The Shadow

1930 - 1954

Orson Welles was an early voice of The Shadow, and the most famous one as well.

The Shadow is probably the best remembered radio crime fighter of all time. But it was more than a super hero show. It was also a hardcore crime/horror series with supernatural elements. The Shadow himself was a cruel dispenser of vigilante justice with a haunting laugh. For the first several years, he wasn't a character in the story at all, but an omniscient narrator/host, very similar to The Whistler (and a decade ahead of his time). He narrated The Detective Story Hour, a general crime anthology for Street & Smith's Detective Story magazine, the publishers behind The Shadow magazine. The Shadow was an active character in those stories, and the pulps sold like gangbusters. Around 1937, the show's sponsor (Blue Coal) agreed to let the Shadow play the principal role in the radio plots as well... on a trial basis (Dunning, 608). The results were golden and the trial was made permanent.

A large variety of actors voiced the role of The Shadow through its long run. James LaCurto was the first but quit after a few weeks to go on to Broadway. Frank Readick played the host after that for several years. Orson Welles played the Shadow in 1937, until "The War Of the Worlds" made Welles too famous for the role in 1938. (Interestingly enough, Agnes Moorehead played "his lovely companion", Margo Lane.) Bill Johnstone played the invisible crime fighter until early 1943. Bret Morrison replaced Johnstone in April of 1943 until 1944. John Archer did it for about a year, followed by Steve Courtleigh for a couple of months in 1945. Bret Morrison then returned from 1945 until 1954 (Dunning, 607).

Of all the actors to voice The Shadow, it was Bret Morrison who played him the most (from 1945 until the end).

There were plenty of murder victims in The Shadow, but the guilty were always caught or better yet, killed via some sort of poetic justice. The criminals often had very morbid and mysterious ways of killing. They might use a specially designed house of death, or a killer mirror, or a supernatural disguise, as John Dunning recalls in his book.... "(I) vividly remember an episode when the Shadow tracked down a murdering scarecrow. When the killer's coat was ripped off, revealing nothing but straw, the implications were so terrifying that (I) couldn't sleep in an unlighted room for weeks."

Who knows what terrors lurk in the minds of kids? The Shadow knows!


Artist depiction courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992

The Standard Intro:

(Hear it in Real Audio!)

Music: (Omphale's Spinning Wheel by Saint Saens.)

Shadow: (filter) "Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh! Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh!"

Announcer: "The Shadow, mysterious character who aids the forces of law and order, is in reality, Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town. Years ago in the Orient, Lamont learned the strange and hypnotic power that allowed him to cloud men's minds so that they can not see him. Lamont's companion, the lovely Margo Lane, is the only one that knows to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs. Tonight's drama (episode title)!"


The Standard Closing:

(Hear it in Real Audio!)

Music: (Omphale's Spinning Wheel by Saint Saens.)

Shadow: (filter) "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows. Heh-heh-heh-heh!"


Article about The Shadow by Karl Schadow from Radio Recall.

Hear An Actual Epsiode!

(Courtesy of Botar Archives)

A gift of murder - 12/21/1947

Aboard the Steamship Amazon - 07/17/1938

Altar of Death - 03/15/1942

Appointment with Death - 03/12/1939

Black Rock - 11/13/1938

Blind Beggar dies - 03/12/1939

Bones of the Dragon - 01/11/1948

Can the Dead talk - 03/19/1939

Cat that Killed - 12/31/1939

Caverns of Death - 08/11/1938

Chess Club murders - 02/23/1941

Chill of Death - 01/04/1938

Comic Strip Killer - 11/23/1947

Crystal Globe - 10/03/1943

Dead Men Talk - 09/24/1939

Death and the black Fedora - 01/18/1948

Death coils to strike - 03/21/1948

Death has eight Arms - 11/02/1947

Death keeps a Deadline - 11/01/1942

Death on the bridge - 03/03/1940

Death rides a broomstick - 03/02/1941

Death shows the way - 12/03/1939

Death speaks twice - 02/15/1942

Flight of the Vulture - 12/10/1939

Ghost Building - 01/12/1941

Ghost without a Face - 02/11/1945

Gibbering Thing - 09/26/1943

Horror in Wax - 02/26/1939

House of Fun - 10/22/1939

House of Horror - 11/17/1940

Inventor of Death - 11/12/1939

(Above, print ads to the series)

Plot Summaries of The Shadow episodes (from A-L):

Plot Summaries of The Shadow episodes (from M-Z):

Sample Show Plots:

"The Gibbering Things" - Lamont and Margot try to visit her rural Aunt but find her missing. They soon believe it has something to do with the mysterious creature said to lurk in the nearby Haunted Woods.

"The Hoodoo Ship" - An old slave smuggling ship notorious for having once jettisoned its cargo is put back in service and starts showing signs of being haunted. Lamont takes a trip on it to debunk the reputation.

"Ghosts Can Kill" - As a gangster is sentenced to be executed, he announces the names of some prominent people he intends to kill when he returns from the grave. When they start dying, the Shadow investigates.

"The Bride Wore Black" - When Lamont visits a friend at his ancient family house in a swamp, he finds it filled with madness and murder and a haunting figure of a bride wearing black.

The National Association of Broadcasters reconstructed the above scene from "When the Grave is Open" (The Shadow, Sept 14, 1947) in order to help convince members for the need of new self governing rules of censorship in 1947.

A colorful pop-up matchbook for The Shadow (and below it, a blotter)


Go to main Index

rev. 1.25.10©2007

Monsterwax Sci-Fi & Horror Monster Cards