That’s the Short and Long of It

Now we get back to Woolrich, with two versions of his Black Angel, both from Suspense. They share only the broadest outlines with the film of Black Angel directed by Roy William Neill and starring Dan Duryea and June Vincent. Remember, there is a distinction between a show like Lux, adapting the movie adaptation for radio, and something like Suspense, that began either with original radio plays or literary works. Lux’s job was to be as much like a movie for the ears as possible, but Suspense could develop its own medium to a high degree.

The first version (1944) is eminently Woolrichian in it’s extreme rapidity. Not only was it a 30 minute slot, but the show ran short and was padded out with a long preview of next week’s program. The whole story unfolds as a few shockingly intimate and abrupt conversations between three actors, movie star Nancy Kelly and omnipresent radio stalwarts Wally Maher and Lou Merrill. The terrifying pace causes normal character development and human motivation to be elided. Yes, there is a demented twist ending.

Eve (the Black Angel) starring Nancy Kelly

Version two is from the one season, in 1948, when the show expanded to an hour and was hosted by Robert Montgomery, playing a fraudulent “producer’s” role influenced by that of C.B. DeMille on Lux.

Montgomery’s intros are civilized and insinuating, and the extra length does create a feeling of depth and richness that I have only found elsewhere in Welles’ Mercury Theaters.

June Havoc plays Eve, and you’ll hear Bill Johnstone, a tireless actor best known for taking the thankless job of replacing Welles as the lead on The Shadow

Eve starring June Havoc, hosted by Robert Montgomery

Havoc may have had the inside track on this gig: she married Suspense producer William Spier. There is a great 1970s interview with both of them, part of the wonderful series produced out of WTIC in Hartford. Check it out, and stay for some of the other priceless interviews, like Vincent Price.

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