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Suspense - January 16, 1947 - Version A

January 14th, 2010

And now ... a tale of Suspense.  And a mysterious transcription set.

A couple of weeks ago, two "Suspense" transcription lacquer sets came up for bid on ebay.  One was for a missing episode of the program, "The Burning Court", with Clifton Webb.  The other, from the same source, was for the January 16, 1947 episode, "Overture in Two Keys" with Joan Bennett.

A group of us pooled resources to bid on the missing episode, but we missed out on it at the last minute - it went for over $400.

However, I did win the Joan Bennett episode.  Although it's currently in circulation, I thought it might be a different copy in better condition or perhaps an aircheck that might have some local commercials or station ids at the beginning and end of the program, similar to the "Bing Crosby Show" discs I obtained a few months ago.

When the discs arrived, they were actually something rather unexpected - two different versions of the same program.

transcription label

There are two discs in the set, one containing "part one" on each side of the program and the other containing the matching "part two" of the shows.  Each disc has a label mentioning the series name, date and the notation "Eastern".  (The photo of one label is in this post and the other label is in the next post.)  All four sides contained labels at some point - you can see the glue residue - but two of the labels are missing.

However, I'm certain that the labels are mixed up - they've been reattached with tape.  Also, the labeled sides don't match - the two versions of the show have different side breaks, so you can tell which sides originally went together.

I'm not sure if the two versions of the show are the live broadcasts done for the East and West Coast, whether one is a broadcast version and one a rehearsal, or if both are rehearsals.  Did "Suspense" do two live broadcasts for different time zones at this point in its history?

The disc labels mention the Biow Company, which was the ad agency that packaged and produced the series for Roma Wines.  The fidelity of them tells me that they were either recorded in the studio or via a very high quality network line.  I'm assuming they were produced as a reference or legal record for the advertising agency and/or sponsor.

According to back issues of "Billboard" magazine, available at Google Books, some other network programs that Biow produced for the networks included "Lights Out", "The Life of Riley", "Crime Doctor", and "The Henry Morgan Show".  They also packaged "The FBI in Peace and War", which is promoted at the end of this "Suspense" episode, and were involved in an early little tv sitcom you might have heard of - "I Love Lucy".

This episode of "Suspense", "Overture in Two Keys", was originally broadcast January 16, 1947 on CBS and was sponsored by Roma wines.  The show features Joan Bennett as the main star, but radio stalwart Howard Duff has the juiciest role as an up and coming composer in love with another man's wife, complete with an emotional mental breakdown.  Chew up that scenery, Howard!

Joan Bennett, making her first appearance on "Suspense" in this episode and receiving a complimentary basket of Roma wines for her efforts (and perhaps a bit of a paycheck), had a career spanning from the silent era to television.  You probably know her for roles in movies like "Little Women", "Scarlet Street" and "Father of the Bride".  Younger whipper snappers have seen her work in the horror tv soap opera "Dark Shadows" and the cult Italian horror movie "Suspiria".

It took me a couple of evenings to transfer and restore the recordings.  Both discs were starting to deteriorate, leeching that annoying white powder that coats lacquers as the coating starts to break down.  The lacquer coating on the "part two" disc was starting to crack and skipped quite a bit in the first couple of minutes, particularly on what I'm calling "version A" heard in this post - there's a few bits of dialogue missing because of the complicated skips I couldn't overcome.

Please note that I'm offering these two versions of the show in a higher bitrate than usual, due to the broad collector interest in "Suspense", so they make take some time to download if you're on a slower connection.

Feel free to post your comments and thoughts about these recordings - I'd be curious to hear from anyone that has similar Biow/Radio Recorders "Suspense" disc sets and if the labels give more information that might clear up this little mystery.

And, to the person who won the discs containing the previously lost "Suspense" episode with Clifton Webb - what's on your discs and what are the labels like?  You can send me an email in confidence, if you like.  I won't mention who you are in the blog.

In the next post, "Version B" of "Overture in Two Keys" and some notes on the differences between the two versions of the program.

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