Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 198 – Philomel Cottage

Geraldine Fitzgerald A look at how suspense is built dramatically as described by Mitchell Wilson, novelist and critic, in 1947. This podcast will use Agatha Christie’s short story, “Philomel Cottage,” and compare it to Hitchcock’s Suspicion and Rebecca in how the initially weak protagonist reaches a level of fear in which the reader/listener empathizes before either becoming strong by the experience and completing the cycle. This version is from Suspense and stars Geraldine Fitzgerald (right) from 1943.

Music under is the incomparable Diane Reeves singing “In My Solitude.”

8 Responses to Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 198 – Philomel Cottage

  1. Cameron says:

    I like your explaining Mitchell Wilson’s explanation of how suspense is built and using Hitchcock’s films Rebecca and Suspicion as great examples. I think using the Christie story Philiomel Cottage to link them and suspense is very appropriate. It’s interesting to note that there was a 1930’s film version of this story under the title Love From a Stranger with Basil Rathbone as the Gerald Martin character that you might want to check out sometime. I have a suggestion for a new podcast for Radio Detective Story Hour. In one of your earlier episodes on John Dickson Carr you presented an episode called Five Canaries in the Room starring Lee Bowman, Ona Munson, and Osa Massen. This radio play was based on the short story the Crime in Nobody’s Room which was orignally a Colonel March mystery but for the Suspense version a character named Inspector Braddock solve the mystery. Another one of the Colonel March stories was presented on a unfamiliar radio series called Murder Clinic which featured mystery stories by Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Edgar Wallace, and John Dickson Carr to name a few. The episode by Carr was called Death in the Dressing Room which tells of a new and unusual form of blackmail done by two clever crooks at a London nightclub and how a woman is stabbed to death in her dressing room. Like the Suspense version this one does not feature Col. March but instead his second famous detective named Sir Henry Merrivale aka H.M. to his friends. If this idea intrigues you I hope you are able to use it with pleasure.

  2. Gail says:

    Tthis was one of the best story I have heard on suspense. .I know you have spoken of the “locked room “mysteries and recently I have been listening to the BBC Father Brown series and he often refers to his situation as a locked room problem.Do you like the Father Brown series?

  3. jwidner says:

    Thanks Gail. I am a big fan of most BBC related detective radio plays including the Father Brown. I also like their Maigret series as well as the television version. The TV Maigret is one of the best.

  4. Cameron says:

    Hi Jim
    I have a very interesting idea for a new podcast on Radio Detective Story Hour. I thought it would be neat to do one on a mystery subgenre that while most of us don’t hear much of and it is known as the “inverted detective story”. This subgenre apparently was invented by a forgotten author of mystery stories R. Austin Freeman whose detective is Dr. John Thorndyke. In his stories his detective uses scientific and medical methods to solve a crime. The basic idea of a inverted detective story is the complete opposite of the whodunit mysteries of Agatha Christie where from the start the reader sees the criminal in committing the crime, his methods, and his motivation for the deed and then we see how the detective will catch the murderer and trap him. There are two other mystery writers who were known for writing inverted detective stories: Dorothy L. Sayers and Roy Vickers. Vickers is the author of the podcast idea I have in mind. Vickers was born in England in 1889. He was best known for writing detective stories that center around a fictional department at Scotland Yard known as the Department of Dead Ends which was usually headed by Detective-Inspector Rason. Unlike Colonel March’s Department of Queer Complaints by Carter Dickson this department deals with cold cases and various objects that are collected by this department that seem to have no connection to a particular murder case but through chance, time, coincidence or by a mistaken conclusion the object in question then turns into the ultimate solution. His stories are almost like personality studies where he delves into the life history ordinary people through British society and the circumstances that either pushes people into crime or fall into committing murder. In a way it is similar to today’s TV crime dramas like Cold Case, CSI, and Law and Order just to name a few. His first short story for the series was published in 1935 and called The Rubber Trumpet. The story tells of a certain George Muncey who after a life of living and working in a chemist shop and being raised by a kind but domineering mother who died he starts to live a double life when he becomes obsessed of watching a popular musical play of the time known as the Merry Widow. It is through this that he meets the two women that will lead to his tragic end. This short story was adapted for the radio series Suspense in 1944 under the title The Merry Widower. Instead of a rubber trumpet the radio play had a music box that played the Merry Widow Waltz as the object in question. The ending in the Suspense play is different from the short story. It stars the British character actor Reginald Gardiner as George Muncey and he appeared in the Charlie Chaplin film the Great Dictator, the Horn Blows at Midnight, and the Man Who Came to Dinner just to name a few. Gardiner played pompous stuffed-shirt Englishmen in films and on TV like the Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I sincerely hope you use this idea as a new podcast.

  5. Gail says:

    There is a sight called libsynpro. It has links to radio detective story hour. The programs also have rdsh links to them ,but none of them have your intro to the programs…Is this you?

  6. jwidner says:

    This is NOT my site. I used to provide podcasts to the Radio Memories Network, but haven’t for over two years. They continued to use the name of my program as theirs since I don’t have any kind of copyright on the title (though I think it is poor practice on their part). As best as I can tell they have removed my name now at my request. My podcasts will always have a commentary at the beginning and are on itunes as Radio Detective Story Hour with my name on it.

  7. Greg M says:

    Hello Jim,

    I’ve been with you since day one and now just can’t help myself regarding the name of your wonderful theme song. Any info would be greatly appreciated; title, artist, etc.

    Hear you soon,

  8. jwidner says:

    The solo sax piece is a part of a larger musical piece (the rest is orchestration) by Bernard Herrmann from the film Taxi starring Robert DiNero.

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