Suspense — “Sorry, Wrong Number”

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Suspense aired “Sorry, Wrong Number” on May 25, 1943. It stars the incomparable Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974) and is considered one of the most legendary old time radio episodes of all time. The storyline is uncomplicated. A woman alone at home attempts to make a telephone call one night. The wires get crossed and she overhears two men plotting a murder over the phone, the evil deed to take place a mere few hours from then. She tries to convince the telephone operator something is wrong and seeks her help, but to no avail. She tries the police to no avail. As the time draws near for the unknown victim to be murdered, she becomes frantic, even hysterical as the clock ticks toward the appointed time of the murder. The tension is incredible. How this horrific story ends has made it a classic of the form. Written by Lucille Fletcher (1912-2000), “Sorry, Wrong Number” was produced and aired at least half a dozen times for Suspense alone, as well as for other radio and television shows over the years. So popular and well received was “Sorry, Wrong Number” that Fletcher wrote the screenplay for the 1948 film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. Of the 1943 radio episode, Orson Welles said that it was “the single best half hour radio script ever written.”

Agnes Moorehead starred in more episodes of Suspense than any other actor or actress, and was known as the “first lady of Suspense.” Although Moorehead would appear in the 1970 Night Gallery episode “Certain Shadows on the Wall,” she is by far most well remembered in genre circles for her role in the January 27, 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Invaders” (pictured at right). It is interesting to note that her magnificent performance in “Sorry, Wrong Number” relied solely on her voice, whereas her role as the only inhabitant of a rural farmhouse invaded by mysterious entities in “The Invaders” called for her to utter not one word, and relied on her acting ability to carry the episode.

Play Time: 30:22

{While mom and dad were downstairs on the sofa, mom’s hands clutching dad while listening to “Sorry, Wrong Number” on the radio, young SF fans were upstairs reading copies of their favorite magazines, a few examples of which are pictured below.}

[Left: Amazing, May 1943 — Center: Astounding, May 1943 — Right:Thrilling Wonder, April 1943]