An Interview with Jim Harmon, #1 ILAM fan

Copyright  2000 by Jim Harmon and Brian Christopher Misiaszek

Jim Harmon is a very well known and regarded writer and historian of Old Time Radio, vintage television, and movie serials.  In fact, his classic 1967 non-fiction work, THE GREAT RADIO HEROES first introduced me to I Love A Mystery and the famous trio of Jack, Doc and Reggie, long before I heard a single recorded episode of the series! 

The very first chapter of this wonderful book (dedicated in fact, to Carlton E. Morse) detailed Mr. Harmon's fascination with the series along with his first meeting of ILAM's creator. Many years later, Mr. Harmon became involved (with the estate of the late Mr. Morse) in the 1996 production of the recreation of THE FEAR THAT CREEPS LIKE A CAT.

I wrote to Mr. Harmon (the old fashioned way) and discovered to my delight that he had E-mail.  He graciously allowed me to ask some burning questions about his interest and involvement with our mutual fascination and passion, I Love A Mystery . Here is a copy of our E-mail interview of March 11th and 12th, 2000, slightly altered and edited for your enjoyment here.  

I'd like to thank Jim Harmon for his generosity for taking the time to correspond with me, and allowing me to post this interview for everyone to read and enjoy. 


How (and when!) did you become interested in "I Love A Mystery"?

A: I began listening when a small child, about six, and loved the weekly Monday night show. The 1949 revival was very important to me since I had rheumatic fever at the time, and being able to listen to ILAM daily was a great pleasure.

What made "I Love A Mystery" so popular then and now?

A: The writing and the acting. As I've said in some of my books, no matter how fantastic the events, the people seemed real.

The vast majority of the ILAMs are lost. Where do you think they ended up?

A: Just lost. If recorded, they were discarded. Many were probably never recorded -- they just went out live.

Very few ILAM recordings exist today; what part did you play with this, if any, with those few shows that currently circulate?

A: I was the first old time radio fan to contact Morse in 1960. At the time, Almost no one was collecting old radio shows. I was a fellow writer, although not for radio. Morse treated me like a colleague. I borrowed the approx. 65 transcriptions of the New York series and a few fragments of the old series (mostly Island of Skulls), and 52 half-hours of ADV. BY MORSE. I copied them to tape, as best I could (I knew nothing about recording at the time) and returned them. Dave Amaral, a professional radio engineer, borrowed the same discs plus the I LOVE ADVENTURE discs we couldn't find at the time in Morse's garage. Dave, later a good friend, did a better transfer to tape. Many of my original tapes are still circulating. I can recognize little things that I know mean they were from my originals -- especially the ADV. BY M. My forty year old masters still play -- with some loss of highs and volume.

There's a rumor that for the MBS run of the show, part of Morse's contract had him get a magnetic tape recording of every show. Do you know if there is any truth to this rumor?

A: Morse was supposed to get a 16 in. transcription disc of each episode (tape was just coming in). He was surprised MBS stopped sending him them after a few months when we started pawing through the boxes.

You met Mr. Morse on several occasions at his home "Seven Stones" (now sadly demolished), and even dedicated your first OTR book to him. What was he like to meet as a person?

A: He was impressive, intelligent. To me, he tried being friendly as possible. But he was somewhat aloof, "different" like a lot of creative people. He believed he was only an instrument to receive the great creative force of the universe. Why didn't he receive plays as great as
Shakespeare? Because, he said, he was an imperfect instrument, only good enough to receive radio plays.

Do you know what (Carlton E. Morse's) favorite ILAM was?

A: "No Ring, No Ring Finger, No Husband" -- the one about a widow on a tropical island who chops off her finger when a spot of leprosy appears.

Why did the show finally leave the air?

A: Ratings I suppose. It wasn't renewed, that's all I know.

How did (Carlton E. Morse) keep himself busy after ILAM and OMF?

A: He wrote those novels that appeared years later, a few years before his death. He traveled a lot. He stayed at a ranch he owned -- in Nevada, I believe, and lived the life of a frontiersman with no electricity, or running water.

(When did) he marry his second wife?

A: Millie was his nurse in his late eighties and early nineties, and became his wife. I guess the year was around 1988 or 1989. 

Carlton E. Morse dedicated his novel, "Stuff the Lady's Hatbox" to you. What were your thoughts about this?

A: I was pleased.

What quality do you most associate with Mr. Morse's radio shows?

A: Wonder.

Why do you think Carlton E. Morse was able to make the action come alive
for his radio listeners?

A: His characters were real people, largely based on the original actors --Raffetto, Yarborough, etc.

We have all heard of the "golden age of radio"; what was Carlton E. Morse’s place during this era?

A: The finest writer of popular entertainment drama.

What are your favorite ILAMs? Why?

A: Temple of Vampires. It made the greatest impression on me, mostly inducing fear.

What are your *least* favorite ILAMs? Why?

A: I have none I don't love.

I noted you wrote the preface to Richard Lupoff's "The Radio Red Killer" (1996); are you working on a current book now?

A: There will be a new, expanded by 20% edition of THE GREAT RADIO HEROES this year. I have finished it.

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