Sep 7, 2017
"It's smooth - so smooth! It's slick - so slick! It's the smooth, smooth, slick, slick shave you get with M-O-L-L-É!"
Presenting "the best in mystery and detective fiction," The Mollé Mystery Theatre premiered on radio on September 7, 1943. Like Suspense, the Mystery Theatre presented dramas designed to deliver thrills and chills pulled from the best authors of the genre and stocked with some of the best actors working in radio. But where Suspense raided the movie studios of Hollywood for its special guest stars, the Mystery Theatre rounded out its casts with the talented men and women working in New York radio.
In a departure, the master of ceremonies wasn't a sinister storyteller in the vein of The Whistler, The Mysterious Traveler, or the Man in Black from Suspense. The weekly tales were introduced by "Geoffrey Barnes," billed as a criminologist and master of crime. For most of the run, Barnes was played by the talented New York actor Bernard Lenrow. Lenrow was no stranger to the world of radio mysteries. Listeners could hear him elsewhere on the dial as Captain Logan in Casey, Crime Photographer, as Inspector Lestrade in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and as Commissioner Weston in The Shadow.
Each week, Barnes introduced stories from writers like Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Richard Connell, and even an up-and-coming writer named Ray Bradbury. The casts included stalwart radio players like Berry Kroeger, Martin Gabel, June Havoc, Frank Lovejoy, Elspeth Eric, Bud "Superman" Collyer, and Richard Widmark, only a few years away from his breakout Oscar-nominated film debut in Kiss of Death.
The series picked up Mollé ("Mo-lay") Brushless Shaving Cream as a sponsor (and acquired one of radio's best jingles delivered by announcer Dan Seymour), but many of the episodes of the show that survive today come from the Armed Forces Radio Service. The AFRS stripped the show of its commercials and aired it as part of its Mystery Playhouse wheel series. Servicemen and women could tune into the Mystery Playhouse and hear installments of the Mystery Theatre alongside adventures of Mr. and Mrs. North and The Thin Man. Peter Lorre served as the host for those broadcasts, opening the series with a tongue in cheek greeting of "Hello, creeps!"
Back on Episode 131, we heard an episode of the The Mollé Mystery Theatre - a radio adaptation of L.G. Blochman's "Red Wine." Here are a few more episodes to enjoy on the anniversary of the series premiere:
"Murder in the City Hall" - In this story from Raymond Chandler, political pressure and scandal plague a cop as he tries to nab the killer of a judicial candidate. (Originally aired on April 5, 1946)
"Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" - Peter Lorre hosts this one from the AFRS Mystery Playhouse - the story of the hunt for Jack the Ripper in 1945 Chicago.
"A Crime to Fit the Punishment" - In between flights as the Man of Steel, Bud Collyer plays an antique dealer and amateur detective in this mystery.