Suspense — “Backseat Driver”

[Editor’s Note: This week I would like to thank Norman Cox for selecting and guest hosting this taut, dramatic episode of Suspense. Mr. Cox grew up in the SF Bay Area listening to his local radio heroes Sam Spade, Candy Matson, and Johnny Madero. He is a longtime member of the California Historical Radio Society.]

Suspense (1942-1962) aired “Backseat Driver” on February 3, 1949 as the 326th of its 945 episodes.

As recounted in the introduction to the more than 50 episodes of Suspense we’ve presented over the past eleven years, 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, 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 breath 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.

Noted above, this episode first aired on February 3, 1949. President “Give ‘em hell” Harry Truman was settling into his second term, verbally jousting with Russian Premier, Josef Stalin. An office water cooler topic might have been the bad vehicle accident between Ben Hogan and a Greyhound bus. A spin around the radio dial and listeners might have heard the USA’s number one hit, Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra playing “Careless Hands” with vocals by Don Cornell.

But now, it’s eight o’clock this Thursday evening. Time to warm up the family Philco with its magic green-eyed tuner, gather around, and listen to… Suspense.  

Tonight, Autolite brings you Fibber McGee and Molly in… ‘Backseat Driver’.”

Tonight’s program features the real life husband and wife team of Jim Jordan (1896-1988) and Marian Jordan (1898-1961) who had their own top-rated situation comedy show, Fibber McGee and Molly (1935-1959) playing Tuesday nights on NBC (photo top right).

Let’s join them for tonight’s Suspense as the couple drives from LA to their home in the San Fernando Valley after taking in a Saturday night movie. Winding through Beverly Hills and Coldwater Canyon, Joe and Ellie are chatting about the movie and the news of the day when…

As usual Suspense comes up with a good tight script for the half hour show with most of it taking place in the confines of their family sedan. For fans of Fibber McGee and Molly, it is much enjoyed to hear these two old pros easily slip into the roles of husband and wife Joe and Ellie. 

This particular adventure was well received, and as was the case with the more popular Suspense episodes, it was aired again at a later date. 

Let’s listen to Jim and Marian Jordan in the suspenseful adventure: “Backseat Driver.” 

Play Time: 29:43

{The cold February days of 1949 meant the neighborhood gang had to be a bit more selective with their trips to the local newsstand, but they made their recent journey worthwhile with the following batch of magazines. Dime Detective (1931-53)  and Thrilling Detective (1931-53) strove to keep their readers warm and their blood racing with down and dirty street-wise fare rife with life or death situations and page-turning danger. In 1949 Dime Detective was a monthly, while Thrilling Detective offered six issues a year. The venerable Weird Tales (1923-54) was always on someone’s must-have list, and though February was an in-between month until its March issue would no doubt soon arrive, there was still a lone copy of the January issue hidden behind another magazine for some lucky youngster to make their own. WT was a bi-monthly in 1949.]

[Left: Dime Detective, Feb. 1949 – Center: Thrilling Detective, Feb. 1949 – Right: Weird Tales, Jan. 1949]


To view the entire list of Old Time Radio episodes go here.