ORIGINAL CAST PROFILES – Frank Readick

Frank Readick was born November 6, 1896 in Seattle, Washington.

In 1931, Readick made his big contribution to radio history when he succeeded James La Curto as the voice that dark avenger of crime – The Shadow. La Curto did an adequate job, but it was Readick who defined the haunting voice and laughter of the man who struck fear “into the hearts of shysters, lawbreakers and criminals”! His stint lasted for over 3 seasons, and Readick was also featured as The Shadow in the motion picture The Burglar to the Rescue (1931). His part in the film is limited to a voice over and his own shadow projected across walls in dark alleyways.

So well remembered was Readick’s characterization of The Shadow, that when Orson Welles followed him in the part CBS used a recording of Readick to open and close the show with the Shadow’s catchphrase “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

HEAR Frank Readick as The Shadow!

Readick is featured prominently in The War of the Worlds, as field reporter Carl Phillips. Phillips, dispatched by CBS to speak with noted astronomer Richard Pierson (Orson Welles) becomes the audience’s portal into the early events that will lead to the doomsday scenario of a Martian invasion. In the first third of the radio drama, Phillips is witness to the first attack of the Martians’ heat ray weapon…and is incinerated before the audience’s very ears! A chilling performance, reminiscent of the Hindenburg disaster as reported by Herbert Morrison.

By the time The War of the Worlds was broadcast, Frank Readick was already one of the most famous voices in radio drama. To this day, it is amazing that such a distinctive (and popular) voice would be mistaken for a real reporter in the field – A true testament to Readick’s acting ability!

He appeared in only one other motion picture – Journey Into Fear 1943 (which also starred Orson Welles).

Readick passed away in 1965.

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~ by Peter Overstreet on May 21, 2008.

One Response to “ORIGINAL CAST PROFILES – Frank Readick”

  1. In the early 1970s, in a course at the University at Albany, Fundamentals of Radio Broadcast Production, John Gunn, the instructor, who worked on several old radio shows, told the story of the live broadcast of “The Shadow” when the usual narrator was absent. A substitute with a suitably deep voice was coached quickly on what to say. On cue during the live broadcast, he said:

    “Who knows … what evil … lurks … in the hearts of men? The Shadow do. …”

    The Wikipedia entry mentions that Orson Welles narrated the series later, but it doesn’t mention, “The Shadow do …”

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