Crime Classics came to CBS September 30, 1953 and was a neat little series of "true crime stories". This show introduces itself succinctly: "A series of true crime stories from the records and newspapers of every land, from every time. Your host each week, is Mr. Thomas Hyland -- connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders. " Thomas Hyland is played by Lou Merrill, although you'd never know it was an "actor" doing the part. The great Elliott Lewis, actor, producer and director of Suspense, Broadway is my Beat and On Stage is in charge of this very intelligent and enjoyable show. Composer Bernard Herrmann duplicated authentic music of the era being dramatized, and Morton Fine and David Friedkin were the writers. Lewis and his writers collected and developed true crime stories expressly for Crime Classics.
Thomas Hyland's delivery is measured and mild-mannered, as if giving a college lecture. Would that all professors were this interesting! The actors in the stories themselves are uniformly. Sensitive orchestral scores by the great Bernard Hermann, who did Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio show and then Alfred Hitchcock's films, give the stories sophistication and mood. So do the tasteful sound effects. There is a wry, cool-blooded tone to the proceedings.
Cases ranged from seventeenth-century murder to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Each and every story, however bizarre, is actually based on fact. For example, the show on the Younger Brothers of the American West has some very interesting background details concerning Quantrell's Raiders and the Kansas Jayhawks. In the story of "John Hayes, his Head, and How They Were Parted," we hear the tale of a glassblower who blows glass perfectly and completely surrounding the severed head of a unknown deadman. Then it is placed in a museum where it remained pending identification. Thus his killers were found out by the dead man, using his head.
This show is a good companion to other old time radio shows that are historically-oriented, such as Cavalcade of America, You Are There, and American Trail.