Day 31 – Mercury Theatre on the Air: Dracula (1938)

For 31 days, we’ve been making our way through a journey of old time radio classics. So, it’s only fitting that on this final day in the 2020 31 Days of Halloween, we present a tale of one of the oldest horror stories that has been adapted countless times over the years on stage and screen…Brahm Stoker’s Dracula.

Orson Welles had emerged on the world of radio in the summer of 1937 with his adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Then, in the fall of that year, he brought the character of Lamont Cranston, otherwise known as The Shadow, to life in a total of 52 episodes. While he was working through his final episodes of that show in the summer of 1938, CBS offered him an opportunity for a 13-week limited series to be called Mercury Theatre on the Air. His Mercury Theatre players would bring to life classic literary works every week with music composed or arranged by the another legend in the making, Bernard Herrmann. 

Of course, everyone knows of the October 30 presentation of War of the Worlds. It was that broadcast that caught the attention of a national sponsor, the Campbell Soup Company. The final episode of Mercury Theatre on the Air would be broadcast on December 4 and the first episode of The Campbell Playhouse aired just five days later. Welles remained with the show for the first two seasons, during which the two most memorable adaptations of A Christmas Carol were brought to life.

On July 11, 1938, the very first episode of Mercury Theatre on the Air brought the story of Dracula to life, a tale that was perhaps more fitting for the Halloween season than a mid-summer night. However, the presentation is, in my opinion, the best Dracula adaptation from the golden age of radio. Orson Welles stars as Dr. John Seward and Dracula while sharp ears might recognize the voice of Agnes Moorehead as Mina Harker.

Don’t forget to check out the playlist on my YouTube channel. You can now go to one location for all of the radio shows that have been part of this year’s 31 Days of Halloween!

Now, turn out the lights and let the theatre of the mind take you back across the decades as you listen to a program I first discovered in 1980. I’ve listened to it almost every year since and it never fails to entertain. Happy Halloween!!

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