Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


One of the premier programs of the Golden Age of Radio (now known as old-time radio), Suspense advertised itself as "radio's oustanding theater of thrills" and was heard in one form or another from 1942 through 1962. There were approximately 945 episodes broadcast during its long run.

Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by its hosts, sponsors and director/producers. The show was so popular that over 900 of the original episodes are extant in high-quality recordings. Alfred Hitchcock directed the audition show an adaptation of The Lodger, that Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 in a 1940 program called Forecast, starring Herbert Marshall. In the early phase, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) and many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr.

The sponsor became Roma Wines and then Autolite Spark Plugss; eventually Harlow Wilcox (of Fibber McGee and Molly) became the pitchman. William Spier, William N. Robson, and Anton M. Leder were among the producers and directors. The program's heyday was in the early 1950s, when the great radio actor, producer and director Elliott Lewis took over (still during the Wilcox/Autolite run). Here the material reached new levels of sophistication. The writing was taut, and the casting, which had always been a strong point of the series (featuring famous film stars like Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Colman, Cary Grant and many others), took an unexpected turn when Lewis expanded the repertory to include many of radio's famous drama and comedy stars, such as Jack Benny and Jim and Marian Jordan (aka Fibber McGee and Molly). The highest production values enhanced Suspense, and many of the shows retain their power to grip, entertain and move.

The single most popular episode of Suspense is "Sorry, Wrong Number," written by the premier radio scribe Lucille Fletcher, in which a panicked, bedridden woman (played by veteran radio actor Agnes Moorehead) tries to convince a telephone operator she has overheard a murder plot on a crossed line. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was repeated seven times (last on 2/14/60) and spawned the 1948 film with Barbara Stanwyck in the lead role. Another noteworthy episode was Orson Welles' "The Hitchhiker". But there are literally hundreds of extant episodes of equal or greater quality.