Bill Lance (The Adventures of Bill Lance)

Created by J. Donald Wilson
(1904-84)

There were actually two separate version of the radio series The Adventures of Bill Lance, a radio show detailing the exploits of a wealthy, Los Angeles-based musical composer and behavioral criminologist whose cases took him all over the globe. An expert on the arts and sciences, he was often called in on peculiar and just plain strange cases–although given his druthers, he’d rather just stay home and play piano. Appropriately enough, the show itself also had wanderlust–it appeared in CBS, NBC and ABC.

The first debuted in April 1944 and only ran on CBS West Coast on Sunday evenings.

The series was created by J. Donald Wilson who saw his detective hero, WILLIAM FERDINAND LANCE (he preferred “Bill”–wouldn’t you?) as having a very deductive mind and a love of music. Wilson’s scripts took Lance to many colourful settings, including the circus, the morgue, and even South American cafes and North African ports.

This 30 minute show was sponsored by Planters Peanuts and originally starred John McIntire in the lead. He surrendered the role to Pat McGeehan in September 1945, when the show moved to NBC, and the show picked up a national audience. It was at this point that Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber!) joined the cast as the voice of Lance’s eccentric assistant and roommate, Professor Ulysses Higgins. It ran on NBC until September 1946.

In June 1947 ABC resurrected the series, this time with Gerald Mohr (billed as “Columbia Pictures star of “The Lone Wolf” movie series and well known radio actor) playing Lance, while McNear continued to play Higgins.  It ran only six months, however, with ABC juggling the time slots and days several times. It failed to find a strong audience and went off the air for good in January 1948.

Unfortunately very few  audio copies have survived of any version of this radio series, so it’s difficult to assess its strengths or weaknesses.

The show’s creator, J. Donald Wilson, was a radio and film writer, producer, director and voice actorHe created the title character in the radio series The Whistler. His other radio writing, producing, and directing work included The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe and Dark Venture.

RADIO

  • THE ADVENTURES OF BILL LANCE
    (1944-45, CBS)
    Premiere: April 23, 1944
    Final broadcast: September 9, 1945
    73 30-minute episodes
    Created by J. Donald Wilson
    Writers: J. Donald Wilson, Stewart Sterling, Sylvia Richards, Maurice Zimm, Martha Chapin, Jan Slott, Milton Merlin, Barbara Merlin, Dwight Hauser
    Sponsor: Planters’ Peanuts
    Starring John McIntire as BILL LANCE
    Also starring Mercedes McCambridge, Cathy Lewis, Joseph Kearns, Frank Graham, Herb Butterfield, Bill Bouche, Georgia Ellis, Anne Stone, Jack Carrington, Leon Belasco, Lois Corbett, Cliff Clark, Paul McVey, Charles Talbot, Bill Conrad, Jeanne Bates,
  • THE ADVENTURES OF BILL LANCE
    (1945-46 NBC)
    Premiere: September 15, 1945
    Final Broadcast: September 7, 1946
    52 30-minute episodes
    Created by J. Donald Wilson
    Writers: Jan Slott
    Starring Pat McGeehan as BILL LANCE
    and Howard McNear as Ulysses Higgins

    • “Death in the Back Forty” (January 5, 1946)
      “The Case of the Stolen Blood” (February 2, 1946)
  • THE ADVENTURES OF BILL LANCE
    (1947-48, ABC)
    Premiere: June 14, 1947
    Final Broadcast: January 4, 1948
    26 30-minute episodes
    Created by J. Donald Wilson
    Produced by Dwight Hauser
    Music by Rex Koury
    Starring Gerald Mohr as BILL LANCE
    and Howard McNear as Ulysses Higgins

    • “The Movie Mogul Murder” (September 15, 1947)
    • “Escaped Maniac” (September 28, 1947)
    • “The Case of The Empty Closet” (October 5, 1947)
    • “Death Wears a New Dress” (October 12, 1947)
    • “The Case of the Stolen Necklace” (October 19, 1947)
    • “The Missing Bridegroom” (October 26, 1947)
    • ‘The Body In the Basement” (November 2, 1947)
    • “The Case of The Two Pennies” (December 21, 1947)
    • “The Man Who Murdered Himself” (January 4, 1948)
Respectfully submitted by Jack French, with additional information by Kevin Burton Smith.

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