Shared Listening

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Posted Jan 10, 2009 - 6:04 PM:

I discovered Quiet, Please a few years ago. I can hardly believe it's been that long, considering that I still haven't listened to all of the episodes. I'd been working through them chronologically, but gradually. I realized a while ago that my delay had afforded me an interesting opportunity. I have begun listening to the last batch of episodes on the sixtieth anniversary of the original broadcast of each. So doing has suggested to me another idea. I wondered if any other fans would be interested in utilizing the same opportunity, even if they've already listened to the entire run of the show several times. The anniversary of each episode turns out to be each Friday, this year, and there's still a good twenty episodes left. If a handful of people listened on the same day, we could then gather here on Saturdays and Sundays for a post-show discussion of each episode. Regardless of whether I get any responses, I'll probably go ahead and make a new post each Saturday with a few thoughts on the episode for that week, in case anybody takes an interest.
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Posted Jan 19, 2009 - 10:06 AM:

I guess we were supposed to listen to "Is This Murder?" this weekend. I haven't really got much to contribute. Just some random thoughts:

Between Ernest pushing the sherry on his guest and Joyce getting drunk in the afternoon at a downtown cocktail lounge, I'd say alcohol is, as usual, the drug of choice on Quiet, Please! smiling face

When I was working on the transcript I remember having to look up the word "flageolet" (as in "Oh, it's nothing at all like the Frankenstein you've seen in pictures. No Boris Karloff, no Bela Lugosi with a flageolet, no weird castles."). Turns out it's the musical instrument that Lugosi's Ygor plays in _Son of Frankenstein_. I guess Cooper would know, having written the script.

Speaking of Cooper and _Son of Frankenstein_, here's an advertisement from the 1939 edition of Box Office Barometer, an annual motion picture trade publication:

This would have been published in February '39, not long after the film opened.

One of Cooper's lost Lights Out episodes was entitled, for the 1945 revival season, "Did the Murder Happen?" It supposedly concerns itself "with newly-weds stalled on a lonely road at midnight," according to vintage radio listings. This is one of those scripts I think is buried at the Library of Congress.

I'll leave it to you guys to discuss the philosophical implications of the story's idea that bodyless brains automatically turn evil.

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Posted Jan 19, 2009 - 10:57 AM:

I would like to hear these at the same time as others too, but I have them all on a mp3 file and don't know what episodes are what week. Any idea what the next one will be?
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Posted Jan 19, 2009 - 4:34 PM:

monsterwax wrote:
I would like to hear these at the same time as others too, but I have them all on a mp3 file and don't know what episodes are what week. Any idea what the next one will be?

Well, I think we're going in chronological order:

So the next episode would be "Summer Goodbye."
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Posted Jan 25, 2009 - 3:48 PM:

When I first listened to "Summer Goodbye," the whole "reappearing hitchhiker" business reminded me a little too much of the same idea in Lucille Fletcher's well-known radio play "The Hitch-Hiker" (recordings of which survive from "Suspense" and Orson Welles' "Mercury Summer Theater").

By using the main gimmick from one of radio's most famous horror plays, it almost seems like Cooper is saying, in effect, "Nice story, Lucille, but let me show you how it's done."

Some of the differences in the two plays are interesting: Cooper's takes place in a matter of hours, Fletcher's in six days; Cooper's protagonist is driving for his life from the cops (which ratchets up the suspense immediately), Fletcher's is traveling leisurely for obscure reasons; Cooper's protagonist has another fully-realized character to talk to for the entire trip, Fletcher's meets a number of minor characters of no great depth; Cooper relates the trip's details right down to street names and his "local color" is overwhelming, Fletcher is a lot less generous; and Cooper's ending, whatever one thinks of it, is probably more of a surprise than Fletcher's.

Mind you, I'm not saying that one play is "better" than the other; just that they're interesting to compare.

Although you sometimes get the impression that Chappell performs a lot of QP episodes single-handedly, he's always supported by other actors, even if their roles are awfully small. "Summer Goodbye" is one of the few episodes where Chappell is paired with only one other actor (in this case, Cathleen Cordell). Others include "Camera Obscura," "How Beautiful Upon the Mountain," "Tanglefoot" and "The Hat, the Bed and John J. Catherine." "If I Should Wake Before I Die" would be on this short list, too, but there's an uncredited actress' voice lurking in the background.

That very cool episode, "Northern Lights," is scheduled for next week. smiling face
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Posted Feb 02, 2009 - 7:27 PM:

Random thoughts on "Northern Lights" in which (SPOILERS!) singing caterpillars threaten to take over the world:

1. Seems like everybody likes this episode. The webmaster of calls it "perhaps the creepiest episode of the series." The webmaster of this website calls it "one of the most horrifying episodes of Quiet, Please." Ron Barnett, in his "Quiet Please"...An Appreciation, (available from the Links page) calls it "among the most memorable" of the series. And so on. But I did find one negative review online, from a college student who was taking a radio course:

I was not overly impressed with the "Quiet Please" production. Part of it was the off-putting direct address of the opening lines -- as Prof. Holaday said, it sounds like a teacher reprimanding you, and that immediately made me not want to read. But also it simply didn't engage me excessively. It was quiet and a bit hard to hear -- so perhaps with more vibrations in my ears, I would've internalized the story more -- but I just didn't connect with it to the extent that I wanted to be there. The line about the stars, though, drew me in; if only the rest had done the same...

2. Cooper really likes that word "cucambulator." It pops up in various episodes (e.g., "Not Enough Time," "The Pathetic Fallacy") whenever he needs to name some vague science-fictiony gizmo. This time, it's a "hyper-cucambulator"! As far as I know, there's no such thing. Perhaps Cooper invented it.

3. If Cooper was channeling Lucille Fletcher last week, this week he's also got Norman Corwin in mind:

NORMAN: She's singing. The caterpillar's singing.

PAUL: Not tap dancing, I hope.

It's a nice, sly reference to Corwin's famous radio play, based on a story by Fletcher, "My Client Curley," about the caterpillar who tap dances whenever it hears the pop song "Yes, Sir! That's My Baby."

4. QP Alcohol Watch. We can't go more than a few episodes without Cooper name-dropping some alcoholic beverage. This week, it's hot buttered rum! We also get this exchange between the two scientists: "You been at the C2H5OH?" "I haven't had a drink since Thursday night."

5. At the end, Chappell asks, "Didja see the pictures of the snow - in Los Angeles - in subtropical Los Angeles - where it hasn't snowed for so many, many years?" Sure enough, they had record snowfall in Los Angeles in January 1949, the month of the broadcast:

Ah, "Tap the Heat, Bogdan" is up next. There will definitely be some alcohol consumed. Now, if only somebody else would post to this thread! smiling face Edward? Anybody?

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Posted Feb 06, 2009 - 9:53 PM:

Very initial thoughts on "Tap the Heat, Bogdan"

1. Considering his career was primarily as an announcer, this episode shows some of the true radio acting talent of Ernest Chappell. The guy truly was versatile.

2. I usually try to understand what might have been the inspiration for Cooper's writing of a script. Didn't find any indication of a steel production accident near Chicago (Hammond, IN) though there have been accidents such as this historically, so who knows what prompted Cooper to pick this subject. He might have liked the idea of a very ethnic accent in a play and having spent some of his adult life around Chicago and the ethnic areas of Chicago involed Slavic workers in the steel mills, he might have thought it might fit.

3. This is not one of my favorite episodes of Quiet, Please though it did have the images reminiscent of Cooper's Quiet, Please work: the reference to World War I (Archduke Ferdinand, Sarajevo) and Chicago.

4. I wonder how common in 1949 some of the ethnic phrases used would have been known? Shakreb, Allana and others. Or is this Cooper at his more esoteric?

Not much there, but as I said...initial thoughts.
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Posted Feb 16, 2009 - 7:19 PM:

> "who knows what prompted Cooper to pick this subject"

I'm afraid I don't know the answer but Cooper had apparently done a _Lights Out_ episode with a similar background:


[December 13, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H.]

The old clock on the mantel had stopped. So I sat down at the radio, turned
the switch and waited for the first break which would indicate the hour. It
was, I figured, between 12:15 and 12:45 a. m.

In a few seconds, with the heating of the tubes, came a sudden crescendo of
agonized, screaming pleadings. "Don't keel me. I'll do anything ... but not
that ... I geeve you my money ... $2,000 in the mattress ..."

The blood-curdling dialog was doubly impressive because I had expected to find
a dance band playing at that early morning hour, whatever the station last
tuned in.

I was fascinated with the hair-raising awfulness of the script lines. Suddenly
it became apparent that the victim was protesting being dumped in a ladle of -
- liquid steel! And while I was dwelling on this gentle situation as a plot
for an air play -- the unfortunate gentleman was, in truth, thrown into the
white-hot cauldron, with his last earthly screams imposed on the throaty,
chuckling observations of his murderers.

The scene faded into a conversation between a steel-mill employe and a
visitor, in which it was explained that a man recently had lost his life in a
ladle of liquid metal -- but the process of fashioning steel rails, bridge
girders and so on had not been stopped. The jolly part of it all was (laugh,
laugh) that the victim even now was a fragmentary part (ho, ho, ha, ha) of the
finished pieces before them.

Again, a transition -- and the voices of the three slayers are heard, one week
or so later. One, named Sampson, set the plot. He was to be a victim of the
slain man through an overwhelming desire to work, to go down to the nearby
bridge under construction and work. From that point, the unfortunate mill
worker dealt out his revenge.

The manner in which the three assailants died is not appropriate for reporting
in a column that is scanned by many at the breakfast table. Let it be said
that this attempt to be baldly, deliberately revolting in details -- ghastly,
shocking in realism -- can be reported as notably successful. Finesse and
subtleness were eliminated in favor of gory, crude obviousness.

Sometimes the mass radio audience becomes a mystery to me. There can be no
doubt about it, many persons like this N.B.C. feature. It would not be
continued if it did not meet with the approval and pleasure of some listeners.

Yet -- many a bell-ringing idea, many a delightful bit of entertainment has
been refused with arched eyebrows because it was in bad taste, or too "in the
raw" or otherwise deemed offensive to the public mind. Many a capricious
alteration has been made in scripts and speeches by the same authorities who
put the stamp of approval on "Lights Out," thus putting a crimp in the
author's work and usually aiding the presentation in no way whatever.

"Lights Out," if I got a fair sample, is the most blatent [sic] evidence of
policy inconsistency coming to my attention in many a day. ...

[December 14, 1935 Washington Post "On the Air Today" column by J. H. H.]

... Shannon Allen, production manager of N.B.C., in Washington, has risen to
the defense of "Lights Out," which I took occasion to give space to yesterday.
Mr. Allen has nothing whatever to do with the production of "Lights Out" as
the midnight hour drama originates in the Chicago studios.

But Mr. Allen is first and foremost a production man and instinctively puts up
his mitts in behalf of any show which, as he calmly and smilingly maintains,
attracts the large audience as does "Lights Out." It seems, among other
things, that in missing the opening announcement last Wednesday night, I
missed the subtle tongue-in-the-cheek foreword explaining that the half-hour
is slightly on the burlesque side, somewhat inclined to be sly hokum. Further,
it is spotted at 12:30 a.m. for the express purpose of providing a "lights
out" shocker for those who wish to be "shocked."

No one has even faintly suggested I lack imagination or am intolerant of any
entertainment simply because I do not like it personally. As an example of
showmanship, "Lights Out" is tops. I still maintain, however, that it is at
fault in dealing with plot situations and climaxes that are stomach-turning.
Mr. Allen contends that a "thriller" is not intended to be successful on
finely drawn finesses.

After all, you, as the composite radio listener, are the judge. And I guess
the mass audience likes "Lights Out." ...
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