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, December 23, 2006

Yule Tides with the Masters

'Tis the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the house, there are creatures stirring---creatures from radio's master blasters themselves, whom your chronicler has saved for last on the principle that the best most certainly should be saved for last. And if you plan to spend a holiday with classic radio Christmas, you simply cannot spend it without they two kings.


Town Hall Tonight, “Santa Claus Sits Down” (a.k.a. “Santa Will Not Ride Tonight”)--—Precious enough: Any surviving Christmastime or Christmas themed installment of any Fred Allen show, considering how few of them have survived among the truckload of surviving Allen shows. Precious more: Jack Benny as his guest, for this installment of Town Hall Tonight, done from Hollywood while Allen was in town to make a film. After the opening round of Town Hall gags and one-liners and a brief music selection, Benny and Allen exchanged rapiers in the slot where Allen would normally begin the show.

JACK BENNY: Jello again, this—
BENNY: —is Jack Benny talking.
ALLEN: Go away. Go away, boy.
BENNY: Oh, all right, gee, right away y—
ALLEN: Get away from this microphone here. (Pause.) Good evening. We must get a weather strip put on this floor.

And—--after a cleverly low-keyed “Town Hall News” segment zapping the cold spell of the day, another smartass break-in by Benny, an interview with Warner Brothers backlot lunch cart operator Willie King (“I’ve invited him to jump out of his frying pan and into our fire tonight”), a jivey musical number about a riveter (bear in mind that this was before World War II), a segment with Radio Guide photographer Eugene Lester (who’d been shooting Burns and Allen, Phil Baker, Allen, and Benny) in a little Christmas caroling (“I do a lot of singing in the darkroom, where nobody can hear me”), an Ipana toothpaste commercial, some bars of music that went unheard during the station break (a typical Allen zap at radio administrators), a segment with Portland Hoffa (his wife and second bananette), Benny (“I didn’t expect to get paid for this, I haven’t any more right to take money for working on this program than you have”), and Benny’s Maxwell (phat-phat-bang!), and a spot for Sal Hepatica laxative—--the Mighty Allen Art Players perform a clever routine around Santa going on sit-down strike.

You’ll have to listen to rediscover why, kiddies.

(First broadcast: NBC, 22 December 1937. Cast: John Brown, Charlie Cantor, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley, Harry Von Zell. Guest: Jack Benny. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Herman Wouk—--yes, children, that Herman Wouk. Sponsor: Bristol Myers.)

Texaco Star Theater, "Santa Claus Sits Down"---Essentially, a re-enactment of the 1937 sketch, following an early "Allen's Alley" segment reviewing a newspaper strike and a shimmering performance of "Ave Maria" by Metropolitan Opera diva Risa Stevens. And, following a riposte between Allen and Hoffa. (Hoffa: "On account of the silk stocking shortage, Mama's hanging up her slacks over the fireplace. Do you think Santa Claus will fill Mama's slacks?" Allen: "Not like your mother does.") Not to mention a cute wisecrack about Lionel Barrymore's once-ubiquitous appearances in radio enactments of A Christmas Carol.

The Texaco Star Theater version has a slightly different cast and a few slight alterations in the script but it's just as enjoyable as the original Town Hall version.

(First broadcast: CBS, 20 December 1942. Cast: Kenny Baker, Wynn Murray, Minerva Pious, Alan Reed, Jimmy Wallington. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Hi-Lo Jack and the Dames. Sponsor: Texaco.)

The Fred Allen Show, "Suing to Return Fred's Cuckoo Clock"---This was also the final Allen show sponsored by Blue Bonnet Margarine and Tender Leaf Tea as his sponsors, ending a four-year relationship. (Ford Motor Company would sponsor him for his final two years as a radio host.) And, after a smart "Allen's Alley" sketch in which the Alley denizens are asked their take on 1947's outstanding event, Allen asks Hoffa about a used fragrance---which she's wearing, thanks to the perfume "Fight Back" her mother gave her for Christmas.

Upon which Allen ruminates on Christmas gifts from radio friends like Mary Margaret McBride (a wicker muffler with her sponsors' names on it), Jack Eigen (a potato), and a cuckoo clock whose bird comes out backwards. The trouble began when Allen tried to exchange the clock. It only continued when he bumped into Monty Woolley, doing his Christmas shopping after Christmas and bragging about listening to A Christmas Carol so he could hiss at Lionel Barrymore. The laughs don't stop there.

(First broadcast: NBC, 28 December 1947. Co-stars: Kenny Delmar, Parker Fennelly, Portland Hoffa, Minerva Pious, Alan Reed. Guest: Monty Woolley. Writer: Fred Allen. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the DeMarco Sisters. Sponsor: Standard Brands.)


The Jell-O Program with Jack Benny, “An Old Fashioned Christmas.”

JACK BENNY: Gather around, everybody, it’s my turn to play Santy Claus. I’ve got a little surprise for most all of you. Here’s a little gift for you, Kenny—a beautiful red silk necktie.
KENNY BAKER: Aw, thanks, Jack.
BENNY: Isn’t it pretty?
BAKER: (giggles) Gee. (Pause.) Y’know, this looks like the same tie I gave you last year.
BENNY: Well, it isn’t. It’s different.
MARY LIVINGSTONE: Yeah—--it’s got spots on it now.

That’s only a clever interlude, midway through the show. But it’s as genial a way to introduce (or re-introduce) you to Jack Benny’s kind of Christmas program, especially when it’s hooked around his supporting players’ gifts to him and a genially dopey yuletide squeeze of Don Wilson’s infamous Jell-O commercial interjections.

(First broadcast: NBC, 20 December 1936. Co-stars: Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson. Writers: Ed Beloin, Al Boasberg, Bill Morrow, Sam Perrin, Arthur Phillips, Howard Snyder, Hugh Wedlock, Jr. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Sponsor: General Foods.)

The Jell-O Program with Jack Benny, “Christmas Shopping”---Everyone’s being effusively nice and flattering to Jack as Christmas approaches. “You know, folks, it’s funny how the yuletide season can put wings on a rat,” warbles the Big Cheese. But of course. And then along comes Mary . . .

MARY LIVINGSTONE: (singing) Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way---
JACK BENNY: Oh, hello, Mary.
LIVINGSTONE: Hello, honeybunch.
BENNY: Honeybunch, huh? Well, I suppose I’m a swell guy, you’re glad to see me, and I look like a million dollars.
LIVINGSTONE: You took the words right out of my hint.

Kenny Baker finds the courage to buy silk stockings for his girl for Christmas. Mary reads a letter from her mother. (“I received your letter, and thanks very much for the check. It would have come in handy, but the landlord grabbed it on the first bounce.”) Then Jack and Mary go Christmas shopping at one of Hollywood’s biggest department stores. “Pardon me, sir,” Jack warbles to a clerk, “I’d like to buy a chain.” Replies the clerk: “Dog, watch, or daisy?”

You didn’t really expect me to spoil it from there, did you?

(First broadcast: NBC, 12 December 1937. Co-stars: Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson. Writers: Ed Beloin, Al Boasberg, Bill Morrow, Sam Perrin, Arthur Phillips, Howard Snyder, Hugh Wedlock, Jr. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Sponsor: General Foods)

The Jack Benny Program, “Jack Meets Frank Sinatra in a Drug Store”---It begins with Rochester thinking how lucky he is to work for a man like Jack.

ROCHESTER: Now, you take my friend Sam. He works for one of the stingiest men in the world. Why, last year for Christmas, all he gave Sam was three little hanka-chiefs.
JACK BENNY: But, Rochester, I don’t think that’s such a bad present.
ROCHESTER: I’ll never forget Christmas day. Down on Central Avenue, everyone was showin’ off their new wristwatches, ‘n’ gold cigarette cases, ‘n’ diamond rings, ‘n’ there was Sam with those three little hanka-chiefs.
BENNY: Aw, that’s a shame.
ROCHESTER: Yeah. It really embarrassed poor Sam when people asked him what his boss gave him for Christmas and he had to pull out those---three little hanka-chiefs.
BENNY: How can a---how can a man be that cheap?
ROCHESTER: It’s possible, boss! It’s possible!
BENNY: Well, Rochester, you don’t understand the spirit of Christmas. The important thing is that you’re remembered. The gift itself is nothing.
ROCHESTER: I know. That’s the kind of propaganda I’m tryin’ to overcome.

On the way to Mary's house, Jack bumps into Frank Sinatra, who reminds him he's guesting on Sinatra's radio spot the following night---and into a pair of swooning autograph hunters. ("Well, how do you like that? I only spoke to Frankie and I got some of it on me!") Then, Jack and Mary make for the department store. You tell me whether you think the store recovered after all these years or before its demise---whichever came first.

(First broadcast: NBC, 17 December 1944. Co-stars: Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Frank Nelson, Don Wilson. Guest: Frank Sinatra. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra, Larry Stevens. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry. Sponsor: American Tobacco Company.)

MORE JINGLE BENNY: "Christmas at Jack's" (25 December 1938), "Christmas Shopping Horseradish" (14 December 1941), "Trimming a Tree" (24 December 1944), "Armed Forces Radio Service Christmas Special" (25 December 1946).


The Big Show, Christmas Eve Program---This installment kicked off with a slight variation on the standard introduction that simply had to be a grabber from the outset.

TALLULAH BANKHEAD: To the men and women in service all over the world on this Christmas Eve, through the cooperation of the Associated Services of the Armed Forces, you are about to be entertained by some of the biggest names in show business. For the next hour and thirty minutes, this program will present in person such bright stars as . . .

As custom on this last-gasp, big-bucks variety offering, the stars introduced themselves: Jimmy Durante. Bert Lahr. Robert Merrill. Margaret O'Brien. Edith Piaf. Fran Warren. Ed Wynn. And, music director Meredith Willson. And, following that soaring theme music around and behind Ed Herlihy's introduction, back came Madame Tallulah.

BANKHEAD: A safe and Merry Christmas, darlings, to all our Armed Forces, wherever you may be. And to you here at home, I hope all your stockings are hung, and that you find in them all the things you wished for. I know what I'm going to find in mine---a run! I always do on this show!

But when I heard that one of our guests today would be Margaret O'Brien, I decided to make it my business to see that this child has a Merry Christmas away from her home. After all, it's only been a few years since I was a child, heh heh heh. (Laughter.) Those darling writers---they'll stop at nothing for a Christmas present. And that's exactly what they're getting.

But to make sure little Margaret has a wonderful Christmas, I invited three of the theater's greatest clowns---Jimmy Durante, Bert Lahr, and Ed Wynn.
JIMMY DURANTE, BERT LAHR, and ED WYNN (in unison): Hello, Tallulah! (Applause.)
BANKHEAD: Hello Ed, Jimmy, Bert. Hello Bert, Ed, Jimmy. Hello Jimmy, Bert, Ed. Well, now that I've given you all equal billing, we can get down to our problem. We've got to arrange a wonderful Christmas party for this little girl. Anybody have an idea what to give her?
LAHR: I've got an idea, Tallulah.
BANKHEAD: Uh, huh.
LAHR: Something that's very popular this time of the year.
BANKHEAD: Oh, really, darling? What is it, Bert?
LAHR: How about givin' her a Christmas present?
BANKHEAD (lowers voice smugly): Uh, now, isn't that brilliant?

From there the foursome swapped gags about Christmas bed jackets, horses, and John Dillinger, before Lahr reprised "If I Was The King of the Forest" from The Wizard of Oz (with a little help from O'Brien, of course); before Durante suggested a toy-spangled Christmas tree and found a way to sing "Isn't It A Shame That Christmas Comes But Once A Year"; before Wynn and company try to prove Santa Claus; and, before some stunning music from Warren ("Look to the Rainbow"), Metropolitan Opera star Merrill ("O Holy Night") and the tragic French chanteuse Piaf. (A beautiful "Autumn Leaves.")

There was also a gentle message from Army Gen. Jonathan Wainwright at Camp Breckenridge (Kentucky). The message could be deployed today without losing a beat or a drop of relevance.

I'm happy to join with all your folks at home in bringing a Christmas greeting to you, my comrades of the armed forces, wherever you may be. We have shared the joy of other Christmas days together, and we look forward as a united people to that time when peace on earth and good will to men may again prevail. May God be with you.

And I didn't even stop to mention the soaring, caroling almost-finale. But I'm leaving you to hear it for yourself.

(First broadcast: NBC, 24 December 1950. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson. Music: Meredith Willson. Sponsors: RCA Victor, Anacin, Chesterfield.)


Duffy’s Tavern, “A Christmas Program”---“You remember Woolley, Duffy---the wise old actor with the sage old brush.” Thus Archieda Manageh informs his employer that Monty Woolley is in line to play Santa Claus at the dive’s Christmas party. Needless to say, nobody bothered to ask Woolley aforehand. Needless to say, there’s a hilarious piece of Yuletide iambic malaprop tripping early from Archie’s tongue:

Merry Christmas to yez all
be of right cheer and joyous.
Leave us yule a log on da fire
and leave not naught annoy us.
Come lift yer beakers and quaff us a stool
Kris Kringle’s abroad in the snow.
I quaff, lad. And, laugh, lad—
ha ha, hee hee, ho ho.

EDDIE: It’ll go beautifully wid dat cracked mirror.

And, needless to say, you'll have to listen to discover how Archie blunders his way into and out of this one, as usual.

(First broadcast: CBS, 21 December 1943. Starring: Ed Gardner. Co-stars: Charles Cantor, Eddie Green, Florence Halop. Guest star: Monty Woolley. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, Parke Levy, Sol Saks. Original sponsor: Bristol-Myers. Repeated as an Armed Forces Radio Services broadcast.)

The Old Gold Comedy Theater, “Bachelor Mother”--—What began as a pleasant idea didn’t quite work out as it should have, lasting only one season (1944-45). Old Gold Comedy Theater seems to have aspired to be a sort-of Lux Radio Theater of comedy, re-staging film comedies for radio under the hand of silent screen comic legend Harold Lloyd, whose problem wasn’t his own ability or that of the performers who acted in these works, whether they re-created their screen roles or took the roles anew. (The performers included: Fred Allen, June Allyson, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ralph Bellamy, Gary Cooper, Linda Darnell, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward, Burgess Meredith, Dick Powell, and Gene Tierney, to name a mere few.)

Lloyd's problem was how to distill feature film comedies into half-hour exercises without draining too much marrow out of the bones. At its best, Old Gold Comedy Theater did approach the standard of the show it seemed most to emulate. Taking on and delivering its version of Bachelor Mother, a 1939 film whose writing was nominated for an Academy Award, was one example of how good the show could be, with very little of the story's meat drained away in the compacting and acting as realistic as you could expect a mid-1940s comedy to be.

The story: Polly Parrish has clerked at Merlin’s Department Store, selling ducks, until the day before Christmas, when general manager David Merlin cans her for reasons obscure at best. That’s nothing compared to the Christmas surprise Polly receives on her doorstep, the buttinski social worker (we think) who sees it and concludes Polly’s a mother abandoning her baby because of losing her job, and the Merlin---bent on keeping presumed mother and presumed child together---who rehires her after hearing the social worker’s story.

The problem for the purists: Reconciling Brenda Marshall (as Polly) and Louis Hayward (as David Merlin) in the roles originated by Ginger Rogers and David Niven. The solution: Sit back and relax. Marshall and Hayward bring it off with appropriate understatement, notwithstanding an occasional and perhaps unintended histrionic here and there.

(First broadcast: NBC, 24 December 1944. Stars: Brenda Marshall, Louis Hayward. Supporting cast: Unidentified. Director: Harold Lloyd. Sponsor: Old Gold cigarettes.)

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, "Getting a Christmas Tree in the Mountains"---'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house, Alice is hanging holly and Phil is hanging the mistletoe. ("Ah, Philip, the many girls whose toes you've curled under this little sprig of greenery!") Or, as he tells his daughters, "Smooching spinach." Did Daddy ever play the game?

PHIL HARRIS: I was All-American twelve years in a row.
LITTLE ALICE: You mean, if a fella gets a girl under the mistletoe, he kisses her? That sounds like a silly game to me.
PHIL: Don't knock it 'till ya try it, gal. And don't try it until you get my permission.
LITTLE PHYLLIS: Daddy, before you married Mommy, did you have many girl friends?
PHIL: Oh, I had a few. (smug self-mocking tone) I say, a few!
PHIL: Well, I don't remember. When I got married, I fired the scorekeeper. You know something, I probably had more girl friends than you could im---
ALICE FAYE: Phil, what are you doing?
LITTLE ALICE: Daddy's telling us about all the girls he knew before he met you.
BIG ALICE: Oh, them. That should make for some nice dull conversation.
LITTLE PHYLLIS: Mommy, did you know Daddy used to go out with other girls?
BIG ALICE: Aw, of course I knew he went out with other girls. (chuckles; smug self-mocking tone) I say, girls! (Normal tone.) Why, he never knew what a girl was supposed to look like until he met me!

Oops. Sorry they asked.

Not half as sorry as Phil seems to be when wastrel brother-in-law Willie laments the lack of Christmas tree in front of City Hall this time around. When he decides to challenge City Hall on it, Alice agrees the family should join in. "I dunno if I'm in favour of this," moans Phil. "Gee whiz, in order to put a tree up, you gotta chop one down."

Then they beard Hizzoner in his den. One round with this bunch and that's one City Council that'll never forget to make the annual community Christmas tree appropriation again . . .

(First broadcast: NBC, 18 December 1949. Stars: Phil Harris, Alice Faye. Co-stars: Elliott Lewis, Robert North, Jeanine Rouse, Ann Whitfield, Walter Tetley. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat. Music: Walter Sharp. Sponsor: Rexall.)

So have yourselves a merry little classic radiyule . . .


Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Jeff, you knew that I would get around to wishing you a Happy Christmas, over here it is that already.

I hope its a good one for you. I think that I must do a little recap as to why a number of us ended up blogging and became a bit of a community but friendly enough that hopefully new readers wish to join in.

Not sure if I ever explained why the web address for my blog is is not an exciting story though ;-)

Wow, that's some entry you've written, I'll have to have a read at length and see if I can access some of the material you've linked to, an excuse to make an effort to go broadband as soon as possible.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---I don't think you need to be broadbanded to hit those links and listen, it'll just take a short while for them to load up. But that's a good idea you have: recapping why some of us hit the blogopshere running or walking or however we hit it. Let's think on it. And have a wonderful holiday!---Jeff

6:08 PM  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Jeff, I'm sure that you must've noticed(and I think I am correct that)Elliott Lewis started off playing a character out of Phil Harris' orchestra/band...Frankie Remley...I think and yet suddenly later on in a series he suddenly is called Elliott. Though the character is much the same. Unless things have changed there seems little if any information about Lewis on the net though I know Elliot Lewis was very important in American Radio he also seems to have had a reputation as a stage actor and was married to another actress with quite a reputation too(I have had a mental block about her but I think her first name was Kathy?)they did appear quite a few times together.

I did hear a story that much of the radio memorabilia he had saved including sets of transcription disc's of the Faye and Harris show were lost when his home caught fire in Bel air)and another set owned by the children of Harris and Faye had been stored incorrectly and when they tried to save them they were too damaged. Have you heard any of these tales? Do you know if there is any truth in them?

Also the singing group The DeMarco Sisters from Fred Allen's show. I have found little if anything about them and whether they had any kind of career outside of Fred Allen's Show.

I did find a newspaper report that suggested a female with a surname of DeMarco had been murdered but I could not find a clue whether this DeMarco was connected to the sisters who sang on his programme.That the name was just a coincidence. Though I think the age was similar to what I think she could've been when this tragic incident happened.

I had a feeling it could be perhaps a member of the group who had perhaps retired or had to look for an alternative career when the radio work dried up. The net can help in many ways but still some information is still difficult to find.

We had a singing group that appeared on a British Radio comedy show called Round the Horne called The Frazer Hayes Four and I've lost track of how many people ask but fail to find out anything else about them. I have never heard or seen any proof that they did anything else to what we heard as they sang a song between two halves of the programme.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---I'm not entirely sure, but I think the character name change from Remley to Elliott was tied to The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show's sponsorship change from Rexall to RCA Victor. Only the name changed; all it did was bring Lewis in line with Harris and Faye, who used their own names in character as well. The Remley/Elliott character stayed the same for the rest of the show's life.

Elliott Lewis was actually one of classic radio's best regarded directors and producers as well as being a fine comic actor; Lewis was responsible for a good volume of the period considered to be one of the classic periods of Suspense, among other things. He was married to Cathy Lewis, best remembered for playing the long-suffering friend to the ditzy title character of My Friend Irma. He also played a role in Norman Corwin's legendary We Hold These Truths, reciting after the overture and cast self-introductions. Lewis was considered classic radio's renaissance man, a man who could produce, direct, write, and act with equal ability; after his marriage to Cathy Lewis ended, he married Mary Jane Croft and the marriage lasted until his death. (Mary Jane Croft was a much-in-demand radio actress in her own right, but she may be most familiar as Lucille Ball's second sidekick on television's The Lucy Show, 1961-67, after Vivian Vance decided to call it quits for a time.)

I've never heard that story about the Harris-Faye transcription discs, but even if it was true there must have been another set spared---or the show was recorded on tape as well as or even instead of disc (magnetic tape recording had come into vogue at approximately the same time Phil Harris and Alice Faye were becoming the breakout stars of The Fitch Bandwagon in the mid-1940s)---because the bulk of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, especially the Rexall-sponsored years, have been preserved and have provided the episodes available to collectors today. Phil Harris and Alice Faye donated practically all their entertainment memorabilia and property to Harris's hometown Linton, Indiana, not long before his death in 1995.

I've discovered a CD anthologising the DeMarco Sisters, It's Been A Long, Long Time, was released earlier this year on the Jasmine label. The set has a generous offering of the quintet's impeccable harmonies, including a number they made their own the first time they sang it on The Fred Allen Show, "Doin' What Comes Naturally." The music was recorded between 1945 and 1956; obviously, the sisters developed a career that didn't quite die once their lives with Fred Allen ended.

The sisters were discovered by arranger Gordon Jenkins, who happened to step into an elevator with them as they began running through "Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night of the Week." Jenkins was said to be so impressed that he held the elevator for themselves and asked the girls for a couple of more numbers. Then, he took them up to meet Irving Berlin, whose office was in the same building---and both men knew and referred the girls to Fred Allen, who was returning to radio in 1944 following a layoff due to his health.

The girls stayed with Fred Allen for four years, pretty much until his life as a radio host ended, but their careers weren't over just yet. They toured with people like Martin and Lewis, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra (in due course they opened for the Rat Pack, to say nothing of Arlene DeMarco dating Rat Packman Joey Bishop for a time). They appeared on television with Ed Sullivan (they were semi-regulars on his popular variety show for a time), Jackie Gleason, and Kate Smith. They also appeared in the film Skirts Ahoy with Esther Williams.

Arlene DeMarco eventually married actor-producer Keefe Brasselle; their daughter, Melissa, is an actress and stuntwoman today. Terri DeMarco married actor Murray Hamilton, who became famous as Mr. Robinson in The Graduate and the mayor in Jaws, among other roles. Anne DeMarco married actor Remo Pisani; their son, Stephen, is also an actor and stuntman.

I don't know whether any of the sisters were ever murdered. What I do know, however, is that among the ladies of harmony in the classic radio period, the DeMarco Sisters were rather underrated. Some dismiss them as pleasant but mediocre; others remember they could and did swing brightly. My own view is that the DeMarco Sisters probably deserved better material, when all was said and done, since at their best they could harmonise the Andrews Sisters right under the table.


11:01 PM  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Thanks for all that additional information. You set me on a search to see if any additional information could be found as originally there had been little if any articles online about the DeMarco Sisters. That has now improved somewhat.

Its another case of artists that perhaps did not cross over the Atlantic as others have such as the Andrews Sisters and deserved to but is it a lack of promotion? The material?

I have found the CD that you mentioned and may very well add it to my order of Cd's I requested for Christmas. And in turn it appears that there is an address making that label's range available without trying to order as an import(that appears to be something new)

They certainly had a bright sound if their performances on Fred's show are anything to go by.

I can imagine if I was talking to many people and dropped their name into the conversation I would be met with the exclaimed expression "Who?" I feel so sorry that such talents is neglected and unknown.

Equally, I can imagine many OTR artists being pleased and perhaps surprised that their work is once again being appreciated and heard again all these year on.

I can happily report that having discovered the Christian names of the DeMarco Sisters and the article again regarding the murder, it is not one of the singing group. Though of course I feel sorry for the victim mentioned.

I wonder what a group such as the DeMarco Sisters would command as a regular on such a show as Fred's. I mean it raised their profile but I assume they would have to work the rest of the week so having to always be available for each broadcast must've restricted what other work was available. And of course the US being such a large country even if the transport system was good, that's a lot of miles to cover by road or air.

If you were on a national network at a peak time I suppose the fee would be pretty good for the time but if you were on a local affiliate...probably not. The fees were probably good enough to earn a very good living for the really famous performers but nothing like they could've earned these days but of course we have to judge by the time these programmes were being produced.

And the radio was held in as high esteem as films and they often they crossed over regarding characters and actors so both were important to each other until television pushed radio into the background.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---According to Gloria DeMarco, the quintet split a thousand dollars a week, which was a pretty decent nut in 1944-49. If I'm not mistaken, The Fred Allen Show involved Fred Allen and his co-writer(s) working three or four days on the scripts and then maybe two rehearsals the day before the broadcast and a kind of dress rehearsal on broadcast day, before hitting the air, so the DeMarco Sisters weren't exactly hamstrung for accepting other performance slots the rest of the week if they wanted them. Considering something else Gloria DeMarco said, they were probably grateful for the steady work on the Allen show, perhaps knowing they could parlay it into continuing work if and when the show ended: "We were five broke, dirty little kids from Brooklyn, and we used to sing for a nickel a song- in elevators, subways, wherever we could." These ladies did it the hard way and got an unexpected reward.

By the way, there's also a CD on the Classics label of bandleader Bud Freeman which features the DeMarco Sisters singing on twelve of nineteen or twenty tracks, including a pair of numbers they actually did on the Allen show, "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)."

Regarding the OTR performers and how they respond when learning their work is remembered years later, I suspect the best commentary on that belongs to Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks, The Danny Kaye Show), in an on-air nterview, when radio historian and one-time Golden Age of Radio host John Dunning asked her about coming to terms with her fame being rooted in radio instead of the film and stage career she'd had before becoming a radio star:

Well, I'll tell you. I originally loved the theater. I still do. And I had always wanted to have a hit on Broadway that was created by me. You know, kind of like Judy Holliday and Born Yesterday. And I griped about it a little. And someone said to me, 'Do you realise that, if you had a hit on Broadway, probably a hundred or two hundred thousand people might have seen you in it, if you'd stayed in it long enough. And this way, you've been in Miss Brooks, everybody loves you, and you've been seen by millions.’ So, I figured I'd better shut up while I was ahead.

As I said when I wrote about that interview (5 August 2006), after finding it and adding it to my library, thus was revealed Connie Brooks's real prize pupil . . .


11:10 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home