Friends, we have been on a bit of a hiatus with Retro Radio Memories – the last offering marked the end of our marathon of The Lone Ranger old time radio programs. And while the subject of our offering today revolves around the Christmas Holiday – we are dipping our toes back into a favorite old time radio genre of mine, namely horror and the macabre. And what better way to return than with that iconic CBS radio series Suspense and with an episode entitled Back for Christmas that originally aired 76 years ago today. In addition with Back for Christmas you have the legendary Peter Lorre as the main character of Hubert Schumacher, a Professor of Botany who is being driven mad by his overbearing Wife. A character type that Lorre was quite known for playing, even when poking fun at himself like in this clip from 1944’s Hollywood Canteen – appearing alongside Sydney Greenstreet!
Back for Christmas was adapted from the story of the same name by John Collier – which I believe was first published in the October 7th 1939 issue of The New Yorker. This particular story proved to be quite popular as not only was it then adapted into this 1943 Suspense radio play but was presented once again in 1948 and once more in 1956. In fact in ’56 it also was adapted into an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents – this time with Hitchcock regular John Williams (Dial M For Murder, To Catch a Thief) playing ‘Herbert Carpenter’. Suspense is an old time radio show that still delivers, showing that the power of the theater of the mind has hardly faded – granted when the program featured the likes of Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, and Orson Welles it is easy to see why the series ran from 1942 until 1962. Here is a fun fact for you, The Man in Black who acted as the unseen narrator for the show was originally played by Joseph Kearns – probably best known for his role as Mr. Wilson in the Dennis the Menace television series.
The story for Back for Christmas involves Professor Hubert Schumacher who is busy tearing up his basement preparing to plant a Devil’s Garden – he has bad timing however as his Wife, Hermione, is attempting to get everything prepared for their trip to the United States. It would appear that the Professor is being pushed to the brink of madness by his Wife’s overbearing personality and demands. In another example of bad timing – when heading into town he learns that, Marion, a kindly book store employee has romantic interest towards him… and she believes he is a widower. As you might imagine, a seed of an idea is planted in Professor Hubert’s head – of planting something else beside wild orchids in his Devil’s Garden before heading off on his trip to America!
So please turn down the lights if you are able and enjoy Back for Christmas, a chilling Holiday offering courtesy of Suspense!