Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1947: Drought in FreevilleReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: January 21, 1947-February 11, 1947
"Drought in Freeville"
Daily Planet editor Perry White has sent three reporters to Freeville to investigate an unusual twenty-six day period without rain only to find that the men, without explanation, would resign a day after arriving there. Perry wants to send Clark Kent, but Lois Lane convinces him to let her cover the story. A government farming program for war veterans was started in Freeville not long before the drought had begun. Lois had sent some telegrams saying that there is something in the small community for a great newspaper article that will take quite some time to research. Then, strangely enough, Perry receives messages hours later from Lois asking for orders to return to Metropolis.
Clark has taken a wire that head copy boy Beany Martin was about to give to Perry. Someone who had signed it as "A Friend" has suggested that Lois should leave Freeville immediately. Concerned, Clark flies to Freeville as Superman to find out what has happened to the star reporter. Meanwhile, Lois is getting nowhere finding out what has caused the drought. Everyone is being deliberately threatening, evasive and mysterious when she questions them. Worst of all, when Clark arrives in Freeville, nobody knows where Lois is. The people at the local hotel say that she isn't there. She was to speak to the telegraph operator Mister Abner Sikes, but he has not seen her. What has happened to Lois Lane?
Sikes is giving Clark double talk that does not answer many of his questions about the Drought in Freeville or Lois' whereabouts. However, the elderly telegraph operator does say that he sent the telegram to Perry that warned him to order Lois to return to Metropolis. He did this because he didn't want her mixed up in whatever is happening. Sikes continues by suggesting that Clark see the Freeville Gazette editor Fred Leonard about Lois. Sikes then mysteriously says that Leonard is more than a newspaper man. Wondering about that, Clark sees Leonard, who asks his reporter Steve Larson where Lois is. Larson says that Lois got onto an eastbound train to Metropolis at 3:45 PM. Knowing that Lois would never give up on a story, Superman checks the train for the star reporter. However, neither his X-ray vision nor his alter ego of Clark Kent see any evidence of Lois being on board the locomotive.
Fred Leonard and Steve Larson agree to help Clark find Lois. Leonard confidentially tells Clark that the three reporters turning down the Freeville assignment and Lois' disappearance are connected to former G.I.s from the Veteran Homesteaders Program. Because of the fact that Freeville has not had any rain in nearly a month, many of these soldiers have become hotheaded. Farmers and stores in the village have been robbed by these men. Some people were even beaten. Clark begins to see the problem after some time. Should the Daily Planet write about what is happening, Congress could take steps to take the land away from the war heroes. Is the situation really like this? The only way Clark can find out is to seek answers at the Veteran Homesteaders Program.
Kent and Leonard meet with war veteran and farmer Jerry Barton. Barton, who is the head of the homesteaders, accuses the local politicians of Freeville of religious and racial prejudice. He continues by saying that the G.I.s cannot be forced to vote in the way a man named Ed Clayton wants them to. Tempers flare as Clark seeks answers to the location of Lois Lane. While Leonard waits in the car, Clark changes into Superman and finds no evidence of the star reporter. However, he is still wondering about the events and tension in Freeville. He gets more curious when Abner Sikes gives him a threatening telegram similar to the one Perry had received warning Lois away from the farming village. The mild mannered reporter is about to go to Rawlings, from where the message came, when something shocks both Abner and Clark. Lois is in front of them, and she is about to pass out.
Lois has just been revived and reveals that two men took her as she was about to go speak with Mister Sikes. A sack filled with chloroform was thrown over her head. Lois then found herself in a lead mine where only the light from a distant candle could be seen. It was too dark for her to see the faces of the men that had captured her, but they did warn her to leave Freeville before tomorrow morning. Otherwise, drastic measures will be taken against the star reporter. Lois was later taken to a secluded area before running to the nearest town - Freeville. She had fainted because of exhaustion as she was about to enter Mister Sikes' telegraph office.
Clark has revealed to Lois all that he has heard of what is occurring in Freeville and the problems between the homestead veterans and the politicians. He and Lois eventually convince Abner Sikes to tell them everything he knows, but he may never get to do so. As Sikes goes out to see if he, Lois and Clark are alone while the telegraph office is preparing to close, gunfire is heard. Someone has just shot Abner Sikes.
Lois and Clark are in a hospital awaiting news of Mister Sikes' condition. The doctor reveals that nothing is wrong with the telegraph operator. Sikes was wearing a bullet-proof vest that he had stitched into his clothing, and he wants to speak with Lois and Clark. However, before he can tell them what he knows, Fred Leonard enters the room with former state governor Edward C. Clayton. There are introductions and a lot of small talk between the visitors until an angry Sikes asks everyone to leave. Lois and Clark eventually go to their hotel. They discuss the fact that Sikes may possibly afraid of Clayton and Leonard. Lois then opens the door to her room. Suddenly, Clark's X-ray vision sees something, and an explosion rocks the silent resort.
Clark has moved Lois and shielded her from the dynamite charge that went off when she opened the door to her hotel room. The manager offers her another place to stay, but he won't answer any questions about the problems between the Veteran Homesteaders Program and the local political figures. The next morning, the pair of reporters learn that Abner Sikes has gone on a sudden vacation. Learning that Sikes was taking Highway 319, Clark searches for him as Superman after making Lois promise to stay at the hotel. However, Lois may have to go back on her word. Jerry Barton, who was searching for Clark, asks her to come see something that is scheduled for today. He doesn't have time to explain, but it can answer questions about the mysterious events in Freeville.
As Superman searches for Abner Sikes many miles away, Lois and Barton, thanks to a man named Phil Dyer, have found an area in the woods where a meeting will take place. Barton says it is connected with the ones controlling the local government and spreading hateful propaganda against the Veteran Homesteaders Program. Jerry and Lois edge closer to the secluded spot, but they may never see what happens when the gathering occurs at noon. A group of men is heading in their direction. Will Lois and Jerry be able to stay out of danger?
The secret meeting happens to be a type of political rally to help Ed Clayton become senator during an upcoming special election. Clayton is speaking racist propaganda against anyone that has a different religion or skin color or ethnic background, and Fred Leonard is backing "Uncle Ed," as he's sometimes called. Suddenly, some of the men at the gathering spot Lois and Jerry. Now, the star reporter and veteran have been captured. Meanwhile, Superman has not found Abner Sikes and has returned to the hotel, where the manager tells Clark Kent that Lois went away with Jerry Barton. Despite having a hunch that Lois is in trouble, our hero has no idea of the danger in which Lois and Jerry find themselves.
As a worried Clark waits at the Freeville American Legion Post for Phil Dyer, Jerry and Lois to return, the latter two are being led to Ed Clayton, who after using a lot of double talk to hide his bigotry and greeting Lois and Jerry warmly, orders his guards to take them to Cider Creek. Jerry knows that they are not going in the direction of any water. However, he and Lois don't realize the truth. Fifty yards away from a rough, secluded part of the woods lies Cider Creek, a large bog of dangerous quicksand. Superman is unaware of Lois and Jerry's peril. Can they escape certain death?
Seeing the highway gives Jerry and Lois false hope as they fall into the thick pit of quicksand. Meanwhile, Clark is questioning Phil Dyer. Dyer tells him of taking Jerry and Lois to Ed Clayton's hate rally. Superman then rushes to the area and pulls the unconscious star reporter and war veteran out of the deadly muck. After a doctor looks them over, Lois and Jerry tell Clark that Uncle Ed said that he had prayed to Heaven for the drought to stop the foreigners that have taken the farmland in Freeville. Now, Clark, Lois and Jerry may have an even stranger mystery that is connected to the bigotry and drought in the small community.
Clark has given Lois and Jerry an unusual theory that Ed Clayton is somehow making it possible for the Drought in Freeville to occur. John Murray, chief meteorologist for the county, says that it is theoretically impossible for anyone to control the warm air currents. However, Murray cannot explain the dry spell despite his predictions of rain for the past thirty days. Clark decides to see what he can learn as Superman. He finds a cabin on fire in the woods not far from the mountains. He enters to find someone unconscious inside. Abner Sikes has now been taken by the Man of Steel. Will the telegraph operator be able to tell our hero about what's going on in Freeville?
Lois Lane is in a restaurant having dinner when Clark Kent calls her. He wants her to come to the burned cabin via Superman Airlines. Someone has important information about what's happening in Freeville. Superman flies her to the forest, where Clark later leads her to Abner Sikes. The elderly telegraph operator says that Uncle Ed Clayton is causing the Drought in Freeville in order to run the members of Veteran Homesteaders Program out of town. He just isn't sure how beyond the fact that it was possibly done by a mechanical device. While setting up his shortwave radio and condenser, Sikes asks for the time. It is 7:58 PM. In two minutes, Sikes, Lois and Clark should learn more about Uncle Ed's sinister plot.
While Abner Sikes is waiting on some unusual signals that he's received ever since the drought began, he tells Lois and Clark that someone from the county, who works for Uncle Ed, had attacked him and set the cabin on fire. Meanwhile, the hate mongering ex-governor has gotten word that Sikes is still alive. He orders Fred Leonard to eliminate the elderly telegraph operator, Lois and Clark. in the meantime, The trio targeted by Clayton hear a message mentioning something in code about Kettycott Junction, Rawlings and Goodtime Pass. Clark resumes his true identity of Superman to investigate the three areas. However, he is unaware of two armed gunmen in a car heading for Sikes' cabin. Their targets are Sikes himself and Lois Lane.
As the two would-be assassins approach Abner Sikes' cabin, Superman sights an airplane in the sky over Goodtime Pass. The pilots place dry ice in rain clouds to make them spill their moisture before it can rain in Freeville. This is how the month-long drought was caused. The Man of Steel forces the men flying the aircraft to go to Abner Sikes' burned hideaway, where Lois and Sikes are being held at gunpoint by Fred Leonard and a man named Charlie. The Man of Tomorrow's powerful eyes see the danger to his friends. He speeds to their rescue, takes the gunmen's rifles and knocks their heads together. Seeing that the dry ice plane is about to get away, the Man of Steel takes the killers and the flying machine with him to the county airport to give the criminals to the proper authorities.
Clark Kent, Lois Lane and state policeman Major Renshaw arrive in Uncle Ed Clayton's office to arrest him. The hate mongering political figure tries to sweet talk his way out of trouble, but his airplane pilots confessed everything about Clayton's plot to ruin the Veteran Homesteaders Program. Desperate, Clayton pulls a gun on the three people confronting him. Clark moves his leg back so the rug under them moves. Ed Clayton falls as he squeezes the weapon's trigger. The bullet goes wild as Clark knocks out the villainous windbag. With Clayton now in police custody, Lois and Clark agree to share a byline for the newspaper story. However, Clark is later ordered by Perry White to return to Metropolis while Lois finishes up in Freeville. Something big and strange is happening, gang, and "The Monkey Burglar" is involved in the next serial in The Adventures of Superman.
Julian Noa, who plays Perry White, made an error in chapter one. He said, "Jimmy Collins." Bud Collyer then saves him by asking, "Do you mean Jimmy Olsen?" Noa then says that he's nervous for the situation with the reporters resigning.
The writers tend to get on the soap box a little too much, and the story is predictable. However, "Drought in Freeville" was still a decent serial. I was particularly reminded of the television episode "The Deserted Village" as I listened to certain chapters. In fact, it seems that as we get closer to the years of the George Reeves series, these arcs seem to take the similar direction to that classic show. I'll discuss that more in future reviews. In the meantime, let's get back to "Drought in Freeville."
I had said last week that Lois Lane has a tendency to get into dangerous situations, and "Drought in Freeville" is a serial that proves my point. She ends up getting captured by Uncle Ed Clayton's men twice and gets trapped in quicksand. This is a part of her character. She's the type of woman who can take care of herself, but she is thinking more of the page one story than the dangers to herself, particularly in recent years. She's not like Olive Oyl screaming, "Help Popeye! Save me!" However, many times the risks she takes require that Superman be her guardian angel in a red cape.
Let's talk about Uncle Ed Clayton. He seems to be a mixture of Senator Claghorn in The Fred Allen Show and Al Vincent. I honestly had hoped someone would have punched that blowhard every time he spoke, but I think that was the writers' intention for the character. They, perhaps, wanted to have a more laughable, light-hearted and irritating nemesis after four serials of racketeers and killers. Not every villain can be a criminal genius or mafia kingpin. Sometimes, there's a need for villains that you laugh at while hating them.
I'm happy that the cause of the "Drought in Freeville" wasn't a supernatural force or a mechanism along the lines the one from "Horace Morton's Weather Predictions." Either of those plot devices would have made the serial far fetched and even silly in my opinion. I liked "Morton," but its elements would not function in this serial. These radio shows, while based on a comic book character, have a slightly different atmosphere from the panels drawn into a page of Superman. What may work in comics may not always work in movies, television or radio plays. That being said, I'm glad no hokey plot devices were used in "Drought in Freeville."
Superman returns to Metropolis to investigate "The Monkey Burglar" in next week's serial. Who is he? I'm sure you'll all be here in seven days or so to find out, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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