Gerald Mohr was one of the hardest working and most steadily employed radio actors of the Golden Age of Radio.
The Mohr legend states that he had entered the pre-medical program at Columbia University when he had an attack of appendicitis. While in recovery he shared a room with a local radio broadcaster. Realizing that the young man's rich baritone voice would be a natural for radio, the roommate encouraged young Gerald to audition. This resulted in Mohr becoming one of CBS's youngest reporters for a time. By the mid-1930's Orson Welles would invite the young actor to join his Mercury Theatre Repertory where Mohr would begin to learn the craft of drama.
In 1935 Mohr would co-star on Ann of the Airlanes, a children's adventure serial loosely based on the adventures of Amelia Earhart. This would lead to his first leading role in the adventure series Jungle Jim.
Mohr's radio work earned him the nickname "The Iron Duke". This referred partly to his suave appearance and aristocratic manner, but also to his work ethic and the fact that he rarely missed a line. During the early days of his career, programs were still recorded on records rather than easily erased magnetic tape. This meant if a line was blown, the whole session had to be rerecorded. During one notable recording session, Mohr had the line: "…and Queen Wilhelmina extradited the Ex-Kaiser of Prussia out of Holland!" His show business future very much on his mind, seven times the Iron Duke got the Ex-Kaiser "out of Hollywood!" Much to the embarrassment of the young actor, and the frustration of the director, the scene was set up again and again, until on the eight try Mohr finally got out "Holland." The director was so relieved that he let out a yelp of "Whoopee!" which made it onto the recording, and a ninth take had to be done.
Mohr had many radio roles in the pre-war years, in both leads and character parts, including The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Front Page Drama, Dr. Christian, Lux Radio Theaterand Cavalcade of America. Early in the war he made several appearances on Orson Welles' contribution to the war effort, Hello Americans, a series of documentaries about our South American neighbors.
Another interesting war time effort was the Blue Network's Wings to Victory, which dramatized actual air adventures of the men of the Army Air Corps. The cast is not listed in the broadcast credits, but Gerald Mohr is known to have performed in at least two episodes.
When most radio fans think of Gerald Mohr, their first thought is Gumshoe. The character of Philip Marlowe first appeared in Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel The Big Sleep. Many of Chandler's earlier short stories feature similar characters; later many of these would be republished with Philip Marlowe's name replacing the original protagonists. The tough, wisecracking and hard drinking private eye was philosophical and contemplative, enjoyed playing chess, and reading poetry. Marlowe first appeared on the radio on Lux Radio Theater in 1945 with Dick Powell playing the detective. Van Heflin starred in NBC's The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe in the summer of 1947. CBS took over the character for their own The Adventures of Philip Marlowe from 1948 through 1951, starring Gerald Mohr. Raymond Chandler was very satisfied with the choice of Mohr to play his character, saying
"Gerald Mohr is absolutely tops. A voice like Gerald Mohr's gave you a personality which you can fill out according to your fancy."
Mohr is credited with giving the character a humanity and sense of humor that is missing in earlier radio portrayals, as well as a "dark knight" quality. These were characteristics that Chandler had given the character in his original writing. Mohr was selected as Radio's Most Popular Actor by Radio and Television Magazine in the show's first year.
Radio Noir, Crime Dramas, Detective stories, it may seem type casting but it was a good fit for Mohr. He played Nero Wolfe's legman, Archie Goodwin, starred in Yours Truly Johnny Dollarfor a time, made appearances on The Whistler, Suspense, Escape, Let George Do It, Mystery is My Hobby, Rogues Gallery, and I Was a Communist for the F.B.I.
Mohr was also comfortable with lighter fare, playing French teacher Jacque Monet on Our Miss Brooks, and appearing on shows like Easy Aces, Mayor of the Town, My Favorite Husband, The Bob Burns Show, Dr Christian, and the Alan Young Show.
And we can't forget the westerns! Red Ryder, Tales of the Texas Rangers, The Six Shooter, and Gunsmoke all featured the services of Gerald Mohr at one time or another. And if the Cowboys couldn't save the world, Mohr appeared in seven episodes of Superman.