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Arch Oboler

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Biography

Arch Oboler (December 7, 1907–March 19, 1987) was an American playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer and director who was active in radio, films, theater and television. He generated much attention with his radio scripts, particularly the horror series Lights Out, and his work in radio remains the outstanding period of his career. Praised as one of broadcasting’s top talents, he is regarded today as a key innovator of radio drama. Radio historian John Dunning wrote, “Few people were ambivalent when it came to Arch Oboler. He was one of those intense personalities who are liked and disliked with equal fire.”

Oboler was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Leon Oboler and Clara Oboler, Jewish immigrants from Riga, Latvia. He was brothers with Eli M. Oboler. Arch Oboler briefly attended the University of Chicago prior to dropping out to pursue a full-time writing career.

Oboler sold his first radio scripts while still in high school during the 1920s and rose to fame when he began scripting the NBC horror anthology Lights Out in 1936. He later found notoriety with his script contribution to the 12 December 1937 edition of The Chase and Sanborn Hour. In Oboler’s sketch, host Don Ameche and guest Mae West portrayed a slightly bawdy Adam and Eve, satirizing the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden. On the surface, the sketch did not feature much more than West’s customary suggestive double-entendres, and today it seems quite tame. But in 1937, that sketch and a subsequent routine featuring West trading suggestive quips with Edgar Bergen’s dummy Charlie McCarthy helped the broadcast cause a furor that resulted in West being banned from broadcasting and from being mentioned at all on NBC programming for 15 years.

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