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, November 20, 2006

Shepherd Pied

“Judging from his scripts, if [Paul] Rhymer were alive today he would probably snort in derision at the pompous tone of this foreword, but I also suspect he would secretly have enjoyed it.” So wrote Jean Shepherd, introducing an otherwise valuable book, Vic and Sade: The Best Radio Plays of Paul Rhymer.

Shepherd had the virtue of self-honesty at least. He did write rather pompously, at least in terms of introducing a collection of some of classic radio’s least pompous scripts, scripts that invested a low-keyed, semi-serial comedy that amplified absurdism by embracing it quietly as an American way of domestic survival. And he knows it.

Whether it acquits a crack he made earlier in the introduction, however, I leave to you to decide: All I remember of Fred Allen is his phony Chinese accent when he was playing a detective . . . (For the uninitiated, the reference is to Allen’s Charlie Chan parodies, the One Long Pan sketches.)

Everything Shepherd wrote in favour of Vic and Sade is true enough. (Should you pick up the book, you can debate which among Shepherd’s observations ring more true; my own choice would be his commentary about the episode known as “Vic Reviews a Vacation Week with Bess and Walter in Carberry,” and Shepherd had a point when he notes Rhymer wrote more funny lines in a month than the five leading playwrights of the day wrote combined.) So was everything Charles Emerson Winchester III said of Chopin.

But nobody ever asked M*A*S*H’s snooty surgeon to introduce a box set of Victor Borge. And even Winchester would understand that remembering nothing of Fred Allen but the phony Chinese accent compares to remembering nothing about Casablanca but the phony fog over the airport tarmac.


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