Cast & Crew
D. Ross Lederman
After the world series, radio personality and sports reporter Jerry Franklin, together with his pal Andy, tries to find out why Lefty Dugan did not pitch in the series as expected. Lefty informs the duo that he was knocked unconscious after he received a strange five-dollar bill with a moustache drawn on Lincoln's face. Jerry and Andy discover that the "moustache" is really a series of numbers, but they cannot crack the code. During their search for the man who gave Lefty the bill, Jerry and Andy are nearly run over by a cab. Eventually they find their man working as a sandwich man. He tells Andy and Jerry that he received the money from a wealthy man, whose name he does not know. Jerry is then summoned to meet Mary Cramer at the Cateret Hotel and, after giving her the bill, follows her to her room. There they find a long-dead corpse. The next day, Finn Harrigan arrives and tells Jerry that he gave the five-dollar bill to the sandwich man. Jerry broadcasts everything he knows about the five-dollar bill and promises to conclude the story the following day. Back at Jerry's penthouse apartment, Mary explains that her real name is Connor, and that she is after $200,000 in hidden ransom money, the location of which is concealed in the code on the bill. During his broadcast the next evening, Jerry summons the crooks by announcing that the code will be cracked. In the meantime, however, the gang has gone to Jerry's house and figured out the code themselves. When Jerry, Andy and Mary arrive at the penthouse, the crooks tie them up. Jerry manages to open a bottle of acid and after it eats through the rope, they escape with just enough time to phone in the broadcast. After Jerry tells the police over the air where the gang has gone, a shoot-out ensues and the money is found. As Jerry leaves, he puts his arm around Mary.
D. Ross Lederman
Robert Emmett Keane
Mary Lou Dix
Panic On the Air - Panic on the Air
Star Lew Ayres had begun his film career impressively, playing opposite Greta Garbo in MGM's The Kiss in 1929, and following that with his unforgettable performance in Universal's Academy Award-winning anti-war drama, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). But Universal did not capitalize on the acclaim he received for his portrayal of a young soldier, and cast him in inconsequential films. After his Universal contract ended in 1934, Ayres made several mostly lackluster films at Fox and Paramount. The same year he appeared in Panic on the Air at Columbia, he also agreed to act in two films at the Poverty Row studio Republic (The Leathernecks Have Landed  and King of the Newsboys ), so he could direct one film - the Civil War naval drama, Hearts in Bondage (1936). 1938 proved to be a turning point for Ayres's career. He had one of his best roles in years, as Katharine Hepburn's alcoholic brother in Holiday, and he was signed by MGM and cast in the leading role of Young Doctor Kildare, the first of what became a popular film series.
The leading lady of Panic on the Air, Florence Rice, knew something about sports reporters--her father was Grantland Rice, the dean of American sportswriters of the 1920s and 30s. Florence Rice started her career on the New York stage in the early 1930s, and went to Hollywood in 1934. After working at Columbia for a couple of years, Rice, like Ayres, ended up at MGM, and while she had some good roles, she never broke out of the pack and made her last film in 1943.
Panic on the Air director D. Ross Lederman was an enormously prolific director of B-movies who broke into the film industry as an extra and stuntman for Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops series. He also worked as an assistant director for D.W. Griffith on Intolerance (1916) and worked his way up through the ranks to director, including directing several Rin Tin Tin films in the late 1920s. Panic on the Air was an adaptation of a story by Ted Tinsley published in the pulp magazine, Black Mask, and it was in the various pulp film genres--crime, westerns, adventure--that Lederman was increasingly making his mark in the 1930s. He earned a reputation for working quickly and efficiently, bringing his films in on schedule and under budget. At Warner Bros. in the 1940s, Lederman made a series of fast-paced, violent noir films such as Strange Alibi (1941) and Escape from Crime (1942) that have become cult favorites.
Lederman moved to television in the 1950s, working on action series for the Columbia TV subsidiary, Screen Gems, which was headed by his Panic on the Air producer, Ralph Cohn. The nephew of Columbia chief Harry Cohn, Cohn got into the family business as a teenager. Panic on the Air was his first producer credit, at the age of 21. For the next dozen years, Cohn cranked out b-movie serials such as the Boston Blackie and Lone Wolf mysteries. In 1949 he made Columbia the first major studio to get into television when he started Screen Gems to sell the studio's old films to TV, and eventually turned to television production.
When Panic on the Air opened in 1936, all these achievements still lay ahead for the cast, director, and producer. The film was just a modest little programmer with modest expectations. So New York Times critic John T. McManus's mild praise must have been a pleasant surprise: "Panic on the Air is the sort of vehicle that suits Lew Ayres, and, with Benny Baker's plaintiveness and Florence Rice looking nice and natural, the film is somewhat entertaining."
Director: D. Ross Lederman
Producer: Ralph Cohn
Screenplay: Harold Shumate, based on the story, "Five Spot" by Theodore S. Tinsley
Cinematography: Benjamin H. Kline
Editor: James Sweeney
Cast: Lew Ayres (Jerry Franklin), Florence Rice (Mary Connor), Benny Baker (Andy), Edwin Maxwell (Gordon), Charles C. Wilson (Fitzgerald), Murray Alper (Danker), Wyrley Birch (Major Bliss), Gene Morgan (Lefty Dugan).
by Margarita Landazuri
Panic On the Air - Panic on the Air
A working title of the film was Calling All G-Men. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter on October 11, 1935, Lloyd Nolan and Ann Sothern were to appear in a Columbia film entitled Panic on the Air that was to begin production the next week. The news item actually referred to another Columbia film starring Nolan and Sothern, You May Be Next!, that was filmed in October and November 1935 and was listed on production charts as Panic on the Air.