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The Court of Human Relations

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The Court of Human Relations
Other namesTrue Story Court of Human Relations
Country of originUnited States
TV adaptationsThe Court of Human Relations
StarringPercy Hemus
AnnouncerCharles O'Connor
Paul Douglas
Written byWilliam Sweets
Directed byWilliam Sweets
Produced byWilliam Sweets
Original releaseJanuary 1, 1934 (1934-01-01) –
January 1, 1939 (1939-01-01)

The Court of Human Relations is an American old-time radio human-interest program, pioneering the popular judicial genre that would later transform into televised entertainment. It was broadcast on NBC, CBS, and Mutual at various times, beginning January 1, 1934, and ending January 1, 1939.[1] Sometimes referred to as True Story Court of Human Relations,[2] not only was it radio's first courtroom series,[3] but it was "one of the first sponsored programs ever carried on CBS."[4]


Episodes of The Court of Human Relations featured actual court cases that were re-created by actors.[5] Michele Hilmes, in Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States, described the program as "a forerunner of much of the material on Court TV or Judge Judy."[6]

Material for the program came from articles in True Story magazine, which also sponsored the show. In Media Lost and Found, media historian Erik Barnouw (who directed some episodes of the program) wrote:

In a typical story a young woman tells of being seduced, then abandoned, by some fellow who proves unworthy. She, after bearing a child out of wedlock, is trying hard to put her life together again. The end was always moral, but True Story owed its success to making sure that its readers — later its radio listeners — first savored fully the adventure of a sinful liaison.[7]

Audience response[edit]

Listeners were asked to arrive at their own verdicts for each case presented and to submit those verdicts by mail.[1] The sponsor awarded prizes for the best responses each week. Workers in the Contest Department of McFadden Publications, publisher of True Story magazine, sorted the verdicts that arrived by the thousands weekly. Elizabeth W. Neil, who supervised the processing, said that verdicts arrived "from all sorts of addresses upon all kinds of stationery."[8] She added that people who submitted verdicts include "employees of big business concerns ... housewives ... [and] professional men, lawyers dominating this class."[8]


The program's one continuing character was the judge, played by Percy Hemus. Actors who often appeared in supporting roles included Lucille Wall, Helene Dumas, Florence Baker, Rita Vale, Hanley Stafford, Wilmer Walter, Vera Allen, Alice Reinheart, Ned Wever, and Betty Worth. Announcers were Charles O'Connor and Paul Douglas. Arnold Johnson provided music. William Sweets wrote, produced, and directed.[1]

Broadcast schedule[edit]

Starting Date Ending Date Network Duration
January 1, 1934 April 22, 1934 NBC 45 minutes
May 4, 1934 August 30, 1935 CBS 30 minutes
September 6, 1935 May 26, 1938 NBC 30 minutes
October 9, 1938 January 1, 1939 Mutual 30 minutes

Source: On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio[1]


In the second half of the 1930s, Columbia Pictures produced a series of short subjects (10 minutes long)[9] based on The Court of Human Relations. The first, "Mad Money",[10] was shown in "125 key cities" beginning on September 4, 1936,[11] with additional episodes scheduled for monthly production. B. K. Blake was the series' producer and director. The films were based on material from True Story and other McFadden publications. The series was promoted on the air during broadcasts of the program.[10]


A daily afternoon version of The Court of Human Relations began on NBC-TV on June 22, 1959, and ended on August 21, 1959.[12] A. L. Alexander, the host of A. L. Alexander's Mediation Board, was the program's creator, producer, and moderator. The show replaced Haggis Baggis in the network's lineup.[13] Three mediators joined Alexander each day, with two cases presented in each episode.[14] The program was panned by William Ewald, a columnist for United Press International. In a column printed in the June 24, 1959, issue of the New Castle (Pennsylvania) News, he described the show as "just a cheap peep show, a keyhole cavalcade, and a rather mournful reflection on the taste of TV programmers."[15]

In 1960, 50 half-hour episodes of the program were available for syndication.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 182-183. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-10-30. The Court of Human Relations, dramatized human interest.
  2. ^ "(photo caption)" (PDF). Radio Index. February 1935. p. 26. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  3. ^ Bianculli, David (2016). The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780385540285. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  4. ^ "True Story Returns" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 1, 1934. p. 14. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  5. ^ Erickson, Hal (2009). Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series About Judges, Lawyers and the Courtroom, 1948-2008. McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 9780786454525. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  6. ^ Hilmes, Michele (2013). Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States. Cengage Learning. p. 101. ISBN 978-1133307303. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. ^ Barnouw, Erik (2001). Media Lost and Found. Fordham Univ Press. p. 151. ISBN 9780823220991. Retrieved 10 April 2017. Court of Human Relations radio.
  8. ^ a b Swain, Howard (July 1934). "Ten Million Jurors For True Story Court". Radio Mirror. 2 (3): 36–37, 76. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Court of Human Relations (ad)". Radio Mirror. 6 (5): 89. September 1936. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Exploitettes". The Film Daily. September 4, 1936. p. 10. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  11. ^ "First 'Court' Short Dated". The Film Daily. August 11, 1936. p. 2. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  12. ^ McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television (4th ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc. p. 183. ISBN 0-14-02-4916-8.
  13. ^ "(untitled brief)" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 13, 1959. p. 82. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  14. ^ "A.L. Alexader [sic] Acts As Mediator As New 'Court' Show Has Debut". The Daily Herald. Utah, Provo. June 22, 1959. p. 19. Retrieved April 11, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  15. ^ Ewald, William (June 24, 1959). "Television In Review". New Castle News. Pennsylvania, New Castle. United Press International. p. 28. Retrieved April 11, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  16. ^ "New programming firm enters the field" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 6, 1960. pp. 84–85. Retrieved 11 April 2017.

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