"Quiet Please"...An Appreciation (Part II)

By Ron Barnett

"...Quiet Please...(pause) ..."Quiet Please...(pause) ...(rising strains of theme song)

...Beginning of All Quiet Please Broadcasts....

Certainly within the wide range of programs in the series, OTR fans will have their personal favorites. One which stands out in my memory is the program entitled "Northern Lights." I was driving to Tennessee on a vacation and I had just transcribed 80 Quiet Please shows onto cassettes so that I could listen to some of them while on my trip. I was driving through the mountains when the show began as usual with the narration of Ernest Chappell...

"...Teleportation...stay right there and listen and I'll tell you everything you want to know...and maybe a couple of things you're not too terribly anxious to know..."

The story opens with two scientists who are attempting to transport an object (a lighter) through time from one side of the room to the other. The experiment is successful except the lighter is almost frozen..it is so cold the scientists cannot handle it easily. But wait! in the original site from which the lighter was transported is a...brown and black caterpillar!! It was as cold as ice, but wiggling! As the caterpillar warmed up, it became sluggish, so hopping to revive it, the scientists put it into the freezer. In 10 minutes, the caterpillar was wriggling happily at 10 degrees below zero!

A week later, one of scientists returns to the lab and sees his associate looking pale and drawn. He asks if he's feeling o.k. The scientist relies, "The caterpillar is singing..something like, A..E..I..."
In disbelief, the other scientist opens the freezer and listens intently....nothing is heard. "I think you better take a Christmas vacation, Norm." As they leave the lab, they notice the evening sky illuminated with the brilliance of the Northern Lights. As they are about to close the door, one says to the other, "Norm, look at the deep freeze there in the dark. It's glowing right in step with the Northern Lights... listen"....

(The listener can faintly hear a small voice from the caterpillar singing "..A...E...I...O...U..."

At this juncture, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck tingling, and I stopped the car and turned the car cassette recorder off...Wyllis Cooper had done it again! He exceeded even the benchmarks he had established in his previous stories. I recall just sitting in my car shaking my head in amazement (and disbelief) at the imaginative range of this one-of-a-kind writer. Where did this creativity spring from?

NOTE: The above synopsis of "Northern Lights" encompasses only the first 16 1/2 minutes of the program. (I won't describe the remainder of the show so that you may enjoy what follows.) This program is among the most memorable.

For what it's worth, and though highly subjective, my favorite 10 shows in the series are:

** My choice for the best horror show ever
broadcast on radio.

Lest anyone believe that Wyllis Cooper never produced any "clinkers", his show of 6/11/49, "The Hat, The Bed, and John J. Catherine" was not only very disappointing, but especially surprising since it came almost at the end of the series' two year run. Fans may find "Catherine" as confusing and non-sensical as I did.

Some concluding thoughts about Quiet Please...

* Never in the history of radio has one writer produced the range of brilliant and imaginative stories as Wyllis Cooper. Quiet Please is a virtual treasure chest of exceptional radio drama.

* Until the series began, never had silence been used so sparingly or effectively on radio.

* The respect and admiration of Chappell's narrative style and acting range continues to grow.

* Only Suspense and Escape produced more radio classics during their long runs, but Quiet Please comprised only 106 shows compared to 900+ for Suspense and 215+ for Escape.

* Following Quiet Please, neither Cooper or Chappell achieved the success of the Quiet Please series. (Cooper would go on to do several Quiet Please TV shows and would write the 44 scripts for the 1951-52 British crime series, Whitehall-1212.)

* Efforts are underway to improve the sound quality on many early Quiet Please programs. Stay tuned.
Randy Eidemiller researched, and Chris Lembesis wrote an interesting booklet on the Quiet Please series. The booklet contains a remembrance of Wyllis Cooper by Frank Thomas Jr., articles and commentary on the series and a listing of the TV shows Cooper produced following the radio series.

The booklet also contains a complete log of the 106 shows which comprise the series, (including the missing shows), story lines and the supporting cast of each show and photos of Wyllis Cooper as well as a commentary on Ernest Chappell.

Copies of the booklet are available directly from Randy Eidemiller. The cost is $10 plus $3 for shipping. Randy's address is: 7700 Lampson #37, Garden Grove, CA 92641.

The "Quiet Please" Radio Log reflects the 88 Quiet Please shows in my collection and in circulation.

In conclusion, on behalf of many OTR enthusiasts, "Thank you Mr. Cooper for sharing your creativity with us, and for giving us immeasurable listening pleasure that has withstood the test of time. Oh, and one last question, Mr. Cooper:

"Where did you get your ideas?"

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Jerry Haendiges Productions 1996