Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OTR: John Stanley as Sherlock Holmes

(The above headline will link to a brief obit for Edith Meiser from the New York Times.)

In the Fall of 1947, the production of the Sherlock Holmes radio program returned to New York. Conway and Bruce stayed behind so new actors were needed for the roles of Holmes and Watson. British born actor John Stanley, who began his radio career as a singer, assumed the role of the Great Detective with Alfred Shirley as his Watson.

These are not my favorite OTR performances on this Radio Spirit collection, as Holmes here seems to have almost contempt for Watson at some points. Shirley played the Doctor as Bruce did in later shows, as somewhat slow, and you again wondered why Holmes bothered to have him around. Also, Shirley sounds much older than his roommate, although in the original stories they were not that far apart in age.

Edith Meiser returns as the full-time scriptwriter with a combination of new and adapted stories. Eventually, Meiser would also go on to write the Sherlock Holmes daily newspaper strip with artist Frank Giacoia. She would sometimes adapt her own radio scripts for the strip. The more I learn of Ms. Meiser the more interesting she appears. She actually began her career as an actress, something she continued to do in television into the mid-1960s appearing in episodes of I LOVE LUCY, THE DEFENDERS and NAKED CITY.

In this season Meiser once again has some tales bringing in Professor Moriarty, who like Holmes always seems to escape certain death. Like other writers before and after, Meiser takes some of her ‘new’ stories from cases mentioned but not fully presented by Sir Arthur. Her adaptations include “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” (which she had previously written for an earlier series of shows) and “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”, one of my favorite SH tales and very creepy.

The one episode of John Stanley’s second season as Holmes included here, has Ian Martin replacing Shirley in the role of Watson. This story, “The Case of the Unwelcome Ambassador” was written not by Meiser but by Howard Merrill. Merrill, like Meiser who had begun as an actor, went on to work in television, doing scripts mostly for comedy shows such as GET SMART, F TROOP, GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW among others.

In the next installment a couple of British Knights assume the roles of Detective and Doctor.
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