Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Suspense -- "The Screaming Woman" by Ray Bradbury

E-mail Print

Suspense (1942-1962) aired Ray Bradbury's "The Screaming Woman" on November 25, 1948 as the 316th of its 945 episodes. Written as a radio play specifically for Suspense, Bradbury (1920-2012) would later turn it into a proper short story in 1951. It would appear in several of his collections, most notably 1966's S is for Space.

As recounted in many of the 40+ episodes of Suspense presented here, it was one of the most well produced, written, acted, and critically acclaimed of all radio shows during the Golden Age of Radio, many a film star jumping at the chance to perform in an episode of Suspense, among them Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Susan Hayward, Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, Loretta Young, Peter Lorre, and Rita Hayworth. After many another radio show had gasped its last during the 1950s, Suspense finally closed shop in September of 1962 whereupon radio historians proclaimed the Golden Age of Radio dead, television having become the medium of choice in America.

As to "The Screaming Woman," following its radio broadcast on Thanksgiving of 1948, it was reworked as a story and soon after, EC Comics would give it a comics adaptation in issue #15 of Crime SuspenStories in the early 1950s.

More adaptations were to come, however, but this time in the visual media. On January 29, 1972 ABC aired The Screaming Woman as a "Movie of the Weekend." It starred some Hollywood heavy-hitters such as Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, and Walter Pidgeon. While receiving highly positive reviews it altered Bradbury's original story in several areas. Rather than Bradbury's ten-year-old girl in the lead as the person who first hears a woman's screams coming from beneath the earth while crossing a field near her home, the ABC version makes little Margaret Leary a grown woman (de Havilland) and the motivation for the situation surrounding the buried woman's plight entirely different. It wouldn't be until Bradbury himself adapted his original story for a February 22, 1986 episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater that the lead character (once more a young girl and now played by a very young Drew Barrymore) and the raison d'etre for the screaming woman would be restored to its original version, which is the radio version you are about to hear. This is the second Ray Bradbury story we have run in the past three weeks, the previous being Molle Mystery Theater's May 1946 broadcast of Bradbury's noir murder thriller "Killer, Come Back to Me!", and during this run up to Halloween I wouldn't be at all surprised to see another Bradbury dark fantasy showing up here in the next two weeks.

Play Time: 29:54

       {The day after Thanksgiving of 1948 found the neighborhood gang at the corner newsstand for their second November visit. Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939-53) featured classic reprints from the time before there were "official" genre pulps, and there was a gold mine for astute editors from which to mine. There were so many good stories that the magazine lasted a respectable 81 issues covering 14 years. In 1948 it was a bi-monthly. fantastic Adventures also ran from 1939-53 but featured new work in that early interstitial genre known as science-fantasy, a welcome blend of genres for both writers and readers who didn't much object to a lack of scientific accuracy in their wildly imagined, rough and tumble fantasy adventures. In 1948 it was a monthly publication. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) was a longtime favorite and a staple purchase, eagerly sought when its next issue was due to hit the stands, for author names both new and well established could be found within its pages. The issue below, for instance, would feature authors as wildly different as Murray Leinster, Charles L. Harness, L. Ron Hubbard, Fredric Brown, and Ray Bradbury. It was a bi-monthly in 1948.}

  [Left: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Dec. '48 - Center: fantastic Adventures, Nov. '48 - Right: Thrilling Wonder, Dec. '48]


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