Joe Webb

Today's Suspense is the episode that changed three careers and created three durable franchises: Fletcher, Moorehead, and the Suspense series. It's the first broadcast of Sorry, Wrong Number.
The myths around the broadcast are overdue for debunking, and its place in Suspense history needs to have a grander and more foundational context. Fletcher's script set her apart as a uniquely skilled scriptwriter and storyteller. Moorehead took a big step that separated herself from being a fine supporting actor to be an audience-drawing radio headliner as "the first lady of Suspense." She would perform this compelling Fletcher piece many more times on the air, and also create one of the most successful spoken word home record sets that was a best-seller for more than a decade. SWN became the centerpiece and mainstay of her many one-woman regional theater tours through the 1950s that drew audiences around the country. For Suspense, the broadcast begins its separation from the Carr-style drawing room mysteries to a unique brand of storytelling with different dramatic pacing. The script itself challenged the accepted moral sensibilities of radio mystery drama. The ending of the story was shocking in a time when good always triumphed over evil in the very last minutes of most every radio drama, with characters summarizing solutions to crimes, and happily moving on to the rest of their lives... and next week's formulaic drama. The "missed cue" at the end of this inaugural performance has been overblown by collectors for decades. Mrs. Stevenson is still dead. This was the broadcast that made Suspense attractive to advertisers and was a leap toward building its 20-year franchise. And no, there was no "clean" west coast broadcast that "fixed" the ending; this was a national broadcast. It was the shocking unconventional end that "confused" listeners -- many of them could not believe they just heard a vicious contract murder. And no one rushed in to stop it. Mrs. Stevenson was still very dead. And the audience wanted to hear the grisly event once more! Fletcher, Moorehead, and Suspense would never be the same.