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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year's Radio Eve


Think what you will otherwise about the progress, regress, or buttress of the war. For me, the first thought when the news arrived was a line attributed to Clarence Darrow: I have never wished a man dead, but I have read a great many obituaries with a great deal of pleasure.

But surely it was not the perverse pleasure by which Saddam Hussein read his victims' obituaries over long and grotesque years. Only formally was he executed for one massacre (150 at Dujail). Extraterrestrially, he was executed for thousands whose crimes when all was said and too much done were demurring from his manner of policy and prosecution.

You can prowl the cyberspace arterials and find terrestrial celebrations scaling from sober to extravagant, from shuddering to exuberant, and pray only that the exuberance respects a) a line between Darrovian pleasure and blood dancing, and b) the memory of those whose inconvenience Saddam liquidated.

And you can return to earth reminded that there are those among us who actually find some kind of moral equivalence between the butcher and his executioners. Assume the following might have been brought to formal justice, to any percentage, then ask whether there could be moral equivalence between their executioners and Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Amin. No respondent of even elementary decency should be stuck for an answer.


You need not imprison yourself with television's usual bill of unfare this New Year's Eve. You need not even imprison yourself in the clink for the night, should you run afoul of the sobriety checkpoints. All you have to do, on my invitation, is round up your party, stay inside, break out the booze, and crank up the computer speakers to turn them into the old Philco for a few rounds of auld lang syne as they once did it on the air.

You need not even do it for any reason other than the sake of just plain good entertainment. Remember: If you seek nostalgia, move along, nothing (much) to see here. If you seek art (I leave it to you whether it is highbrow or Lowenbrau---forgive me, I'm a St. Pauli Girl man myself, in terms of an occasional beer), you have arrived at the right party.

The Jell-O Program with Jack Benny, "Goodbye 1938, Hello 1939"---The title is Mary Livingstone's warbling, satirical poem, the conclusion of which seems to please Jack.

Elsewhere and otherwise: Don Wilson couldn't dance at the Coconut Grove New Year's Eve because his wife left her shoes at the cinema. Jack "had a fairly good time" taking Mary to the Wilshire Bowl to hear Phil on New Year's Eve. "I was so far away from the bandstand I couldn't even see the circle under your eyes," Jack groused to Phil the day after. Mary embarrasses Jack with the truth about the pole behind which he thought they sat.

JACK: This being the New Year I was gonna give you all a raise in salary, but the way you've been acting I'm not gonna do it.
PHIL: I'd be satisfied just to get my regular salary on time.

It goes from there, with the usual (and singular) Benny aplomb.

(Original broadcast: NBC, 1 January 1939. Writers: Ed Beloin, Bill Morrow, Sam Perrin, Arthur Phillips, Howard Snyder, Hugh Wedlock, Jr. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Sponsor: General Foods.)

Fibber McGee and Molly, "Fibber Finds a Gold Watch"---And, advertises for its owner. It’s tempting to think that this was one time finders-keepers should have applied, all things considered. Almost.

(Original broadcast: NBC, 31 December 1940. Stars: Jim & Marian Jordan. Co-stars: Harold Peary, Bill Thompson. Writer: Don Quinn. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Sponsor: Johnson’s Wax.)

The Great Gildersleeve, "New Year's Eve"---The day before New Year's the big man lets his niece and nephew talk him into ice skating. It puts a little bit of a chill in his New Year's Eve plans. Only a little, as Hooker ropes him into a mock trial putting 1944 itself into the dock.

(Original broadcast: NBC, 31 December 1944. Star: Harold Peary. Co-stars: Walter Tetley, Lurene Tuttle. Additional cast: Richard LeGrand, Lillian Randolph, Earle Ross. Sponsor: Kraft Cheese Company.)

Lux Radio Theater, "Bride By Mistake"---A clever radio compression of the 1944 film remake (of 1934's The Richest Girl in the World) that gives the Cyrano story a feminine and economic twist: a rich shipyard owner (Laraine Day, recreating her film role) who has a married friend double for her at outside functions, until she fears a captain she has fallen in love with will propose to her friend for the millions instead of to her for herself.

(Original broadcast: CBS, 1 January 1944. Co-stars: Marsha Hunt, John Hodiak. Writers: Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Sponsor: Lever Brothers.)

Lux Radio Theater, "Pride of the Marines"---A second smart Lux compression, this one of the 1945 film that took more than a few liberties in telling the story of USMC Sgt. Al Schmid (John Garfield, re-creating his film role), blinded in battle during the Guadalcanal campaign, rehabilitating himself back home with the help of the wife who married him despite his attempts to break their engagement because his blindness, he believed, left him less a man.

(Original broadcast: CBS, 31 December 1945. Co-stars: Dane Clark, Eleanor Parker. Sponsor: Lever Brothers.)

■ Various Artists, The New Year’s Eve Radio Dance Party, 1945-46---By remote hookup American servicemen still stationed around the world as 1945 ended got to hear a rotation of some of the biggest names in jazz and popular music, live from their various New Year’s Eve hotel/ballroom engagements: Harry James (the broadcast’s leadoff hitter, with an exuberant "Sad Sack"), Count Basie (a ripping "One O’Clock Jump"), Louis Armstrong (an exuberant "Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive"), Jimmy Dorsey (a breakneck "I Got Rhythm"), Artie Shaw with guest trumpeter Roy Eldridge (a shivery "Little Jazz"), Stan Kenton (a rousing "Tampico," featuring his near-signature vocalist June Christy), Benny Goodman (a snappy "Gotta Be This or That"), and Duke Ellington ("Let The Zoomers Zoom," an Ellington rarity---I don't think a studio recording by Ellington and his men was ever released, if they cut it at all, though I could be wrong) were merely the highlights of the show. (Ellington fans will perk up immediately when Cat Anderson, Ellington's high-note specialist, boots it home in his usual style.) Guy Lombardo ending it with (what else?) "Auld Lang Syne" was merely its punctuation.

(Sole broadcast: Armed Forces Radio Network, 31 December 1945. Other performers: Les Brown and his Band of Renown, Carmen Cavallaro and his Orchestra, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd, Henry King and his Orchestra, Gene Krupa and his Orchestra, Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, and Louis Prima and his Orchrstra. Note: You'll have to prowl around to find it, since my edition of ccPublisher seems to have had a personality crisis and three attempts to rip and reinstall a fresh version produced no results, leaving me unable to upload the show to Internet Archive. Sorry.)

The Fred Allen Show, "New Year's Eve Plans"---You could play this and dedicate it to those who made their plans in advance, whatever their plans may be. And you can have your own fun with the denizens of Allen's Alley musing on the most important scientific advances of recent years, before Fred receives a telegram confirming his New Year's Eve reservation at a swank Eighth Avenue night club, the Carnival.

As president of the Jack Eiken Fan Club, Fred decided the Carnival beat the living daylights out of Hamburger Heaven, the choice of last year's president. The confirmation was the easy part. Getting the reservation in the first place might have been, too, if not for bumping into club headliner George Jessel the previous Thursday.

(Original broadcast: NBC, 14 December 1947. Additional cast: Portland Hoffa, Kenny Delmar, Peter Donald, Parker Fennelly, Minerva Pious. Guest star: George Jessel. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the DeMarco Sisters. Sponsor: Blue Bonnet Margarine, Tender Leaf Tea. This is the final surviving Fred Allen Show sponsored by Blue Bonnet and Tender Leaf; the Ford Motor Company would sponsor the show for its final two seasons.)

Quiet, Please, Rain on New Year’s Eve---In which a Hollywood screenplay writer---working overtime on a horror film, having enough trouble imagining what runs through the soul of a monster whose power lives for just the final hour of the year, as a cold rain falls outside---gets an auld lang he didn't syne: his director wants him to remake the script and feature two monsters for the price of one.

I don't know about you, but in that situation, on that night, I'd need more than just a champagne toast, and well before midnight, too . . . I'd need a few drinks . . . )

Who says it has to be all bells and resolutions on New Year's Eve? And if you're going to diversify for even one half hour, you may as well diversify with a sample of maybe the best-written, best-presented psychological drama in radio history, not to mention a sample of the show you could easily consider the father of The Twilight Zone.

(Original Broadcast: Mutual, 29 December 1947. Narrator: Ernest Chappell. Writer: Wyllis Cooper. Music: Albert Berman. Sponsor: Sustaining.)

Matinee with Bob & Ray, "New Year's Eve Day"---You may want to think about playing this one first, if you plan to line up a small passel of New Year's Eve/New Year's Day-tied classic radio, since the show was an afternoon offering in Boston at the time. It's a treat for fans of the duo's usual low-keyed, slow-rapier satire, especially listening to the duo recap some of their choice high, low, middle, and off-the-chart lights of the year about to end. And it only begins with clumsiness in trying to spell "juxtaposition"

(Original Broadcast: WHDH, 31 December 1949.)

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, "Phil Takes Singing Lessons" (a.k.a. "The Concert Stage")---A fan letter saying his voice is the only thing wrong with his radio show plants the idea. That’ll teach him---the writer, that is.

(Original Broadcast: NBC, 1 January 1950. Co-stars: Elliott Lewis, Jeanine Roos, Ann Whitfield, Walter Tetley, Robert North. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat. Music: Walter Sharp conducting the Phil Harris Orchestra. Sponsor: Rexall.)

The Big Show, , New Year's Eve edition of 1950-51---The highlights: Madame Tallulah's customary bitchcraft banter, this time with Margaret O'Brien (picking up where they left off on the previous week's Christmas Eve proceedings, for all intent and purpose) and Gloria Swanson; Sam Levine in a smartly-compressed scene from Guys and Dolls, in which he was then starring on Broadway; Jose Ferrer and Swanson in a torrid scene from the revival of 1931's Ben Hecht show Twentieth Century; and, a rousing show-ending medley of the year's signature Broadway song hits.

(Original broadcast: NBC, 31 December 1950. Remaining cast: Vivian Blaine, Ken Murray. Music: Meredith ["Yes, sir, Miss Bankhead!"] Willson and the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson. Sponsors: RCA Victor, Anacin, Chesterfield.)


Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Belated New Year's Greetings Jeff...I have not disappeared but explanation over at my place ;-)

Hope to be back in the swing again soon...still reading your output...
Much to take in.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---Belated return greetings, friend! And don't worry about your own delay. There are things that do take precedence over the things we do here . . . dern it! ;)---Jeff

2:04 PM  

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