This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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THE BEST D**N WRITERS ON RADIO: GIL DOUD AND WILLIAM TALLMAN
by John C. Abbott ©2012
(From Radio Recall, February 2013)
Trying to determine just who was/were the best
writer(s) on radio is like trying to figure out who
wrote the best dramatic line or the best joke. There
are just too many of them to 'Classify as best.
However, there are two writers who rank among the
best, and who are probably the least known, name
wise: Giles (Gil) Budlong Doud, Jr (1914-1957) and
William Robert Tallman (1914-1995). You may not
recognize the names, but you know, and probably
love, the programs they wrote, individually and as a
Who Were They?
William Robert Tallman was born in Colorado on
December 15, 1914, but the year was doubtful - Tallman
changed it often. Tallman was very self-confidant,
bragging that by age 15, he had a
number of his poems published in regional
magazines. Despite this supposed success in
literature, he became a high school drop-out
Tallman went to New York City where he
eventually became the chief writer and co-editor
(according to himself) along with about a dozen
other writers of the March of Time radio program.
After moving to California, Bill Tallman became
Robert Tanman, and wrote hts first screenplay
which became the 1939 movie "Slightly Honorable"
starring Pat O'Brien and Broderick Crawford.
Ultimately, he wrote only two more screenplays:
"Devil's Cargo" (1948) and "The Price of Fear"
While living on the west coast, writing for radio
would continue to be the bulk of the work at his
typewriter Tallman wrote scripts for "Cavalcade of
America'", "lntrigue" and "This is My Best" and
"Suspense", among others.
Gil Doud, who had the unusual birth name of
Giles Budlong Doud, Jr., was born March 1, 1914
(the same year as Tallman) in Winona, MN where his
father was a wealthy business man. Doud had one
year of college before he began writing for radio,
and one of his first credited series was Calling All
Cars. Doud enlisted in January 1943, and after his
discharge, his radio writing jobs improved. He
worked for Jack Webb as a producer on One Out of
Seven and later took Richard Breen's place as
writer for Pat Novak, For Hire. Then in March 1947
he teamed up with Bob Taltman.
The story of Sam Spade is interesting,
especially Tallman's telling of it. Dashiell Hammett
created the character in his 1930 novel, "The
Maltese Falcon" and later sold the radio rights to
ABC. Producer/director William Spier hired Bob
Tallman and Jo Eisinger to adapt Spade into radio
scripts in ear;y 1946. Although Hammett by'that
time was writing nothing, ABC wanted its listeners
to think he wrote the scripts, so Tallman and
Eisinger toiled in un-credited obscurity for the
summer of 1946.
When the series moved to CBS that
September Tallman and Eisinger (who was now
under contract to Columbia Pictures and had to
write under his pseudonym Jason James) were
credited as the writers. In March of 1947 this writing
duo won an Edgar Award for best radio drama.
Eisinger departed and Gil Doud was his
replacement, thus forming the team that wrote Sam
Spade's adventures together until June 1949
when they both resigned.
During the period Sam Spade period, this
team also wrote all the scripts for Mutual's best
adventure series, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen. All
the principles in the latter radio series were WN II
veterans except for Tallman. Elliott Lewis, Ed Max,
and Gil Doud had all been in the military, as did most
men of their age. Why Tallman never served is still a
The team wrote both Sam Spade and Scarlet
Queen in 1947-48. Interestingly, in 1946 Tallman
had a book of poetry published by Doubleday NY
Times reviewer Marguerite Young termed his work
"a subtle organization of imagery with argument"
and she gushed 'one of the most distinguished
first books of poems, it's dazzling." Even more
interesting is this statement on the dust jacket,
provided by Tallman.
"He now lives in Los Angeles in a small canyon
house with a large swimming pool and is currently
engaged in radio writing as the author of 'The
Adventure 'of Sam Spade' "
Surprisingly in his first published novel, "Adios,
O'Shaughnessy" (1950), Tallman took all the credit
for the development of Spade's radio series:
"He was the creator, and for three years writer, of
the immensely popular radio series, 'The
Adventures of Sam Spade' ..
After the successful run of Voyage of the
Scarlet Queen ended in 1948, all of the participants
remained in their chosen fields. Gil Doud wrote lor
other radio programs (Escape, Yours Truly, Johnny
Dollar, etc.),then gradually branched into TV scripts
(Gunsmoke, Forbidden and Doug/as Fairbanks
Presents) and also screen plays "Walk the Proud
Land", "Thunder Bay" and "Saskatchewan.") In
1955 he personally worked with Audie Murphy
while adapting the latter's book, "To Hell and Back,"
for the screenplay which Universal filmed.
Regrettably, Doud would live but three more
years; lle died of hepatitis on December 17, 1957
at the age of only 43.
Tallman moved from radio to television scripts in
the early 50s; his last radio series was Mr Moto for
NBC in 1951. Thereafter, with the exception of one
screenplay "The Price of Fear," he primarily wrote
for television. His scripts were used on the
following series: Hawaiian Eye, M Squad, Perry
Mason, Climax", "Adventures of Ellery Queen"',
Celebrity Playhouse, Suspense and The Clock among others.
Tallman gradually retired from the entertainment
industry living quietly in his West Hollywood home.
When he died on September 10, 1995, his fame
had apparentty evaporated; not one of the major
dailies on the west coast published his obituary.
The Adventures of Sam Spade
As noted above, The Adventures of Sam
Spade was based, very loosely, on the character
played by Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese
Falcon" According to Dunning, Howard Duff
played the part as "a cutup: a hard-knuckled master
of street-level whimsy and sarcastic comeback" with "a liking for streetcars and cheap booze". Tallman
started with the series in 1946, Doud in 1947.
Between the two of them, they created a well-written
series that is popular today. It also did not
hurt that the sponsor, Wildroot Cream Oil, and the
whimsical theme song ("Use Wildroot Cream Oil,
Charrrrr-ley") added to the lighthearted nature of
the program as Sam phoned in his report to his
The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen
The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen ran from July
1947 thru February 1948. with Doud and Tallmanwriting all of the episodes. Describing the program
as an "adventure scenario" Dunning describes the
nautical nature of the program. The cast was first
rate, with Elliott Lewis in the lead as Captain Phillip
Kamey, and Ed Max as the first mate Red Gallagher
Elliott Lewis was the driving force that put together
the program less than 2 years after World War II. He
gathered a stellar cast and crew a great story line - sailing the Pacific and China Sea in search of
adventure and a hidden Chinese treasure - without
the Asian-oriented prejudices that a less talent·rich
program would have used.
However it took a special set of writers to
provide riveting dialog and a believable story line.
Add to the story the background research needed
to bring the story to life and the result was
unmatched. Such was the level of detail that the
latitude and longitude provlded for the various
ports of call at the opening and closing of each
episode are accur.ate. The Doud/Tallman duo was
just the right team at the right time - a perfect storm
of sorts. They were able to write just the type of
program that would bring a romantic appeal to
listeners with a very recent experience with the
South Pacific wither as a participant with the military
or as a reader of James Michener's book "Tales of
the South Pacific".
The total number of programs written by this
team was only 19 Sam Spade episodes and 35
Scarlet Queen episodes; all were written in 1947
and 1948. While these 54 programs represent only
a small portion of their total output (Goldin lists 164
programs for Doud, and 143 for Tallman), this team
has presented some of the best radio listening
"Bob Tallman, Radio's Man of Mystery" by Jack
"Voyage of the Scarlet Queen" by Jack French
"On the Air" by John Dunning
Internet Movie Database