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The CBS Radio Mystery Theater stories were different every night, except during the "special week" usually in January, when producer Himan Brown would present five episodes dedicated to a common theme, author, or historical character. The continuity between episodes is with the opening sound effects and the music, and with the welcoming voice of the host.
Brown's earlier mystery/horror anthology, Inner Sanctum featured a somewhat tongue in cheek host, Raymond. Originally played by Raymond Edward Johnson, the Horror Host would increase the audience's terror by mocking them, allowing them to realize that the whole thing is really not much more than a Halloween prank, and the idea is to be a little frightened and then laugh at yourself over it.
One direct carry over from Inner Sanctum to CBSRMT was the creaking door in the opening. Brown told of remembering a creaky door at the foot of the basement stairs that was very frightening, and the decision was made to add it to the program. When the sound effects man was unable to get the proper sound out of his door effect, Brown quickly jumped into a chair on the set that gave the sound needed. The chair was used for the rest of the show's run. On more than one occasion a well meaning maintenance man would oil the squeaky chair, forcing the effects man to verbally make the sound.
Hosting CBSRMT E.G. Marshall depended on none of Raymond's antics. His distinctive voice gives away none of the terror about to unfold upon the audience. He closes the program, if not by comforting the audience, at least by bringing them back to some sort of reality. Then he turns them loose with a semi-mocking wish "Pleasant dreams, Hmmm?"
Marshall is best remembered for his many TV and movie roles, but he also had a strong stage background. He never revealed what the E.G. stood for during his life, preferring to tell people it was "Everybody's Guess". Two of his best remembered roles were the unflappable Juror #4 in 1957's Twelve Angry Men, and Clark Griswold's father-in-law in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Marshall hosted CBSRMT from its beginning in 1974, and left in 1982. His place was taken over by actress Tammy Grimes. Grimes, of course, was a very different actor from Marshall, but she made the hosting position her own. She made her NY Stage debut in 1955. In 1960 she won a Tony for The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She had been cast in the lead of TV's Bewitched, but choose to turn down the role in order to appear in a Noel Coward play. ABC's The Tammy Grimes Show was one of the shortest running series on record, running for only a month although there were six additional episodes already shot. Grimes has been married to actor Christopher Plummer since 1956.
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