Notice: Special thanks goes to "The Shadow: The making of a legend" for most of this info
The Shadow started out as a mysterious voice that would introduce the stories of Street & Smith's detective story magazine which dramatized different written stories from the popular magazine. The Shadow, at this point, was simply that, just a shadow. His alter ego, Lamont Cranston, had no even been thought of yet. However, The Shadow became wildly popular and he suddenly began to get more publicity on his radio show. His tagline "I...am the Shadow! Conscience is a taskmaster no crook can escape. It is a jeering shadow even in the blackest lives." became known as a household phrase. The program was originally created to boost sales of the magazine but soon enough The Shadow stole the show. Street & Smith decided that The Shadow would be a great character for their magazine. They imported the mysterious voice of the shadow into a comic book character and now people had a face to put with the voice. They then decided to hold a contest where anyone who could accurately describe The Shadow would win $1000. The Shadow would give out clues on his program as to his appearance and mannerisms. It was soon revealed that the unseen voice was the well-known radio actor, Frank Readick.
Soon after this popularity explosion, The Shadow received his own magazine in which he was featured as a crime fighter busting criminals in many stories per issue. This is the point when the other characters came into play. The first group of supporting characters were Commissioner Weston, Cardona, and Shrevvy who lasted long throughout the Shadow's career. Also, this was when the alter ego Lamont Cranston came into the picture. Walter Gibson, the writer of The Shadow Magazine, wanted a name that sounded wealthy but also adventurous. Lamont Cranston became the perfect name for The Shadow's real life counterpart. Needless to say, the Shadow became an instant hit. Many books were written with The Shadow as the main character and, in a strange plot twist, Gibson revealed that The Shadow only posed as Lamont Cranston. He was actually a famous aviator named Kent Allard who was supposed to be lost among Xinca Indians in the Yucatan Peninsula.
In the summer of 1931, the radio Shadow, apparently a different persona from that in the books, made his silver screen debut with "Burglar to the Rescue". At this point, however, The Shadow had yet to receive his own radio program. He was the host of Detective Story Magazine and later of Street & Smith's Love Story Dramas (not quite a Shadow role if you ask me) and The Detective Story Program. Soon enough, The Shadow was seen as not the man for the Love Story Dramas so he went to host a contest on The Blue Coal Revue which was an hour long variety program. Finally, The Shadow got his own program in January of 1932, but this was very short-lived, and he returned to simply narrating other programs. Not too far after, The Shadow was offered no more jobs on the air. His voice was missed by millions for about two years. Fortunately, this hiatus did not end his career, as a movie featuring The Shadow as the main character in The Shadow Strikes! starring Rod LaRoucque as The Shadow. This movie and it's sequel, International Crime were not favored among the general public, but they were enough to get him back onto the radio in his own show based on the pulp novels of Walter Gibson.
September 26, 1937 - Orson Welles debuts as The Shadow in the first of the new series in an episode called "Death House Rescue". This landmark episode starred Welles, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins and many more.Unfortunately for Welles, he was unable to perfect The Shadows trademark sinister laugh so each show started and ended with a recording of Readick's Shadow portrayal. (Note: Welles was the only actor who played The Shadow but did not do the intro) The first season of The Shadow was a raging success. It's bizarre but strangely understandable plots caught the attention and imagination of all radio listeners "old and young alike". Welles was considered a great actor and all the other actors loved him. Unfortunately, however, he had to leave The Shadow program. He had started his own radio program called Mercury Theatre of the Air and come the second season of The Shadow, he was too busy with that to continue. This setback did not stop the show however. 45 aspiring actors tried out for the role of the new Shadow and one lucky man got the role. This man we all know as Bill Johnstone. With the arrival of Jhonstone came a great change in The Shadow's, and Lamont's, character. The Shadow was toned down and made more friendly. He never manipulated events to kill his enemies anymore, but the bad guy still might die a horrible death. Lamont was made more of a friendly guy and the actual plots of the episodes were made less gruesome and bizarre. Also, the old script writer left the show and Margot underwent some serious changes as well. She was no longer the self-reliant woman she once was. She now became a damsel in distress who seemed to get captured every other week and needed The Shadows help to escape. In the fall of 1939, Moorehead left the role of Margot Lane to co-star in Welles' Citizen Kane. She was replaced by Marjorie Anderson.
In 1940 The Shadow starred in another movie. By this time The Shadow radio program was a household name and everyone knew, listened to, and loved the program. The Shadow phenomenon caught on in many other forms of media. The Shadow was featured in movies, books, comics, and his own weekly newspaper strip. When radio shows began to get ratings of listeners, The Shadow turned out to be the most listened to program and no other commercial show at that time was able to acheive the ratins it had gotten. Not soon after, Sidney Slon joined the cast and brought the character Shrevvy into the show. This character had been a comedic addition in the pulp novels and added a new light side to The Shadow radio show. Shrevvy was not actually an exact translation of the character from the pulp novels, Moe Srevnitz. Srevvy was made to be more comedic than his literature counterpart. in 1943, Bill Johnstone left to persue a hollywood career in movies and he was replaced by Bret Morrison. Morrison did more Shadow episodes than any other actor to portray The Shadow, he origonally only lasted one series. In 1944 he left the show and was then replaced by an actor who had gone to hollywood by way of the previous Shadow programs. This actor was John Archer. He was picked out of hundreds of actors because his voice sounded most similar to that of Morrison. Archer had the same problem as Welles, he was unable to coordimate both his radio and Broadway careers. He left The Shadow and was soon replaced by Steve Courtleigh in 1945 and at the same time, Margot transformed from Anderson to Laura Mae Carpenter. Courtleigh was considred to be a very strong actor when it came to The Shadow, but he was unable to properly portray Cranston. He always felt uncomfortable with that role and quit after only 6 shows. (If you know the titles of ANY of these shows, e-mail me).
Now it was time for Morrison to returna and finish what he had started. He went on to portray The Shadow for the next decade. Morrison was now considred to be the one and only Shadow. The season after Morrision returned, Grace Matthews took over as "The lovely Margot Lane". This was the peak of The Shadow's popularity. in 1946 three more Shadow movies were made, The Shaodw Returns, Behind the Mask, and The Missing Lady. There were almost 300 stations which caried the shadow and each reigon had it's own sponsor (which explains why a lot of episodes are blue coal but others are carey salt ect...). In 1950 Blue Coal was forced to end it's sponsorship of The Shadow when the anthracite market collapsed, but the program lived on.
December 26, 1954 - Ted Mallie announced that The Shadow program woould be ending with that episode, nerly 25 years after The Shadow first appeared on Detective Story Hour. This was the end of an era.
Of course, The Shadow did not stay down for long. There were 3 pilots filed for a Shadow television ahow but none of them got picked up. Morrison and Matthews would occasionally re-form and record a couple new episodes that would be sold in stores, not broadcast over the radio. With the invention of cassetes came the reproduction of old episodes. All the classics were put onto cassetes and sold to collectors. The popularity of The Shadow did dwindle, but there was still a bit of The Shaodw in the world. A big boost came to The Shadow with the 1994 multi-million dollar film starring Alec Baldwin (this is what got me started in The Shadow). We haven't heard much from The Shadow scince then, but you can bet that some time, he will resurface for anotyher go at popularity.