Listen to Vintage 1950s Radio Serials

BY MARYANNE DOYLE

This week marks 30 years since the death of radio entrepreneur Grace Gibson on 10 July 1989.

Adventures in Excitement and Suspense

To coincide with the anniversary we are publishing full episodes of several radio series made by Grace Gibson Productions, including Carter Brown Mystery Theatre (1957), The Golden Cobweb (1956) and Unknown Quantity (1956). 

Grace Gibson, c1955. NFSA title: 716392

In our Women in Radio curated collection, you'll also find episodes of Dragnet (1952), Philip Marlowe Investigates (1953), Lady in Distress (1950), Mystery is My Hobby (1954) and All This and Heaven Too (1963).

Gibson formed Grace Gibson Radio Productions in 1944, and it became one of the most successful creators of radio drama in the world. Though she concentrated on the sales side of the business, Gibson could recognise a good script and was noted for her skill at spotting talent.

Grace Gibson nurtured new voices as well as providing employment for veterans. The episodes in the collection feature major stars from the world of Australian radio drama, like actors Lloyd Berrell, Guy Doleman, Lyndall Barbour and Ruth Cracknell.

This episode is an adaptation of the Carter Brown detective novel Curves For A Coroner (1955), about a group of entertainers stuck in the English countryside in the middle of a snowstorm. They soon get entangled in a mystery and discover a secret in the cellar:

Known for Quality and Speed

Grace Gibson Productions bought and adapted scripts by established American series – like Dragnet and Mystery is My Hobby – but also developed original scripts.

Gibson was adept at selling her serials for broadcast in Australia but also to New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the British West Indies.

The episodes in our Women in Radio collection illustrate the typical attributes of Australian radio drama from the 1950s. The industry was known for the quality and versatility of the actors and scriptwriters and the speed at which episodes were created.

Talent was home grown but also infused by New Zealanders, who moved to Australia for greater career opportunities, and by touring actors from Britain. 

Individuals typically worked across Australian drama production houses, travelling between the main centres of Sydney and Melbourne.

Grace Gibson Productions continued to make serials longer than other production houses, many of whom had shut their doors by the 1960s.

Gibson sold the company in 1978 but they continued to have success with dramas like The Castlereagh Line in 1982.

 

Main image: Grace Gibson with her close associates (left–right): actor-producer John Saul, Grace Gibson, senior producer Lawrence H Cecil and manager Betty Barnard. NFSA title: 716404. Courtesy: Grace Gibson Productions.