Launched in 1931 on KHJ in Los Angeles, the series was soon heard through the West Coast when broadcast on the Don Lee Network. It was then heard, starting in February 1932, over WOR in the East. Nationally, it aired over Mutual starting October 8, 1932. The series was sponsored by White King Soapin the West and by Beech Nut Gum in the East.
Gayne Whitman played the lead role of American-born Frank Chandler, who had learned occult secrets from a yogi in India. Known as Chandu, he possessed several supernatural skills, including astral projection, teleportation and the ability to create illusions. Chandu's goal was to "go forth with his youth and strength to conquer the evil that threatens mankind."
His sister, Dorothy Regent, was portrayed by Margaret MacDonald. Cyril Armbrister directed the scripts by Vera Oldham which took Chandu to far-flung locales, both real and mythical. Romantic interludes for Chandu were introduced with Egyptian Princess Nadji (Veola Vonn). Music was first furnished by Felix Mills and then Raymond Paige. According to Veola Vonn, the program was broadcast from the KHJ building on Melrose Avenue; the KHJ building is still standing, although the KHJ studios are long gone.
In 1932, Walter Winchell noted, "One of the smaller radio chains has a feature called Chandu, which is Hindu-Chinese for an opium preparation. In fewer words--Dope."
In 1935, the production moved to WGN Chicago with a new cast, including Howard Hoffman in the title role and Cornelia Osgood as Dorothy. Her children, Bob and Betty, were played by Olan Soule and Audrey McGrath. This series came to an end in 1936,
Twelve years later, the series was revived on Mutual June 28, 1948 as a 15-minute weekday program, starring Tom Collins as Chandu and Luis van Rooten as the villainous Roxor plotting world domination. With Howard Culver as the announcer and music by organist Korla Pandit, that series continued until January 28, 1949. The serial continuity was dropped February 2, 1949 in favor of 30-minute episodes, each with a self-contained storyline, continuing in that format until April 28, 1949. Culver often read commercials with Pandit's organ music in the background.
On October 15, 1949, Chandu the Magician moved to ABC where it was heard Saturdays at 7:30pm until June and then on Wednesdays at 9:30pm. The last broadcast was September 6, 1950.
In 1932 Chandu the Magician was produced as a film, with Edmund Lowe as Chandu and Bela Lugosi as Roxor. In The Return of Chandu (1934) Lugosi portrayed Chandu. On February 26, 1934, the "Looking Back" column in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, noted:
Radio fans who have been enjoying the Chandu the Magician broadcasts, which have been sponsored by the National Grocery and Reliance Coffee, will be happy to know that the program has been made into a talking picture. The broadcast which is regularly heard over KFQD, can be seen at the Empress Theater for this premier production. [Source: Wikipedia]