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Famous Jury Trials (radio program)

For the radio program's successor television series version, see Famous Jury Trials.

Famous Jury Trials is a radio court show/dramatic anthology series in the United States.[1] It began on January 5, 1936, and ended June 25, 1949.[2] It is considered a program that initiated the popular court show genre, which would later begin broadcasting from television.

Famous Jury Trials
Genre Dramatic anthology
Running time 45 minutes
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Home station WLW
Syndicates Mutual
TV adaptations Dumont
Starring Maurice Franklin
Announcer Peter Grant
Roger Krupp
Hugh James
Created by Ed Byron
Written by Don Becker
Milton J. Kramer
John Hunter Lay
Jerry McGill
Stedman Coles
Bill Rafael
Ameel Fisher
Len Finger
Martin H. Young
Daisy Armoury
Joseph L. Greene
Lawrence Menkin
Paul Monash
Directed by Carl Andrews
Carl Eastman
Wylie Adams
Robert H. Nolan
John Hunter Lay
Charles Powers
Produced by Don Becker
John Clark
J. Ralph Corbett
Narrated by Roger DeKoven
Dewitt McBride
Original release January 5, 1936 – June 25, 1949



Famous Jury Trials had the effect of taking a listener into an actual courtroom so that he or she could hear a trial as it proceeded. At the beginning of each episode, the judge was heard as he instructed the jury, "Be just and fear not, for the true administration of justice is the foundation of good government."[2] The show's set was designed as a courtroom, including a jury box containing 12 jurors and a judge clad in a black robe.[3] The judge sat on a high bench with the witness chair to his left and the clerk at a desk in front.[4] Adding to the effect of realism for listeners, the program was "delivered flat, without music."[2]

As the title implies, the program re-enacted trials from history. Although the scripts were described by radio historian John Dunning as "almost entirely fictionalized,"[5] they resulted from thorough research. A 1942 newspaper article noted, "The legal fireworks are checked for scriptural realism" by attorney and law historian Martin H. Young.[6] Among the well-known trials featured were those of Captain Kidd, Benedict Arnold, and Aaron Burr.[6] A 1937 review of the program said, "[I]t carries the morbid interest and suspense that is characteristic of such melodramas."[7]

Famous Jury Trials introduced the device of having a reporter provide an account of an event from history, a technique that a review in Radio Mirror magazine called one of the program's "novel devices."[8] The technique was used 15 years later in You Are There.[2]

Characters and CastEdit

As an anthology series, Famous Jury Trials had few regular cast members. Maurice Franklin starred as the judge. Roger DeKoven and DeWitt McBride were reporter-narrators.[2]

Broadcast HistoryEdit

Famous Jury Trials originated at WLW in Cincinnati. It was created by Ed Byron, a staff writer at the station.[9] As of September 27, 1937, it was also being carried by WOR in New York City and WGN in Chicago.[10] The program was also heard on WFIL in Philadelphia and KWK in St. Louis, identified as "stations of the WLW line."[11] By 1938, the program was being broadcast from New York City.[12]

A summary of Famous Jury Trials's time on network radio is provided in the following table:

Starting date Ending date Network Sponsor
January 5, 1936 December 20, 1937 Mutual Mennen
November 2, 1938 March 8, 1939 Mutual B.F. Goodrich
November 11, 1940 June 25, 1949 NBC Blue/ABC* Oh Henry!(1940–46)
General Mills (1947-48)

Source: On the Air[2]

  • Note: NBC Blue became ABC in October 1943.[1]

Famous Jury Trials was among a group of old-time radio programs that regained popularity in the 1960s. A news brief in Broadcasting magazine in 1963 reported that a "Mystery Package," which also included The Shadow, Green Hornet, Sherlock Holmes and Dangerous Assignment had been sold for 52 weeks to stations in 20 of the top 25 markets.[13] Within a year, the popularity for all but Dangerous Assignment had increased even more. An ad for "The 4 Biggest Mysteries in the U.S." indicated that Famous Jury Trials and the other three were carried on 125 stations.[14]

A version of Famous Jury Trials was broadcast in Australia in the 1950s. It was described in a newspaper article as "worthy of special recommendation."[15]


  1. ^ a b Reinehr, Robert C. and Swartz, Jon D. (2008). The A to Z of Old-Time Radio. Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7616-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P. 241.
  3. ^ Kay, E (December 4, 1942). "Corwin Describes English "Austerity" ... Grohms Play Hob with Chicago Radio" (PDF). Movie and Radio Guide. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  4. ^ King, Russ (February 1937). "Coast-to-Coast Highlights" (PDF). Radio Mirror. 7 (4): 6. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  5. ^ Dunning, John. (1976). Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925-1976. Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0-13-932616-2. P. 194.
  6. ^ a b Johnson, Vincent (November 3, 1942). "Radio Request for Photographs Brings Mail to Strategy Office". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Program Reviews and Comments" (PDF). Radio Daily. September 28, 1937. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  8. ^ "The Critic on the Hearth" (PDF). Radio Mirror. 7 (2): 68. December 1936. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  9. ^ Brower, William (October 7, 1973). "Hark! It's The Nation's Station". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Mennen Again on WOR, WGN" (PDF) (September 15, 1937). Radio Daily. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Mennen Active" (PDF). Broadcasting. October 1, 1937. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Purely Programs" (PDF). Broadcasting. November 15, 1938. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  13. ^ "KEX, KVI buy mysteries" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 9, 1963. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  14. ^ "The 4 Biggest Mysteries in the U.S. (advertisement)" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 14, 1964. p. 89. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Have You Heard". The Canberra Times. September 30, 1958. Retrieved 28 July 2014.

External linksEdit