BW - EP130—009: Philip Marlowe Comes To Radio—Marlowe Leaves NBC, But CBS Picks It Up


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In September, Bob Hope reclaimed his Tuesday night time slot and NBC’s Philip Marlowe radio adventures were over. 1947 was a good year for Van Heflin. Green Dolphin Street hit theaters in November. It co-starred Lana Turner and was that year’s biggest MGM hit. On Thanksgiving he guest-starred on an episode of Radio Reader’s Digest called “Why Keep Your Heart In Cold Storage?” It was well-received, but MGM would no longer allow Heflin to play Marlowe. He continued to appear on radio into the 1950s. A new Hollywood agent, Ray Stark, went to work for Chandler in 1948, and in September, a revived Philip Marlowe series began a two-year run on CBS, this time starring Gerald Mohr. Mohr played King Leopardi in the summer series’ version of “The King in Yellow.” He’d done movie work, but his face was unknown to most radio listeners. Chandler preferred his voice, which he thought packed more punch. Norman Macdonnell was in charge of the production. Chandler made a list of suggestions for the show’s writers: Don’t always let Marlowe have the last word. Don’t make him utter knee-jerk wisecracks. Don’t let him gloat. For the most part, Mohr’s Marlowe always got the last word, added quick-one liners, and gloated. CBS paid Chandler two-hundred fifty dollars per week, roughly 3K today. That amount was raised to four-hundred if the series found a sponsor, which it briefly did, with both Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum and Ford. On CBS Marlowe took up the commercial slack with product-placement. Cars were Nash’s. Gas Stations pumped Mobile. Phil reached for Johnny Walker and Lifesavers candy. As he drove around L.A. he found a handy way to keep track of addresses: Their proximity to an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Even Chandler got a plug In “The Hairpin Turn.” On April 11th, 1950, William Conrad subbed for Gerald Mohr. Sometime around 1950, head of CBS William Paley said the network should develop a “Philip Marlowe in the Old West” – a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails frontier saga unlike any cowboy show ever heard. The show would be called Gunsmoke and debut in 1952 starring William Conrad. It was directed by Norman Macdonnell and generally considered the best radio Western of all time. The Adventures of Philip Marlowe was canceled in September of 1950, but revived the following July for a summer run. The final CBS Philip Marlowe Adventure was on September 15th, 1951.

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