Monday, February 22, 2021

KSRO & Alfred Hitchcock

It's always fun to catch a bit of an actual radio broadcast in an old film. In modern films for copyright reasons it virtually never happens. There are facsimiles of radio everywhere but actual radio broadcasts live or recorded are very rare. But in the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock directed, Universal Pictures film, Shadow of a Doubt is a confirmed cameo by KSRO.

The original script began as a 9-page short story ‘Uncle Charlie,’ by Gordon McDonnell. With input from Hitchcock, Thornton Wilder wrote  the original draft of the screen play. Screen writer Sally Benson added some comedic elements, and Actress Patricia Collinge wrote at least one scene which is not credited. You can read a iffy transcription here.

It's also worth noting that Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville was credited as co-writer but her specific contributions remain unclear. The full scope of her contribution to Hitchcock's oeuvre is already known to be vast. She often re-wrote both the dialog and scenes in his film scripts. She had been a screen writer and editor at Twickenham Film Studios and then the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. So it's clear she was quite capable. But it would have been better if her work had been clearly credited. More here.

In May 1937, KSRO first signed on at 1310 Mhz. The station was founded by Ernest L. Finley, who was also owner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper. When he died in 1942, the ownership of the station later passed to Finley's wife Ruth. She was owner of the station when the station appeared in the film Shadow of a Doubt.

Interestingly the KSRO reference does not appear in the August 10th, 1942 draft of the script. Instead it describes an add for Martin's Floor Wax which quotes Edgar Guest. There is no specific connection there though Guest did have a radio show on WJR from 1931 until 1942. The only link being that both radio stations were NBC affiliates. He may have been syndicated on KSRO, but I have been totally unable to confirm that. Below is the original appearance of the scene in the script, scene 367 :

In scene 369, Uncle Charlie also changes the station to a "symphonic broadcast" and this dialogs and both those scenes do appear in the final cut as do other parts of the scene though not in the same form. The scene is interspersed with cuts to the character Emmy suffocating from car exhaust in the garage. They do not appear in the script, and have no dialog except for Emmy coughing.  Probably to heighten the tension, the dialog was somewhat expanded.

Charles, are you all ready? Joe, are you?

Wait a minute! I've got to get my overcoat.

Please, dear. Hurry!

Take your time, Emmy. They can't start till I get there. It's getting chilly in here.

KSRO, Santa Rosa, with studios in Vallejo and Santa Rosa, California. KSRO now brings you...

May as well have a little music while we wait.

(RADIO ANNOUNCER) agency in the world. Oregon State Police pressed their search today for five...

(Changes Station to Orchestra)

Oh! Does it have to be so loud?

The movie was shot on location in Santa Rosa, CA which is probably how the KSRO ended up replacing Edgar Guest. I've never found a direct connection between any of the actors or writers and KSRO, or even Santa Rosa. The appearance of the call sign twice in those few seconds of audio and the plot tie-in confirms that it was not live, but planned for the film. The book Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco describes the moment:

"The use of KSRO was an authentic local touch. It would have been very common for households in Sonoma county to be listening to KSRO because the station was the first and only Sonoma county-based radio station in the early 1940s. All other signals received in Sonoma county were from San Francisco. KSRO was founded in 1936, and had studios in Santa Rosa and Vallejo. It featured symphony music, opera, and local news, and was well suited for the middle-class Newtons."

Despite the factual errors:, (KSRO was neither the first nor founded in 1937) the context is spot on. The radio announcer is not specifically credited. But Bill Bates is listed in the cast without a role. There was a well-known radio announcer in Modesto named Bill Bates, who was at KNX, KGFH, KWBS, KLS, and actually founded KTRB in 1933. But that's probably a coincidence.

IN 1944 the film was nominated for Best Writing. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". More here.

1 comment:

  1. ThresherK9:32 PM

    Thanks for posting this. Shadow of a Doubt is my favorite Hitchcock movie, and that's saying something.