Jan 21, 2021
Old time radio fans may know J. Carrol Naish (January 21, 1896 – January 24, 1973) best as Luigi Basco, newly immigrated to America from his native Italy in the delightful sitcom Life with Luigi. But as good as he was getting laughs from the audiences in the studio and at home, Naish was equally adept in dramatic roles on the air and on screen.
Though he was of Irish ancestry, Naish played almost every ethnicity except his own. His versatility with accents earned him the title “Hollywood’s one-man U.N.” Naish was nominated for two Academy Awards for performances in Sahara and A Medal for Benny.
Naish found radio stardom in 1948 when he went on the air as Luigi, and he played the role on radio until 1953 along with a brief television stint in 1952. (The TV program, which co-starred other actors from the radio cast, was short-lived after it was met with resistance from the Italian-American community.)
Elsewhere on radio, Naish appeared on the Lux Radio Theatre and he made four appearances on Suspense, shows that afforded him the chance to show off his knack for accents and dialects.
In “The Most Dangerous Game” (2/1/1945), Naish played the deranged General Zaroff, a hunter who tracks human prey. Joseph Cotten co-starred in this great adaptation of Richard Connell’s classic short story, but it's Naish who has the meatier part. Zaroff is insane in the tradition of the genre's best villains. When he taunts Cotten in the jungle, Naish conveys Zaroff's genuine excitement at finally finding an adversary worthy of the great hunter's talents.
“Footfalls” (7/12/45) finds Naish playing a blind cobbler trying to keep his reckless son on the straight and narrow. When his son is killed, the cobbler relies on his heightened sense of hearing to find the murderer.
Naish was back in villainous territory in “Commuter’s Ticket” (8/1/46). He played a murderer who hoped to create an airtight alibi for his crime on the crowded train he took to work every day.
In Naish's final Suspense show,“The Treasure Chest of Don Jose” (2/4/52), he was a treasure hunter out to capture a fortune left behind by his ancestor.