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.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Take Your Parades, Football Games, Weepie TV Movies and . . .

There are only so many parades, football games, weepie television movies, brain-damaged sitcoms, and badly strained holiday-tied crime dramas you can stand on any given Thanksgiving.

Somewhere in the middle of prayer, turkey, and trimmings, there might be those among you who'd like to go Elvis on the nearest television set playing the umpteen hundred thousandth such offering. Perhaps you couldn't care less whether Brummagem University flattens Huffenpuff Tech in sudden death overtime. (Perhaps you wish they'd make it real sudden death---with corpses.) And if anyone breaks out the hankies and gives you one more tearjerking soliloquy about how Thanksgiving on Walton's Mountain tugged at your heartstrings and played the Brahms violin concerto on them, it was that good, you're going to give them a reason to cry and it won't be "Good night, John-Boy," kiddies.

Well, you can remove the oppressive chains of Thanksgiving television turkeys right here and now, and in one place. Here is a reasonable selection of Thanksgiving as classic radio had it. Now, this doesn't mean that some of these offerings were any less dopey, sugary, or brummagem than what they've been throwing up on Thanksgiving television. But it does mean that you can look on the bright side because you don't have to look at all. Just listen. Especially to the stuff that isn't dopey, sugary, or brummagem . . .

The Jack Benny Program (a.k.a. The Jell-O Program), "Jack Cooks The Turkey"---Don Wilson: "That turkey looked so tough and came out so tender. What did you do?" Jack Benny: "I cooked it with a blowtorch." Mary Livingstone: "We had everything from soup to bicarbonate of soda." Them's eats! (First broadcast: NBC, 28 November 1937; co-stars: Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Don Wilson.)

Vic and Sade, "Christmas Suggestions For The Boss"---Well, it isn't strictly a Thanksgiving-tied episode, but since Christmas season now begins on Black Friday at the latest you might find this a dryly amusing take. And that's allowing that very little of Vic and Sade was unamusing in the first place. (First broadcast: NBC, 26 November 1943; starring Bernadine Flynn, Art Van Harvey, Bill Idelson.)

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, "Gracie Buys a Live Turkey"---With anyone else, perhaps, the title would require an explanation. (First broadcast: NBC, 17 November 1942; co-stars: Jimmy Cash, Elvia Allman, Lawrence Nash; music by Paul Whiteman.)

The Great Gildersleeve, "The Thanksgiving B Ration Book"---A charming period piece, approaching the end of America's first full year of World War II fighting. The big man applies for a B-ration book and thinks having his friendly nemesis Judge Hooker for Thanksgiving dinner might help soften up the old grump. A denied application, an argument, a failed invitation (to Gildersleeve sweetheart Leila Ransom), and a lost church raffle turkey spin the wheels . . . particularly after Gildersleeve learns who won the bird, and after niece Marjorie invites four servicement to Thanksgiving dinner with the family. (First broadcast: NBC, 22 November 1942, starring Harold Peary; co-stars: Lurene Tuttle, Walter Tetley, Earle Ross, Lillian Randolph.)

The Durante-Moore Show, "Casanova Moore"---Includes "The Thanksgiving Pilgrim Opera" with the Old Schnozzola as Miles Standish. (First broadcast: CBS, 22 November 1946; co-stars: Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore, with Suzanne Ellers, Howard Petrie.)

The Life of Riley, "Thanksgiving With The Gillises"---What a revoltin' development that is! (First broadcast: NBC, 19 November 1947, starring William Bendix; co-stars: Paula Winslow, Scotty Beckett, Sharon Douglas, Conrad Binyon)

Fibber McGee and Molly, "Doc's Pheasants For Dinner"---It's not necessarily a Thanksgiving-centric show, but if you'd like an alternative to turkey perhaps this will do the job. (First broadcast: NBC, 23 November 1948; starring Jim and Marian Jordan; co-stars: Arthur Q. Bryan, Bill Thompson, Isabel Randolph, Harlow Wilcox.)

Our Miss Brooks, "Thanksgiving Weekend"---Or, suppose they shared a Thanksgiving dinner and the turkey (depending upon your definition) didn't show up? (First broadcast: CBS, 27 November 1949, starring Eve Arden; co-stars: Jane Morgan, Gale Gordon, Jeff Chandler, Richard Crenna, Gloria McMillan.)

The Harold Peary Show, "Thanksgiving Play"---The short-lived, deserved-better show Harold Peary developed after he jumped to CBS at the tail end of the CBS talent raids . . . and learned the hard way he couldn't take The Great Gildersleeve with him. As a wry, stentorian radio crusader ("Honest Harold" was the name of the fictitious show portrayed in the series, not the series itself) Peary just couldn't shake the Gildersleeve image. Not even a slightly altered giggle and muffled trilling sigh erased his former alter ego; not even rewriting a local stage version of "The Courtship of Miles Standish" to allow John Alden (whom Peary's character planned to play) to plant a smooch upon Priscilla (who was to be played by his current love interest). But it is charming in its loopy way. (First broadcast: CBS, 22 November 1950; co-stars: Gloria Holiday, Joseph Kearns, Mary Jane Croft, Parley Baer.)

The Red Skelton Show, "Things To Be Thankful For"---They don't necessarily include the prospect of a used turkey dealership opening the following year. (First broadcast: CBS, 21 November 1951; co-stars: Lurene Tuttle, Patrick McGehan, the Smith Twins; music by David Rose.)

The Aldrich Family, "The Thanksgiving Turkey"---One of the latter-day installments of the series, with Bobby Ellis (the only actor to play Hen-reeeeeeeeeeeee! on radio and television) playing the role first made famous by Ezra Stone. The Aldriches and the Browns fight over the last turkey. If only the turkey had seen Porky Pig hunting the last dodo . . . (First broadcast: NBC, 23 November 1952; co-stars: Johnny Fiedler, House Jameson, Katharine Raht)


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