Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1946: The Secret Letter

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: November 25, 1946-December 03, 1946

"The Secret Letter"

Having saved the planet Apollo from destruction and stopped its dictator the Raz from further ruling the people with fear and slavery, Superman has just remembered an envelope that he had given to Doctor John Millicent. Millicent was to give it to Daily Planet editor Perry White should the Man of Steel not return to Earth by week's end. As Superman moves at great speeds through space to return to Metropolis, Millicent has given the letter to Perry. Another envelope sealed in wax addressed to Perry, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane was inside the first one. It is to be opened in the event of the Man of Tomorrow's death, and its contents reveal that Clark Kent is Superman. Lois is away on a story, but Perry wants to open it anyway. However, a call from astronomer Doctor Bloomberg interrupts them. It's possible that planet Apollo survived, but where is Superman?

Jimmy and Perry have gone with Doctor Millicent to the Mount Arthur Observatory. Both Millicent and Bloomberg are looking at a planet that seems to be Apollo. The two scientists are unsure about the sphere because they see through their powerful telescope that the alien world's canals are somehow different. They will not be certain about anything for another few hours or even days. Seeing no needed to stay, Perry and Jimmy return to the Daily Planet to read Superman's letter. One hour later, Superman arrives at the observatory, but he can't stay to explain to Millicent and Bloomberg what had occurred on Apollo. He must return to the newspaper offices before his secret identity is revealed.

Clark Kent has just entered Perry's office. After and overjoyed greeting from the editor and Jimmy, Clark sees Perry confused and flustered. He swears that he had left Superman's envelope on his desk before he and Jimmy went to the Mount Arthur Observatory. He and Jimmy have searched all over the building, but it's nowhere to be found. This worries Clark immensely. Should that letter fall into the wrong hands, Superman's enemies will know his greatest secret.

Superman's letter has not been found in Perry's office. A worried Clark is now calling Doctor Millicent to see if he can recall that which neither Jimmy nor Perry can: the color of the taxi that had taken them to the Mount Arthur Observatory. Clark believes that Perry might have dropped the sealed envelope in the car. Now knowing the cab was red and white, Clark and Jimmy go to the taxi company, but they won't be able to know who drove the cub reporter, editor and scientist to the observatory - and if he found Superman's letter - until 4:00 PM, which is forty minutes from now.

Two men named Eyebrows and Buster are in their room in the Metropolis Hotel. Buster, who cannot read, asks Eyebrows to read a letter he had found in the taxi in which they had arrived. Eyebrows does so and learns that the note was written by Superman himself. It looks like our hero's worst fear will soon become a horrible reality.

While Eyebrows and Buster think of how to use Clark Kent's double identity as Superman to their advantage, our hero in question and Jimmy are going through the cab driver "Mac" McCarthy's log to speak with anyone that rode in the automobile after Jimmy, Perry and Doctor Millicent. They eventually arrive at the Metropolis Hotel in Mac's car, but there a few mere moments too late. Eyebrows and Buster are taking another taxi to 1426 Market Street. It looks like Superman's double life is tremendously at risk.

Clark and the others have had no luck finding Buster and Eyebrows. Desperate, Clark puts a classified advertisement for Superman's letter in the Daily Planet offering a one thousand dollar reward for the envelope sealed in red wax. Meanwhile, the nefarious duo for which our hero is searching is in a seedy cafe talking to someone called the Fixer. He tells them that Clark is smart, but he always disappears when there is gunfire. This disappoints Eyebrows until he sees Clark's ad. This makes him more certain that the mild mannered reporter is really Superman, and he has every intention of proving it to the Metropolis underworld.

Bruce Wayne, who is really Batman, is now meeting with Clark. He feels that his friend should keep his secret identity as Superman guarded. To do this, someone must watch Kent's back for anything. Bruce volunteers to be the so-called watchdog. Meanwhile, Buster and Eyebrows have set a trap that will show them that Kent is the Man of Steel. Bruce and Clark later arrive at the latter's apartment. While Clark is changing his shirt, the telephone rings. Bruce picks up the receiver, but Clark stops him from going further. It is loaded with nitroglycerine, and a huge explosion occurs. Clark moves to get Bruce out of the way, but Wayne falls to the floor after mentioning the mild mannered reporter's name. What has happened to Batman?

Bruce Wayne is uninjured thanks to Clark Kent, whose clothes are shredded and skin is blackened with soot from the explosion, but before more can be done, a crowd gathers outside of Kent's apartment. Bruce, claiming he's a doctor, tells the people that Clark was seriously injured and cannot be moved from his home. He says the same thing to Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson. The news of Clark being hurt is then later broadcasted on the radio. Eyebrows is disappointed because he now believes that the mild mannered reporter is not the Man of Steel. Everything seems well and good for our hero until one of Henderson's men says that a glove was found in Kent's apartment. There is a fingerprint inside the fabric of it. This could still mean trouble for the Man of Tomorrow. The person to whom the glove belongs still has the letter that Superman had written, and Inspector Henderson will be aware of his double identity because he knows the Last Son of Krypton's handwriting. Now, Superman and Batman must find Eyebrows and Buster before the police do. Otherwise, Kal-El's greatest secret will be in jeopardy.

Superman and Batman are in the fingerprint lab of the Metropolis Police Department. They learn that glove found in Clark Kent's apartment belongs to Henry Baker, alias Eyebrows. The two heroes are now on the window sill of Eyebrows' hotel room. The pickpocket tells Buster about losing his glove. This scares both thieves, and they decide to prepare to leave the country. Superman sees this as a chance to take the sealed letter from Eyebrows' overcoat at superhuman speed. Taking Batman with him, Superman returns to Clark Kent's apartment to pretend that the reporter must stay in bed until his injuries heal while Inspector Henderson arrests Eyebrows and Buster. Superman's secret identity is once again safe.

We now go to the Metropolis suburb of Willow Heights shortly after 11:00 PM. Sheriff Johnson has just received a telephone call that has shocked him. Daily Planet editor Perry White has been shot. How did this happen? Who did it? How is "The Phony Song Publishing Company" connected to the crime? Only next week's serial in The Adventures of Superman can answer these questions, boys and girls. Be sure to tune in then, and don't forget to eat your Kellogg's Pep.

Trivia:

One of Perry White's most famous catch phrases, "Great Caesar's Ghost," is heard in chapter two. It would later be used quite often by John Hamilton in the television series starring George Reeves.

While the voice of Eyebrows sounded a lot like Bill Johnstone, the actor who had taken over for Orson Welles in the role of the title character in The Shadow radio programs, someone else is playing the part. According to Fred Shay, Johnstone was in the west coast of the United States when "The Secret Letter" had aired. It is quite possible that Bret Morrison, another actor who was The Shadow, portrayed Eyebrows. Morrison has often been confused with Johnstone, and the former has been in various episodes of The Adventures of Superman. Johnstone, on the other hand, had auditioned for the part of Superman at one time, but he did not get it.

Review:

It's going to take some time to wash the stench of last week's serial off myself, but "The Secret Letter" does a great job of making up for how awful that was. This story was better than I had originally expected. I was prepared for something as bad as "The Disappearance Of Clark Kent" or worse. However, we are given a tale that really is worthy of the Superman legend.

I only have one minor problem with "The Secret Letter" that really doesn't alter the quality of the serial. However, I must get it out into the open. The absence of Joan Alexander is felt in this story arc more than any other in the series. Granted, it was explained that Lois was away, but it would have given this saga a nice edge had she been trying to investigate the events that centered around Superman's sealed envelope. Aside from that, "The Secret Letter" is nearly perfect.

I've always enjoyed stories in which Clark Kent must prove to others that he isn't Superman. There always been something in them that made me wonder how he was going to get out of the mess in which he found himself. Often, tales like this can make one think that Kryptonite isn't the Man of Steel's only weakness. Should the world learn that Superman is Clark Kent, his mission, his life and his friends would all be compromised, much like what had happened to Spider-Man in Marvel's recent Civil War crossover. How on Earth could he ever have a moment of peace if his enemies knew who he really was?

While it would be more sinister if someone like Lex Luthor or the Atom Man knew that Clark Kent is Superman, (The latter actually did discover the truth in "The Atom Man in Metropolis.") it's nice to see a common thief try to prove that a mild mannered reporter is actually a superhero. The characters of Eyebrows and Buster are petty thugs, but the actors and writers also put some rather lighthearted, almost comedic dialogue and moments throughout "The Secret Letter" to keep it from being too dark. Had they been overly humorous, this serial's villains would have brought down the quality of the story, but both bad guys are not too silly, yet they are still a thorn in Superman's side. This works perfectly for the tale.

Who shot Perry White? (Not J.R., silly. Go to a Dallas website if you want to know that.) That question will have to wait seven days or so to be answered. What are you going to so until then? Well, I recommend reading some of the other staff members' articles and reviews and pick up the new issue of Action Comics. You'll be glad you did. Then, come back here next week, Superfans, to see if "The Phony Song Publishing Company" is behind the shooting. Until we meet again, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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