One of the hallmarks of old-time radio culture was its value of and celebration of the work of various contemporary and classic playwrights. Some plays were passed around like folk songs, rendered by various teams of actors in their directors in their own style.

A prime example of this is the revered radio drama “Suspense,” which showcased the works of well-known authors of suspense and thriller plays. The show aired from ‘42-’62 and produced 945 episodes.

It featured the cream of America’s crop of directors and actors, who brought to life the work of several great writers. One such writer was Lucille Fletcher, whose “Sorry, Wrong Number” was first aired in May of 1943, and re-staged (rather than a tape of the show simply being re-run) seven times. Fletcher also authored “The Hitchhiker,” the work in which Orson Welles starred on his first “Suspense” appearance.

What’s insteresting is that Welles had performed “The Hitchhiker,” on his own show “Mercury Theatre on the Air.” In fact, he’d go on to perform in again in ‘46.

“The Hitchhiker” was broadcast on CBS on Sept. 2, 1942. Welles began by saying he was happy to be back in the U.S. (after a trek to Brazil in other points in South America) and to be working with his friend Johnny Dietz, who directed the episode. He then quips that while the thriller or ghost story is not his main genre, he is associated with it because of a recent exploit involving “a planet that shall remain nameless,” a reference to the “The War of the Worlds” ordeal.

Other Welles appearances on “Suspense” include:
9-23-42: A Passage To Beneris
9-23-43: Most Dangerous Game
10-7-43: Philomel Cottage
10-19-43: Lazarus Walks
4-13-44: Magnificent Barastro
5-4-44: Dark Tower
5-18, 5-25-45: Donovan’s Brain (two parts)


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