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Best Plays, Pgm 5

April 28th, 2009

Broadcast from 1952 through 1953, "Best Plays" was a one-hour sustaining anthology series on NBC hosted by John Chapman, drama critic for the New York Daily News, and focused on works from the New York stage.  Program 5 in the series as broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Service and originally run on NBC on August 30, 1953, is Noel Coward's "Tonight at 8:30".

transcription label

Of course, "Tonight at 8:30" is a cycle of ten one-act plays by Coward and any combination of the works can be performed during a performance.  In "Best Plays", we hear two of the one-acts, "Ways and Means" and "Still Life" featuring Madeleine Carroll and Jerome Cowan.

While the scripts, acting and direction are quite good, "Best Plays" suffers from the "canned" quality of several dramatic series from the late Old Time Radio period.  You'll recognize several stock music cues that were frequently used in shows at this time - one dramatic bit of music, used at the beginning of the show, will be recognizable to anyone who has heard an episode of "The FBI in Peace and War" and "Tales of the Texas Rangers".

Several episodes of "Best Plays" were written by Earl Hamner.  He would go on to a successful career writing for television, including a half dozen scripts for "The Twilight Zone".  His most famous work was for "The Waltons", inspired by his own experiences growing up in Depression-era Virginia.

If you want to explore some of John Chapman's reviews for the Daily News, you can browse through them at the newspaper's web site.  (I enjoyed the headline for his review of the original Broadway production of "Hair" that he headlined "Itchy, Twitchy and Dirty".)

Our mp3 was transferred directly from an original AFRS vinyl transcription set.