Update, August 8, 2009: I've posted a new version of the mp3 file for this notable broadcast. David Kiner graciously agreed to run CEDAR sound reduction software on the original .wav file of my transfer, so the original unaltered mp3 file has been retired. In addition, a full quality version of the CEDAR restored mp3 has been made available through the Old Time Radio Researchers Group distribution of "Suspense" at archive.org.
On this blog and podcast, I've focused on presenting original transcription discs from my collection, most all of programs that are not in circulation among collectors or are very uncommon. Thanks to an estate auction on ebay, I'm pleased to offer a "world premiere" of sorts for the Web of an elusive and highly sought-after program.
Unheard publicly since September 30, 1943, we bring you Orson Welles starring in "The Lost Special" a "tale well calculated to keep you in ... Suspense!". Originally broadcast on the CBS radio network, but now lost, the version heard here was distributed by the Armed Forces Radio Service as program 24 in the "Suspense" series.
"The Lost Special" is based on a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story and concerns a train that mysteriously disappears. The story was also used on the series "Escape" on February 12, 1949, so it may seem familiar. (You can give it a listen here.) However, in the "Suspense" version, the story is told by the main character and framed as a broadcast by a condemned man that will reveal the identity of persons responsible for certain crimes.
The opening of the show is rather odd. It sounds like Howard Duff, who was a staff announcer at AFRS at the time and would do custom openings and closings for some shows like this. However, Duff sounds a bit "out of it", either bored after reading so many show openings one day or thinking this was a rehearsal instead of a real "take".*
On the disc itself, someone made grease pencil marks just after the opening and just before the close of the show and there's a typewritten note glued to the original sleeve:
29'30" Programme 24 Pt. 1 & 2 SUSPENSE The Lost Special Pt. 1 Open at mark on yellow line and play to end. Pt. 2 Fade quickly at line after words "... tale of Suspense." The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle starring Orson Welles
The grease pencil mark near the opening is on the music cue just after the "Suspense" announcer says "... anything, however strange, that will hold our listeners in ... Suspense!" Strange, since this cuts out the entire opening that sets up the "show within the show" format.
Orson Welles appeared in the series "Suspense" eight times between 1942 and 1944 in such classics as "The Hitchiker and "Donovan's Brain". One of Welles's performances, "The Lost Special", was thought to be one of about thirty-five "Suspense" programs missing out of over 900 broadcast during the run of the series.
Welles appeared on "Suspense" in a run of four episodes during September and October 1943. The others, including "The Most Dangerous Game", "Philomel Cottage" and "Lazarus Walks" are available for download from archive.org, which has a collection of all of Welles's other existing appearances on the show. (Included in this collection is a funny parody Welles did of "Donovan's Brain" on his program "Orson Welles Radio Almanac".)
If you're a member of the otr mailing list, you've heard about my finding "The Lost Special" in an ebay auction a few days ago. If you're wondering if I'm going to be selling the disc, I'm not. I collect for the enjoyment of the shows and discovering something new. The disc is a unique find that needs to find its way to an archives someday.
I'm offering "The Lost Special" as part of my podcast in an unrestored medium-quality MP3 that's optimized for downloading or listening on the website. I'm investigating the best way to offer it to the OTR community on a CD or high quality .WAV file and to get the sound restored with more advanced tools than I have, so stayed tuned for more info.
Hope you enjoy the show. In the mean time, if you know of some old transcriptions scurried away somewhere, send me an email. You never know what might turn up in an old stack of records!
*Entry corrected, 6 May 08 - Inserted corrected info on Howard Duff.