Googling Wyllis Cooper

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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]


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]

Authentic Sound

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]

"Funny" Coincidence

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]

Worried Listener

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]



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]



"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.
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Posted Mar 13, 2018 - 7:26 PM:

Wyllis Cooper and actress Jane White on the set of TV's "Stage 13":

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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.]


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
WGN, Chicago

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.

Enjoyed 'Dracula'

"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

... 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]


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]


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]

"Good Neighbors"

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]


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
*Including buildup.


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
30 Mins.
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]


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

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. ...

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#19 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Oct 20, 2020 - 7:39 PM:

Some mind-boggling stuff this time:

Link to July 7, 1949 kinescope of VOLUME ONE episode "Number 4":

Apparently, the same play aired on Cooper's STAGE 13 series, April 26, 1950, under the title "The Stars in Their Courses." The actors -- James Monks and Nancy Sheridan -- appeared regularly on QP.

[June 1932 Radio Guide]

Dolly Dearborn's Chicago Reviews ...

"THE GREYHOUND TRAVELER" — Columbia — WGN — Sundays, 7:30 Chi. time.

This program is not intended for stupid people, and it proves that the old idea of the child mind in an adult body is passe, if you get what I mean. It shows that people do like to be treated as though they had average intelligence and not six year old mentalities. This is a glorified travelogue with modernistic music, eloquent descriptions, and refined phrases. It does not smack of "thrown-together." It shows that a travel program when handled with intelligence can be made beautiful and interesting at the same time. All the places you've ever wanted to go are pictured for you vividly and with plenty of color. And if you have a millionaire appetite and a ten cent store pocketbook, the commercials tell you that you can still take a trip via Greyhound. Another contest for you fans — a simple one too. Give it a listen! ...

[February 5-11, 1933 Radio Guide]

Mourns Foreign Legion

Wheeling, W. Va.

Dear Sirs:

Your announcement in RADIO GUIDE, last issue--"Tales of The Foreign Legion, a Columbia favorite, has been dropped from the Sunday schedules without explanation," came as a big surprise to the undersigned.

Did you ever receive a letter stating that your best friend had contracted a malady from which he could not recover, and that his death would occur within a week?

Well, that's the way I felt when I received the notices in RADIO GUIDE. I believe there are thousands of other persons throughout the country who have been stunned just as greatly as I. If (and I hope there is a change in decisions) "Tales of The Foreign Legion" leaves the air, there will be many mourners, as I know, personally, hundreds who never fail to hear the program and class the program as one of the best, if not the best in the great selection of air periods.

The romances, the joys and light-heartedness, together with the moments of sadness and shock that the Legionnaires have endured, have been picked up most sympathetically by the audience of many thousands of unseen listeners out in the land.

Yes, we are going to miss that program when it is discontinued, as there is nothing else that can take its place. We, and I speak for the many I know personally, and perhaps voice the thought in echo of many others from far and distant points, shall miss our old friends of the Legion with a sadness akin to that of real life were we to be told that they had actually gone out to battle against the Jebel Druses or some other of the enemy and fell in battle--gone forever.

Is it possible that Columbia has not appreciated the feelings of its public?

Does not the Columbia Broadcasting Company realize that it has built up something that should not be torn down?

I wonder.

The public must suffer at the hands of the company responsible for this disappointment with no way for retaliation. True it is, there have been no sponsors for the program other than the broadcasting company, but even so, the company has made friends and these mean something.

The men responsible for the program, they who gathered the data, compiled and arranged it, as well as the performers in their portrayals, are to be congratulated. Perhaps they were too good. They had to be good to win the applause of an audience who never missed a performance, causing each one of us to feel that we were their friends. But now, it must end.

Ross W. Prysock

[February 7, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

The "Foreign Legion" returns next Sunday because of demands of listeners. CBS had planned the return for Feb. 19. 

[June 11-17, 1933 Radio Guide]

Romances of Fighting Men

Foreign Legion Tales Culled from Trench Yarns Spun in 1918

By Steve Trumbull

ACCORDING to the cold and official records of the Columbia Broadcasting System, "Tales of the Foreign Legion" is exactly forty-three weeks old. The forty-third episode of this weekly Friday evening adventure drama from the Chicago studios had just been presented as this was written.

Actually "Tales of the Foreign Legion" is some 780 weeks old.

Its real beginning was in a penciled notebook in the mud-spattered O. D. breeches of Sergeant Bill Cooper in the Marne sector of France back in 1918. Between lulls in the more serious business of pumping steel-jacketed .30-'06's at the other fellows' trenches, Sergeant Bill, of the 131st Infantry, developed the habit of strolling down the line for some chatter with the Second March Regiment, French Foreign Legion.

Sergeant Bill thus polished up his French, and heard some swell yarns, which were later jotted down in the aforementioned notebook. Having a gift for picking up languages, and having served with Pershing in Mexico and on the border, Sergeant Bill was already quite proficient with Spanish. He developed friendships among the Spanish soldiers in that regiment of all nations, and the outline of still more yarns went into that little notebook.

Sergeant Bill was planning to put it all in a novel some day. He'd never considered radio broadcasting back in those days of 1918.

The war ended and Sergeant Bill became Willis O. Cooper. He drifted into the advertising business, as a copy writer, but his interest in military affairs continued. His relaxation from business was the Reserve Corps. He now ranks as a captain in the 317th Cavalry.

Three years ago, the notebook packed away and forgotten along with the other mementos of those distant days, Cooper entered radio broadcasting as a continuity writer. For eighteen months he wrote "The Empire Builder." Then he came to the Columbia network as continuity chief at the Chicago studios.

Ex-Sergeant Bill (now Captain Willis O.) had authored scores of radio scripts when, one day, he chanced to remember that notebook and the unwritten novel. And that's the real low-down on the birth of "Tales of the Foreign Legion."

FROM the very first episode this radio series has drawn a steady flow of letters of praise from soldiers and ex-soldiers. The tone of all of these letters is the same. It's a real picture of military life.

The reason is obvious. Ex-Sergeant Bill is playing the role of Mendoza, the Spanish soldier, and he has hand-picked a cast of actors who talk like soldiers.

The crowning tribute to Cooper's show came last summer. Captain Edgar Hamilton, of the Second March Regiment, French Foreign, now stationed at Meknes, Morocco, was back in the United States, and in Chicago, on leave. Captain Hamilton had read several not-so-complimentary American stories concerning his beloved Legion, and his ire was mounting. Someone told him about "Tales of the Foreign Legion," on WBBM and the Columbia network. Captain Hamilton didn't wait to hear an episode. Assuming that it must be in the tone of all other American opinions of the Legion he called at the studios, and with a not-so-friendly glint in his eye inquired for the author.

Quite curtly the captain introduced himself. Ex-Sergeant Bill answered with a snappy and very regulation French salute, and a cordial greeting, in French. Before the captain had recovered from his amazement Cooper was inquiring about officers of the Second Regiment. Were Captain So-and-So and Major So-and-So who served with the regiment in France now with the regiment in Morocco?

Captain Hamilton invited Captain Cooper out to lunch.

The next day he returned to the studio, at Cooper's invitation, to witness a rehearsal. Captain Hamilton actually beamed.

"It's great!" he exclaimed. "I'd swear it was written by a man who actually served in the Legion. There's only one minor point where the sniper used the sling on his rifle. We know nothing of that in the Legion. How is it done?"

Cooper carefully explained the system whereby the leather carrying sling of the regulation rifle is lengthened and twisted about the arm and elbow in a manner to steady the rifle for more minute accuracy. Several months later he received a letter from Captain Hamilton, back in Morocco. He was schooling his company in the use of the sling, and the results were most gratifying. Captain Hamilton intended using it in the very next engagement.

SEVERAL weeks later Captain Hamilton wrote again, from a French hospital in Morocco. Using the sling, his snipers had returned to Allah quite a considerable number of Allah's followers, but, regrettably, one of Allah's followers had found Captain Hamilton in the line of sights of his smuggled machine gun, and Captain Hamilton would see no further fighting for several weeks.

Would Captain Cooper send him some "Foreign Legion" scripts to while away the time and supplement the French newspapers and magazines, most of which were several months old when they reached him? Captain Cooper did.

As in all radio dramas of intense action, sound effects play an important part in "Tales of the Foreign Legion." Cooper and Urban Johnson, sound technician in the Chicago studios, spend hours in figuring out just exactly the proper shade of audio illusion.

In the selection of his actors, Cooper has held to strict accuracy of detail.

The script calls for an old-line, hardboiled American Army sergeant. Ray Appleby, dramatic director at Cooper's own studio, had a voice that fit like a glove. The role of Achmet Ali was more difficult. The author found the man in John C. Daly (later Fu Manchu), who was born in the Orient and learned the dialect from servants in his boyhood. Could Stanley Andrews play Tchernov, the Russian Legionaire? He could - and does - for his real name, is Stanislaus Andreyevsk. Doug Hope, one of Chicago's best radio actors, plays Lieutenant Vibart; Frank Dane, the role of Slattery, former American taxi driver. Marigold Cassin is Amelie Le Blanc, colonel's daughter and the script's only love interest.

[photo caption #1] SGT. BILL COOPER . . . 780 weeks ago he made notes shown above . . .

[photo caption #2] . . . a hand picked cast of actors, (left to right, standing) Frank Dane, as Slattery; Ray Appleby, the sergeant; John C. Daly, as Achmet Ali; Stanley Andrews, as Tchernov; Willis O. Cooper, the author, as Mendoza; and Douglas Hope, as Vibart. (Kneeling) Ray Norene and Urban Johnson, sound effects technicians . . .

[June 11-17, 1933 Radio Guide]

. . . But Bill Cooper (see page 5), the Mendoza and writer of the Tales of the Foreign Legion, has really quit CBS and WBBM where he's finishing off as boss continuity man. Cooper goes independent, and already he is writing Lives at Stake, that very good Tuesday night NBC show.

[August 23, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

"Tales of the Foreign Legion" are on their way back to radio. Which means that they'll have to enlist a new outfit, for in the final episode, from the pen of Bill Cooper last season, the original Legion cast was wiped out in battle. That was a smart end to a story but it leaves the writer in a hole for a new start. So Cooper and the Legion move from Columbia to NBC and "Mendoza" Cooper's own character, is destined to come back to life. 

[September 22, 1934 Radio Guide "Plums and Prunes" column by Evans Plummer]


SO READ THE notice from NBC regarding the Wednesday, August 29, performance of this midnight thriller series which hitherto has enjoyed many kind notices in this column. Accidently we tuned it in. And we stayed tuned in not because we liked this particular program, but mainly to see how terrible it was going to be. If you likewise heard the show, you know that it turned out quite awful. Suffice to say, it lived up to the quoted headline, and then some. It was sickening.

We may be a bit old-fashioned, but we don't get a kick out of spilling blood and human-flesh stew all over the airlanes. If that's good drama, the yellowest newspapers are, by the same measuring stick, good literature.

"Lights Out" has provided a number of intelligent, yet hair-raising, ghost and supernatural stories. These were neither moronistic nor emetic. There is a line.

[September 25, 1934 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - S. H. Steinhauser radio column]

... when radio wanted to get to the end of the "Tales of the Foreign Legion" they just broadcast a fusillade of shots, a bugler sounding taps and that was the "works" -- the whole outfit bit the dust. All but Vinton Haworth, who like the villain of the ten, twenty-thirty sometimes gets to his feet before the curtain reaches the stage -- and Vinton will speak to you next Monday as the prodigal Jack Arnold. He was a good soldier in the Foreign Legion but even fellows who get killed for radio purposes have to go on eating, so they get themselves jobs in other features. 

[April 10, 1935 The Indianapolis (IN) Star]

The "Play Without a Name," an opus so horrible that even its author, Willis Cooper, can think of no monicker expressive enough for it, will be presented with the usual complement of realistic sound effects during the Lights Out program at midnight tonight from WENR. The play gets off to a flying start with a murder within fifteen seconds of the opening gong and from this point to the conclusion things go from bad to worse.

[August 19, 1936 The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer]

"Invitation to a Fly," the story of a human spider, is the title of the "Lights Out" drama, to be broadcast at 11:30 o'clock tonight through WCKY. Willis Cooper, former author of the scripts, had an aversion to spiders; he never allowed one to creep into his dramas, either literally or figuratively. But Arch Oboler, present writer of the series, has no such complex. He has promised to use everything from the black widow to the deadly tarantula in tonight's story. The locale is in a lonely Scottish inn. 

[April 27, 1943 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

The National Broadcasting Company has decided that it is time for radio to develop its own programs and talent. It has summoned Wyllis "Bill" Cooper to head the job. Cooper is a dreamer and the type of fellow who gets places with ideas, hard work and sincerity. He was the author and star of radio's almost forgotten "Foreign Legion" in which he played a tough mugg who was going around sticking knives between people's ribs to see what made them stick. Then he wrote "Lights Out," an added gruesome step in his radio career. Next he wrote and produced "Immortal Dramas." Came the war and Cooper was drafted to author the "Army Hour," one of the finest War Department productions for radio. And now NBC has called him to its program laboratories to probe around in unused talent and ideas and give broadcasting a shot in the arm. He will have the assistance of Walter O'Keefe, who will handle dramatic talent, and Tom Bennett, an expert in composing mood music for broadcasts. ...

[From a 1950 issue of _Cue: The Weekly Magazine of New York Life_]


WYLLIS COOPER, maestro of the macabre, has no patience with televiewers who write or phone to tell him they didn't fully understand one of his "Stage 13" excursions into fantasy. "I simply ask them to do me a favor and not look at the show again," he says. "I don't write for people whose greatest intellectual achievement is reading the Daily News in the subway each morning." This may explain why Cooper, for much of his long experience in radio and TV, has not enjoyed the luxury of a sponsor. But it also accounts for the fact that among listeners and viewers who enjoy stories of improbability only when the tales are spun by an artist, Mr. Cooper stands alone. In the realm of the bizarre, he holds a position roughly equivalent to that of Toscanini in the field of conducting (on another network).

No shrinking violet (or any other kind of flower, for that matter) Cooper is not blind to his extraordinary talent, but sometimes regrets that there aren't a few more writers around who can do the same sort of job. As producer-director of "Stage 13," (WCBS--Wednesdays, 9:30 to 10 P.M.) he doesn't get a penny more for authoring the scripts, but he writes most of them, anyway. "It's just too difficult," he explains, "to get the stuff I want from somebody else. When I do order an outside script, I find I have to spend more time rewriting than it would have taken me to do an original." A facile man with a typewriter, Cooper can knock out a thirty-minute script in six to eight hours, once he's formulated the central idea.

It's infinitely harder to describe Cooper's work than it is to appreciate or praise it. What he achieves is a blend of the supernatural with the natural, with neither appearing incongruous. But the stuffiness of that description belies the hard-hitting, colloquial quality of nearly everything he's done, from radio's "Lights Out" (which he originated in 1932) to the TV series', "Volume One," "Escape" and the current "Stage 13."

A typical example of the fare on "Stage 13" might be "Permission to Kill," in which Cooper envisioned a modern society in where each citizen receives a license from the government to murder one person a year. The play clearly establishes that the protagonist, who is on trial for murder, has killed his wife a short while before, but since he had a license for the occasion, the reason for the trial is not apparent. In the last thirty seconds of the play, however, the viewer learns that the defendant drowned himself after the murder, and that's his crime. The viewer could only guess where the trial was taking place, but that's not what bothered most of the people who sent in letters of complaint after the broadcast. "They were horrified," says Cooper, "at my 'proposal' that our government should furnish us with murder licenses. They took the whole thing _seriously_. Why, a man would have to be mad to recommend such an absurd notion."

The fifty-one-year-old Cooper, who looks like a smaller and slightly less rotund version of Alexander Woollcott, has become accustomed to thinly-veiled and unveiled reflections on his sanity from those who are familiar with his work, but who have never met him. "People meeting my wife for the first time," he confesses, "try to get her to admit that I'm a little nuts." Cooper considers such aspersions a small price to pay for a fertile imagination.

Thirty-five years ago, Wyllis (he changed the first "i" in his name to "y" on the advice of a numerologist) left his native Illinois to become a bugler for General Pershing in the Army's campaign against Pancho Villa. He later served in France during the first World War, and then became a newspaperman in Chicago. He's been in radio or TV since 1928, except for five years in Hollywood, where he turned out a dozen Mr. Moto pictures and a few other epics he'd just as soon forget.

On "Stage 13," Cooper appears on the TV screen before and after each drama to make a few pertinent remarks. As he speaks, in that low-geared and effortless way of his, he strokes a black cat which he holds in his arms or on his lap. "Actually," reveals Cooper, "that's just for atmosphere. I dislike cats intensely, especially when they sneeze in my face, as this one did on the program a few weeks ago." This is a confession that may not sit well with cat fanciers, but it's never been Cooper's intention to please everyone. "Once you start that," he warns, "it's time to quit."


[March 16, 1967 The Rockland (NY) Independent/Leader]


In Fond Memory


Wyllis Cooper was one of the fine [sic] human beings and creative artists it has been my pleasure to meet.

He was a short, roly-poly of a man when I knew him in 1950, a rotund cherub with a wispy mustache, weak eyes and thick glasses. He called himself "a poor man's Alexander Woollcott," which was accurate enough except for the viper's venom that waspish Alec sprayed on objects of his scorn.

Bill, or Coop, was soft-spoken, mild-mannered, gentle and understanding. At least five actresses were heard to mouth variations of "I love Coop. He makes me feel that I'm the best actress in the world." The only time I ever heard him like Alec was when someone mentioned a CBS programming executive. "He can't fight his way through a simple declarative sentence," Bill said.

Bill Cooper was a writer-director-producer in television when I knew him. He had only two CBS series on the air, both short-lived: "Escape" and "Stage 13." They were works of genius. He created an atmosphere so real that his macabre illusion became reality. The only trouble was that not everybody enjoyed his grisly atmosphere.

In one vivid play, "Night on Bald Mountain," a man climbs to the summit of a legendary mountain, and the viewer learns in a mystical, magical way -- through flashbacks and fluid flow between reality and the man's mind -- of the meaning of the legend. It prophesies that lovers who climb the mountain together will never be parted -- and we discover with shock and surprise that the man has leaped to join his loved one lost in death.

Another half hour recounted the terror of a dictator, suavely made up to resemble Josef Stalin and played by Vinton Hayworth, who sets off a bomb that sets off a chain reaction that finally overwhelms him in a death agony. Except that his punishment is that he cannot die. He relives his death over and over again.

In the last play he presented, written over a weekend when he learned his series had been cancelled, the scene was a graveyard, the title "R.I.P." He could be ghastly, all right, but funny. He was laying to rest his television career in a bit of gruesome inside humor.

No doubt about it. Coop was obsessed with death but he was almost frivolously irreverent about it. It may have been premonition. He died in the mid-1950s.

Diane Leonetti of Blauvelt, then John Crosby's assistant, agreed that Coop's created atmosphere was powerful, real, chilling, unnerving, eerie. But who wants it? who needs it? she asked. CBS took the same view.

Watching Coop work was a pleasure. He sat on a stool on the set, just a few feet from the actors, watching them on a monitor. When he had something to suggest, he went over and whispered so that only the actor heard. "I don't like to yell at people," he said.

And he had a talent for actors. Lee Marvin starred in one of Coop's works. So did Jane White, daughter of the great Walter White and Smith classmate of Jacqueline Fuller of Hickory Hill Road, Tappan. And a horde of interesting character actors like Florida Friebus and Edgar Stehli.

Some of them came out of Bill's radio days, when he discovered Don Ameche and introduced, "Lights Out," one of the memorable radio thrillers of the 1930s.

He created gruesomely realistic sound effects to scare the daylights out of his shock-loving audience. Hands were smashed and heads lopped off with abandon--the sound-effects of a man crunching a lemon on an anvil and whopping through a cantaloupe with a cleaver. For a car crack-up, a jalopy was wrecked against a brick wall on the roof of the Chicago studio.

In television, he was an advocate of fluidity of motion, using one camera only and breakaway sets to achieve even flow. He thought the intercuts and closeups of motion pictures annoying distractions to eye and mind.

"I may be the only television director born in the 19th century," he said. He was born in 1899.

He did not lead a quiet life exactly. At 16, he was a bugler for Gen. John J. Pershing's operations against Pancho Villa. He was an Army sergeant through World War I. He survived that, the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur school of journalism in Chicago and the advertising game before he got into radio. Later he claimed he barely survived five years of Hollywood, writing such forgettable films as 12 Mr. Moto's, one Shirley Temple and "The Son of Frankenstein."

Against the horror of his fiction was the quiet of his humor. He said he lived with his wife and "two pet turtles named Dexter, after my favorite bartender." He was named Willis but an occultist suggested the first "i" be changed to "y."

"I'm not superstitious," he said with a gentle smile. "But why take chances?"
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Avatar Paul
#20 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Oct 22, 2020 - 7:48 PM:

Thanks for that find, looking forward to watching Volume One!

Cooper was really a master of creatively recycling his old story elements and ideas.
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Posted Nov 05, 2023 - 9:57 PM:

[1929 Advertising & Selling, p. 38, letter to the editor (Frederick C. Kendall) about the response to "Sinclair Lewis Looks at Advertising" (A&S, May 15, 1929)]

And Who Would Be Pediculous?

I wonder (am I alone?) how many of us advertising people would take typewriter in hand and refute Mr. Lewis? It appears many of us did. The sales of portable, office-sized refuters has jumped amazingly in the past two weeks.

After all, though, one may occasionally judge the truth of criticism by the refutations. It is an old, and a trite, saying that "only the truth hurts." Some of our defenders joust recklessly with Mr. Lewis, their ashen-substitute lances bending perilously in the middle. Let us have a care, fellow knights, lest our spears burst.

He is right, gentlemen of the fifth (or is it sixth?) estate! Lots and lots of advertising people nowadays are writing advertisements as a means of self-expression, instead of as a means of selling buckets and barrels and bales and boxes. It is a good thing to write literature; but it is a pediculous thing to write literature of a kind under the guise of advertising copy.

I had thought for many years that one good definition of an advertising man was "a man with a sense of humor." But my definition has become a little moth-eaten. Witness the advertisements and things that Mr. Lewis giggles or boggles at. And witness again the nifty comebacks of our brethren in the craft. I bet a dime they won't sell him a Hartmann trunk!

No, Mr. Kendall, the business of writing selling copy languishes. One must be a dilettante, a weaver of words, a connoisseur of funny, blobby art that sets real modernists dizzy; he must be all of these to produce some of the alleged advertisements that one sees nowadays. Or maybe he is one of those birds who, to sell a washing machine, prepare a plan for a "Housekeeping Institute," hire 41 women to distribute coupons and cook books, rent offices full of Household Economics Experts and end up wondering what it was they were trying to sell. And that happened once in an agency. Name on request.

Let's not spend our time thinking up politely cutting remarks for Mr. Lewis to moan over in his sleep. He won't do it. And he's a pretty smart, observant fellow himself: maybe he does know what he's talking about! Let's try to sell things without invoking the Perfect Rotter and his ubiquitous limousine. Maybe we'll sell more; and maybe then advertising men won't have to tell their friends that they're bootleggers, if I make myself clear, and I'm not so sure that I do.


McJunkin Advertising Company,

[February 15, 1932 Broadcasting]

WILLIS O. COOPER, writer and radio producer, has joined the continuity staff of WBBM, Chicago. For two years he was continuity editor for the Empire Builders.

[April 23, 1932 Railway Age - Announcer Harlow Wilcox starred in this Cooper-written travelogue series]

The affiliated Greyhound Lines have contracted for what is said to be the third largest radio network ever employed in a series of national radio programs for their "Greyhound Traveler" advertising, which was broadcast for the first time on April 3. This radio advertising campaign is carried through a total of 49 stations. The broadcast consists of 15-min, programs which go on the air on Sunday evenings at 8:30 p.m. eastern standard time for eastern and middle western states, and at 9:15 p.m. mountain time for western states.

The program consists of a short announcement, followed by a description of the places selected for featuring in the particular program. Among the localities to be described are the Redwood Highway and California Missions; Detroit and the Kentucky Blue Grass country; Boston, Mass., and San Antonio, Tex.; Washington, D. C., and Charleston, S. C.; Mammoth Cave and the Stone Mountain Memorial; Montreal, Que., and Juarez, Mex.; the Chicago World's Fair and Philadelphia; Lake Itasca and New Orleans, La.; New York and Niagara Falls; and the Los Angeles Olympic games and Pike's Peak, Colo.

[May 1, 1932 Radio Guide - FEMININE FOIBLES column by Ann DeHaan]

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. [...]

[June 1932 Radio Digest]

"THE GREYHOUND TRAVELER"--Columbia--WGN--Sundays, 7:30 Chi. time.

This program is not intended for stupid people, and it proves that the old idea of the child mind in an adult body is passe, if you get what I mean. It shows that people do like to be treated as though they had average intelligence and not six year old mentalities. This is a glorified travelogue with modernistic music, eloquent descriptions, and refined phrases. It does not smack of "thrown-together." It shows that a travel program when handled with intelligence can be made beautiful and interesting at the same time. All the places you've ever wanted to go are pictured for you vividly and with plenty of color. And if you have a millionaire appetite and a ten cent store pocketbook, the commercials tell you that you can still take a trip via Greyhound. Another contest for you fans--a simple one too. Give it a listen!

[August 15, 1932 Broadcasting]

WILLIS O. COOPER, continuity writer for CBS, has been appointed assistant to Walter J. Preston, director of WBBM, Chicago, and program director of the midwest for CBS. Marigold Cassin has been moved up to head the continuity department of WBBM and CBS.

[January 16, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

A few telegrams of protest from this and other cities compelled Columbia to change its mind about dropping "Tales of the Foreign Legion" so unceremoniously. The boys got on the air long enough to find their lieutenant tight as a drum head. They will be back next Sunday, maybe for the last time. 

[January 23, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

The Foreign Legion signed off until Feb. 17. Just so that hardboiled gang comes back.

[January 29, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Programs are submitted to The Pittsburgh Press by the stations. No one, locally, has control over network changes. The chains substitute artists and orchestras as they see fit, most of the time without notice. To illustrate last Sunday Columbia's press director announced that "Tales of the Foreign Legion" were off the air, then the feature turned up on Sunday afternoon. All papers listed another program in the place usually allotted the Legion. It's hardly fair to the reader to make changes in this manner but the newspapers can do nothing about it

[January 29, 1933 St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

... WBBM is reviving its Tales of the Foreign Legion, at 4:30 Sunday. Willis O. Cooper plays Mendoza, the Spanish legionaire. John C. Daily, [sic] the radio "Fu Manchu," and Vincent Haworth, the Jack Arnold of the Myrt and Marge Sketches, also have roles in the WBBM playlets ...

[February 27, 1933 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

"Tales of the Foreign Legion," the Columbia dramatic series, has been shifted from Sunday to Thursday night starting this week. It will be carried by WJAS at 10 o'clock. . . .

[April 14, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - S. H. Steinhauser "Were You Listening?" column]


Annette Hanshaw was absent from the Show Boat cast due to illness. Ramona and Red McKenzie were poor substitutes. Who said they could sing.

The Foreign Legion was a burlesque and found Announcer Wilcox laughing the program off the air. More announcers like Wilcox and radio will be easier to take. 

[May 6, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Tales of the Foreign Legion switch to Fridays after the presentation of May 11....

[May 8, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Parents who worry because their children remain up late to hear the "Foreign Legion," will rejoice to learn that the war thriller will move from Thursday at 10:00 to Friday at 8:30. Frank Dane will join the cast in the role of "Slattery," a taxi driver.

[June 3, 1933 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Willard Cooper, "Mendoza" of radio's "Tales of the Foreign Legion," has left Columbia to become a drama writer for NBC. He is now doing the "Lives at Stake" series. 

[...] as chief of Columbia's Chicago continuity department "Bill' Cooper created one of the air's most popular features in the Foreign Legion stories. His own role of "Mendoza" has always been one of the bright spots of the broadcast. Columbia hopes to make some arrangement whereby Cooper will continue to write the war stories and retain his own part in the cast. Radio fans will join in that hope, for what would a Foreign Legion be without his "Mendoza?"

[August 27, 1933 St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

"Desert Guns," an adventure dramatic series based on incidents in the Morocco desert, will be carried by the WJZ chain at 5:30 Sundays, beginning next Sunday, Sept. 3. Willis O. Cooper, author of the scripts, will play the role of Mendoza, a Spanish soldier in the Foreign Legion ...

[March 3, 1934 Radio Guide - Plums and Prunes column]

Ghost Story

WILLIS COOPER, whose excellent ghost dramas have been knocking the listeners dead (no gag intended), reports the receipt of an unusual letter from a woman fan whose recent loss of husband had caused her to have insomnia and bad dreams. Her testimonial letter reported, that after listening to _one_ of Bill's spook plays, she promptly fell into a sound slumber!

_In the middle of the drama, Mrs. Listener?_

Maybe we're giving the shadows too big a play, but this is too good to pass up. In the midst of a rehearsal of an authentic Latin devil ritual, written into one of the plays and said to be a positive formula for raising evil spirits -- _in walked NBC's Production Manager Clarence Menser._

[June 1934 Radio Mirror]


Harlow Wilcox has won a bet--but because he's on the wagon it didn't do him much good. When Wilcox moved from Columbia to NBC he made a bet. Bill Cooper, Chicago's NBC continuity boss, bet Harlow he would be sure to make the usual mistake at least once during his first month. He was bound to say "This is the Columbia Broadcasting System" instead of "This is the National Broadcasting Company". The month passed and Harlow won ... a bottle of Scotch which he couldn't drink. It may sound silly that anyone would make such a mistake as naming the wrong station or network. But it happens ... just the other night we heard an announcer on WBBM announce the station as WIBO which has been out of existence for many months now. And on another occasion the Chicago announcer preceded the Old Gold cigarette program with "The next program is brought to you by Chesterfield cigarettes!"

[September 25, 1934 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - S. H. Steinhauser radio column]

... And that reminds us that death is on a new holiday on the air. Amos 'n' Andy started the season by eliminating Roland Webber, by way of an auto accident. That's one death about which radio fans are having much to say.

Myrt and Marge have a way of boosting business for the undertaker in their broadcasts. They started off with "who killed Ray Hunt?" and Myrtle came through a trial entirely innocent. Then "Slim" became radio's first auto crash victim so Amos 'n' Andy were at least trying nothing new. Then "Don Mario" tumbled through a footbridge and signed off that way. And didn't one of Margie's married admirers slip over a penthouse wall to the sidewalk, way down below?

That reads anything like a happy ending for entertainment but they shoot 'em on the stage and in the talkies and you folks cheer.

So, it isn't even so bad to recall that when radio wanted to get to the end of the "Tales of the Foreign Legion" they just broadcast a fusillade of shots, a bugler sounding taps and that was the "works" -- the whole outfit bit the dust. All but Vinton Haworth, who like the villain of the ten, twenty-thirty sometimes gets to his feet before the curtain reaches the stage -- and Vinton will speak to you next Monday as the prodigal Jack Arnold. He was a good soldier in the Foreign Legion but even fellows who get killed for radio purposes have to go on eating, so they get themselves jobs in other features. 

It has been suggested that many notable persons died in "Roses and Drums" but of course that's out because war is like that -- or what did General Sherman say? So is radio it seems. ...

[January 27, 1935 The Indianapolis (IN) Star]

"We, the undersigned, do hereby demand that all youse ghosts, spooks and spirits return to haunt our humble abodes at the hour of 12 midnight on Wednesday." Scores of petitions such as this, each bearing from five to fifty or more signatures, have accomplished the feat of resurrecting Lights Out, radio's only real horror program. After an absence from the air of two weeks it will return over WENR each Wednesday at midnight, beginning Jan. 30. The program was discontinued two weeks ago because Willis Cooper, continuity editor of the NBC central division and author of the thrillers, felt that the pressure of other duties would prevent him from continuing to write the scripts. Now, however, he finds himself in a position somewhat akin to that of the creator of Frankenstein. He can't quit. He has found that the program has no less than eighty-seven fan clubs in Chicago alone, not counting the groups outside.

[February 2, 1935 Wallaces' Farmer and Iowa Homestead radio column "COUNTRY AIR By A FARM WOMAN" - Review of "Immortal Dramas," NBC's biblical series, sponsored by Montgomery Ward; scripts by Cooper, but credited to Chicago drama critic Lloyd Lewis]

[...] Never have Sunday performances been better than they have this season. Each week, we discover some splendid new Sunday feature. One of our neighbors called to tell us of the new series of Immortal Dramas, which come on at 1 p. m. Lloyd Lewis writes the dramas. Harvey Hayes, the Ranger Jim of the Farm and Home Hour, is the narrator. Noble Cain's chorus sings magnificently. An orchestra of forty pieces uses the works of great masters, as well as original compositions, to heighten the emotional effects. A personnel of eighty people is maintained to produce this program. The story of Samson and Delilah, the Flood and Noah's Ark, and a number of other great tales of antiquity, will be used. I have never listened to a more effective play over the radio than the great David and Goliath drama. (WMAQ, WLS, WOW.) [...]

[April 6, 1935 Billboard]

"Lights Out"

Reviewed Wednesday 12-12:30 a.m. Style--Melodrama, Sustaining on WEAF (NBC network).

With as much notice as a mob might give a bank prior to holding it up, NBC unloaded this crisp script sandwiched in between a couple of dance orchestra sustainings at an hour when no listener expects to hear anything but music. Which made this hunk of dramatics that much more effective and must leave the dial twister thinking about the incident and dispel all taste for the abounding night club music in question. For instead of just another band coming on a mug began the story of a bank robbery in the first person, tersely stating the facts until the succeeding episode was dramatized. Subsequently there were both narrative and dramatic sketches, action and even a moral for the finish.

Briefly, the story revolves around a gang moll who flits naturally from one gangster to another. Thus after the bank robbery, in which some $375,000 was the haul, her boy friend picks a fight with her just after the loot is counted up, and the Swede member of the mob, unable to make the pal lay off, takes a shot at him and knocks him off. The Swede and Marcella go to Europe and live a gay life. He loses a quarter of a million dollars at Monte Carlo and it is not long before he gets unduly suspicious of Marcella and a friend, whom be finds together. The usual procedure of her boy friend beating her up takes place and the newcomer is forced to knock the Swede off in order to save the gal. The couple go to Santa Monica, Calif., to take things easy, and Marcella, in her bit of first-person talk, tells of becoming friendly with their physician. She is also allowed to go out on occasion with other gentlemen friends, it seems. Her lord and master has returned from a stickup, as indicated in reports that reach her, and since he has to lay low is amenable to her going for a ride with the young doctor. In the meantime she gets a phone call that is surely suspicious, and he having been hitting the bottle by way of diversion, Marcella is again in for a beating, this one costing her her life. Her screams, however, attract the police, who may or may not have already been on his trail.

Closing episodes find him in the death house conversing with a knowing keeper. The killer doesn't want to die and he can't take it at all. In a sort of reverie he "remembers a big cop taking" a shot at him, and then he woke up in a jam for fair. And so he is dragged away to the chair or scaffold a meek, yellow, broken-down gunman who might have been like any other man but for certain circumstances that took him off the proverbial alley.

Technique in writing and producing this script is one of pure radio license and can't even be compared to the flashback from the movies, since characters dead at the close of the tale do considerable talking of their experiences. This feat, combined with the terse, stark, sock of the drama, is probably one of the most realistic pieces radio has ever presented. Inquiry brings the info that the author is Willis Cooper and that the program was an audition for a potential sponsor. The right hour, sponsor and product and equally strong scripts ought to click hands down. Program originated in Chicago NBC studios.

M. H. S.

[Radio Guide, week ending Of 1935-04-13]

Every Wednesday at the stroke of midnight WENR Chicago, presents "Lights Out," a thrilling drama full of horror and ghost stories written by BILL COOPER. You may think this is not the ideal time to present a broadcast of this type but, surprising as it may seem, the show in a short time has built a huge listening audience; so much, in fact, that last Wednesday night NBC put it on the network. They did this for two reasons: for an interested sponsor in New York, and to get the reaction of the people outside of the regular listening area who were hearing it for the first time. So if you heard the program and liked it, let NBC know about it. You may get to hear it regularly.

[April 22, 1935 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Bill Cooper, who wrote and starred in "Tales of the Foreign Legion," has penned "Lights Out," a blood-curdler, which because Cooper wrote it will cause a lot of his admirers to sit up late at night to hear it, then have bad dreams.

[July 27, 1935 The Lindsay (Ontario) Daily Post]


When two persons happen to conceive the same idea for a radio program, a play or a book at the same time, the usual outcome of the eventual production of the program, play or book is hard feelings and recriminations, if nothing worse.

But when Willis Cooper, NBC Central Division Continuity Editor, and Jules Herbuveaux of the NBC production staff, unknown to each other, happened to conceive almost identical ideas for a radio aviation serial, the result was close friendship and collaboration in the production of Flying Time, new NBC serial, heard from Chicago over an NBC-WEAF network daily except Saturday and Sunday at 6.00 p.m. E.D.S.T.

Aviation Fans

The idea for Flying Time occurred to both Cooper and Herbuveaux several years ago, before they were associated with the National Broadcasting Company. Herbuveaux had at the age of nineteen, joined the U.S. Navy Air. Corps during the World War, and had been flying planes frequently during the ensuing years. Cooper, a captain in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the war, was not a pilot, but had been for many years an enthusiastic aviation fan, attending practically all the air races, flying with famed pilots, including Sir Chas. Kingsford-Smith, and enjoying a wide acquaintance among leaders in aviation.

Based on Fact

Both Cooper and Herbuveaux conceived the idea for an aviation serial based on solid fact and both instructing and entertaining, especially for youthful air enthusiasts. When the two met at NBC they soon learned of the coincidence in ideas and got together. Result, Cooper writes Flying Time and Herbuveaux, veteran aviator, supplies technical assistance on aviation problems.

[January 24, 1936 Berkeley (CA) Daily Gazette]


A scene from one of the ghastliest Lights Out plays will be presented, and the author, Willis Cooper, will be "exposed" in an interview during the Saturday Jamboree tomorrow afternoon (KGO at 3:45 o'clock).

[June 6, 1936 Billboard - Air Briefs column by Jerry Franken]

... Willis Cooper, whose series _Lights Out_ is regarded generally as one of radio's best writing jobs, is now writing for Twentieth Century pictures. ...

[May 1937 Popular Photography - "Camera Club Notes: column]

... RADIO CAMERA CLUB OF CHICAGO. Composed of radio actors, singers, and employees of NBC and Chicago radio stations. Now in its third year. Meets weekly. Now planning its second annual exhibition, to be held in the Merchandise Mart.

The group chiefly interested in miniature photography was founded three years ago by Willis Cooper, then NBC Central division continuity editor; Don Briggs, actor; Art Jacobson, actor, and Ted Sherdeman, director. All of these now are in Hollywood in the movies, and have organized the Breakaway Camera Club, the name symbolic of their departure from Chicago.

[March 26, 1938 Radio Guide - "Hollywood Showdown" column by Evans Plummer]

... Do I hear rumblings of "Hollywood Hotel" falling apart? If so, certainly the star dramatic spots engineered by Louella Parsons, Fred Ibbett and Willis Cooper should be saved from the wreckage. ...

[March 23, 1938 The Milwaukee (WI) Journal]

Riding the Airwaves with Edgar A. Thompson (BCL)

Frankenstein's 'Monster' Quails Before Microphone

IMAGINE a bogey man--a monster--the screen's No. 1 haunter of horror pictures admitting that he is frightened to death of a microphone! Yes, sir, it's true, as Boris Karloff testified Monday during the first rehearsal for tonight's "Lights Out" story, "The Dream."

"It's different when you're acting before the cameras or on the stage. I never think of an audience in the films and on the stage I can see the reaction. But in radio--I'm frightened!

"They tell me that some 30,000,000 people are listening on the other end of the microphone and that's terrifying enough. I've never had an audience like that before. And then when I stop to wonder how the 30,000,000 are reacting to my offering--well, I have to stop that train of thought and concentrate on just one family--convincing myself that only one family group is listening."

All that sounds strange coming from the man who has chilled the blood of hundreds of thousands with his performances in "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy," but forgetting his past roles and his name it is not so odd, Karloff is a very mild-mannered gentleman off the air, speaking softly with a British accent. Very dark-skinned, he has the manner of an Indian prince.


ALL that disappears, however, once he steps before the microphone and starts to read his part. Lines in his face become deeper and the years of work on the stage and in films make him forget that he is acting without a visible audience....Holding the script in one hand, he gestures fiercely with the other, while his face registers all the emotions he passes through in the story. As he reaches the climax of "The Dream." in which he murders his wife, he throttles the air with clenched and bony fist...In fact, if it weren't for the glasses he wears, and the fact that photographers were shooting flash bulbs during the rehearsal, he would have scared us out of the studio....Karloff is very much impressed with the quality of work turned in by Chicago radio actors in his supporting cast. "In Hollywood," he says, "they read the copy 10 or 12 times in a monotone before they try to put anything into their lines. In Chicago, I was amazed. The actors did the lines the first time as well as the Hollywood actors do it in dress rehearsal."...He also marveled out loud at the ability of Arch Oboler, author of the "Lights Out" stories. "How he can write a different one of these horror stories every week is beyond me. He's a real genius!"


For a genius, Oboler meets all the requirements. Seven months on the west coast did not make him "go Hollywood," but he wears baggy pants, thick-rimmed glasses and combs his hair in a style which marks him plainly as "author."...Arch, incidentally, is all set to "kill off" Bob Boyd, Journal photographer who accompanied this reporter to Chicago for the first rehearsal. During a discussion of horror stories, vampires came up and Arch immediately grew more interested. "I've been thinking about doing a vampire story." he said, "but 'Dracula' exhausted most of the possibilities."...Then, looking at Boyd, he said, "I've got an idea! I'll write a story about a photographer who has taken pictures of the world's celebrities; he photographed floods, fires and tragedies of all kinds: he's completely blase and unaffected by anything and then he's assigned to take a picture of 'Mr. X' a vampire, although he doesn't know it. Boyd," he gestured, "you're dead right now!"...So, in a few weeks, you'll hear the story of Bob Boyd, Journal photographer who dies at the hands of a vampire....It's all in fun, Mrs. Boyd.

[photo caption:] LOOKING very meek for a terrible bogey man, Boris Karloff (right) listens to Author Arch Oboler's discussion of the "Lights Out" story for tonight. Karloff, famous for his roles in "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy" will be heard on WTMJ at 11:30 tonight and the next four Wednesdays. --Journal Staff Photo

[Film director Rowland V. Lee, quoted by Larry Edwards in _Bela Lugosi: Master of the Macabre_ (McGuinn & McGuire, 1997), about abandoning the use of Technicolor on 1939's _Son of Frankenstein_ with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi]

[Universal Studios boss] Carl Laemmle threw a fit. He started screaming at me, mixing his native German with English. Universal had spent a great deal of money in the trade papers promoting that the film was going to be shot in color; that the world would finally get to see what the Monster looked like. "What am I going to do now," Laemmle asked me. "What am I going to do to get the interest in the film at fever pitch?" My response was simple. I told him to get Bela and make this another Boris and Bela film. Now, you must understand two things here. First, Carl Laemmle was good friends with Boris and did not like the things Bela had been saying about him around Hollywood. Second, at this time, Bela was on the skids as far as his career was concerned. Anyway, I talked Carl into letting me have Bela and in return I had to have Willis Cooper rewrite the script with me and together we created the role of Ygor.

[February 27, 1939 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

... Few are willing to believe that a program can be made commercial after 11 o'clock. We doubt their worth then, unless on western stations where the time is earlier. To prove our doubt we submit "Lights Out," one of the most popular and talked about radio features. It has never caused enough talk to even get a nibble by a sponsor. Had it done so, it would have been moved to an earlier hour and sponsored, long ago. And if sponsors are as smart as they are supposed to be, "Lights Out" would be a commercial.

Which reminds us that Willis Cooper who originated "Lights Out" and wrote the first and best episodes, is in a legal tilt with NBC's Artists' Bureau over commissions. ...

[November 18, 1940 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press]

Diana Bourbon, radio's outstanding woman director, will produce the new Friday night theater [Campbell Playhouse] on Columbia and WJAS, starting Nov. 29. Willis Cooper, originator of Lights Out, will be one of the play authors, which means they'll be all right.

[November 22, 1940 Movie and Radio Guide]

"YOU'RE IN THE ARMY NOW" is a timely new once-a-week serial which began on Armistice Day. It's a rollicking, cheerful story of life in the new civilian army camps. The author is Willis Cooper, who got his knowledge of army life first-hand during World War I, and who is best known to radio listeners as pioneer writer of the old "Lights Out" thrillers. NBC.

[December 11, 1940 Variety]

Network Premieres

Friday, Dec. 13

Campbell Soup Co. (Tomato juice), WABC-CBS, Monday. Wednesday, Friday, 11-11:15 a.m. 'Charlie and Jessie', with Donald Cook and Florence Lake. Ward Wheelock Co. Script writer, Wyllis Cooper. Originates from New York. Hookup, 53 stations.

[April 15, 1941 The Pittsburgh (PA) Press - Si Steinhauser radio column]

Willis Cooper, author of "Tales of the Foreign Legion," originator of "Lights Out" and one of radio's most capable character and dialect actors has turned producer. He now directs "What's Your Idea?" the Sunday night show starring Jackie Heller as vocalist.

[May 31, 1941 Billboard - Program Reviews]

"Good Neighbors"

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 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 Brian 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.


[December 24, 1941 Variety]

... Willis Cooper replaced Margaret Lewerth and Ann Daly as scripter of 'The Story of Bess Johnson' ...

[July 30, 1945 The Circleville Herald (Circleville, Ohio)]

Lon Clark, star of "Nick Carter--Master Detective," will be heard in the leading role on "Lights Out," in its broadcast Saturday. Clark is cast as a scientist in "Rocket Ship," a story of interplanet [sic] travel, written in 1934 by Wyllis Cooper. Garnet Garrison directs the "Lights Out" series.

[February 18, 1948 Variety - "Tele Follow-Up" review column]

By following the simple expedient of repeating one of the best dramatic shows ever staged on television, American National Theatre and Academy came up with one of the best shows on its current series on the NBC video web Sunday (15) night. As with the original version, produced in July, 1946, most of the credit goes to NBC staffer Fred Coe, who directed and adapted the script from an original by Wyllis Cooper.

Titled "First Person Singular," the show displayed conclusively the merits involved in building a program around the video cameras, instead of training the cameras on the stage and letting things roll. Coe took admirable advantage of the subjective camera, in this one, building terrific suspense and audience emotion under the guise of making the audience itself the murderer. Montage effects, to show the shimmering sanity of the off-screen killer, were even better handled than in the original and the cast, sets and production mountings were tops.

Mary Wilsey repeated as the not-too-pretty wife whose constant nagging, led her mentally-unbalanced husband to throttle her. Aided by near-perfect makeup, she was revolting and laudable to the nth degree. Bob Young, although never seen, turned in a neat performance as the stream-of-conscious voice of the murderer. Supporting cast lent more than adequate support. Show was co-produced by Richard Harrity for ANTA and Owen Davis, Jr., for NBC.

Someone should tell both ANTA and NBC, incidentally, that it gets a little boresome watching legit celebs, brought on to plug ANTA, read their stuff from a script. Regardless of the short amount of preparation time, such action can lower the standard of both tele itself and the actor involved. Paul Douglas, of "Born Yesterday," handled it last Sunday night. He would have been good if he'd memorized his lines.

[December 26, 1948 Radio and Television Life - Radio in Review column commends QP's "Rede Me This Riddle"]

... We Point With Pride ...

... To the "Quiet Please" tale of the three kings on their way to Bethlehem--and to narrator Ernest Chappell and writer Willis [sic] Cooper for doing it so well. ...

[January 20, 1954 TV Index]


LAMP UNTO MY FEET CBS 10am (Dr. Lyman Bryson) _A Pushbutton Christmas_ - (0) by Wyllis Cooper; with Guy Raymond, Frank & Grace Albertson, Joel Crothers, Pamela Fitzmaurice; Directed by Herbert Kenwith
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Avatar Paul
#22 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Nov 06, 2023 - 8:28 AM:

MS wrote:
Willis Cooper, author of "Tales of the Foreign Legion," originator of "Lights Out" and one of radio's most capable character and dialect actors has turned producer.

What, Cooper was a character and dialect actor?
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Avatar MS
#23 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Nov 25, 2023 - 1:06 AM:

Paul wrote:

What, Cooper was a character and dialect actor?

Si Steinhauser, the radio editor of the Pittsburgh (PA) Press, was clearly a big Cooper fan and liked "Tales of the Foreign Legion," especially Cooper's character, Mendoza the Spanish legionnaire ("always ... one of the bright spots of the broadcast"). I've never seen much about Cooper's acting outside of Mendoza, so I think Steinhauser's exaggerating a little here. He says elsewhere that "Legion" is "one of the air's most popular features," but I don't know that it was quite THAT popular. If you read through the other Steinhauser clippings on this page, you can see him going a little overboard.
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