The Adventures of Ellery Queen (radio program)

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The Adventures of Ellery Queen
Santos Ortega Hugh Marlowe Marian Shockley Ellery Queen on radio 1939.JPG
From left: Santos Ortega as Richard Queen, Hugh Marlowe as Ellery Queen and Marian Shockley as Nikki Porter in 1939.
Running time1 hour for first 7 months
30 minutes thereafter
Country of originUnited States
StarringHugh Marlowe
Carleton Young
Sydney Smith
Lawrence Dobkin
Howard Culver
AnnouncerKen Roberts
Bert Parks
Ernest Chappell
Don Hancock
Paul Masterson
Created byFrederic Dannay and Manfred Lee
Written byFrederic Dannay
Manfred Lee
Anthony Boucher
Directed byGeorge Zachary
Tom Victor
Dick Woolen
Dwight Hauser
Produced byGeorge Zachary
Original releaseJune 18, 1939 – May 27, 1948
Sponsored byGulf Oil
Bromo Seltzer

The Adventures of Ellery Queen was a radio detective program in the United States. Several iterations of the program appeared on different networks, with the first one broadcast on CBS June 18, 1939, and the last on ABC May 27, 1948.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen grew out of the combined efforts of producer-director George Zachary and writers Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. Dannay and Lee, who were cousins, originated the Ellery Queen character. Initially they wrote the program's scripts, and Zachary handled production. Beginning in 1945, Anthony Boucher replaced Dannay and worked with Lee writing scripts.[1]

During the program's first season, Radio Guide magazine called it "a CBS drama that will keep you on the edge of your chair." It added "You will find Ellery Queen both brave and brilliant and you will find yourself participating joyously in the ageless thrill of the manhunt."[2]


The Adventures of Ellery Queen invited a panel of armchair detectives to try to solve each case during its broadcast. Adapting a technique that had been used earlier in the Author! Author! radio program, when an episode's script reached a point at which all of the clues had been revealed, the scripted portion stopped, and the panel was challenged to identify the culprit.[3]

Even with changes in networks, sponsors and stars, the basic format of the program remained constant throughout its time on the air. As listed on The Digital Deli Too website, the elements of each episode were as follows:

  • The announcer would introduce the program and/or sponsor messages
  • The guest 'armchair detectives' would be introduced and the title of the night's mystery would be given.
  • The dramatized mystery would be presented to its conclusion.
  • The armchair detective(s) would make their case for the mystery's solution.
  • Ellery Queen would announce the actual resolution.
  • The announcer and Ellery Queen would provide the closing sponsor message, tease and announce the title of the next week's mystery, and close with the credits.[4]

Listeners were encouraged to follow the clues, drawing their own conclusions, and match wits with the panel and the detective himself. Jim Harmon described the situation in his book, "The Great Radio Heroes": "Ellery Queen's show was the detective program that gave you, the listener, a chance to join in on the fun and games. You were given all the clues, and you could solve the mystery – if you happened to be a deductive genius on the level of Ellery Queen." [5]

The guest panelists were usually wrong in their solutions; in the program's first four months, only one panelist was correct.[1] Yet such appearances were quite popular with celebrities. Trade magazine Billboard reported in a 1942 article, "In some cases an agent's entire list of performers eventually ask to get on 'prestige' shows like Information Please as guest experts, on Ellery Queen as guest armchair detectives".[6] The number of panelists over the show's life has been estimated at more than 750.[4]

Characters and cast[edit]

Although the main characters in The Adventures of Ellery Queen remained consistent throughout its various incarnations on radio, the actors changed over the program's life. The primary characters and those who played each role were as follows:

  • Ellery Queen – The title character "was a private detective without official police affiliation who was often called into cases by his father, a police inspector."[7] Dunning commented, "Queen was portrayed throughout as a modern-day Sherlock with a fine eye for clues." [1] He was played by Hugh Marlowe (1939–1940), Carleton Young (1942–43), Sydney Smith (1943–44, 1945–47), Lawrence Dobkin (1947–48) and Howard Culver (1948).[1] The program's producers made a conscious effort to create a certain mystique about the character of Ellery Queen by not identifying the actors who portrayed him. An article on The Digital Deli Too website reported: "Hugh Marlowe ... remained cleverly unidentified as the voice of Ellery Queen. That gambit continued for the remainder of the various runs of the canon irrespective of the network or sponsor." [4]
  • Richard Queen – Ellery's father was a police inspector,[7] played by Santos Ortega (1939–1947), Bill Smith (1947) and Herb Butterfield (1947–1948).[1]
  • Nikki Porter – A character who had not appeared in the Ellery Queen written material, Porter was added to the program "[i]n order to provide the mandatory 'love interest' that was supposed to attract the female audience." [3] Described as "his comely, copper-haired secretary,"[8] she was played by Marion Shockley (1939–1944), Barbara Terrell (1945), Gertrude Warner (1945–46), Charlotte Keane (1946–47), Virginia Gregg (1947) and Kaye Brinker (1948).[1] Two of the actresses wed key men in the production of the program. Shockley and producer-director George Zachary were married in 1939,[3] and Brinker married Queen's co-creator Manfred Lee in 1942.[9]
  • Sergeant Velie – Inspector Queen's assistant, described by one researcher as "doughty",[3] apparently did not have a first name in the radio program. He was played by Howard Smith (1939), Ted de Corsia (1939–47), Ed Latimer (1947) and Alan Reed (1947).[1]

Announcers were Ken Roberts (1939–40), Bert Parks (1940), Ernest Chappell (1942–44), Don Hancock (1947), Paul Masterson (1947),[1] and Roger Krupp[10] The musical directors were Lyn Murray[11] and Charles Paul.[12]

Broadcast history[edit]

Starting Date Ending Date Network Sponsor/Notes
June 18, 1939 September 22, 1940 CBS initially sustaining;[nb 1] then Gulf Oil
January 10, 1942 December 30, 1944 NBC Bromo-Seltzer
January 24, 1945 April 16, 1947 CBS Anacin
June 1, 1947 September 21, 1947 NBC Anacin (summer replacement for The Bob Burns Show[13])
November 27, 1947 May 27, 1948 ABC sustaining


In 1946, The Adventures of Ellery Queen and Mr. and Mrs. North received the first Best Radio Drama Edgar Award awards from the Mystery Writers of America.[14]

See also[edit]

  • Ellery Queen for information about the Ellery Queen character
  • Ellery Queen (TV series) for information about the 1975-76 NBC/Universal television series featuring the Ellery Queen character.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P. 182.
  2. ^ "The Good Luck Club Presents "The Adventures of Ellery Queen" -- and We Make a Correction" (PDF). Radio Guide. 9 (17): 2. February 9, 1940. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Nevins, Francis M. "The Radio Adventures of Ellery Queen: The First Season". Old Time Radio Researchers Group. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "The Adventures of Ellery Queen Radio Program". The Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  5. ^ Harmon, Jim. (2001). The Great Radio Heroes. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-0850-4. P. 118.
  6. ^ "10 Percent of 0 Is 0: Agents Driven Nuts by Hordes of Name Performers Asking Guest Appearances on 'Prestige' Airings". Billboard. December 19, 1942. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b Reinehr, Robert C. and Swartz, Jon D. (2008). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7616-3. P. 14.
  8. ^ "Ellery Queen Begins New Sunday Hour". Harrisburg Telegraph. April 27, 1940. p. 18. Retrieved March 14, 2015 – via open access
  9. ^ Shreve, Ivan G. Jr. "…the logical successor to Sherlock Holmes…". Best (and Worst) of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  10. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1981), Radio's Golden Years: The Encyclopedia of Radio Programs 1930-1960. A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-498-02393-1. Pp. 5-6.
  11. ^ "Maestro Reveals Tricks of Cueing Music to Mystery". Harrisburg Telegraph. March 2, 1940. p. 19. Retrieved September 25, 2015 – via open access
  12. ^ Lesser, Jerry (January 31, 1942). "Radio Talent: New York" (PDF). Billboard. p. 7. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Ellery Queen". Variety. June 4, 1947. p. 29. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  14. ^ "(photo caption)" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 15, 1946. p. 91. Retrieved 24 December 2015.


  1. ^ "Sustaining" means the program had no sponsor.

External links[edit]


Streaming audio[edit]


Short stories based on radio program[edit]