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Crime Classics was a U. S. radio docudrama which aired as a sustaining series over CBS from June 15, 1953, to June 30, 1954.
Includes also shows from the AFRTS, The American Forces Network is the broadcast service operated by the United States Armed Forces' American Forces Radio and Television Service for its entertainment and command internal information networks worldwide.
Created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott Lewis, the program was a historical true crime series, examining crimes and murders from the past. It grew out of Lewis' personal interest in famous murder cases and took a documentary-like approach to the subject, carefully recreating the facts, personages and feel of the time period. Comparatively little dramatic license was taken with the facts and events, but the tragedy was leavened with humor, expressed largely through the narration.
The crimes dramatized generally covered a broad time and place frame from ancient Greece to late 19th-century America. Each episode in the series was co-written by Morton Fine and David Friedkin, in consultation with Lewis, although the scripting process was more a matter of research, as the stories were "adapted from the original court reports and newspaper accounts" or from the works of historians.
The cases ranged from famous assassinations (of Abraham Lincoln, Leon Trotsky, and Julius Caesar) and the lives (and often deaths) of the likes of Cesare Borgia and Blackbeard to more obscure cases, such as Bathsheba Spooner, who killed her husband Joshua Spooner in 1778 and became the first woman tried and executed in America.
The only continuing character was the host/narrator, Thomas Hyland, played by Lou Merrill. Hyland was introduced by the announcer as a "connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders." Merrill's deadpan portrayal of Hyland provided the welcome note of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings. Unlike the ghoulish weird storytellers of The Whistler and The Mysterious Traveler, Hyland was an ordinary fellow who, in a dry, droll manner, would present a tale from his files, his wry comments interspersed between dramatized scenes. The episodes would typically begin with Hyland inviting the audience to listen to a sound, from drops of rain to horses hooves, and then introducing the main players and events of his report. The titles also contributed to the series' light tone, as they were intentionally pompous and usually laced with irony. Typical titles included "Your Loving Son, Nero," "If a Body Needs a Body, Just Call Burke and Hare," and "The Axe and the Droot Family... How They Fared".
A roster of Hollywood radio actors filled the various historical roles. William Conrad was one of the more frequently heard performers, in such diverse parts as Nero, Blackbeard, Pat Garrett and King Arthur. Other performers, and the villains and victims they portrayed, included Jack Kruschen (as William Burke and Trotsky assassin Ramón Mercader), Jay Novello (as William Hare and Dr. William Palmer), Mary Jane Croft (as Bathsheba Spooner and Marie, Marquise de Brinvilliers), Betty Lou Gerson (as Agrippina and Lucrezia Borgia), Edgar Barrier (as Julius Caesar), Harry Bartell (as Brutus), Hans Conried (as Ali Pasha), Herb Butterfield (as Lincoln, Trotsky, and Thomas Edwin Bartlett), Jack Edwards (as John Wilkes Booth and Cole Younger), Irene Tedrow (as Lizzie Borden), William Johnstone (as Robert Knox), Betty Harford (as Madeleine Smith and Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly), Clayton Post (as Jesse James), and Sam Edwards (as Billy the Kid and Bob Younger).
Composer Bernard Herrmann returned to radio to score all but one of the series episodes (with Wilbur Hatch substituting for that entry), capturing the sound and feel of the various time periods simply but elegantly, often with the use of only two or three instruments per episode. During the fall of 1953, the show was scheduled back to back with On Stage, another dramatic anthology created by Lewis. He decided to connect the two by presenting "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" on Crime Classics while On Stage featured Our American Cousin, the play Lincoln had attended the night of his death. The experiment was unsuccessful, and according to radio historian John Dunning, earned Lewis a rebuke from network head William S. Paley, who advised him to never attempt anything like it again.
Crime Classics 1952-12-03 (000) The Crime of Bathsheba Spooner (Audition)
Crime Classics 1953-06-15 (001) The Crime of Bathsheba Spooner
Crime Classics 1953-06-22 (002) The Shockingly Peaceful Passing of Thomas Edwin Bartlett, Green Grocer (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-06-29 (003) The Checkered Life and Sudden Death of Colonel James Fisk, Jr. (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-06-29 (003) The Checkered Life and Sudden Death of Colonel James Fisk, Jr.
Crime Classics 1953-07-06 (004) The Shrapnelled Body of Charles Drew, Sr.
Crime Classics 1953-07-13 (005) The Terrible Deed of John White Webster
Crime Classics 1953-07-20 (006) The Death of a Picture Hanger
Crime Classics 1953-07-27 (007) The Final Day of General Ketchum, and How He Died (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-07-27 (007) The Final Day of General Ketchum, and How He Died
Crime Classics 1953-08-03 (008) Mr. Thrower's Hammer
Crime Classics 1953-08-10 (009) The Axe and the Droot Family, How They Fared (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-08-10 (009) The Axe and the Droot Family, How They Fared
Crime Classics 1953-08-17 (010) The Incredible Trial of Laura D. Fair (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-08-24 (011) The Alsop Family, How It Diminished and Grew Again (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-08-24 (011) The Alsop Family, How It Diminished and Grew Again
Crime Classics 1953-08-31 (012) Your Loving Son, Nero (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-08-31 (012) Your Loving Son, Nero
Crime Classics 1953-09-07 (013) The Torment of Henrietta Robinson, and Why She Killed (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-09-30 (014) The Bloody, Bloody Banks of Fall River
Crime Classics 1953-10-07 (015) The Hangman and William Palmer, Who Won
Crime Classics 1953-10-14 (016) The Seven-layered Arsenic Cake of Madame Lafarge
Crime Classics 1953-10-21 (017) Billy Bonny Bloodletter, Also Known as 'The Kid'
Crime Classics 1953-10-28 (018) John Hayes, His Head and How They Were Parted
Crime Classics 1953-11-04 (019) Raschi Among the Crocodiles, and the Prank He Played (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-11-04 (019) Raschi Among the Crocodiles, and the Prank He Played
Crime Classics 1953-11-11 (020) Blackbeard's Fourteenth Wife, Why She Was Not Good For Him
Crime Classics 1953-11-18 (021) The Triangle on the Round Table
Crime Classics 1953-11-25 (022) The Killing Story of William Corder and the Farmer's Daughter (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-11-25 (022) The Killing Story of William Corder and the Farmer's Daughter
Crime Classics 1953-12-02 (023) If a Body Need a Body, Just Call Burke and Hare (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-12-02 (023) If a Body Need a Body, Just Call Burke and Hare
Crime Classics 1953-12-09 (024) The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-12-09 (024) The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Crime Classics 1953-12-16 (025) John and Judith, Their Crime and Why They Didn't Get to Enjoy It (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-12-16 (025) John and Judith, Their Crime and Why They Didn't Get to Enjoy It
Crime Classics 1953-12-30 (026) Coyle and Richardson, Why They Hung in a Spanking Breeze (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1953-12-30 (026) Coyle and Richardson, Why They Hung in a Spanking Breeze
Crime Classics 1954-01-06 (027) The Younger Brothers, Why Some of Them Grew No Older
Crime Classics 1954-01-13 (028) How Supan Got the Hook Outside Bombay
Crime Classics 1954-01-20 (029) Madeline Smith, Maid or Murderess (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-01-20 (029) Madeline Smith, Maid or Murderess
Crime Classics 1954-01-27 (030) The Boorn Brothers and the Hangman, a Study in Nip and Tuck
Crime Classics 1954-02-03 (031) The Incredible History of John Shephard
Crime Classics 1954-02-10 (032) Twenty-Three Knives Against Caesar
Crime Classics 1954-02-17 (033) John Baptiste Troppmann, Killer of Many (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-02-17 (033) John Baptiste Troppmann, Killer of Many
Crime Classics 1954-02-24 (034) The Good Ship Jane, Why She Became Flotsam
Crime Classics 1954-03-03 (035) Roger Nems, How He, Though Dead, Won the Game (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-03-10 (036) New Hampshire, the Tiger and Brad Ferguson; What Happened Then (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-03-17 (037) Old Sixtoes, How He Stopped Construction on the B. B. C. and I
Crime Classics 1954-03-31 (039) Robby-Boy Balfour; How He Wrecked a Big Prison's Reputation
Crime Classics 1954-04-07 (040) The General's Daughter, the Czar's Lieutenant and the Linen Closet
Crime Classics 1954-04-14 (041) James Evans, Fireman; How He Extinguished a Human Torch
Crime Classics 1954-04-21 (042) Cesare Borgia - His Most Difficult Murder (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-04-28 (043) Widow Magee and the Three Gypsies; A Vermont Fandango
Crime Classics 1954-05-05 (044) Bunny Baumler, His Close Brush with Fame (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-05-12 (045) Mr. Clarke's Skeleton in Mr. Aram's Closet; The Noise it Made (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-05-26 (046) The Lethal Habit of the Marquise De Brinvilliers (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-05-26 (046) The Lethal Habit of the Marquise De Brinvilliers
Crime Classics 1954-06-02 (047) Mr. Jonathon Jewett; How Most Peculiarly He Cheated the Hangman
Crime Classics 1954-06-09 (048) The Assassination of Leon Trotsky
Crime Classics 1954-06-16 (049) The Death of a Baltimore Birdie and Friend
Crime Classics 1954-06-23 (050) Ali Pasha - A Turkish Delight (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-06-30 (051) Good Evening, My Name is Jack the Ripper (AFRTS)
Crime Classics 1954-06-30 (051) Good Evening, My Name is Jack the Ripper
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