Box 13 — “Flash of Light”

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Box 13 (1947-1949) aired “Flash of Light” on April 16, 1949 as the 27th of its 52 episodes. Box 13 was a production of Mayfair Productions, a company begun by Alan Ladd and Richard Sandville, and was named after a restaurant of the same name owned by the pair. The shows were syndicated to various networks and radio stations who ran them on different days of the week and at different time slots to fit their individual programming needs. Thus, some shows have differing original air dates and are hard to pin down (like this one, which some sources report as airing in 1948), especially since a limited block of shows (13 or 26 episodes or more of the 52 total run) might have been picked up years later. So we have the show appearing in 1947-48, and/or 1948-49, cropping up again around 1954, and even into the early 1970s. It was well produced, written, and acted, with quite a few Big Name radio actors appearing in various episodes. It is also one of those shows veering away from the single-track, hard-boiled, noirish detective or P.I. radio shows so popular throughout the 1940s in film and on radio, in that while it kept the noirish element (usually at least one corpse a trademark feature) it also emphasized a strong element of adventure, so that Box 13 is probably best categorized as a noir-adventure series.

The premise of the show has film star Alan Ladd (1913-1964, most recognizable as the hero in the classic 1953 film Shane) as writer/adventurer Dan Holiday. Holiday has retired from his days of writing for a newspaper to write his own fiction, and now to gain ideas for his books has placed an ad in the paper that reads:  “Adventure wanted – will go anywhere, do anything – Box 13.” Holiday’s personal secretary, Suzy (played by Sylvia Picker, photo at right with Ladd), is in charge of his mail drop, which Holiday checks regularly. While Suzy’s character is somewhat ditzy (a not uncommon character in film and radio of the time), she plays it to the hilt  and adds a nice touch to the show.

This is but the fourth episode of Box 13 we have showcased, the previous episode posted 7 months ago in December of 2018. “Flash of Light” is the story of a man who wakes one day in a strange city and can’t remember anything of his past two days. (Sounds like a situation many an SF fan has found themselves in after attending an SF convention in a city strange to them, doesn’t it?) This fellow, worried that someone might be after him but not knowing why, gets in touch with Dan Holiday via his Box 13 newspaper ad. As you can well imagine, one thing leads to another, each more dangerous than the other and each revealing more of this man’s unfortunate situation over the past two days until the truth is revealed and the mystery solved. (On a side note, early on in the story a semi-humorous little quip is made that losing a few days one can’t account for isn’t unknown, that in Hollywood you can do it and end up with an Oscar. This is a reference to the 1945 film The Lost Weekend with Ray Milland, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his career defining performance as an alcoholic writer.)

Play Time: 26:49

   {Having purchased most of their usual SF/F pulps for April, after listening to this intriguing episode of Box 13 the neighborhood gang headed for the corner newsstand the next day to make sure they hadn’t overlooked anything or to see if something new had arrived. fantastic Adventures (1939-53) still had a few copies left, and the cover closed the deal. It was a monthly in 1948. Jungle Stories (1938-54) didn’t always hit the stands when the gang had any change left in their pockets, but when it did it was usually added to their larder (and it almost always had at least one pretty girl on the cover which didn’t hurt). It was a quarterly in 1948. Crack Detective (1938-57) appealed to one of the older members of the gang who liked detective and mystery stories (along with his SF/F) and who had especially enjoyed the mystery Dan Holiday found himself drawn into in “Flash of Light.” Crack Detective had a very spotty schedule throughout its run, ranging from one to six issues a year. In 1948 it managed five issues.}

[Left: fantastic Adventures, April 1948 – Center: Jungle Stories, Spring 1948 – Right: Crack Detective, May 1948]


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