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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER HIMAN BROWN
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Creator of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater


During the 1930s, a comedy called The Rise of the Goldbergs was second only to Amos & Andy as the most popular radio show in America. Its success was due largely to the efforts of a young man from Brooklyn named Himan Brown, who co-produced the series, sold it to NBC and did the voice of Mr. Goldberg. He had started in radio drama while in his teens, and soon after graduating from Brooklyn Law School as valedictorian, decided to make radio, not law, his career.

During the next three decades, as producer of Inner Sanctum Mysteries, The Thin Man, Grand Central Station, Nero Wolfe and other series, Brown became the Norman Lear of radio. But by 1959, it was all over: the last network radio drama was forced off the air by the onslaught of television. Brown, however, kept up a personal crusade for radio, pounding on the desks of every broadcast executive he could reach. Fourteen years later, in January 1974, his dream was realized, and radio drama was reborn with the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

The 52-minute show, it turned out, was long overdue. Within weeks, CBS received 200,000 fan letters from listeners. Currently the Radio Mystery Theater can be heard in New York on Monday through Friday at 7:07 p.m. on station WMCA (570 AM). It is heard seven nights a week on approximately 250 other stations across the country. Brown, the producer/director, oversees every phase of the operation, from hiring the writers and actors to directing and recording sessions from a control booth at the CBS studios.

"I have never stopped believing," he says, "that the spoken word and the imagination of the listener are infinitely stronger and more dramatic than anything television can offer." He is a silvery-haired, distinguished looking gentleman with a mischievous twinkle in hie eye and an endless capacity for humor. Ruddy-complexioned and vigorous, dressed in a gray pinstripe suit and a crimson tie, he approaches his work with an infectious enthusiasm.

On a typical weekday, Brown arrives at the sound studio at 9 a.m. with a batch of scripts under his arm, which he hands out to a group of actors assembled around a table. Many are stars of the stage or screen — Tammy Grimes, Julie Harris, Tony Roberts, Fred Gwynn, Bobby Morse, Roberta Maxwell, Joan Hackett. "I get the best actors in the world, right here in New York," he notes with pride. "They work for me in the daytime and on Broadway at night."

As the cast members go through a cold reading. Brown interjects his comments: "Do a little more with that. … Don't swallow your words t............
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