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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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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 team.

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" (1956).

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 Team

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 mystery.

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 secretary Effie.

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 available.

"Bob Tallman, Radio's Man of Mystery" by Jack
French (2010)
"Voyage of the Scarlet Queen" by Jack French
"On the Air" by John Dunning
Internet Movie Database