Monday, January 22, 2007

The Chickenheart that ate Arch Oboler

Have you ever heard the Bill Cosby Routing on the Chicken heart that ate New York City? Its a joke.. but what many younger people dont realize.. is that it's a spoof of a real radio play by a man named Arch Oboler. In the golden age of radio, Arch Oboler was radio's king of horror and science fiction.

If you don't know what I'm talking about please visit the Blog of Mr. Snuh and download the audio of both Bill and Arch. We can all proceed on equal footing afterwards.

Oboler sold his very first radio scripts while still in his Chicago high school in the 1920s. He was prolific. While at the University of Chicago he cranked out more than fifty plays! His career in radio took off when he took over the NBC horror anthology Lights Out in 1936. The show was already a sensation because of creator Wyllis Cooper's dark and violent content. If anything, Oboler trumped him.

Each episode of Lights Out began like this:
"This is Arch Oboler bringing you another of our series of stories of the unusual, and once again we caution you: These Lights Out stories are definitely not for the timid soul. So we tell you calmly and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off your radio now. "

In 1939, Oboler started a second program Arch Oboler's Plays, which ran on the competitor CBS. He had felt restrained in the horror-only format of Lights out. Lewis Titterton gave him a shot to branch out. Here he wrote tragedy, comedy and of course.. more horror. But in Oboloers Plays the horror content was less horrific, more topical. The content was still horror, but much less gothic, often focusing on WWII in Europe. You can hear an episode here, and another here. Many of these plays are flat out anti-Nazi. As such, stars like Joan Crawford and Alla Nazimova begged to be casts. The program ran opposite the Jack Benny show which eventually killed it. arch Oboloers plays ended in March, 1940. But It re-appeared again on the Mutual network in 1945 as a summer series. It was re-done as re-issues into the early seventies with a much older Oboler introducing each episode.

By 1950 Oboler was called to Hollywood to do feature scripts for RKO. Oboler being Oboler this material was as ghastly as ever including the first post nuclear apocalyse film titled Five. He went on to do TV, write books, more screen plays, records and even a strange number of 3-D features. He died in 1987.