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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

"Pearls Are a Nuisance" by Raymond Chandler

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Suspense aired "Pearls Are a Nuisance" on April 19, 1945 as its 138th episode out of well over 900. It has been adapted from the story by Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) which first saw publication in the April 1939 issue of Dime Detective (cover at left). Reprinted in at least four of Chandler's short story collections, "Pearls Are a Nuisance" is regarded as a send up, or spoof, of the detective genre he helped to make famous, for it has all of the elements (save murder) of the genre but is merely about a string of missing pearls, and so what is this fuss about an old lady who is missing her pearls--which may be fake? While critics have taken the story as a spoof, it is the subject matter and not the execution that is less serious than Chandler's more renowned efforts such as the creation of the iconic noir detective Philip Marlowe, or such of his dark novels turned into Hollywood classics like The Big Sleep (screenplay co-written by no less than William Faulkner and one of SF's most beloved authors Leigh Brackett) and others."Pearls Are a Nuisance"--as the title suggests--is the engaging mystery of a relatively inconsequential string of pearls treated as seriously and straightforward as any other good mystery.

"Pearls Are a Nuisance" stars William Bendix (1906-1964), character actor in numerous films primarily during the 1940s, and the star of the radio sitcom The Life of Riley (1944-1951, first on the Blue Network/ABC and then NBC).  The hit radio show was one of the programs popular enough to make the transition to television in the early days of the medium and also starred Bendix, making him a household name to millions. The Life of Riley television version starring William Bendix (there was an earlier trial run with Jackie Gleason--1949-50) enjoyed a warm welcome, with the series airing from 1953-58. It is fondly remembered by fans of the time period, both young and old. For trivia buffs, as a youth Bendix was a batboy for the New York Yankees during Babe Ruth's reign, and in 1948 played the lead role opposite actress Claire Trevor as his wife in the film The Babe Ruth Story. Claire Trevor (1910-2000) would go on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role the same year in 1948's Key Largo (starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore).

With rare exception I choose these weekly radio presentations because in some way they have an SF/F/H tie-in, and while most are obviously core genre tales sometimes they flirt with genre only peripherally--otherwise known for their "associational interest"--as when I have showcased several of Alfred Bester's radio scripts, some non-genre. Bester wrote scripts for The Shadow, Nick Carter, Master Detective, Charlie Chan, Nero Wolfe and others. Even more rarely have I run an episode of a straight noir detective show, but do so because I like the noir detective genre and am guessing that those old time radio fans who love a good mystery or whodunit and who are fans of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow, and other programs with a more direct genre tie-in will enjoy the occasional non-SF detective yarn as well. Such is the case this week with "Pearls Are a Nuisance," and I hope you enjoy it.

Play Time: 29:31

{In April of 1945 the neighborhood gang found themselves current with all of the SF/F/H pulps they enjoyed reading, collecting, and trading with friends, so turned to their second favorite genre for thrills and danger--the detective magazines. All three magazines below were monthlies at this point, and all three saw their first issues in 1931. The Shadow enjoyed a successful run from 1931-1949. Dime Detective and Thrilling Detective both had even longer runs and published regularly from 1931-1953, at which point they seemed to have fallen prey to the gradual mass extinction that hit the pulps during and after World War II due to the paper shortage, then the competition from comic books, the paperback novel, and finally the advent of television in the 1950s.}

[Left: The Shadow, Apr. 1945 - Center: Dime Detective, Apr. 1945 - Right: Thrilling Detective, Apr. 1945]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.