Friday, October 12, 2007

The Shadow Knows

While we were doing a graphing activity in class yesterday, I thought I would try something out with my students. I played an .mp3 file of the first episode of The Shadow, featuring Orson Welles (left).

First broadcast on September 26, 1937, "Death House Rescue" is about a man named Paul Gordon, an unemployed husband and father who is on death row and about to be executed for a murder he did not commit. The Shadow, aka Lamont Cranston, agrees to help Paul to clear his name by reading his mind as Paul goes over the details of the crime. Doing so leads the Shadow to the perpetrators of the real crime.

Those of us who are into comic books and similar genres often overlook the power of old-time radio. I firmly believe that the radio audiences of the past are more sophisticated than those of today’s television shows. Radio shows often had more complex plots, more intelligent humor and far better vocabulary. I can’t help but think that people who listened to radio shows developed better language skills by emulating popular radio stars of the time.

Surprisingly, the kids really seemed to enjoy listening to the radio show. Maybe it was because it was better than silence, but I’d like to think that it opened their minds to new possibilities of entertainment. Some of them really got it. One student told me that in your mind you could make the characters look however you wanted them to. He was right!

I personally like to listen to audio cassettes of the shows played on my cathedral-style radio, which has a cassette player built into the side. It gives the illusion that you are listening to the shows as people did in the 30s and 40s. My friends Doug and Laura got one for me when the Shadow movie was released on video back in the mid-1990s. It was a promotional item given to distributors of the video, which makes it even more special to me than one that could have been purchased. It was a gift that I have never forgotten and still appreciate.

There will be much more on old-time radio later!

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