July 31st, 1930 – Enter The Shadow!

Today-In-History

The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in 1930s pulp novels, and then in a wide variety of media. Details of the title character have varied across various media, but he is generally depicted as a crime-fighting vigilante with psychic powers posing as a “wealthy, young man about town”. One of the most famous adventure heroes of the twentieth century, The Shadow has been featured on the radio, in a long-running pulp magazine series, in comic books, comic strips, television, serials, video games, and at least five motion pictures. The radio drama is well-remembered for those episodes voiced by Orson Welles.

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Introduced as a mysterious radio narrator by David Chrisman, William Sweets, and Harry Engman Charlot for Street and Smith Publications, The Shadow was developed fully and transformed into a pop culture icon by pulp writer Walter B. Gibson. The character would go on to become a major influence on the subsequent evolution of comic book superheroes, in particular, Batman.

TheShadow3The Shadow debuted on July 31st, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. After gaining popularity among the show’s listeners, the narrator became the star of The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931, a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Gibson.

On September 26th, 1937, The Shadow radio drama premiered with the story “The Deathhouse Rescue”, in which The Shadow was characterized as having “the power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him.” As in the magazine stories, The Shadow was not given the literal ability to become invisible.

The introduction from The Shadow radio program “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”, spoken by actor Frank Readick Jr., has earned a place in the American idiom. These words were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a musical theme, Camille Saint-SaënsLe Rouet d’Omphale (“Omphale’s Spinning Wheel”, composed in 1872). At the end of each episode The Shadow reminded listeners that, “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay… The Shadow knows!”


 

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