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Famous Like Me > Writer > L > Phillips Lord

Profile of Phillips Lord on Famous Like Me

Name: Phillips Lord  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 13th July 1902
Place of Birth: Hartford, Vermont, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Phillips Haynes Lord (July 13, 1902 - October 19, 1975) was an American radio program writer, creator, and narrator as well as a motion picture actor.

Phillips Lord was born in the small town of Hartford, Vermont, the son of a Protestant clergyman. He was still an infant when his family moved to Meriden, Connecticut where his father accepted the pastorship of a local church. As a boy, Lord spent his summers with relatives in Maine and after completing high school he studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts before going to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. A born entrepreneur, while still in college he established a myriad of businesses including a book-selling operation, a shoe repair service, and a taxi cab company. After graduation, the twenty-two-year-old was hired as to be the Principal at the high school in the small town of Plainville, Connecticut, reportedly the youngest person in the United States to ever hold such a position. He soon grew bored with the job and headed to the big city of New York where after a series of jobs in publishing, he began writing scripts for radio.

The Seth Parker years

Phillips Lord was still in his twenties and living in New York City when he became a national radio personality. Creating the character "Seth Parker," a clergyman and backwoods philosopher based on his real-life grandfather, Phillips Lord wrote stories for radio of rural New England humor that included the playing of old time songs. On his own initiative, he communicated with several stations across the U.S. and sold them scripts he labeled as "Seth Parker's Singing School." An instant hit, Lord was soon contacted by NBC Radio who contracted to buy scripts to produce a show to run six days a week that NBC called "Sunday Evening at Seth Parker's". This was followed by other magazine publications who acquired his scripts and before long Phillips Lord was earning close to $100,000 a year. Not limited in his scope, during this time he wrote other successful radio programs that were designed to conclude after a specific number of episodes were aired. Lord's growing popularity resulted in him publishing two books in 1930 titled "Seth Parker's Album" and "Seth Parker's Hymnal" that all led to the release of 78rpm gospel records by the "Phillips Lord Trio. " Lord and the radio show gained a wide audience and the September 1931 issue of The American Magazine did a feature article on him under the heading: "At 29 He Has Made a Million Friends."

In 1932, Phillips Lord published a book titled "Seth Parker & His Jonesport Folks: Way Back Home" from which he also wrote a stage play titled "Seth Parker's Jonesport Folks; an entertainment in two acts." The book was published to coincide with the release of his 1932 motion picture produced by RKO Radio Pictures Inc. who used the shorter title from the book, Way Back Home. Starring opposite Bette Davis, Phillips Lord was billed as "Seth Parker, Preacher." Because the radio program was unknown in England, the motion picture was released there with the title "Old Greatheart."

In 1933, Phillips Lord came up with the idea of buying a ship and broadcasting his show via short-wave radio while sailing to exotic places around the world with a team of celebrities. Lord purchased the 188 foot, 867 ton sailing ship the Georgette which he renamed the Seth Parker. Much promotional material was released in advance of the adventure including that Mr. Eugene Nohl would be bringing the "Hell Below," a diving shell to be used for undersea exploration. Equipped with the necessary under-water photographic equipment donated by the Pathé film studios, the hype surrounding the voyage promised that Eugene Nohl would photograph "the sunken civilizations of the South Seas Islands, of its deep marine life and formations" and of course "search for sunken treasure and bring back film of shipwrecks."

Sponsored by the Frigidaire appliance company, in June of 1934 the schooner Seth Parker set sail for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal. Departing from New York City, the ship docked at various ports along the eastern seaboard such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Jacksonville, Florida from where they broadcast their short wave radio program that was retransmitted by NBC. For the listening public, this was a grand adventure by a group of wholesome Americans led by the creator of Rev. Seth Parker. However, the broadcasts revealed a bit of the frivolity behind the scenes of a voyage filled with wine, women, and the kind of songs that weren't found in any Seth Parker hymnal. In February of 1935 the good times came to an end when disaster struck in the form of a tropical storm off the coast of American Samoa. The ship was severely damaged to the point where the expedition had to be abandoned which spelled the end of the radio program. Despite everything, the shortened expedition proved immensely popular with the listening audience and the Frigidaire company promoted a 32-page illustrated booklet called "Aboard the Seth Parker" to publicize the voyage and as an advertisement for Frigidaire equipment on the ship. The schooner was eventually sold and its new owner managed to sail it to Coconut Island in Hilo Bay, Hawaii where it was permanently anchored for use as a bar and movie theater. It can be seen in the 1948 Republic Pictures movie "Wake of the Red Witch" starring John Wayne and Gail Russell. In 1999, broadcast historian Elizabeth McLeod listed the "Cruise Of The Seth Parker" as one of the top 100 old-time radio moments of the 20th century.

The Gang Busters era

After returning from his sailing adventure, Phillips Lord immediately set about writing and creating a new radio program for radio. He switched from the kindly Seth Parker persona to a dark and ominous narrator's voice for his Gang Busters program billed as "The Crime Fighters of American Broadcasting." A law enforcement reality series using authentic case histories, during the 1930s the program was hosted by Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and featured various actors such as Art Carney. The thirty-minute program ran on Wednesday nights at 10:00 pm on CBS radio and opened with the portentous sounds of machine gun fire, police whistles screaming, and tires screeching. Copied years later by the television show America's Most Wanted, each episode of Gang Busters had up-to-the-minute reports of criminals wanted by the FBI or other law enforcement officials, many of whom were later arrested due to tips from listeners. To accomplish this, Phillips Lord hired actor/writer/civil servant Helen Sioussat (1902-1995) who later became the head of the Talks and Public Affairs Department at CBS. Such was the influence of Phillips Lord that Ms. Sioussat was given a Washington D.C. office next to J. Edgar Hoover at the Justice Department where she was allowed access to official information from files upon which the radio series was based.

The Gang Busters radio show was an enormous long-running success with 1,008 radio broadcasts over twenty-one years from 1935 through 1957. It also spawned a long-running comic book of the same name and was the basis for a motion picture with the same title as well as a half-hour weekly television series in 1952, both of which were narrated by Phillips Lord. In 1954, several episodes of the television series were used to create another documentary-style motion picture of the same title. The film proved successful enough that a second was put together in 1957 from more of the old television episodes and released under the title "Guns Don't Argue." In 1998, Gang Busters was part of the 30-hour audio cassette called "CBS's 60 Greatest Old-Time Radio Shows."

Among his numerous other radio creations, with World War II and the Battle of Britain raging in Europe, between December of 1939 and August of 1940 Phillips Lord produced a radio show about aviators that opened with an interview of a real-life pilot recounting an exciting adventure in the air after which the show would move to a dramatization played by radio actors. From 1939 to 1952 he produced "Mr. District Attorney," a thirty-minute crime show inspired by the real-life exploits of New York's racket-busting district attorney Thomas Dewey. The radio broadcast spawned a 1941 motion picture from Republic Pictures of the same name then a Columbia Pictures production in 1947.

Phillips Lord's contribution to the radio industry was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6912 Hollywood Blvd. He died in 1975 in Ellsworth, Maine. In 2004, his story was told by author Martin Grams in the book "Gang Busters: The Crime Fighters of American Broadcasting."

External link

  • Phillips Lord at the Internet Movie Database

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Phillips Lord