Imagination inducerHiman Brown

In high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., a teacher told Brown, “There’s a new thing now, radio” — and was shown how to build a receiver to listen. “What a revelation that was right here in Brooklyn,” he remembered years later. He quickly got a job at WEAF, and shortly after was recruited to act on a show. He liked that OK, but he started to develop his own shows, which he sold directly to ad agencies. Helped by a law degree (he continued to work in radio while going to Brooklyn Law School), he bought the rights to popular characters to make radio dramas about them. He made huge hits out of radio series including Grand Central Station, Dick Tracy, The Adventures of the Thin Man, Flash Gordon, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, and Terry and the Pirates.

As a writer, actor, producer, sound effects man, or director, Brown estimated he made more than 30,000 shows. “I am firmly convinced that nothing visual can touch audio,” Brown once said. “I don’t need car chases. I don’t need mayhem. All I need to do is creak the door open, and visually your head begins to go. The magic word is imagination.” He never lost faith in radio: he created a nightly series, CBS Radio Mystery Theater, in 1974; it ran for eight years. He died June 4 at the Manhattan apartment he lived in since 1938. He was 99 — about six weeks short of his 100th birthday.

From This is True for 6 June 2010