The creator of I Love A Mystery:
Carlton E. Morse


Morse with a stack of his orignal 
radio scripts

The writer and producer of I Love A Mystery" was Carlton E. Morse (the "E" stood for Errol), a very highly regarded radio/television producer and journalist. 

He was equally famous on the airwaves for his sprawling soap opera, "One Man's Family", where the story of the Barbour Family  was an American broadcast institution for almost 30 years. 

Below you will find some biographical information surrounding the genius you created our favorite murder 'n mystery radio serial.

Birth and Early Years

Jennings, Louisiana today

Site of the old Sacramento Union Newspaper today


Carlton E. Morse  was born to George and Ora Morse in Jennings Louisiana, on June 4th 1901. 
In 1906 his family moved to a fruit ranch on Talent Oregon, and when Morse was 16 his family relocated to Sacramento California. After graduating from high school in Sacramento, Morse spent a few years at the University of California, Berkeley, between 1919 and 1922. 
Morse, though enjoying his drama classes,  was dissatisfied with college life, and after moving back home to Sacramento he began his journalism career with the newspaper, The Sacramento Union (where Mark Twain used to contribute some articles) , followed by stints with The San Francisco Illustrated Daily Herald, Seattle Times, Vancouver Columbian and the Portland Oregonian, before returning to San Francisco in 1928. While working at the San Francisco Bulletin, he met Patricia De Ball, who became his first wife on September 23, 1928. 
In 1929, Morse lost his job when the Bulletin was absorbed into The San Francisco Call. Although offered a position with The Seattle Times, he declined it, thinking that working in radio would be more satisfying and exciting. 

During the late 1920s's he had taken a keen interest in the evolving radio industry, and even tried out writing a few scripts, which he never showed anyone until the day of his job interview with NBC. Two weeks before the 1929 stock market crash, he was offered to join the production staff of NBC at their San Francisco affiliate, KGO. Morse never went back to journalism. 


Early NBC years & One Man's Family


Cast of OMF in the old NBC studios

Standard Brands Radio Premium 
circa 1938

At NBC, Morse started off reworking and polishing, HOUSE OF MYTHS, then penning his own scripts for this radio series.  He went on to write such shows as CHINATOWN TALES, ILLUSTRATED TALES, SPLIT-SECOND TALES and MUSICAL MINIATURES.
Morse quickly gained a name for himself with several "blood and thunder" radio serials he wrote for "NBC Mystery Serial." These shows had such evocative titles as DEAD MEN PROWL, CITY OF THE DEAD, CAPTAIN POST: CRIME SPECIALIST, GAME CALLED MURDER, CASE OF THE ONE EYED PARROT, KILLED IN ACTION, among others as luridly  and evocatively titled.
Also popular with the public was a  series Morse wrote based on case files of the San Francisco Police Department,  BARBARY COAST NIGHTS. 
But it wasn't until his popular multi generational soap opera "One Man's Family" that Morse really gained for himself a name in radio drama. 

"One Man's Family" (OMF) debuted on Friday, April 29, 1932, using many of the same young actors whom Morse knew from his drama days at Berkley, and who later became involved in his earlier "NBC Mystery Serial" stories. The show featured the sprawling Barbour family of Sea Cliff, California.

Initial listener response to OMF was remarkable, and the program quickly became one of the most listened-to programs on the coast, and Morse one of the most respected figures in radio. 

For years, there was  sustained and increasing public popularity with OMF (especially when the series was broadcast over the entire NBC network, and not just the West Coast affiliates). Various premiums were produced 

Despite this success, Morse began tiring of the saccharine nature of "One Man's Family". At the same time, he and his OMF cast were a victim of their own success. Locked into a long term contract with his players for the series, this contract allowed for little room for salary increases.  A well time call from the J. W. Thompson company would provide them with some respite from this situation.


I Love A Mystery

Original ILAM cast: top to bottom; 
Barton Yarbourough, Walter Paterson 
& Michael Raffeto

Lobby Card for the first ILAM film

Very pleased of the success of OMF for their client, Standard Brands,  marketing offficials of the J.W.Thompson Advertiseing company contacted Morse to created a new radio show,where they asked him to  revisited the "blood and thunder" genre of his earlier mystery serials.  Using many of the same actors and radio people used in OMF, Morse answert was  "I Love A Mystery".
For "I Love A Mystery," Morse recycled many of the same ideas from his "blood and thunder" serials with "NBC Mystery Serial" which he had written nearly a decade earlier. The personalities of his lead heroes--Jack, Doc and Reggie--were themselves were based on the personalities of the actors playing their parts,  many whom were friends of Morse from his drama days at Berkley).  In other words,  Jack Packard really was Michael Raffetto, Doc Long really was  Barton Yarborough, and Walter Paterson really was Reggie York.
ILAM was very successful with the public.  There was no end of interest for his "terror thrillers", and young teenagers in particular ate up the show (much to the alarm of parents and arm-chair child psychologists everywhere.  Children didn't play cops and robbers, they played "Jack, Doc and Reggie", and many a fight broke out as to who would get to play Doc.  The radio series even spawned a short lived series of films at Columbia pictures.
For a long time, Morse was able to juggle the writing and directing of the two shows, and even felt that the whipsawing effect of writing the two very different genres made each serial work better. 
CBS eventually dropped ILAM in 1944, but the show was resurrected in 1949 by MBS using the original scripts. 

Early Forays in Television

Vintage television camera
Carlton E. Morse early on became involved in the new medium of television in California. He was behind SLICES OF LIFE, the first television series aired on station KFI in Los Angeles. 

He was also responsible for moving "One Man's Family" over to television beginning in 1949.  Ironically, the television version of his sprawling saga of the Barbour family ended before the radio series, in 1952.

Other radio Series

ILAM cast for the MBS run

Photo of Morse by Conrad Binyon


Carlton E. Morse tried his hand at other radio shows, such as the comedy HIS HONOR THE BARBER, but the show was not a success.
A year long series, "Adventures By Morse" (ABM) was also produced by Morse in 1945-46.  The show closely resembled ILAM, substituting Captain Bart Friday for the tough no-nonsense Jack Packard, and replacing Doc Long with Skip Turner as his "Texas talkin'" second banana.  Many of the scripts for ABM were in fact dusted off "NBC Mystery Serial" scripts, adapted and brought up somewhat up to date, but strikingly similar in theme and plot to his "blood and thunder" shows of nearly two decades before.
As a sort of prequel to the MBS ILAM series, Morse also wrote "I Love Adventure".  This 13 episode series (it only lasted a single season, in the summer of 1948, actually features the characters of Jack, Doc and Reggie in several half hour self-contained adventures.
A second run of ILAM was successfully launched on the Mutual Network (MBS), on October 3rd, 1949.  Using the same scripts as the original NBC/CBS run, only lightly dusted off, the show ran wild and woolly again for another three years, using a new crew of actors. ILAM itself eventually left the air for a second time at the end of 1952.  An effort for third ILAM run was unsuccessful (though the audition tapes for the first three episodes of this is now circulating among collectors).
THE FAMILY SKELETON, another soap opera in the OMF vein, appeared for one season on CBS from 1953-1954. OMF itself continued running until the end of the radio era 1959. 

End of the radio Era

The cover of the 2nd edition, 
which has even more Morse goodies than the first.
With the end of this magical age of radio drama, and the retirement of many of his radio and television shows, Morse himself retired to Seven Stones. This was the name given to the mansion he built with his radio wealth, a home hidden in the woods outside of San Francisco, in Woodside California.
It was while Morse was living here that OTR historian Jim Harmon became acquainted with Morse, and the two developed a long lasting friendship. Harmon was in large part responsible for sustaining interest in ILAM by convincing Morse to release reel-to-reel tapes of several of his shows to fans of the show hungry to revisit their younger experiences.
Mr.Harmon wrote about his initial meeting with Morse, and his thoughts on ILAM in the first chapter of his classic 1967 book, "The Great Radio Heroes" which has been recently reprinted in a new second edition.

Final years

Photo of Morse circa 1973, 
Despite failing health in his later years which forced him to later give up his beloved home at Seven Stones, Morse wrote three novels under his Seven Stones Press imprint; KILLER AT THE WHEEL, A LAVISH OF SIN, and a single ILAM based novel, STUFF THE LADY'S HATBOX (the latter published in 1988). 

Morse also formed a company, MORSELCO,  to try selling some of his older radio scripts. Tragedy also struck Morse, when his first wife, Patricia, died in 1984.

In his later years, Morse granted extensive interviews and attended many OTR conventions held in his honor.  There is even a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for his work in radio (located in front of  6445 Hollywood Blvd.) in his honor.  Astonished to discover that his shows were popular even after all these years, he established as a legacy his Morse Family Trust and copyrighted many of his ILAM  and OMF scripts and recordings to protect his intellectual property. 
Carlton E. Morse died on May 24th, 1993, in Sacramento California, survived by his second wife, Millie Morse. His memorial service was held in Los Angeles, California, where several members of OMF were in attendance. 

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The Series Cast | The Series Creator: Carlton E. Morse
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