Big Read ends with radio recreation of ‘The Maltese Falcon’

Big Read ends with radio recreation of ‘The Maltese Falcon’
Actress Gloria McMillan, left, plays Brigid O’Shaughnessy and actor Ron Cocking plays Sam Spade. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett is hailed as the quintessential detective novel. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — The monthlong community Big Read of “The Maltese Falcon” ended with a live radio recreation of the story.

The radio performance at the Civic Center Library on March 1 was done just like it used to be back in the golden days of radio, and proved to be a perfect finale for the novel written in 1946.

“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett is known as the quintessential detective novel that others are measured against.

Its short, direct phrases and snappy lines make it a fun listen.

On stage, four actors stepped up to the mics and read an adapted version of the story written by producer Walden Hughes, some actors taking on multiple characters.

“It’s a 30-minute play with certain highlights, enough for people to get the story,” Hughes said.

Sound effects man Jerry Williams had a table full of props to create story sounds.

“He is pouring a drink, door shutting, things that I’m really excited to see,” Monica Chapa Domercq, principal librarian, said.

Hughes hosts a radio talk show and is an expert on early radio.

Radio in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s aired live performances of current movies and dramatic versions of books, and cast big name actors.

“TV took it all from radio,” Hughes said. “There was a live orchestra of 45 people, sound effects person, actors, and 900 people in the audience. It was all famous movie stars and comedians, they all worked in radio.”

Hughes said he has connections to big name actors of radio’s heydays.

Actor Tommy Cook and actress Gloria McMillan share stories from the golden days of radio during the audience talkback. Both have had a long run performing with Hollywood greats. Photo by Promise Yee

Actor Tommy Cook and actress Gloria McMillan share stories from the golden days of radio during the audience talkback. Both have had a long run performing with Hollywood greats. Photo by Promise Yee

On stage for the performance was Tommy Cook the original Little Beaver in “The Adventures of Red Rider” serial; Gloria McMillan, who played Harriet Conklin in “Our Miss Brooks”; John and Larry Glassman, vintage radio program producers; and sound effects man Jerry Williams from the “Doc Savages” serials.

The veteran actors were able to rehearse the 30-page script that morning and perform it that afternoon.

Hughes said the beauty of radio is that listeners use their imagination and create story images in their minds.

Interestingly, Hughes and announcers John and Larry Glassman are both blind and rely on having a keen sense of hearing.

Hughes added that radio draws both an older audience that recalls the golden days, and younger listeners who enjoy a good story.

During this year’s Big Read, 450 copies of “The Maltese Falcon” were given away to readers.

“There was a lot of interest,” Chapa Domercq said. “It spans generations

other books might not have.”

She added the Big Read program brings people together.

“It unifies people,” Chapa Domercq said. “Everyone has that book in common. It brings people together, who maybe wouldn’t be in same room,

celebrating literature.”

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, and is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and encourage people to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

 

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