Thursday, January 29, 2015
ARCH OBOLER'S PLAYS: BIG BEN
Arch Oboler's Plays was an anthology series that ran on NBC radio from March 25, 1939 23, to March 23, 1940. The show was resurrected for a summer run in 1945 on the Mutual network. Oboler wrote, produced, directed and introduced each show.
Oboler (1909-1987) was one of the great radio writers. His classic "Chicken Heart" episode from the show Lights Out caused a mini-panic a la Orson Welles invasion from Mars. Two mildly risqué sketches he wrote for The Chase and Sanborn Hour resulted in NBC banishing Mae West for fifteen years (not only was West banned, but the network forbade the very mention of her name). NBC, looking for a radio writer to rival CBS's Norman Corwin, okayed Arch Oboler's Plays, perhaps in part because Oboler financed the entire commercial-less project himself. Arch Oboler's Plays was a great success and, after it's first year run, gained Procter & Gamble as a sponsor with the show then being called Everyman's Theatre. Oboler then moved on to several series of anthology shows with a propaganda slant: Plays for Americans, To the President, Free World Theatre, and Everything for the Boys -- Oboler also contributed anti-Nazi scripts for the second series of Lights Out! In 1940, Oboler began his move to film (among those that he wrote and directed were 1952's Bwana Devil and 1953's The Twonky -- based on a Henry Kuttner story). He also wrote a Broadway play (Night of the Auk) which, despite its all-star cast, folded quickly. Oboler also wrote for television, produced one novel, and wrote several short stories.
In the radio play below, "[a] cranky mantel clock is the god a native chief prays to while waiting to kill a baby." Classic Oboler.