Hear 90+ Episodes of Suspense, the Iconic Golden Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitchcock

Amer­i­ca’s “Gold­en Age of Radio” last­ed from the wide house­hold adop­tion of wire­less sets in the 1920s until the onset of the tele­vi­sion era in the 1950s, pro­duc­ing a host of long-run­ning dra­mas, come­dies, and sci­ence-fic­tion shows still beloved by radio enthu­si­asts today. But few had a pres­ence in the zeit­geist like Sus­pense, which from 1942 to 1962 offered not just guar­an­teed thrills but high pro­duc­tion val­ues as well. In the show’s hey­day, that also meant hir­ing straight from Hol­ly­wood, for not just char­ac­ter voic­es but also high direc­to­r­i­al tal­ent.

Sus­pense’s very first episode came steered by the hand of no less a mas­ter of unease than Alfred Hitch­cock. “The con­di­tion agreed upon for Hitch­cock­’s appear­ance,” writes Mar­tin Grams, Jr. in Sus­pense: Twen­ty Years of Thrills and Chills, “was that CBS make a pitch to the lis­ten­ing audi­ence about his and [pro­duc­er Wal­ter] Wanger’s lat­est film, For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent. To add fla­vor to the deal, Wanger threw in Edmund Gwenn and Her­bert Mar­shall as part of the pack­age. All three men (includ­ing Hitch) would be seen in the upcom­ing film, which was due for a the­atri­cal release the next month.” Hitch­cock want­ed to adapt for Sus­pense’s pre­miere Marie Bel­loc Lown­des’ The Lodger, a sto­ry he’d pre­vi­ous­ly filmed silent in 1926.

Even if they’ve nev­er heard a sin­gle old-time radio broad­cast, most peo­ple who know of Orson Welles know that the man who made Cit­i­zen Kane also made a sig­nif­i­cant mark on the air­waves. He defined the tit­u­lar role of the mind-cloud­ing crime-fight­er The Shad­ow when that series pre­miered in 1937, and the very next year he aired his infa­mous­ly to0-believ­able Hal­loween adap­ta­tion of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. But Welles’ radio work con­tin­ued even after he launched the film career through which we’ve come to know him today, with pro­duc­tions such as a Sus­pense ver­sion of the play The Hitch-Hik­er in 1942.

Welles did­n’t just direct the adap­ta­tion but also starred in it, which he would do four times on the radio in total. “The Hitch-Hik­er was writ­ten for Orson Welles in the days when he was one of the mas­ter pro­duc­ers and actors in radio,” writes its author Lucille Fletch­er. “It was designed to pro­vide a vehi­cle not only for his famous voice, but for the orig­i­nal tech­niques of sound which became asso­ci­at­ed with his radio pre­sen­ta­tions.” Welles and his Mer­cury Play­ers “made of this script a haunt­ing study of the super­nat­ur­al, which can still raise hack­les along my own spine.” Both The Hitch-Hik­er and The Lodger count as high points in the two-decade run of Sus­pense, but if you lis­ten to the 90 oth­er episodes free at the Inter­net Archive (or by stream­ing the thin playlist above), you’ll feel hack­les raised along your own spine in plen­ty of oth­er ways as well.

Sus­pense will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 22-Year-Old Orson Welles Star in The Shad­ow, the Icon­ic 1930s Super Crime­fight­er Radio Show

Stream 61 Hours of Orson Welles’ Clas­sic 1930s Radio Plays: War of the Worlds,Heart of Dark­ness & More

The War of the Worlds: Orson Welles’ 1938 Radio Dra­ma That Pet­ri­fied a Nation

Hear Aldous Hux­ley Read Brave New World. Plus 84 Clas­sic Radio Dra­mas from CBS Radio Work­shop (1956–57)

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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