Radio City Playhouse



          Radio City Playhouse is dramatic radio at its best.  First appearing on September 25, 1948, this series was conceived as a showcase for what NBC termed "good drama" regardless of the reknown of the playwright or of the play.  The program was "sustained", which is to say that the production costs were borne by the network rather than a sponsor.  Absent the need to cater to a particular sponsor, director, Harry W. Junkin and producer Richard McDonagh had the lattitude to produce works which were more literary in nature than the formula genre plays which were the mainstay of network radio.  They took full advantage of this freedom to present plays ranging from the quirky comedy, "Fanny", to the taut drama "Long Distance", the series' premiere episode.  Jan Miner's gripping performance  in that play created a sensation  reminiscent of  Agnes Morehead's triumph in the Suspense production of "Sorry, Wrong Number" some five years earlier.

          Many of the scripts were written by the show's director, Harry W. Junkin, who began each program with a personal introduction, his "Howard Duff"  voice, proving that not only could he write and direct, he could announce.  Other scripts were original works by major authors like Cornell Woolrich and Ray Bradbury.  A young NBC staff writer named Ernest Kinoy provided four scripts , among them "Ground Floor Window",  "attraction two"  in the series.   As powerfully dramatic as the premiere episode, "Ground Floor Window" proved that the debut episode was not just a lucky fluke.  Kinoy went on to write scripts for such groundbreaking television programs as "The Defenders" and "Roots".

Jan MinerThe cast of Radio City Playhouse varied from week to week and major New York talent was used to full advantage.  Among the voices more frequently heard were those of Jan Miner and John Larkin. John LarkinBoth had ample experience as dramatic actors.  Larkin is  remembered for his role as Tom Wells on the long running "Ma Perkins" soap opera and Jan Miner for her roles in such favorites as "Boston Blackie", "Casey, Crime Photographer" and "Perry Mason".  Miner later became the ubiquitous "Madge" the manicurist in Palmolive dishwashing liquid ads which ran on television for over two decades.

          The program last aired on New Year's Day, 1950, with a play written by Harry W. Junkin, appropriately entitled "Reflections".  Jan Miner appeared in this final show taking the female lead as a wife who, with her husband, spends New Year's Day reminiscing about their thirty-two year marriage.  During it's year and a half run, the Radio City Playhouse marriage of superb writing,   inspired acting and expert direction clearly  achieved it's goal of presenting "good drama" in the theater of the mind.  We are fortunate to have the recordings which remain of this series to bear witness  just how good good radio can be.
 


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