(Writer, Director, Producer)
Stage, Screen, Radio and Television Writer, Director, Producer; Playwright; Mineralogist
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
1937 Your Hollywood Parade
1937 Lights Out
1937 The Chase and Sanborn Hour
1938 The Royal Desserts Hour
1938 Good News
1938 The Rudy Vallee Hour
1938 Texaco Star Theatre
1938 Columbia Workshop
1939 Curtain Time
1939 Arch Oboler's Plays
1940 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1940 Everyman's Theatre
1941 The Treasury Hour
1942 Cavalcade Of America
1942 Hollywood March Of Dimes Of the Air
1942 Plays For Americans
1942 Keep 'Em Rolling
1942 To the President
1943 Cavalcade For Victory
1943 Free World Theatre
1944 Everything For the Boys
1944 The First Nighter Program
1944 The Adventures Of Mark Twain
1944 Four For the Fifth
1945 Weird Circle
1945 Chicago, Germany
1945 Wonderful World
1945 Radio Hall Of Fame
1945 The Victory Chest Program
1946 The AFRA Refresher Course Workshop Of the Air
1956 Biography In Sound
1970 The Devil and Mr O
1972 Same Time, Same Station
1979 Sears Radio Theatre
Arch Oboler Drama
AFRTS Playhouse 25
The Joe Pyne Show
Treasury Star Parade
I Have No Prayer
Yarns For Yanks
Arch Oboler goes over The Hollywood March Of Dimes Of The Air script with emcee Tommy Cook at the NBC mike (1942)
Arch Oboler with Raymond Edward Johnson rehearsing at the MBS Mike
Arch Oboler goes over a script with Nazimova circa 1940
Arch Oboler gives direction to Nazimova circa 1940
Arch Oboler with Norma Shearer conferring on Everyman's Theater (1940)
Oboler's post-Apocalyptic film Five (1951)
Arch Oboler on the set of Five circa 1951
Perky piece punctuates penta-psychodrama proposing pitiful post-pandemic panic.
Oboler's F.L.Wright-designed beachhouse was used as the final location for his movie Five (1951)
The gatehouse of Oboler's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, 'Eaglefeather,' in Malibu Canyon.
Arch Oboler's Twonky (1953)
Oboler's Bwana Devil (1952) boasted its claim as the first feature length 3-D film
As late as 1962 Arch Oboler and Capitol Records teamed to create a fascinating compilation of Oboler's scarier productions.
|5'1" tall Arch Oboler, pound for pound, inch for inch one of Radio history's scariest writers/directors--ever--was born in 1909, in Chicago. He was also, by most accounts, one of Radio's most sensitive, introspective writers, and a giant by virtually any conventional measure of the industry.
ARCH OBOLER, WROTE THRILLERS FOR RADIO IN 1930'S AND 40'S
By WILLIAM G. BLAIR
Published: Sunday, March 22, 1987
Arch Oboler, who enthralled listeners with his tales of suspense and horror in the golden age of radio in the 1930's and 40's, died Thursday of heart failure at the Westlake Community Hospital in Westlake, Calif. He was 79 years old and lived in Malibu.
Although Mr. Oboler was perhaps best known as the writer of a series of nighttime radio dramas that were broadcast under the name ''Lights Out,'' he also wrote for screen and stage.
The ''Lights Out'' programs, delightfully chilling fare to many now over the age of 50, began with these words:
''These stories are definitely not for the timid soul. So we tell you calmly and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off your radio now. Lights out, everybody!'' 'I Wrote About Human Beings'
The rights to rebroadcast and distribute many of the ''Lights Out'' thrillers were acquired from Mr. Oboler late last year by Metacom, a Minneapolis-based concern that specializes in the distribution of old radio shows.
In an interview with The New York Times in October, Mr. Oboler said he had turned down offers to sell his radio stories to television in the 1950's because ''basically, I think TV talks too much and shows too much.''
Mr. Oboler said he believed his thrillers had not lost their ability to terrify because ''I wrote about human beings, not special effects.''
''What we fear most is the monster within - the girl who lets you down, the husband who is unfaithful,'' he said. ''The greatest horrors are within ourselves.''
In movies, he first made a name for himself as the writer of the 1940 screen version of ''Escape,'' the anti-Nazi best-selling novel by Ethel Vance, that starred Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor.
More than a decade later, he wrote, directed and produced the first three-dimensional movie, ''Bwana Devil,'' which had moviegoers in special eyeglasses ducking when African spears and lions appeared to be flying off the screen directly at them.
In the mid-1950's, Mr. Oboler turned to Broadway. He wrote ''Night of the Auk,'' a science-fiction drama set aboard a spaceship. The show, produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and directed by Sidney Lumet, ran for eight performances and was briefly revived in 1963.
From the 1960's on, as head of Oboler Productions, he continued to write for radio, movies and the theater. In 1969, he wrote a book called ''House on Fire'' that a reviewer for The Times described as ''pretty much what Mr. Oboler used to terrify America with.''
He is survived by his wife, the former Eleanor Helfand, and a son, Dr. Steven Oboler of Denver. A private funeral is planned.
Between 1936 and 1944, Arch Oboler either conceived or participated in an ambitious undertaking of both brief and long-running dramatic series':
- 1936 Lights Out!
- 1939 Arch Oboler's Plays
- 1940 Everyman's Theater
- 1942 Plays for Americans
- 1942 This Is Our America
- 1942 To The President
- 1943 Free World Theatre
- 1944 Four for The Fifth (with William N. Robson)
- Drop Dead!: An Exercise In Horror (1962 Capitol Records LP)
- The Devil and Mr. O (a 1970s revival series)
Arch Oboler's Plays was Oboler's breakout dramatic showcase over Radio. Everyman's Theater further established Oboler's versatility and range, while underscoring Oboler's growing appeal to a far wider audience than he'd already established with Lights Out!. Though eight years his senior, the diminutive Oboler, while never as widely popular as Orson Welles, invites comparison to the other great young playwright-actor-director. Their skills were clearly each other's equal, their versatility had already been amply demonstrated by 1940, and their genius was indisputable. It's also clear that both Wyllis Cooper and Norman Corwin served to influence and inform Oboler's growing, wider appeal.
The reach and effect of Arch Oboler's writing style, subject matter, and point of view remain significant influences to this day. Indeed a world of imitators, 'hat tippers', homages, and unabashed worshippers of his style have sprung up every year since the mid-1950s. And for good reason. Devising new ways to scare the be-jee-zuzz out of people has become something of a cottage industry at various times during the past 60 years.
Thillers sell when the public is in the mood for them. And when the public is in the mood for them, they tend to be insatiable for them.
Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler were arguably the two of the most significant influences in supernatural thrillers over Radio, of the 20th Century. Virtually every modern fiction writer of the past seventy years cites both Cooper and Oboler as influences.
Arch Oboler's fortunes waned with the waning of The Golden Age of Radio. His solo Film projects were, while revolutionary in many respects, not nearly up to the standards of his Radio work. His Five (1951) was a rather overly contrived, over-ripe, and self-important opus about a post-apocalyptic world and its five widely differing survivors. Filmed around his property and home in Malibu Canyon, it's become more of a cult flick than a representative Atomic Age sci-fi drama.
Bwana Devil (1952) was the first feature-length film to be produced in 3-D, yet another of Oboler's signature--albeit eccentric--innovations. Historic for only its innovative technology, the film, while popular as a novelty, was a stinker in every critically measurable way.
His Twonky (1953), starring pal, Hans Conreid, was a fascinating concept, somewhat frivolously executed. It featured a television set with a mind of its own, purportedly receiving direction from an alien force in geoconcentric orbit around Earth. This was highly reminiscent of the CBS Radio Workshop program, The Enormous Radio (1956), wherein a similar problem surfaces with a Radio set.
Oboler later released the Capitol LP, Drop Dead!: An Exercise In Horror (1962), reprised many of his Arch Oboler's Plays with the 1971 revival series The Devil and Mr. O, and in 1969, employed his 3-D production skills in another first, Stewardesses, a soft-core porn feature he wrote and directed for 3-D, under the pseudonym, 'Alf Silliman.'
Arch Oboler spent much of the remainder of his life attending to the various elements of his Oboler Productions company and the various writing, Film, Radio and Television projects Oboler managed through it.