The Passing Parade

1937 -1951


The Passing Parade was another series of incredible but true stories that thrived on radio. They were told "by your favorite story teller. A man whose voice is familiar to millions of theater goers and radio listeners: John Nesbitt!" And a colorful man he was. Although he had worked a series of lackluster jobs (like seaman and janitor), he also had a keen curiosity about bigger things, including film making and the study of Shakespeare. When his father died, he inherited a trunk filled with news clippings of strange stories from around the world (Dunning, 533). Nesbitt parlayed that seemingly worthless inheritance into a significant entertainment business with a staff of fourteen researchers and a broadcast record of 15 years. (And that's not even including his 1935 series, Headlines From The Past, which dealt with similar stories.) His voice wasn't that special, and his idea wasn't that unique (Believe It or Not began in 1930, and Strange as It May Seem in 1939), but Nesbitt had an exceptional writing style and he was a master story teller. He didn't use music or sound effects, but vivid words to conjure up images in the minds of listeners, so they didn't just hear what he said, they actually saw it. Dunning describes him as having "a dash of Robert Ripley, a dash of Bill Stern, and a lot of Nelson Olmsted." Like Olmsted, Nesbitt used dialect to imitate the various characters he was portraying, but more often, he described what they were doing in colorful detail. It is said he often wrote the scripts in the last hour before broadcast (Dunning, 533). His topics ranged in scope from disasters to great creations, courageous captures to daring escapes, prehistoric animals to futuristic inventions, and unexplained phenomena to scientific breakthroughs. Historically, one of the greatest pursuits of science was the desire to turn common lead into precious gold. Perhaps the best method of accomplishing that goal was not achieved via science, but by using imagination, as Nesbitt did when he converted his father's yellowed newspaper clippings into real audio gold.

A Typical Intro:

SFX: Music theme up, then under.

Announcer: The Passing Parade. Your favorite stories as told by your favorite story teller. A man who's voice is familiar to millions of theater goers and radio listeners. Here's John Nesbitt to bring you some stories from The Passing Parade!"

SFX: Music theme up again, then concludes.

Host: "How do you do everyone? For today's chapter in the 1949 edition of our Passing Parade, which brings us to our fourth out of five men who appear to have in fact lived the double life of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. After the announcer has his opening, we'll transcribe some notes about Francois Villion, the cut-throat college professor of the Passing Parade."


An Opening Narration:

Announcer: "Now here is John Nesbitt."

Host: "Watching the procession move by again, there is no question that the man known as Francois Villion is one of the great human mysteries of time. The fact is that for every piece of true evidence about him, there are half a dozen legends. One reason for this is, of course, that nearly 500 years has passed by since he raised Cain on a large scale in his native land of France. But the second reason is that this man, whoever he really was, deliberately led several hidden lives. He was Dr. Jekyll, the student of science, and he was also Mr. Hyde, the murdering savage. He was also a genius who wrote delicate poetry. And at least once, he was a young and gallant lover, with a heart filled with the highest human devotion. So he wasn't a man, he was a gang. And he managed to gain so much attention in his various roles from thief to gentleman, that he has never been forgotten. For five long centuries, we've sung songs about him, and told our children the legends of his adventures. If you remember the musical comedy and the movie that was called 'If I Were King', in which a beggar is given the chance to rule France for a day, that is one of the stories that has come down to us from the life of Francois Villion..."


A Closing Narration:

Announcer: "Now again, John Nesbitt."

Host: "When we meet again, it will be to follow the final marcher in the group of those who lived double lives. In this case, Homer Lee, a very good man and great adventurer of all time. Until then, this is John Nesbitt transcribing from California, a goodbye to you all."

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(Courtesy of Tennessee Bills OTR)

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Hear more from the OTRR library (free membership required).

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - The true story of Francois Villion, a 15th century Frenchman who lived two lives, one as a scholar and poet, another as a killer.

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