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June 4: Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Inner Sanctum, and All the Rest

June 3, 2015

himanbrown1Hi Brown, who produced more than 30,000 radio shows over the course of a 65-year career, died at 99 on this date in 2010. “He wrote and doctored scripts,” writes Joseph Berger in Gordon’s New York Times obituary, “sold shows to advertisers, and directed actors like Orson Welles, Helen Hayes, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. As a teenager, he was the voice of the first Jake, Molly Goldberg’s husband, in the earliest version of the show about the Goldbergs, a homespun Jewish family in the Tremont section of the Bronx. But he also played the Italian father in another ethnic soap opera called ‘Little Italy.’ ” Brown created numerous sound effect tropes for radio: “Foghorns and the clang of Big Ben became London. A belly laugh was a fat man,” writes Berger. He began his radio career at 18 reading newspapers in a Yiddish dialect accent on New York’s WEAF, which is how Gertrude Berg (“Mrs. Goldberg”) discovered him. He went on to earn a law degree at Brooklyn Law, where he was valedictorian. Among the radio shows in which he had a key role were The Adventures of the Thin Man, Bulldog Drummond, CBS Radio Mystery Theater, City Desk, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, Grand Central Station, The Gumps, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Terry and the Pirates, and numerous others. To hear Boris Karloff on Inner Sanctum, look below.

“I am firmly convinced that nothing visual can touch audio. I don’t need 200 orchestra players doing the ‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ I don’t need car chases. I don’t need mayhem. All I need to do is creak the door open, and visually your head begins to go. The magic word is imagination.” —Himan Brown