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, February 18, 2007

The Action Packed Expense Account: The Way It Was, 18 February

1949---The man with the action-packed expense account premieres on CBS: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, named for his invariable sign-off after itemising his case expenses, tracks a crime-solving insurance investigator with a withering wit and a habit of tossing silver dollars as tips.

Starring Charles Russell in the title role at first, the series is believed to have hit its first stride when veteran film star Edmond O'Brien takes the title role in 1950, keeping it through 1952 and making it more of the hard-boiled detective stereotype secured by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

John Lund, Bob Bailey (the former star of Let George Do It), Bob Readick, and Mandel Kramer will also play the role before the series concludes in 1962. With Bailey in the role, the series will convert to a fifteen-minute daily serial style in 1955 and the character will take on a few nuances without losing the hard boil entirely. It will revert to a weekly half-hour come 1956; Bailey will leave the series when it moves to New York, Readick plays the role for six months, and Kramer will take it for the rest of its life---adding even more cynical wit.

Although the show will hold up in its own right, its unique place in radio history secures when---joining Suspense---its final first-run broadcast in September 1962 becomes marked, by many if not most radio historians, as the day old-time network radio truly concluded after a decade of slow and (depending upon whom you ask) painful erosion.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar's writers included Les Crutchfield, Gil Doud, Paul Dudley, Jack Johnstone (who also created and produced the show), Sidney Marshall, Jack Newman, and Bob Ryf.


1927: ---The Cities Service Concert, a pleasant, low-keyed broadcast of music (the sponsor is a petroleum company that graduates in due course to Citgo), premieres on NBC.

On the highways, in the homes, on the farms, in the factories, Cities Service petroleum products lead the way.---The customary promotional line that opened the broadcast.

Over the years of its long life (the show will be heard as late as 1945), featured performers will include Frank Banta, the Ross Bordon Orchestra, the Cavaliers Quartet, Jessica Dragonette, Ross Graham, Dorothy Kirsten and Milton Rettenberg. Paul LaValle will organise and conduct the show's house orchestra in due course, while Easy Aces announcer Ford Bond and, eventually, Roland Winters will serve as this show's primary announcers as well.

In later years, the show will be known as Cities Service Highways in Melody.


1951: NOW THEY BRING BOSTON TO ME---With an audience packed with folk who took a special show train from New England ("And they're all here for an evening of laughs---except 243 daily commuters who got off the train from force of habit and went to their offices"---hostess Tallulah Bankhead), and a cheerful clash of appropriate cracks from Fred Allen ("It just goes to show you what people will do to get away from television"), Jack Carson ("Big deal---you can't get an audience any other way, you railroad 'em into the theater"), and Ed Wynn ("Ten years ago I opened a show of mine in Boston and twelve hundred people got up in the middle of the first act and took a train to New York"), thus launches tonight's edition of The Big Show. (NBC.) Also features: Portland Hoffa, Dennis King, Bea Lillie, Lauritz Melchior, and the West Point Choir. Music: Meredith Willson. Writers: Goodman Ace, Fred Allen, Selma Diamond, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington.

1952: THE SYMBOL THREE---A client (Jean Bates) is troubled by telephone calls from a tough implying blackmail over accidents involving her husband's successful building business, on Let George Do It. (Mutual.) Starring: Bob Bailey, Virginia Gregg; other cast: Theodore von Els, Myron Cain, Donald Randolph. Writer: David Victor, Jackson Gillis.


1890---Edward Arnold (actor: Mr. President), New York City; Adolphe Menjou (host: Texaco Star Theater, Eternal Light, Hallmark Playhouse), Pittsburgh.
1892---Wendell L. Willkie (politician, guest panelist: Information Please), Elwood, Indiana.
1901---Wayne King (The Waltz King) (bandleader: The Lady Esther Serenade), Savannah, Illinois.
1907---Billy de Wolf (actor: The Ginny Simms Show, The Philco Radio Playhouse), Wollaston, Massachussetts.
1913---Dane Clark (actor: Passport for Adams, The Crime Files of Flamond), New York City.
1917---Jack Slattery (announcer: Art Linkletter's House Party, You Bet Your Life), Missouri.
1920---Bill Cullen (announcer: Arthur Godfrey Time; host: Beat the Clock, Winner Take All), Pittsburgh.
1924---Sam Rolfe (writer: Suspense; creator/writer: Have Gun, Will Travel), New York City.
1925---George Kennedy (actor: Suspense), New York City.


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