Sunday, April 05, 2015

Radio Greats: "The Son of Man" (CBS Radio Workshop)

When last I had a post on the CBS Radio Workshop, I think I summarized its history fairly well:

CBS Radio Workshop came at the very end of the Golden Age of Radio. Radio drama was dying, its demographic taken by television, and so radio networks were trying bolder, more experimental things. CBS had had some reasonably good success with earlier series focusing on experimental theater, so it put a considerable amount of effort into this one. Probably what it really needed was a longrunning experimental series, to build up a significant audience loyalty; trying to jumpstart a new one in the late 1950s was a little too late to be trying to capture people's attentions, a way of locking the barn door after the cows are gone. But CBS did put a considerable amount of effort into it, and the overall result was not bad, and people did like it; it just wasn't enough to have much of a long-term effect.

One of its more famous episodes was a religiously themed episode -- relatively unusual, since the Golden Age of Radio was for the most part fairly cautious and indirect about its handling of religious topics. "The Son of Man: A Passion Play" brings together an all-star cast just to read from the Gospels in the King James Version for an Easter program, interwoven with music adapted from Bach. The four Evangelists are played by actors each of whom were famous in part for their voices, but who were also widely known in other respects:

Herbert Marshall (Mark): Marshall had lost a leg in World War I, but despite this became one of the most recognizable leading men of his day in film and TV, in very high demand for romantic roles. He was also often on the radio, because people loved his voice.

Robert Young (Matthew): An extremely hard-working actor, Young appeared in over a hundred movies in his lifetime, sometimes five or six movies a year. He is most famous today, however, for playing the role of the father on Father Knows Best.

Victor Jory (Luke): Jory made a name as a screen villain; he is probably best known today for having played Jonas Wilkerson in Gone with the Wind, but he played many, many other villain roles.

Vincent Price (John): Price, of course, is famous for his roles in camp movies, but he was also a leading man in his day, especially in radio, where he played Simon Templar in The Saint.

You can listen to all the episodes of CBS Radio Workshop at the Internet Archive ("The Son of Man" is #64).

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