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Old-time radio, 14 January: Not-so-dizzy Miss Lizzie

"The first lady of Suspense" . . .
"The first lady of Suspense" . . .
CBS

Suspense: Fall River Tragedy (CBS, 1952)

In perhaps a minor masterpiece of understatement, the TruTV network's Website Crime Library will put it like this:

The Lizzie Borden case has mystified and fascinated those interested in crime for over one hundred years. Very few cases in American history have attracted as much attention as the hatchet murders of Andrew J. Borden and his wife, Abby Borden. The bloodiness of the acts in an otherwise respectable late nineteenth century domestic setting is startling. Along with the gruesome nature of the crimes is the unexpected character of the accused, not a hatchet-wielding maniac, but a church-going, Sunday-school-teaching, respectable, spinster-daughter, charged with parricide, the murder of parents, a crime worthy of Classical Greek tragedy. This is a murder case in which the accused is found not guilty for the violent and bloody murders of two people. There were the unusual circumstances considering that it was an era of swift justice, of vast newspaper coverage, evidence that was almost entirely circumstantial, passionately divided public opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, incompetent prosecution, and acquittal.

Even more than a century after her acquittal, her case having remained secured in the fold of a divided American imagination, there would be those seriously trying to re-prosecute the case, most notably a group of Stanford Law School faculty, students, and alumni, in a mock trial over which two sitting Supreme Court Justices (William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor) would preside . . . and still concluding Lizzie Borden not guilty.

And for all the notoriety that would keep the case alive in American thought and consciousness into the 21st Century, the murders of Andrew and Abby Boren will yet remain an unsolved crime.

Along the way, however, the Borden case also inspires a radio drama or three, perhaps none as terse and understated as tonight's offering. Billed by now as “the first lady of Suspense,” Agnes Moorehead has almost as classic a vehicle as Lizzie Borden as she's had as Leona Stevenson in the larger-than-life “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Moorehead is Borden as an older woman, inviting a reporter to her home quietly to hear her recap her life, notoriety, and infamous murder trial. We'll spare the spoilers, of course, but this is not at all a bad speculation on how Borden herself actually saw the case and the trial, all things considered. And, of course, Moorehead is her usual riveting self.

Proesecutor: Joseph Kearns. Additional cast: Peggy Webber, Herb Butterfield, Rolfe Sedan, Stuffy Singer, William Wright. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Director: Elliott Lewis. Writer: Gil Doud.

Tune In Today . . .

Comedy

The Great Gildersleeve: The Engagement Defence (NBC, 1945)—Harold Peary, Walter Tetley, Earle Ross, Lillian Randolph, Lurene Tuttle, Bea Benaderet, Richard LeGrand, Shirley Mitchell.

The Old Gold Comedy Theater: Nothing But the Truth (NBC, 1945)—Anne Baxter, Alan Young.

The Great Gildersleeve: Encouraging Romance (NBC, 1948)—Harold Peary, Mary Lee Robb, Walter Tetley, Lillian Randolph, Richard LeGrand, Bea Benaderet, Arthur Q. Bryan, Earle Ross.

Crime Drama

The Whistler: Hit and Run (CBS; AFRS Rebroadcast, 1946)—Bill Forman (as the Whistler), Lurene Tuttle, unidentified cast.

Boston Blackie: Blackie and the Fur Thefts (Blue Network, 1947)—Dick Kollmar, Jan Minor, Maurice Tarplin.

The Whistler: The Silent Partner (CBS, 1948)—Bill Bouchee, David Ellis, unidentified additional cast.

The Whistler: The Little Things (CBS, 1951)—Lawrence Dobkin, Gigi Pearson, Jack Moyles, Ed Max, Tony Odair.