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From the Bookshelf of the World - Pgm 74

February 19th, 2010

Sometimes you run into a disc that doesn't look very promising, but can hold a bit of a surprise.

"From the Bookshelf of the World" doesn't sound like it would be an interesting Armed Forces Radio Service series.  But, this one features a lost performance by actor Boris Karloff.

transcription label

Program 74 in the series is "On Borrowed Time", based on a play by Paul Osborn, and stars Karloff as Mr. Brink and character actor Parker Fennelly as Gramps.  The story, if you're not familiar with it, concerns a little boy, an apple tree, and Death.

The disc is undated in the matrix, but I think it may be from the Mutual series, "Great Scenes from Great Plays".  A Karloff fan site lists his appearance in "On Borrowed Time" in that series on October 29, 1948.  However, the site credits Karloff with the role of Gramps, so I think it may be in error.

"On Borrowed Time" was made into a film in 1939 with Lionel Barrymore and Cedric Hardwicke.  Osborn worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood with movies like "The Yearling", "South Pacific", and "East of Eden" in his list of credits.

The show was transferred from an original undated AFRS vinyl transcription.

Update, 2.20.10 - A listener has posted the original newspaper ad for the show.  You can find it at this forum (scroll down the page to see the ad).  Also corrected the spelling of Parker Fennelly's name in this post.

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  • Mike

    Randy, I can’t thank you enough for posting this show!! I think you have correctly identified the show. To have a new Karloff radio show appear is just amazing to me.

    Feb 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm
  • Dr. OTR

    Looking forward to this one!! Incidentally, I believe Parker’s last name is spelled Fennelly — two n’s, two e’s and two l’s. He’s of course best remembered for his role as Allen’s Alley denizen Titus Moody, but he was all over east coast radio. A very versatile actor.

    Feb 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm
  • Mike Hobart

    Wow, what a nice surprise. I look forward to hearing this one.

    Feb 20, 2010 at 6:26 am
  • Craig Wichman

    Dear Rand-

    Thanks. Nice work, as ever.

    This is indeed a re-packaging from GREAT SCENES FROM GREAT PLAYS, which was produced by a wonderful charitable organization that my wife and I are proud to belong to, The Episcopal Actors’ Guild. You folks might want to join, yourselves:

    http://www.actorsguild.org/aboutus2.html

    Its home was and is NYC’s famous “Little Church Around The Corner,” and the Guild still presents the Arts. Our Annual Poetry night was this past week, where I did “Casey at the Bat,” and where Auden, Yeats, and Dickenson were represented. Along with new material by its authors; an amazing gang, the Guild.

    This series was intended as a NY stage compliment to LA film series like SCREEN DIRECTOR’S PLAYHOUSE - and it’s every bit as polished. There are several episodes in circulation; including “A Doll’s House,” “Dead End,” and then Guild President Walter Hampden recreating his legendary “Cyrano” (free here):

    http://www.archive.org/download/http://www.archive.org/details/GreatScenesfromGreatPlays

    Stars included Basil Rathbone, Gertrude Lawrence, Raymond Massey, Ingrid Bergman, and Henry Fonda - whose return to the role of YOUNG MR. LINCOLN I was honored to recreate last year at FOTR (clip here):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P-oGrXr1F8

    There are more episodes available, in wonderful quality, from FGRA:

    http://www.radioarchives.com/Great_Scenes_from_Great_Plays_p/ra087.htm

    Best, -Craig Wichman Quicksilver Radio Theater, etc.

    Feb 20, 2010 at 10:32 am
  • Dwight Casey

    This is great! Parker Fennelly played Gramps once again in an episode of BesT Plays in the early 1950’s

    Feb 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm
  • Ken DeVries

    Just wanted to correct the archive.org URL for GSfGP given above: http://www.archive.org/details/GreatScenesfromGreatPlays

    Mar 1, 2010 at 8:48 pm
  • Mike Ogden

    There’s an understandable reason for the confusion over which part Boris played in “On Borrowed Time.” Over the course of his career he played the roles of both Gramps and Mr. Brink.

    His first professional experience with the Osborn play was in November 1946, when a production of it was staged at the El Plaza Theatre in Los Angeles. In that production Boris did indeed play the part of Gramps, and he later stated that it was his favorite role. A paragraph about this production and a photo can be found at hotrod.com. (Yes, you read that rightly!) The young actor who played the grandson Pud in this staging was Tommy Ivo, who was later famous as the showman of drag racing, TV Tommy. The photo (from Mr. Ivo’s personal collection) shows himself and Boris, who certainly looks very grandfatherly.

    So what happened in between the stage play in 1946 and the radio show in 1948? Did some network suit decide that Karloff had far too sinister a reputation to be playing such a kindly old chap? It would be interesting to know what was behind this switch-casting. And I wonder if it was at all disheartening to Boris, both because he loved the role of Gramps and also because he had been so strongly fighting his “monster” typecasting for years.

    Boris did do the play one more time on radio, on the “Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway’ in, I believe, 1953. I don’t think a recording exists of this broadcast, but it would be interesting to research and try to discover which part he played this one last time.

    Mar 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm
  • Dr. OTR

    Finally got around to listening to this. What fun! Karloff is perfect as Mr. Brinks. Somehow, I can’t quite see him as Gramps.

    Oct 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm
  • Jesse

    thanks for posting this!

    Jan 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm