There is some superb news for those of you that love classic Australian radio drama because another batch of super serials have been released from the Grace Gibson Productions archive.
Promo: Two CD volumes of The Shadow are now available. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Pictured: Future Crossroads star Lloyd Lamble played The Shadow; he is pictured here with actress Sheila Sewell.
The Shadow, adapted from the pulp fiction novels of the same name, had been a hugely successful radio serial in America, and when Grace Gibson got wind of this she acquired the rights for Australia. The original American scripts were adapted to suit Australian tastes and in 1946 listeners Down Under were introduced to Lamont ‘The Shadow’ Cranston (Lloyd Lamble), who taught young and old alike that crime does not pay!
Lamont was a wealthy young man about town and whilst in the Orient he had acquired the hypnotic ability to cloud men’s minds so that they could not see him. He could see the evil that lurked within the hearts of those around him and proved an invincible crime fighter with his tremendous strength and ability to defy gravity. Only his assistant come girlfriend Margo Lane (Lyndall Barbour) knew to whom the invisible voice belonged. The Shadow was a terrible threat to vicious criminals who would stop at nothing to expose his true identity; the frustrated Police Commissioner was keen to have this information as well! The Australian version of the serial was a ratings smash and was enjoyed in many parts of the world; it found a particularly loyal band of followers in Andorra.
The award winning actor Lloyd Lamble won legions of fans as The Shadow but prior to this he had been a newsreel commentator during the Second World War. Lloyd enjoyed a hugely successful career as a radio actor in Australia, he was a regular with the Macquarie and Lux Radio Theatres, and had leading roles in serials such as Big Sister, and Crossroads of Life. After moving to the UK he appeared in a number of television series for ATV including Crossroads, Emergency – Ward 10, and The Kids from 47A. His other British television credits included The Errol Flynn Theatre, White Hunter, Skyport, Angels, and Marked Personal.
Left: Listeners of 2UW in Sydney were hooked on the breath-catching thrills and spills of The Shadow. Right: The early thriller serial Tension featured a myriad of criminal activities. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
There are plenty of other early radio serials available packed with mystery, suspense, cunning criminals and acts of extraordinary heroism. Tension first hit the airwaves in Australia during 1955 and once again was adapted from the original American scripts to suit local tastes. Each self-contained episode features a different story involving murder, robbery and a myriad of other dastardly activities. A wealth of well-known names appeared in the show during its run including Charles Tingwell and Wendy Playfair.
Another 1950s thriller serial which has been recovered from its original format using state of the art CEDAR Cambridge technology is Shadow of Fate. Each self-contained episode features a story of suspense about ordinary people who unwittingly find themselves caught up in extraordinary circumstances. These are people who will be destined to perform selfless acts as they encounter murderers, disasters and no end of strife.
Man Hunt introduces us to Larry Simmonds (John Cazabon), a commercial traveller who is an absolute card; in fact he’s a psychopathic liar. Simmonds is caught up in a web of fraud, blackmail and bigamy which threatens to engulf him. This womaniser is a man living beyond his means; he is embezzling company funds, and blows a good chunk of his ill-gotten gains on taking a sharp floozy to London.
After dumpy the floozy he will pursue Julie Mansfield (Dorothy Mannix), the spinster daughter of a wealthy invalid, but how is a small time textile salesman going to be able to impress a lady who is well above his station? By misappropriating more funds of course! Unfortunately the lady in question has also captured the heart of a police detective; his advances have thus far been rebuffed because Julie does not want to marry a fellow who hunts men for a living, but will he uncover the truth about his love rivals criminal double life. Is the ruse up for Larry Simmonds and will he find himself the subject of a police man hunt?
Left: The first volume of the 1950s classic Shadow of Fate is now available. Right: In Man Hunt a cad and a bounder is living way beyond his means on the proceeds of crime. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Middle: British born John Cazabon stars in Man Hunt playing a rogue with no scruples.
Across 104 gripping episodes we get to know a rotter who lied to live, and lived to die, a man who would be accused of committing murder to cover his tracks and who had no concern for those he did down in order to feather his own nest. The Macquarie Award winning actor John Cazabon gives an outstanding performance as Larry Simmonds. His other radio credits included Martin’s Corner, Willow Bend, and Singapore Spy. In later years he worked extensively on British television appearing in Probation Officer and Ghost Squad for ATV, The Newcomers for the BBC, and Rooms for Thames Television.
The dirty doings of more rascals are exposed in the 1973 serial We, The Wicked People. The plot follows a newspaper columnist called Lucas (James Condon) who writes about individuals who are not evil, but who have gone off the rails in some way. Through Lucas we learn of the complicated lives that some people lead, such as the wife who is having a child which is not her husbands! Lucas intends for his stories to serve as a warning to those who may be about to stray, so watch out, your next misdemeanour could end up in his column!
There are investigations of a very different kind in T-Men which lifts the lid on one of the most unloved professions in the world. We meet Jack Ketch (Gordon Glenwright), the top agent with the Special Investigations Unit of the Federal Department of Taxation and Revenue. Jack will stop at nothing to bring tax evaders to justice and to make them pay what they owe. On the journey he encounters murder, bitter women seeking revenge on their menfolk, a strange Polish blonde armed with cyanide capsules, and when he investigates a big gambling joint he sums up the whole scene by saying, “No matter who loses, the Tax Department always wins.” Each episode showcases a different tax evasion scam, and it appears that no-one will ever get the better of Jack Ketch!
Middle: Dorothy Mannix stars in Man Hunt. Her other radio credits included Stamboul Train, Famous Loves, and The Strange Adventures of Doctor Danton. Left: A newspaper columnist exposes sordid lives in We, The Wicked People. Right: There is no escape from the tax inspector in T-Men. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
If you enjoy a good political thriller then you’ll love The Priestman File. Produced in 1981 this was the first Australian radio serial to be set in the corridors of political power and still rings true today. We meet Alexander Priestman, a former current affairs television host who has big ambitions, he intends to become Prime Minister, and nobody will stand in his way. This is a man without scruples, he will trample on all those he encounters whilst climbing the greasy pole to success, but when polling day comes around he is found dead, and his death was no accident. Was he really a dangerous megalomaniac who needed to be stopped? Or was he a man who stood in the way of the ambitions of others? All will be revealed in this chilling tale of ruthless political backstabbers.
There is more political intrigue and espionage in Goodbye Gwynnevere. We meet secret service agent Roger Schofield (John Nash) who is longing for a quiet retirement after years of working for the Special Branch. Roger has become tired of the job and disillusioned by the nature of his missions. His is a world where national secrets must be kept under wraps, and where the secrets of friends and foes must be unearthed so that they can be used as bargaining chips. Unfortunately for Schofield he still has a few years to eke out before he reaches pensionable age, and there is one more mission to complete before he can take a cushy desk job, a mission which he does not relish. A fellow agent has been exposed as a traitor who has been selling vital information to the Russians. It will be down to Roger to silence these loose lips for good and to prevent the balloon from going up.
Middle: Gordon Glenwright stars in T-Men. Television viewers will remember him from Class of ’74, King’s Men, Carson’s Law, Taurus Rising, Hunter, and The Young Doctors. Left: Political backstabbers are out in force in The Priestman File. Right: Loose lips need to be silenced before they sink ships in Goodbye Gwynnevere. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
Strange Homecoming is the dramatic tale of Bart Barnett who was presumed dead following a plane crash, but now he’s back in order to claim his rightful inheritance – the profitable Rosewood Estate. The problem is that he needs to prove his identity. His widowed mother had been determined to find him alive to prevent his cousin Greg Mallory from inheriting the stud. Mallory is a man with huge gambling debts who intends to sell the estate and to put her out on the street. Naturally Greg is determined to discredit and expose this blow-in as an impostor and joins forces with a shady property developer to do just that. The fight is well and truly on and the two men involved will stop at nothing to secure victory over the other. The all-star cast includes Guy Leclair, Heather Christie, Wynne Nelson, Benita Collings, Dinah Shearing, and Amber Mae Cecil.
In the 1975 serial The Pecking Order we meet an up and coming journalist called Harris who writes for the Herald Clarion. His career hasn’t been going anywhere fast, so when he’s offered the chance to write a major feature on the state of the nation’s defences he jumps at the opportunity. The journalist who started the assignment had been killed in a car accident, so Harris visits the man’s widow in order to find out what progress had been made. This widow is found dead shortly afterwards, and the plot continues to thicken when the newspaper editor scraps the report altogether. Harris is a desperate man who needs a career break, he vows to finish his piece and to sell it to the highest bidder but this is where his problems really begin! There are powerful forces in the shadows that will stop at nothing to keep the lid on what he wishes to expose.
Left: The prodigal son returns in Strange Homecoming. Right: An up and coming newspaper hack puts his life on the line in The Pecking Order. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Middle: Amber Mae Cecil stars in Strange Homecoming, she made her professional acting debut at the age of 12, and won legions of fans as Chi-Chi the teenage waif of the slums in the radio serial Life Can Be Beautiful.
There is more high drama in the spine-tingling serial I Killed Grace Random which was adapted from Elleston Trevor’s novel The Billboard Madonna. Whilst driving home from work one dark and dank evening a young advertising copywriter called Curt Miller (Richard Meikle) runs down and kills a beautiful young girl called Grace Random. In a state of panic he shoots through but is tortured by guilt, and as penance he uses her image in a gripping road safety advertising campaign.
He has made a star of the girl he killed and becomes obsessed by her. Even the romantic overtures coming from a work colleague called Mrs Jerome (June Salter) can’t distract him from the girl he skittled. Unable to handle the guilt any longer, he hands himself in to the police, but even they don’t buy his confession, everyone believes that he has become delusional due to the pressures of work.