This an all-text episode guide to the 26 episode Strange Wills radio program starring Warren William. For each episode I have transcribed Warren William’s introductory text, labeled WW Says, which should give an idea of the basic story. This is followed by My Take, which is exactly that, brief thoughts I took from the episode along with, and I’m not a fan of doing this but I think it will help, my rating, on a 5-point scale.
The first nine episodes of Strange Wills open with a narrator stating something similar to this (exact text from episode 1, Mad Concerto):
Strange Wills … Stories of strange wills made by strange people. Starring the distinguished Hollywood actor Warren William, and featuring Lurene Tuttle and Howard Culver, with the original music of Del Castilio. I devise and bequeath to my heirs the Seven Deadly Sins — pride, envy, hate, jealousy, anger, despair, and greed! And here is Warren William–
At which time Warren William would state something to the effect of the following (again, verbatim from Mad Concerto):
These are the stories of strange wills made by strange people. Men and women who defy and defile every moral law of respectability and decency to satisfy a mad desire. To right an imaginary wrong that burns like a raging fire in their shriveled souls. Strange Wills are stories based upon actual wills gathered from courts all over the world. Names, places and time have been changed so that no reflection can fall on any person or persons living or dead. Only the sins remain. Deadly sins that cry out from the depths of the grave for vengeance. You’ll presently see what I mean, but first … a word from your announcer.
Beginning with the 10th episode, The Girl from Shadowland, which oddly is also repeated under a different title, Madman’s Diary, the following week, the words devise and bequeath as well as the line about the 7 Deadly Sins are dropped in favor of this much shorter, sometimes ominously stated, introduction:
Dead men’s wills are often strange. We cannot attempt to understand them or try to find the answers, we can but tell the story …
Following either of these introductions a commercial break is taken and when we return Warren William as probate lawyer John Frances O’Connell offers a specific introduction to that week’s story. Here’s each episode with credited cast, O’Connell’s introduction, and finally my notes and rating.
See accompanying Strange Wills blog post for more information about the program including a more general overview.
Note: While I believe you can find some episodes of Strange Wills around the net for free, I just went ahead and bought downloads of each program from ThenRadio.com at 39 cents apiece. ThenRadio.com provides original air dates ranging from June 8, 1946 for Episode 1, Mad Concerto, through December 7, 1946 for the final episode, Portsmouth Square. The Digital Deli, which provides the only other worthwhile information I could find about Strange Wills online states a later set of air dates beginning December 5, 1946 and running through May 30, 1947. So I would assume the dates are in dispute.
1 – Mad Concerto starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “The story of a woman who voluntarily became a prisoner, of love, because of greed. It’s not a nice story. Quite the contrary. Mad Concerto is the story of a beautiful woman who gave up every feminine and human desire for the power that goes with dollars … ten million of them.”
My take: Twisted story where possessive benefactor James Carson Walker keeps young pianist Nadia Winter single, alone and housebound, leaving her to become a prisoner to his fortune. A very personal opening for the O’Connell character as he and Nadia fall in love creating a potential barrier to the money which she immediately sweeps aside by barring O’Connell from the premises. He returns at her call 18 years later in a startling conclusion which finds Warren William yelling his lines over a tulmultuous background.
Excellent start to the series remains dark throughout. Establishes the O’Connell character as kind and caring for his clients, even if in this case he goes beyond his scope to become emotionally involved with his client, a trick which won’t work very often. Sometimes florid language works in some spots and seems too much in others. I liked this one a lot and rate it a strong 4.5/5.
2 – Alias Dr. Svengali starring Warren William, Marvin Miller, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “This is the story of a strange triangle. The sordid story of a man who saw his young and beautiful wife slowly fall under the spell of a mad and evil genius who covered his sinister acts under the guise of psychiatry. In his last will and testament, Phillip Martin, on his deathbed, sought revenge against the person or persons he thought responsible for his murder.”
My take: A wife is distraught over her husband’s attempt to take his life, but upon speaking with Philip Martin on his deathbed O’Connell discovers this was no suicide attempt, but an attempt on his life potentially caused by his wife. Martin changes his will to name his wife and a mysterious accomplice, Dr. Cosmo, as his murderers. This psychiatrist gains hypnotic powers over his subjects through his music as demonstrated by O’Connell’s own visit and inquisition.
Entertaining in spots, but no Mad Concerto. Dr. Cosmo largely steals this episode as the villain and some of William’s garbled dialogue towards the end is unintentionally funny when it’s meant to be terrifying. Call it a 2.5/5, very average entertainment.
3 – Black Interlude starring Warren William, Marvin Miller, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Of all the sins that live within the human heart none is so deadly, so lasting, as hate. Unchecked it bears the bitter fruit of mental and spiritual annihilation. Nor does it always end with death. It’s vibrations reach out of the grave like the tentacles of an octopus in her last effort to win the final victory of a bitter revenge. Why did Frances X. Blair hate his only son Paul, with a hated as intense and boundless as the elements? The reason are as old as Eve. Francis X. Blair, rich, handsome, and a widower, and his son, Paul were both in love with the same girl. Francis X. Blair had been my client for nearly ten years. He was dominant, relentless and headstrong. The kind of a man who took what he wanted no matter what the hurt. Paul was like his dead mother, shy and sensitive. His talents ran to the literary. How he ever managed to take the lovely and beautiful Phyllis Lamar away from his father I’ll never know. But insiders told me that it was just a case of love at first sight. Everyone who knew about it was anxiously waiting to hear who her final choice would be…father or son.”
My take: Insanely jealous father now despises his son. He calls O’Connell over to cut Paul out of his will and goes so far as to state he hopes to carry his hatred beyond the grave. Two years pass, the father becomes more bitter, Paul and Phyllis invite O’Connell out to dinner, where Paul mentions how his father is haunting his dreams. Frances X. Blair soon dies, but rather than getting better, Paul guilt takes a turn for the worse. With Paul catatonic, O’Connell takes matters into his own hands pulling strings to execute a plan for Paul’s recovery–which miserably backfires and leaves O’Connell depressed and doubting himself.
A fun story filled with emotion, the threat of ghosts, and a mental institution, Black Interlude is weakened some by a hokey ending, but keeps you involved throughout. 3.5/5.
4 – The Lady and the Pirate starring Warren William, Perry Ward, Lurene Tuttle, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “It has been my good fortune to come from an illustrious line of lawyers. My inherited legal birthright dates back to the year 1724 when my ancestor and namesake, John Frances O’Connell, left England under the King’s command to become the legal counselor to the Governor of the Carolinas. But he had another mission. A secret one. He was sent to the Carolinas to personally direct in the capture and hanging of the notorious pirate and renegade Englishman Black Richard Templeton, whose ship, the Elizabeth, cast a shadow of death and doom across the trade lanes in Caribbean waters. How Black Richard finally died is of no relative importance. But his will, written under the most peculiar of circumstances remains as one of the most unique ever to be filed in probate. Let us now turn back the pages of history to a May evening in the year 1724 …”
My take: William’s O’Connell is much cockier than the modern version, enhanced some by his lapsing into pirate speech. But like his modern counterpart the 18th Century O’Connell is a lawyer first and foremost and despite his wishes to confront the perils of the sea he is continuously sent below to watch after Lady Ruth and her maiden Cecile. The headstrong Ruth holds a fascination with the pirate Black Richard which ranges far beyond tales of adventure to wishes of taming him through her charms. But when Black Richard turns out much different than expected it is O’Connell who must file his strangest will yet.
Obviously a much different episode than we’ve seen so far, beyond even the setting and the slightly different main character, The Lady and the Pirate is an adventure story rather than the straight thriller format Strange Wills had been putting forward, though in the end it does all come down to the reading of a will, perhaps the most unusual one throughout the run of the program. 4/5.
5 – Prince of Broadway starring Warren William, Perry Ward, Lurene Tuttle, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Of all the sins that live in the human heart none is so deadly as despair. It has been truly spoken that when a man loses faith in his friends, his neighbors, and himself, he is truly in a sorry plight. Harry McNeil, the Prince of Broadway, on a certain night not long ago, learned the full bitter meaning of the sin of black despair. I’ll tell you the story in just a moment, after we hear a word from your Announcer…”
My take: I had to smile at the open as McNeil greets his friend O’Connell as “the old Mouthpiece, in person.” Soon their meeting is broken up when young Gertude Pulaski enters McNeil’s office and is soon auditioning for McNeil (and O’Connell). Over the next 6 months McNeil transforms Pulaski into Judy Morrison, who’s a complete smash … but turns out to have a previous contract. McNeil confides his love for Judy/Gertrude to O’Connell but draws up papers with O’Connell to sacrifice his feelings for the sake of Judy’s career. When Judy tells O’Connell of her love for the now missing McNeil, O’Connell is confronted with his own dilemma of legal ethics vs. love. The choice he makes will dictate the future of both Judy and McNeil.
This makes two episodes in a row where blindness enters the storyline. Also the second consecutive episode which abandons the darkness exhibited through the first few shows. Prince of Broadway is a straight romance, though it keeps with the central theme of its story being based on a “strange will.” Tedious in spots, not terrible. 2.5/5.
6 – Treasure to Starboard starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Perry Ward, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “This is a story of sunken treasure. Of blood red rubies, sparkling diamonds, and lustrous pearls. But these were but a part of this priceless treasure trove. There were golden statues of pagan gods encrusted with precious stones. There were amythests, opals, and gold … gold … GOLD …”
My take: Another adventure story, started out all too similar to “The Lady and the Pirate” with Captain Fernandez of the treasure ship Toledo making out his will … in 1703. But quickly over 200 years pass before whereabouts of the ship fall into the hands of O’Connell’s friends Paul and Jean. The hunt is on but will the intercession of German treasure hunters foil Paul and Jean’s quest? The post-WWII Germans, who are I assume Nazis in exile, are what makes “Treasure to Starboard” interesting. 3/5.
7 – One Shining Night starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Perry Ward, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “If Lucretia Borgia earned the dubious honor of being the mad killer of Italy, I wonder what history will call her direct descendant, Professor Don Borgia. That he was brilliant is attested to by his degrees from Universities and Colleges the world over and from the many books he had published at the turn of the century. That he was evil is also a matter of record, for Professor Don Borgia was expelled from Europe, his name stricken from the councils of all reputable institutions and he, finding himself an outcast, took his young daughter and came to America. I’d heard only rumors of why he had fallen from grace. He had been accused of many things; the practice of Medieval sorcery, witchcraft, and experimentation with … (audio fades here) a questionable vivisectionist do with dumb animals. When I received a written invitation to visit him at his isolated estate …”
My take: This episode might be my favorite, especially the first half which is totally over the top introducing us to Borgia and more importantly his daughter, Nina, who O’Connell meets as she pulls tufts of hair out of a dog in hopes of seeing it naked! At this meeting with the elder Borgia O’Connell is told of an envelope to open on her 19th birthday which will reveal the nature of his experimentation. Prior to this O’Connell pays a visit to Nina’s school where her teacher, Miss Hargrove, tells of finding a dead canary with a needle through it and says of Nina, she has “the face of an angel and the heart of a devil.”
We fast forward to Nina on the verge of college, a beautiful young girl who seems normal enough to O’Connell despite her wishes of specializing in the psychology of fear, a subject dealing with witchcraft and black magic, with hopes of eventually experimenting on men. Still, Nina seems on the right path, but when she overhears O’Connell playing the records contained within the envelope her father had left all chances of her living a normal life are shattered. That is unless O’Connell can unravel the mystery of her true nature.
Okay, the end is a bit of a stretch that I should probably knock a half a point off for, but I won’t: 5/5.
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.
9 – Seven Flights to Glory starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Carleton Young, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Everybody in town knew Lucy Witherspoon. She not only was a leader in the charmed 400 circle, but had more than doubled her deceased husband’s fortune during the ten years that she had taken over the actual management of his sprawling industrial empire. But even Lucy was not immune to the call of the black angel of death. All her doctors, all of her power could not keep Lucy Witherspoon in the land of the living. And when she finally realized that death was but a matter of days, she called me to her country estate to help put her affairs in order …”
My take: After some formalities with O’Connell and the aforementioned Lucy Witherspoon over the terms of her will “Seven Flights to Glory” spins into a love story. The elderly Witherspoon is willing to leave her entire fortune to her son Bob if he takes on the full responsibility of running the family business for 15 years, but Bob is an idealistic young painter with no interest in the family business or fortune. His mother leaves an alternative, Bob can have $5,000 and a ticket to Paris if he forgoes the business to paint instead. Bob, to the shock of his society girlfriend Kathryn, takes the five grand and the plane ticket. After Bob Witherspoon makes a success of himself in Paris, O’Connell flies over to pay a visit. 4/5.
10 – The Girl from Shadowland starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, John Brown, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “This is Warren William bringing you the story of The Girl from Shadowland. But first, a word from your Announcer.” This epsiode lacks William’s typical introduction and instead springs directly into the action inside a courtroom when returning from break.
My take: Wildly exceeded expectations, quite honestly the title led me to believe this would be a tale about Hollywood, which is fine, but what we get here is something much stranger. What this is is the reading of the deceased Professor Lucifer Nicolai’s diary in which he sends young appropriately named Alice off to Shadowland. What is Shadowland if not the motion pictures? According to Professor Nicolai every act in history has been permanently photographed on light waves. The Professor had experimented with electrical impulses that separated the mind from the body and had discovered a way to send Alice’s mind back through time. Alice so loved her time spent in King Arthur’s Court that she embarked on a visit to the building of the Great Pyramids with great excitement, but when Professor Nicolai’s machine malfunctions things don’t go exactly as planned.
The most fantastic episode of Strange Wills yet seemingly straight out of a sci-fi pulp. 5/5.
11 – Madman’s Diary — This is the same episode as The Girl from Shadowland, see above, which explains why both episodes conclude with mention of next weeks episode, Emeralds Come High.
12 – Emeralds Come High starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Probably one of the most interesting things in the life of a probate lawyer is the diversity of his clients. Take for example, the strange case of Patsy “Bubbles” Moran, whom I have quite appropriately dubbed “The Daughter of Salome.” Bubbles, as the world knew her, was billed from coast to coast as “The Queen of Burlesque,” and she’d grown quite rich as well as notorious in her unusual calling. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting the celebrated Bubbles until she became the sole beneficiary under the Last Will and Testament of an itinerant prospector named Joe Marx. Joe, it seems, had struck it rich in emeralds down in the Green Hell of Colombia. Old and dying and without kith nor kin, he’d suddenly appeared out of the wild Colombian jungles and was taken to the little missionary hospital in the town of Sequoro. On his deathbed he turned over his wolrdly goods and possessions to Doctor Sanchez …”
My take: John Frances O’Connells’ jungle adventure story doesn’t contain very many twists and is a bit silly in spots such as William’s O’Connell’s initially funny then quickly overplayed “wolf whistle” to gain Patsy’s attention. After Marx’s death at the opening O’Connell is surprised to find he’s left his emerald mine map to burlesque dancer Patsy. Along with O’Connell’s friend Steve as their guide and Steve’s son, Peter, the four hunt the treasure in Colombia with a background of native drums and chants. A couple of twists I’d hoped for didn’t come off and the story traveled it’s expected route. 2.5/5.
13 – Emily starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Is it possible for some men to love an inanimate object more than they could ever love a human being? (Violin plays). This is the story of Emily, a life story of a violin. Let us go back to the little Italian village of Cremona, the year is 1732. In his workshop Antonio Stradivarius, maker of fine violins, is fingering with loving care a beautiful new violin …”
My take: An interesting story tracing the 200-plus year lineage of one violin from the time of it’s construction, back to the girl it was named for, then into the hands of some of the world’s greatest musicians as well as gypsys before settling in Vienna where it was absorbed by Nazis in 1938. From there it makes it’s way to America where John Frances O’Connell comes into the contact with it with hopes of returning it to its proper owner. Entertaining story kept me listening throughout, 3.5/5.
14 – Margin for Love starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “The greatest tragedy in the life of Katherine Ryan happened one dull November morning, when dark gray clouds were hanging ominiously low over the criminal courts building …”
My take: An innocent man is convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the electric chair. When the condemned man, Tim Ryan, tells O’Connell he was at the scene but was knocked cold only hearing seven shots and running that sounded like trip hammers before he completely faded out, O’Connell immediately realizes that a woman must have done it–you see, the gun only held seven bullets and since they were all fired obviously the deed was done in a total and utter panic and thus it must have been a woman! Well a dying woman’s deathbed confession (see, O’Connell was right!) leads to O’Connell’s race to halt the execution … with just 35 minutes until the switch is pulled.
No surprises here. Some potentially tense moments somewhat ruined by a cranky O’Connell yelling at telephone operators. 2.5/5.
15 – They Met in Monte Carlo starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Carleton Young, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “If you’re looking for adventure, intrigue, or, uh, a romantic interlude, I can suggest just the place: Monte Carlo. The world famous gambling casino in particular is the rendezvous of many strange characters you expect to find in fiction rather than in real life. I shall never forget the year 1935 at the casino. It was in the roulette room of the casino that I saw the inception of a story as strange, as weird, and as interesting as any it has ever been my pleasure to relate …”
My take: O’Connell meets fellow American Dick Marlowe in Monte Carlo. When Marlowe asks O’Connell to help him meet the beautiful Hungarian, Carla Lux, O’Connell has lands him a job playing piano at a party that Carla will be attending. It’s love at first sight, but when O’Connell is called to meet with what turns out to be members of the German Reich, including Carla’s fiance, Baron X, threats are made which lead to a race from the country for the Americans.
Not too bad despite playing like a WWII propaganda piece. 3/5.
16 – The Girl in Cell 13 starring Warren William (Version I heard did not include full introduction, cast listing was missing).
WW says: “The history of the Tears of the Madonna, the most precious, perfectly matched pair of rubies ever found by man is as colorful as the gems theirselves. And their blood red radiance is symbolic of the blood that has run freely throughout the pages of history in the quest for possession of these two priceless gems. For the past five years the Tears of the Madonna had been in the possession of Charles Ashbrooke, retired insurance executive. A bachelor, he lived in strict seclusion, attended only by his secretary, Malcolm Stewart, and the charming intelligent Sandra Lane. Upon Miss Lane’s very beautiful shoulders had fallen the task of buying most of the gems and precious stones in the famous Ashbrooke Collection. Her knowledge of the histories of rare stones is exceptional. I always liked to visit Charles Ashbrooke, if no other reason than to see the Tears of the Madonna. So, when I was invited over on a Sunday night I wasted no time in accepting …”
My take: Ashbrooke calls O’Connell over to take down his will. His prized possession, the Tears of the Dragon, has turned out to have a terrible history of murder and mystery started back in the year 1200 when Kublai Khan’s soldiers stole it from a Tibetian monestary. Ashbrooke’s main reason for the will is to leave the Tears to O’Connell’s safekeeping charging the lawyer with restoring the rubies to their original rightful place. On the way to deliver the Tears to O’Connell, Ashbrooke is murdered, his body found with a knife plunged in his heart.
Strong murder mystery enhanced by the cold-bloodedness of the killers as well as a genuine twist, at least in method, when the killer is revealed. 4.5/5.
17 – So Deep the Stream starring Warren William, Carleton Young, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Many people leave strange legacies. One man in Oregon left a trunk full of Government bonds to his wife. Another strange character in Chicago left a safety deposit box full of cash, three million dollars in gold notes. My client and good friend, Frank Warner left a most unusual legacy to his son, Adam. But it wasn’t gold, negotiable stocks or bonds, he him a challenge. It was a sweltering summer night when I stopped off to see Frank on my way home. He lived on the lower East Side of the city …”
My take: Kind of sappy story where a father leaves his son a trunkload of his failed plays to produce at a later date because they were too far ahead of their own time. When the son, Evan, decides to dedicate his life to the plays he frees his true love, Polly, who soon marries somebody else. After an initial flop Evan learns the power of his father’s words and organizes his next production around the very people he intended to help in the first place. With success comes socialite girlfriend Pamela who convinces Evan he needs to write his own work, something more sophisticated, which predictably turns his old friends against him. All of these elements are conveniently tied together to bring about a happy ending for the characters that we like. 3/5.
18 – Miser’s Gold starring Warren William, Lurene Tuttle, Leo Cleary, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Of all the strange, weird characters I’ve had the pleasure to represent in probate matters, none I think, ever, can measure up to the caliber of Old Nick, gold miner extraordinare. I saw him for the first time on a cold March morning when he came up to my office for legal advice. He wore neither hat nor overcoat and his toes, blue with cold, were sticking out of his broken shoes, he was a …”
My take: …He was a crazy old coot, that’s for sure. Fun story of grubby old-timer who came into possession of ten big sacks of gold. He comes to O’Connell when his time starts to run out determined not to leave his money to strangers but despising his 3 siblings who had previously plotted to take his riches away from him. What posthumous plan has Old Nick come up with to disperse of his gold and take good care of his greedy relatives all at the same time?
A bit of a shocker based on the way previous programs had turned out, I liked it. Fun characters, great pace. 4/5.
19 – East of Hudson’s Bay starring Warren William, Marvin Miller, Lurene Tuttle, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “If I spent my winters in sunny California or balmy Florida, well, (laughs) it’s not without just cause I can assure you. Once and only once I had the very dubious pleasure of visiting a client east of Hudson’s Bay. Oh, it wasn’t a pleasure trip, believe me. Only the direst of circumstances made me go. It all started in the crispy month of October. It was one of those rare Fall days, Indian summer in fact, when the lovely, young and headstrong Angela Nelson came into my office to see me …”
My take: If you can take Pierre, imbued with a heavy French Canadian accent and uttering a whole lot of “Sacre bleu’s!” then you should enjoy “East of Hudson’s Bay.” Angela Nelson is willed a 10,000 acre ranch that turns out to be located in the frigid Leaf River in Northern Quebec. Pierre is her guide. The timber wolves are the instigators of one of Strange Wills’ funnier moments and potentially romance as well. Made me laugh, though Angela’s proclamations of “By gar!” made me wince later. 3.5/5.
20 – Autograph Girl starring Warren William, Mary Lansing, Carleton Young, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “When a man makes out his Last Will and Testament and meets a very pretty, young girl all in the same day, (laughs) watch out, anything’s liable to happen. I remember very well the morning that Peter Braten, motion picture star, and heartthrob of literally millions of girls the world over came into my office to sign his will. Romance must have been the farthest thing from his mind …”
My take: Another darkly funny episode of Strange Wills, this time movie star Peter Braten meets Angel Dare outside of a premier that he’s taken O’Connell along to. Peter and Angel marry immediately, but despite Angel’s original disinterest in a Hollywood career she somehow horns her way into one. That’s when Autograph Girl gets good–Angel is a nut!
Thought it was fun that a couple of the fictional movie titles used in Autograph Girl were actually names of other Strange Wills episodes: Seven Flights to Glory and Margin for Love, both pictures successes inside the world of Autograph Girl. Another funny episode: 4/5.
21 – Penthouse Orphan starring Warren William, Peggy Weber, Carleton Young, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Probably the most exciting phone call I ever received was the one from my good friend and bachelor client, Felix Grayson. (Laughs) I admit that I was totally unprepared for what he had to tell me …”
My take: While the previous couple of episodes were funny, “Penthouse Orphan” is just silly. O’Connell’s confirmed bachelor pal, Felix, is willed a sum of money to take care of Baby Babette, a distant cousin by marriage over in France. But when Babette arrives and turns out to be an 18 year old knockout Felix is in for more than he bargained for. Potentially humorous scenes with Gus Yachadich, aspiring football star who sounds like he’s over 40, just got to be too much for me. Run of the mill, or worse, romance. 2.5/5.
22 – Singapore Liz starring Warren William, Mary McCarty, Gene Colby, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “I’ll never forget the first time I saw Singapore Liz. I stood at the rail of the ship as it eased into it’s berth at Singapore. Below on the docks was bedlam. Coolies, Orientals, white people were all milling around the dock waiting for passengers to disembark. Here, east was meeting west. And then quite suddenly I saw her. She was standing alone, leaning up against a round life buoy that hung suspended from a filing. Her hair was blonde and tawny and hung down around her shoulders. She had on a bright red sweater. And then I saw her eyes. Green eyes that searched and probed our ship from stem to stern. As I watched her the deck steward came up alongside of me. She saw her too …”
My take: O’Connell comes to Singapore looking for Marilyn Webster, beneficiary to a million dollar will he’s handling but is seemily sidetracked by his curiosity with the famed Singapore Liz. One of a few episodes where we don’t hear much from O’Connell (which is about to grow into a trend as we near the end) as he’s listening to a story told by another character for a good portion of the show. 3/5.
23 – Crosswind starring Warren William, Peggy Webber, William Conrad, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “This story opens in a state prison where Patrick Malone is awaiting execution by hanging. His crime-studded career was finally terminated by the police. And after a fair and impartial trial he was sentenced to death for murder. After all of his appeals had been denied, Malone was transferred to the state prison to await his execution. It is shortly after midnight. The guards in the main cell block are making their rounds …”
My take: William Conrad adds to the fun here as Killer Malone, yet as enjoyable as Crosswind is it is again marred by a lack of William’s O’Connell. He seems to serve as mostly the narrator here only entering the flow of the story himself to talk with client Margaret Levering, in line as heir to a steamship company, before escorting her off to her ship, sailing for South America. On board sparks fly between Margaret and the Captain and, of course, William Conrad does show up after awhile. 3.5/5.
24 – Dance Director starring Warren William, Carleton Young, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “An opening night on Broadway invariably brings back a flood of memories and stories about the private lives of many of the stars whose names have written theatrical history. One name in particular, that of Margo Davis, stands out above all the rest. I knew Margo when she began her climb on Broadway. In fact I was her father’s lawyer. It was upon his suggestion that I drew his will with the provision that his only child and heir at law must first earn her own living for one year before acquiring his estate, roughly estimated at around ten million dollars. He wanted her to learn the value of a dollar–the hard way. I remember the day I called upon her at the Davis townhouse. It was a few weeks after her father had been buried. I found Margo in the music room …”
My take: It’s no wonder that the series is winding down at this point. Absolutely nothing wrong with the story Dance Director, but once again rather than appear in the story as a character Warren William’s John Francis O’Connell is more of a host to the story. This time William does little more than the introduction, a brief scene at the opening with Margo, and then wraps it up at the end. It’d be more aptly said that Strange Wills is featuring Warren William rather than starring him by this episode. 3/5.
25 – Death Is My Destiny aka Death Has Ten Words starring Warren William, Marvin Miller, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “The annual police benefit at the Civic Auditorium was a great success. I started out for the Auditorium that night, in fact three of us did. In our party was Police Commissioner Jack Wilson, Michael Flanagan, crime reporter–better known to the boys as just plain Mike–and myself. Around 8 o’clock we left the Commissioner’s home in Pinewood and began the long drive along the river into the city. I remember the Commissioner and I were kidding Mike about his work as crimer reporter on the Daily Tribune. As we crossed Canada Boulevard something happened to alter our plans. Something entirely unexpected.
My take: O’Connell is back, at least for the first half of this mystery murder story. While it all hinges on a puzzle for the listener to solve I enjoyed this episode. Notorious Lefty Light is found dead clutching a note scrawled out on a piece of newspaper as he died–it’s a will. “Kitty L. Ledderby, Everything I Own, Gabriel Lefty Light,” it reads. Why would gangster, and doodler, Lefty Light leave all he owned to a waitress he’d only met a couple of times? The answer in Death Has Ten Words (though I only count 9, possibly explaining the two titles). 3.5/5
26 – The Killer and the Saint starring Warren William, Marvin Miller, John Conroy, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “Two brothers met for the first time in three years. Met on the brink of an open grave in a wind-swept cemetery. A cold, driving snow almost obliterated the little handful of mourners. At the head of the grave stood the minister intoning the prayers for the dead. To his right was Don Kerwin, son of the deceased. He stood alone, head bowed, his face etched in sorrow. Across the open grave were two other men. One, somber, heavyset, paid no attention to the service. The man next to him, his bared head covered with snow, was David Kerwin, also a son of the deceased. As the services neared their end …”
My take: The Kerwins, identical twins, are at their father’s funeral in the scene described above–the man paying no attention is David’s guard as he’s a convict coming up for parole very soon. David was a bank robber, more specifically a skilled safecracker. Don just happens to work at a bank. Both are in love with the same woman, Phyllis, but it’s Don in his freedom who is engaged to her. Upon David’s release a series of bank robberies break out in the area and Don set him up with a hideout in the woods and plans to get out of town. 4/5.
27 – Portsmouth Square starring Warren William, William Conrad, Nina Clouden, Howard Culver, original music by Del Castilio
WW says: “The discovery of gold in the Sacramento Valley brought thousands of daring, reckless men to San Francisco and the gold fields. In their wake came the human vultures, thieves, gamblers, and adventurous women. These pillars of the underworld built the Barbary Coast, a section of San Francisco dedicated to depravity, vice, and glamour. Among the worst dives on Portsmouth Square, the heart of the Barbary Coast, was Horseshoe Harry’s Emporium. Tall, handsome, and exceedingly wicked, Horseshoe Harry had the reputation of never turning down a dishonest dollar, nor a pretty woman. One night, a girl walked into Horseshoe Harry’s Emporium, her eyes were blue, her chin firm, and her dress, obviously of Eastern cotten. Her unexpected appearance threw the place into a furor. Pushing her way through the shouting, milling crowd, she finally reached one of the waiter girls, whose short dress just met the top of her long black silk stockings …”
My take: When young Lily Marcelle stumbles into rough and tumble Horseshoe Harry’s looking for her shanghaied brother she finds the proprietor kinder than his reputation and he takes a shine to her too. Employing Lily to play piano despite her playing only classic music, Portsmouth Square takes a strange turn when we travel to Germany where Wagner, Rubinstein and Liszt are gathered to marvel at the Beckstein piano Harry has had designed for her. The multinational European composers spread a message of peace and goodwill with the radio audience before the piano arrives on the Barbary Coast where Lily thrills the uppercrust of Nob Hill with her performance. Portsmouth Square is a tale of romance. O’Connell serves as narrator only to the story set in 1906–in fact this is the first episode of Strange Wills which does not reference an actual will at all and thus, it’s a good place to stop, despite Warren William’s promise to return next week with the adventure story, High Conquest, it is the end. 3.5/5.
See accompanying Strange Wills blog post for more about the show as a whole.