The Diary of Fate
1947 - 1948
Herb Lytton was The Voice of Fate.
The Diary of Fate is a fun series for a number of reasons. It has a heavy handed host who plays fate, a somewhat sinister sounding character who delights in emphasizing how he manipulates events to force life changing choices. The characters in the stories always seem to make the wrong choice, and thereby assure their ultimate demise. Perhaps it's a hit and run driver, or a jealous husband who decides to eliminate his competition, or a man who murders his way to the top of the company. Whatever the scheme, you can rest assured that the cold blooded culprit will dish it out in full heaping servings before he is forced to get a taste of his own medicine. And that's the part of this series that is somewhat disturbing. The formula is basically that we hate to see someone be cruel to someone else, but love to see that kind of person harshly punished. So in effect, we're listening to the show because we want to see someone suffer, just so long as we can justify that pain by saying they had it coming to them. If you think about it, it's not really that different from watching gladiators being fed to the lions for amusement. The biggest difference is that the victims are actors pretending to die. The crowd is still cheering for blood, but instead of applause, the radio arena survives on Nielsen ratings. After two thousand years of social evolution, only the technology has changed. The human fascination with death (espeically of others) has not.
But getting back Fate, he is played by Herb Lytton. Lytton was a popular radio actor famous for being able to pick up a script and read it cold without any practice or mistakes (The Digital Dele Too). His voice in this role actually sounds like that of a mobster: it's hard and unsympathetic. Yet his fatalistic metaphors get poetic at times. He also seems to enjoy making dire warnings to the hapless mortal audience, threats that he won't even bother to finish utterin. No, that's Plebian work for the puny human announcer. It sounds like this:
Fate: "Heed well you who listen, and remember, there is a page for you in--"
Announcer: "The Diary of Fate!"
And you thought having a chauffeur was cool? Imagine how impressive it would be to have an announcer accompany you everywhere to emphasize your importance by finishing your statements. That would be even more aggrandizing than being the queen of England and referring to yourself as the royal "we".
But I digress. The point is that Fate had fun with his all-seeing, all-knowing role, just as the audience enjoyed hearing him expose the various scoundrels that made up his weekly cast. He was like The Whistler that way, relishing his job of revealing the hidden secrets of the men and women who conspired to outwit the law. Many of the plots were cunning as well. A double cross was par for the course, but a triple cross was even better! You really got to see the worst of what humanity had to offer in each episode, but again, justice always prevailed so all's well that ends well.
The scripts were solid, the varying actors were consummate professionals (like Lurene Tuttle and Larry Dobkin), and the host was a hoot. While Diary of Fate was probably not anyone's favorite show, it was always entertaining, and that's high praise for any form of mass media, including web sites like--
Announcer: "Radio Horror Hosts.com!"
The Standard Intro:
(Music: Deep chords of piano with Organ.)
Announcer: "The Diary of Fate!
(Music: Organ flourish.)
Announcer: "Fate plays no favorites. It could happen to you."
(Music: Low organ tones play in back ground)
Host: "Book: 84. Page 387."
Announcer: "In the Diary of Fate!"
An Opening Narration:
Host: "Yes, here it is. The name, Peter Drake. Occupation? Treasurer of Lewis-Swerdling & Company. A comfortable life for a man of your temperament, wasn't it Peter? A life that required few important decisions. An occupation that dealt primarily with numbers. You would have gone on in your work secure and contented, had it not been for your wife, Marsha. She was blindly proud and avaricious. But you loved her, didn't you Peter? Because of that love, you stand now in the bedroom of your home, with the muzzle of a pistol pressed against your temple. And in less than a minute, you will be dead!
(Music: Dramatic tone.)
Host: "Soon I will write the final entry under the name Peter Drake. When I have written, I shall read from his record in The Diary of Fate. I hope you'll understand."
(Music: Organ interlude.)
A Closing Narration
Host: "Now it is time to close the book. Another entry has been duly recorded on the pages of eternity. And the sensitive scales of justice are suspended in absolute balance. In the case of Peter Drake, as in the cases of all mortals, I, fate, am but the instrument, the instruments of a plan. And the little things that happen every day, the trivia of life, are the tools with which I work. It was a little thing, the innocent loss of a wallet, which magnified a thousand fold, by Peter's complex of guilt, proved his undoing. Understand well the moral, and remember you who listen, that there is a fate for you in..."
Announcer: "The Diary of Fate!"
(Music: Organ flourish)
Announcer: "Produced by Larry Finley. Diary of Fate is a Finley Transcription brought to you from Hollywood."
Hear it now, FREE!
(Courtesy of OTR.net)
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Hear up to two dozen episodes of this series here.
"Peter Drake" - An accountant is nagged by his wife with social ambitions to force his way to the top of the company. The resulting scheme involves arranging the murder of both partners in the firm, but a "lost" piece of evidence haunts him as the police begin to ask questions.
"John Carthage" - An ambitious doctor sees his wife falling for another man and conspires to arrange an accident for his competitor. As fate would have it, the doctor himself is asked to perform an emergency operation that could save the man's life. He makes some last minute changes in his scheme, not realizing that fate has a very big surprise in store for him.
"Paul Reese" - A seedy newspaper reporter discovers a way to blackmail a boxing manager for $25K, but becomes suspicious when he meets with a near fatal accident. He devises another plan to assure the manager won't try to kill him again, unaware that it can backfire in a most unpredictable way.
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