The Whistler is one of American radio's most popular mystery dramas, with a 13-year run from May 16, 1942 until September 22, 1955.The Whistler was the most popular West Coast-originated program with its listeners for many years. It was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler."
Each episode of The Whistler began with the sound of footsteps and a person whistling. (The Saint radio series with Vincent Price used a similar opening.) The haunting signature theme tune was composed by Wilbur Hatch and featured Dorothy Roberts performing the whistling with the orchestra.
The stories followed an effective formula in which a person's criminal acts were typically undone by either an overlooked but important detail or their own stupidity, except on some rare occasions when a curious twist of fate caused the story to end happily for the episode's protagonist. Ironic twist endings were a key feature of each episode of the series. The Whistler himself narrated, often commenting directly upon the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, taunting the criminal from an omniscient perspective.
Bill Forman had the title role of host and narrator. Others who portrayed the Whistler at various times were Gale Gordon, Joseph Kearns, Marvin Miller (announcer for The Whistler and The Bickersons and, later, Michael Anthony on TV's The Millionaire), Bill Johnstone (who had the title role on radio's The Shadow from 1938 to 1943) and Everett Clarke. Cast members included Hans Conried, Joseph Kearns, Cathy Lewis, Elliott Lewis, Gerald Mohr, Lurene Tuttle and Jack Webb.
Writer-producer J. Donald Wilson established the tone of the show during its first two years, and he was followed in 1944 by producer-director George Allen. Other directors included Sterling Tracy and Sherman Marks with final scripts by Joel Malone and Harold Swanton. A total of 692 episodes were produced, of which over 200 no longer have copies in existence. In 1946, a local Chicago version of The Whistler with local actors aired Sundays on WBBM, sponsored by Meister Brau beer.