Lou Merrill was best known as the host/narrator of the radio docudrama, Crime Classics, which was on CBS radio from 1953 until 1954. The program was created, produced and directed by Elliott Lewis and was based on historical true crimes.
Crime Classics also featured such radio anthology stars as Mary Jane Croft, Paula Winslowe, John Dehner and Norma LeMond. Elliot would recreate the facts of a historical crime, including an accurate portrayal of the times.
Merrill was an excellent narrator for the crime series. Listeners would first hear the sound of rain and then Merrill’s deadpan voice, “That’s the way it sounded when it rained, because the room was just below gutter level, and the rainwater rushed by the room’s only window, and many lodgers caught cold in this room. They were lucky.”
The early days of Lou Merrill’s radio career included a role in the dramatic anthology, Arch Oboler’s Plays. The show also featured such stars as Ronald Colman, Geraldine Page and Lurene Tuttle. Arch Oboler’s Plays aired from 1939 until 1940 on NBC radio.
Big Town, a newspaper-related crime drama, aired from 1937 until 1942 and cast Merrill in many gangster roles. He was often a stand-in for Edward G. Robinson. Robinson was cast on the show as Steve Wilson, the managing editor of ‘Illustrated Press,’ a newspaper known for its crusading ideals.
Among the various roles that Merrill played on the radio, Santa Claus was one that he played on a children’s fantasy program called, The Cinnamon Bear, which played during the holiday season of 1937 and ended just before Christmas.
Escape, the highly popular dramatic adventure anthology which played from 1947 until 1954, also featured Lou Merrill as part of a cast that included Frank Lovejoy, William Conrad and Paul Frees. He also appeared in episodes of Suspense, Dr Christian, Broadway Is My Beat, Nightbeat, The Whistler, Dark Venture, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Railroad Hour.
Merrill also played the role of Captain Craig McKenzie, skipper of a mysterious submarine with a cast of characters that included Bruce Payne, Jack Zoller and Ed Max. The show was the first to be targeted to young people and was hyped as, “A story of five men against the world – heroic men with ideals and the courage to fight for their ‘Latitude Zero.’
The NBC University Theater, a dramatic anthology which featured great novels was on the air from 1948 until 1951 and often cast Lou Merrill in its stories. Other stars on the show included Beulah Bondi, Angela Lansbury and Paul Frees.
Merrill was in many productions of Lux Radio Theater as a supporting player and was also an assistant director who specialized in crowd scenes for the program. One of his notable roles was Sleepy in the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Lou Merrill was born on April 1, 1912 and passed away on April 7, 1963. His radio career spanned the years from the 1930s until the 1950s. The later part of his working years included voice-over roles.