To Find Help: Gene Kelly on the Radio

“I never thought I would say this, but Gene scared the hell out of me!! He was creepy, weird, unhinged, menacing, psychotic, but at the same time eliciting sympathy.” — AuntSuzy

A radio program starring Ethel Barrymore and Gene Kelly, “To Find Help” (1949) is a “World War II era cautionary tale about an older woman who hires a young man to do some handywork around her house. She doesn’t know the man well, but help is hard to find because of the war. She doesn’t see any reason to worry because he seems so meek.” Ultimately, the man has “something wrong with his mind.”

According to Escape and Suspense! in 1945, Frank Sinatra played the lead male role alongside Agnes Moorehead, and in 1952, Hollywood based a film on the story, Beware, My Lovely starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan.

Image of Kelly/Barrymore and quote above from “I Heard It On the Radio” on Gene Kelly: Creative Genius.


News, videos, and commentary devoted to the dancer, choreographer, director extraordinaire.

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  • Kala Lewis (@TheDork

    This is eerie, but I absolutely loved it! Nice post! Gene's voice was just very, very creepy. A stark departure of what I'm used to hearing. However, it was very entertainment. 🙂

    • Actually haven't listened to it yet. You're making me want to though… 🙂

  • Kelly

    Kala is right; Gene is very creepy. Think "Christmas Holiday"- creepy. Still, he and Ethel are very entertaining. There are other radio programs out there that are available through Internet Archive and such. I should look into posting them…..

  • Marc

    Sigh… I know I'm going to get the name of being the most curmudgeonly Gene fan on this site, but I found this absolutely hilarious, and for all the wrong reasons. The overwhelmingly sinister 'SUSPENSE!' music and the archaic production are wonderfully endearing and how lovely to hear the mellifluous tones of the incomparable Ethel Barrymore and ,I think, William Conrad in the Orson Welles role. Both are thespian luminaries with voices that send electric tingles to the tips of every nerve ending.

    Gene, I'm dismayed to say, is dreadful throughout. His range consists of two notes: frenzied whispering and frenzied shouting. I love him for having the ambition to undertake projects like this and 'Inherit the Wind,' but they only succeed in exposing his flaws as a dramatic actor. It requires enormous skill to effectively portray an unhinged persona and Gene does not possess that; he makes the common mistake of playing it with naked hostility, when he should be striving for barely concealed malice – think less Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' and more Robert Walker in 'Strangers on a Train' (watch the latter to see how it's done properly and masterfully).

  • Jennifer

    First of all, I love "Suspense." It's one of the few old-time radio shows that still stands up fairly well. Anyway, I listened to this a number of years ago, in the first glow of my infatuation for Gene. Even then, I would have had to agree with Marc in that Gene was rather out of his depth acting in a project like this with a heavyweight like Ethel Barrymore. So I too acknowledge that he is not a strong dramatic actor. What I sense more than anything is that this type of acting just isn't natural to him, and he's having to work at it – and you really can't "work" at acting. You either have it or you don't. As Spencer Tracy once said, "Concentrate, don't embroider." Gene tends to embroider.

    Having said that, I don't think he's quite as bad as Marc indicates. I don't see Gene playing this with "naked hostility," at least not through all of it. I think I can see where he was trying to go with this performance. As Kelly mentions, it is very similar to his CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY role; there is a weak, little boy quality that comes through at times that gives a clue to the craziness within and almost invites your pity. In this way it reminds me a bit of the Robert Walker performance, though I must acknowledge that few people could do the malignant neurotic better than Walker. But I doubt Walker could put on a 15000 kilowatt smile and splash through rain puddles. We all have our strengths. Perhaps we are just a bit overly critical of Gene simply because this is so far removed from his usual persona. Maybe if we didn't know this was Gene we wouldn't think it was quite so dreadful. Then again, maybe not.

  • Kathryn

    Not a great dramatic performance (especially given the company he's in for this piece), but it could've been far worse. From the dramatic movies I have seen Gene in he had a curious tendency to come across as stiff, and to overact. It's always seemed to me to stem from being a bit out of his comfort zone and a little too self aware in the scenes and consequently trying a little too hard, although I could certainly be wrong in that assumption. This performance came across the same way; a bit forced. With that said it wasn't a Sofia-Coppola-In-The-Godfather-Part-III level disaster (bad by itself, and worse given the company she was in). I thought it was passable, but nothing notable. Definitely nowhere near the performance he managed to give in Inherit the Wind which, having seen for the first time relatively, was a pleasant surprise.