Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Box 13

Alan Ladd
The very first thing I think about when my mind turns to Alan Ladd is his indistinguishable features among a group of men near the end of the classic film, Citizen Kane. Ladd plays a reporter and there's no way you can know that it's him unless someone tells you or you've read it.

Ladd has led a similar, undistinguished career. Other than the film, Shane, Ladd's movie career is one mediocre film after another (and he's really not that good in Shane, anyway.) And especially in tough guy roles - he's not tough.

Lending his talents to radio - and his own company, Ladd acted and produced in 52 episodes of Box 13. As Dan Holiday the fiction writer, he put a perpetual advertisement in the paper seeking adventure for background he could use in his writing.  The advertisement went something like this:
Adventure wanted - will go anywhere or do anything. Contact Box 13
Intriguing? Yes! But Ladd is blander on radio than in the movies; his demeanor is cool but not "cool" - in other words, he's boring. Imagine the same show with William Conrad, Jack Webb, Orson Welles or even Burgess Meredith playing Holiday.  Bob Bailey (Let George Do It) and Ladd could have switched places and each show would have been MUCH better.  You get the point? Ladd underplays the part.

Sylvia Picker (in earlier days)
The scripts are not very good either. As a matter of fact, I find them to be somewhat silly. Somehow, Ladd becomes not an adventure-seeker, but a pseudo detective in the show. The script uses Hitchcockian MacGuffins and reverse MacGuffins (if there are such things - in other words, the scripts make a big deal out of something that couldn't possibly be true and if it were, it would take Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes to find these things out - and Ladd is no Sherlock Holmes!) 

The combination of  poor scripts and Ladd underplaying every scene is somewhat tempered by his ninny secretary Suzy (Sylvia Picker.)  Some people find her funny - but when I listen to the show, I raise my eyebrows when she speaks as she is just so different from the comotose Ladd. Her parts are very small and her parts are "ditzy."

Ladd is the star - he drives the show and though he doesn't wreck it - he's on the Highway to Nowhere.  The show has no thrill - with an advertisement like he has - you'd figure there would be some excitement somewhere in 30 minutes of radio.

I do listen to the show regularly but it's only filler stuff for me.  The DigitalDeli gives the script high marks and likes Ladd.  I know people who think highly of the show as well.  Not so for me - I'll be contented to be in the minority.

I give it barely 2 stars.


  1. I am not as harsh on Alan Ladd or the show as you are. I appreciate you gave reference to Digital Deli as their review is closer to mine. A lot of what you said is true, but, there is something that makes me like it more than you. It is possible that I like Alan Ladd more than you and that might make the biggest difference. Dan Holiday does not have the catchy dialogues that we find with Pat Novak or even Joe Friday. That makes those shows better for me. I guess I grew up with the voice of Alan Ladd and it has appeal to me.

    This is what I like about OTR or anything else, two people can have different views. Just like Ebert and Siskel did.

  2. I recall a few people liking the show - I don't dislike it but I find that it's not much different than a lot of other shows. The sound qualityis good and that helps a lot. It means a lot of people have and will listen to the show.

    As I said, I do listen to it...

    Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Enjoyed the review. I sadly do agree. Ladd is bland and the writing is weak. Unfortunate, because I like the premise and potential.


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