Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ever Onward and Upward . . .

As of today, this journal no longer exists in the present form. That's because, as of just over a week ago, your chronicler was named---and has been working's national old-time radio examiner. Between that and writing and performing my own weekly radio exercise, not to mention writing about baseball elsewhere, I simply don't have the time or the range to continue.

Aside from getting a little recognition beyond the purview of the blogosphere, why lie? I need the money. And I do stand to earn a little money from the outlet. Probably very little in the beginning. (Probably, the beginning will last a lot longer than I'd like.) But you take your chances wherever they come to you, and I'm more than willing to take the chance that an audience above and beyond the blogosphere is ready to join the journey retracing an invaluable part of our cultural patrimony.

I will leave this journal alive for at least another two months, the better to let those who care hunt down what they might have missed. I plan to archive it myself, preserving the best of the essays and synopses, as part and parcel of a book I plan to write, a kind-of daily listening guide for old-time radio.

My work will be done in much the same way I did this journal for the past two years, especially, with the same kind of listening-guide approach, but adding to it the eye of a critic as well as the enthusiasm of a fan.

For now, I'll say a gentle thank you to everyone who appreciated and sent kind comments along regarding this journal, and to everyone who was kind enough to link to this journal. It all told me that what I was doing was more than worthwhile.

And until we meet again---on; or, between the covers of the book I hope to get out of both this journal's effort and the work to come (and assuming there's a publisher crazy enough to take a chance with a book like that)---I'm quietly yours . . .

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Catch: The Way It Was, 29 September


With first and second and nobody out in the top of the eighth, Game One of the World Series tied at two, and New York Giants starter Sal Maglie having walked future Cleveland Indians Hall of Famer Larry Doby and surrendered a single to third baseman Al Rosen, Tribe outfielder Vic Wertz launched New York reliever Don Liddle's 2-1 pitch on a rising line toward the rear end of the Polo Grounds's famous, cavernous straightaway center field, the ball traveling on a slight angle toward the high fence afront the bleachers to the right of the park's famous elevated straight center field clubhouses.

The scrambling Giants center fielder with the number 24 on his back ran down the drive, which threatened to become a two-run triple at least, a possible three-run, inside-the-park homer at worst, before he hauled down the ball, over his shoulders, without leaving his feet, though some photographic angles will come to suggest he went at least partially airborne to get the ball. Then, he wheeled and fired a perfect strike back to the infield, keeping Doby from advancing past third, giving Liddle's reliever, Marv Grissom, a chance to set the Indians down and keep the game set for what proved to be the winning blow---Dusty Rhodes's famous pinch hit bomb in the bottom of the tenth, launching the Giants toward an improbable sweep of the 111-game winning Indians.

Warning: Muddy sound. Announcer: Jimmy Dudley.


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: BACK FROM VACATION (NBC, 1942)---And the first order of business for the freshly-returned McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan) is to retrieve the camera Fibber inadvertently left on the train---assuming they can negotiate the Old-Timer (Bill Thompson), a chatty lost-and-found director, a fuming Mayor LaTrivia (Gale Gordon), a pestiferous Teeny (also Marian Jordan) who's donated her father's car radiator to the wartime scrap drive, and a customarily wife-bedeviled Wimpole (also Bill Thompson). Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writer: Don Quinn.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wrong Note Samba? The Way It Was, 28 September

In which a small group of Lebanese clerics get theirs for thwarting a harmless-enough Brazilian samba troupe touring the country otherwise to acclaim enough; Rachael Laser whomps up (or should that be blows up) a dish straight from the allegedly endangered species list; and, your host humbly reminds one and all what David Letterman isn't guilty of committing around the office.

And, we serve up an old-time radio treat: the premiere edition of the fifteen-minute, semi-serialisation of beloved comedy. . .
FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: HANGING AUNT SARAH'S PICTURE (NBC, 1953)---In which the Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) can't hang it without first negotiating a small barrage of visitors---namely, Dr. Gamble (Arthur Q. Bryan) and Teeny (Marian Jordan, who also plays Molly)---welcoming the McGees back from vacation. (Announcer: John Wald. Writer: Phil Leslie.)
Partner-in-Crime: Patty Price. Announcer/Rachael Laser: Siri Morgan. Writer-host-producer-director: Your extinguished editor.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Goya, Vey! The Way It Was, 27 September


Series star Ronald Colman himself has written this script that launches with a particularly Hall (Colman)-like dilemna: Only Vicki (Benita Hume Colman) can turn a grump about the morning junk mail, which already bothers Hall no end, into a soliloquy on behalf of increasing Ivy College's student enrollment. And only Hall could find amid the junk mail rubble a query from the attorney for a wealthy Ivy graduate's widow, who spent her final years trying to recover her family's lost art treasures . . . including and especially an authenticated Goya.

The question at first: whether to sell the painting and using the proceeds for a new Ivy arts center, or whether to display the painting on campus. Then the attorney (Ken Peters) visits the Halls with a development the Halls may not like hearing---a knowledgeable art critic believes the painting may be a fake, but that the dead widow may have hyped it to avoid paying duty when she brought it home to the United States. And to make things worse: board chairman Wellman (Herbert Butterfield), not exactly a Hall ally, wants it hung in the hall named after him, unaware it may be a fraud.

And there's a sealed letter from the dead widow that's addressed to Hall . . . and can be opened by no one but himself---after the painting's accepted or a monetary compensation is accepted in its place, which raises the question of what Wellman might do if and when he learns the truth about the painting.

Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolff. Writer: Ronald Colman.


INFORMATION, PLEASE: (NBC BLUE, 1938)---On the day he opens in The Night of the King, Basil Rathbone (better known for playing Sherlock Holmes) joins musicologist Sigmund Spaeth---the author (Read 'Em and Weep; The Common Sense of Music), composer, and scholar whose old-time radio career as a music appreciator and analyst earns him the nickname that also titled one of his radio programs, The Tune Detective---to augment the regular panel of Franklin P. Adams (humourist, New York Post) and John F. Kieran (sports columnist, The New York Times). Moderator: Clifton Fadiman. Announcer: Howard Claney. Music: Joe Kahn. Director: Don Golenpaul.

AVALON TIME: MEETING THE IN-LAWS (NBC, 1939)---Host Red Skelton, in his final months hosting the show, peels through a stream of news jokes and a little give-and-take with some of the musical cast debating whether the show needs more music or more comedy, before launching a sketch in which a newlywed couple (Edna Stillwell, Skelton) is meeting her parents---for the first time. Additonal cast: Dick Todd, Bud Vandover, Marlin Hurt. Announcer: Del King. Music: The Avalon Chorus; Bob Strong Orchestra. Writers: Unknown.

THE GREEN HORNET: VOTES FOR SALE (NBC BLUE, 1940)---With the city's anti-machine mayor facing a dangerous and even violent re-election challenge from his corrupt machine predecessor, the Green Hornet (Al Hodge) wants the city to think he's backing that predecessor---the better to push the critical, machine-breaking ward's votes the mayor's way. Kato: Raymond Toyo. Lowry: Jack Petruzzi. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: James Jewell. Writers: Fran Striker, Dan Beattie, Leo Boulette.

MAYOR OF THE TOWN: THE PAPA DEAR CONTEST (NBC, 1942)---A pleasantly crusty evening of checkers with the judge (possibly Irvin Lee) is interrupted by two Hollywood producers who want the skeptical mayor (Lionel Barrymore) to help with a project the town's chamber of commerce is abetting already: finding the ideal father figure in Springdale for their next film, inspiring the mayor to make a surprising choice for the honour. Marilly: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: . Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Gordon Jenkins Orchestra. Director: Jack Van Nostrand. Writer: Jean Holloway. (Final broadcast for NBC; show moves to CBS as of 7 October 1942.)

THE SIX SHOOTER: THE COWARD (NBC, 1953)---Stopping in Temple City on a job to retrieve cattle, Ponset (James Stewart)'s conscience is troubled by a once-rough man who's changed to a gunless, even even-keeled soul, leaving him with an unwarranted image as a coward, a possibly nasty battle with a rancher who's poaching his and his pregnant wife's cattle, a secret Ponset learns unexpectedly from the frightened woman, and an unexpected rifle purchase. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Basil Adlam. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: Frank Burt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Run 'Em Down Store: The Way It Was, 26 September


A year earlier, running a CBS workshop that serves as much as a script hospital as a training school for new comedy writers, Goodman Ace fumed over CBS's remake of The Little Show, which he'd already retooled for a rising old-time radio comic named Robert Q. Lewis:
I give them a good, tight fifteen-minute comedy show and what do they do? Expand it to half an hour and throw in an orchestra and an audience. Who the hell said a comedy show had to be half an hour? Marconi? Ida Cantor?
Little did Ace know that CBS would perform a similar assassination upon one of the most landmark "good, tight fifteen-minute comed[ies]" of all old-time radio. Of any such show that ever graced the medium (including Ace's own Easy Aces, which he himself tried to retool as a half-hour exercise---mr. ace and JANE---by which he tried to beat the premise senseless via a self-satire in which his prime target was the very mindset that helped destroy the shorter serial comedy), an argument exists that Lum & Abner doesn't deserve the fate about to befall it.

That longtime master exercise in rural absurdism is about to be reshaped into a half-hour sitcom. Its introduction seems benign enough, a tribute to the solidity and the popularity of the original show and its two masterminds, but it actually telegraphs the worst of what is to become: this is a sap-and-claptrap variety exercise, fashioned as a "surprise party" for the sages of Pine Ridge, complete with showbiz stalwarts (specifically, tonight, Bob Crosby, Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, the Modernaires, Red Skelton [in Clem Kadiddlehopper guise], and Margaret Whiting), showbiz glitz, and rapid-fire showbiz punch lines, bordering on witlessness, inexplicably subverting the subtlety of the Chester Lauck/Norris Goff serial comedy.

Lauck and Goff themselves make a quick appearance toward the show's finish, suggesting they'll go along cheerfully enough with the transformation (they had already added more writers to the show at the onset of the 1940s), perhaps blissfully unaware that the very premise of this tribute to their creation is what will prove to be fact in due course---that they already had created something durable, something that didn't necessarily have to die with the kind of grave-stomping the sitcom version would prove often enough to imply.

Lum & Abner would be dead as a regularly-scheduled radio program within five years. The belly laughs would hardly be lame, but they'd dissipate almost as soon as the punch line. History will render its judgment in due course, and Lum & Abner will be remembered as they should have been, and not as the coming revamp threatened to render them.

Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music, direction, and writers: Unknown.


BUNNY BERIGAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA: FROM MANHATTAN CENTER, NEW YORK (NBC, 1939)---The one-time CBS studio orchestra sideman (under the auspices of Freddie Rich) ,who became a jazz star and a jazz tragedy, shines in this remote broadcast performed near the end of his serious career as a bandleader, and three years before his life ended at 33. The only trumpeter known to be equal to Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge at the peak of the Swing Era, Berigan delivers a performance that betrays none of the smothering insecurities that have driven him to the bottle and would, in due course, bankrupt and then kill him. Highlights: A bristling "Caravan," in which Berigan rides that Ellington jewel into a display of his equal prowess at lower and upper horn register; and, "Oh, Ya Ya," whose theme and countermelody may have helped prod Ellington sideman Juan Tizol's future standard, "Perdido," and which pumps at least as hard as the best of the Ellington or Count Basie bands of the period. Other selections: "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" (vocal by Danny Richman), "Night Song," "Swingin' and Jumpin'," and "Little Gate Special." Announcer: Unknown.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: LEILA RETURNS (NBC, 1943)---Leila Ransom (Shirley Mitchell)---who jilted Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) at the altar when her husband turned up alive---returns to Summerfield widowed in sad fact . . . after first sending Gildy a note hoping she can "remain eternally your friend," confusing him a little further considering his unexpected interest in school principal Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet) and his reluctant determination to keep things platonic with Leila. Hooker: Earle Ross. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Claude Sweeten Orchestra. Director: Cecil Underwood. Sound: Floyd Caton, Virgil Reimer. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rap Sheets: The Way It Was, 25 September

(CBS, 1949)

In which Madison High's blowhard principal (Gale Gordon), whose contempt for daughter Harriet's (Gloria McMillan) beau Walter (Richard Crenna) runs the gamut from pathological to pathetic, is beside himself after Walter takes the rap, to Harriet's adoring gratitude, for Harriet accidentally crashing her father's car . . . in his own garage.

Which is nothing compared to what Conklin might do to Walter if he wises up to Walter's plot to cause Boynton (Jeff Chandler) to gravitate closer to Connie (Eve Arden): a similar accident, or offence, attributable to Boynton, for which she might take the rap the better to endear herself to the reluctant object of her affections---assuming it doesn't backfire.

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.


THE WHISTLER: MARRIED TO MURDER (CBS, 1944)---Acquitted of killing his former girl friend when his society fiancee (possibly Betty Lou Gerson) testifies to his alibi, a bohemian painter (possibly Wally Maher) learns too late that his fiancee marries him for the perverse thrill of marrying a murderer. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Marvin Miller. Announcer: Bill Pennell. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling: Dorothy Roberts. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Robert Libbott.

THE PHIL HARRIS-ALICE FAYE SHOW: KEEPING REGULAR OFFICE HOURS (NBC, 1949)---That's what sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon) demands after Phil (Harris) barely presented a show last week, and that's what Phil fears will wreck his lifestyle, even if Alice (Faye) is rather enthusiastic about the idea. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Remley: Elliott Lewis. Willie: Robert North. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another Enchanted Cottage: The Way It Was, 24 September

Disfigured and embittered following a harrowing road accident, Livia Ashley (Joan Fontaine), who owns a coastal honeymoon cottage accepts the friendship of a blind sculptor (Tom Tully), and---crying out in her loneliness---proposes to his plain assistant (William Johnstone), to ward off the entreaties of her sister and brother-in-law to return to their high society life.

But their marriage of mutual self-protection falls unexpectedly under the cottage's reputed, honeymooners'-only spell, a spell of which she was unaware previously, which now carries unnerving ramifications when her sister (Lurene Tuttle) and brother-in-law (Dan O'Herlihy) return to visit the newlyweds . . . provoking a surprising consequence.

This version stays more strictly along the line of the original Arthur Wing Pinero drama than to the popular (and enchanting) 1945 film adaptation starring Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire (which they re-created in a striking installment of Lux Radio Theater)---in which they played a socialite disfigured in war and the cottage's plain, lonely caretaker (with Mildred Natwick as the cottage owner, a widow who masks her grief in brusqueness), but it's still an engaging if too-abreviated listen.

Mrs. Morgan: Gloria Gordon. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jaime del Valle. Writer: Walter Brown Newman, adapting the Arthur Wing Pinero play.


THE WHISTLER: BLIND ALLEY (CBS, 1943)---A weak-willed playboy, whose wealthy grandfather has threatened to cut him off until or unless he reforms, learns the hard way where his wastrel life of wine, women, and gambling---patterned after that of his father, who met an early death because of it---might lead if he's foolish enough to think he can't be burned . . . or buried, after a night on the town and a jarring accident with his new girlfriend and her shifty, blackmailing brother. Nella: Possibly Lurene Tuttle. Investigator: Possibly Jeff Chandler. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: J. Donald Wilson. Writers: J. Donald Wilson, Harold Swanton.

THE GREEN HORNET: UNDERWATER ADVENTURE (ABC, 1946)---The Hornet (Bob Hall) and Kato (Rollon Parker) target a salvage company they suspect is a front for mass theft, even if they're the only ones who believe it, looking to thwart a crooked salvage scow doing business with an unsuspecting city operation and hot for a sea-buried bank haul. Axford: Gil Shea. Announcer: Possibly Hal Neal. Director: Possibly Charles Livingstone. Sound: Fred Fry, Bill Hengsterbeck, Ken Robertson. Writer: Fran Striker.

THE HAROLD PEARY SHOW: RENAMING BOOMER PARK (CBS, 1950)---Warding off Billy's (Will Wright) suggesting that he offer racing tips on his morning radio show is nothing compared to Harold (Peary) trying to romance an Evie (Mary Jane Croft) who thinks he wastes too much time on "frivolous" local crusades. Stanley: Ken Peters. Gloria: Gloria Holliday. Old Doc Yak-Yak: Joseph Kearns. Additional cast: Frances Robinson, Jerry Marron, Jack Moyles. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Jack Meakin. Director: Norman McDonnell. Writers: Gene Stone, Jack Robinson, Dick Powell, Harold Peary.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tripwires, Gongs, and Ducks: The Way It Was, 23 September

(NBC, 1935)

By now well settled at 79 Wistful Vista, after several years of rambling, and well-settled into their soon-to-be-familiar personalities as the scattered, bighearted but clumsy-minded Fibber and salt-of-the-earth, acid but patiently loving Molly, McGee (Jim Jordan) trips into a mouse trap, crosses the wrong wire, longs for his own gong to ring away amateur handymen, and looks for any and every other excuse to duck the back porch scrubbing for which Molly (Marian Jordan) has hankered long enough.

Includes a special appearance by the then-president of show sponsor Johnson's Wax, Herbert F. Johnson, Jr., about to embark on a South American expedition for his company. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Rico Martelli Orchestra; Lynn Martin; the Three Kings. Writer: Don Quinn.


SUSPENSE: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (CBS, 1943)---Launching a four-week stand as the show's star, Orson Welles also features in this adaptation of the Richard Connell story (published first in Collier's, 19 January 1924) in which a crack hunter from New York (Keenan Wynn) becomes the hunted---by a Russian aristocrat (Welles)---after swimming to safety in the Carribbean following his fall from a yacht. The Man in Black: Joseph Kearns. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Truman Bradley. Music: Lucien Morawick. Director: William Spier. Writer: Jack Anson Fink.

MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: THE ATTIC (CBS, 1949)---George's (Richard Denning) longtime habit of newspaper reading at the breakfast table finally drives Liz (Lucille Ball) to a desperate measure; Liz translates for Katie (Ruth Perrott) when an old friend calls George, inviting him to a reunion of his old music group and prompting him to hunt down his old ukulele---hoping Liz's habit of discarding his old belongings pre-emptively is broken at last. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Abandoning a Sinking Boat: The Way It Was, 22 September


The Trophy Train hits San Diego pausing, for Arthur Shrank's reporting and the duplicates of Bob & Ray's high school diplomas . . . and the latest installment of One Fella's Family shows Mother and Father taking a box lunch to the seawall, where they witness a slightly jarring boating incident.

Otherwise, well, Wally Ballou reports from Las Vegas and a new hotel opening, interviewing its manager who hopes for a big sendoff for the new emporium.

Writers/improvisors: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


VIC & SADE, SADE TAKES NAMES; A.K.A. WALLFLOWERS (NBC, 1939)---After lunch, and just before Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Rush (Bill Idelson) need to return to office and school, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) on the phone with Ruthie Stenbottom shoos Rush off to school and commits Vic to recording information---and at least half a dozen names---on various wildflowers, for her thimble club. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: FINNEGAN'S INSURANCE POLICY (NBC, 1944)---With guest Gene Tierney ("She's got the face that launched a thousand ships---and the legs that brought 'em right back home") expected to visit, Archie (Ed Gardner) thinks she might appreciate a life of simplicity with him, while Finnegan (Charles Cantor) wants a five dollar loan to take out an accident insurance policy. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Florence Robinson. Mr. Hancock: Possibly Alan Reed. Music: Marty Malneck Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, possibly Larry Marks, Larry Gelbart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Profiles in Absurdity: The Way It Is, 21 September

In which the online dating profile, at least the more typical of the breed, is reflected, inspected, and dissected. And, in which your host takes advantage of one of radio's (old-time or otherwise) salient blessings---namely, the do-over---and re-examines Thurber's sixth rule of humour, before having quickly at rules one through five and finding them a little wanting . . .

Cast: Patty Price, Siri Morgan. Tonight's music: The Butterfield Blues Band, Booker T. & the MGs. Writer/host/director/producer: Jeff Kallman.

Our old-time radio selection for tonight:

LORENZO JONES: LORENZO PLANS A MODEL TOWN (NBC, 1948)---His published letter outlining such a town in draft gets Lorenzo (Karl Swenson) a visit from the mayor, which astonishes and dismays Belle (Lucille Wall) at once . . . at first. Announcer: George Putnam. Music: Ann Leaf. Director: Possibly Stephen Gross. Writers: Theodore and Mathilde Ferro.


LIFE WITH LUIGI: LUIGI DISCOVERS AMERICA (SERIES PREMIERE---CBS, 1948)---Freshly arrived in Chicago, antique-and-curio shopman Luigi Basco (J. Carroll Naish) is at once fascinated by his newly-adopted America ("Some-a country when a Washington a-drive off in a Lincoln!") and repelled by the fellow Italian (Alan Reed) who brought him over with one purpose in mind---to marry his fat, giggly daughter (Jody Gilbert). Jimmy: Gil Stratton. Miss Spaulding: Mary Shipp. Banker: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: William N. Robson. Writers: Hy Kraft, Arthur Stander.