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.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Author! Author!

In which your correspondent rounds up a few choice thoughts by and about the men and women without whom our vintage radio stars would have had little to say no matter how well they didn't say it.

[S]ix of the happiest years of my life. They're wonderful people, and it was a writer's paradise, because Phil was the kind of a guy who loved living, and didn't want to be bothered with work or anything else. And he left us alone. We never had to report to him. Dick and I would work out the premise and write the script. Phil and Alice lived in Palm Springs; they'd come in on Friday. And we rehearsed, we'd do a rewriting on Saturday and do the show Sunday and they'd go back to Palm Springs. He never knew what was gonna happen. And it was left in our hands, which is a wonderful thing to do; and it spoiled us for everybody else.---Ray Singer, co-writer (with Dick Chevillat) for The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

Often people would ask . . . how he was able to turn out a daily show by himself. He always found the query irritating and answered that he was a writer and so it was his business to write. They probably had their own busines which they tended every day? Only once did he seem to admit that all those years of writing against a deadline had been exhausting. It was when he said to me, "Do you know that I have written more words than Dickens?"---Mary Frances Rhymer, widow of Vic and Sade's creator and writer, Paul Rhymer.

One day I wrote about something that happened at home, the kind of thing that isn't funny when it happens but makes good dinner table conversation if you want to be amusing. And I got several fan letters; it all went to my head, but it also went to my common sense. I realised that I didn't have to sit down and knock myself out every minute to try to think of something funny. All I had to do was look around me.---Peg Lynch, creator and co-star of Ethel and Albert.

[His] argument against giving writers credit was, he said, "We will lose an illusion; they think we are really making this up as we go along."---Sol Saks, a staff writer for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. (Saks also said Ozzie Nelson had this in common with Ed Gardner, the creator-writer-star of Duffy's Tavern: "After [Duffy's Tavern] was off, we found out [Gardner] was a terrible, terrible writer on his own. Ozzie Nelson was the same way. On his own show, he was a good editor. He could not write when he tried to write for anything else.")

He killed himself by his work habits. Don would postpone and procrastinate until the very last minute. Then he would get a big pot of coffee and two cartons of cigarettes and he'd sit up all night. All night. And I admired him so much that I began to think that that was the way to write, so I tried it, but I couldn't.---Paul Henning on his boss, Fibber McGee and Molly mastermind and chief writer Don Quinn.

A good play, a good radio show, or a good television program is a marriage of the talents of performer and writer. But if the bride never sees the groom and the marriage is never consummated---well, you know what that makes the brainchild.---Goodman Ace.

[He] was suspicious of anything new and didn't always underatand the humour of it right away. He might have to mull it over for a couple of weeks or perhaps months. Later, he'd pull it out of the joke file and offer it as something he'd just originated and put it in the script, and then say, "Now why can't you guys come up with something like that?" If any of us dared to say we already had, he'd blow his stack.---Ben Freedman, a radio writer for Red Skelton.

No one came between Jack and his writers.---George Balzer, a staff writer for Jack Benny.

[A comedian] has to assign writers to produce certain material and then he must have enough knowledge to order rewrites and to know what to expand and what to cut. At least sixty percent of a show's effectiveness depends on this.---Jack Benny.

When I was fourteen, in the summer of 1934, I saw George Burns out in front of the Figueroa Street Playhouse, which is now the Variety Arts Club, and I asked George if he'd take me into the broadcast with a friend of mine. He said yes, and the curtain went up and Burns and Allen did their radio show for the two of us. They started using audiences six or seven weeks later. I began to write scripts for George and Gracie, and every Wednesday night, I'd turn in a new script to them. I would type them in the typing class at Berendo Junior School behind my teacher's back, so she wouldn't know what I was doing. And of course they were lousy, but George pretended they were okay. He was very kind. They actually used one of my routines, I think it was February of 1935.

About 1982, I went to an awards ceremony at the Cocoanut Grove to give an award to Steven Spielberg and in the middle of the awards, I looked over in the corner and here's George Burns; I haven't seen him in thirty years, forty years or so. And I told the story, and when it was all over, George rushed over to me and said, "Was that you? Was that you? I remember you!"---Ray Bradbury, who later wrote episodes of Suspense.

I used to write 'em in one day. I'd come home from work and it was sandwiches and my typewriter. I'd write all night, when the house was quiet and the kids were asleep. I had already plotted the damn thing for a week or two, driving to and from work. So I knew where I was going, and dialogue came relatively easy.---Ross Murray, a CBS radio soundman who became a writer for Suspense in the 1950s.

I didn't write about little men arriving from another planet, monsters with dripping talons and grotesque faces from the special effects department walking down streets and looking for prey. I wrote about the terror we each have in us. The woman who let us down, the man who left us, the boss we hated, the opportunity that we missed, all the terrors, the monsters within each of us. That's what I wrote about. And things don't change.---Arch Oboler, writer for Lights Out . . . who also wrote the infamous "Adam and Eve" sketch for Mae West's scheduled appearance with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

I got letter that were more beautifully written than the program.---Norman Corwin, writer of We Hold These Truths (a classic commemorating the Bill of Rights's 150th anniversary, whose 15 December 1941 broadcast was planned before Pearl Harbour).

I was a melodramatist, he was a poet.---Arch Oboler, on Norman Corwin.

You gentlemen, the authors.---Tallulah Bankhead, the hostess of The Big Show, addressing her writing staff for the first time.


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