Little Bits of History

Lurking Evil

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2011

Orson Welles

September 26, 1937: Orson Welles becomes the title character as the old announcer for Detective Stories gets his own 30-minute radio show – The Shadow. The Shadow character was created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931. The Shadow’s creation was more accident than design. In 1930, the character’s name belonged to the announcer for Detective Stories. This radio broadcast drew its stories from the pulp fiction of the era. Pulp fiction being inexpensive magazines printed on cheap paper from the 1920s through 1940s.

Smith & Street, pulp magazine publishers, created a radio program in order to boost sales for their print media. However, the announcer proved to be a more compelling entity than the Detective Stories themselves. Smith & Street commissioned Gibson to write stories with the announcer as the hero. Gibson went on to write 282 of the 325 Shadow books.

The Shadow (had many alias identities but Lamont Cranston was the most frequently used) went skulking about in dark hat, cape, and often a black or red silk mask using nefarious skills to intimidate criminals. Eventually it was revealed that he had traveled to the mystical Far East and learned to cloud minds so as to be invisible. Orson Welles took the lead role when still an unknown radio personality. Two years later, Welles would produce his famous Halloween scare, The War of the Worlds.

A female contrast to Welles’ voice was added with Producer Clark Andrews naming The Shadow’s “friend and companion” after his girlfriend, Margo Lane. The Shadow became such a hit that a series of comic books were added and eventually over 300 novels were written. There were two attempts to bring The Shadow to the small screen and several full length movies were produced. In 1947, Welles hoped to produce his own version and commissioned Charles Lederer to pen a script. Welles could not secure the film right to the character he made famous a decade earlier.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” – John Archer’s introduction to The Shadow

“Orson Welles was an actor, so he believed in it while he was doing it.” – John DiDonna

“Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.” – Orson Welles

“I don’t say that we ought to all misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.” – Orson Welles

Also on this day:
The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.

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