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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Let's Dedicate It To Your Family": The Way It Was, 13 February

1947---The launch can't be more auspicious---with Loretta Young and Don Ameche starring, and James Stewart hosting, Family Theater premieres on Mutual with "Flight From Home."

Y'know, since this is our first program, maybe we oughta have a dedication. So right now, let's dedicate The Family Theater to your family, with the hope that families everywhere will always be together, and that your home will be a happy one, with the conviction that prayer, simple prayer, will help to keep it that way.

Now (soft chuckle) maybe you're thinking this is sort of an odd way to start a series of radio programs, a program from Hollywood, with movie stars, actors, and musicians. Maybe you're wondering what it's all about. Well, why don't you just sit back and listen?

---The premiere episode's introduction, as delivered by James Stewart.

Meredith Willson---who has done music for Burns & Allen's radio shows and will become the musical director for Tallulah Bankhead's The Big Show in due course, serves as Family Theater's first music director. John Kelley and Robert O'Sullivan (who will also serve as directors) will write the bulk of the stories.

But a wealth of film and radio stars will participate over the years, including Fred Allen, Lucille Ball, Ethel Barrymore, Ann Blyth, Beulah Bondi, Walter Brennan, Macdonald Carey, Perry Como, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Irene Dunne, Kathryn Grayson, Ray Milland, Marvin Miller, Harold Peary, Vincent Price, Maureen O'Sullivan, Shirley Temple, Jane Wyatt, and Robert Young will perform in the series dramas before its run finishes in 1969.

Family Theater was created by Father Patrick Peyton (who hosts the series as it progresses) with reported and considerable help from Loretta Young. Peyton, known as the Rosary Priest, who survived tuberculosis in his final year in seminary (inspiring him to launch famous Prayer Crusades focusing on family prayer), also creates the Family Rosary organisation in Albany, New York.

The network chief said that Mutual Radio would give Father Peyton a half hour of radio time if he could come up with a good idea and a big star. Though Father Peyton had no knowledge of show business, he went to work. He persuaded the mother and father of the famous Sullivan brothers to lead the Rosary on the radio show. The five Sullivan brothers had recently become national heroes and headline news: They had all given their lives for their country on a battleship that sank in the Pacific. Next, Father Peyton picked up the phone and asked the operator to contact Bing Crosby in Hollywood. Somehow he reached Crosby, one of the biggest superstars of the era, and the singer agreed to be part of the program!

The program, which aired on Mother’s Day, May 13, 1945, reached a tremendous audience, so much so that Father Peyton began searching for a way to get a half-hour weekly show on Mutual Radio. Later that year, Father Peyton traveled by train from New York to Hollywood on a donated ticket to begin laying the groundwork for a network radio show for the family. In less than two years, Father Peyton’s long-running series of radio shows, known as Family Theater, was ready to be launched on Mutual Radio . . .

Each Sunday night, a celebrity host would make similar comments about prayer and family unity before and after that week’s radio drama. No mention was made of the Rosary or the Catholic Church. Nonsectarian in its approach, Family Theater’s basic message was simply that of strengthening the family through faith in God and prayer. Each program was preceded by the familiar announcement: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”—a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson. And always worked in somewhere before the end of the show was the famous slogan that became Peyton’s signature: “The family that prays together stays together!”

In due course, Loretta Young will be honoured as a series co-creator for doing a large share of work in recruiting other major Hollywood stars to participate in the series, with her son and grandson accepting her award.

THE PREMIERE EPISODE: "Flight From Home"---Written and acted with remarkable understatement. A once-loving marriage is paralysed by a grief-and-guilt stricken husband (Ameche)---he can't accept his wife's (Young) forgiveness or alternative, several years after he insisted on driving her through a storm to give birth to their first child in a proper hospital . . . but a road accident killed the unborn child. Director: Richard Sandville. Writer: Drew Boardman.


1906---Pauline Frederick (newscaster: The News of Tomorrow, Pauline Frederick News, Second Sunday), Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.
1908---Lennie Hayton (conductor: Your Hit Parade, Ipana Troubadors), New York City.
1915---Lyle Bettger (actor: Lux Radio Theater, Family Theater), Philadelphia.
1916---James Griffith (actor: Gunsmoke), Los Angeles.
1920---Joan Edwards (singer: Your Hit Parade, Chesterfield Presents), New York City.
1920---Eileen Farrell (singer: Prudential Family Hour), Willimantic, Connecticut.
1930---Frank Buxton (co-author/historian: Radio's Golden Age, subsequently updated as The Big Broadcast 1920-1950), Wellesley, Massachussetts; Dorothy McGuire (singer: Arthur Godfrey Time, with the McGuire Sisters), Middletown, Ohio.
1932---Susan Oliver (actress: Zero Hour), New York City.
1933---Kim Novak (as Marilyn Pauline Novak; actress: Bud's Bandwagon), Chicago.


Blogger Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Tallulah Bankhead, There is a popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE.They just don't feature Judy exclusively. This week in their rare audio files they are featuring a recording of Tallulah trying to make a record, and she can't sing, I mean the girl really can't sing!. Besides that, she is explicit, offensive, politically incorrect, and of course,wonderful. It's only about 8 minutes long but you get the full force of Tallulah's over the top personality. You should check it out.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Dan---all I had to do was listen to The Big Show (which I have, and do---I became a huge fan of the show after giving it a pull because I'd learned one of my main men, Goodman Ace, was the head writer; and, another of my main men, Fred Allen, was probably its most frequent guest performer) to know Tallu couldn't carry a tune in a cigarette case. (Whenever she did sing even a syllable on The Big Show, you'd have to assume it was a running gag instead of serious stuff.)

If you haven't given it a try yet, give The Big Show a pull. It'll make The Judy Garland Experience seem like a Quaker sermon contest . . . ;)

8:11 AM  

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