Flood waters tempt newsman to murder

The Whistler episode Conspiracy. from Sept. 29, 1948, opens with a reporter reading a newspaper murder story in a diner, and speculating about the motivation of killers.

Then he gets a call from his editor, sending him out into the driving rain to a Mississippi River town whose levee is about to break. It’s the town where Marilyn lives, his ex-wife, the one person he might want to kill… and the rising river would cover for him… almost like a Conspirator, hence the title of the episode.

The cool, confident reporter is played by Frank Lovejoy, his voice easily recognized from his leading-man role as the Chicago columnist in the series Night Beat from 1949 to 1950. I wonder whether the heroic part of his performance here — star reporter faces deadly storm — helped him land that starring role a year later. Maybe a search of some archived trade magazines or “Night Beat” history sites will answer that question, in which case I’ll update this page.

Lovejoy, who was also radio’s Blue Beetle early in his career, was featured in a variety of non-journalist roles in at least 20 Whistler episodes, and is credited as writer of one of them.

The CBS network’s “The Whistler” was a special sort of half-hour mystery series — not a simple “whodunit,” because it revealed the killer and his or her motivation early on. Instead, its suspenseful plots led to a twist at the end… The opposite of routine “inverted pyramid” newspaper stories, which open with the conclusion, then fill in details.

More than 500 episodes of the 1942-1955 Whistler series are offered at the Internet Archive by the Old Time Radio Researchers Group, which has broadcasting-history documents and a database at the Old Time Radio Researchers Website (www.otrr.org).

Series synopses and cast lists, which I am skimming for journalist plots, are offered by J. David Goldin at his Radiogoldindex.com website. This story is one of ten or more where a newspaper reporter or editor is criminal, suspect, or victim… or just doing his job.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in 1940s, crime, Drama, reporters, reporting, suspense, villains. Bookmark the permalink.

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