Monday, March 22, 2010

The Investigator


The Investigator first aired on CBC Radio in May, 1954. It tells the story of an unnamed United States senator––obviously modelled on Joe McCarthy—who launches an offensive in a rather unexpected place.

In the early 1950s, Reuben Ship, the Canadian playwright who wrote The Investigator, was living and working in California. He, along with many other writers, producers and actors, was summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee because of his one-time membership in the Communist Party.

In 1953, following a two-year legal struggle against the committee, Ship was handcuffed, taken to Detroit and driven across the bridge to Windsor where he was released. Ten months later, The Investigator went to air. Pirated recordings made their way around the States, reportedly all the way to President Dwight Eisenhower, who is said to have played it for his cabinet. It was so influential at the time that it has been credited with helping bring down what many considered to be McCarthy’s witch hunt.

The play is memorable not only for its biting satiric tone, but also for its brilliant acting and production. The radio actor John Drainie provided an uncannily accurate imitation of Joe McCarthy. On more than one occasion, Drainie drove from his home in Toronto across the border to Buffalo to watch the hearings on television; he based his character on seeing the senator in action.

The Investigator is top–notch drama from the golden age of radio and sounds as brilliant now as when it first aired. You can hear it on Rewind on March 25th at 2 p.m. (2:30 NT) on CBC Radio One.

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