Oct 8, 2017
William N. Robson, radio's "master of mystery and adventure" was born October 8, 1906. Robson was one of the most talented "behind the scenes" figures of the Golden Age of Radio, serving as producer, director, and occasional writer of programs across nearly every genre and throughout the entire era. Robson won six Peabody awards for excellence in broadcasting.
One of his first assignments in radio came on the series Calling All Cars, a presentation of true police cases dramatized for the airwaves. The success on that show led to a stint on The Columbia Workshop, one of the most celebrated and innovative dramatic programs of the day. (Years later, Robson would have a hand in the revival of the series in the final days of the radio era - The CBS Radio Workshop). Robson directed big screen stars Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor in the early seasons of Big Town and he won his first Peabody for The Man Behind the Gun, a powerful series presenting stories of soldiers on the front lines in World War II.
In 1947, Robson was the first producer and director of Escape, CBS' dramatic anthology "designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure." The series presented adaptations of classic stories like "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" along with original tales of adventure. Like other talented men and women of the era, his career was unfairly maligned and derailed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, but he was able to return to regular work in radio by the mid 1950s.
From 1956 until 1959 - and during its final years as a west coast/Hollywood series, Robson was the producer and director of Suspense. During his tenure, Robson served as master of ceremonies in appearances at the top of the show. Robson would set the stage for the drama to follow, occasionally teasing elements of the story or introducing new performers to listeners. Much like Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock on his TV series, Robson's on-air appearances helped to establish a tone that prepared audiences for whatever spine-tingling stories would play out over the next thirty minutes.