Spotlight on Lee Falk - Other writings - The Big Story

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Lee Falk and Alan Cranston copyrighted "The Big Story" (a comedy in three act) June 6, 1940 [1].


In Rome, in the office of United News, the foreign correspondent Matt Owen search for the bigggest story of his life. Sending it back to his publisher in New York, however, is thwarted by the Italian Censor, Valenti. Present in Rome are Matt's boss' wife and daughter, and their companion Mrs Palma. When the publisher's wife demands that he arrange a meeting with Mussolini, he must come up with Il Duce of lose his job. Matt's inventiveness along with his restless pursuit of his relentness pursuit of his big story, namly the identification and capture of the mysterious assassin, madam Banya, creates some hillarious moments of mistaken identities leading to an unexpected but satisfactory ending.


Sam Levene wanted to try his hand at producing and directing a play. He bought the play "The Big Story" and first planed[2] to testing the play at Brattle Hall (Cambridge) before the Broadway presentation in August, 1940.

He thought[3] of doing the show in association with some other management, possible Richard Aldrich and Richard Myers. Elspeth Eric was mentioned for one of the roles, and the Broadway opening of "The Big Story" was set down mid-September, 1940.

He brought[4] the script to Gilbert Miller, the producer and asked for an opportunity to direct it. Miller suggested Levine should work on it, have one performance with scenery and all. Then they would decide whether or not to produce it in NY. Levine agreed and Miller gave him a budget of $8 000.

To get an idea of what a news agency looks like, Levene visited[5] and sketched the New York office of the Jewish Telegrapic Agency.

Maplewood Theatre

Donald Cook was signed to head the cast of "The Big Story", as the likeable Matt Owen. Other members of the cast were: Margaret Waller as Madame Palma, Marcel Journet, Frank Downing, Leopold Badin, Alfredo Verrico, Theresa Catalano, Tito Vuola, Millard Mitchell, Jane Sterling, Zamah Cunningham, Ralph Simon, Nick Rossi, Louis Sorin and Gerald de Joy.

"The Big Story opened[6] at Maplewood Theatre September 30 (N.J.), with futher[7] plans for Brodway around the middle of October.

Harold W. Cohen in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found it interesting that one of the leads in the "Big Story" would be a carrier pigeon [8].

During October it became known that the script was undergoing rewritten and the rehersals held up [9] & [10].

Manhattan Playhouse

In 1975 Cranston's sister and her friend, Lil Scoyen, talked to Los Altos director Judith Dreach about "The Big Story" [11]. Auditions were hold [12] and the play went into rehersal. "The Big Story" opened April 25 and had performances Friday and Saturday 8:30 through May 17. The theater reviews were not entirely negative [13] & [14] and a picture of Marian Sinton bullying Eric Silins was printed in The Times" [15].

In an interview Alan Cranstond told that back in 1939 he and Lee Falk were chatting about their experiences overseas. The idea arosed to do a comedy and "the Big Story" had its initial tryout in Maplewood. He was glad it wasn't a hit in New York back in 1949, because: "then he wouldn't be in the senate now". But now, he said: "I have hope it will go to Broadway this time" [11].

Cast & Crew

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Writing credits

  • Book by Lee Falk and Alan Granston

Directed by

  • Judith Dresch

Set Construction

  • Bill Grass


  • Judith Dresch

Costumes assistant

  • Marjorie Ross


  • Eric Sillins as Matt Owen
  • Jack Kelly as Valenti
  • Marian Sinton as the publisher's wife
  • Nancy Kane as the publisher's daughter
  • Brigita Silins as Mrs Palma
  • Robert Chase
  • Gerry Baumgarten
  • Frank Leon
  • Francis Dresch
  • Bette Grass
  • Steven Frost


  1. Catalog of Copyright Entries (Washington D.C.) Part 1, Group 3, New series, Volume 13, p 118
  2. "Sam Levine to be a Producer", The New York Times, (New York), 13 June 1940, p ?
  3. "Gossip of the Rialto", The New York Times, (New York), 21 July 1940, p 2
  4. "Broadway Medley by Leonard Lyons", The Times (San Mateo, California), 14 Oct 1940, p 8
  5. "Between You and Me by Paul A Peters", The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 19 Jul 1940, p 2
  6. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), 29 Sep 1940, p 46
  7. "The Drama Desk by Harold W. Cohen", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 16 Sep 1940, Mon, p 23
  8. "The Drama Desk by Harold W. Cohen", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 23 Sep 1940, Mon, p 17
  9. "Ethel Clarks' Radio Flashes", The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah), 20 Oct 1940, p 14
  10. "Ronnie Kemper on Air Wawes Tonight"" Republican-Northwestern (Belvidere, Illinois), 05 Nov 1940, p 13
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bladen Barbara, "Senator Enjoying New Image as a Playwright"", The Times (San Mateo, California), 14 May 1975, p 11
  12. Auditions for Senator's Play", The Times (San Mateo, California) 03 Mar 1975, p 17
  13. "Search for the Big Story", The Times (San Mateo, California), 25 Apr 1975, p 20
  14. Burmister Robert, "Cranston Play at PA", The Times (San Mateo, California), 28 Apr 1975, p 23
  15. "Phone Mussolini", The Times (San Mateo, California), 15 May 1975, p 23