16. 1913 -
Dec 19. 2003)
Height: 5' 10½" (1.79 m)
Eileen Palmer, actress (May 1 or 2,
1940 - ?, divorced)
Alice Reinheart (Dec 9, 1945 - ?) (divorced)
Ruth Ann Mills (Oct 18, 1963 - May 26, 1967, divorced)
Joan L. Hertz (Jul 17, 1980 - Dec 19, 2003, his death)
Born in Balham, London, England, to an American father and a British mother
Lester Tremayne began his acting career at the age of 3 under the tutelage
of his stage actress mother, Dolly Tremayne.
His family moved to Chicago when he was four years old.
After a group of bullies beat
him he disguised his British accent while growing up and began his
career with community theater, dancing in vaudeville shows and even put
those splendid vocal chords to work as a sometimes barker in amusement
He was educated at Northwestern,
Columbia and UCLA
Reportedly he started his
legendary radio career in Chicago on his birthday in 1932.
Above left: Luddy and Tremayne appeared before their microphones
elegantly attired in evening clothes... to foster the illusion of
attendance at a prime play-opening.
Above right: Barbara Luddy and Les Tremayne.
His first big break came in
1936, when he replaced Don Ameche as romantic co-star, to Barbara Luddy,
on the dramatic First Nighter Program. This was the show that
whisked its listeners to New York City, to "the little theater off Times
Square" where they would be treated to a fine "3-act play"... perhaps
a romance... perhaps a tense drama... always intriguing and highly
enjoyable. The show's introduction was a memorable one,
encompassing the usual Broadway sounds: automobile horns blaring,
people gathering together,.... The fact that the show emanated from
Chicago was beside the point. The show's host "Mr. First Nighter"
would arrive at the theater just in time to be told: "Good evening,
Mr. First Nighter, the usher will show you to your seat" (which
was always 3rd row center). The host would then briefly reveal to the
listeners the contents of the forthcoming play, its author and its
cast. The orchestra would play a short prelude. There would be
background murmuring of the audience, possibly a cough or two.
Warning buzzers would sound. "Mr. First Nighter" would softly intone: "The house lights have dimmed... and the curtain is about to go up
on tonight's production..." All done in the most professional and
believable manner imaginable. You were THERE! Since The First
Nighter Program was not only heard but viewed by a live audience, Luddy and Tremayne appeared before their microphones elegantly attired
in evening clothes... to foster the illusion of attendance at a prime
play-opening.... and Tremayne's already-fine reputation soared!
Above left: Publicity shot for Les Tremayne and
Claudia Morgan, who played Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man
Above middle: Alice Reinheart and Les Tremayne are MBS's detectives
Above right: Publicity shot for Les Tremayne as The Falcon
In 1943 Tremayne, the original
leading man in The Romance of Helen Trent. left Chicago for
New York and then Los Angeles, where he enjoyed a lengthy career
performing on virtually every type of radio show.
There he starred with Bob Crosby on the Old Gold Show
serving in the military service. When the show moved to New York, where
he co-starred with a relatively unknown comic Jackie Gleason. New York
proved to be very productive for Tremayne’s career. Throughout the
1940s, he was the voice of Nick Charles on the lighthearted mystery
series The Adventures of the Thin Man
(1944-49). He also played detective Pat
Abbott in Abbott Mysteries
and starred in the
mystery thriller The Falcon (1947).
He appeared on stage with
Heads or Tails in 1947 Tremayne was in the original cast of the
Broadway hit, Detective Story, for its full 18-month run.
A poll in the early 1940s cited
Tremayne as one of the three most famous voices in America. The other
two were President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bing Crosby. Tremayne’s
credits extend far beyond drama. In Chicago Les was briefly married to the
attractive actress Eileen Palmer
after his divorce, he co-starred with second wife, equally beautiful
radio actress Alice Reinhardt, on The
Tremaynes breakfast talk show on WOR/New York.
It is estimated that Les worked on more than 30,000
broadcasts, with as many as 45 radio shows a week in the 1930s and '40s.
"How I was able to attain whatever status I enjoy, with meager education
and no powerful or influential friends to assist me, remains a mystery
to me," he said in a 1991 interview. "Stubborn perseverance, I guess.
Were it possible to live it over, I would change very little. I've been
privileged to work in radio in the Golden Days. Nothing can top that."
After radio drama died, he moved easily into film and television
work. So in the 1950s, he was a durable
player in film and TV dramas. Typically playing shifty execs, errant
husbands, and authoritative, no-nonsense professionals in teams of TV
dramas, he appeared in numerous shows. Tremayne's credits read like a
show business almanac:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
(1955-60), Perry Mason
(1958-66), 77 Sunset Strip
(1958), The Adventures of Rin Tin
(1959), ... .
All this along with a few sitcoms for good measure.
Above left: Wagon Train (1950) Les with Sylvia Marriott
Above right: Les Tremayne and Adam Williams in The Riflemen
Above left: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" a 1960 episode from the
Alfred Hitchcock Presents series with Les Tremayne and Audrey
Above right: Andy and Barney in the Big City an episode in the Andy
Griffith series (1962)