Suspense — Heavens to Betsy

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“Heavens to Betsy” aired on Suspense on October 11, 1955 and was written and transcribed by the show’s producer Antony Ellis. In telling and dramatic fashion it exposes a much too familiar slice of human nature as a UFO lands in the backyard of a typical rural American family, whose lives are about to change–though not as you might imagine. With the ever-present layer of tension underscored by its moments of poignancy, “Heavens to Betsy” touches on several questions concerning the then current speculations about the nature of UFOs, and the aliens within them who may come to our planet for any number of reasons, not necessarily out of hostility, a predominant theme at the time. Remember that the world-famous Roswell, New Mexico UFO incident (July 8, 1947) was but a few years in the past and still very much on everyone’s mind as the UFO extra-terrestrial craze had captured the nation’s full attention, reinforced as it was for its sensationalistic qualities in countless newspaper and magazine articles, the science fiction magazines, and in any number of Hollywood movies (ranging from schlock “B”-movies to the decade’s few classics). Old Time Radio had its fair share of aliens-come-to-Earth scenarios as well, of which “Heavens to Betsy” is one of the more down to earth portrayals.

Suspense was one of OTR’s most classily produced, well-regarded, and longest-running shows. It ran from June 17, 1942 through September 30, 1962. During its more than twenty-year lifespan it would air 945 shows, “Heavens to Betsy” chiming in as episode 619. While it did not confine itself to any one genre, showcasing stories in the areas of drama, action, mystery/suspense, horror, fantasy, SF, and some from literature’s “classics,” many Suspense dramatizations would be resurrected on television as episodes of the iconic Alfred Hitchcock Presents show which premiered in the mid-1950s.

{Long-time listeners of our weekly OTR presentations will note that the CD cover above–by the incomparable Norman B. Saunders–is taken (and cropped) from the November 1951 issue of The Mysterious Traveler magazine, the first of only five issues of this fantasy magazine before its untimely demise, and which was published by David P. Kogan (1916-2009) and edited by Robert Arthur (1909-1969). For those unfamiliar with The Mysterious Traveler on Old Time Radio, or the magazine by the same name–which published stories by the likes of Ray Bradbury, William Hope Hodgson, Agatha Christie, and a host of other well-known writers–we refer you to Two from the Mysterious Traveler presented elsewhere here. The history of Kogan, Arthur, and The Mysterious Traveler, in both its radio and magazine incarnations, is a fascinating story.}

Like the popular The Mysterious Traveler on radio, the Suspense radio program spun off its own magazine of the same name. It lasted four issues from 1946-1947, and was edited by none other than Leslie Charteris. Charteris (1907-1993, born Leslie Charteris Bowyer-Yin of a Chinese father and English mother) is most famous for his creation of Simon Templar, “The Saint,” which was brought to television from 1962-1969 with Roger Moore in the role of Simon Templar. Charteris would also write scripts for radio in the early 1940’s for the Sherlock Holmes radio series, which starred the penultimate Holmes and Watson duo played by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

As an interesting aside and of interest to science fiction fans is that while Charteris would write close to one hundred books featuring The Saint, his last being in 1963 with The Saint in the Sun, a year later in 1964 came another Saint novel credited to Charteris, Vendetta for the Saint, which was actually written by none other than Harry Harrison.

History and anecdotes aside, herewith is “Heavens to Betsy,” introduced, as always, with the show’s signature opening line of–  “Radio’s outstanding theater of thrills.”

Play Time: 30:02