Tuesday, September 9, 2008

OTR Tuesday: Lights Out!

Part One: The early years
Lights Out
, created by Legendary script writer Willis Cooper (he would later change the spelling to Wyllis in 1940), Lights Out debuted Midnight of Wednesday January 3, 1934. In it's original format the show ran short fifteen minute tales of crime mysteries spiced up with the supernatural and a degree of dark humour. Cooper's creative and at the time quite innovative use of sound effects to portray the rather grizzly deaths of characters apparently was well received by the shows audience as it was expanded to a full half hour in only three months. But the successful and much in demand writer was being spread thin, and the decision was made to cancel the program in January of 1935 to allow Willis to focus his efforts on more mainstream lucrative shows The Immortal Dramas, The daily 15 minute serial Flying Time, and the Popular daytime soap opera Betty and Bob. The Lights Out program however, like the Chicken Heart that Bill Cosby later immortalized, was too much of a success to be contained and abandoned however. After public outcry the series was revived only weeks after cancellation.

The truth may not be quite so simple, Cooper had already resigned from his position as NBC continuity editor for this same reason. It is probable he had already decided to take advantage of his success in radio and of the Lights Out program and pursue other more financially rewarding avenues for a script writer (Willis Cooper would later pen the screenplay for 1939s Son of Frankenstein). In May of 1936 Cooper had taken up residence in Hollywood and was only submitting scripts from afar and was otherwise removed from the production. Although it appears that he intended to stay on with the show in this capacity, apparently the arrangement wasn't so amicable for the studio. In June 1936 the young and talented Arch Obler would take the helm for Lights Out, and at the same time another writer was assigned to Flying Time, the only other program Cooper was still writing.

Although there are no known copies of the show during Coopers authorship, there are surviving scripts, and a number of his more whimsical and less spectcular (read gory) scripts had been revived and re-recorded. There is one surviving script typical of Cooper's early efforts which was re-recorded in 1947 titled Death Robbery and starring none other than the master of Horror Boris Karloff himself.

I hope you enjoy listening to the most noteworthy and possibly definitive re-recording of Wyllis Coopers scripts. Lights Out EVERYBODY!

Death Robbery

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