Lamont Cranston

 

In the musical Bye Bye Birdie there is a line where the father character Harry McAfee says “Call the Shadow. Look him up under Lamont Cranston.” An orchestra member asked me who Lamont Cranston was and I didn’t know – so here’s everything you wanted to know about Lamont Cranston.

Lamont Cranston was one of the alter-egos of THE SHADOW. Just like Superman had a real world identity of Clark Kent.

ABOUT ALTER EGO LAMONT CRANSTON

In print, The Shadow was born Kent Allard, a famed aviator. During World War I, Allard was both a flying ace and a spy who fought for the French, and known by the alias of The Black Eagle (“The Shadow’s Shadow”), although later stories claim his alias was The Dark Eagle (“The Shadow Unmasks”). After the war, Allard sought a new challenge, and decided to wage war on criminals, rather that simply remain a pilot or return to the military (also revealed in “The Shadow Unmasks”). He faked a plane crash and Allard’s death in the South American tropical jungles. He then returned to the United States, arriving in New York City and adopting numerous identities to cloak his return.

One of these was Lamont Cranston, “wealthy young man about town.” In fact, Cranston was a separate character; Allard frequently disguised himself as Cranston and adopted his identity (see the stories “The Shadow Laughs” and “The Shadow Unmasks”). While Cranston traveled the world, Allard assumed his identity in New York. In their first meeting, with Allard/The Shadow in bed recovering from wounds, he threatens Cranston, saying that he has arranged to switch signatures on various documents and other means that will allow him to take over the Lamont Cranston identity entirely unless Cranston agrees to allow Allard to impersonate him when he is abroad. Cranston agrees. The two men sometimes meet in order to impersonate each other (see Crime over Miami). Apparently, the disguise worked well because Allard and Cranston bore something of a resemblance to each other (see “Dictator of Crime.”)

ABOUT THE SHADOW

The Shadow is a fictional character created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931 in a semimonthly series of pulp magazines. The first story was titled “The Living Shadow”. The character is one of the most famous of the pulp heroes of the 1930s and 1940s — made most famous through a popular radio series in which The Shadow was originally played by Orson Welles. The Shadow has also been featured in comic books, comic strips, television, and at least seven motion pictures. Still, The Shadow is most highly regarded for its radio years, in which pulp crime fiction received perhaps its most compelling broadcast interpretation.

Even after decades, the unmistakable introduction from The Shadow, intoned by announcer Frank Readick, has earned a place in the American idiom: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

The haunting theme song, played on an organ, was “Le Rouet d’Omphale” (Omphale’s Spinning Wheel) by Saint-Saens.

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