Created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott Lewis, the program was a historical true crime series, examining crimes and murders from the past.
It grew out of Lewis' personal interest in famous murder cases and took a documentary-like approach to the subject, carefully recreating the facts, personages, and feel of the time period. Comparatively little dramatic license was taken with the facts and events, but the tragedy was leavened with humor, expressed largely through the narration. The crimes dramatized generally covered a broad time and place frame from ancient Greece to late 19th-century America. Each episode in the series was co-written by Morton Fine and David Friedkin, in consultation with Lewis, although the scripting process was more a matter of research, as the stories were “adapted from the original court reports and newspaper accounts” or from the works of historians. The cases ranged from famous assassinations (of Abraham Lincoln, Leon Trotsky, and Julius Caesar) and the lives (and often deaths) of the likes of Cesare Borgia and Blackbeard to more obscure cases, such as Bathsheba Spooner, who killed her husband Joshua Spooner in 1778 and became the first woman tried and executed in America. The only continuing character was the host/narrator, Thomas Hyland, played by Lou Merrill. Hyland was introduced by the announcer as a “connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders”. Merrill's deadpan portrayal of Hyland provided the welcome note of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings. A roster of Hollywood radio actors filled the various historical roles. William Conrad, Jack Kruschen, Jay Novello, Mary Jane Croft, Betty Lou Gerson, Edgar Barrier, Harry Bartell, Hans Conried, Herb Butterfield. Music by Bernard Herman.
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