Suspense — “After-Dinner Story” by Cornell Woolrich

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Suspense (1942-62) aired “After-Dinner Story” on October 26, 1943, as the 63rd of its over 900 eventual broadcasts. As we have noted before, and do so now again for newcomers to the show, when Suspense aired its final show on September 30, 1962, and when many other radio programs had closed shop over the past 12 years due in large part to the advent of television, radio historians declared that the Golden Age of Radio had come to a close. Suspense was one of the longest running, classiest, easily one of he overall best written, acted, and respected radio programs of all time. Hollywood stars of all stripe sought to appear on its shows, a few among them being Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Susan Hayward, Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, Loretta Young, Peter Lorre, and Rita Hayworth. The great composer Bernard Hermann did the musical scores. Hermann would go on to work with Alfred Hitchcock on many of his classic films including Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo. Other films for which Hermann wrote the score included several for Ray Harryhausen pictures, episodes of The Twilight Zone, and probably the most well known to SF fans, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Suspense was a class act all the way around, and its decades-long run and then eventual demise was indeed the final blow to the era of radio as the dominant medium in American culture.

Writing as William Irish, “After-Dinner Story” was the title story in Cornell Woolrich’s (1903-1968, photo top right) 1944 collection. Among the six stories featured in the collection were “Rear Window” (adapted for the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly), and “The Night Reveals.” “The Night Reveals” became the first Woolrich story to be adapted by Suspense, and was also the first time Woolrich’s work was presented to a national radio audience. In large measure his Suspense adaptations–of which there would be many–put his name on the national map, something his critically regarded fiction had yet to accomplish. We ran “The Night Reveals” as our OTR episode for June 11, 2016 here.

“After Dinner Story” is quite the drama-filled episode. Following an elevator crash leaving five survivors among the six original passengers (one man was killed in the long fall), another is found dead–though not from the crashed elevator. Though the police eventually rule the young man’s death a suicide by gunshot, the deceased son’s father, a year later, is convinced it was murder. The distraught father then invites the four survivors to his home, ostensibly because of his kind heart, to split his son’s inheritance among them for he is well off and doesn’t need the money. What the four strangers find when they arrive is something quite different and deadly–for one of them. It’s a clever scheme the old man has conceived to ferret out his son’s murderer, one which will leave you guessing, and appreciative of the father’s cunning. Well worth a listen for the final reveal.

Play Time: 28:59

{The chill of autumn running through their bones, the neighbohood gang donned sweaters or jackets and met at their home away from home, the corner newsstand, to stock up on the kind of material that lent itself to stretching out on the living room rug before the radio–or perhaps before the fireplace–and losing themselves in their favorite pulp  magazines, each turned page propelling their imaginations ever upward and outward. Astounding (1930-present, now Analog) was never passed over and as it always had been was a monthly in 1943. Thrilling Detective (1931-53), though not a regular purchase, with a cover like that on the October 1943 issue and Halloween just around the corner, it was an easy choice. It was a monthly until after the war, at which time it cut back to a bi-monthly schedule until it eventually petered out in 1952-53. Unknown Worlds (March 1939-October 1943, informally known as just Unknown), ran for a brief 39 issues and was sorely missed when it folded. Conceived as a sister magazine to John W. Campbell’s Astounding, Campbell also edited Unknown, filling it with a different type of fantasy story not suitable for his more SF-oriented magazine. Its first 22 issues had full color covers, with the last 17 looking like the one below, which just happenes to be the famed magazine’s final issue. Prominent on the cover of both Astounding and Unknown for October 1943 are stories by the incomparable A. E. van Vogt, “The Storm” and “The Book of Ptath,” respectively. “The Book of Ptath” ran as a complete novel in this issue of Unknown, and from 1947 through 2013 has been reprinted in novel form some dozen times (a few times under the variant title Two Hundred Million A. D.) and in several languages. From its first issue in March of 1939 through the December 1940 issue, Unknown was a monthly. Thereafter it ran as a bi-monthly.}

             [Left: Astounding, October 1943 – Center: Thrilling Detective, October 1943 — Right: Unknown Worlds, October 1943]


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