The Shadow Knows!

Time to read is very rare in my life. My stack of books to read seems to always be growing. Every once in a while, I get a few moments to crack open a book and read, but those moments seem to be few and far between. This week, I started reading a book by James Patterson and Brian Sitts based on a character who is over 90 years old – The Shadow. The book is one of my birthday gifts from Sam.

The Shadow made his debut in the 1930’s in a variety of novels. The character has made appearances on radio, in magazines, comic books, comic strips, on TV, in serials, video games and at least 5 feature films.

From Britannica.com:

The Shadow, American radio program that ran from 1937 to 1954. The title character, a caped vigilante who was also featured in The Shadow Magazine, was one of the most enduring and influential creations of the pulp era.

The Shadow was originally created as the narrator of the 1930 radio show Detective Story Hour, a program that was intended to promote publisher Street & Smith’s Detective Story magazine. The character of the Shadow, given a mysterious voice and ominous laugh by actors James La Curto and Frank Readick, was popular enough to convince Street & Smith to develop him as the protagonist in his own pulp magazine. The magazine was commercially successful, and in 1937 the Shadow returned to radio on the Mutual network as the protagonist in a weekly series. Initially played by Orson Welles, this version of the Shadow was significantly different from the pulp version. On radio the Shadow was the secret identity of Lamont Cranston, who had the power to hypnotically cloud the minds of those near him to make himself invisible. In early episodes, he occasionally used telepathy and the ability to cause others to see illusions, though these other powers were gradually dropped in later seasons.

Orson Welles as The Shadow

The many agents the Shadow employed in the pulp stories were dropped in favour of a single female companion named Margo Lane, initially played by Agnes Moorehead.. The radio episodes were melodramatic, with the Shadow often tracking down mass murderers and psychotic killers who were carrying out bizarre crimes. In one episode, a modern-day pirate uses a submarine to wreak havoc on the high seas, and in another a mad scientist rips airplanes out of the sky with a giant magnet. Using his invisibility to gather information and carry out psychological warfare on the criminals, the Shadow would inevitably foil their schemes. The show’s acting and production values were excellent, and it was popular enough to last for 17 years.

During this run, the Shadow was played by Welles, Bret Morrison, Bill Johnstone, John Archer, and Steve Courtleigh. Actresses who played Margo Lane included Moorehead, Marjorie Anderson, Marion Sharkley, Laura Mae Carpenter, Lesley Woods, Grace Matthews, and Gertrude Warner. The show was canceled in 1954, but many episodes were recorded and preserved.

I was introduced to the Shadow by my dad. We would listen to old radio shows together and it was one that played often. I can remember the first time I heard the organ theme to the show followed by those marvelous opening words:

“Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of man? The Shadow knows.” This was followed by that ominous laugh ….

At the end of every show, The Shadow would appear again to remind listeners:

“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows.” This would be followed again by his laugh and the show was over.

I remember in the early 1990’s Alec Baldwin starred as the Shadow in a feature film. Many panned it, but I found it to be very good. It’s worth the watch.

I remember reading somewhere that James Patterson was going to tackle the Shadow. I wasn’t sure what to think and I will wait till I finish the book to pass judgement on it. I have high hopes for it and hope it does not disappoint.

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