May 20, 2021
When he appeared on Suspense, James Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997) played against type very effectively. His characters on “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills” were miles away from George Bailey and Jefferson Smith. His turns were closer to his haunted protagonist of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and his episodes are highlights of the program’s long run. As we remember the great leading man today for his birthday, here’s a log of his old time radio thrillers.
“Consequence” - Stewart starred in two productions of this Suspense story (the first on February 21, 1946 and the second on May 19, 1949). He plays a doctor who is mistakenly declared dead, and he seizes the opportunity to escape his marriage and run away with his nurse.
“Mission Completed” - In this one, James Stewart plays a former POW - now paralyzed in a veterans’ hospital - spurred into action when he recognizes his old captor and torturer on the hospital grounds. The ending deflates this one a little bit, but for much of it, it’s a nail-biting engrossing story anchored by Stewart’s amazing performance. (Originally aired on CBS on December 1, 1949)
**Side note - “Mission: Completed” will always have a special place in my heart. I transcribed it for a staged reading of WWII-related radio dramas, and I listened to it over and over to capture every line (and every trademark Stewart stammer!).
“The Rescue” - For his final Suspense visit, Stewart played a man drawn into a life and death drama when he tries to save a young woman from jumping to her death from a hotel window ledge. What appears to be a simple case turns into a more complex conspiracy, and it’s Stewart against several foes as he tries to save the girl’s life.