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Mar 15, 2003
Posted Jan 09, 2015 - 10:26 PM:
[June 24, 1933 Radio Guide "Plums and Prunes" column by Evans Plummer]
PRUNES galore to CBS and WBBM for dropping Tales of the Foreign Legion, the best show made in Chicago and one of the best anywhere. Friday, June [?] at 7:00 p. m. CDT will be its last on CBS, and you'll have to tune to WIKS, Gary, or WCCO, Minneapolis, for it, as WBBM won't give you the 8:30 version. . . . We suppose it's all because Bill Cooper left CBS-WBBM to free-lance. Write your dirty letters to Columbia Broadcasting System, 485 Madison Avenue, New York.
[March 23, 1935 Stand By]
NOT FOR SISSIES
Author Willis Cooper of the Lights Out program is very weary of being called a sissy. Mr. Cooper is not a sissy, as his friends loyally attest. A sissy, Cooper claims couldn't write those horrible Lights Out programs, which are broadcast every Wednesday at midnight over WENR.
But some hard-boiled radio fans have been writing Cooper to call him, in effect, just that. These cynical fellows have been casting aspersions at the NBC Central Division continuity editor because one of his Lights Out dramas ran to psychological horror rather than physical. Ordinary mortal men who heard it pronounced the piece eerie enough to scare most people. But some insatiable gluttons for the macabre called Cooper a sissy.
Therefore, from now on, Cooper promises his dramas will go from one awful horror to another until even the author is afraid to listen. Having conceived and originated this program, Cooper now knows how the creator of Frankenstein must have felt.
[April 20, 1935 Stand By]
Artists in the NBC Chicago studios have become camera shy, figuratively playing hide and seek to evade the cameras of their photographically inclined studio associates, whose hobby is the collection of unposed candid camera pictures.
It started when Basil Loughrane, who plays the role of a movie director, Bill Gregory, in the Sunday Sally of the Talkies program over an NBC-WEAF network at 3:00 p. m., E.S.T., decided that even a fictional movie director should know something about moving pictures. He purchased a portable camera, brought it to the studios and began shooting unposed pictures of his associates at odd moments. He soon was joined in this endeavor by Everett Mitchell, announcer, who is a veteran amateur movie cameraman.
The pictures Loughrane and Mitchell took, however, being unposed, were hardly flattering. In retaliation, Willis Cooper, NBC central division continuity editor, and Arthur Jacobson and Don Briggs, leading men of dramatic programs, brought in their high-speed still cameras and began shooting pictures of the amateur movie men shooting pictures. The thing came to an impasse when one of the movie enthusiasts shot a picture of a still cameraman taking a picture of a movie cameraman taking a picture of an artist. Other shots especially prized are those of artists in the act of biting into a sandwich.
[May 4, 1935 Stand By]
Willis Cooper, who writes the ghastly "Light Out" [sic] programs broadcast over NBC networks each Wednesday, confesses to his most intimate friends that he is without doubt the most timid fellow in the land. Only when he has the lights turned on full blast can he write about wraiths, banshees, vampires, cold and hot blooded murderers, etc. And what's more, he detests insects and despite many requests has steadfastly refused to prepare a "Lights Out" script about a man who dies after being bitten by a spider.
[August 3, 1935 Stand By]
Jules Herbuveaux, NBC production director who provides Willis Cooper with technical advice in the preparation of the NBC Flying Times [sic] scripts, has flown planes since 1917 without becoming involved in any sort of accident.
[August 17, 1935 Stand By]
THE roar of the world's fastest racing planes will provide real "sound effects" for Flying Time, NBC radio serial, when the entire program -- cast, director and writer -- packs up and flies to the Cleveland Municipal Airport on Friday, August 30, where the National Air Races will be staged from August 30 through September 2.
There the episodes of August 30 and September 2 will originate on the flying field itself, while racing planes roar overhead to provide sound effects for the script.
Willis Cooper, author of the series, will write the scripts on the scene, shaping them to include the action of the national races and to bring to the microphone, as guest performers, many of the most celebrated air pilots in America. Guest performers will be chosen from among such famed pilots as Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Jim and May Haislip, Al Williams, Gordon Israel and Harold Nourman.
[September 14, 1935 Stand By]
Lights Out, NBC program of ghost and horror drama, had an especially realistic significance for Detroit listeners Wednesday night (August 14), according to a newspaper clipping sent to Willis Cooper, NBC central division continuity editor, who writes the program.
The Lights Out Story involved a disappointed suitor who shot and killed his former sweetheart and his successful rival before committing suicide. A few hours before the program was broadcast over an NBC-WEAF network at 11:30 p.m., CST, an almost identical tragedy occurred in Detroit, in which the jealous and disappointed suitor killed his rival, the girl and himself. News bulletins of the triple killing were broadcast over Detroit stations only a short time before Lights Out came on with a strikingly similar plot.
The drama, of course, was written by Cooper long before the Detroit killings.
[December 6, 1937 Radio Daily]
Morrison Wood to Hollywood
Chicago--Morrison Wood, a senior production director at WGN, leaves for Hollywood today for combined radio and movie work. He will be associated with Willis Cooper, who writes for 20th-Century Fox as well as produces [sic] "Hollywood Hotel."
[February 26, 1938 Stand By]
How nerve tingling some of Arch Oboler's Lights Out dramas, heard each Wednesday at 11:30 p. m., CST over the NBC-Red network, really are was proved recently when NBC Chicago studio officials received a long distance call from Green Bay, Wis., during the broadcast of "Until Dead."
A jittery voice on the other end of the wire asked: "Has that play ever been on the air before?" A checkup showed it had been. "Thank goodness," said the jittery voice, on being informed, "I could have sworn I had heard the thing, but thought maybe I was going crazy." Lights Out dramas are occasionally repeated on popular demand.
[April 30, 1938 Stand By]
Arch War Foe
Arch Oboler is proudly displaying a note from the American Peace Society thanking him for the recent anti-war Lights Out programs he's written. Recent Lights Out thrillers with an anti-war basis were "The Last War," "Uninhabited" and "Hero's Return."
[1940 United States Census, enumerated on April 3, 1940]
Wyllis Cooper (head, age 41) and Emily Cooper (wife, age 33), living at 242 72nd Street, Manhattan, New York City, NY. Rent: $150 a month. Both lived in Chicago, IL on April 1, 1935. Wyllis, with four years of high school, is "Script writer" at "advertising agency" (worked 48 hours the week of March 24-30). Weeks worked in 1939: 52. Amount of money wages or salary received: $5000. Emily, with one year of high school, is "engaged in home housework."
[August 8, 1941 Long Island (NY) Daily Press]
VIEWING RADIO With JACK SHAFER ...
WHAT'S YOUR JOB LIKE?
Since a lot of us (according to the column mail) want to know what makes the radio business tick, this column herewith starts a brief once-a-week series of interviews conducted with various people of the broadcast scene. I'll pop the above stated question "What's your job like?" to them--and you'll get answers that go very much like this:
"Well, Jack, I don't think that my job as a radio scriptist is any particular bargain. In my saner moments I tell myself I should look for a writing spot in some other field--then I wind up by turning out another episode of the 'Good neighbors' serial.
"For one thing, the pace of producing new stuff program after program is the hardest job any set of writers for the entertainment field ever faced. In all other forms of theatre, the writers involved can take their darned good time in turning out a play, a skit, or even a moving picture--but a radio writer who has even just one show a week spends the first five days of that week getting an idea, the next two putting it in print, and then he starts the five-day grind all over again!
"Even my spare time isn't my own. Suppose, for instance, that I go to a party one night. I'm introduced all around as Wyllis Cooper and then my host innocently adds, 'Mr. Cooper writes for the radio.' Two minutes later up comes a guy named Purfleet or Crittendon and says, 'Hay, I got a swell idea for a radio story. It's different--totally different. My heroine has a wart on her nose and she goes to a good looking plastic surgeon. But he says don't have that wart removed, sister, or you'll be just another beautiful dame and beautiful dames are a dime a dozen. What happens in the end? She insists the wart comes off, and after the operation, he falls in love with her!'
"Then another guy ambles up and says, 'What do you think of this idea for a radio story? It's about a spy who doesn't get caught but whose twin brother is nabbed by the enemy and the spy takes his brother's place before the firing squad. What an angle!'
"As a matter-fact, Jack, the only good time I had at a party was a shindig that somebody threw for bald headed men. I had the host introduce me as a barber."--As related by Network Author Wyllis Cooper. ...
[February 26, 1942 Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express]
An example of the influx of radio actors to New York from Chicago may be found in the Story of Bess Johnson; four of the principals connected with the series are from the Windy City--Miss Johnson herself; Donald Briggs and Ralph Schoolman, both in the supporting cast; and Wyllis Cooper, who writes the scripts . . .
[October 29, 1947 Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express]
Wyllis Cooper, the chap who used to dream up eerie yarns for Lights Out when that thriller series was at its best on the late evening lanes, has something special for dialers on his Quiet Please program this evening at 8:30 o'clock over Mutual and WEBR.
With Hallowe'en in the offing, Wyllis has turned out a nostalgic story of the well-known witches, goblins, black cats and such--but with the spine-chilling twist that characterizes his writings. So when you hear Narrator Ernest Chappell (he's the guy who says, "Outstanding!"--so emphatically on Big Story, too) exclaim "Don't Tell Me About Hallowe'en," it's the cue for 25 minutes of suspenseful psychological drama.
[July 22, 1948 Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express]
Now writing the scripts for Roll Call, the Armed Services revue these Thursdays at 8 p. m. over WBEN is Wyllis Cooper, who was the original author of the old Lights Out series; he writes Quiet Please for Mutual network on Mondays, too, but it's not carried locally at present.
[April 23, 1951 Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express]
Most veteran radio listeners are probably inclined to associate the name of Arch Oboler with the Lights Out series, inasmuch as he turned out many weird scripts for the thriller when it was at its height. But the creator of Lights Out back in 1934 was Wyllis Cooper, one of radio's finest writers.
Now, Cooper is coming back to Lights Out in its present TV form and will produce one script for the program each month. He plans to write originals and also adapt some of the radio tales which gave dialers the creeps way back when. His contributions should enhance the quality of the Lights Out plots appreciably.
Tonight at 9 o'clock it'll be one by Hal and Jerry Hackady titled The Fonceville Curse, with Patrick Knowles in the leading role.
[July 25, 1952 Amsterdam (NY) Evening Recorder]
LIGHTS OF NEW YORK
By L. L. STEVENSON
"It seems to be the fashion to make Scotland Yard seem dumb. The fact is, Scotland Yard isn't dumb--it's smart. The record through the years is ample proof of that." So declared Wyllis Cooper, writer, director, producer of the NBC radio network series, "Whitehall 1212." Cooper, a former newspaperman, has never visited Scotland Yard though he plans to do so at his first opportunity. Nevertheless, he feels competent to pass judgment on the work of British detectives. To obtain material for his series, he constantly studies Scotland Yard cases. He has been doing that for months and the more he studies cases, which come from the Yard's files through a London newspaperman, the more convinced he is that Scotland Yard's batting average is extremely high.
"For one thing," continued Cooper as he dismally surveyed a dish of boiled rice (he's on a diet), "Scotland Yard works under a handicap unknown to American police. In this country, officers take a suspect into custody and question him at will. Not so in England. When an inspector makes an arrest, under the law, he must warn the prisoner that whatever he says will be taken down in writing and may be used as evidence later. He is then asked if he wants to make a statement. If he does, all well and good. If he doesn't, there are no hours of grilling--it's up to the inspector to go out and get the evidence. Furthermore, a cop can't lay a hand on a prisoner. There's no "third degree"--if a policeman violates any of the rules, the British judge will throw the case out of court."
"The term 'Scotland Yard' is not correct when applied to detective work," continued Cooper. "Scotland Yard is headquarters. The detective branch is the Criminal Investigation Department. The men from the Criminal Investigation Department do not go on a case unless they are called in by local authorities. That's another handicap. As is the case in all police departments, there is a great amount of local pride. The local boys believe they are just as good as Scotland Yard. So they go to work themselves and try to pin the crime on someone. When they find they can't, they call in the inspectors from the Yard. That often results in a delay of 24 hours or more. Any cop will tell you that cold clues are a lot harder to pick up than hot ones. But the inspectors do it just the same.
"Another handicap is the fact that British justice does not recognize circumstantial evidence--British officers have to keep on digging until they find witnesses. That's often quite a task but they hang on until they do it--that is, generally speaking. Incidentally, under all circumstances, British cops are polite. A British officer may arrest a man for murder and have enough facts to prove that he is a killer, but there won't be any rough stuff. British officers are not armed. In fact, there is very little so-called gun play in Great Britain. Hence, in 'Whitehall 1212' there is a minimum of pistol shots. In 31 shows, there was just one shot--we strive to be accurate. That's one of the reasons why we have a former British inspector on the payroll. He keeps us in line on the technical end."
Cooper was born in Pekin, Ill., in 1899. At 16, he joined the U.S. Army and saw action against Pancho Villa. His hard-earned sergeant's stripes served him well in France in World War I. After the war, with a reserve officer's commission, he went to Chicago and worked on various newspapers. In 1928, he went to work for an advertising agency where he developed his present interest in radio writing. In 1935, [sic] he went to Hollywood and wrote radio scripts. In 1941, at the request of the War Department, he acted as special consultant to Henry M. Stimson, Secretary of War, and wrote and directed "The Army Hour," the official U.S. Army radio show during the war years.
Mild-mannered, soft-spoken, Cooper is now a New York resident living in a Greenwich Village apartment with his wife, the former Emily V. Beveridge, and their dog Fang. Fang's favorite diet is angle worms. But with a concrete backyard, worms are impossible. So Fang has grapefruit for breakfast, liver for luncheon, and ice cream, lettuce and tomatoes for dinner. He will eat bread and butter if the bread is broken into small pieces.
Mar 15, 2003
Posted Mar 13, 2018 - 7:26 PM:
Wyllis Cooper and actress Jane White on the set of TV's "Stage 13":
Mar 15, 2003
Posted Mar 13, 2018 - 10:18 PM:
[September 24, 1930 Variety - The Great Northern Railway's Empire Builders series, to which Cooper contributed, moves from New York to Chicago.]
NBC'S CHI PLANT OPENS BIG DRIVE
Chicago, Sept 23.
Settled in its new $900,000 quarters atop the Merchandise Mart with snappy military pages and and gracious girl hostesses, NBC has begun the carving of its initials into Chicago's atmosphere.
Launching what within the trade is expected to be an expansion program of staggering proportions that will ultimately place the Chicago division on a par with the New York headquarters, NBC will have approximately 11 major accounts formerly planned and broadcast in the east. These will be gradually moved to Chicago, with Empire State [sic] Builders due to switch late this month. ...
[April 19, 1932 Variety]
Harlow Wilcox, with Brooks and Ross
Talk and Songs
Greyhound bus line pays for this weekly 15-minute session over the Columbia arrangement. It's not a good program.
Psychologically, the boys were on the right track, but they failed to remember that not only are they trying to sell, but also to entertain. Because unless the listener is pleased by a program he is not going to continue to listen to it.
It was good psychological figuring to reason that in order to get the people interested in any mode of travel it is necessary to make them want to see new places, new things. Oke. General Motors is at present, using that same system in its weekly program over NBC in 'Parade of the States.' But G. M. doesn't confine its entire program to a dry recital of the facts about some state. There’s much music. Greyhound forgets all about entertainment.
For instance, the second of this series of 10 programs. It is based on a wild-eyed and far-fetched continuity notion of 'contrasts,' the diversity of countryside and city streets. In this session the two spots named were Detroit and Kentucky. For long minutes the announcer, the hard-working and efficient Wilcox, gushed over the most obvious and trite statements of Detroit. Breathlessly he informed his listeners that it was the motor center of the country; that across the river was another country, Canada; that the city had many fine boulevards!
This stuff is as interesting and novel to the listeners as it would be to inform them that Tuesday follows Monday. And then the announcer jumps to Kentucky (cue for 'My Old Kentucky Home'--an example of how trite and obvious was the thinking). He tells the listeners--as if they had never hear of it before--that Kentucky has colonels and blue grass; that they raise horses in Kentucky and that there's a horse race held every year at Churchill Downs and that the race is called the Kentucky Derby.
No matter how unintelligent Greyhound bus lines may consider their potential patrons to be, they are still unlikely to be entertained, or willing to listen to such long-winded and meaningless recitals of obvious facts.
The continuity writer and the announcer are the men who do all the work here. The scribbler gets highly poetical in his descriptions of the territories, but it's not very moving. The great portion of the program is consumed by this heated talk. There's little room for the featured artists, Brooks and Ross, and about all they manage to get into the mike is the opening and closing theme. Background music throughout is as obvious as the talk. It's a studio throw-together, batonned by Frank Westphal, and not impressive.
Program is attempting to pull mail by giving away a free trip to anywhere in the nation for two, and $50 additional, in a letter-writing contest. Even this idea is stale.
[May 1-7, 1932 Radio Guide]
A RADIO announcer is a combination salesman and actor--perhaps that's why Harlow Wilcox is such a good announcer. He took turns at being an actor and then a salesman for years before deciding to combine these two talents and become an announcer. His is the persuasive voice heard on WBBM-CBS that makes you long for a stick of Wrigley's, and many other programs owe their popularity to his mellow voice.
His newest program, however, gives him greater opportunity to show his dramatic ability. Get aboard the Greyhound bus and let the Greyhound Traveler take you through the highways and byways of this interesting country of ours. Harlow Wilcox is the traveler who tells a tale of contrasts on Sunday at 7:30 p. m. over WGN-CBS. Here we are at the Alamo in San Antonio--warm, vital, rollicking; then--contrast. We reach Boston--cool, quiet, historical Boston.
The atmospheric music heard in the background is played by Frank Westphal and his orchestra; Willis Cooper writes the continuity for the program.
Harlow Wilcox is six feet tall, dark, handsome, thirty-one years old, not married, and has the heartiest laugh that comes from way down deep. He loves the work he's engaged in, but it's not all a bed of roses. His increasing popularity as an announcer means that he doesn't have a single evening during the week to himself--no theaters, no visiting friends. Ah, well, such is the price of fame.
[January 26, 1936 Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle]
County Morgue Aides Tune in Spook Plays
Caretaker Took Job Because He Liked It and Spends Spare Time Seeing Dracula Movies--His Assistant Likes Work, Too
One man in Brooklyn does not whistle when he passes a graveyard. He is not afraid of ghosts. It would be bad business for him to worry about spectral visitors as he is a caretaker at the Kings County Morgue, 451 Clarkson Ave.
James Plunket, one of the three regular mortuary caretakers serving on the staff of John Brenner, keeper of the morgue, considers the profession he follows the best in the world.
"It is a good business and I like it," he says. "I went into it because I wanted to. My grandfather is connected with the Greenpoint morgue, and from the time I was about 10 years old, I used to help him out once in a while. I got a liking for it then. After I got out of Brooklyn Industrial High I sent in my application for the job, but it was quite a while before I was accepted. Meanwhile, I worked in a CCC camp in Idaho and saw a good deal of the West. Then I did some CWA work, and finally, two years ago, I was accepted here.
Likes Radio Spook Plays
Mr. Plunket has complete charge of the morgue from 5 in the afternoon until 1 in the morning, but he does not get lonely, as there is always plenty of work for him and his assistants to do.
"For a while, I had a radio here. I used to like to listen to those creepy plays and stories. It passed the time when there was nothing to be done. I like the real horror plays especially and I used to listen to that program that comes on at WEAF at 11 or 12 o'clock at night, "Lights Out," I think the name of it was. It was pretty spooky. But they wouldn't let me keep the radio. I guess they were right. Business and pleasure don't mix."
Mr. Plunket's reading matter does not run to the Macabre. He does not read Poe, Ambrose Bierce and other masters of the tale which thrills and chills. The newspapers and Popular Science Magazine are about all he has time for.
"I always go to see pictures like 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' Mr. Plunket told the reporter, "I love them."
Showing the reporter various departments of the building, Mr. Plunket took him to the embalming room, where an undertaker was at work.
"Some of the undertakers were very nice to me when I first came here and showed me how to embalm. I can do it moderately well. I haven't any idea of going into that profession, however--not right away, under any circumstances. I like my present job too well."
All who die in Brooklyn without medical attendance are brought to the morgue. When there is no money to pay for burial, the morgue handles the arrangements for interment in the city cemetery.
"I see some tragic sights here," said Mr. Plunket. "Many and many a time, some lady in furs will ride up in an automobile to identify a father or a mother. After identification is made, they often walk out without so much as a backward glance, not caring that their father or mother will go to the potters field. Yes, that happens often."
Aide 'Gets to Like It'
One of Mr. Plunket's assistants is a WPA worker, who took the morgue assignment after 300 others turned it down.
"When they offered it to me, I said, 'Sure. I'll take anything.'
"It doesn't make any difference what I do," he told the reporter, "it's all the same to me. If others can, I can. It's a funny thing. After you work here a while, you get fond of the place. They say it's always that way."
Mr. Plunket nodded approval of his assistant's statement.
"You stay around and you'll get to like it too," he told his visitor.
[May 23, 1936 Billboard]
Willis Cooper, NBC writer, got into town over last week-end with several film studio deals on the fire. Cooper, author of the Flying Time period from Chicago, is one of the few network scribes to get announcement credit. He's about the fifth radio writer to entertain film offers in past several weeks.
[December 1, 1936 Broadcasting]
Cast Restages Old Program
And It Goes Over
THE CAST of Tales of the Foreign Legion, once a popular CBS program from Chicago, never expected to get together again. But Ray Appleby, who once directed and performed in the series, recently moved to Los Angeles as program manager of KEHE. He browsed around the film studios and found that the entire cast of the Foreign Legion series was writing for the film[s], with the single exception of one man who had died. So the group reassembled on a Sunday night at KEHE and staged one of their programs, with the result that the feature is now getting a Coast airing on KEHE at 7:30 p. m. (PST). Besides Mr. Appleby, the others include Vinton Haworth, Willis Cooper, Stanley Andrews and Don Briggs.
[February 6, 1937 Billboard]
Chi Air Notes
by F. LANGDON MORGAN
... Wednesday nights on the NBC red continue to be "sumpin'." It's the Lights Out stanza, certainly the best of its kind of production in radio. Stories are a hybrid, mystery, ghost and 10-20-30 stuff, but excellently done. ARCH OBOLER, who succeeded WILLIS COOPER, as writer of the show, has done well. Production and acting rate a bow, which make it unanimous. Commercially, the show presents a problem. Time, obviously, is not easily salable. Move to an earlier spot might take away some of the eerieness. But it still certainly rates a gamble as a commercial venture, if properly handled. ...
[December 4, 1937 Radio Guide]
"DEATH PIT" WILL TAKE "LIGHTS OUT" HORROR FANS BACK TO PREHISTORIC DAYS WEDNESDAY
TIME will turn backward in its flight, crossing twelve millennial mileposts, when Arch Oboler's "Death Pit" is presented as the "Lights Out" horror drama over NBC Wednesday night.
Dealing with the gruesome story of a human being who was trapped in the sticky asphalt of the world-famous La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles 12,000 years ago, "Death Pit" promises to bring greater chills and shudders to listeners than any play yet concocted by the inventive and imaginative author, who is now in Hollywood writing the Sunday night dramas for the Irene Rich show.
A spine-tickling novelty, "Death Pit" is especially written for those hardy radio fans who prefer something different in late broadcasts. Both Willis O. Cooper, former continuity editor of the NBC central division, originator of the "Lights Out" idea, and Mr. Oboler, who is carrying on the tradition, have been amazed at the response of the show's listening audience. Each week they have thought the absolute peak in horror had been reached, only to receive letters from murder-loving fans begging for more thrills and terror.
Consequently, "Death Pit" is decidedly not a program for children, or for adults who are faint of heart. It is a story of revenge, showing how two men of prehistoric California met, grappled on the edge of the ancient tar pits, the greatest death traps in the world. Oboler received the idea for the fantastic drama from an actual newspaper story reporting the discovery of a lone human skeleton among the innumerable bones of dozens of mammoths and saber-tooth tigers found in the pools of liquid asphalt. His mind, attuned to horriferous situations after months of writing shudder pieces, immediately seized upon the situation and attempted to reconstruct what might have been the actual story of the prehistoric Californian's death. He will emphasize the fact that the bones of only one human being were discovered. More than that might be unfair to the strange, yet real, story.
Oboler, a Chicago-born playwright, is an erratic writer, writing where and when an idea or inspiration comes to him. Before writing for radio, he wrote and sold more than 200 short stories to magazines. Of these, some 150 were based on horror and ghost themes. Married early this year to Eleanor Helfand, University of Chicago co-ed, Arch and his bride went on a honeymoon of haunted houses in New England.
"Death Pit" will be cast only a few hours before it goes on the air. After each part has been carefully assigned to a competent NBC actor, Director Howard Keegan will rehearse the play itself with the aid of practically all the sound-effects equipment in the NBC central division.
Passers-by in the halls are frequently startled Wednesday nights by shrieks of terror, moans of anguish, crashing sounds, thunder, or the like. One uninitiated in the varied ways of radiodom might think that a murder was being committed in the studio. Over and over Keegan rehearses the actors until they are letter, snarl, scream and groan perfect. Weak, worn and with throats as raw as those of football fans after a big game, the case [sic] goes into the actual production on the air. To add to the effect, listeners are urged to dim their lights and not hold hands. Br-r-r-r!
"Lights Out" first went on the air in 1934, was discontinued for a few weeks in 1935, but had to be brought back because of the clamor set up by its hardy, ghost-story-loving audience. And, again, during the past summer, when it was cancelled, listeners proved loyal as ever -- deluged officials with scores of petitions and hundreds of letters vehemently demanding the resurrection of the horror-drama program for the second time in its three-year history.
[December 6, 1937 Radio Daily]
Morrison Wood to Hollywood
Chicago--Morrison Wood, a senior production director at WGN, leaves for Hollywood today for combined radio and movie work. He will be associated with Willis Cooper, who writes for 20th-Century Fox as well as producing [sic] "Hollywood Hotel."
[April 23, 1938 Billboard]
Chicago By HAROLD HUMPHREY
TOP-NOTCH sponsor has been talking things over with Arch Oboler with a view to having him do a show for them patterned after Lights Out but minus the horror stuff. If the deal pans, Arch will have to leave his present chore for NBC and devote his time to the new account, which is in New York. ...
[November 15, 1940 Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express]
THAT dramatic series which is slated to occupy the Friday night spot formerly held by Grand Central Station appears to spell plenty of competition for other shows on the 9:30 o'clock period, including the Arch Oboler plays.
The newcomer starts on November 22nd and will use name stars from the stage and screen, those already signed including Walter Huston, Donald Cook, Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March and Florence Eldridge.
What is most convincing to this writer, however, is the staff lined up for production of these dramas. Material, which is to be chosen from newspaper and magazine stories never before produced on the air, will be adapted by John Houseman and Wyllis Cooper, both tops in that branch of work. Houseman has been doing similar duties for the Helen Hayes Sunday shows, while Wyllis Cooper may be recalled as the writer of Lights Out dramas, Hollywood Hotel and other of the better presentations of radio.
Direction will be under Diana Bourbon, one of the few feminine figures to have become established firmly in that end of broadcasting, with George Zachary assisting in production. Zachary was responsible for the Ellery Queen mysteries first reaching the air in hour-long sustaining form . . . and it might be added that he was not responsible for what happened to that series when it became a half hour commercial show.
All in all, this combination points to a topnotch dramatic series which will further bolster Friday evenings in the matter of attractive programs. The dramas will come through Buffalo via WGR.
[May 31, 1941 The Billboard]
Reviewed Thursday, 10:30-11 p.m. Style--South American music, comment. Station--WEAF (New York, NBC-Red network).
Good Neighbors is NBC's attempt to improve relations between the Americas. Show is a solid job of programming and research, personally supervised by Sidney Strotz, in charge of NBC production, and John Royal, chief of the net's International Division. Series is short-waved to the Americas via WRCA and WNBI.
Each of the series will be devoted to one of the 20 South American countries, programs presenting music and comment telling pertinent facts about country's history, geography, and personalities. Dr. Frank Black and the NBC Symphony furnish the music, and will be aided by native talent.
Opening session Thursday was in the nature of a preview, with a roll call of the Latin American countries. Milton Cross furnished a commentary on the Americas, orchestra meanwhile playing appropriate music. Straight announcing chores done by Ben Grauer.
Willis Cooper wrote the script for opener, altho Brice Disque Jr. is slated to script the series, which will total [23?] broadcasts. Cooper's job was superb.
According to present plans ambassador or minister from each of the Americas will introduce the broadcasts, and scripts will be checked with South American embassy officials at Washington.
From the standpoint of both music and comment, preview of the series was a honey.
[July 8, 1942 Variety]
Hollywood, July 7 ... Don Stauffer, radio director of the Ruthrauff & Ryan agency, which has the Bob Burns and Edna May Oliver shows for Levers, is here and is also auditioning two programs for other interested clients. One is 'Lights Out,' the goose-pimple series heard on NBC, out of Chicago, several seasons ago. It was originated by Wyllis Cooper and later written by Arch Oboler.
[July 22, 1942 Variety]
SHOWMANSHIP AND 'THE ARMY HOUR'
A Triumph Over Time, Water, Static and Red Tape
By Robert J. Landry
'The Army Hour' is not an entertainment. That's what they say. It's a military mission. The distinction may have seemed like a literary conceit at the start. It has tended to become a crisp fact as the program has been shaken down. Now in its 16th week, 'The Army Hour' has become progressively military-like, diminishingly schmalz-like. Sentiment for sentiment's sake has been sent by parcel post to more suitable programs. Military marches have an affinity for 'Army Hour,' so the Moon and June songs have been relegated, too. Those little Elbert Hubbard journeys to the historic shrines of the past -- they were schmalz. Such touches were over-thick with suet; this is a lean program -- lean, long-striding, punchy.
Now that it has settled down for the duration and gone over the bumps (it's 7 in the Hooper Rating) that any new series has to take 'The Army Hour' may be examined as a clinical study in showmanship on a global magnitude of total war and total human destiny. It is possible to consider now with some perspective the program goals set by Gen. A. D. Surles and Lt. Col. Ed Kirby of the Bureau of Public Relations and how these have been translated and transmitted by the Army's get-it-done civilian, Wyllis Cooper, the latter one of big time radio's best writing-producing craftsmen.
Army Goes Everywhere, Worries About Everything
'The Army Hour' goes to Australia, Jamaica, Canada, Chungking, Cairo, England, Curacao, Hawaii, Ireland, India, Newfoundland, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia. These world-encircling pickups tell as well as any words of description the far-flung nature of this fight. They are necessary parts of the program formula. So, too, is praise of the British, the Russians, the Dutch, the Chinese, the Australians, the Canadians, all the Allies bunched together in the United Nations. A persisting emphasis upon the tie-up between the battle front and the production front is also fundamental to the design of 'The Army Hour.' The mounting crescendo of the drill-press is the obbligato to the rat-a-tat of the proving grounds, the field maneouvers and finally, the actual death test with the enemy.
The processess of democratic mobilization and organization are slow. An impatient people has to be lighted through dark passages of history. 'The Army Hour' editorializes now and again at the American people, disabusing them of false confidence on the one hand, but keeping hope from withering and the outlook from being all murky and depressing on the other. Somebody has to do this, and the Army has a habit of not waiting upon others. Never mind that critics sometimes suggest that the complex politics of 'hope' ought, in a democracy, to be handled outside the armed forces. That's theoretical. 'The Army Hour' is practical. Practical in putting radio programs together on a basis of the Army's exclusive knowledge of the whole picture, of the dangers to, and the needs of, maximum efficiency.
Pass Around Some Of That Glamour Stuff
Naturally 'The Army Hour' must speak for all the branches and corps. (It also speaks on occasion for the Navy.) In this war the over-all totals of publicity have tended to glamourize the air force first and tanks second. Only now are there belated salutes being organized in the country at large and via all channels of communications to such neglected bodies as the Medical Corps, the Quartermaster Corps, the Infantry, etc. Of military and other personages heard on 'The Army Hour' 16% have been connected with aviation. Of visits to factories and other places in the United States the aviation percentage has been above 30%. In its profiles of the lethal weapons of modern warfare the program has concentrated 8.3% on aerial matters.
Now comes the get-it-done part, the sweating, worrying, long distancing, cabling, script-writing, putting it together job. There's anywhere from 60 hours up of hard work for Wyllis Cooper alone on any one broadcast. This is the supreme test of professionalism. No amateur could perform under such everyday handicaps. Too few assistants, too few funds, too few conveniences. NBC pays the bills but the budget is not unlimited. It costs $7 per minute, for example, to hold a production conference by telephone with NBC's man, Bob St. John, in London. Cairo and other points east and west, are proportionately higher. People in remote places have to be cued, rehearsed, supplied with directives (and in army code as an added complication) and the whole undertaking is veiled until broadcast time by military secrecy. The Japanese must not know that Chiang Kai-Shek or Archibald Wavell will be at a given point at a given time to broadcast.
Russians, Nazi and Band Music From England Mix
The overseas pickups are hazards of unpredictable disappointments. Recently a number of test circuits with Moscow were bell-clear but on Sunday at 3:30 EWT there were Sabbatarian complications that mussed up everything. Over the voices from Russia came the competitive strains of a BBC military band and the guttural blastings of a Nazi propaganda show, not to mention an admixture of Soviet aviation crosstalk. One of the most happily anticipated pickups thus became one of the most crushing failures. But on the whole 'The Army Hour' has been able to plan and execute th[r]ough RCA-NBC a series of arresting internationals.
The domestic pickups are, of course, easy by comparison. The country is rampant with eager press agents. Preferably 'The Army Hour' likes to send one of its own men to set up the routine. Donald Briggs, the radio and film actor, is doing such assignments for Wyliss [sic] Cooper. Lt. Howard Nussbaum, Lt. Joe Thompson and Jack Harris out of Washington also travel a good deal to line up specials. It is their intimate knowledge of the policies and the problems of the program that makes them ideal in dealing with the local public relations officers and commanders. Local NBC people, however, often provide useful assistance.
Plainly there are right and wrong ways to get broadcasting cooperation in the Army. Generals sometimes have brainstorms that must be discouraged. This requires tact. Again the time is short; the details many, there is no allowance for the kind of guy who would go sightseeing or spiral into tailspins of awe. Knowledgeable gents are much needed. Wyliss [sic] Cooper himself has the advantage of being a former commissioned officer of the last war and of the national guard until 1937. Being hep to army procedure helps no end.
Real people are used most of the time. These range from field marshals to privates. An occasional woman, as for example an English ferry pilot or the head WAAC, are included. There are some professional actors at the Radio City studios where the production is tied together before a studio audience. The actors are used as impersonal voices, never as characters or persons. Lt. Col. Warren J. Clear with his hard-bitten account of the Bataan heartbreak and his epigram 'there are no atheists in foxholes' was one of the memorable eyewitnesses of the series.
Colors Are Trooped Into NBC's Big 8-H Studio
The big 8-H studio at NBC is not neglected in the operations of this military mission. It is standard practice to troop in the colors with a guard of soldiers just before the broadcast and the colors are trooped out with due ceremony at the finale. The last two weeks the colors of a Negro regiment have been honored. The guards join the audience while the show is on. An audience of 1,500 crowds the studios. Contrary to Broadway dictum that soldiers shun soldier entertainments while off duty, there are a lot of uniforms in the crowds. USO and NBC distribute the ducats. Studio audiences get the remote parts of the program by loudspeaker. In addition an attempt is made to have visual display of, say, anti-aircraft guns in the studios when the program goes off to some training camp for ack-acks. As the audience arrives at and departs from 8-H, eight or more military police stand about on the outlook. For satchels with Nazi valentines, no doubt.
Jack Joy of the War Department comes to Manhattan every Saturday to rehearse and conduct the NBC orchestra. One of his accomplishments was transcribing at a piano in Washington as a member of the Chinese embassy hummed to him the melody of the 'March of the Ninth Route Army.' Joy built up an orchestration for this. Meantime the Chinese gentleman went to New York and painstakingly taught the NBC choir the Chinese words. By these great labors 'The Army Hour' has a thrilling martial piece from a great, little-known ally.
On Sunday last (19) there was for the first time a 15-minute segment deducted from the program, in order to permit NBC to present the new Shostakovich Seventh symphony. 'The Army Hour' looped itself this latter event by also offering toward the end of its program other music by the same Soviet composer.
Every Sunday there is a musical gap in the 'The Army Hour' that can be contracted or expanded at the demand of the stop-watch. Timing a program that is stitched together by cable, transatlantic phone, teletype and intuition calls for a rubber cushion that inflates or deflates with a wag of a forefinger. After much practice, Wyliss [sic] Cooper has perfected a flexible but accurate time-chart of the items in a show. His general purpose is to have not over five minutes between musical breaks. Here was the working calculation on the clock problems for last Sunday:
Item Air P.M.
Opening ....... 1.00 1.00 3.3100
March ......... 2.00 3.00 3.3300
Editorial ..... 1.00 4.00 3.3400
New Delhi ..... 5.00 9.00 3.3900
Bolling ....... 2.30 11.30 3.4130
News .......... 2.30 14.00 3.4430
Aaf Anct....... 1.30 15.30 3.4530
'All Out'...... 2.30 18.00 3.4800
Ft. Des Moines. 4.30 22.30 3.5230
Bragg ......... 2.30 25.00 3.5500
Carlisle* ..... 7.30 32.30 4.0230
Gen. Grant* ... 2.30 35.00 4.0500
Payoff+ ....... 3.00 35.30 4.0530
Editorial ..... 2.00 37.30 4.0730
Unat-Russia ... 3.00 40.30 4.1030
SSB ........... 1.30 42.00 4.1200
Signoff ....... .30 42.30 4.1230
About Our Allies
'The Army Hour' editorialized early in one program:
Let us speak to you a moment about these British allies of ours, from whose soul these Americans have just spoken.
Britain is our oldest ally.
We're both fighting on the same side, for the same principles, against the same enemies.
Some of us take advantage of the fact that the British are our allies by making snide cracks about them. Some of us think that because the British have taken it on the chin so long, they're not as good fighters as they might be.
Well, the Germans don't share that opinion.
Neither do the Italians, or any of the other people that have tied into the British.
They've been defending that island of theirs -- an island about the size of Minnesota, with 45,000,000 people on it -- for going on four years. They've been fighting the Axis all over the world, spreading their forces out dangerously thin, getting hammered from every direction by an enemy that had this all planned years before he made his first move. And they haven't done badly. Hitler is still trying to lick them; and he's lost plenty trying.
No, the war isn't won yet. It'll be a long time before it's won. And it isn't going to be won by making cracks at the people who are fighting on our side, at people that we'll be marching into battle with. Even hard-boiled Rommel gives the British credit for being tough fighters. And that's praise enough for anybody.
About Our Enemies
'The Army Hour' editorialized late in one program:
It is easy to say, when we look at our American soldiers, that one American is a match for 10 Germans, or 10 Japs.
It is easy to say, but it is not the truth.
It is easy to say, when we look at our production figures of tanks and airplanes and weapons, that we will smother our enemies under a flood of war-machines.
That is easy to say, too; but it is not the, truth. We are fighting a war against highly efficient, highly trained armies, equipped with some of the best weapons of war this world has ever seen. Against armies that have acquired the habit of winning; that have not yet learned defeat, and that will learn it hard.
It is not going to be easy to win this war.
We will win it, of course -- but we will not win it by beating our breasts and boasting.
And before we win it, we shall learn some bitter lessons. These enemies of ours want to win this war, too. They believe they will win it.
They will not hold back their air power, nor their sea power, nor the steel of their armies for fear of what we will do to them in return.
They mean to crush us; to invade our country, and to force us to our knees in the worst, the most humiliating, the most horrible defeat that the mind of man can conceive.
They believe that they can, and will, do that. And we hear people sneer at the Japs and the Germans and the Italians.
[August 26, 1942 Variety]
'Lights Out' Will Be 1st Horror Series on CBS
Sterling Products has bought 'Lights Out' to replace the current 'Board of Missing Heirs' for Ironized Yeast. CBS has always banned horror stories, being much stricter than NBC in that regard, but the network has relaxed its nix in the case of the 'Lights Out' shudder opus.
Continuity Department at CBS has looked at and okayed scripts for the proposed series[. S]how will start Oct. 6 in the same Tuesday night spot now occupied by 'Missing Heirs.' It will be written and produced by Arch Oboler, who followed Wyllis Cooper as author of the series on NBC some years ago in Chicago. At that time the program was owned by NBC, but Oboler subsequently acquired the rights. It will be the first time Oboler has ever had a regular series on CBS.
The other Ionized Yeast series, 'Good Will Court,' on WJZ-Blue (and WMCA, New York) Sunday nights, will continue.
[October 14, 1942 Variety]
Cast: Arch Oboler, Wally Maher, Gloria Blondell, Ed Max, Bob LaMond
Writer-Director: Arch Oboler
Tuesday, 8 p. m.
WABC-CBS, New York
(Ruthrauff & Ryan)
'Lights Out' is Arch Oboler's second commercial series (his first was 'Everyman's Theatre' on NBC for Procter & Gamble for 26 weeks during 1940-41). It is also his first on Columbia. Ironized Yeast is the sponsor, having dropped 'Board of Missing Heirs' to bankroll it. Package price for "Lights Out' is $1,325 a week, Oboler getting by at that figure by being his own m.c., confining himself to small casts and covering the absence of any music by elaborate sound effects.
Whether Oboler can get and keep an audience under those conditions remains to be seen. His initial broadcast Tuesday night (6) was clearly aimed for commercial appeal, being a pulp-mag type of psychological chiller. It was pure storytelling, with eerie atmosphere and grizzly, supernatural climax.
Yarn about a grasping divorcee eloping with a rat-like draft-dodger maintained interest, on the whole, although somewhat loosely written. Gloria Blondell's playing of the divorcee was potent, particularly her hysteria scenes. Wally Maher was acceptable as her vicious companion.
Oboler's m.c. by-play with announcer Bob LaMond was 'cute.' There were two major commercials, the first following abruptly on a big emotional scene and the closer making a money-back guarantee for the product.
'Lights Out' was originally an NBC sustainer out of Chicago, with Oboler following Wyllis Cooper as author.
[May 19, 1943 Variety]
Swamis All Wet On Post-War Plans, Says NBC Program Developer
Post-war program planning at this time can be nothing but the wildest guess work, says Wyllis Cooper, recently appointed director of NBC's program development division. There is practically no way of prophesying what the public is going to desire in the way of radio entertainment and education, and anybody who attempts it is just another crystal-gazer, he added.
As for those who say that news, discussion, and current event features should give way, in post-war programs, to escapist material, Cooper feels that they are evading the issues. The public has a right to know all about peace plans and reconstruction projects, and should be informed on every step made to build a new world. It's radio's duty to keep the public informed, Cooper claims.
For the present, NBC is going ahead with its various war and public service programs. Whatever changes are made depend on the listeners.
[November 6, 1946 Variety]
COOPER AS FREELANCE TO WRITE FOR WRIGHT
Wyllis Cooper, head of television for Compton agency, and former NBC exec, is resigning to do freelance writing. As his initial assignment on his own he'll team up with his ex-NBC confrere, Wynn Wright, whose new production operation, Wynn Wright Associates, is packing the half-hour "Eddie Dowling, Esquire" show.
Program will be comprised of dramatizations from Esquire mag, with Dowling at the production helm and also doubling occasionally into lead parts. Cooper will script the series.
[February 15, 1947 Billboard - This series aired as "The Mighty Casey" on Mutual]
"Casey" To Swing For MBS March 1
NEW YORK, Feb. 8.-Casey at the Bat has been sold to Mutual Broadcasting System by the Frank Cooper office and debuts as a sustainer March 1, in the 9-9:30 p.m. slot. Cast will include Millard Mitchell, Walter Kinsella and Ann Thomas.
Script is by Wyllis Cooper, formerly radio program manager at the Compton Agency, who also handled the Army Hour on NBC during the war.
[September 17, 1947 Des Moines Register]
Wyllis Cooper has written an eerie story, "The Big Box," which he insists is based on a true experience which happened to him years ago in Cisco, Tex. The story will be dramatized on KCBC at 6:30 p. m. The big box applies to a truck trailer rig.
[August 23, 1948 Cumberland (MD) Evening Times]
Radio Ringside By John M. Cooper
(Editor's Note: John M. Cooper is on vacation. His guest columnist today is Wyllis Cooper, author, producer and director whose program "Quiet Please" is heard on the Mutual network Mondays at 9:30 p. m. EDT).
NEW YORK--(INS)--John Cooper and Wyllis Cooper are not brothers. Neither are they cousins, uncles, father-and-son, or nephews; at least not to each other.
John hails from the state of Maine, and subsists upon lobsters, pumpkin pie, venison and hot buttered rum; while I having been born in the midst of the Illinois prairies, am known to be partial to corn on the cob; catfish, chicken-fried steak, and a curious beverage called cookin' bourbon.
Apart, however, from our mutual surname and the right to bear the same coat of arms, we share at least one other characteristic: A belief that the radio audience is entitled occasionally to program fare that one can listen to without experiencing a guilty feeling.
Cooper, J. points out (Cooper, W. concurring) that there are all kinds of books to be read: Books that challenge the imagination and stimulate thinking, as well as books that present trash that debilitates the mind.
Cooper, J. goes on to suggest that radio does not offer the same proportions of adult and moron fare.
He points out that in general radio mystery shows are around the level of a retarded child's mentality; that adventure shows (again in general) are on the level of a 1910 Kalem movie.
And, he continues (Cooper, W. still concurring like mad) that when radio drama goes serious, the adjective-manufacturers declare a new double dividend, and the sale of prestuffed shirts skyrockets.
Yet, points out J. Cooper to W. Cooper, it is possible to produce adult radio that partakes of fantasy, occasionally humor, and frequently a regard for the audience's intelligence. Such a show, asserts the Cooper-from-Maine, is sometimes to be heard under the trade-mark of "Quiet, Please!"
Now, I am excessively grateful to John for his ecomiums; not through any sense of high self-esteem, I assure you, but because he, like some thousands of listeners to "Quiet, Please!" do go for radio drama that is not deliberately written down to subhuman levels.
I am happy that John, in company with certain bartenders, literary and dramatic critics, musicians, taxi-drivers, schoolteachers, advertising men, housewives, actors, artists, locomotive engineers, policemen, and others, is able to listen to my show without apologizing to himself.
And I rejoice at the opportunity afforded me in these present letters to pass the word publicly to an affectionate and intelligent audience that I am most appreciative of the time they have given my words, Ernest Chappell's voice, and Bert Buhrmann's music.
There is always a figure by my side as I pummel my ancient but faithful typewriter.
The figure reads over my shoulder as I write, and a voice mumbles in my ear every once in a while.
"Who'd'you think you're writing that for, Cooper?" it asks, "Halfwits?" and the big black pencil comes out, and my typewriter and I do it over: This time for grownnps.
Sometimes that voice is suspiciously like yours, audience: so thank you for it.
I'll keep listening, and I hope you, as well as the proprietor of this column, have a pleasant vacation.
Met, I'm sincerely yours.
[July 2, 1949 The Billboard]
'Volume One' Option Extended by Kudner
NEW YORK, June 25.--The Kudner Agency this week extended the option it had taken on Wyllis Cooper's dramatic series, Volume One. The show, which has showcased two of the six sustainers contracted for by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a sample series; received considerable critical acclaim.
The agency originally had optioned the suspense airer until Wednesday (2), but this week asked ABC to continue over into next week. An ABC official said this week that should no commercial deal materialize by the end of the series' sixth week, the network might continue the series sustaining.
[November 14, 1949 Broadcasting]
WYLLIS COOPER, radio and television writer, producer and director, creator recently of Quiet, Please, and Volume One, Numbers 1-6, on ABC radio and TV networks respectively, appointed executive writer, producer and director at CBS-TV. He soon will launch new CBS-TV series, featuring his work and that of others. He was with CBS from 1930 to 1933, as continuity editor in Chicago, leaving to join NBC, where he originated, wrote and directed Lights Out and other series.
[March 16, 1950 Camden (NJ) Courier-Post - about an episode of TV's _Escape_.]
WYLLIS COOPER'S "Homecoming," the story of a girl who returns to her apartment after a weekend only to find it occupied
[April 1, 1951 The Decatur Daily Review]
9-9:30 p. m. WSOY Philip Morris Playhouse screen actor Edmond O'Brien as an ex-GI believed dead who returns home to find tragedy in "Homecoming," a Wyllis Cooper mystery.
[From a 1952 issue of _Cue: The Weekly Magazine of New York Life_ - Part of a column by Philip Minoff
COME BACK, WYLLIS: TELEVISION NEEDS YOU
SWITCH of writer Wyllis Cooper to radio left void in field of TV drama
Of all the people no longer connected with television (and their name is legion) the one this department misses most is Wyllis Cooper. A man of tremendous talent, Mr. Cooper has always been less famous than the works he's created. As an absolute master of the macabre, he brought the original "Lights Out" to radio 20 years ago, and in TV, he wrote and directed such weirdly wonderful series as "Volume One," "Escape" and "Stage 13."
If you're familiar with these last three ventures, it would be pointless to describe them here. If you're not, let it be said that in them Cooper blended the natural and supernatural with more dramatic artistry than the medium has seen since. The dramatizations shocked, provoked, and moved the audience as Cooper willed, and they're still discussed in detail by discriminate viewers.
One of the gems, a half-hour play entitled, "The Bellhop's Story," was a genuine video masterpiece. It was a one-set chiller involving a man and woman hiding out in a seedy hotel room after robbing a bank. Their nerves are ragged, and every once in awhile one of them stares into the dresser mirror (actually the TV camera) and murmurs, "I have the strangest feeling we're being watched."
Then the young, naive-appearing bellhop comes into the story, and that's when the thieves begin suspecting one another of a double-cross. First the hold-up gun disappears, then the $40,000 loot. In addition, the bellhop reports in a strange, vague manner that he's unable to get them any food, cigarettes or liquor. The two become increasingly frantic, and by the time the play ends, the viewer is convinced that the bellhop has doomed them to perdition in the hotel room.
That's the sort of stuff Cooper does better than anyone else around. But for some occult reason, it doesn't overwhelm sponsors, which is why you won't find him represented on the channels today. He _is_ writing and directing an excellent radio show, "Whitehall 1212" (WNBC Sundays, 5:30 to 6 p.m.), a Scotland Yard series performed with "Dragnet" realism.
But television, buckling under a load of trite mystery shows, needs him more desperately than radio does. Cooper's absence from video is partly television's fault, partly his own. "Nobody's breaking any doors down to get me on," he told us recently, "and, frankly, I'm not doing much about it, either. I wouldn't write a TV series unless I could also produce and direct it, and that's so tough a job that I'd be somewhat foolish to undertake it." But we're hoping he changes his mind. No man with talent, a television set and a conscience, has the right to be that stubborn. ...
[August 18, 1954 Variety - Cooper's name is mentioned in a lengthy letter to the editor from Tom Bennett arguing for better radio series to compete with television.
'Nothing Wrong With Network Radio That Some Good Shows Can't Cure' ...
... There are many things that radio can do better than tv. They break down, probably, into two main categories: 1, that which is dull to watch but nice to listen to (singers and orchestras, for one group); and 2, that which lures listeners into soaring with their imagination. There is a certain type of drama, for example, which binds its audience with too-factual settings and other physical habiliments; the attempts of the Wyllis Cooper-Albert McCleery school of tv drama, with few or no settings and many closeups, tacitly admits that radio is better for this class of show. ...
[March 30, 1964 "The Reviewing Stand" radio series. Excerpt from a panel interview with actor Willard Waterman]
WATERMAN: Another thing that was wonderful about radio, you could do things that -- in dramatic radio -- that would be impossible of a production in, for instance, television. ... I'm thinking of primarily of-- of the old "Lights Out" show. Now this was a show originated by Wyllis Cooper as a writer, and then Arch Oboler later wrote it, and it was on for many, many years, and it was always on at midnight on Wednesday night. And I can remember when I was at the University of Wisconsin before I came to Chicago, we walked down fraternity row on Wednesday night at twelve o'clock-- To explain, the show always began, [deep voice] "Lights out, everybody!" And at twelve o'clock on Wednesday night on fraternity row, every light in the place went out, and everybody was listening to "Lights Out." They were horror dramas--
Q: You mean the boys in those days were listening to radio on the college campus?
Q: No girls in those days?
WATERMAN: Mmm, I didn't notice the sorority houses myself. [panelists laugh] But, at any rate, this show -- with good acting, with mood-- playing for mood, with sound effects, music -- you could create a mood, an impression, that it would take now the equivalent of a full-length Hitchcock motion picture. ... To do the equivalent -- to build the same mood and make the same impression on television, I say, it would-- It can't be done cheaply. Because you see things, you see sets. Whereas in a show like "Lights Out," in a radio show, you built them in your imagination. You saw those dark corners and doors. But to do it, it would have to be done -- to get the same effect -- it would have to be done very well. And I say a Hitchcock full-length motion picture with a budget in the millions, of course, achieves that. But you couldn't achieve it cheaply on television. ...
Edited by MS on Mar 13, 2018 - 10:32 PM
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