody would occasionally call him "Willis" after that but, in the newspaper coverage I've looked at so far, he is usually "Willis" until circa late '39, then "Wyllis" until his death, then a confusing mix of the two ever after. What's worse, his name is often spelled incorrectly (Willys, Wylis, Wylie, William, etc.) or with variants (like "Willis O. Cooper" or "W. O. Cooper" or just plain "Bill").
More odds and ends:
[February 9, 1935 Chicago Tribune - In December 1934, NBC did a live Christmas-week broadcast from the Roman catacombs -- I wonder if that gave Cooper the idea for the episode mentioned here:]
Fifty members of Evanston's Lights Out club got more than they bargained for the other midnight when they came to NBC studios to view Bill Cooper's macabre "Lights Out" broadcast. This week's episode concerned a honeymooning couple lost in the Roman catacombs. Studio lights are doused during the broadcast, only two narrow beams playing on the actors themselves. The studio sound experts gave Evanstonians a nice case of jitters.
[April 7, 1935 Chicago Tribune - the Trib's regular radio columnist writes a few sentences about various Chicago-based radio series:]
CHICAGO SHOWS ARE CHOSEN FOR BRIEF COMMENT
by Larry Wolters
... LIGHTS OUT--Murder at midnight. Sound effects that freeze the blood. It may only be a head of cabbage in the studio, but it's red with gore when you hear its dull thud on the floor, by way of the loudspeaker. ...
[April 10, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper's gristly [sic] "Lights Out" program, for many months heard locally, on Wednesday at midnight will become a network feature next week. It will be aired a half hour earlier locally in order to keep New Yorkers from staying up most of the night to catch it. Tonight Cooper is presenting "Play Without a Name." He couldn't think of a title that would do its horror justice.
[April 19, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Mrs. Frank Bering, the former Joan Winters, is playing leading parts in NBC's "Lights Out." She portrayed the countess in Wednesday evening's show. [refers to the series' network premiere, which was April 17] ...
[April 28, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... "Lights Out," ... which was dropped because Author Willis Cooper had too much other work to do, was restored on WENR at the insistence of thousands of followers. Then it was piped to New York for a test. Eastern executives thought it was too tough for Manhattan, but after uniformly favorable criticism by New York critics they had a change of heart and are now trying it out across the nation. But they're starting in easy -- using ghost and spook stories. The gory yarns are out for the present. Incidentally, Ted Sherdeman is producing the shows and doing a slick job of it at 11:30 now Wednesday. ...
[June 22, 1935 Chicago Tribune - The "Flying Time" series seems to have continued into 1937 -- a couple of scripts from that year apparently survive at the University of Maryland along with scripts from other Cooper-related series like Quiet Please, The Army Hour, The Empire Builders, etc.]
... Willis Cooper who writes the ghostly "Lights Out" series is the author of a new serial titled "Flying Time" designated for its first presentation at 5 p.m. next Monday over NBC. It concerns aviation and has an airport setting.
[After the January 2, 1935 episode, judging by the Chicago Tribune's radio listings, "Lights Out" is off the air for the rest of the month. The Trib reports on January 23 that the series will return January 30 but doesn't mention the program in its daily radio schedule until February 6. From then until April 10 (the last local broadcast before switching to the network) the paper lists a half dozen episode titles:]
02-06-1935 Lost in the Catacombs
02-13-1935 The Death Cell
02-20-1935 The Mine of Lost Skulls
03-13-1935 Sepulzeda's Revenge
04-10-1935 Play Without a Name
[Excerpt from Michele Hilmes' book _Radio Voices_ (University of Minnesota Press, 1997) which quotes an August 8, 1934 memo of Cooper's.]
... One of the most vitriolic assessments not only of [producer Irna] Phillips' proposed (but never produced) serial _Rainbow Court_, but of daytime radio in general, appears in a review done by Willis Cooper of NBC's Program Planning Board in 1934, submitted to Sidney Strotz, head of NBC's Chicago Bureau:
This program ... is another of the amateurish type of programs that have attained such popularity with a certain class of listeners.... it panders to the crude emotions of the shopgirl type of listener, and it trades upon the maudlin sympathies of the neurotic who sits entranced before the radio, clutching a copy of "True Confessions" and (possibly) guzzling gin and ginger ale. Despite the many things that are wrong in a show of this type, it will undoubtedly be successful.... It will sell cheap products to vulgar people.... But to people who have an I.Q. of something higher than 15 years, it will be another of the dreadful things that radio brings.
[Apparently, more of this sort of Cooper-related correspondence survives in the NBC papers at the Wisconsin Center for Film in Madison, WI. Some examples from their database:
Micro 764, Reel 2 Lights Out: Oversize Material
Box 38, Folder 51 - Lights Out
Box 45, Folder 27 - Cooper, Wyllis
Box 47, Folder 53 - Lights Out
Box 67, Folder 44 - Cooper, Wyllis (NBC vs. Cooper)
Box 76, Folder 13 - Cooper, Wyllis
Box 82, Folder 46 - Cooper, Wyllis
Box 83, Folder 37 - Good Neighbors
Box 87, Folder 6 - You're in the Army Now
I don't have access to any of this but it seems they have scripts, too, and, apparently, not all the script materials have been indexed. The one Cooper script they list is the Radio City Playhouse version of "Three Men." I suppose it's possible that material from "Lights Out" (or his other, more obscure, NBC series) is buried in there someplace.]