Radio City Playhouse

1948 - 1949


Radio City Playhouse was a high end production series with tension-filled stories, some of them being borrowed from Suspense and The Whistler (Grams, 2000, 392). The plots were often life-or-death situations with an emphasis being placed on suspense. It included original and adapted stories from famous writers including Ray Bradbury and Stephen Vincent Benét (Grams, 2000, 393). NBC devoted big resources to this sustained series, and when it worked, it really worked. The premier, "Long Distance" dealt with a woman trying to save her husband's life with an urgent phone, but she can't get it through the myriad of phone operators and transfers. Even though the entire episode is basically one continuous act, it flies by at breakneck speed (which is kind of ironic, because that's exactly what she's trying to prevent the hangman from doing to her husband.

But the series could also produce some real stinkers, especially when it attempted to be "socially significant." A classic example was "Five Extra Nooses," which was more a propaganda piece than a drama. The target: capital punishment and our old friend, hanging. A young man is sentenced to hang for murder, and a magazine reporter writes an article about an imaginary court where five extra people are hung anytime young adults under age 21 are executed. Talk about preachy! They hang the killer's high school principal for spanking him as a youth, they hang his father for not loving him enough, they hang a politician for passing laws that allow execution, and they also hang a movie producer for making murder films that promote gun violence. Finally-- (here it comes--) YOU! The taxpayer. Because YOU made the young man a murderer when you didn't care enough about his general welfare and didn't vote the right (that is, "left") way. Wow, that's pretty deep isn't it? But on the lighter side, it proves that even the best producers can get so carried away, that they make horrible choices and absolutely ridiculous programs.

Fortunately, the majority of the stories are pretty decent, and succeeded in elevating the blood pressure of many a listener. There was no host for this series, just generic announcers (Fred Collins and Bob Warren). That omission added a certain level of blandness to the proceedings, despite all the dramatic bass drum rolls and musical fan fair. On the other hand, it was a sustained series, so there were no commercials, and that kept the action moving along at a faster clip. No advertising interruptions were especially beneficial for tales that built up the tension over the course of the story, like the aforementioned "Long Distance" and a slew of others. It also provided more time to develop the plot and characters. All but about a dozen of the 72 episodes are still in circulation and available for enjoyment.

The Standard Intro:

(MUSIC: Bass drum roll.)

Announcer: "The National Broadcasting Company Presents... Radio City Playhouse. Attraction 12."

(MUSIC: Big fan fair.)


An Opening Narration:

Announcer: "Soundless! Attraction 12 on Radio City Playhouse. Stars Jane Minor in the taxing role of Constance Blake. The script was written by Harry W. Junkin, who also directs the production. So welcome to Radio City Playhouse, Attraction 12: Soundless!"

Hear it now, FREE!

(Courtesy of Radio )

Hear several dozen at Radio

Download up to 59 episodes in Real Audio at

Sample Shows:

"Conqueror's Island" - A WWII bomber crew in the Pacific is forced down and find themselves on a remote island populated by an advanced race of mutants planning to take over the world.

"Tension in 634" - A story that takes its time to unravel about a husband, his mentally disturbed wife, and the terrible tragedy that caused her condition.

"How Love Came to Professor Guilea" - An detached, academic professor is haunted by a presence that takes a special interest in him.

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