Radio doings (Dec 1930-Jun1932)

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For the First Time Mr. Morse, the Creator of Weird, Thrilling NBC Mystery Dramas. Tells How It Is Done, and Why This Type of Entertainment Holds Such a Fascination For Us All, Old and Young MURDER Will OUT BELIEVE it or not, but the great radio public adores to be scared half out of its wits. And that, if I may be alowed to say so, is half the success of a mystery or horror play, be it on the stage, on the screen or on the air. You can no more pay blood-curdling drama successfully to a cold audience than you can bring a blush to the cheeks of a stone Venus. Therefore, before a radio dramatist dares confront his unseen audience with the snarl of madmen, the hiss of villains, the agonized gasps of terrified girls and all that sort of thing, he must put his listeners into the proper frame of mind. But in a great proportion of the audience, this desire for excitement is lying dormant. The potential eagerness for thrills is there and the successful playwright understands that before he dares swing into his action he must arouse that dormant element in each of his listeners. Well, how does he go about this? To tell this means opening the bag of tricks, but here goes, for I venture to say you will enjoy a good mystery play no less for having seen for a moment what makes the wheels go 'round. The moment we swing into the mystery-serial hour we hit the audience with something which will stir their blood and at the same time direct their minds to a definite vein of thought. For example, in my present serial "Dead Men Prowl" we use the organ. We have developed the Intermezzo from Granados' "Goyescas" to a haunting and macabre air. The moment it strikes your ears you are gripped with a feeling that something out of the ordinary is about to occur. Similarly in "The City of the Dead" serial we opened with the weird tolling of a phantom bell, and as this bell was closely linked with the action of the play, all of which took place in an abandoned graveyard, I venture to say that this introduction alone was enough to send a good many shivers up and down some millions of spines. In "Captain Post: Crime Specialist" we used the hair-raising sound of a siren rising and falling behind the slow movement of ocean waves. These waves, the announcer told the audience, in a mysterious whisper, were the waves of crime that were sweeping over by Carleton E. Morse the country leaving in their bloodwake atrocious deeds too terrible even to be whispered. But don't you believe that the audience is the only one to respond to these weird introductions. The opening of the drama has its effect upon everyone present in the studio, and particularly the cast. As the eerie sounds float out into the studio, and the deep, haunting voice of the announcer makes itself felt, you can almost see the actors transported into the scene of the action. They are no longer actors, but ordinary people caught in a snarl of terrible adventure. They are living scenes, incidents and situations as certainly as though thcoe were actually happening, and not merely fantastic episodes concocted by a playwright. Now there may be those of a skeptical frame of mind who ask, "Just how do you know the unseen radio public responds in the manner you assume?" The best reply to these doubting Thomases is found in the hundreds of letters and calls which follow mystery productions. For instance, following a jungle episode in which the characters were riding through a tangled wilderness aboard the broad flanks of an elephant, we received a telephone call from a mystified fan demanding to know how we were able to convev the movements ' of the swaying beast over the air. Now, good as we are at NBC. we did NOT make an elephant sway over the (Turn to Page 40) RADIO DOINGS Page Twenty-nine