Some names such as Orson Welles, Norman Corwin and Carlton E. Morse have been immortalized in radio's pantheon of all-star celebrities, but there are a great many other names that have passed into obscurity. For every name that lives on in our memories there are thousands more that have been forgotten or who rarely get a mention.
One such name, in my humble opinion, is Nelson Olmsted. Many people reading this newsletter are likely to remember him for his numerous film and TV appearances (The FBI, Batman, Kraft Suspense Theater, Dr. Kildare, The Twilight Zone, Ben Casey, Maverick, Sea Hunt, Studio One, Goodyear Television Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, and The Wild, Wild West), but few will recall the excellent work he did on radio before moving to TV and film.
Nelson Olmsted was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the same year as the Great War irrupted in Europe. His family moved when Nelson was a child and he spent his formative years growing up in Texas.
In his early twenties he started his radio career and it wasn't long before his expressive voice was in demand. Today, audiobook publishers would have been signing him up on a long term and very lucrative contract because he had that rare talent of being able to turn the reading of a story into a one-man dramatization.
Between the years of 1939 and 1957 Nelson Olmsted appear on numerous radio shows. In some of them, such as X Minus 1 and Dimension X, he took on straight acting roles, but he was more famous for his wonderful story reading skills.
Shows such as Stories By Olmsted and World's Greatest Stories he narrated in his own inimitable style some of the best stories ever written. However, my favorite has got to be Sleep No More in which he does a wonderful job
of sending shivers down the listeners spine with his readings of spooky ghost stories.
When I first heard these shows I was a little dubious. I've always preferred the kind of dramatizations that make old time radio so popular to the more one-dimensional narrations by a single reader that you find on today's
audiobooks, but Nelson manages to bring the stories to life and to draw the listener into his world through his carefully modulated tones.