Chandu the Magician

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Chandu the Magician
Audio CD collection cover
Country of originUnited States
AnnouncerHoward Culver
Written byVera Oldham
Directed byCyril Armbrister
Original release10 March 1932 (1932-03-10) –
6 September 1950 (1950-09-06)

Chandu the Magician is an American supernatural radio drama which originally aired from 1931 to 1936. A revival on a different network took place 12 years later, airing from 1948 to 1950. The series was created by Harry A. Earnshaw (1878–1953) and Raymond R. Morgan.[1] The two series portrayed the adventures of Frank Chandler, also known as Chandu, an American who had learned mystical arts, such as astral projection, which he used to fight criminals and villains, including the evil Baron Roxor.[2] Chandu was Steve Ditko's and Stan Lee's inspiration for the more famous Marvel Comics character Doctor Strange.[3]

Radio version[edit]

The original version[edit]

Launched in 1931 on KHJ in Los Angeles, the series was soon heard through the West Coast when broadcast on the Don Lee Network. It was then heard, starting in February 1932, over WOR in the East. Nationally, it aired over the Mutual Network beginning on October 8, 1932. The series was sponsored by White King Soap in the West and by Beech Nut Gum in the East.[1]

Gayne Whitman played the lead role of American-born Frank Chandler, who had learned occult secrets from a yogi in India. Known as Chandu, he possessed several supernatural skills, including astral projection, teleportation and the ability to create illusions. Chandu's goal was to "go forth with his youth and strength to conquer the evil that threatens mankind".[citation needed] His sister, Dorothy Regent, was portrayed by Margaret MacDonald.[1]

Cyril Armbrister directed the scripts by Vera Oldham which took Chandu to far-flung locales, both real and mythical. Romantic interludes for Chandu were introduced with Egyptian Princess Nadji (Veola Vonn). Music was first furnished by Felix Mills and then Raymond Paige.[1] According to Veola Vonn, the program was broadcast from the KHJ building on Melrose Avenue;[citation needed] the KHJ building is still standing, although the KHJ studios are no longer in use.[citation needed]

In 1932, Walter Winchell noted: "One of the smaller radio chains has a feature called Chandu, which is Hindu-Chinese for an opium preparation. In fewer words – dope".[4]

In 1935, the production moved to WGN Chicago with a new cast, including Howard Hoffman in the title role and Cornelia Osgood as Dorothy. Her children, Bob and Betty, were played by Olan Soule and Audrey McGrath. When this series came to an end in 1936,[1] WGN's productions of Chandu were transcribed in the Chicago facilities of the World Broadcasting System for use on other stations. In April 1935, they were being broadcast on one other station, WJR in Detroit, Mich.[5]


Twelve years later, the series was revived on the Mutual–Don Lee Network on June 28, 1948, as a 15-minute weekday program starring Tom Collins as Chandu and Luis van Rooten as the villainous Roxor, plotting world domination.[1] With Howard Culver as the announcer and music by organist Korla Pandit, that series continued until January 28, 1949.[1] The serial continuity was dropped on February 2, 1949 in favor of 30-minute episodes, each with a self-contained storyline, continuing in that format until April 28, 1949.[1] Culver often read commercials with Pandit's organ music in the background.[citation needed]

On October 15, 1949, Chandu the Magician moved to ABC, where it was heard Saturdays at 7:30 pm until June and then on Wednesdays at 9:30 pm. The last broadcast was September 6, 1950.[1]

Film adaptations[edit]

In 1932, Chandu the Magician was adapted into a film starring Edmund Lowe as the eponymous character, with Bela Lugosi as Roxor and Irene Ware as Nadji.[2] Strangely, in the later serial The Return of Chandu (1934), Lugosi took over the lead role. On February 26, 1934, the "Looking Back" column in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner noted:

"Radio fans who have been enjoying the Chandu the Magician broadcasts, which have been sponsored by the National Grocery and Reliance Coffee, will be happy to know that the program has been made into a talking picture. The broadcast, which is regularly heard over KFQD, can be seen at the Empress Theater for this premier production".[6]

Original series episodes[edit]

Revival episodes[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  2. ^ a b Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. pp. 19–20. ISBN 081601356X.
  3. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 114. ISBN 978-0810938212. Inspired by the Mutual Network radio show Chandu the Magician, which [Stan] Lee had enjoyed during his childhood, Dr. Strange was in fact a more impressive character than Chandu.
  4. ^ Winchell, Walter (1932-03-01). "On Broadway". Rochester Evening Journal and the Post Express. p. 9. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  5. ^ "Chandu Magician Series Is Revived and Recorded" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 1, 1935. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Looking Back", Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, February 26, 1934.

External links[edit]