1951 - 1952
Whitehall 1212, with the Thames river behind it, stands in the shadow of Big Ben.
It seems the early 1950s radio couldn't get enough of Scotland Yard yarns. Harry Alan Towers produced two series for Towers of London syndication (The Secrets of Scotland Yard and The Black Museum). Both of those series played up the blood and gore of the crime more than they did the actual investigative footwork used to solve it. Whitehall 1212 gave a more clinical presentation of the facts. It also enjoyed an air of greater authenticity. As an echoed voice in later introductions declared, "These are the true stories, the unvarnished facts, just as they occurred, reenacted for you by an all-British cast. Only the names of the participants have for obvious reasons been changed. The stories are presented with the full cooperation of Scotland Yard".
Whitehall 1212 made a point to feature the actual superintendent of the museum (Chief Superintendent John Davidson) as the host who would point out a museum relic and begin retelling the case. He may not have sounded as dramatic as Orson Welles or Clive Brook, but he didn't have to pretend to know what he was talking about. He was, after all, a veteran of the force. Likewise, the researcher for the series was Percy Hoskins, the chief crime reporter for London Daily Telegraph. Hoskins was the newspaperman who had initially reported on some of the same crimes being dramatized. The rest of the talent was British as well, making everything sound as real as possible. Only the unknown folks who worked behind the scenes were not Brits (as this was an NBC production). The one exception was the American writer who was always mentioned in the opening sequence, Mr. Wyllis Cooper. He was well known to radio regulars as the genius behind Quiet Please. Fans in search of Cooper's trademark flare for fantasy and horror will not find much of it displayed in this series, however. Like Joe Friday in Dragnet, Cooper tried to "stick to the facts". There were still blood and guts, but it was the cold variety, only eluded to as the detectives stepped over the bodies in search of clues. (The actual crime was not reenacted.) So, although all three series were similar, sometimes even profiling the same cases, they were still different. Whitehall 1212 was decidedly oriented toward mystery rather than horror. It is better suited for those who enjoy a more intellectual approach to crime. If you're one who prefers to sip on a glass of wine-- rather than guzzle a can of beer-- while investigators gradually tighten the noose around the killer's neck, then this series is for you.
The Standard Intro:
Alarmed Woman: "Whitehall 1212!"
(SFX: Line rings. and someone picks up.)
Filtered male voice: "This is Scotland Yard."
Announcer: "For the first time, Scotland Yard opens its secret files to bring you the authentic true stories of some of its most celebrated cases. These are accurate records drawn from these files by special permission of Sir Harold Scott, commissioner of Scotland Yard. They're true in every respect, except for the names of the participants, which for obvious reasons, have been changed. The research has been done by Mr. Percy Hoskins, chief crime reporter for the London Daily Express. And the stories for radio were written and directed by Wyllis Cooper."
(SFX: Regal English Music plays.)
An Opening Narration:
British announcer: "New Scotland Yard, the London Headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, is perched on the Thames embankment on Whitehall park by 10 Downing Street, and almost in the shadow of Big Ben. Here, also, is the headquarters of the C.I.D., the Criminal Investigation Department. The body of men whose exploits for more than a hundred years, have made the name Scotland Yard synonymous with the brilliant detection of crime, and unrelenting pursuit of the criminal. And the presentation of the painstakingly acquired evidence that assures his eventual punishment. On the lower ground floor of New Scotland Yard is the famous Black Museum, where the present custodian is chief superintendent, James Davidson, a Scotland Yard veteran, behind this door."
(SFX: Door opens.)
Davidson: "Good afternoon. This Black Museum of ours is rather unique. Everything in it was at one time connected with the successful solution of a crime, or was closely involved with the crime itself. We possess an imposing collection of lethal weapons here, each carefully docketed to indicate its origin. Here are half empty bottles of almost every poison known to man, together with a statement of the particulars concerning its use. Here are the blood stained garments on which the solution of a crime of violence depended. Among the Black Museum's relics are disguises used by famous criminals. Death masks of notorious men and women whose ends Scotland Yard encompassed. And a great many other more gruesome mementoes of man's inhumanity to man. Among the exhibits are other, seemingly incongruous objects, that in their time served well in the undoing of desperate criminals. Such an exhibit is this one. The fragments of a set of tea cups. This collection of shards was the first step in the solution of a frightful crime which occurred during the blitz of July 1940..."
A Typical Closing:
Host: " ____ had determined to murder the servant, to eliminate the only witness to the murder of the others. In a trial marked with frequent air raid alarms, caused by an enemy whose depravations could not prevent murder from going on as usual, ____ was found criminally insane and is now imprisoned in the asylum, Broadmore. Johnings was tried as an accomplice, but acquitted. He joined the First Battalion of (inaudible) and was reported missing in action in the Italian Campaign."
(SFX: He rings buzzer. Door opens.)
Host: "Constable. you may return file 302MR 651, the Blitz Murder Case, to the records room. Good afternoon."
(SFX: Regal music plays.)
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"The Blitz Murder Case" - A woman and her servant is brutally murdered, and the principal suspects seem to have a solid alibi.
"The Case of the Fatal Bath" - A new bride drowns in her bathtub. Suspicions are raised when it is discovered that the widower had a similar incident occur to his first wife.
"Case of the Weed Eradication" - A case of arsenic poisoning is examined, along with the prime suspect and not-so-likely ones.
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