Steve Wilson

Created by Jerry McGill

“Freedom of the press is a flaming sword. Use it justly; hold it high; guard it well.”
– Steve’s call to arms served as the show’s tag line.

STEVE WILSON was the fiercely-idealistic and hard-nosed editor of The Illustrated Press who’ll get his own stories, thank you, if that’s what it takes. He ran a tight ship on the popular (it ran for fifteen years) and critically-acclaimed radio series Big Town. Aidding and abetting Steve in his never-ending quest for justice were society editor Lorelei Kilbourne and District Attorny Miller. Radio Spirits catalogue refers to it as “radio drama at its best.”

The show actually went through several incantations. Originally (according to John Dunning, in both Tune in Yesterday and his more recent revised edition On the Air), the series starred Edward G. Robinson and was broadcast from Hollywood until 1942. In 1943, a New York-produced version starring Edward Pawley began, and lasted until 1952.

One of the more intriguingly-titled episodes was from the Robinson run: “The Chicken Inspector Cracks the Poultry Racket.” The patriotic Robinson evidently turned the regular weekly radio dramatic show into a soap box in favor of the American way, earning the program a citation from the American Legion for his “outstanding contribution to Americanism through his stirring patriotic appeals . . .”

Of course, all that generosity came back to bite him in the ass for a time — during the fifties Communist witch hunt, Robinson was linked with eleven different Communist organizations. Robinson appeared before the House Un-Amercan Activities Committee and eventually won a clean bill of health.

But witch hunts or not, Big Town proved to be a successful franchise, even spawning a string of popular B-movies (with Philip Reed as “Radio’s Fighting Editor” aqnd Hillary Brooke as glamorous star reporter Lorelei Kilbourne) and a popular comic book by DC Comics that ran for fifty issues, wrapping up years after the radio show ended.

UNDER OATH

  • “….glad to see that you included Steve Wilson ( fighting editor of The Illustrated Press), in your list. When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Big Town in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and I always thought that Edward J. Pawley had the richest and most mellow baritone voice of any on radio — in stark contrast to that of Edward J. Robinson who had previously played the part. Of course, some of the things which “Steve Wilson” said to his girl reporter (Lorelei) would be considered today as sexist, but everyone in those days thought they were cute and endearing. The hint of an attraction between the two was an interesting sidelight to the show which was all about helping the police ferret out the “bad guys” in the “big town” (which was a thin disguise for the city of New York).
    After Mr. Pawley left Big Town and retired, I got to meet him (my childhood radio hero) because he moved to my hometown in Virginia. What a thrill that was!!  We became good friends and, when I left my part-time job as a radio announcer, it was my childhood radio hero that took over my position! I have often wondered if that scenario has ever played out at any other time in the history of radio!! In addition to being a star of Broadway/movies/radio, Mr. Pawley was a true gentleman and patriot. He died as a “gentleman farmer” (raised and sold championship goats) in Virginia in 1988,  just shy of his 87th birthday. I just wish he’d still been alive so he could answer a lot of questions I had during the course of writing his biography!”
    — Bob Corder, author of Edward J. Pawely:  Broadway’s Elmer Gantry, Radio’s Steve Wilson, and Hollywood’s Perennial Bad Guy

RADIO

  • BIG TOWN
    (1937-1942, CBS)
    Weekly 30-minute episodes
    Written by Jerry McGill, Daniel Mainwaring, Maxwell Shane
    Directors: William N. Robeson, Jerry McGill
    Producer: Clark Andrews
    Music: Leith Stevens
    Sound Effects: John Powers and Ray Erlenborn
    Recorded in Hollywood
    Starring Edward G. Robinson as STEVE WILSON
    With Clare Trevor as Lorelei Kilbourne (1937-1940)
    Ona Munson as Lorelei (1940-1942)
    Gale Gordon as D.A. Miller
    and Edmund MacDonald as Tommy Hughes
    Helen Brown as Miss Foster (1939-1942)
    and Paula Winslowe as Miss Foster and various “emotional roles such as heartbroken wives…” (1937-39)
    Guest stars: Lou Merrill, Cy Kendall, Jack Smart, Jerry Hausner,
    Howard Duff, Ted Osborne, Modelann Rosing, Hanley Stafford, Will Wright
    Announcer: Carlton Kadell

    • “The Chicken Inspector Cracks the Poultry Racket”
  • BIG TOWN
    (1943-48, CBS; 1948-51, NBC; 1952, CBS)
    Weekly 30-minute episodes
    Written by Jerry McGill, Daniel Mainwaring, Maxwell Shane
    Music: John Gart
    Recorded in New York
    Starring Edward Pawley as STEVE WILSON (1943-52)
    with Fran Carlon as Lorelei Kilbourne
    Also starring Walter Greaza as STEVE WILSON (ca. 1952)
    Donald MacDonald as Willie the Weep
    Larry Haines as Mozart (a blind piano player)
    Lawson Zerbe (and also Casey Allan) as Dusty Miller
    Dwight Weist as Inspector Callahan
    Bobby Winckler (and later Michael “Mickey” O’Day) as “The Newsboy”
    and Bob Dryden (and later Mason Adams and Ross Martin) as Harry the Hack
    Guest stars: Ted DeCorsia, Bill Adams, Thelma Ritter, George Petrie
    Announcer/Narrator: Dwight Weist

    • “Double Murder” (October 12, 1948)
    • “Angel of the Street” (October 19, 1948)
    • “The Fatal Chain” (November 9, 1948)
    • “Death By Plan” (November 16, 1948)
    • “The Deadly Doll” (November 23, 1948)
    • “The Lost and Found” (December 7, 1948)
    • “Deadline at Dawn” (December 14, 1948)
    • “Prelude to Christmas” (December 21, 1948)
    • “The Fatal Fix” (January 25, 1949)
    • “Murder in the Snow” (February 1, 1949)
    • “The Prisoner’s Song” (February 15, 1949)
    • “The Charity Killer” (February 22, 1949)
    • “The Shiny Gun” (March 15, 1949)
    • “Deadly Summons” (March 22, 1949)
    • “Chill of Death” (March 29, 1949)
    • “The Squeaking Rat” (April 5, 1949)
    • “The Lonely Heart” April 12, 1949)
    • “Iron Fist” (April 19, 1949)
    • “The Fatal Alibi” (May 3, 1949)
    • “The Confession” (May 10, 1949)
    • “The Hunter” (May 26, 1949)

FILMS

  • I COVER BIG TOWN
    (aka “I Cover the Underworld”)
    (1947, Paramount)
    63 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Jerry McGill
    Screenplay by Whitman Chambers
    Directed by William C. Thomas
    Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
    Associate producer: Maxwell Shane
    Starring Philip Reed as STEVE WILSON
    With Hillary Brooke as Lorelei Kilbourne
    Also starring Robert Lowery, Robert Shayne, Mona Barrie, Vince Barnett, Louis Jean Heydt, Frank Wilcox, Leonard Penn
  • BIG TOWN
    (aka “Guilty Assignment”)
    (1947, Paramount)
    60 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Jerry McGill and a story by Daniel Mainwaring
    Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring and Maxwell Shane
    Directed by William C. Thomas
    Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
    Associate producer: Maxwell Shane
    Starring Philip Reed as STEVE WILSON
    With Hillary Brooke as Lorelei Kilbourne
    Also starring Robert Lowery, Veda Ann Borg, Byron Barr, Charles Arnt, Nana Bryant, Roy Gordon, Eddie Parks, Nella Walker, Thomas E. Jackson
  • BIG TOWN AFTER DARK
    (aka “Underworld After Dark”)
    (1947, Paramount)
    69 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Jerry McGill
    Screenplay by Whitman Chambers
    Directed by William C. Thomas
    Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
    Starring Philip Reed as STEVE WILSON
    With Hillary Brooke as Lorelei Kilbourne
    Also starring Richard Travis, Ann Gillis, Vince Barnett, Joe Sawyer, Robert Kent, Charles Arnt, Joseph Allen, William Haade, Arthur Space, Richard Keene, Sumner Getchell
  • BIG TOWN SCANDAL
    (aka “Underworld Scandal”)
    (1948, Paramount)
    60 minutes, black and white
    Based on characters created by Jerry McGill
    Screenplay by Milton Raison
    Directed by William C. Thomas
    Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
    Starring Philip Reed as STEVE WILSON
    With Hillary Brooke as Lorelei Kilbourne
    Also starring Stanley Clements, Darryl Hickman, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer, Roland Dupree, Tommy Bond, Vince Barnett, Charles Arnt, Joseph Allen, Donna Martell, John Phillips, Reginald Billado

COMICS

  • BIG TOWN
    (1951-58, DC Comics)
    50 issues
    “Brand New Stories of TV and Radio’s Hit Show!”
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Andrew Leal and Ron DeSourdis for helping me get it straight.

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