Montgomery Ward sponsors these half-hour dramas "recreating famous characters
and events from the Old Testament..." With a large cast, Noble Cain's chorus
and Leroy Shield's orchestra. Airs Sunday afternoons on NBC. The series'
musical theme is the "Faith" motif from Wagner's Parsifal. Although Chicago
drama critic Lloyd Lewis is identified as the author in publicity, the scripts
are actually written by Willis Cooper, NBC Chicago continuity chief.
01-13 "David and Goliath" - William Farnum (David), Clifford Soubier (Goliath)
01-20 "Exodus From Egypt"
01-27 "Daniel in the Lion's Den"
02-03 "The Story of Samson" - Don Briggs (Samson)
02-10 "The Story of Esther"
02-17 "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors"
02-24 "Joseph in Egypt"
03-03 "Solomon and the Queen of Sheba"
03-10 "The Story of Gideon"
03-17 "The Walls of Jericho"
03-24 "Ruth and Naomi"
03-31 "Saul and Jonathan"
[December 27, 1934 Chicago Tribune]
Under the title "Immortal Dramas" epic stories of the Old Testament are to be
brought to the air in a dramatized series of programs over coast to coast NBC
networks, probably beginning Sunday, Jan. 13. Sponsored by Montgomery, Ward &
Co., these biblical presentations call for a cast of more than 80 persons for
each presentation. The actors are yet to be chosen. Roy Shield's orchestra
will provide the musical background with the assistance of Noble Cain and his
a capella choir. Harvey Hays will be the narrator.
Lloyd Lewis will adapt the biblical tales for radio presentation. The story of
David and Goliath has been scheduled for the premiere of the series. WMAQ will
be the local outlet and the program will run from 1 to 1:30 Sunday afternoons.
[January 12, 1935 The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota)]
"Dramatizes Old Testament In New Series Over Radio
'Immortal Dramas,' Program Sponsored by Montgomery Ward, Opens Sunday
"Immortal Dramas," a panoramic series of stories from the Old Testament,
dramatized against a background of choral and instrumental music, will be
introduced over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network Sunday, Jan. 13, by
Recreating famous characters and events from the Old Testament on the air for
the first time in the history of radio, "Immortal Dramas" will be heard each
Sunday afternoon from 1 to 1:30 p. m. (CST), from the NBC Chicago studios. No
commercial announcements will be made during the program.
The series will also mark a new departure in music technique. Works of old
masters like Richard Strauss, Franck and Tschaikowsky and original
compositions for the orchestra and vocal ensemble will be used as definite
dramatic devices to heighten emotional effect. Heretofore radio music has
always been employed only for transition or background. The adaptation and
script are the work of Lloyd Lewis.
Will Employ Narration
Drama, music, and exciting narration will be employed as an effective
combination in the presentation of the famed story of David and Goliath, which
has been selected as the first episode on the "Immortal Dramas" series.
As the drama begins David, his father and brothers, are heard discussing the
struggle between the Israelites and the Philistines and mention of the
mysterious giant, Goliath, fills everyone with fear except David. Action then
shifts to the Philistine stronghold where Goliath is cheered by his soldiers
as he roars his challenges of combat to his already weary opponents.
The story reaches the exciting climax when David, having received permission
from his father to take food and a word of cheer to the Israelite soldiers,
enters the camp and accepts the challenge of Goliath to engage in man-to-man
combat and kills his adversary by cunning.
Music Selected Carefully
Carefully selected music will be used throughout to aid the narrator in
bridging transitions from one scene to another and will also serve to heighten
the dramatic effect of the spoken word.
As a theme for David, excerpts from the second movement of Franck's Symphony
in D minor will be played by the orchestra. Bars from Richard Strauss'
spirited "Don Juan" will introduce the braggart Goliath and "Pines of Rome,"
Respighi's fourth dimensional conception of vast marching armies, will help
build the mental picture of the Israelite and Philistine hosts massed in the
Vale of Elah. Tschaikowsky's dramatic "Pathetique" will prepare the audience
for David's encounter with Goliath. Ancient battle chants of the two armies
will be sung by an a cappella choir.
[Photo caption:] Introducing Lloyd Lewis, author of the "Immortal Dramas"
series which will be broadcast over NBC each Sunday.
[January 19, 1935 Newsweek]
OLD TESTAMENT: David and Goliath Fight It Out Again
The world's all-time best-selling book has finally wooed and won a radio
sponsor. Last Sunday afternoon, Montgomery-Ward, the world's second largest
mail-order company, presented the first of a series of dramatizations of the
Old Testament. Twenty-eight National Broadcasting Co. stations, from coast to
coast, broadcast the program.
In WMAQ, Chicago's NBC station in the Merchandise Mart Building, 80 performers
re-enacted the story of David and Goliath. The Windy City's biggest radio
production had station executives dizzy. There was barely enough room left in
Studio A for the 26-piece orchestra. "Israelites and Philistines" swarmed
through corridors and offices. Carpenters hurriedly slapped together a
makeshift high stool for the production man, so all performers could see him.
So enthusiastic were sponsors about their latest network show, that they
recorded a preview performance and air-mailed the disks to New York City
headquarters in the RCA Building. Here the performance was transmitted over
telephone lines to 75 monitor loudspeakers in NBC offices.
Executives and radio editors found the advance biblical broadcast thrilling.
The old tale had the elements of a 1935 talkie spectacle. Lloyd Lewis, Chicago
Daily News's dramatic critic and playwright-collaborator of Sinclair Lewis,
adapted the story for radio presentation.
Goliath roared through the microphone in the best Wallace Beery style. David's
shrill but confident voice made him a plausible hero. A continuous musical
background supplied tonal atmosphere. Richard Strauss's "Don Juan" served to
introduce the giant, Goliath. Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor and Ottovino
Respighi's "Pines of Rome" helped "to build the mental picture of the
Israelite and Philistine hosts massed in the Vale of Elah."
Listeners heard the immortal slingshot battle of the centuries between the
radio Goliath, who stands only 5 feet 5, and David, portrayed by an actor 3
inches taller than his "giant" foe.
"The best part of this show," commented NBC, "is that there are no
interrupting commercial announcements. The sponsors name is given only at the
start and finish of the program."
[January 19, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
EGYPTIAN EXODUS NEXT IN PROGRAM
Second in Series of Episodes of Old Testament Will Be Emotional
Chicago, Jan. 19.--"Exodus from Egypt," selected as the second of a series of
episodes from the Old Testament which are being dramatized to music on the
"Immortal Dramas" program, will be presented Sunday, Jan. 20, on a coast-to-
coast NBC-WEAF network at 1 p. m. (CST).
This universally-known story of the deliverance of the sons of Israel from
their bondage under Pharaoh, king of the Egyptians, after a captivity of 400
years, is expected to be even more effective in drama and climax than the
story of "David and Goliath," which was produced as the first of the series
Symphonic music and vocal effects by an A Cappella choir will be timed to
increase the excitement of the narrative.
One of the most dramatic scenes is the visit of the Angel of Death, seeking
the first born of the Egyptian families, while the Israelites are spared
because of the mark of the lamb's blood on their doors.
The climax reaches emotional heights seldom equalled on the radio when Moses,
having led the Israelites to the banks of the Red sea, is informed that
Pharaoh has broken his pledge and is charging down upon them in war chariots.
Upon the command of Moses the waters of the Red sea open a path for the
Israelites and then close upon the Egyptian hordes.
[January 20, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
The new Ward program, "Immortal Dramas," is an exceptional piece of dramatic
work. Those great stories of the Old Testament really come to life in this new
[half] hour. It makes a fine addition to Sunday afternoon radio fare. The
program is in perfect taste for a program utilizing the scriptures. There is
no sales talk -- in fact, no commercial copy.
[January 25, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
After television things like this won't be allowed: On last Sunday's "Immortal
Drama" program at NBC the story of David and Goliath was dramatized. Tall slim
Bill Farnum as David towered over squat Cliff Soubier as Goliath. ...
[January 26, 1935 Los Angeles Times]
... Immortal Dramas brings the story of the Exodus From Egypt to dialers today
at 11 a.m. over KFI. Last Sunday's David and Goliath was fair fare. What few
mistakes and rough spots there were probably will be taken care of in this
[January 26, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Daniel in Lions' Den Next in Radio's 'Immortal Drama' Series
TALE INSPIRED BY OLD TESTAMENT TO BE PROGRAM THEME
New Venture in Field of Radio Receives Praise of Public and Press
Oldest Thing in Our Common Literature Becomes Newest Thing in Drama
Chicago Jan. 26 --Daniel in the Lion's Den, a tale inspired by the Old
Testament account of the Handwriting on the Wall, will be presented on a
coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network as the third of a series of "Immortal Dramas"
Sunday, Jan. 27, at 1 p. m., (CST).
The dramatic qualities of such scenes as Daniel's interpretation of the
handwriting on the wall and the episode of his being thrown in the lion's den
are further enhanced by appropriate symphonic music and special song effects
by an A Capella choir.
"Immortal Dramas," a new venture in the field of radio, has been receiving the
praise of the public and press alike. Ashton Stevens, veteran dramatic critic
of the Chicago American, stepped out of his immediate field of the stage to
laud the production of David and Goliath, the first of the series.
"I heard over a nation-broad broadcast ... the oldest thing in our common
literature, the Old Testament, become the newest thing in drama," writes
Stevens. "... what might be called the mental visibility of the piece was the
highest I have known in the air since Maud Adams last season radioed 'The
Little Minister,' and 'Peter Pan.'"
"This illusion ... was obtained by the enthusiastically articulate enactment
and rich musical embellishment of a nervously dramatic script by Lloyd Lewis
... It was, anyway, an author's pioneering job, discreetly and dramatically
Referring to the absence of a commercial announcement on the program the
review continues: "And I hope I am not exceeding the liberty of the press by
congratulating the sponsor for sponsoring it without trying to sell an ether-
sickened world whether that establishment deals in Bibles or breakfast foods."
[February 2, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Famed Story of Samson Immortal Drama Sunday
Much of Music of Saint Saens Will Be Used by Symphonic Orchestra
One of the world's most famous stories will be offered to the radio when the
story of Samson is presented over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network Sunday,
Feb. 3, at 1 p. m., (CST), as the fourth of a series of "Immortal Dramas."
The bitter disappointments which befall Samson, the powerful Israelite, when
his Philistine wife, Raamah, is taken from him and then when the secret of his
strength is divulged by Delilah to the Philistines, are handled authentically
and with expert dramatic treatment.
Much of the music of Saint Saens, from the famous opera, will be used in
proper balance by the symphonic orchestra, and an A Cappella choir will sing
several of the most famous airs.
Sound effects will play an important part in adding realism to the scenes
where Samson sets fire to the Philistine city and again when he pushes aside
the pillars which support the palace of his enemies, bringing death to all who
have taunted him.
[February 16, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
'Coat of Many Colors' to Be Presented Sunday
Famous Story from Old Testament Regarding Joseph to Be Dramatized
The next of the series of "Immortal Dramas" will be the first part of the
story of Joseph -- The Coat of Many Colors -- Sunday, Feb. 17, at 1 p. m.
(CST) over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network.
This famous story from the Old Testament has been adapted to the radio in two
parts to be broadcast on successive Sundays. Each part will be treated as a
separate dramatic production without sacrificing the continuity of the
narrative in its original form. The symphonic and choral background is
designed to heighten the dramatic action.
As the scene opens Joseph discovers that his brothers have been stealing from
the flocks of their father, Jacob. The subsequent revenge of the brothers,
first in attempting to take Joseph's life, and, finding this unsuccessful in
selling him to traveling merchants after staining his coat of many colors with
lamb's blood to create the appearance that he had been killed by wild animals,
will be dramatized, accompanied by appropriate musical themes.
The tender love between Joseph and his father, and the latter's grief upon
being told of the boy's death is considered one of the most touching incidents
of the Old Testament.
[February 23, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
JOSEPH IN EGYPT IS IMMORTAL DRAMA SCHEDULED FOR SUNDAY
Much Time and Effort Given to Choice and Arrangement of Music Used
Chicago. Feb. 23--Joseph in Egypt, to be treated as the second part of the
story of Joseph and His Brethren, will be presented as the next of the
"Immortal Dramas" series over an NBC-WEAF network Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p. m.,
This program follows the episode of the Coat of Many Colors which was produced
The narrative takes up at the point where Joseph is in the ˜prison of
Pharaoh and accurately interprets the dreams of his fellow captives who have
fallen in ill favor with the king. Pharaoh, also perturbed by a dream which he
has had, and finding his magicians at a loss to tell him what it means, is
told of Joseph and seeks his counsel.
Plenty and Famine
Joseph interprets the dream to mean that there will be seven years of plenty
in the land to be followed by seven years of famine and is promptly rewarded
by being made Pharaoh's first man.
His subsequent meeting with his brothers and their happy reunion offer
passages which will rival those already presented on this series for dramatic
Music of such composers as Ravell [sic] and Schumann, together with modern
classical and original compositions, will be scored in proper balance and
played by a symphonic orchestra. Vocal choruses and chants by an A Capella
choir also will be blended to the dramatic narrative.
Emphasis on Music
Much time and effort has been given to the choice and arrangement of the music
used in these "Immortal Dramas." Since surprisingly little classical music has
been composed with stories from the Old Testament as the inspirational theme,
it has been necessary to select a variety of compositions of the great masters
which, because of their prevailing mood or tempo, are found suitable for the
After appropriate music has been chosen many hours of patient rehearsal are
required for proper volume control and timing.
Of the programs thus far produced music of such composers as Rachmaninoff,
Respighi, Brahms and Liszt have found particular favor while music by the
Russian group of Moussorzsky, Borodin, Gliere and Glazounow also have been
The Faith Motif from Wagner's Parsifal is used in the introduction of each
[February 24, 1935 Washington Post]
... "Joseph in Egypt," an immortal drama series, WRC, 2 p.m. ...
... And while in a critical mood, the Immortal Dramas, WRC, 2 p.m., series
make you feel far from "religioso." Perhaps because it sounds odd to hear a
modern voice mouth "Hark Ye, My Sons," and such-like. The acting is extreme --
in the extreme, the delivery affected. As it is, the dramas sound neither
mortal nor immortal -- at least, not genuinely human. ...
[March 9, 1935 Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)]
Story of Gideon Will Be Ninth 'Immortal Drama'
Smashing of False God, Baal, Will Be Dramatized Over Radio Sunday
Selected as the ninth of the series of "Immortal Dramas," the story of Gideon
will be presented over a coast-to-coast NBC-WEAF network Sunday, March 10, at
1 p. m., (CST).
This story from the Old Testament will portray the character of Gideon who,
while the other Israelites prayed to the false god, Baal, to deliver them from
the Midianites and the Amalekites, continued to worship Jehovah.
How Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal, restored confidence in his people, and
led them from their captivity of seven years' duration, will be dramatically
Since the story offers frequent opportunities for the use of choral music, the
A Capella choir will be featured more than in any of the previous programs of
the series. Much of the music to be played by the symphonic orchestra will be
[March 21, 1935 Chicago Tribune]
... "Immortal Dramas," those old testament stories, will go off the air early
in April. ...
[March 21, 1935 Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald]
Immortal Drama To Be Broadcast Sunday
CHICAGO—Next on the series of "Immortal Dramas" is the story "Ruth and Naomi"
which will be presented by Montgomery Ward Sunday, March 24 over a NBC-WEAF
coast-to-coast network at 2 m., E.S.T.
This will be the first of these Old Testament dramatizations since the story
of Esther, produced early in the series, in which women will figure as the
most important characters of the story.
The story centers around the character of Naomi, the widow, and her two
daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, and their departure from the land of Moab
which has been visited with famine. Ruth, forsaking the security which she
could enjoy with her own relatives, remains with Naomi and they travel to
Ruth's subsequent marriage to Boaz, the wealthy landowner, is dramatized in
interesting fashion by an expertly chosen cast. Music by a symphonic orchestra
and special vocal effectsby an A Cappella choir will be appropriately
employed, throughout the program.
[March 28, 1935 Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald]
"SAUL AND JONATHAN" TO BE BROADCAST SUNDAY
"Saul and Jonathan", the thrilling story of the father and son who led the
Israelites to victory over the Philistines, [will] be presented by Montgomery
Ward as the twelfth of the series of Immortal Dramas over a WEAF-NBC network
Sunday, March 31 at 2 p. m., E.S.T. The program is another of the
dramatizations from the Old Testament which are fortified with symphonic music
and the voices of an A Cappella choir.
[April 11, 1935 New York Times]
RADIO PROGRAMS WIN FOUR PRIZES
... Anning S. Prail, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,
presented the citations in behalf of the [Women's National Radio Committee],
which was formed last Summer for the advancement of higher standards of radio
[Prize-winning programs were "The March of Time," "Columbia Concert Music
Hall," "You and Your Government" and General Motors' symphony concert series.]
... In making the awards it was stressed that the determining factors
considered by the judges were their entertainment and instructional value,
their contribution to the cultural tastes of the radio audience and the
dignified manner in which the advertising material was handled.
The character and content of the advertising received special consideration,
it was pointed out by Mme. Yolanda Mero-Irion, advisory chairman of the
committee. She said that if in the judges' opinion the advertising was too
long, too persistent or lacking in good taste, the program on which it
appeared was eliminated from consideration, however excellent the material
might otherwise be.
Programs that received honorable mention ... "Immortal Dramas," which was
praised for its brief advertising; ...
[April 17, 1940 Variety article which reprints a 1935 review]
Previous Radio Bible Dramatics For Montgomery Ward Ran 13 Wks.
Chicago, April 16
In connection with the question of General Mills' present adventure in Gospel
melodrama [NBC's serial "Light of the World"], the Montgomery Ward Bible
series is recalled. 'Immortal Dramas' (1935 review reprinted herewith) was an
NBC owned and produced show and was submitted around generally. Montgomery
Ward was a Lord & Thomas account but the agency couldn't be stirred on it.
Hays MacFarland agency heard the show, got an option on it and sold it to MW
through president Sewell Avery and general manager Walter Hoving (now
president of Lord & Taylor in New York). It was the personal selection of
Avery and Hoving, with none of the other execs at M-W consulted.
Clarence Menser, at that time production manager of NBC, produced the show
with Roy Shields' musical background. Lloyd Lewis (drama critic of Daily News)
was hired to write the synopses at a reported $600 weekly. Scripts were put in
radio form by Bill Copper, [sic] at that time head of NBC continuity
The show was really and strictly institutional with merely a presentation
announcement for Montgomery Ward at beginning and close. No plug for
organization in any way, merely stating that it presented show.
The show went off at the end of the first 13 weeks, having done no selling job
(though no selling job had been sought). Hoving was ill in the Bahamas at
renewal time and no one else would take it upon himself to okay renewal.
MacFarland, also, reportedly had no data as a good reason for renewal. Show
had an 8 rating.
Montgomery Ward made a survey on its own for listeners and reported 94% of
listeners in favor, 4% opposed and 1% noncommittal. At no time was mail sought
or requested, with the mail therefore counted in hundreds rather than
Another reason for failure of show to renew is said to be internal wrangling
among department heads, with the mail order department against the show due to
its failure to seek mail response.
As far as church reaction, it was generally okay. There were reports of the
show being publicly praised in pulpits, and that the Bible Readers Union
attempted to work out some sort of tie-up with the show, but this was rejected
by NBC and sponsor.
These were almost word-for-word dramatizations of the Bible, and no attempt to
color as is with the current General Mills show. ...
(From Variety, Jan. 29, 1935)
Harvey Hayes, [Noble Cain's] A Capella Choir, Roy Shields Orchestra
'Immortal Dramas' is from holy scripture. And for once the radio author is
King. Auspices seem to have been smart enough first to hire a reputable
writer, Lloyd Lewis, historian and dramatic critic of the Chicago Daily News,
and then to keep the advertising from making a mockery, as could easily be
done, of a reverent narrative.
Minimum of commercial copy. Only commercial plug on the entire show is the
brief mention at the beginning and at the end: 'presented by Montgomery Ward.'
No other copy is necessary, in fact, more copy would be detrimental. The very
paucity of commercial copy enhances the single slug line so that the brief
mention stands out more effectively than a 200-word spiel. The only danger now
is that the mail order house may believe that it can, as time gos by, increase
the amount of copy. If such a trick is attempted the company may lose the
effectiveness of this program.
Riding for 30-minute period on Sunday early afternoon it is an almost ideal
time for a Biblical series. Bible is loaded with dramatic values, with love
and life and suspense and action.
Script-writing by Lloyd Lewis is a radio gem. Stark simplicity authentic in
research and tempo marks Lewis' scripts.
Harvey Hayes serves as narrator, leading into the dialogue and he does the job
well. Noble Cam [sic] A Capella Choir has been an NBC fixture here for several
years and in this show finds a place in which it fits perfectly. Music by
Shield and orchestra is excellent in keeping to the spirit of the show.
[July 1955 New York Herald Tribune "Radio and Television" column by John
Broke and all but forgotten by the industry to which he had devoted his life,
Wyllis Cooper died last month, mourned only by a small coterie of admirers who
considered him one of the few genuine creative talents radio ever produced.
... Not many remember "Immortal Dramas," one of the great radio series of all
time, based on bible stories, written, directed and produced by Cooper. These
had tremendous casts, symphony orchestra and a cappella choir -- but in those
days actors worked for money they wouldn't pay a baby sitter now. ...