William Johnstone (actor)

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William Johnstone in the trailer to the 1953 film Down Three Dark Streets.

William S. Johnstone, also known as Bill Johnstone (1908- –1996) was an American radio and screen actor. He is best known for his voice work as the title character on The Shadow[1] for five seasons from 1938–1943.

Early years[edit]

William S. Johnstone was born in born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, to a Scottish-born father and a German-born mother.[2][3] Some newspaper publicity said he was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and came to the United States at age three.[4] He worked as a newspaper reporter before he became an actor.[5]


Johnstone acted on stage with the Theatre Guild at the beginning of his career, appearing in a number of bit parts.[6][7] He had supporting roles in 1927 in Fog-Bound[8] and The Manhatters.[9]. In 1928, he had a lead role in two productions, first as the title role in Him, by E.E. Cummings.[10] Cummings later commented, "William Johnstone made a marvelously attractive unhero ..."[10][7] He also appeared that year in a lead role in Kate Clugston's These Days.[9]:284

In 1938, he was selected over 45 other actors to replace Orson Welles as The Shadow on radio.[11] He also starred as Ben Guthrie in the radio version of The Lineup,[12]:201-202 and became one of the most prolific radio actors of his time, with many supporting roles. He had a memorable role in the ".22 Rifle for Christmas" episode of Dragnet on radio, and reprised it on the television series. In film, he portrayed John Jacob Astor IV in Titanic, and had a supporting role in Down Three Dark Streets. He played Judge James T. Lowell in As The World Turns on television in a long run from 1956-1979.[13][14][unreliable source?][15][16][17][18][19]

Johnstone's other roles in radio included those shown in the table below.

Program Character
The Casebook of Gregory Hood Sandor "Sandy" Taylor[12]:66
Five Star Jones Editor[12]:119
Inspector Mark Sabre Mark Sabre[12]:163-164
Maudie's Diary Maudie's father[12]:221
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch Bob Redding[12]:236
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe Inspector Cramer[12]:254-255
Pepper Young's Family Sam Young[12]:268
Six-Gun Justice Jim Dance[20]
Valiant Lady Jim Barrett[12]:346
The Whistler The Whistler[21]:273
Wilderness Road Simon Weston[12]:356
The Woman from Nowhere Eric Wolfe[22]

He also had supporting roles in Pursuit,[21]:206 Nick Carter, Master Detective,[21] Calamity Jane[12] and Woman from Nowhere.[12]:358

Personal life[edit]

Johnstone was married to Georgia Brady Johnstone, a former dancer who became friend and secretary to his The Shadow co-star Agnes Moorehead.[3]


Year Title Role Notes
1948 All My Sons Attorney Uncredited
1948 The Decision of Christopher Blake President's Aide in Dream Uncredited
1948 Enchantment Narrator Voice
1950 Military Academy with That Tenth Avenue Gang Col. Jamison
1950 The Magnificent Yankee Lawyer Uncredited
1951 Half Angel Minister Uncredited
1951 My Favorite Spy Prentice Uncredited
1953 Titanic John Jacob Astor
1953 Beneath the 12-Mile Reef Crewman of 'Snapper' Uncredited
1954 Riding Shotgun Col. Flynn
1954 Down Three Dark Streets FBI Chief Frank Pace


  1. ^ "Shadow: Bill Johnstone Returns In Lead Character". The Pittsburgh Press. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. September 27, 1942. p. 57. Retrieved August 22, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  2. ^ "United States Census 1930", United States Census, 1930; New York, New York; page 10B, line 89, enumeration district 0001-0250.
  3. ^ a b Nissen, Axel (2017-10-13). Agnes Moorehead on Radio, Stage and Television. McFarland. pp. 8–10. ISBN 9781476630359.
  4. ^ Biggs, Beatrice (August 28, 1939). "Radio News". The Daily Clintonian. Indiana, Clinton. p. 2. Retrieved August 23, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ "Dial Lines". The Des Moines Register. Iowa, Des Moines. April 30, 1936. p. 11. Retrieved August 22, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  6. ^ "Mutual Folks Turn Talents to the Stage". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. February 19, 1939. p. 47. Retrieved August 23, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ a b Norman, Charles (1958). The magic-maker, E.E. Cummings. Macmillan. pp. 233–234.
  8. ^ "William Johnstone". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 23 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  9. ^ a b Hischak, Thomas S. (2012). Broadway Plays and Musicals: Descriptions and Essential Facts of More Than 14,000 Shows through 2007. McFarland. p. 284. ISBN 9780786453092. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher (2004). E.E. Cummings: A Biography. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 318. ISBN 9781570717758. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  11. ^ "(photo caption)". Wisconsin State Journal. Wisconsin, Madison. October 17, 1938. p. 22. Retrieved August 23, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  13. ^ Tranberg, Charles (2007-08-31). I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead. BearManor Media. p. 59. ISBN 9781593930950.
  14. ^ "Radio Spirits » Blog Archive » Happy Birthday, William Johnstone!". www.radiospirits.info. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  15. ^ Reinehr, Robert C.; Swartz, Jon D. (2010). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 141. ISBN 9780810876163.
  16. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016-09-16). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 383. ISBN 9781476625997.
  17. ^ Kear, Lynn; Rossman, John (2008-02-13). The Complete Kay Francis Career Record: All Film, Stage, Radio and Television Appearances. McFarland. p. 247. ISBN 9780786431984.
  18. ^ Shimeld, Thomas J. (2011-08-25). Walter B. Gibson and The Shadow. McFarland. pp. 77–78. ISBN 9780786490059.
  19. ^ Cox, Jim (2006). The Daytime Serials of Television, 1946-1960. McFarland. p. 170. ISBN 9780786424290.
  20. ^ Byrd, Boarman (June 3, 1935). "Between Broadcasts". The Miami News. Florida, Miami. p. 6. Retrieved August 22, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  21. ^ a b c Cox, Jim (2002). Radio Crime Fighters: Over 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-0-7864-4324-6.
  22. ^ "Irene Rich Stars in New Dramatic Series". Harrisburg Telegraph. Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. January 15, 1944. p. 13. Retrieved August 23, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access