OLD TIME RADIO - 1 CD-ROM - 14 mp3 - Total Time: 6:29:55
The Private Files of Rex Saunders aired in 1951 and starred Rex Harrison as Detective Rex Saunders and were the tales of his exploits and adventures.
As a detective--gentleman or otherwise--Rex Harrison lends a distinctively intelligent and understated confidence to the role. He's not quite as nonchalant as The Thin Man's Nick Charles, not as arrogant as Philo Vance, and not as melodramatic as Sherlock Holmes or Radio's Philip Marlowe. In short, he's both 'just right' and entirely fascinating--and competent--as detective Rex Saunders. Leon Janney's rendition of Saunders' assistant, Alec, complements Harrison's delivery of his Saunders characterization. Not the typical stooge assistant, nor quite as clever as Nero Wolfe's Archie, Leon Janney's Alec is given the same latitude as some of Radio's other more helpful detective assistants.
Harrison and Janney complement each other quite well throughout the series. The two great actors in their own fields are aided with equally capable New York voice talent--some of Radio's finest, including Jackson Beck, Alice Frost, Anne Seymour and Elspeth Eric. The writing for the series was also consistently compelling. While perhaps not the finest mystery plots heard over Radio, they suited Rex Harrison well, while still delivering several fascinating surprises in the course of the run's sixteen scripts.
The format was fairly formulaic. Rex Harrison would introduce each new adventure with a topic. The topics employed throughout the series were as follows:
- Concerning Murder . . .
- Concerning Art . . .
- Concerning Jewelry . . .
- Concerning Gambling . . .
- Concerning Blackmail . . .
- Concerning Fortune Telling . . .
- Concerning Political Corruption . . .
- Concerning A Mardi Gras . . .
- Concerning Wealth . . .
- Concerning A Masquerade . . .
- Concerning Travel . . .
- Concerning Marriage . . .
- Concerning Antiques . . .
- Concerning Hunting . . .
- Concerning Shakespeare . . .
A relatively varied choice of topics, to be sure. And several of them ostensibly benign--until murder is added to the mix. Rex Harrison's disarming introduction of these topics had the desired effect of creating even more irony with the ensuing adventures. Indeed, Rex Harrison's delivery of his adventures made for a truly fascinating take on the competing murder and mayhem plots for which the mystery, detective and crime dramas of the era were so famous.
And of course this series was directed by Radio legend, Himan Brown. The direction, as might be expected of any Himan Brown production, was crisp, suspenseful, and perfectly timed. As seems obvious during the course of the series' run, Harrison and Brown complemented each other quite well. The only discernable miscues appear in the one circulating rehearsal--the best place for faux pas. The production broadcasts remain nothing if not remarkable for their relative 'maturity' despite the short life of the run.
As one can probably surmise, this program is one of those from The Golden Age of Radio that we view as a true gem. As regrettable as it is that it didn't run longer, the fourteen surviving examples remain a fascinating preview of the quality we learned to expect of Himan Brown's later CBS Radio Mystery Theatre revival series' between 1974 and 1998. The audio quality is superb, production values are the equal of anything Himan Brown ever directed, and the acting is wonderfully effective.
Director: Himan Brown
Principal Actors: Rex Harrison, Leon Janney, Alice Frost, Jackson Beck, Arlene Blackburn, Barbara Weeks, Amzie Strickland, Anne Seymour, Lesley Woods, Jean Ellen, Elspeth Eric
Recurring Characters: Gentleman Detective Rex Saunders (Rex Harrison) and his assistant, Alec (Leon Janney)
Protagonists: Rex Saunders and his assistant, Alec
Text from Digital Deli Too
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-05-02 (01) Lady with Hate in Her Heart
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-05-09 (02) A Shocking still Life
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-05-16 (03) Done to Death
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-05-23 (04) Game with Death
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-05-30 (05) Shallow Graves
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-06-06 (06) Plan in the Killers Mind
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-06-13 (07) Trip to the Death House
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-06-20 (08) Murder in Killers Mind
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-06-27 (09) Namely Murder
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-07-04 (10) Hidden Thoughts in a Feminine Mind
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-07-11 (11) Murder is a Silent Companion
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-07-18 (12) Until Death Do Us Part
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-07-25 (13) Worth more than it's Weight in Murder
Private Files of Rex Saunders 51-08-01 (14) The Human Game (Last Episode)
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