Feb 12, 2010

Posted in Liner Notes, What's New

Captain Underhill and ‘The Automatic Murders’

‘The Case of the Automatic Murders’

Recorded at: HT Recording Studio, Dennis, Cape Cod

Play’s location: A mansion in Osterville on Cape Cod

First broadcast: November 1982, WOCB 94.9 FM, West Yarmouth

Trivia: Although ‘A Test for Murder’ and ‘Murder from the  Bridge’ preceded ‘The Legacy of Euriah Pillar’ and ‘The Automatic Murders’ as Captain Underhill mysteries, they were originally written as short stories and only later converted to radio.  ‘Euriah Pillar’ and ‘The Automatic Murders’, however, were conceived and composed as radio plays from the outset.

The play contains a smart aleck remark made by Underhill to Dr. Scofield in the examination room, complaining about the battery of his pacemaker being called a ‘Die Hard’.  I’m not sure whether anyone still gets it.  Does Sears still make the car battery of that name? The joke may be dated.

The script contains what Wally O’Hara (Dr. Scofield) has always claimed to be his favorite lines of Underhill/Scofield dialogue:

Scofield: “ . . . I’m referring to this

handmade his doll, and

the fact that Tishua comes

from Jamaica.  You know

what that means?”

Underhill: “What?”

Scofield: “Voodoo.”

Underhill: “Voodoo?”

Scofield: “Yes, voodoo.”

Underhill: “Who do?”

Scofield: “She do –I mean, she

does!  Waverly, be serious!”


Announcer . . . . . . . . . . . . . Floyd Pratt

Captain Waverly Underhill . . . Dave Ellsworth

Doctor Alexander Scofield . . . . . Wally O’Hara

Theodora Langhorne . . . . . . . . Carol McManus *

Tishua the Cook . . . . . . . . . . . . Carol McManus

Nick the Butler . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jack Brady *

Gretta the Housekeeper . . . . . . Melinda Gallant *

Louise Symington . . . . . . . . . . . Lee Olive

Sybil Langhorne . . . . . . . . . . . . Wendy Iwanski *

Nurse Carol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Debby Oney

(*) First appearance in a CCRMT program

Author’s Notes: The plot:  In casting about for a storyline for another Captain Underhill mystery, I had been trying to come up with stories that would lend themselves well to treatment on radio.  At the time I had been reading quite a bit of Sherlock Holmes and was also aware of Arthur Conan Doyle’s belief in the spirit world, including such things as séances and automatic writing, as well as Houdini’s crusade against frauds.  It struck me that a séance was particularly the kind of thing that would work well on radio especially since séances are usually conducted in the dark and involve disembodied voices.  I had also been reading and studying Perry Mason stories pretty closely, particularly those written during the middle 1940s, when Erle Stanley Gardner was at the height of his powers.

The role of Theodora Langhorne was an amalgam from different sources.  The name came from Mark Twain’s middle name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  The character is modeled after my wife’s paternal grandmother, Amey Develin Geier, or Nanny as everyone called her.  She was a grey-haired matriarch and grand dame who lived in Indian Hill, Cincinnati, hailed from Philadelphia Blue Blood and grew up knowing how to behave imperiously (although never haughtily, if you accept the distinction).  She was a family favorite who loved her grandchildren, especially her blue-eyed, golden-haired Debby whom she doted over.  Whenever a matriarchal grandmother has been needed in these mystery plays Nanny has always served as the model, for example, Lady Kemp in ‘The Golden Idol, the Magwitch and the Donkey’s Tail’.

The role in the recording is played most ably by Carol McManus of Sandwich, whom at the time was already a well-established actress trodd-ing the boards at various theater venues on the Cape, especially The Sandwich Glasstown Players, a group she co-founded.

Carol always brings a lot of herself to every role she plays, especially her unbridled vivacity.  She also auditioned for and helped me with the part of Tishua (a rip-off of Tituba from The Crucible) in which she plays the Jamaican cook.  When of high school age, Carol spent a number of years growing up in Jamaica so she already knew how to speak the accent perfectly:

Tishua: “Mista Docto’ you be

carefu’.  Dere’s spir’ts in dis

house!  Dere’s spirits all around!”

I also liked Wendy Iwanski‘s performance of the emotionally fragile Sybil Langhorne.  She gives it just the right amount of timorousness, I think.

to order a CD:      https://ccrmt.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=1_22&products_id=44&osCsid=5101fc35ea81c3a8aed4459d64faa428

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