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

The Unexpected -- "The Cripple"

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The Unexpected (1947-48) aired "The Cripple" on August 29, 1947 as the 8th of its estimated 52 episodes, of which only 39 are now in circulation. This is the first episode of this particular program we have run and is one of those shows that history--as far as facts and figures, air dates and times--has not treated well. Suffice it to say that among historians there are "differences" in when shows were originally aired, due partly because there were east and west coast airings and dates, and because the episodes were transcribed and then syndicated to various stations and markets. One batch included 25 shows and another included 26. There were estimated to be 52 in all if the audition show is counted.

Film actor Barry Sullivan would star in the majority of shows, and stalwarts Lyle Talbot and Lurene Tuttle would star in a fair number as well. This episode stars Marjorie Riordan (1921-1984, photo at right) in one of the two episodes in which she appeared. Riordan was primarily known as an early film actress in the 1930s and 1940s, probably most notably in two films, 1944's Mr. Skeffington, in which she appeared opposite stars Bette Davis and Claude Rains, and the 12th of the 14 Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, 1945's Pursuit to Algiers, in which Holmes finds himself and Watson protecting one Prince Nikolas, the heir to the tiny European country of Rovina, traveling on a ship with several assassins on board.

While well regarded in her various roles during the 30s and 40s, Riordan was a victim of the Hollywood studio contract player system and was restricted in her opportunities for starring roles, even being lent out from one studio to another on occasion. She married twice, had a child by her first marriage, and unfortunately was victim to breast cancer and died in her early 60s.

As with all of this show's storylines, "The Cripple" ends with an unexpected twist; many, like this one, of a moral or ethical nature--a karmic comeuppance if you will. Marjorie Riordan here stars as one of two sisters, one of whom is tasked with taking care of her crippled sister and vows to kill her to free herself of this unwanted burden on her life. This episode is perhaps best described as one of those "best laid plans--" gone shockingly awry tales.

Play Time: 14:42

    {With a return to school on the near horizon in late August of 1947, the neighborhood gang decided to gather, then head to the corner newsstand to pick up some bi-monthlies, having caught up on their monthly favorites. fantastic Adventures (1939-53) caught their eye with this creepy cover, with its promise to reveal "The Secret of Elena's Tomb," by, I confess, an author I've never heard of. Startling Stories (1939-55) was a no-brainer favorite and in retrospect published many of the stories now considered classics by some of the genre's most popular authors. Weird Tales (1923-54) was the gold standard of dark fantasy/horror magazines and this issue was no exception. A mere glance at the names on the cover insured stories well worth the cover price of 15 cents. One of the gang gave a sly smile as he pulled this issue of WT from behind another magazine title down the shelf a way, where he had hidden it weeks before when his allowance had gone for other magazines, knowing it would be gone by the time of his next visit if he didn't attempt to hide it. He now proudly held his trophy as he headed for the cashier's counter.}

[Left: fantastic Adventures, Sept. 1947 - Center: Startling Stories, Sept. 1947 - Right: Weird Tales, July 1947]


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