Calling All Cars (radio program)

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Calling All Cars
GenrePolice drama
Running time30 minutes
Country of originUnited States
SyndicatesCBS West Coast
Mutual-Don Lee
Hosted byChief James E. Davis, Los Angeles Police Department
Written byWilliam N. Robson
Mel Williamson
Sam Pierce
Directed byRobert Hixon
Produced byWilliam N. Robson
Original releaseNovember 29, 1933 –
September 8, 1939

Calling All Cars is an old-time radio police drama in the United States. It was broadcast on the CBS West Coast network[1] and on the Mutual-Don Lee Network[2] November 29, 1933 - September 8, 1939 and carried by transcription on stations in other areas. The program was notable for being one of the first police dramas on radio.[3]


Calling All Cars dramatized cases that had been handled by the Los Angeles Police Department. A typical episode began by relating the facts of a particular crime, then introducing individuals who were associated with the case. A dramatization followed, climaxing in the arrest of the criminal. The outcome of a trial wrapped up the story.[4] In On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, radio historian John Dunning described the program as "a crude forerunner of a type that reached its zenith years later on Dragnet: the tedious routine of tracking killers and robbers, often with a postshow recap telling how justice was meted out."[1]


Chief James E. Davis of the Los Angeles Police Department was the host of Calling All Cars,[3] and Charles Frederick Lindsey, professor of speech education at Occidental College, was the narrator.[5] Other on-air people were generally uncredited. William N. Robson wrote and produced the program,[3] with Mel Williamson and Sam Pierce also writing for it.[2] Robert Hixon was the director.[3]



Calling All Cars was sponsored by Rio Grande Oil Co., which had dealers in California, Arizona, and Nevada,[6] with commercials promoting its petroleum products and other products and services for vehicles.[3] The company augmented the radio broadcasts with the monthly publication Calling All Cars News, which was available free from service stations that sold Rio Grande products. Issues often contained stories that were related to upcoming episodes of the program.[3] By November 1936, the publication's circulation had reached 400,000.[6] Rio Grande also created an organization for young listeners. After filling out a form obtained from a dealer and sending it in, a youngster received a metal badge with "Junior Police Safety Department" on the front.[5]


As time went on, other sponsors used transcriptions of Calling All Cars, spreading it beyond its original western and southwestern coverage. In January 1939, Axton-Fisher Tobacco Co. began sponsoring the program on stations in Detroit, Michigan, and St. Louis, Missouri, advertising Twenty Grand cigarettes.[7] In March 1939, Gruen Watch Co. began sponsoring it on a station in Syracuse, New York.[8] In May 1939, Liebmann Breweries began sponsoring it on eight stations in the eastern United States, advertising Rheingold Beer.[9] In February 1940, Ford dealers in the midwestern United States began sponsoring the series on eight midwestern stations; the dealers had already been sponsoring it on a station in Des Moines, Iowa.[10]


On December 21, 1938, Calling All Cars received the Institute of Audible Arts Trophy for "the most consistently excellent program broadcast in western United States during 1938".[11]


  1. ^ a b Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 131–132. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  2. ^ a b "Agencies and Representatives" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 1, 1937. p. 62. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters: Over 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-7864-4324-6.
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 59.
  5. ^ a b Robson, William N. (November 1, 1934). "Using the Police as a Radio Sales Force" (PDF). Broadcasting. p. 11. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Merchandising & Promotion" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 15, 1936. p. 78. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  7. ^ "New Production Firm" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 15, 1939. p. 73. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Gruen Watch Spots" (PDF). Broadcasting. March 1, 1939. p. 81. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Liebmann Using 8" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 15, 1939. p. 68. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Ford Dealer Discs" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 15, 1940. p. 44. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Program Award" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 1, 1939. p. 26. Retrieved 4 February 2017.

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