Friday, May 23, 2014

Quiet, Please!.. and what's a Fourble Board?

WARNING! THIS IS A VERY LONG POST

You know what a fourble board is?  I didn't know either til this guy explained it.. in my minds eye.. If you ever find yourself on one, be careful with what you don't see...


 "..The bizarre and supernatural will be the material for writer Wyllis Cooper's "Quiet Please," a new dramatic series to be heard on WOR by transcription,..."
                                                            --New York Times 1947 'News of Radio' column 
 
Quiet, Please! was a radio show produced at WOR in New York City, and it aired a total of 105* episodes (only 4 were repeats) from June 8th 1947 until June 20th of 1949. It originated on the Mutual Broadcasting System, and then the next year it was syndicated by the ABC radio network.

It's theme generally was along the line of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or Horror, but was not limited to those genres. At times the lean would be with spiritual or moralistic overtones. Other times humorous. But always exibiting a sense of surealality.

 The show was created, written, and directed by Wyllis Cooper (after his previous success with "Lights Out" radio program), and Ernest Chappell was the primary announcer and actor for the show.
It is presumed that the two had previously became friends while working together during The Campbell Playhouse radio productions almost ten years prior.



But Quiet Please was a little different, more unique than either of those shows..

"..There's no formula or pattern to Quiet, Please! other than
that it is always narrated in the first person by Ernest
Chappell, and has an eerie, slow-paced mood. Sometimes it's
macabre, sometimes hilarious, but always it is entertaining.
ABC reports that it gets more requests for Quiet, Please!
scripts than for those of any other show.
.
."
               -- Writer's Digest magazine, May 1949
                        Radio & Television   By Harriet Cannon


Anyway..
I never even heard of Quiet, Please! until recently when reading a post on the Arcane Radio Trivia blog where he only briefly mentioned it in passing.. But for some reason it captured my attention, and after some mild research, I chose to have a listen to their most famous episode called: "The Thing on the Fourble Board"; which commonly gets praised not only as "one of the best, if not the best in radio horror", it's also consistently cited as one of best examples of radio drama in general.

 Wow, I thought, That's some pretty impressive opinions for an episode of a program that I never heard of. So I decided to give it a listen..
Was it all that?..
Well, I liked it, and so far as radio dramas go, yeah, I give it a big thumbs up. The presentation and delivery was excellent.
As for horror? Well, I can't say I was horrified, but it was creepy, and then it got kinda freaky.. in a freaky creepy kind of way..

"Cooper says that writing good dialogue is harder work than laying bricks. He ought to know--he's laid them. He's also worked in oil fields and on the railroads, and he's utilized much of this experience as background material in his scripts." - Writer's Digest mag. May 1949

I listened, and after about 25 minutes the story had concluded, and the closing announcements were made as usual... I did enjoy it. The general feel of the episode (as it is with all of the Quiet Please episodes) is strikingly different than the delivery of most old time radio programs. It's not just a radio drama, the delivery is more personal.. it feels as if he's presenting the story to You... It's hard to describe, but I can understand the cult following.

Quiet Please was promoted by both the Mutual Broadcasting System and Wyllis Cooper as  " A new-type psychological drama with the listening audience slated to become part of the program.." -source

 
  I'll not reveal what the story is about, as that would just spoil it for any one who has never heard it before. But will say Cooper had drawn from his own real world experiences while writing the script, as the events take place while at working in an oil field.

"..They have an odd flavor, extremely difficult to describe, and they represent, I should say, PURE RADIO ... That's the sort of stories they are -- just weird -- and if you're of literal mind I suggest you avoid them. Their great charm for me is that I don't know what Mr. Cooper will do next. Also, these stories are handled with extreme skill. Mr. Cooper presents you with a fantastic idea, but he never piles the unlikely on top of the unlikely. Once you accept the original premise, the rest follows logically. Incidentally, the fantasies are never fully explained. There's the secret. Never explain anything fully. Leave 'em guessing."  
                                               - Variety Magazine Feb 4 1948 -John Crosby - Radio in Review 

You can find copies of  The Thing on the Fourble Board all over the place. It's still gets aired on broadcast stations occasionally particularly around halloween, and had even been released as a feature track on a LP record back in the 1970s, as well as on cassette tape, and now cd. Evidently I'm the only one who never heard of it! It is a classic episode.

If you should decide to listen to it yourself, which you ought to; I strongly encourage that you turn off the lights, lay down, relax, close your eyes and give it your full attention. Don't busy yourself with some menial task while mindlessly half listening to it in the background, you'll miss the magic..
What is superb, I think, is not the story itself but the presentation. What it conjures, is a perfect example of what it means to experience "the theater of the mind". You can actually kind of watch it. It deserves no distractions, so leave everything else behind for the next 25 minutes, and just fall into the story ... Perhaps that's too much hype.. It's might not blow your mind, but it will entertain your imagination.

Quiet Please - Episode 60: 
The Thing on the Fourble Board. Aired: August 8, 1948
Listen: or Download mp3
 
I've put a lot emphasis of this particular episode, but that's only because it's a predominate example. But this post was not supposed to be about 'The Thing on the Fourable Board', but rather the series as a whole. Fortunately, the audio quality of  this particular episode is excellent, when considering that it was recorded almost 70 years ago. Unfortunately the same can't be said for all of the Quiet Please episodes. Many of them desperately need restoration, and I don't comprehend why greater efforts have not really been applied to it yet.

"Master of the weird and the whimsical, Cooper is both writer and director of Quiet, Please! To date he has turned out some 90-odd scripts, which are easy to listen to and "murder to write... Quiet Please is slow in tempo.. He believes that radio drama generally is played too fast; but he admits that he can write in such an unorthodox manner only because he is his own director.. Only three or four other writers in radio have the same privilege and "all of them earned it through years of hard work. "  - Writer's Digest magazine, May 1949

For many years only 12 episodes of Quiet Please were known to exist.. Then  fortunately, in the 1980s, much to the delight of OTR enthusiast; about 80 original transcription disc and first generation taped copies of the series were found... this never would have happened were it not for Ernest Chappell, (the primary announcer/actor) keeping, and years later, in the mid 1960s, transfering the original 16 inch 78rpm transcription disc to reel to reel tape... It was his personal collection which his widow had found years later (rumored to be from under a bed), and ultimately became provided to the public.

Sometime in the 1970s, David Goldin of the J. David Goldin Collection  aquired Chappells (tapes?) collection from Chappell's estate (directly from his widow?).
===================================
Update Edit: Thanks to a senior member at quietplease.org (MS), some important history has been pointed out to me.. Although Goldwin was most likely responsible for putting the "original 12 episodes" into circulation from ABCs limited archives of the series which he acquired while working there about 40 or 50 years ago, he actually had nothing to do with discovering the large collection from Chappells estate. However, due to his position in archival circles, he was able to per-cure copies of that material to add to his collection.

Chappells widow had actually donated the collection at some point a Florida University, where it sat silently hidden. It was Don Aston, a long establish archivist, twice serving on the SPERDVAC Board of Directors (Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy), and AVPRO CEO, who was responsible for the discovery which he described in an 2009 article in 'OTR Digest':

"I found the Quiet Please episodes at the University of Florida. A work Study student dubbed the discs. The University would not allow any outside people to touch them. The Work Study Student did not clean or even bother to wipe off the discs,. He just put them on a turntable and dropped the needle. That is the reason so much noise is on many of the early surving episodes.
Mrs. Chappell was going to let us, Randy [Eidemiller] and Me, copy the discs, but negotiations dragged on and on. Then the discs wound up in the OTR Museum in New York City"


So now back to the story..
Goldwin had obtained copies of the large discovery above, and had added them to his previously small Quiet Please collection ..
===================================
They remained in Goldwin's possesion for 30 years or so, until around 1997, at which time he sold his entire collection (not just Quiet Please) of master tapes and/or original transcription disc.


It is commonly believed there are only 88 and half episodes of "Quiet, Please!" in existence. However, the fact is, there are actually 91 and half episodes in existence..

To explain, let's look at the14 and half missing episodes.. (actually it's *17, but..)

Episode #9 A Mile High and a Mile Deep Aired 1947-08-18
Episode #10 Mirror, Mirror On the Wall Aired 1947-08-24
Episode #11 A Ribbon of Lincoln Green Aired 1947-08-31
Episode #12 Retreat At Dunkerque Aired 1947-09-03**A
Episode #13 Three Sides To A Story Aired 1947-09-07
Episode #15 The Big Box Aired 1947-09-15
Episode #16 Be a Good Dog, Darling Aired 1947-09-22** half missing
Episode #17 The Low Road Aired 1947-09-29
Episode #41 "Meeting at Ticonderoga" Aired 1948-03-15
Episode #52 Below 5th Avenue Aired 1948-05-31**B
Episode #53 100,000 Diameters Aired 1948-06-07**C
Episode #63 Motive Aired 1948-08-30
Episode #78 Read Me This Riddle Aired 1948-12-12
Episode #79 Gothic Tale Aired 1948-12-19
Episode #94 The Venetian Blind Man Aired 1949-04-03**D
*Note: Also lost are the following episodes, however alternative versions still remain:
Episode #20 The Girl With the Flaxen Hair (actual title: "La fille aux cheveux de lin") 1947-10-20 which was performed on MBS  on Oct 20, 1947 with the cast Joan Lazer, Melville Ruick, Mary Kay Simmons. However, the script was later re-performed in episode 105 on 1949-06-18, but with a different audio theme, a new cast (Anne Seymour, Don Briggs, Joan Lazer) and the new title: "Pavane" on ABC. (which does exist)
Episode #29 "Berlin 1945" 1947-12-22 The original broadcast starring Ted de Corsia, Frank Thomas, Jr., Eric Dressler, Don Briggs and Frederick Bell, aired on MBS is a lost episode -
However, the re-performance on ABC a year later in episode 80 survives (12-26,48) with the same title, but a new cast (James Goss, Frank Latimer, James Monks, Melville Ruick, Warren Stevens, Frank Thomas, Jr.)
Episode #43 "Quiet, Please" broadcast on MBS on 1948-03-29 is lost (cast unknown) - But the second performance of this script on ABC survives as #106 with same title, and the cast of Claudia Morgan, Floyd Buckley, Lotte Stavisky, Vinton Hayworth



**A - It is highly probable that Episode #12 Retreat at Dunkerque never existed, thus not a missing episode... "Retreat at Dunkerque" was actually the regular local New York City rebroadcast on WOR of that week's Mutual episode, "A Ribbon of Lincoln Green" (which is about the British retreat at Dunkerque) Apparently, a local newspaper or some other source printed "Retreat at Dunkerque" as the title, thus confusing everybody decades later." source
This topic was actually first discussed here: http://www.quietplease.org/forum/general/done-posting-scripts-122.html. Lending even more weight to this theory is that in the preceding episode script (A Ribbon of Lincoln Green) Cooper announces the next weeks show as "Three Sides to a Story"..  As it is at the end of every Quiet Please episode, the title of the next weeks show is always announced, yet in no episode or script has ever mentioned "Retreat at Dunkerque". Also note that the air date took place (oddly) only three days after the previous episode ("Ribbon of Lincoln Green"), and it was only aired locally - the only one ever which was not broadcast national,.. Why? - it's plausible it was used as filler for some unscheduled time who knows? But the thing to keep in mind is that the episode which aired only three days prior (Lincoln Green) was a story about the retreat at Dunkerue - They are about the exact same subject. It's just too unlikely to be two entirely different episodes. All facts point to the conclusion that which has been logged as two different episodes have always been actually, indeed, one in the same.

So that would bring it down to 13 (*16) and a half missing episodes.. However, it's really less than that.. read on.. 

First made known in the the book:
by Randy Eidemiller  and Chris Lembesis revised in 2000 ©1995

"Shortly after Ernest Chappell’s death, his widow donated the [original transcription] discs to the Museum of Television and Radio in New York."

The book also stated:
“Programs 51* and 52(see note below), once thought to be missing, may now be heard at the museum of television and radio location in new York city and Beverly hills cal. Copies however are not available, but interested parties are invited to make an appointment with the archives to hear these marvelous programs.”
 
*Note that while the aforementioned book is listed on Amazon and some other locations it is currently out of print, so the quotes shown here are received second hand from a November 5 2003 post in a thread here at the quietplease.org forum... There is question concerning the quoted numbers 51 & 52, since #51 was/is not missing, so it appears the quote maybe should have stated 52 & 53.. but the only way to have confirmed this was to actually look in book itself.. 
 But all inconsistency aside, it can still be confirmed that two of the missing episodes do indeed exist at the museum...


On June 5, 2007 the name of the 'Museum of Television & Radio' was changed to the 'Paley Center for Media', but it is the same organization, and maintains the same media library. It is located at 25 West 52 Street New York, NY (212) 621-6600
Performing a simple search of their collection via their website: http://www.paleycenter.org/collection/.. confirms the above statements of the book that the episodes 100,000 Diameters & Below 5th Ave are in their collection..

**B&C -  
Included in the search results Paley Center for Media Collections are the following:

QUIET, PLEASE!: BELOW FIFTH AVENUE {SHOW #50} (RADIO) (May 31, 1948)
CATALOG ID: RB:1496

QUIET, PLEASE!: 1,000,000 DIAMETERS {SHOW #51} (RADIO) (June 07, 1948)
CATALOG ID: RB:1496-1


What's more Paley also catalogs the first broadcast of Berlin 1945, so that's yet another lost episode which is actually in existence:
 

QUIET, PLEASE! #027: BERLIN 1945 (1947-12-26) (RADIO) (RB:1485-T) (Dec. 26, 1947)
CATALOG ID: RB:1485

It is also rather likely that the second half of "Be a Good Dog Darling" can be found in the Paley holdings as well, even though it is not specifically listed, their catalog list numerous episodes simply as "QUIET PLEASE! (RADIO) (1947/07/xx)"CATALOG ID: RB:1477" or "QUIET PLEASE! (RADIO) (1947/07/xx) CATALOG ID: RB:1478" other times while referring to the reel tape copies they list those as ie: "QUIET, PLEASE! {VARIOUS EPISODES} (REEL ELEVEN, 70 THRU 75) (RADIO) CATALOG ID: RB:0990".. You get the idea.. Their spellings are wrong, (ie: Jack Rosalen instead of Dark Rosaleen, 3000 Wards instead of 'Words', and more..) the runtimes are wrong, the episode numbers are wrong, and there is no extant information supplied.. As if the shipment came in and some employee quickly documented them for Paleys database before tucking them away into storage.

So now,  there are only 11 (*13) half missing episodes!
 The fact that the episode numbers do not correspond to common researched data is besides the point, the episodes do exist and can be listened to by visiting the museum. 
It seems a shame that these two episodes are not made readily available to the public along with the rest of the series, but for those living in the New York area, at least you can go to the museum to listen.

As for the others missing.. I did run a search for them with no result. That link again to the Paley Media Center Collection for Quiet Please is http://www.paleycenter.org/collection/..
A search for "Quiet Please" will return 7 pages of results, I copied and pasted the exact results from all 7 pages, and compiled them in a easier to read and examine pdf file which you can download here from my dropbox: https://db.tt/FxxDQM3F (right click to save).
Or if you prefer, here's the same as 3 gif images which you can scroll to read in your browser:
Page 1: https://db.tt/Ors8eFDp
Page 2: https://db.tt/a3qd79Tq
Page 3: https://db.tt/ZQuoU95O

**D The University of Indiana’s Archive of Traditional Music in Bloomington, the list the “Venetian Blind Man” episodein their card catalog: 
 http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/28121
Title: [United States, 1949] sound recording / collector unknown.
Format: Musical Recording- Sound Recording
Physical description: 1 sound disc : analog, 33 1/3 rpm, acetate, mono. ; 10 in.
Performer: Venetian Blind Man, organ, spoken monologue (and vocals?); Willis Cooper, writer and director.
Notes:
    Dramatic presentation with music.
    Radio play.
    "Quiet Please"--documentation.
    Circumstances of recording unknown except for the date, April 3, 1949.
    Documentation for this collection is incomplete.
    Possibly deposited at the Archives of Traditional Music by Northwestern University in ca. 1963 (under option 2?)
    This collection includes organ music and speech; seemingly it is a one man dramatic presentation with spoken (and sung?) monologue and organ music. 
See all details at http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/28121
Indiana University students, faculty and staff may place requests online for delivery of materials to another IU library. Requests for delivery usually take 4-7 working days to complete. 

That totals 3(+) more episodes known to be in existence which the general public has never heard...

One last note concerning the lost episodes.. We know that the majority of existing episodes are from Chappells personal collection of master disc and tapes. The following is a quote from the book "Terror on the Air" chapter 9, entitledd "The Unsettling Universe OF Wylliss Cooper and Ernest Chappell":

"He [Chappell] wrote to Cooper's widow Emily in 1966 to report that he owned copies of all but 11 episodes on transcription discs and had copied them all to reel to reel tape. Stating that he would happily copy any episodes for Emily, Chappell further wrote that "It took a lot of hours to make the tape transfers but I got a big thrill out of hearing them all over again and I want to say that there were many occasions when my emotions blew up and I just plain bawled. They brought back such wonderful times and so many intimate memories of such a treasured friend."
 
Since Chappells collection is what the Paley Museum possesses, it's tempting to conclude that Paley must have also all but 11 episodes..
===========================================================
 UPDATE: Monday, June 2 2014..
Well..Not exactly an update (yet), but just wanted to mention that a few hours ago I contacted Ron Simon, Curator, Television and Radio of the Paley Center, and also the Indiana University The Archives of Traditional Music about acquiring copies of the 3 missing episodes - It's a start, hopefully that will fruit results.. we'll see..

UPDATE: Monday, June 20, 2014:
Never received any response form the Paley Center, but have successfully corresponded with Indiana University, so far it looks very promising that I will succeed in acquiring a copy of "The Venetian Blind Man", so far I have no way of knowing the quality of the recording, but expect to receive it in about 3 weeks. As for being able to share it with every one else.. Well, I might not be able to, but that's still kind of up in the air, I'll let you know if anything changes.

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 10, 2014:
Finally received my copy of "The Venetian Blind Man" from the Indiana Universities Library of Traditional Music. The good news the audio quality is pretty good with exception to 2 minutes of poor quality. The bad news is it is not complete..
The first 11 minutes is intact, then there's a gap of missing audio, then 2 more minutes of poor audio,.. another gap,.. and then the final 6 and a half minutes of the episode.. So there's about 10 minutes missing.
The lp record it was recorded from presented the first part on side A, with side B containing first the conclusion, then a portion from the middle (in that order). The agreement I signed to obtain the copy does not allow me to distribute it, but anybody may obtain a copy from the library as "personal research" at the cost of $27 for a cd, or $20 for a downloadable wav file. I don't suspect providing a short sample to demonstrate the quality of the file would be in violation, so here is a clip the closing credits:

or Download mp3
 
By the way, I requested a photo of the actual disc, and an associate of the library graciously provided shots of both sides taken with her iphone. You can see the images as well as my transcription of the  audiocontent included on this disc here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/88050583/Quiet%20Please/QP-VBM/Venitian%20Blind%20Man%20-%20transcript-.html
===========================================================

"Quiet Please," a dramatic series dealing with psychological situations, mysteries and fantasies with comic overtones, will switch from the Mutual network to WJZ-ABC this afternoon at 5 P.M. The series is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. -September 19, 1948 column by Sidney Lohman

Ok, now back to the condition of the Quiet Please mp3s floating around the internet.
I decided to have my hand at a few to see what my limited capability could accomplish. Where better to start then with episode #1? It's poppy and scratchy, and the noise is distracting..

So I downloaded episode 1 from the quietplease.org and got to work.. (Copies are also freely available from the Internet Audio Archive for Quiet Please as well as numerous other OTR websites.).

First I used Audacity to manually clean every pop, scratch, and click I could get to and the final result sounds much better (at least to me than before.
I saved the Audacity project file to avoid having to re-import, should I opt to clean it further later, (which I probably will) thus it will not cause yet another generation copy of the episode.
The audio is still a scratchy, but overall noticeably better than it was.

Take a listen to my cleaned up version...
Quiet Please - Episode 1: 
Nothing Behind the Door. Aired: June 8, 1947
or Download mp3

Now lest you don't find that impressive, compare it to the original.mp3 as commonly found everywhere else on the internet and on the mp3 cds you can buy on ebay, or anywhere else.. listen a few minutes and also notice how much worse it gets in the second half, then decide.. Which would you rather listen to??

Here's another one I spent much more time on; again it still has it's share of imperfections but still far exceeds the quality of the what it was sourced from..

Quiet Please - Episode 18:
Not Enough Time. Aired: October 6, 1947
or Download mp3

Here's another, again, still sounds rough, but after cleaning it up it sounds noticeably a lot better than what it did before. It's a much more enjoyable listen..

Quiet Please - Episode 5:
Cornelia. Aired: July 20, 1947

or Download mp3


The best bet with the Quiet Please series seems to be manual second-by-second cleaning, it's time consuming and tedious, but apparently the only way to work on the remaining severely damaged episodes of this series..


=====================================================

Ok, this has been one very long post..
I've been repeatbly come back and adding more stuff to it. That's why it so long, drawn out, and scattered (kind o of like me).
 But anyway, let me conclude this thing...
If you've read this far, then you must have found it of interest..
Quiet Please could be some great late night programing for your part 15 station.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

One last note: While I made every attempt of being accurate with the information supplied on this page, I noticed occasional inconsistencies between sources of information during my crash research of the Quiet Now radio program. When such instances occurred, then generally the most common consensus is what was supplied here. I'm obviously no authority on it. It is only recently I became familiar with it. But it fascinated me, which is what made me aggressively dig around.
For a more in depth details and history, I suggest the Wikipedia as it addresses many details which was either omitted or only glanced upon here., also the Digital Deli covers some information not readily found from other sources, and of course always the well established and interactive quietplease.org website, where you can find lots more delectable tidbits of info in the forums.
Hope you found it of interest and welcome any comments.

Spot cartoon from July 4, 1948
Digital Deli



Cooper likes to think of himself as a rebel. To prove it, he points to the fact that he has done fewer commercial shows than any other writer in his class.
"I don't believe in too strong a story line because it's apt to be too hard for the listener to keep in mind," he says. "The charm in radio consists of good characterization. Plot should consist of a twist rather than a formalized structure." He doesn't rewrite, nor does he permit his actors to "ad lib" although his dialogue achieves a smooth flowing naturalness. He beats no drums, espouses no causes, says his function is "to entertain.

- Writer's Digest magazine, May 1949


This post (which was even longer than it is now until tonight (1/26/16) when I removed about 30% of it....   ...But this post was the predecessor of the Quiet Please Anthology website.  http://www.quietplease.96.lt ,Which I built and have hosted on a free server from the UK. There you will find much more about the Quiet Please radio program then what you've just read hear (believe it or not). www.quietplease.96.lt

 

2 comments:

  1. This is great reading! I linked most all of the Quiet Please shows to a webpage I devoted to the series. It's at: http://www.radiohorrorhosts.com/quietplease.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the read! I already had you included in my links above under Radio history of Quiet Please and host Ernest Chappell:
    http://www.radiohorrorhosts.com/quietplease.html which also links to to your links to listen to the shows. Your radio interview about OTR years ago (which I supplied a short clip in the player) is also in the links above above to the full version of it. It was an enjoyable listen.
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    ReplyDelete

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