The Campbell Playhouse (1938–40) is a live CBS radio drama series directed by and starring Orson Welles. Produced by Welles and John Houseman, it was a sponsored continuation of The Mercury Theatre on the Air. The series offered hour-long adaptations of classic plays and novels, as well as adaptations of popular motion pictures.When Welles left at the end of the second season, The Campbell Playhouse changed format as a 30-minute weekly series that ran for one season (1940–41).
"The Commissioner" sent US special agent Steve Mitchell to exotic locales all over the world, where he would encounter adventure and international intrigue in pursuit of some secret. Each show would always open with a brief teaser scene from the episode to follow. After the intro, Steve Mitchell would be summoned to the office of 'The Commissioner', the regional head of an un-named US State Department agency created to address international unrest as it affected U.S. interests. "The Commissioner" would give background information, explain the current situation and tell Steve his assignment. Steve's cover identity, in almost all his adventures, was that of a suave debonair foreign correspondent for an unnamed print publication — his assignments invariably involved deceit, trickery, and violence, all tied together into a successful resolution by the end of the episode.
The title character, originally Captain Jim "Red" Albright, was a World War I U.S. Army pilot. His Captain Midnight code name was given by a general who sent him on a high-risk mission from which he returned at the stroke of 12. When the show began in 1938, Albright was a private aviator who helped people, but his situation changed in 1940. When the show was taken over by Ovaltine, the origin story explained how Albright was recruited to head the Secret Squadron, an aviation-oriented paramilitary organization fighting sabotage and espionage during the period prior to the United States' entry into World War II. The Secret Squadron acted both within and outside the United States.
Begun as over 20 popular short stories in Black Mask, there were films and novels before the stories were brought to radio under various names. The series aired on CBS. The radio show was sustained by the network when a sponsor could not be found. Sponsors of the show include Anchor Hocking, Toni home permanents, Toni Shampoo and Philip Morris.
The storyline followed the misadventures of Hillsdale Morning Star editor Susan Armstrong (Irene Dunne) and her idealistic ace reporter George Harvey (Fred MacMurray) as they attempted to keep the struggling newspaper in business despite continual financial problems.