OLD TIME RADIO - 1 CD - 4 mp3 - Total Playtime: 1:57:13
Cabin B-13 was something of an experiment by CBS--a sustained, prime-time mystery feature penned by one great mystery fiction writer for the entire run. And no ordinary mystery fiction writer, either. John Dickson Carr had already written twenty-three Suspense scripts for CBS' long running mystery thriller production by the time they sought him for Cabin B-13. Indeed, it was Carr's Suspense script from the March 16, 1943 broadcast, Cabin B-13, that persuaded CBS to pursue a possible spin-off from Suspense. It was a brilliant concept, brilliantly executed. NBC had attempted a limited run of Raymond Chandler's Adventures of Philip Marlowe starring MGM's Van Heflin and CBS picked it up a year later. Raymond Chandler again consulted on the scripts for CBS' rendition fo Philip Marlowe. Perhaps CBS was simply hedging its bets. But the hedge worked. CBS' The Adventures of Philip Marlowe ran for two more years, won Gerald Mohr Best Actor of the Year for 1949, and produced competitive Hooper ratings in the bargain.
Cabin B-13 received great critical reviews while it ran, but it's prime-time placement was more a disadvantage to it than an advantage. It ran head to head with some of 1948's most highly rated competition. The radio noir detective drama had gained a foothold in Radio well before Cabin B-13 began airing. Radio had already heard from Dashiell Hammett and his Thin Man, Sam Spade and The Fat Man by then. Brett Halliday had entertained radio noir fans with his Michael Shayne character, and Jack Webb had been plowing through an array of radio noir characters of his own. Mystery competition abounded throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s. Adding to all of that, the Mutual Broadcasting System was already in negotiations with Carr for their Murder By Experts (1949) which would cast Carr, Brett Halliday, and Alfred Hitchcock as alternating hosts for the proposed project.
So it was that the combination of stiff competition and an audience very loyal to that competition made Cabin B-13's chances of running past one season quite daunting. But to both CBS and Carr's credit, the quality of the scripts never suffered. They were superb from start to finish. The background support was also top notch, with John Dietz directing, both Merle Kendrick and Alfredo Antonini alternating the music and atmosphere compositions and gifted Radio, Stage and Film actor Arnold Moss providing exposition for each script.
Arnold Moss was Carr's 'voice' for twenty-one of the scripts and Alan Hewitt voiced Dr. Fabian for three scripts while Moss was filming 1948's The Loves of Carmen. The Dr. Fabian character, ship's physician for the luxury liner, Maurevania, introduced and framed each mystery and provided all of the necessary exposition for each story. Dr. Fabian was the resident of Cabin B-13 aboard the Maurevania. Thankfully Dr. Fabian didn't suffer from triskadecaphobia--the abnormal fear of the number 13--since he seemed quite content with his accomodations aboard the Maurevania for his entire 24-week tour. All the better to comfortably chronicle the often gruesome undertakings of each program.
The plots were brilliant, as one might expect of any J.D. Carr story. Opening with the bellow of the great steamship's foghorns, Arnold Moss' plot teasers were dramatically introduced and the underlying theme music set the perfect tone for a captivating half hour. The Maurevania's role in each script varied from integral to sublime, but its role in transporting the audience all over the world for its characters made for an excellent variety of storylines.
The Radio program Cabin B-13 wasn't quite the end of the line for the franchise. A Suspense episode Cabin B-13 aired on March 29, 1949 for the Television series and Cabin B-13 reappeared several years later in Television's Climax! series, as the episode that aired on June 26, 1958. As of late October 1949, CBS was actively considering Cabin B-13 as a potential candidate for a regular Television series. Just as they'd trotted out Cabin B-13 first over Radio's Suspense, then aired it as a sustaining, 26-week production, so it was that Suspense over Television brought a TV episode of Cabin B-13 to air, followed by CBS considering a Television series for Cabin B-13. In the end, CBS didn't follow through with the Television series, Cabin B-13.
There's no question that Cabin B-13 was a success. Indeed judging by the relatively few programs currently in circulation, it's clear that the remaining programs are very jealously held by their fortunate owners. There's every expectation that a few more programs will trickle out in time. For now the three circulating episodes are wonderfully enjoyable and bode well for any future releasess from this fine production.
431109 65 Cabin B-13 (Suspense )
480705 01 A Razor In Fleet Street aka Bill and Brenda Leslie
481212 22 The Bride Vanishes
481226 24 The Sleep of Death
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