Variety -- June 22, 1949
VOL. 1, NO.1
with Wyllis Cooper, Jack Lescoulie, Nancy Sheridan, Frank Thomas, Jr., Albert J. Buhrman, organist
Producer-Writer: Wyllis Cooper
Director: Alex Segal
30 mins., Thurs., 9:30 p.m.
From New York
Wyllis Cooper, who distinguished himself in radio with the "Quiet, Please" and "Lights Out" shows, has made a provocative start in video with his production of "Vol. 1, No. 1." He has applied techniques used in film and legit in a manner that makes the audience part of the show with his stationary one camera technique, and provides a story with an indefinite conclusion that leaves the viewers stewing in their intellectual juices groping for a plausible explanation.
Briefly, the yarn tells of a couple being shown to a hotel room by a bellhop. Said couple have just robbed a bank, killed a watchman and made a successful getaway to this hideout hotel. The moment the bellhop leaves, they discover their money and the gun missing, despite the fact that their luggage hasn't been switched. The bellhop seems to be the master of the situation. He strands them without food, water, cigarets, and without a possibility of making a getaway.
The focal point seems to center around the bellhop, played with just the right amount of puckishness by Frank Thomas, Jr. It's hard to make out exactly what he represents. He could be the personification of the couple's conscience or some supernatural being. The audience can apply any solution it likes and it will still be groping for explanations.
Jack Lescoulie and Nancy Sheridan as the embattled couple do excellent jobs that call for a graduated change of emotions from cockiness to stark terror.
Cooper has made the audience part of the show by using his single camera stationed behind what is purportedly a wall mirror. The camera range is limited to what can be seen by one peeking into the room. Cooper has seen to it that the audience is given a feeling of guilt by looking in on the show, especially when the absconding pair complain that they have the feeling that someone's watching them.
With the variation in story treatment, Cooper has also introduced some penetrating bits of business. At one point the siren of a passing ambulance merges with the loud swing record from the music store on the ground floor of the hotel in a manner that made it a completely harmonic composition and one that helps create an atmosphere that helps accentuate the feeling of terror that envelopes the twosome.
Cooper, who made a brief appearance to introduce the program, has contracted for an initial series of six shows. With the first of this series, it seems that he has fashioned an adult type of diversion for the higher IQ levels. He has provided an indication that the medium is growing up.
From an interview with actor Frank Thomas, Jr.:
... They finally talked [Cooper] into doing TV, and he agreed only to do these six stories. [June 16 to July 21, 1949 on ABC] For the first broadcast, we did something called "The Bellhop's Story," with only three characters, played by myself, Jack Lescoulie and Nancy Sheridan. Well, the next morning after the broadcast, at an ungodly hour, Bill [Cooper] called me up. I worked a great deal for him, so we were on friendly terms. I had worked on "Quiet, Please!" which is the [horror-fantasy] show he did after "Lights Out!" Anyway, he called and said, "Frank, have you seen Variety? Well, of course, you haven't seen it, I have an advance copy, I wanta read this to you, kid: 'Television Comes of Age with Wyllis Cooper's Volume One.'" And that was the review! It was indeed a very interesting script. ...
Variety -- July 3, 1946
With Carl Frank, Mary Wilsey, Eva Condon, Russell Morrison, Bob Lieb. Gene O'Donnell, Vaughn Taylor, W. O. McWatters, Thomas Healphy, Paul Keyes, Bob Davis, Harold Grou, Bill Woodson, narrator.
Producer: Fred Coe
Tech. Director: Bill States
Writer: Wyllis Cooper
Sets: Bob Wade
25 Mins.; Sun. (30) 8:45 p.m.
It's usually considered in bad taste for a reviewer to use superlatives in describing a show. Sometimes, however, such a course of action cannot be helped, as in this first televised version of the w.k. "Lights Out" radio spine-tingler. Utilizing a new device in which the camera itself is the murderer, the program was tops from start to finish and undoubtedly one of the best dramatic shows yet seen on a television screen.
Credit for the show's all-around excellence belongs jointly to scripter Wyllis Cooper and producer Fred Coe. Cooper was the last writer of the radio version with an eight week series on the NBC net last summer. (Show returns for eight weeks Sat. (6) as replacement for Judy Canova). He followed Arch Oboler at the task and has made the switch from radio to tele without a single letdown in the program's eerie quality. Coe, whose light on NBC television has been partly hidden in the past by Ed Sobol and Ernie Colling, both of whom won ATS awards this last year, has come into his own with this show and should now rank right at the top of the heap.
Story, titled "First Person Singular," concerned a psychopathic killer whose wife's constant nagging, extreme sloppiness, etc., led him to strangle her in their apartment on one of those blistering summer evenings. Killer was never seen, with the camera following the action and taking in just what the eyes of the murderer would see. Thoughts in the killer's subconscious, meanwhile, told what might go on in the mind of such a person as he contemplates his crime, is convicted in court and then hanged.
Coe achieved some admirable effects with the camera, drawing the viewer both into the killer's mind and into the action. Use of a spiral montage effect bridged the gap between scenes very well and the integration of film to point up the killer's dream of a cool, placid existence and to heighten the shock effect as the hangman ended his life was excellent. Technical director Bill States was on the beam with the controls in following Coe's direction.
Actors furnished an example of near-perfect casting. Carl Frank, as the murderer, though never seen, injected the right touches with his restrained reading of the script. Mary Wilsey was excellent as the wife. Her whining voice and little side-touches such as picking her teeth with her finger, all heightened by ultra-realistic makeup, brought forth a woman that even a sane husband might have wanted to kill. Supporting cast was uniformly good. Bob Wade's sets, though not as spectacular as in other shows, fit the program well.
Announcer Bill Woodson at the end of the show asked viewers to send in their reactions and advice on whether they wanted the series to be a regular weekly feature. Response should be unanimous in the affirmative.
Variety -- April 1950
With Alan Bunce, Peter Capell
Writer: Draper Lewis
Director-producer: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.
CBS, from N.Y.
Filling in the spot vacated by the Joey Faye show, "Stage 13" promises to develop into a good chiller series. While not attempting anything novel in the video conception of dramatic presentation, preem show demonstrated an ability to make maximum use of its resources via smoothly flowing production, minute attention to background details and expert handling of cameras and lighting. Theme of this series, while probably increasing the reservoir of superstitions among viewers, has also demonstrated its steady saleability on both radio and TV.
Kickoff program (19) was an eerily supernatural yarn that was covered with enough atmosphere to obscure the weaknesses in its structure. Story, which revolved around two men who disappeared completely after acquiring an undefined key to the universe, was handicapped by its narrative structure. Adroit manipulation of the camera angles around the two leads, Alan Bunce and Peter Capell, managed to lend the quality of dramatic action. Bunce and Capell, moreover, projected their parts with such persuasion and intensity that the play achieved a bigger impact than was warranted by the static scripting.
Wyllis Cooper, director-producer of the series, is effectively prefacing each show with a dry challenge to viewers to come up and see the spooks in his closet.
[July 10, 1946]
With Boris Aplon, John Barclay, Wilms Herbert; George Stone, announcer
Director: Albert Crews
Writer: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins., Sat., 10 p.m.
NBC's oldtime thriller, first heard 11 years ago and a regular feature for several years thereafter, is back again as a summer replacement, this time for Judy Canova. (Last year it subbed for "Truth or Consequences.") Opening session of the eight-week revival Saturday (6), though interest, wasn't quite successful, however.
Show, which was a sort of modern version of the "Wandering Jew" theme, was a little too serious in content for a thriller. Religious background, philosophical discussion, and dream diagnosis gave program a slow, heavy pace from the start, and the whole thing, though it did pick up sharply in interest towards the close, was too talky and action-less. Sometimes plot was a little confusing, and one of the character's accent made the play that much more difficult to get. It's doubtful if this stuff suits for hot-weather escapist fare.
[June 11, 1947 - a column item reporting on a possible sponsor for QP:]
... American Transit Assn. is toying with the idea of dropping "Bulldog Drummond" in favor of the new Mutual show, "Quiet Please" ...
[June 18, 1947 - this review of QP episode "I Have Been Looking for You" contains spoilers!]
With Ernest Chappell, Claudia Morgan; Gene Perrazzo, organist
Producer-director-writer: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins., Sun., 3:30 p.m.
This is a novel series that Mutual has slotted for a strawhat tryout in the web's popular "Juvenile Jury" spot. It's a quietly emotional narration by Ernest Chappell, with expressive organ backgrounding, of stories imaginatively scripted. The yarns range from the whodunit to the romantic, last Sunday's (15) being in the latter class. It was a highly sentimental piece -- reminiscent somehow of the song "Laura" -- of an unnamed young man's long, aching search for the girl of his dreams. The girl (played by Claudia Morgan, guesting on the show) also futilely searches for him. They meet death at the same instant, at the same spot, without meeting.
The piece suffered most from its drawn out length: by the half hour's end it was beginning to seem as never-ending and dreary as the man's search. It was quite a load for Chappell to sustain almost alone, although he gave the performance warm character. Miss Morgan did equally well. Direction was careful, the backgrounding (including sound effects by the organ) very effective, and the seguing throughout deftly done.
Judged by this stanza, the show isn't apt to set the Hooperatings afire, but it can provide a warmly appealing half-hour if given tales of sufficient substance. The scripting has colorful quality.
[August 6, 1947]
Eversharp Yanks 'Lights Out' Switch
Eversharp yanked the switch on "Lights Out" after last Wednesday's (30) broadcast, dousing the series after only three of a scheduled eight-week summer run. The sponsor is committed to the show's owner, Wyllis Cooper, for the contractual period, but is understood to have worked out a compromise payoff covering the cost of the scripts. Deal is also getting worked out with the ABC network, which will fill the unexpired weeks with a sustainer, for the time charges. This is believed to be part of negotiations with Mark Woods, ABC prez, and Martin Strauss, boss of the pen and razor firm, involving a reshuffle of the net's whole Wednesday night schedule for the coming fall-winter.
"Lights Out," horror series with a long and spotty history on both ABC and NBC, stumbled as a summer replacement from its first broadcast July 16. Although it was a minimum budget production, using old scripts originally written by Cooper when the series was launched a decade ago as a late-evening sustainer out of Chicago, it aroused the ire of Strauss, who ordered the Biow agency to yank it after the third installment. ...
[The February 4, 1948 Variety features a full page advertisement (on p. 35) announcing QP's switch to Mondays, calling it "radio's most talked about program," and quoting from reviews by a half dozen critics: Sid Weiss of Radio Daily (who calls the series "one of the few adult-thinking shows on the air"), Paul Dennis of the New York Post (who calls it "better than Benzedrine"), Paul Ackerman of Billboard Magazine, Ben Gross of the Daily News, and unnamed writers for Variety and Newsweek. The ad also quotes John Crosby's syndicated Radio in Review critique in its entirety. Apparently, the version of that review posted in another thread is incomplete -- here's a few missing sentences as they appeared in the Variety ad:]
They have an odd flavor, extremely difficult to describe, and they represent, I should say, PURE RADIO ... That's the sort of stories they are -- just weird -- and if you're of literal mind I suggest you avoid them. Their great charm for me is that I don't know what Mr. Cooper will do next. Also, these stories are handled with extreme skill. Mr. Cooper presents you with a fantastic idea, but he never piles the unlikely on top of the unlikely. Once you accept the original premise, the rest follows logically. Incidentally, the fantasies are never fully explained. There's the secret. Never explain anything fully. Leave 'em guessing.
[The ad also mentions the drama award QP won from the American Schools and Colleges Association and that the series' "personal and package representative" is Ted Lloyd, Inc. of 610 Fifth Avenue in New York City.]
[January 11, 1950]
With Charita Bauer, Richard MacMurray, Charles Egleston, Lawrence Fletcher
Scripter: Howard Rodman
Producer-director: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins., Thurs. (5), 9 p.m.
CBS-TV, from N.Y.
New drama-fantasy series that preemed Thursday (5) with "Rugged Journey" shapes up promisingly. Opener showed imagination, style and some superior writing which made this an interesting half-hour. Story concerned a too-enterprising N.Y. reporter, who by investigating a story of a new invention by a transport tycoon, found himself marooned in the Arctic. Story covered a good deal of ground in 30 minutes, with tycoon and reporter flying to the far north on a magic carpet (a two-seater model); reporter resuming a love affair with an Eskimo gal started in the good old GI days, and tycoon and damsel flying back to the lusher purlieus of New York while the reporter was left behind to spend his days chewing seal meat in his igloo. Purpose of the new series is to dramatize escape from reality through fantasy and adventure, and it certainly succeeded here.
Good writing kept the show from going heavy-handed and an adept cast played it straight. Show sagged in the middle when the love interest entered, but righted itself toward the close to finish strongly. Production demands were simple, and direction good.
[May 13, 1953 -- A Variety TV critic watches an episode of "Robert Montgomery Presents" then changes the channel and catches the last half of a Cooper play on "Studio One":]
... A switchover to "Studio One" revealed the final half hour of an adaptation of Conrad Aiken's novel, "King Coffin," with Zachary Scott as a psychopathic writer bent on killing a stranger but winding up using a gun on himself. Atmosphere was highly unbelievable, with madness, potential murder, and final suicide an unpalatable combination of sensationalism.
No subject need be tabu on TV, but there should be more intelligent and responsible use of strong material.
[May 28, 1941]
'OUR GOOD NEIGHBORS'
With Frank Black Orchestra
Thursday, 10:30 p.m.
WEAF-NBC, New York
NBC has 22 Latin-American programs in prospect for Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. The first was an introduction to all 'The Other Americas' (the frequently repeated catchphrase of the script by Wyliss [sic] Cooper) and each of those to follow will single out one of 21 republics for salute. The programs are likely to represent lots of musical and historic research and painstaking attention to the niceties and subtleties of national custom, pride and sensitivity.
Inaugural proved fast-moving and kaleidoscopic. By nothing more original than the 'caption' method, the script managed to crowd together and put across a mental image of colorful far-off places, thriving, if strange cultures and civilizations just as rich and usually considerably older than our own Yankee ways of life.
Voices with the accents of Spanish and Portuguese sounded the roll call of the republics. Other voices flung out the great symbolic names of the patriots -- Bolivar, Hidalgo, O'Higgins, Juarez. North Americans were reminded that when the dour, pious and hungry Pilgrims touched Plymouth Rock in a wilderness of Indians and pine trees the city of Havana already was 100 years old (and doing the rhumba?). And, Senor Yanqui, did you also know that when Harvard was just a couple of converted cow barns the University at Lima was 87 years established? Si, si and also tsk, tsk!
This is good stuff. North Americans are profoundly ignorant of their good neighbors, urgently in need of smartening up. They are some 450 years after Columbus, of course, but better to discover South America late, and with NBC's help, than not at all. The series will not be easy perhaps. There will, no doubt, be brass hats and protocol to ensnare author, director and network. But apparently there is lots of exotic anecdota and music to be woven together. The getaway program was workmanlike and vivid, making frequent uses of montage devices. Much of the music, notably an operatic overture by a Brazilian, was highly promising.
NBC bows off with an elegant declaration that it enjoys the endorsement of Vice-President Henry Wallace and Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
[December 25, 1940]
'CHARLIE AND JESSIE'
with Donald Cook, Florence Lake, Nelson Case.
M-W-F, 11 a.m.
WABC-CBS, New York
From the characters and basic situation of several of his 'Short Short Story' programs for the same sponsor, Red [sic] Cooper has written this click comedy series as a replacement in the 11 a.m. spot on CBS for Campbell Soup. Show is deftly scripted, skillfully produced and directed and persuasively played. Only question of its success may be whether adult humor will appeal to dish-washers. For 'Charlie and Jessie' is essentially a night time show -- and a good one.
Donald Cook is Charlie, whose activities as star salesman for Bissell, Cartwright, Emerson and Speewack keep him so frantic he can't get away for a honeymoon with his bride of seven weeks, Jessie, played by Florence Lake. Both are solidly plausible and, by playing the funny lines and situations straight, accent their comedy. George Zachary's direction has crispness and fluency, with such touches as the musical bridging and other uses of music as whimsical italics to the story. Of course Cooper's witty plot and characters are the foundation.
Campbell's commercials, plugging its tomato juice, are the endless, hard-punching sort, but Nelson Case makes them as palatable as possible.
[February 23, 1932 - In addition to playing a supporting role (as a Spanish soldier named Mendoza), Cooper wrote the scripts for this series which was also known as "The Lost Legion" and "Tales of the Foreign Legion."]
With Ray Appleby, Vinton Haworth, Jack Daly, Don Ameche, W. O. Cooper.
This regular Sabbath day feature over the Columbia link has several points of merit found lacking in many other radio dramatic attempts. It is the mistake of radio dramas often to crowd too much into a 30-minute interlude. They attempt to make up for the bad writing and weak characterization by jumbling the plot in feverish and hectic twitchings. As a result the audience loses all interest in the characters and their troubles. Things happen so quickly and with such poor motivation that the element of suspense is entirely missing.
This series of tales is more rational and deliberate. Each session comprises an entirely distinct story, but belongs in sequence with the other interludes. Each broadcast, moreover, has only one major plot, instead of two or three dozen as in many other dramatic broadcasts. The characters remain long enough to impress themselves on the listener and each is sufficiently rounded and etched to enable the listener to draw a mental picture.
As the title states, these stories concern the French Foreign Legion. This time in Arabia. The various nationality types are there, the local color impresses as likely enough and a good deal of attention has been paid to the proper stressing of military details. All evidence careful and considerate writing.
Program is opened by a character radio trailer, each player being announced by actual and fictitious name, followed by a bit of speaking by the character in order to identify him with the audience. It's another sample of the thought expended on this program.
As for its appeal, there are hardly any limits. It encompasses the hearts of all ages and both sexes. Everything from adventure to romance and the good old triangle drama. Entire session shapes up as a cinch winner.
[April 17, 1940 article which reprints a 1935 review of "Immortal Dramas" - Cooper wrote the scripts for this series but Chicago drama critic Lloyd Lewis was credited as the author in 1935 publicity.]
Previous Radio Bible Dramatics For Montgomery Ward Ran 13 Wks.
Chicago, April 16
In connection with the question of General Mills' present adventure in Gospel melodrama [NBC's serial "Light of the World"], the Montgomery Ward Bible series is recalled. 'Immortal Dramas' (1935 review reprinted herewith) was an NBC owned and produced show and was submitted around generally. Montgomery Ward was a Lord & Thomas account but the agency couldn't be stirred on it. Hays MacFarland agency heard the show, got an option on it and sold it to MW through president Sewell Avery and general manager Walter Hoving (now president of Lord & Taylor in New York). It was the personal selection of Avery and Hoving, with none of the other execs at M-W consulted.
Clarence Menser, at that time production manager of NBC, produced the show with Roy Shields' musical background. Lloyd Lewis (drama critic of Daily News) was hired to write the synopses at a reported $600 weekly. Scripts were put in radio form by Bill Copper, [sic] at that time head of NBC continuity department.
The show was really and strictly institutional with merely a presentation announcement for Montgomery Ward at beginning and close. No plug for organization in any way, merely stating that it presented show.
The show went off at the end of the first 13 weeks, having done no selling job (though no selling job had been sought). Hoving was ill in the Bahamas at renewal time and no one else would take it upon himself to okay renewal. MacFarland, also, reportedly had no data as a good reason for renewal. Show had an 8 rating.
Montgomery Ward made a survey on its own for listeners and reported 94% of listeners in favor, 4% opposed and 1% noncommittal. At no time was mail sought or requested, with the mail therefore counted in hundreds rather than thousands.
Another reason for failure of show to renew is said to be internal wrangling among department heads, with the mail order department against the show due to its failure to seek mail response.
As far as church reaction, it was generally okay. There were reports of the show being publicly praised in pulpits, and that the Bible Readers Union attempted to work out some sort of tie-up with the show, but this was rejected by NBC and sponsor.
These were almost word-for-word dramatizations of the Bible, and no attempt to color as is with the current General Mills show. ...
(From Variety, Jan. 29, 1935)
Harvey Hayes, [Noble Cain's] A Capella Choir, Roy Shields Orchestra
'Immortal Dramas' is from holy scripture. And for once the radio author is King. Auspices seem to have been smart enough first to hire a reputable writer, Lloyd Lewis, historian and dramatic critic of the Chicago Daily News, and then to keep the advertising from making a mockery, as could easily be done, of a reverent narrative.
Minimum of commercial copy. Only commercial plug on the entire show is the brief mention at the beginning and at the end: 'presented by Montgomery Ward.' No other copy is necessary, in fact, more copy would be detrimental. The very paucity of commercial copy enhances the single slug line so that the brief mention stands out more effectively than a 200-word spiel. The only danger now is that the mail order house may believe that it can, as time goes by, increase the amount of copy. If such a trick is attempted the company may lose the effectiveness of this program.
Riding for 30-minute period on Sunday early afternoon it is an almost ideal time for a Biblical series. Bible is loaded with dramatic values, with love and life and suspense and action.
Script-writing by Lloyd Lewis is a radio gem. Stark simplicity authentic in research and tempo marks Lewis' scripts.
Harvey Hayes serves as narrator, leading into the dialogue and he does the job well. Noble Cam [sic] A Capella Choir has been an NBC fixture here for several years and in this show finds a place in which it fits perfectly. Music by Shield and orchestra is excellent in keeping to the spirit of the show.
[ca. January 1940]
'SHORT, SHORT STORIES'
With Paul Stewart, Dolores Gillin
CAMPBELL'S TOMATO SOUP
Daily, 11 a.m.
WABC-CBS, New York
New series started last week occupies the first 15 minutes of a half-hour slot taken by Campbell's, the latter half filled by a daily dramatic serial, 'Life Begins.' This three-a-week stanza is a series of separate, unconnected yarns of the type suggested by the title. According to last Friday's (26) edition, the scripts are considerably above the regular daytime serial level. It's all hoke, of course, but at least it's not a serial.
Story caught was 'Sing, Dance, Plenty Hot,' a romantic bit of flapdoodle about a song-and-dance team. Good scripting job from a commercial standpoint. Paul Stewart snapped across the part of the personality boy hoofer skillfully, while Dolores Gillin was acceptable as his wavering-but-loyal-in-the-end partner. Another part, that of the gal's amorous friend, was a humdrum character. Diana Bourbon produced, Willis Cooper scripted, and George Putnam was announcer.
Incidentally, all leading actors [on] the show seem to get elaborate billing.
[Other Variety items about SSS: series was rebroadcast to West Coast starting in May (05-01-40); Dorothy Mallinson substituted for director Orrie Hancock in July (07-17-40); comedian Tom Howard's daughter "Ruth Howard and Sanford Dickinson, who do a daytime program on WOKO, Albany, have been set for a guester" on SSS (11-6-40).]
[ca. November 1951]
With Harvey Hayes, Winston Ross, Horace Braham, Cathleen Cordell, Pat O'Malley
Writer-director: Wyllis Cooper
30 Mins.; Sun. 5:30 p.m.
NBC, from New York
NBC has come up with a top-flight mysterioso in "Whitehall 1212," based on actual cases from the files of Scotland Yard. It's beamed Sundays at 5:30 p.m. (although heard in N. Y. on WNBC at 10:30 p.m.). Research is handled by Percy Hoskins, chief crime reporter for the London Daily Express, with Wyllis Cooper ably writing and directing the series. On the preem Sunday (25) "Whitehall" proved itself a mature vehicle, treated in semi-documentary fashion, with emphasis on detection and deduction rather than blood-and-thunder.
In fact, there wasn't a single shot or slugging on the airer. There wasn't even a body (the Yard was called in after the murder, the victim having been tossed off a ship at sea.) Stress was placed on the technique of crime solution, with the Yardmen working on the case by remote control, since the vessel was still a week's sailing from port. Evidence finally narrowed the suspects down to two stewards, with the killer eventually trapped by a clever ruse. Suspense mounted nicely and stanza was directed with typical British understatement, some warm touches and a believable approach. If it lacked anything, it was having a yarn in which the victim's and the murderer's motivations were unimportant.
Framework of the series is the Yard's "black museum" of items figuring in the British force's cases. Harvey Hayes plays the museum curator, a standing role. Inspectors' parts will be rotated. Winston Ross, who handled the initial detective assignment, was clicko, with Cathleen Cordell putting over a characterization of a ship stewardess. Others in the capable cast included Horace Braham and Pat O'Malley.
April 30, 1930 census data: employed as advertising copywriter; rents at 282 Bellevue Place in Cook County, Chicago, IL; lives with wife Emily C. (born in Illinois, age 24, father born in Scotland, mother born in New York) and divorced, unemployed brother-in-law Kenneth Beveridge (an advertising salesman, born in New York, age 36, married at age 28); the household has a radio set.
[June 29, 1933 Chicago Tribune]
... The cast of "Tales of the Foreign Legion," popular Columbia feature, is enjoying a five week furlough. They return to the air with WBBM as outlet at 9:30 p. m. Sunday, Feb. 19. ...
[October 14, 1934 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper, author of those horrifying "Lights Out" ghost dramas at NBC is writing a novel. An interested publisher has induced him to begin work on a long promised opus. ...
[December 27, 1934 Chicago Tribune]
Under the title "Immortal Dramas" epic stories of the Old Testament are to be brought to the air in a dramatized series of programs over coast to coast NBC networks, probably beginning Sunday, Jan. 13. Sponsored by Montgomery, Ward & Co., these biblical presentations call for a cast of more than 80 persons for each presentation. The actors are yet to be chosen. Roy Shield's orchestra will provide the musical background with the assistance of Noble Cain and his a capella choir. Harvey Hays will be the narrator.
Lloyd Lewis will adapt the biblical tales for radio presentation. The story of David and Goliath has been scheduled for the premiere of the series. WMAQ will be the local outlet and the program will run from 1 to 1:30 Sunday afternoons.
[January 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
The new 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 as David towered over squat Cliff Soubier as Goliath. ...
[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 some episode titles:]
02-06-1935 Lost in the Catacombs
02-13-1935 The Death Cell
02-20-1935 The Mine of Lost Skulls
03-06-1935 After Five O'Clock
03-13-1935 Sepulzeda's Revenge
03-20-1935 The Haunted Chair
04-10-1935 Play Without a Name
[February 9, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
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.
[March 13, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper, NBC continuity chief and author of those gruesome "Lights Out" productions heard at midnight Wednesdays over WENR, has spent a most unhappy week. Hard boiled radio listeners have been kicking about last week's playlet, "After Five O'Clock," saying it was too mild. Some have charged him with going soft. Other gluttons for the macabre have gone so far as to brand him a sissy. Cooper admits that last week's opus wasn't quite up to standard -- it concerned a guy harassed by his subconscious mind and wound up mildly with three suicides. Cooper's plea was that he was merely trying to mix them up a bit. [A version of this episode survives from the 1945 revival season of "Lights Out" under the title "Man in the Middle"]
Cooper brooded for several days and then resolved to give them something they would remember him by. Tonight he will present his masterpiece of fiendishness which he calls "Sepulzeda's Revenge." "It will satisfy all who insist on HORROR with capital letters," Cooper said yesterday. In this one, Cooper warms up on a cleaver and trunk murder and tops it off with an episode in which a husband beheads his wife. Last Wednesday night Willis didn't rest well but tonight he will sleep like a baby. ...
[March 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
"How do I die this time?" Sidney Ellstrom inquired yesterday of Willis Cooper, author of the macabre "Lights Out" series heard Wednesday at midnight on WENR-NBC. "A ghost strangles you in 'The Haunted Chair,'" Cooper replied. "Fine," said Ellstrom, returning to his business for the day.
He has been put to death in this 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.
But sometimes his work is sweet. Now and then Author Cooper turns the tables and allows Ellstrom to get revenge on his persecutors, usually portrayed by Art Jacobson, Don Briggs, Bernardine Flynn, Betty Lou Gerson, or Betty Winkler, other members of the "Lights Out" cast. Once, for example, as a Chinese madman, he was given a chance to inflict "death" through a thousand slashes on Jacobson, usually one of his most fervid annihilators. ...
[March 21, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... "Immortal Dramas," those old testament stories, will go off the air early in April. ...
[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]
... 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.
[July 2, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper's Flying Time was launched last week. ...
[July 21, 1935 Chicago Tribune photo caption]
Things look bad -- but they'll be worse. Betty Winkler is the lady in distress and Don Briggs (right) is plotting destruction for Sidney Ellstrom (center). They are reaching the awful climax of a Lights Out episode, heard Wednesday nights on NBC.
[August 1, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Realistic sound effects for NBC's radio serial "Flying Time," will be provided by the roar of the world's fastest racing planes when the Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 shows are broadcast from the Cleveland airport during the National Air races. The scripts for the two broadcasts which will originate from the flying field will be written at the airport and will be prepared so as to include much of the action of the air races. They will also bring to the microphone as guest performers many famous pilots, including Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Jimmy and May Haislip [sic] and Al Williams. ...
[August 24, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper, who writes the macabre "Lights Out" show at NBC, will be a special guest of the Belfry Players when they present one of his "Lights Out" plays in the Belfry theater at Williams Bay, Wis., Monday evening. This theater really is an old church, built by Mormons about 1850. It still contains the original pews, oil lamps, and furnishings and is a point of historical interest in the Lake Geneva district. ...
[August 29, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Willis Cooper has turned in his resignation as continuity chief at local NBC offices to devote his time to writing "Lights Out," chill and horror show, and "Flying Time," a juvenile thriller. With other members of the "Flying Time" cast Cooper left yesterday for Cleveland, where the program will be aired from the airport during the national air races. Loretta Poynton, Willard Farnum, Ted Maxwell, and Harold Perry made the trip with him. ...
[September 11, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Larry Holcomb, who handled Mrs. Roosevelt's NBC commercial series last year, is the new continuity chief at Chicago NBC offices. He succeeded Willis Cooper, who resigned to devote his time his own shows -- "Lights Out" and "Flying Time." ...
[September 30, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
Radio Talk for Matrix Club
Willis Cooper, radio writer, will talk on "Continuity Writers as the Continuity Editors See Them" before members of the Matrix club at 7:30 o'clock tonight at 75 East Wacker drive. ...
[October 24, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper, formerly continuity editor at NBC, gave up the job to do free lancing with the view that he would have more time for recreation. But he is finding little time for rest -- he is writing five episodes a week of "Flying Time," an aviation serial; five of "Betty and Bob," another serial, and also turning out a play a week for the macabre "Lights Out" series. On top of that he journeys to Des Moines each Sunday to produce a show there.
[October 27, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
DAYTIME SHOWS DRENCHED WITH BEAUTY PALAVER
Morning Listening Tough for Males
by Larry Wolters
... "Painted Dreams," Clara, Lu, 'n' Em, Vic and Sade, "Today's Children," and "Flying Time" are among those [daytime serials] for which one hears much enthusiasm expressed by various types of listeners. ...
[November 6, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper's goose pimpler "Lights Out," switches from WENR to WMAQ-NBC at 11:30 tonight. Bill has turned out a spine chiller about a lady who comes back to haunt succeeding generations of a family for tonight. Every time she appears the youngest son dies. ...
[November 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... The shakeup in the cast of Betty and Bob continues. Elizabeth Reller has replaced Beatrice Churchill as Betty. A couple of months ago Les Tremayne supplanted Don Ameche in the leading man role. ...
[December 25, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... 11:30 p. m. - WMAQ - "Lights Out," a Christmas play about three men in France. ...
[January 5, 1936 Chicago Tribune, letter to the radio column]
A CHANGE NEEDED.
Why have the characters in Betty and Bob been changed recently? I feel that both the former and present characters have tried their best to make the story interesting, but what really needs a change is the story itself.
ALICE AGNE, Chicago.
[January 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Betty and Bob, NBC serial, has been renewed by its sponsor for another solid year. ...
[March 9, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
A new spine chilling series which will surely rival NBC's "Lights Out" is to be launched over W-G-N at 8:45 tomorrow night under the title "Witch's Tale." The program also will be heard Wednesday evening at the same hour. First story will be "Frankenstein." "The Hairy Monster," "The Werewolf," and "Grave Yard Mansion" are others to follow.
[March 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper, who writes "Lights Out," "Flying Time," and "Betty and Bob," will leave for California for the summer, May 1. He will continue his writing while in the west. ...
[April 23, 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.
[May 13, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper is still writing "Lights Out" and "Flying Time" for radio production here, while turning out movie dialog in the west. ...
[May 28, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... Bill Cooper, who writes Flying Time and Lights Out, has been signed by the 20th Century-Fox pictures to write dialog. That's the same studio for which Don Ameche is working. ...
[June 4, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
... William Murphy has taken over the writing of the NBC serial "Flying Time," aired from Chicago studios. Willis Cooper, the previous author, had to give it up because his movie writing is taking up all of his time. ...
[June 6, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Arch Oboler, young Chicago playwright, is the new author of "The Lights Out" [sic] horror series on NBC succeeding Willis Cooper who has gone to Hollywood. Oboler also writes Irene Rich's "Lady Counselor" sketches. ...
[November 11, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Armistice day programs on W-G-N include: ... 9:30 -- special Armistice program with a sketch by Francis Coughlin, reading of Willis Cooper's "Unknown Soldier" by Hugh Studebaker, and a special musical setting by Leo Shukin and Harold Stokes, who will direct the program. ... [photo of actor Hugh Studebaker]
[November 13, 1936 Chicago Tribune]
Hugh Studebaker's reading of Bill Cooper's poem to "The Unknown Soldier" on W-G-N Wednesday evening was a noble piece of work. If only the multitudinous rhapsodizers who are jostling each other on the airlanes nowadays might have been tuning in! There was a real lesson for them. ...
[April 29, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
On the eve of the general observance of National Music week on the airlanes W-G-N is to present a gala three-part broadcast from 9 to 10:30 tonight over the coast to coast Mutual Broadcasting system. The special broadcast, in which the concert orchestra under Henry Weber, the dance orchestra under Harold Stokes and with Paul Whiteman as guest leader, distinguished soloists, and an outstanding dramatic cast directed by Blair Walliser are to participate, will be presented from W-G-N's big audience studio before a gathering of business, civic and social leaders. ...
... [In the first half hour, actor] Hugh Studebaker will present Willis Cooper's tribute "To the Unknown Soldier." ...
[June 2, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
... [Actress Barbara Luddy] has rented her home, which is not yet finished, to Willis Cooper, who used to write Lights Out here and now is working in pictures. ...
[November 12, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
... Willis Cooper, [20th Century-Fox] studio writer, formerly with NBC here, is now turning out the Hollywood Hotel radio show. ...
[April 7, 1938 The Lowell Sun]
... 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. ...
[August 17, 1938 The Lowell Sun]
Nod for the music spot on Hollywood hotel, returning September 9, went to Victor Young last week after Ward Wheelock, agency head, studied several other candidates, including Lud Gluskin and Harry Sosnik. Raymond Paige batoned the soup show for the past three years.
William Powell has been signed to m.c. the show for three years in 39-week stanzas. Joins the program after the sixth broadcast, with some other picture name filling in meanwhile.
Vocalists will be Frances Langford, only holdover from last season, and Jean Sablon, French tenor.
[September 6, 1938 Christian Science Monitor]
Change in Program
In an almost complete change of program, "Hollywood Hotel," one of the oldest sponsored programs, resumes its current season beginning Friday Sep. 9, at 9 p. m. over the CBS to WEEI combination.
Practically the only holdover from the old program is Frances Langford. Herbert Marshall, English screen star, will be master of ceremonies for the first six programs and will be followed by William Powell. Instead of presenting excerpts from current films as done previously, full-length dramatizations of successful stage and screen productions will be the policy this year. Accordingly Claudette Colbert will appear with Herbert Marshall in B. B. Trevelyan's "Dark Angel."
Teamed with Frances Langford will be Jean Sablon, French crooner, and Victor Young's Orchestra will continue to supply the musical program.
[September 8, 1938 Long Beach Independent]
... "Hollywood Hotel," premier musical and dramatic program, will return to the Columbia network from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., with a program featuring Herbert Marshall as master-of-ceremonies, and Claudette Colbert as guest artist in a full-length dramatization of the motion picture "Dark Angel," in which Marshall appeared on the screen. The "Orchid Room" revue welcomes back lovely Frances Langford as its singing star, and the romantic French troubadour, Jean Sablon. Victor Young, talented composer-conductor, will direct his orchestra in new and unusual arrangements. This broadcast marks the beginning of "Hollywood Hotel's" fifth year on the CBS network. ...
[September 9, 1938 Lima News (OH)]
Herbert Marshall Will Head "Hollywood Hotel" Hour Cast
Cinema Player To Act As Master Of Ceremonies And Have Role In Weekly Dramatizations
Herbert Marshall will head as master-of-ceremonies, an array of musical stars including Frances Langford, Jean Sablon and Victor Young's Orchestra, as well as prominent guests, on "Hollywood Hotel," programs which return to WABC from 8 to 9 p.m. Friday.
"Hollywood Hotel," which is now entering its fifth year, will adopt a new format this season. Each week the "Orchid Room" will present Marshall in a full-length dramatization based on successful stage and screen productions or outstanding fiction. Prominent actresses of the stage and screen will be cast opposite the popular leading man.
Marshall will act as master-of-ceremonies and dramatic star for the first six programs. He is to be succeeded by William Powell beginning Friday, Oct. 21.
The musical revue accompanying the dramatic performances will feature the "blues" singing of Frances Langford, who has been a member of "Hollywood Hotel" almost from the beginning. During the past summer Frances (Mrs. Jon Hall) has been combining an extensive personal appearance tour thruout the country with a belated honeymoon.
Teamed with the "blues" singer will be Jean Sablon, handsome French troubadour. Paris born, Sablon made an enviable name in Paris theatres, clubs and music halls before coming to this country. His winning manner and unusual style of singing both English and French songs have won the praise of critics wherever he has appeared.
Victor Young's orchestra will accompany the singing stars. Young, who has one of the outstanding musical organizations of the country, has been prominently featured on the west coast both in radio and motion pictures. Altho noted for his work in the popular field, Young's training has been primarily classical. He studied violin before he was five years old and made his first public appearance with the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra. One of the most prolific arrangers in the musical world, he has also written several of the outstanding song hits of recent years. ...
[September 22, 1938 The Lowell Sun]
... Brewster Morgan, the producer at the helm of the newly-revamped "Hollywood Hotel" program. Morgan, a Phi Beta Kappa and former Rhodes scholar-at-large, organized a little theatre during his pre-Oxford days at the University of Kansas, later directed the series of Shakespearean plays annually presented by the students of Oxford university in England, before returning to the professional legitimate stage in this country, then going into radio. ...
[November 4, 1938 Appleton Post-Crescent (OH)]
William Powell, Miriam Hopkins and Charles Butterworth will present a radio version of "Trouble in Paradise" on Hollywood Hotel program at 8 o'clock over WBBM and WCCO.
[November 11, 1938 Appleton Post-Crescent (OH)]
In observance of the 20th anniversary of the Armistice, "Journey's End", war play by R. C. Sheriff, will be dramatized on Hollywood Hotel program at 8 o'clock over WBBM and WCCO. The cast will include William Powell, Burgess Meredith, H. B. Warner and Melville Cooper.
[November 17, 1938 Lima News (OH)]
Diana Bourbon has been retained to produce the Orson Welles Mercury Theatre of the Air when it starts for the soup sponsor as a replacement for Brewster Morgan's production, "Hollywood Hotel." ... Two sponsors began to make bids for Frances Langford's services within a few hours after the announcement that "Hollywood Hotel" would close its doors. The songstress expects to make her decision by the time she closes an engagement at a San Francisco theatre this week. ...
[November 25, 1938 Appleton Post-Crescent (OH)]
William Powell, Gale Page and C. Aubrey Smith will be heard in a radio version of "Death Takes a Holiday" on Hollywood Hotel program at 8 o'clock over WBBM and WCCO. As an added feature, "Amos 'n' Andy" will present a dramatization of their own lives.
[December 2, 1938 Christian Science Monitor]
Passing of the "Hollywood Hotel" program at 9 on the Columbia network brings to an end a program which, like the Rudy Vallee hour, or "Amos 'n' Andy," was a style setter. For "Hollywood Hotel" probably was the first radio program to bring movie stars to the air in some sort of co-ordinated entertainment instead of the chitter-chatter interviews formerly affected. It brought an end to the "amazement era" when radio listeners began to discover that movie stars on the radio sounded like a lot of other people and wanted to know what else they could do. It was responsible for such programs as Cecil B. DeMille's Radio Theatre, the Silver Theatre, and the MGM "Good News" programs of movie entertainment. Orson Welles takes over the period next week with a whole hour devoted to drama.
Tonight's drama on WEEI will be a favorite, "The Canary Murder Case." It will bring William Powell to the microphone again in the role of Philo Vance, which he originated on the screen. In support will be Glenda Farrell, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Butterworth, and Thomas Mitchell.
Fall 1938 episodes of HOLLYWOOD HOTEL:
09-09 to 10-14 Herbert Marshall hosts and acts
10-21 to 12-02 William Powell hosts and acts
09-09 THE DARK ANGEL Claudette Colbert
09-16 BULLDOG DRUMMOND Charles Butterworth, H.B. Warner, Frieda Inescort, Hanley Stafford
09-23 THE BIG SOFTIE Vince Barnett, Josephine Hutchinson
09-30 HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT Joan Bennett, Thomas Mitchell
10-07 I MET HIM IN PARIS Ginger Rogers, David Niven, John McLean
10-14 BERKELEY SQUARE Heather Angel, Charles Butterworth
10-21 OF HUMAN BONDAGE Margaret Sullivan
10-28 BY CANDLELIGHT Ida Lupino, Melville Cooper
11-04 TROUBLE IN PARADISE Miriam Hopkins, Charles Butterworth
11-11 JOURNEY'S END Burgess Meredith, H.B. Warner, Melville Cooper
11-18 TOVARICH Luise Rainer, Joseph Calleia, Charles Butterworth
11-25 DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY Gale Page, C. Aubrey Smith, guests Amos 'n' Andy
12-02 THE CANARY MURDER CASE Glenda Farrell, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Butterworth, Thomas Mitchell
[December 30, 1940 Washington Post]
The Post Radio Time Table
... 9, WMAL--Edmund Lowe, Sergeant Quirt of "What Price Glory?" and star of many other films has the lead in four consecutive broadcasts of "You're in the Army Now" telling of life in one of Uncle Sam's training camps. ...
[February 2, 1941 Washington Post]
Networks Entertain While They Inform of National Defense Effort
... On Monday evenings at 9 WMAL programs a half-hour feature, "You're in the Army Now," a continued dramatization of serial characters whose predicaments are often humorous. ...
[October 3, 1941 Chicago Herald]
Radio Beams from Coast-to-Coast by Jack Heinz
... Spirit of '41 author Wyllis Cooper has traveled over 20,000 miles getting material and covering bdcsts [sic] ...
[December 10, 1947 Chicago Tribune]
SCHOOL BODY MAKES 1947 RADIO AWARDS
The American Schools and Colleges association has announced its annual radio awards based on a poll of more than 150 educational and civic leaders. The awards, said Kenneth J. Beebe, president, are made "to encourage radio to strive for public service and public enlightenment thru intelligent programming." ... Classification and winners are: ... dramatic -- Theatre Guild of the Air (ABC), Quiet, Please (Mutual); ...
[May 8, 1949 Chicago Tribune]
NEW TELEVISION SHOW TO FOLLOW PATTERN OF QUIET, PLEASE!
Willis Cooper, radio writer, will write, direct, and star in a new weekly series titled Volume One, Numbers One to Six, over the full TV facilities of the American Broadcasting company beginning early next month.
The half hour programs will consist of dramas patterned after radio's Quiet, Please episodes broadcast by ABC on Sunday afternoons. The dramas will be aimed at adult audiences.
Cooper originated the chiller series Lights Out, writing and directing the show in Chicago from 1933 [sic] to 1936. Then he moved to Hollywood and worked as a film writer. During World War II., he wrote and produced the Army hour.
[January 19, 1935 Newsweek]
OLD TESTAMENT: David and Goliath Fight It Out Again
The world's all-time best-selling book has finally wooed and won a radio sponsor. Last Sunday afternoon, Montgomery-Ward, the world's second largest mail-order company, presented the first of a series of dramatizations of the Old Testament. Twenty-eight National Broadcasting Co. stations, from coast to coast, broadcast the program.
In WMAQ, Chicago's NBC station in the Merchandise Mart Building, 80 performers re-enacted the story of David and Goliath. The Windy City's biggest radio production had station executives dizzy. There was barely enough room left in Studio A for the 26-piece orchestra. "Israelites and Philistines" swarmed through corridors and offices. Carpenters hurriedly slapped together a makeshift high stool for the production man, so all performers could see him.
So enthusiastic were sponsors about their latest network show, that they recorded a preview performance and air-mailed the disks to New York City headquarters in the RCA Building. Here the performance was transmitted over telephone lines to 75 monitor loudspeakers in NBC offices.
Executives and radio editors found the advance biblical broadcast thrilling. The old tale had the elements of a 1935 talkie spectacle. Lloyd Lewis, Chicago Daily News's dramatic critic and playwright-collaborator of Sinclair Lewis, adapted the story for radio presentation.
Goliath roared through the microphone in the best Wallace Beery style. David's shrill but confident voice made him a plausible hero. A continuous musical background supplied tonal atmosphere. Richard Strauss's "Don Juan" served to introduce the giant, Goliath. Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor and Ottovino Respighi's "Pines of Rome" helped "to build the mental picture of the Israelite and Philistine hosts massed in the Vale of Elah."
Listeners heard the immortal slingshot battle of the centuries between the radio Goliath, who stands only 5 feet 5, and David, portrayed by an actor 3 inches taller than his "giant" foe.
"The best part of this show," commented NBC, "is that there are no interrupting commercial announcements. The sponsors name is given only at the start and finish of the program."
[April 12, 1935 Syracuse Herald - Contrary to the article, "Lights Out" was actually off the air for several weeks circa January 1935.]
Horrors for Night Owls
NBC to Bring Dramatic Chillers From Chicago to Network
"Lights Out," a series of ghost and horror dramas which has thrilled and chilled midnight listeners for more than a year, will come to an NBC-WEAF network Wednesday night, as a regular feature.
Broadcast at the late hour of 12:30 A. M., "Lights Out" is distinctly not a program for the children, nor for adults who are faint of heart. Critics have declared that it achieves the ultimate in horror, not only in radio, but in any form of dramatic presentation.
However, the [...?] Chicago, like it. When the program was off the air for two weeks last fall because Willis Cooper, the author, was too busy to write it, the station presenting the feature was overwhelmed with protests. Cooper says that no matter how macabre are the dramas he writes, listeners always want them more so.
[April 20, 1935 Newsweek]
HORROR: Bedtime Blood-Curdlers With Realistic Sound Effects
For horror dramas, radio directors usually choose late hours. Scary children are asleep. And many adults -- sick of crooning, Harlem jazz, and political harangues -- welcome the change. Half an hour after midnight Wednesday, the National Broadcasting Co. aired on WEAF the first of a series of blood-curdlers, "Lights Out." Officials call it "the ultimate in horror."
Willis Cooper, 36-year-old script author, supervises NBC continuities in the Chicago area. "Lights Out" has run over WENR there for a year. His theory:
"I think the horror slant is good in radio. On the stage there is little difference between the horrible and the ludicrous. Radio hits ears only. Listeners build their own pictures."
Cooper creates his horror-illusions by raiding the larder. Maple syrup dripping on a plate suggests the plopping of blood from a wound. To split a man's skull Cooper drives a cleaver through a head of cabbage. To crush bones he pounds raw spareribs.
The program has violent effects on some listeners. Last month one fan telephoned WENR that "Lights Out" made his mother faint. A suburban woman called a police car to her home: "I was frightened out of my wits."
But many fans cry for "more cannibalism." Cooper reaches for another cabbage head and gives it to them.
[October 5, 1935 Bismarck Tribune]
Betty and Bob Safety Program Commended
W. H. Cameron, managing director of the National Safety Council, Western Division, has released an official statement in which he said, in regard to the present series of episodes of the well-known Betty and Bob show, "No better means could be used to dramatize to all of us the growing menace of the auto accident problem. I commend this program and urge mothers and fathers everywhere to listen to it."
In the present Betty and Bob sequence, Bobby, the two-year-old baby of these famous characters is struck by a hit-and-run driver. The story is built around the efforts of Betty and Bob and a famous surgeon to save the baby's life, and the pursuit and bringing to justice of the hit-and-run driver.
[December 15, 1935 Los Angeles Times "Rhaps and Rhapsodies" column, a 1930s version of TVGuide's "Cheers and Jeers" column]
... Rhap to the continuity man who turns out the "Betty and Bob" series. The title characters are referred to by name in practically every line of dialogue. The repetition is boresome. ...
[January 15, 1935 Los Angeles Times "Rhaps and Rhapsodies" column]
... There is little excuse for employing grown-ups to play kid parts on the air when so many talented child actors are available. The most flagrant example of the hoax appeared in a recent episode of "Betty and Bob" ...
[February 2, 1936 Washington Post "High Frequencies" radio column]
... "Betty and Bob" has been renewed as a WMAL feature for another year. It is believed to hold a record for mail of definite approval and disapproval. The listener is never indifferent to the situations of the characters.
[June 2, 1941 Time Magazine article with photo of Cooper. The caption reads: NBC's Cooper / This time he's serious.]
Month ago Merlin Hall ("Deac") Aylesworth acquired the title of DRAOCCCR-BAR, New Deal for Director of Radio Activities in the Office for Coordination of Commercial & Cultural Relations Between the American Republics. In plain English: chief of the radio sector of the Hemisphere Solidarity campaign.
Deac Aylesworth's immediate job is to let as much light as possible into the murk beclouding the average U.S. citizen's notion of life Down There; also to see that southbound programs do not conflict, hurt anybody's feelings or suffer from the dreary blight of what is known as "education" -- in general, to make them make sense.
"The National Farm and Home Hour," ventured the Deacon, "would not make much sense in Uruguay."
Meantime, while radio's pioneer ringmaster (ten years president of NBC) was readying a comprehensive air program between the U.S. and Latin America, U.S. broadcasters voluntarily came forth with two of their most impressive stunts in ten years of more or less catch-as-catch-can short-waving back & forth across the Rio Grande. Initiated by the two major networks were two series of regular weekly half-hour shows.
CBS's Calling Pan-America (4 p.m. Saturday, E.D.S.T.) began with a broadcast from Buenos Aires and will jump each week from Latin-American capital to capital, featuring local talent which will be mostly musical but also oratorical. Columbia's initial effort celebrated Argentina's 131-year-old Independence Day. NBC for its 22 Good Neighbors shows (10:30 p.m. Thursday, E.D.S.T.) threw in Dr. Frank Black and his 60-piece orchestra, a troop of some 20 actors and the gilt-edged intonings of Announcer Milton Cross. It will broadcast from Manhattan with appropriate guest diplomats on duty in Washington, and every week the program will be tailored to a different Latin-American country.
It is safe to predict that neither program will be as sensational as the career of Wyllis Cooper, veteran radio dramaturge who writes NBC's show. From 1933 to 1936 Radioman Cooper wrote and directed the silo-of-blood programs called Lights Out. Late at night, so children couldn't hear them and have their little livers scared out of them, they gushed from Chicago's WMAQ and were beyond doubt the most goose-fleshing chiller-dillers in air history. At each broadcast's opening a deep, dark, dank voice would instruct listeners to put their lights out and settle back in their chairs, whereupon gore would commence to flow, bones to snap, screams and groans to rowel the air.
Lights Out was a sound-effect's man's paradise. On one occasion the audible illusion of a victim's hand being smashed on an anvil had to be achieved. Everything was tried from slapping a pork chop with a cleaver to pounding wet paper with a hammer. At last came triumph: a lemon was laid on an anvil and struck with a small sledge.
Another time there was the problem of the exact noise of a man being skinned alive: pulling apart stuck-together pieces of adhesive tape was the solution. Beheading acoustics were attained by slicing cantaloupes with a cleaver. Fingers were scissored off by substituting pencils for fingers. Dropping a raw egg on a plate simulated perfectly the blup of an eye-gouging. Flowing corn syrup furnished the voop-vulp of freely flowing blood. When a mechanical giant pulled a wretch's arm off, the leg of a cold storage chicken was pulled off beside the mike.
There were about 600 Lights Out clubs in the U.S. when Mr. Cooper stopped writing the show to go to Hollywood to do picture scripts. A Kansas City, Mo. chapter whose meeting he attended had officers and by-laws and fined any member who spoke or lit a cigaret during broadcasts.
In appearance and character Cooper belies his ghastly army of brain children. A short roly-poly of 42, resembling nothing so much as an amiable Alexander Woollcott on a smaller scale, he is a dutiful husband,* an ardent dog-lover, an amiable drinker, and loved by his friends. Despite Latin-American fondness for the sanguine (bullfights, the annually-produced slaughter melodrama Don Juan Tenorio, the "Day of the Dead," etc.), Cooper will not in his new job employ his Lights Out talent. "This one's in earnest," he says.
* He changed his name from Willis to Wyllis to please his wife's numerological inclinations.
[December 6, 1941 Chicago Tribune - "Spirit of '41" was the nonfiction series about national defense to which Cooper contributed. The episode described here was scheduled for the following day: December 7 -- Pearl Harbor.]
The naval intelligence department, CBS announced yesterday, has given the network permission to present its "Spirit of 41" broadcast at 1 p. m. Sunday from the Brooklyn navy yard. CBS broadcasters, the report said, had been granted permission "to describe in considerable detail repairs being made at the yard to damaged warships." Not long ago the Navy department imposed a censorship on news of this type.
[July 24, 1942 Chicago Tribune gossip column item. The columnist seems to be confused: Cooper never directed a motion picture and, in July '42, he was not in Hollywood but in New York working on "The Army Hour" radio series.]
... Virginia Payne, who takes the role of Ma Perkins on the radio, and who's just home from a vacation in Hollywood, adds another tale to the amazing way things work in the motion picture business. She was being shown the various writers' offices by her old friend, Willis Cooper, formerly of Chicago and now a director in Hollywood. As they passed the row of men writing away like mad, Willis commented bitterly, "That fellow is a graduate of Dartmouth, the next one went to Notre Dame, the next to the University of Wisconsin. I never went to college at all, so the first job I get is to direct a picture of college life."
[According to the American Film Institute, one of Cooper's first screenwriting jobs at 20th Century-Fox was to contribute to "screenplay construction" for a college musical, released in the fall of 1936, called "Pigskin Parade" (which, among other things, was Judy Garland's feature film debut). The AFI credits Cooper for two other Fox musicals (both released in '37): "Wild and Woolly" (contributing writer) and "She Had to Eat" (contributing writer, although his material may not have been used in the finished film).]
[May 28, 1947 Dixon Evening Telegraph, syndicated column item]
DAY by DAY ON THE AIR by C. E. Butterfield
... MBS, from June 8, "Quiet Please", a variation of the former Lights Out stories [is the summer replacement] for Juvenile Jury. The change in title apparently is due to the fact that the program will be in the afternoon instead of at night. ...
[February 9, 1930 Oakland Tribune]
Radio Drama On Air Monday
What is believed to be the most difficult bit of radio melodrama thus far attempted will be heard during the Empire Builders presentation over the NBC coast-to-coast system tomorrow, between 7:30 and 8 p. m. on KGO.
The dramatic climax of the play, which revolves about a copper mine a half mile underground at Butte, Montana, comes when a half-mad employee attempts to drive an elevator over the top of its frame on the trip up from the depths of the mine at a mile-a-minute pace.
Virginia Gardiner plays the role of the heroine whose quick wit saves the situation. Musical effects will be provided by Andy Sannella and his orchestra, while sound effects will be contributed by Harry Edison, sound effect technician. Harvey Hays will narrate the story.
W. O. Cooper, a Chicago writer, made a special trip to the Butte mines to secure material for this drama.
With whistling solos by Bob MacGimsey to complete the program, the broadcast will be heard through NBC system stations: KGO. Oakland; KHQ, Spokane; KOMO, Seattle; KGW, Portland, and KFI, Los Angeles on the Pacific coast.
[November 14, 1935 Oakland Tribune]
QUITS SEVEN SHOWS
BETTY LOU GERSON had to resign from the casts of seven shows to play First Nighter leads. The script writer had her killed off the Girl Alone series, and she bowed out of "Nickelodeon," "Lights Out," "Flying Time," "Kilmer Family," "Curtain Time" and "Princess Pat." Through a special NBC-client dispensation, she is permitted to remain on the MARY MARLIN show heard over CBS ...
[April 28, 1936 Lima (OH) News]
... The 200th episode of Flying Time, authentic aviation serial broadcast over WEAF, will be heard at 6 p. m. The stories are written by Willis Cooper. ...
[September 2, 1937 Chicago Tribune]
... Fred Ibbett has left Chicago to produce Hollywood Hotel in the west. He has asked Willis Cooper, former author of Lights Out, to write this show. ...
[July 29, 1938 Port Arthur News]
... Only Singer Frances Langford and Producer Brewster Morgan of the Hollywood Hotel cast have been re-signed for the series when it returns to the kilocycle lanes in the fall. ...
[November 17, 1940 NYT]
A Friday night series of thirty-minute dramatizations based on contemporary literature will be introduced over WABC's hook-up this week. The "Playhouse" scheduled for 9:30, is to be directed by Diana Bourbon with George Zachary assisting in production, while John Houseman and Wyllis Cooper will prepare the scripts.
The opening play, Wilbur Steele's "Life Is So Little," will co-star Walter Huston and Donald Cook. Among those signed to appear in later presentations are Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March and Florence Eldridge.
[November 18, 1940 Washington Post]
Listen! with Glynn
The Columbia Broadcasting System--which of course means WJSV in Washington--already is well in the lead in its presentations of great dramatic shows. For instance, "Helen Hayes' Theater," "Lux Radio Theater," "Silver Theater," the "Screen Guild Show," "First Nighter," "The Columbia Workshop," "Big Town" and--oh, well--lots of others.
But it's adding another the twenty-ninth of this month which will equal them in splendor. It's to be heard every Friday at 9:30 p. m. and is to be called "Campbell's Playhouse"--sponsored by guess which soup company.
To give you a general idea, already contracted to appear in the dramatic programs are Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Miriam Hopkins, Donald Cook, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, with dozens of others of like caliber also scheduled to appear.
John Houseman, who collaborated with Orson Welles in the distinguished presentations of the Mercury Theater, is to do the radio adaptations, along with Wyllis Cooper. Diana Bourbon, who's responsible for a great many superlative radio dramas is to do the directing.
Together they're to take popular current stories -- Wilbur Daniel Steele's "Good Housekeeping" story, "Life Is So Little," for one; Vina Delmar's "Air Mail to Red Riding Hood," for another -- and do very well by them dramatically.
[December 13, 1940 Washington Post]
... C.B.S. presents a new serial comedy, "Charlie and Jessie," derived from several well-liked Short Short Story playlets. Donald Cook and Florence Lake are the title players.
[January 29, 1941 Variety - A recording of this episode apparently survives at the Library of Congress.]
Wyllis Cooper, who writes 'You're in the Army Now,' has adapted the Libbie Block story, 'Mrs. Fane Comes of Age,' into a radio skit for use on the Campbell Playhouse, Jan. 31. .... William Gargan and Mary Astor scheduled to play the leads.
[Other Variety items about this season's Campbell Playhouse include: Orson Welles complaining publicly about the premiere's use of the Tchaikovsky theme associated with him and the Mercury Theatre; director Diana Bourbon taking ill and being replaced full time by George Zachary; a negative review of Shaw's "Pygmalion" starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh; a positive review of Philip Barry's "You and I" starring Walter Huston, called an unusually adult drama for radio. It isn't clear that Cooper had anything to do with either of these episodes, though. He left the series by March 1941.]
[March 5, 1941 Variety]
Wyllis Cooper, who scripted 'Lights Out' for three years, will tell Graham McNamee how horror yarns are concocted for radio on 'Behind the Mike' next Sunday (9) ...
[March 5, 1941 Variety - This is a review of a audience participation series that Cooper was called upon to "doctor."]
'What's Your Idea?' (For Radio Show) Latest of the Audience Participations
Chicago, March 4.
(What's Your Idea,' with Ted Fio-Rito orchestra, Jackie Heller, Nelson Olmstead, John Hodiak, Rosemary Garbella, Loretta Poynton, Simone Simon. Sponsored by Mars Candy. WMAQ-NBC, Chicago. Grant agency)
Having turned up with a winner for Mars candy in the Dr. I. Q. show, the Grant agency here again comes through with a plan to sell the new Mars product, Forever Yours. Hitting on one of the hottest radio periods of the week, the Mars outfit appears to have a good program plan in 'What's Your Idea?'
Going on the assumption that everybody has in the back of his head an idea for a radio program, the sponsor is offering weekly prizes to the three best program ideas submitted each week. In addition to the $100 prize, the winners are assured that if the program idea is sold to a sponsor the winners get that money, too. In this way, the financial reward may be far up in the thousands and for this reason should be a great lure to the listeners, and figures as a cinch to sell those Forever Yours bars since two wrappers are necessary to enter.
Each week the three winning ideas are dramatized, and this is the part of the program that must be speeded up considerably. Handling lines in one of the initial week's dramatizations was Simone Simon, but she was pretty sad in her work, and completely overshadowed by the downright professional work of the regular radio troupers.
For the real entertainment of the program there was Jackie Heller and there was the Ted Fio-Rito orchestra, both veterans of this job of entertaining the public.
Those give-aways for the program ideas will get the listeners and sell the product; that's a cinch. But after the listeners are there and are ready to send in their wrappers, Fio-Rito band and Heller will hold 'em, satisfy 'em and pour out the long-lasting goodwill of entertainment.
Fio-Rito orchestra remains an excellent aggregation, and did particularly well in accompanying Jackie Heller who looks ripe for another real success ride on the radio. Always a good singer and a swell radio personality, Heller is a genuine asset to this program and will do much for it.
Nelson Olmstead of the general m.c. and handles his assignment satisfactorily, even though on occasion his ebullience goes overboard.
[April 2, 1941 Variety]
WYLLIS COOPER TO GRANT, CHI
Wyllis Cooper, until recently author of 'You're in the Army Now,' has joined the Grant agency, Chicago as radio exec. He was called from New York on a temporary doctoring job for the agency's 'What's Your Idea?' program for Mars candy, but was subsequently offered and accepted the executive assignment.
Before doing NBC's 'Army' series, Cooper wrote some of the 'Campbell Playhouse' programs and the same account's 'Short Short Story' series.
[April 23, 1941 Variety]
'What's Your Idea' Goes
Chicago, April 22.
Grant agency here last week picked up option for another 13-week stretch of NBC-Red network time for the Mars Co. Forever Yours program 'What's Your Idea?'
Second 13-week stretch starts as of June 15.
[The April 23, 1941 Variety reports that Brice Disque will write the scripts for a summertime Latin American propaganda program on NBC. But by the time the series debuts the following month as "Good Neighbors," Cooper is the author.]
[May 29, 1943 Fitchburg Sentinel]
News of the Networks
Postwar radio planning at this time can be nothing but guess work, says Wyllis Cooper, director of NBC's program development ...
[August 14, 1947 Portland (ME) Press Herald syndicated column item]
INSIDE RADIO by Paul Luther
Set as an eight week replacement for vacationing Henry Morgan, Lights Out has disappeared from the kilocycles without ceremony or notice. It seems that the big boss of the pen and razor company sponsoring the chiller-diller just couldn't take any more and ordered the fuses blown after only three performances, thereby setting some kind of a record for the shortest series in network radio. ...
[Here's the dates, titles and casts of Cooper's 1950 "Escape" TV series as they appear in the New York Times listings:]
1-05 Rugged Journey
1-19 The Diamond Lens
1-26 The Bell Hop Story w/ Nancy Sheridan, Frank Thomas & Jack Lescoulie
2-02 The Old Castle w/ Jabez Grey, Bruno Wick, Sarah Fussell, and Others
2-09 Whapperknocker Song w/ Peggy Wagner, Ralph Riggs and Lee Marvin
2-16 The Great Fog w/ Florida Friebus, Howard Wierum and Others
2-23 The Myth Makers w/ Fran Carlon, Dan Margan, Tommy Rettig and Dave Ballard
3-02 The Covenant w/ Pat Peardon, Kim Stanley and Others
3-09 The Trouble With Grandfather w/ Clock Ryder, Kathryn Grill, Others
3-16 Homecoming w/ William A. Lee, Marie Kenny and Vicki Vola
3-23 The Sound Machine w/ Jack Lescoulie and Others
3-30 Rest in Peace w/ Oliver Thorndyke and Clock Ryder
[The series must have been kinescoped for showing in the West because the airdates differ markedly in the Los Angeles Times listings. Some examples:]
1-25 Rugged Journey
3-10 Whapperknocker Song w/ Peggy Wagner, Ralph Riggs and Lee Marvin
3-31 The Trouble With Grandfather w/ Clock Ryder, Kathryn Grill, Others
[January 10, 1966 Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram syndicated HTNS story, dateline New York]
Top actors jockey for TV win, place and show
... Film critic Judith Crist, bestowing laurels on deserving mummers of the movies just the other week, recalled how the early film work of Lee Marvin, a decade ago revealed the seeds of his current eminence. Fifteen years ago, lucky viewers saw him act with no less authority, if not quite full maturity, in television dramas for the greatly gifted producer-director-writer, the late Wyllis Cooper, in his eerie, avant-garde shows, "Stage 13" and "Escape." ...
[December 20, 1966 Chicago Tribune column]
TOWER TICKER by Herb Lyon
... Bob Brown, Leo Burnett ad exec, is piqued over what he calls "the inference" here and elsewhere that visiting Arch Oboler originated the old, macabre Lights Out network radio show. Oboler, promoting the Wed. opening of his weird new flicker, "The Bubble" at the Woods, is first to admit the show was the brain-child of the late, talented Chicago scripter, Willis Cooper. Arch took over later. ...
Notes on Chappell-Cooper '33
Dug up some nuggets from old issues of Variety, mostly 1933, and here is my report, if anyone's interested:
As 1932 draws to a close, Messrs. Chappell and Cooper are half a continent apart. Cooper (or "William Cooper" as Variety regularly lists him every time an issue includes its radio directory in early '33) is the continuity director at Chicago's CBS-WBBM (Wrigley Building Whitehall 6000), where he apparently oversees writers like Fritz Blocki (whose "Chickie," starring Irene Wicker, gets a rave review from Variety for being adult and sophisticated, only to be canceled after ten weeks). Chappell (or "Chap Chapple" as he is referred to in one article) is a talent booker at NBC's artist bureau in New York and is described as "one of the oldest dramatic production men in radio."
[December 27, 1932]
How It Works
Typical example of how artists become political footballs in the NBC Artist Service developed last week while the agency handling Best Foods was trying to frame a program for an audition. Discouraged from getting what it wanted, the commercial has turned to outside booking sources for its show.
Agency had already picked Harry Salter to handle the orchestral assignment and while scouting around for a girl warbler it peeled an eye on Irene Taylor. Obstacle here, as it later turned out, was that the singer had the wrong representative in the artists' bureau.
Up until the time it turned its attention toward Miss Taylor the agency had been doing its talent selection with Ernest Chappell of the network's booking staff. But Miss Taylor along with the Paul Whiteman band and the specialists in the Whiteman organization were under Ed Scheuing's direction.
Chappell had proposed Annette Hanshaw, who came under his booking authority. But the agency had the girl on another one of its programs and, anyway, it wanted Irene Taylor.
For Scheuing, the agency's preference developed a ticklish situation. Each booker in the artists' service had his own accounts to look after and his own set of performers to represent and for one booker to step into the other's preserves, regardless of the fact that all concerned are on the same payroll, is something that's against the rules.
Anyway, it was Annette Hanshaw, or else--and the agency took the latter.
[January 3, 1933]
Ernest Chappell, program talent booker is out of the New York NBC artist bureau. Notice took effect Saturday (31). John Baab succeeds.
Chappell joined the network booking office at the same time that William Murray, predecessor to the present director of popular entertainment, Harold Kemp, came in. Previous to that Chappell booked talent and built programs for the Judson Radio Program Corp.
[January 10, 1933]
... [Chester Stratton will] take over some of Ernest Chappell's duties [at NBC's artist bureau], latter resigning last week.
[March 7, 1933]
Chapple [sic] on Coast with Air Contract for Names
Hollywood, March 6.
Chap Chapple, of the J. Walter Thompson agency, is here seeking picture names for the air. He will linger several weeks but is understood to be looking for prominent stars of secondary strength only. ...
[May 16, 1933]
... Ernie Chappell, formerly booking manager at NBC, is now announcing the two Richfield programs. ...
[Presumably, the two programs Chappell announces for the Richfield Oil Company are: "The Richfield Reporter" with newsman Sam Hayes and "Country Club" which features sports commentary from Grantland Rice and music from Mary McCoy, soprano, and Betty Barthell, blues singer.]
[July 4, 1933]
Chicago, July 3.
Willis Cooper has resigned as chief of the continuity department of Columbia here. He continues, however, to author two CBS programs -- 'Railroads of America' and 'Lives at Stake.' [However, "Lives at Stake" is actually an NBC program. See below.]
Cooper will freelance.
[July 18, 1933]
WILLIS COOPER JOINS NBC
Chicago, July 17.
Willis Cooper who two weeks ago resigned as continuity editor of station WBBM (Columbia), has been named to a similar post at NBC here. He follows John Gihon who resigned.
Understood Gihon will go to KDKA, Pittsburgh, to join Bill Hedges.
[November 28, 1933]
Chi NBC Figuring on 12M. Mystery Serial
Chicago, Nov. 27.
NBC locally discussing chances for a midnight mystery serial to catch the attention of the listeners at the witching hour. It's an idea by Will Cooper, NBC continuity chief.
Considered for the spot is a new script, just being turned out, labelled 'Desert Quests.'
[January 16, 1934]
Radio Chatter / Chicago ...
Bill Cooper finally set for his midnight mysteries over at NBC here. Starts this Friday (19) over WENR for a beginner. ...
[So, apparently, "Lights Out" didn't premiere on January 1st as some logs report.]
Other news from Variety:
Jan '33 - Cooper's counterpart, Don Clark, CBS continuity director in New York, "responsible for a flock of script innovations in radio, such as the network's Laboratory Theatre [a forerunner of the Columbia Workshop] and rated as a top man in his line" is replaced by Ferrin Fraser (who is frequently listed in reference works along with Cooper and Arch Oboler as a writer for "Lights Out" even though I have never figured out why).
Also in January, "Eno Crime Club" moves from CBS to NBC, the "Spencer Dean" character is added to the cast, the friendly druggist on Amsterdam Avenue who recommends Eno salt is dropped from the commercials, and the show will now be recorded in New York by RCA for airing in the west (so the sponsor can save some money). Cooper worked on the 1940s "Crime Club" series but apparently not for this 1930s program with a similar name.
Feb '33 - Fred Ibbett, a BBC veteran who works with Cooper on shows like Empire Builders and Hollywood Hotel, is with the McCann-Erickson advertising agency. Sidney Strotz, who will soon be Cooper's boss, is appointed manager of NBC's Chicago artist bureau. A few months later, he is promoted to NBC Chicago program manager.
Here's what I've been able to find out about "Railroads of America" and "Lives at Stake," the two series mentioned in the July 4 article above:
According to Variety, "Railroads of America" runs on Monday and Thursday, 8:45-9 p.m., with music by the Westphal Orchestra and Glee Club, and is sponsored by a "joint railroad account." An advertisement in the June 28 Chicago Tribune calls the program "The Railroads on the Air" and invites us to 'Hear the "10 RAILROADERS" and a novel World's Fair Program' over WGN at 8:45 p. m. on Thursday, June 29. Later ads say the show will air "every MONDAY and THURSDAY to August 3rd inclusive." Another ad describes the content as "Old-time song favorites--thrilling news about the World's Fair." The Trib's radio listings call the program either "World's Fair Invitation" or "Invitation to the Fair." Examples:
"World's Fair Invitation," with the Railroaders male chorus and orchestra. (July 6)
"Invitation to the Fair," orchestra and chorus. (also July 6)
"The Railroaders" male chorus and orchestra bring a "World's Fair Invitation." (July 10)
"Invitation to the Fair" (July 13; listed as "Century of Progress Invitation" in New York Times)
"Invitation to the Fair," with the Railroaders' chorus and orchestra. (July 17)
Meanwhile, "Lives at Stake," weekly half-hour dramatizations of "noted events in which men have faced death" (i.e., true-life adventure and suspense stories) sponsored by The General Tire and Rubber Co. and hosted by company president W. O'Neil, airs on NBC Red, not CBS. It runs Tuesday nights at 10 Eastern and premieres on April 18, 1933 with the story of Sgt. Alvin C. York.
On May 2, Variety reports that "Robert J. Casey of the Chicago Daily 'News,' continues to supply material for General Tire's NBC 'Lives at Stake' programs. But Bob White will write the scripts."
The May 7 Chicago Tribune reports that the musical end of the series "has been rebuilt, now featuring Hal Stokes' orchestra" along with tenor Charles Sears and "the blonde-blue trio, the Neil sisters."
A 1934 review of a similar series mentions that the initial format of "Lives at Stake" had to be changed because of problems dramatizing the lives of living people. The dramatic portion of the show was eventually reduced to a brief sketch.
Haven't been able to confirm Cooper's participation in the series but he may very well have worked on it after he resigned from CBS in June '33.
Scheduled first season episodes, from various newspaper listings:
Sgt. Alvin C. York (April 18)
"James Norman Hall, author, who was a lieutenant in the Lafayette Escadrille, and was shot down after bringing down an enemy plane" (April 25)
Major William Pitts (May 2)
Lieutenant James O'Malley of Chicago Fire Department (May 9)
"the story of the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott Antarctic expedition"; Mary Steele sings "My Heart Stood Still"; Charles Sears sings "I Bring a Song" (May 16)
Edith Cavell, English war nurse (May 23)
??? (May 30)
Frank Maranville, "resourceful engineer" at General Tire and Rubber whose "time is occupied chiefly with working out new ideas in safe and comfortable transportation" (June 6)
Ida Straus, Titanic passenger (June 13)
Patrolman Thomas P. Glennon, Jr. (June 20)
Tom Eddie, diver (June 27)
??? (July 4)
District Attorney George E. Q. Johnson of Chicago "who broke Al Capone" (July 11)
??? (July 18)
"the spectacular flight of Italian Air Minister Italo Balbo and his air armada" (July 25)
Burtis Juhl, Boy Scout (August 1)
Betty Zane (August 8)
"Captain Edgar Hamilton, one of two American officers with the Foreign Legion stationed at Mekness, Morocco, early in 1933" (August 15)
Richmond Pearson Hobson (August 22)
"the thrilling search made by Henry Morton Stanley, a New York reporter, for Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary who was lost in the wilds of Africa" (August 29)
Sam Davis (September 5)
"The bravery of Major Charles W. Whittlesey when during the World war he was cut off from supplies and aid for five days" with 463 officers and men, a New York regiment of the 308th Infantry known as the "Lost Battalion" (September 12)
General Nelson A. Miles (September 19)
Betty Zane (September 26)
Chicago motorman Arnold Klaesi "crawled out over No Man's Land ... under a withering fire and rescued a wounded lieutenant" during the World War. "Later this week he will be formally decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross at an American Legion ceremony." (October 3)
Henry N. Stanley (NYT, Oct 3)
??? (October 10)
The series returns for another season in 1934.
[Obituary from June 23, 1955, accompanied by a 1942 photo of Cooper]
WYLLIS COOPER, 56,
Originator of 'Lights Out'
for N.B.C. Was a Screen
Writer, TV Producer
Special to the New York Times
HIGH BRIDGE, N.J., June 22 -- Wyllis Cooper, writer, director and producer for films, radio and television, died today at a local hospital after a long illness. He was 56 years old and resided in the neighboring community of Glen Gardner.
Associated with the National Broadcasting Company in Chicago in 1930, Mr. Cooper was the originator of the "Lights Out" program, a long-run series.
From 1936 to 1940 he wrote for Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox in Hollywood, Calif. During this period he and Norman Foster wrote the screen play of "Mr. Moto Takes a Chance." The following year Mr. Cooper's scenario "Son of Frankenstein," was produced by Universal and shown at the Rivoli Theatre.
He entered the field of television in 1949 with the series known as "Escape." This was followed by his direction and production of "Stage 13" for the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1951.
Mr. Cooper who was born in Pekin, Ill., served on the Mexican border in 1916 and, in World War I, with the 131st Infantry from Illinois. He was gassed in the Argonne Forest while attached to the British Expeditionary Forces there. Mr. Cooper reproduced some of these adventures in a program entitled "Spirit of '42," produced by the Columbia Broadcasting System in March of that year.
Before joining N.B.C. in Chicago Mr. Cooper wrote for an advertising agency in Santa Monica, Calif. He was also manager of the radio department of the Compton Advertising Company in New York for a brief period.
In World War II Mr. Cooper was a special consultant to the Secretary of War. On this assignment he wrote and directed the "Army Hour," the official Army radio documentary.
After the war he wrote scripts for Radio Free Europe.
Surviving are his widow, the former Miss Emily C. Beveridge, and a brother, Harry Cooper of Chicago.
[Excerpt from "Television: A New Idiom" by Flora Rheta Schreiber, Hollywood Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Winter, 1949), pp. 182-192.]
FLORA RHETA SCHREIBER directed a summer workshop in radio and television, entitled Television: A New Idiom.
Miss Schreiber's critical articles on radio and television have appeared in a number of journals, including the Hollywood Quarterly.
... Wyllis Cooper has developed a number of interesting techniques for utilizing the television medium in terms of its special potentialities. Cooper's direction of his admirable series Volume One might be called an experiment in intimacy. Recognizing that the screen can function as a mirror, Cooper made his characters use the mirror directly as a property. A girl looks in the mirror and puts lipstick on. A man stands before the mirror, adjusting his tie. You might be watching people in the apartment across the street. Or the effectcan be less casual, more violent, when a man throws a gun at the mirror and the viewer recoils in physical fright -- for the glass has apparently been smashed and the pieces appear to be heading for the viewer's face. This is intimacy becoming actual identification. Cooper is fond of keeping his camera nailed to the ground and immobile, bringing his characters into the scene, coming toward the camera, right up, in effect, to the eye of the viewer. Again identification is intensified. Some video directions taken directly from a Cooper script may be illuminating in terms of his technique:
Floyd grimaces into the mirror, and Georgie saunters up behind him, takes the cigarette from her lips and offers it to him. He sees it in the mirror, looks down at it, then turns and slaps it out of her hand in a rage. Georgie, in turn, smacks him hard across the face with her open hand. He reaches out, grabs her by the arm, and pulls her to him roughly. With his left hand he reaches up and removes her glasses, which he places on the dresser. Georgie cringes, and he knocks her to the floor, out of the scene.
Note the effect of staging this scene of violence as reflected in a mirror used simultaneously as a property and as the viewer's sense of reflected reality. The directions continue:
As he stands over her, looking down and breathing hard, the light from the opening door falls across the B.G. He notices it after a second, and automatically reaches for her glasses; as she gets to her feet, he hands them to her. She puts the glasses on, wipes away a trickle of blood from her face, and looks toward the door. The light source shows the shadow of the bellhop across the floor, and he comes in, smiling.
Notice here how the entrance of the bellhop, a sinister character in the script, is built first through the reflection of light and then, more directly, through the approaching shadow. Since the audience has already been oriented in terms of the mirror, light and shadow also continue to appear as reflected realities. The sinister bellhop walks over to the mirror, looks into it, straightens his jacket, and says, "You're being watched, you know." And the viewer does know. Hasn't the viewer also been watching? "You're being watched," is a line motivated in the plot and underscored in motivation by the identification of the audience. Or the viewer might take it in the opposite way. "You're being watched," spoken into the mirror, may also convert the viewer into the "you" being watched. As the play closes, the bellhop waves "good-bye" to Floyd and Georgie. The direction reads:
As he comes up full, he reaches out, closes a door right in our faces: a door we haven't seen before. As it closes, the music and the siren and all is shut out. He locks the door, looks into the camera, and smiles slightly. "You see?" he asks. He throws the key away, and as he moves out of the scene we hear Georgie and Floyd hammering on the door. The theme music comes up and drowns out the sound.
To have a character close a door on a play is a more intimate and personal effect than fading out could ever be. It is part of a subjective approach. ...