Theatre Guild on the Air – The Silver Whistle

The Silver Whistle, a Robert E. McEnroe play adapted for radio by Robert Anderson, was presented on the Theatre Guild on the Air on April 6, 1952. The program was sponsored by the United States Steel Corporation, directed by Homer Fickett and produced by George Kondolf. Norman Brokenshire was the announcer and the original music was composed and conducted by Harold Levy. Elliott Reid is the show’s host.

Jimmy Stewart starred as Oliver Erwenter, the role originally played by Jose Ferrer on Broadway. Diana Lynn has the role as Miss Harriett Tripp. Three of the original Broadway actors reprised their roles for the radio production – Kethleen Comegys as Mrs. Sampler, Frances Brandt as Miss Hoadley and Doro Merande as Mrs. Hammer. The other cast members included Parker Fennelly as Mr. Beebe, Cameron Andrews, Richard Bishop, Donald Bain, Nathaniel Frey and Eric Sinclair.

Here are two newspaper previews for the show. The first, from The La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, WI, features a photo of Stewart.

The La Crosse (WI) Tribune 4-6-52The preview from The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY, had more information about the broadcast, including the cast members.

The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY 4-6-52

Between this appearance on Theatre Guild on the Air and his next in March of 1953, the following full page ad for the program appeared in Billboard magazine (September 13, 1952):

BB 9-13-52

The only available version of this show is from an Armed Forces Radio Service broadcast. All sponsored commercials are removed from these broadcasts. The credits have also been cut. If you’re not familiar with the play, you’ll find it very entertaining. Stewart’s character, who is 40 years old, pretends to be a man of 77. He stays at an old folk’s home, mainly for the food, but winds up making all the other residents feel much younger than they really are.

Act 1:

Act 2:

Act 3:

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, CT. Housed there is the Theatre Guild Archive, which includes many of the original scripts for the radio series, including The Silver Whistle. So, we now can add some additional information to this blog.

First, we now know the roles played by each of the actors in the play:


An early draft of the play shows that it opened with a speech from Miss Tripp:


However, the broadcast version began with a carnival scene between Oliver and Emmet:


At the end of the broadcast, Norman Brokenshire also adds the following credits:


(Update: November 23, 2017)

We recently have found a signed contract for Mr. Stewart’s appearance on this broadcast. There are a few things of which to take note. First, Stewart received $2500 for his services and also first co-star credit. You’ll see in the above newspaper clippings, his name is mentioned first. Also in the opening credits of the show, he is the first actor mentioned.

Notice that the show was to be broadcast from Youngstown, OH, rather than New York City. That fact may account for the rider which was initialed by Stewart.