Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Classic Radio: "Biblical Dramas"

Rare book jacket to the first collection of scripts from the "Biblical Dramas" radio series.
The play enacted by the cast on the cover is unknown.
Biblical Dramas
(NBC Red network series of religious dramas)
Broadcast: 1927 - 1929, Sundays at various times.
Production: William Ford Manley (scripts, writer), Gerald Stopp (director).

Cast: John Knight, Emma Dunn, Charles Webster various

Possibly the first on-going series of dramatized Bible stories on a major broadcasting network. From the same network that would bring us "A.D. The Bible Continues" over 80 years later.

Possibly the first of its kind, the Biblical Dramas series was broadcast from NBC with scripts written by William Ford Manley (1896-1954) and directed by Gerald Stoop. The show's performers included some Broadway performers, usually credited as a group called the "National Players".

Manley was a successful scriptwriter best known for the Snow Villiage Sketches a.k.a. Soconyland Sketches, (1928-1946) a radio series about life in a small New England town. Many contemporary radio history resources have overlooked his achievements.

Episodes of Biblical Dramas are not known to exist but Manley authored three books with scripts for home and church use published by the Fleming H. Revell Company. Newspaper church bulletins reveal that Manley's scripts were popular and used for worship and drama services into the early 1940s. Manley allowed use of his scripts for church use provided the source of the drama was always acknowledged.

Right now I am examining newspaper radio schedules to determine exact titles and broadcast dates, but here are several episode titles and dates as given in news bulletins. The dramas were broadcast at various times (10:15pm, 2:00pm EST), always on Sundays.

19270123 - Samson and Delilah
19270227 - Saul and the Witch of En-dor
1927061? - Samson and Delilah
19280129 - King's Dream
19280129 - The King's Dream
19280226 - Abraham and Issac
19280323 - David and Johnathon
19280408 - The Unconquered
19280422 - Saul of Tarsus
19280513 - Ruth and Naomi
19280609 - The Come Back (Samson and Delilah)
19280624 - A Mess of Pottage
19280628 - A Mess of Pottage
19280701 - The Stolen Blessing (sequel to "The Mess of Pottage")
19280715 - Joab and Amassa
19281007 - Road to Ninevah
19281030 - Noah

Biblical Dramas collections by William Ford Manley:
Manley's books are rare and I was fortunate to find a copy with its original bookjacket for less than $20. Copies are available at some theological libraries. Check Your Church Basement!

Manley, William Ford. 1928. Bible dramas for church and home. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Manley, William Ford. 1928. Bible dramas: radio plays adapted for church and social gatherings. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.

Manley, William Ford. 1930. A second book of Bible dramas. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.


Manley, William Ford. 1928. Bible dramas for church and home. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Swartz, Jon David, and Robert C. Reinehr. 1993. Handbook of old-time radio: a comprehensive guide to golden age radio listening and collecting. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

Various newspaper articles pulled from Fulton History, particularly the following publications:
Rochester NY Times Union
Utica NY Observer
NY Evening Post

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