Lucille Fletcher Tributes

Celebrating Women and Radio Storytelling

2022 Episode

Lucile Fletcher Tribute web poster
Monday, 21 March 2022

13:00-14:00 PT
Program Guide for Lucille Fletcher Tribute

Re-Imagined Radio paid tribute to Women's History Month, women in radio, and specifically Lucille Fletcher, a superb female radio storyteller, writer of "The Hitch-Hiker" and "Sorry, Wrong Number." Our re-imagined adaptation of both dramas presented by The Voices proves the appeal and power of radio storytelling to engage listeners' imaginations.

Broadcasts and streams by our local, regional, and international partners, and Instagram Live. Archival recordings available for on demand listening below.

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Optimized for radio broadcast.

Cast—The Hitch-Hiker

Sam A. Mowry as Ronald Adams (narrator)
Jodi Lorimer as Mrs. Adams and the Telephone Operator
Marc Rose as The Male Hitch-Hiker
Myranda Markey as The Female Hitch-Hiker
Patricia Blem as Mrs. Whitney
and Susan Chapman as Lucille Fletcher

Cast—Sorry, Wrong Number

Patricia Blem as Mrs. Stevenson
Jodi Lorimer as the Operator
Marc Rose as the Man on the Telephone
Sam A. Mowry as George
Jeff Pollard as Sgt. Martin
Myranda Markey as the Nurse
and Susan Chapman as Lucille Fletcher

Credits

Curated, Produced, and Hosted by John F. Barber
Sound Design and Music Composition by Marc Rose of Fuse
Social Media by Regina Carol Social Media Management
Promotional Graphics by Holly Slocum Design

Excerpts, Exhibitions

"Lucille Fletcher Tribute Excerpts." Lights Out Listening Group, The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, Scotland, 27 April, 2022. Event program and archive
A 9:57 excerpt from "Lucille Fletcher Tribute" was selected from an open international call for inclusion in this episode of Lights Out Listening, a bimonthly live listening event in The Old Hairdressers Shop, Glasgow, Scotland. This excerpt showcases the growing paranoia of the lead characters in Fletcher's two best known radio dramas, "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitch-Hiker." Listen to "Lucille Fletcher Tribute Excerpt."

Background

Violet Lucille Fletcher (1912–2000) wrote novels, plays, librettos, and radio dramas. She is best know for her radio dramas "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitch-Hiker" and is considered the greatest of all women radio storytellers. Examples of her other radio dramas include . . .
"The Man with the One Track Mind"
The Columbia Workshop, 30 June 1940

"Carmilla"
The Columbia Workshop, July 28, 1940

"Alf, The All-American Fly"
The Columbia Workshop, 1 September 1940

"The Hitch-Hiker"
The Orson Welles Show, 17 November 1941

"Someone Else"
The Columbia Workshop, 20 July 1942

"Remodeled Brownstone"
The Columbia Workshop, 19 October 1942

"Gremlins"
Ceiling Unlimited, 21 December 1942

"The Diary of Safronia Winters"
Suspense, 27 April 1943, Episode 039
17 August 1944, Episode 105
10 August 1958, Episode 763
Starring Agnes Moorehead and Ray Collins

"Sorry, Wrong Number"
Suspense, 25 May 1943, Episode 043
Starring Agnes Moorhead
This broadcast was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry in 2015.

"Fugue in C Minor"
Suspense, 1 June 1944, Episode 094
Starring Vincent Price, Ida Lupino, and Bea Benaderet

"The Search for Henri Lefevre"
Suspense, 6 July 1944, Episode 099 Starring Paul Muni, Hans Conried, and Lurene Tuttle

"The Night Man"
Suspense, 26 October 1944, Episode 812
23 October 1960, Episode 876
Starring Virginia Bruce, Marsha Hunt, Ginger Jones

"The Furnished Floor"
Suspense, 13 September 1945, Episode 158
Starring Mildred Natwick and Don Defore

"Dark Journey"
Suspense, 25 April 1946, Episode 190
Starring Nancy Kelly and Cathy Lewis

"The Thing in the Window"
Suspense, 19 December 1946, Episode 325
Starring Cathy Lewis, Jeanette Nolan, Jerry Hausner, Joseph Cotten, Robert Montgomery, and Elizabeth Montgomery

"Bela Boczniak's Bad Dreams"
The Clock, 25 April 1948

The Hitch-Hiker

Fletcher wrote "The Hitch-Hiker" for Orson Welles "in the days when he was one of the master producers and actors in radio." Fletcher said "The Hitch-Hiker" was designed not only for Welles' famous voice but "for the original techniques of sound which became associated with his radio presentations. Orson Welles and his group of Mercury Players made of this script a haunting study of the supernatural, which can still raise hackles along my own spine" (Smith 72). The story follows Ronald Adams, voiced by Welles, as he drives from New York to California. Along the way he repeatedly sees a strange man, hitch-hiking along the side of road. Adams becomes obsessed with the hitch-hiker and learning his identity.

Fletcher says inspiration for "The Hitch-Hiker" came during a 1940 automobile trip with her husband Bernard Herrmann, music composer for Welles. "We saw an odd-looking man, first on the Brooklyn Bridge and then on the Pulaski Skyway. We never saw him again. I kept the idea in my mind for a year and then wrote it as a ghost story" (Smith 72).

Welles performed "The Hitch-Hiker" four times on different radio programs.

  • The Orson Welles Show, 17 November 1941
    A live CBS Radio series produced, directed, and hosted by Orson Welles. Featured dramatic adaptations, poetry, history, music, comedy, and a commentary segment by Welles titled "Almanac." Nineteen episodes were produced, 1941-1942. This performance featured a musical score composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann, Fletcher's first husband. No recording has been identified and this debut performance is presumed lost.
  • Suspense, 2 September 1942
  • The Philip Morris Playhouse, 16 October 1942
    A radio dramatic anthology series in several incarnations: 1939-1944, 1948-1949, and 1951-1953.
  • The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air, 21 June 1946.
    In his introduction, Orson Welles called "The Hitch-Hiker" a classic among radio thrillers and went on to say, "It's author is one of the most gifted of all the writers who ever worked for this medium, Lucille Fletcher who wrote 'Sorry, Wrong Number,' the greatest single radio script ever written" (Welles).

A notable adaptation was produced by Rod Sterling for his television anthology series The Twilight Zone, 22 January 1960.

Resources
Smith, Steven C., A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 1991, hardcover; 2002, paperback ISBN 978-0-520-22939-6 p. 72.

Welles, Orson. "The Hitch-Hiker." The Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air, Internet Archive, June 21, 1946.

Sorry, Wrong Number

Fletcher established herself as THE writer for radio when "Sorry, Wrong Number" was first broadcast on 25 May 1943 as an episode of Suspense starring Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Elbert Stevenson, a bedridden woman confined at home who depends on the telephone for a lifeline to the outside world. While calling her husband, she is connected into a conversation between two men. She can hear them but they cannot hear her. Apparently, they are plotting to murder a woman at 11:15 that night, just as a train passes outside. Mrs. Stevenson realizes she may be the murder victim. It is nearly 11:15 PM. How will she convince anyone that she is in danger? Everyone she calls refuses to take her fears seriously. The drama becomes a critical examination of the telephone, a device which although it allows people to connect, does not necessarily allow them to communicate.

Subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and often called one of the best series of the Golden Age of Radio (1920s-1950s), Suspense provided a diverse and broad-based anthology of crime, adventure, science fiction, and supernatural stories during its twenty year run, 1942 to 1962. Episodes were heightened by a sense of doom and often dealt with life or death situations. Notable actors like Cary Grant, Fredric March, Charles Laughton, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball, Olivia De Havilland, Gregory Peck, Peter Lorre, Henry Fonda, and Orson Welles appeared frequently. Despite these credentials, Suspense is best known for its "Sorry, Wrong Number" episode. Radio historian John Dunning says "Sorry, Wrong Number" transcended Suspense and was "widely perceived to be the most effective radio show ever" (Dunning 648). In 2015, The Library of Congress selected "Sorry, Wrong Number" for inclusion in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Versions
Eight versions starring Agnes Moorehead were featured on Suspense between 1943 and 1960. Seven of those episodes survive.

Episode 043, 25 May 1943
Starring Agnes Moorehead
Both the East and West Coast versions contained a mistake in one of the final lines of dialog that made the ending confusing. Despite this, the broadcast was been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry in 2015.
Available here

Episode 054, 21 August 1943
Starring Agnes Moorehead
This performance fixed the flawed ending.
Available here

Episode 080, 24 February 1944
Starring Agnes Moorehead
Available here

Episode 157, 6 September 1945
Starring Agnes Moorehead
Available here

Episode 315, 18 November 1948
Starring Agnes Moorehead
To coincide with the release of the film adaptation written by Lucille Fletcher and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. The film was nominated for an Academy Award. "Sorry, Wrong Number" was the only Suspense episode to be made into a film.
Available here

On 9 January 1950, Stanwyck and Lancaster reprised their film roles in an hour-long adaptation for the Lux Radio Theater, episode 684.
Available here

Episode 478, 15 September 1952
Starring Agnes Moorehead
Missing, not available

Episode 721, 20 October 1957
Starring Agnes Moorehead
Available here

Episode 840, 14 February 1960
Starring Agnes Moorehead
A rebroadcast of 20 October 1947 episode with new opening and closing segments and advertisements.
Available here

Adaptations

"Sorry, Wrong Number" was adapted into a movie, a television play, and a novel.

Resources
OTRR certified episodes at Internet Archive
Single episodes at Internet Archive
Suspense Radio Logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Plot summaries and credits at Radio Gold Index website
Escape and Suspense website.
Dunning, John. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 648.

Other Women in Radio

Although we highlight Lucille Fletcher in our tribute to Women's History Month, there are other women in radio who deserve recognition as well.

Cathy Lewis Cathy Lewis (1918-1968) was an immensely talented actress, and had many notable roles in several genres of Old Time Radio. In comedy, she played Irene Henshaw, the school principle, in The Great Gildersleeve series. She was a regular on Suspense, performing in more than 120 episodes, including "The House in Cypress Canyon," and "On a Country Road" with Cary Grant. She was the monotone and unsympathetic telephone operator driving Agnes Moorehead to hysterics in Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number." She appeared in several episodes of Lights Out!, Broadway Is My Beat, and Lux Radio Theatre. Her biggest role perhaps was as the star and narrator of the weekly comedy series My Friend Irma where she played Irma's sensible best friend Jane Stacy. Listen to the first episode, "Irma Meets Jane," broadcast 11 April 1947.

Edith Meiser Edith Meiser (1898-1930) wrote adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories about the fictional consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, for radio in the 1930s. This example is "The Bruce Partington Plans," the earliest of the surviving episodes from The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio series, written by Edith Meiser. This episode was broadcast 6 November 1939.

Meiser, an American author and Broadway actress, thought the stories about consulting detective Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be perfect for radio. NBC expressed interest, if she found a sponsor. She found one in George Washington, creator of the first instant coffee, and also a Holmes fan. Washington Coffee agreed to sponsor a radio series called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Meiser adapted and wrote all episodes of the series, until its final episode, 2 December 1936. At the end of the first season, radio editors across the country voted The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes the best radio program in the country. Re-Imagined Radio has offered a tribute to "The Immortal Sherlock Holmes." LEARN more.

The first episode was Meiser's adaptation of "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," 20 October 1930, starring William Gillette as Holmes. Gillette created the first stage adaptation of the writings of Conan Doyle in 1899, and the first American film, both under the title Sherlock Holmes.

In 1939, following the success of actors Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce with their Hollywood Sherlock Holmes films, Meiser began adapting and writing more Holmes stories for a radio series called The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Meiser wrote all the episodes until 1943 when she left the series to co-author a Sherlock Holmes comic strip.

Edith Meiser introduced Sherlock Holmes, the detective's detective to the American listening public and her tireless efforts kept him there until he became a permanent part of our lexicon, popular culture, and mythology. For this she should be remembered, and honored.

Ruth Cornwall Woodman (1894-1970) was an advertising copywriter for McCann Erickson, one of the few who wrote for radio. When company executives decided to start a western themed radio program, Woodman was assigned to write the scripts. The program sponsor, Pacific Coast Borax Company, makers of 20 Mule Team Borax, a popular laundry and washing soap, required the writer to have first-hand knowledge of the Death Valley region. Woodman immersed herself in the project, spending summers in the desert surrounding Death Valley, talking with miners, bar keepers, newspaper reporters, gas station attendants. Anyone that might have a story. She backpacked in the area. She visited small town historical museums. She read old newspapers. Always searching for anything that would inspire a good story. The result was a highly successful show 1930-1951, and later became a television show with Ronald Regan as the host. Woodman wrote more than 700 scripts for Death Valley Days each presenting the old west with realism and drama unmatched by other westerns of the day. This example, "Sam Bass Is Captured," the true story of one of the most notorious outlaws of the Death Valley region, was broadcast 27 August 1936.

Peg Lynch Margaret "Peg" Francis Lynch (1916-2015) is often called the best radio comedy writer. She wrote 11,000 scripts for radio and television, creating and voicing female characters in couples comedies of the ordinary. She created the radio comedy programs Ethel and Albert and The Little Things in Life. She was also the first woman to create, write, star in, and own a radio couples situation comedy series, The Couple Next Door, a husband-wife centered situation comedy, 1957-1960. She starred in each 15-minute episode. This example, "Neighborhood Bully," was broadcast 31 December 1957.

Mary Margaret McBride (1899-1976), a pioneering radio interview host, talked with people well known in the world of arts, entertainment, and politics, with a recognizable and original style. McBride interviewed Zora Neal Hurston, famous in her own right, January 1943. They talked about cooking, southern heritage, literature, and zombies. It is a noteable interview for both.

McBride's popular radio shows spanned more than 40 years. She is also remembered for her few months of pioneering television, as an early sign of radio success not guaranteeing a transition to the new medium. She accepted advertising only for products she was prepared to endorse from her own experience, and turned down all tobacco or alcohol products. She is sometimes called "The First Lady of Radio."

Gracie Allen Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen (1895-1964), as comedianne Gracie Allen, was internationally famous as the partner and comic foil of George Burns. They appeared on radio, television, and in film as the duo Burns and Allen. As a 14-episode publicity stunt for the Burns and Allen Show, Feb. 28-May 29, Gracie ran for president in the 1940 election, as the "Surprise Party." She actually received a few write in votes. This episode, "Surprise Party Platform," was broadcast 27 March 1940. Listen and enjoy, especially "The Campaign Song" at the end. Allen's campaign is just what we need today!

Women in the Making of America

Women in the Making of America was one of the earliest radio documentary series to examine women's history from a feminist perspective. Episodes dramatized the cultural and social contributions that women have made throughout the history of the United States and featured programs on suffragists including Lucy Stone (1818-1893), Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), Angelina Grimké (1805-1879), and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880). The thirteen week radio series premiered 18 May 1939. Created by Eva vom Baur Hansl (1889-1978), a long-time advocate of women's rights with thousands of publications to her credit, and scriptwriter Jane Ashman, Women in the Making of America was a project of the Federal Radio Theatre, a unit The Federal Theatre Project, itself a division of the Works Projects Administration (WPA). Following the initial thirteen episodes, and input from hundreds of professional women across America, Women in the Making of America was re-conceptualized and re-introduced as Gallant American Women in October 1939.

Resources
Eva vom Baur Hansl Papers at Syracuse University Libraris Special Collections.
The Library of Congress holds all the surviving scripts of the Federal Radio Division, a unit of The Federal Theatre Project.
Surviving recordings of programs are available at the Library of Congress and at the National Archives' Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Records LICON, Special Media Archives Services Division, College Park, MD.
Rouse, Morleen Getz. Daytime Radio Programming for the Homemaker 1926-1956. Journal of Popular Culture, 1 Sep, 1978, pp. 315-327.

Gallant American Women

Gallant American Women grew from the success of Women in the Making of America. The series was produced by the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the United States Office of Education, the Federal Security Agency, and the American Association of University Women. Episodes were thirty minutes in length, each conceived around a topical focus, for example women as teachers, pioneer women, ladies of the press, mothers of presidents, women of letters, and women in medicine, science, nursing, aviation, and more. Dramatizations and historical vignettes highlighted each episode's focus and cited women and their accomplishments in that sector of society or history. Contemporary women often spoke about the topic of focus at the end of episodes. The first episode of Gallant American Women was broadcast 31 October 1939. Listen to "Women Building our Heritage of Freedom" below.

Resources
Digital Deli Gallant American Woman website.
Listen to and download episodes of Gallant American Women at the Old Time Radio website.

Promotion
Episode Trailer

Lucille Fletcher Tribute trailer by Holly Slocum, Marc Rose, and John Barber.

Graphics

Lucille Fletcher Tribute web poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (240 x 356)
Lucille Fletcher Tribute web poster 2022

Lucille Fletcher Tribute cover poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (820 x 356)
Lucille Fletcher Tribute cover poster 2022

Lucille Fletcher Tribute social media poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (2000 x 2000)
Lucille Fletcher Tribute social media poster 2022

Lucille Fletcher Tribute full poster by Holly Slocum, Holly Slocum Design (2000 x 3000)
Lucille Fletcher Tribute poster 2022

Instagram Live Stream

Graphic and live stream by Regina Carol Social Media Management.
Instagram Live Stream

2016 Episode

Sorry, Wrong Number and The Hitchhiker 2016 poster
23 March 2016

Re-Imagined Radio presented a live performance by Willamette Radio Workshop actors and other community volunteers at Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver, Washington. We presented two radio dramas by Lucille Fletcher—"Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitchiker"—to celebrate her work and Women's History Month. Archival recordings available for on demand listening.

Listen

This performance was recorded live.

Credits

Directed by Sam A. Mowry
Produced by John F. Barber
Promotional Graphics by Kate Palermini

Promotion

Hewitt, Scott. The New Magic of Old-Time Radio. The Columbian, 13 Mar. 2016, pp. D1, D8.
—. The Sound Magician: David Ian Demonstrates the Art of Foley. The Columbian, 13 Mar. 2016: D1, D8.