[phpbaysidebar title=”Related eBay Goods:” keywords=”Warren William,Virginia Bruce,Arsene Lupin Returns” num=”5″ siteid=”1″ category=”45100″ sort=”StartTimeNewest” minprice=”19″ maxprice=”500″ id=”2″]I’ve been working on this one for awhile, since Christmas when I finally got serious about listening to all of the Strange Wills episodes in full and taking notes while I did so. The result is the Complete Strange Wills Radio Episode Guide with Warren William Introductions (It can also be permanently accessed in the main menu just under the Filmography).
Frankly I’d originally envisioned writing about the program itself, not its content, but I don’t really own any books about old-time radio and all of my searches online always led back to the same place, the excellent Strange Wills Article and Log over on The Digital Deli Too. At first I didn’t think there was much I could do with Strange Wills other than extensively quote that page, then I realized writing about the programs themselves would create a far more original page.
Note: I purchased each of the 26 episodes for 39 cents each at ThenRadio.com (Just search Strange Wills or Warren William).
Here’s what I did for the Guide. I listed the title and cast of each episode and then I transcribed word for word Warren William’s opening speech as John Frances O’Connell in which he basically introduces the episode. Following that I write my own little summary of the episode and then give it a rating on a 5-point scale. Here’s a sample entry for Episode #8, Midnight on the Moor:
8 – Midnight on the Moor starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Perry Ward, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Have you ever walked along the moors of Scotland at midnight? When the fog, thick, blue fog, swells out of the ground and covers you like the shroud that covers the dead? Through the blanket of fog you can hear sounds of eerie night creatures that bring fear of things unseen. Fear of the bog that carried the reward of slow, agonizing death. In the heart of this moor country is the quaint little village of Perth. I’d never heard of Perth before the moment I’d decided to stopover the night on my way to Stonehaven. The little inn seemed bright and cheerful. The proprietor friendly and (laughs) I was tired. But news I learned travels just as fast in Perth as in any American community. Somewhere in the wee hours or the night …”
My take: A straight murder mystery with a dose of horror injected by way of the setting in the Scottish moors. Warren William is at the top of his game in this episode, enthusiastically playing O’Connell at first with his typical confidence but by later points in the story complete terror. Patriarch Sir Walter McClanahan wishes to solve the mystery of who murdered his son, vowing to O’Connell to discover the truth even from beyond the grave. Before the end of Midnight on the Moor that’s exactly what must happen. Episode includes O’Connell sleepily reciting Poe’s The Raven before humming a Scottish ditty. Midnight on the Moor is what Strange Wills should have always been shooting for. 5/5.
And no, they’re not all 5’s, though I did large in part enjoy the bulk of the Strange Wills episodes. As I mentioned earlier my background in old radio is limited at best, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but the program often felt very fresh, possibly because of the unique nature in which it’s framed. Strange Wills is about the odd wills handled by probate lawyer John Francis O’Connell (Warren William) and so with that device the story can lead into the typical mystery, a straight romance, a historical drama, or in specific instances even a jungle adventure tale (Emeralds Come High) and a sci-fi adventure (The Girl from Shadowland/Madman’s Diary).
Regarding that last one, the Digital Deli’s Strange Wills log does a great job in substantiating a 26 episode schedule for Strange Wills and also makes mention of episodes which were announced as Coming Next Week which never did (Swan Song and High Conquest). Their log also speculates that the final episode, Portsmouth Square, never aired, as it is the 27th episode of a 26 episode season, but while I have no proof as to whether it actually aired or not my time spent with the program leads me to conclude Portsmouth Square is likely episode #26.
The reason for my own speculation is that Episode 10, The Girl from Shadowland and Episode 11, Madman’s Diary, are actually the exact same episodes with different titles. This also explains why both mention Emerald’s Come High as next weeks episode. I don’t think it makes much sense for them to have aired the same episode on back to back weeks, so I’m going to take a further leap that one title is the U.S. version and the other the Australian and that all subsequent episodes should be moved forward a week, leaving Portsmouth Square as episode #26.
Another title oddity is Episode 25 Death Is My Destiny which is alternatively referred to as Death Has Ten Words. I think I figured this one out too. My guess is that Death Has Ten Words was the original title and was either chosen by mistake or had to be changed after part of the script was edited. See, Death Is My Destiny hinges on a brief will, scrawled on a newspaper as follows: “Kitty L. Ledderby, Everything I Own, Gabriel Lefty Light.” Unfortunately, even including Kitty’s middle initial, Death only has Nine Words here, and so the Ten Words title would have made no sense whatsoever.
I’d like to learn more, or discover the source, for Warren William Radio Productions, Inc. referenced on the Digital Deli page. In fact, that’s the only place it’s referenced on the entire internet! I don’t doubt it’s existence, as I said, I lack old-time radio sources, but I’d love to know where this came from so I could learn more!
What I did find was the June 1, 1946 issue of Billboard Magazine which carries an article that seems to indicate the origins of the Teleways Radio Company which aired Strange Wills. From that article:
… Name of the new production group is the Teleways Radio Company. It will be backed by Hollywood and movie and radio names and will feature programs using Warren William; movie actor, Allen Jones and other as yet unsigned Hollywood names.
William will be a director of the corporation and will also be featured in a transcribed dramatic feature titled Devise and Bequeath … First programs of the company will be released in June.
Warren William’s last film, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, in which he had a small part (and which will also be the next title covered here) is listed as filming between April and August 1946 on the IMDb with a U.S. release date of April 25, 1947. His illness caused him to scale back greatly on his film appearances at this time (William died September 24, 1948) but even after Strange Wills it appears he looked to continue working in radio as he starred in a 1947 (February or October) audition recording of something called United States Postal Inspector, also for Teleways, also written by Ken Crispine with music by Del Castilio and a cast including Strange Wills regulars Lurene Tuttle and Marvin Miller.