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, March 27, 2007

Blue Ribbon Bomb: The Way It Was, 27 March

1943---Just over a decade after the engaging Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel dies following a single season*, and four years before he will find his radio metier at long enough last, Groucho Marx takes a shot hosting a semi-variety show, Blue Ribbon Town, which premieres tonight on CBS.

Surviving episodes of Blue Ribbon Town show some good material---and some memorable guests, including Jack Benny, Gene Tierney, and Charles Laughton---but the missing ingredient remains the material's inability to leave room enough for Groucho's salient ability as an ad-libber.

Accordingly, Blue Ribbon Town will last a single season. Groucho will return reluctantly to films (The Big Store will prove a rather loud commercial flop), but he will continue to make guest appearances enough on radio still.

Those guest shots end up paying off handsomely, after a producer named John Guedel---who's already struck motherlode enough as the co-creator of the like of Truth or Consequences and House Party---hears him ad-libbing with Bob Hope ("I didn't know [he] was such a good ad-libber"), realises it's what he does best but hasn't been formatted to do on radio before, and sets him up as . . . well, let's just say the secret word is antiquizmaster . . .

* --- Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel---which premiered as Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle 28 November 1932 (an attorney named Beagle threatened legal action if the name wasn't changed)---ended 22 May 1933. The show actually drew better ratings than The Shadow, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Al Jolson, and Kate Smith, but the rating was a little deceptive when you factor the show's 7:30 time slot---Fortune estimated only forty percent of the nation's radio owners were listening at that time, while The Texaco Fire Chief Program drew a huge rating at 9:00 p.m., prompting Standard Oil, which sponsored Flywheel for Esso gasoline and Essolube motor oil, to drop Flywheel.

For more, see "Hello, We Must Be Going: The Short, Happy Life of the Marx Brothers on Radio," by Michael Barson, his introduction to the delightful collection Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost Radio Show. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.) Likely to be found in used book stores now, the book includes all but one of the show's scripts (they turned up preserved in the Library of Congress) and a charming essay by Groucho Marx that was published originally in Tower Radio, July 1934; and, the editor's interview with Flywheel co-writer Nat Perrin.


1899: LONDON TO PARIS, PARIS TO LONDON---Guglielmo Marconi demonstrates the first known international radio transmission, between England and France, two years after he founds a telegraph company introducing international wireless service to the general public, and two years before he achieves perhaps the first known transoceanic radio transmission.

1930: OVER THE SEA? LET'S CALL, MEN!---Exactly thirty-one years to the day after Marconi's England-to-France radio transmission, the first known American ship-to-shore radio broadcast occurred.


1948: SALLY IS FIRED---In every man's life, there are three women: his mother, his wife, and his secretary down at the office. What happened to me last week I blame entirely on my mother. Mother should have told me I would someday marry Jane, and Jane would make me hire her cousin, Miss Anderson, as my secretary.

You see, it isn't that (Goodman) Ace wouldn't mind canning his barely-competent secretary . . . but he would, and does, mind boss Norris's (Eric Dressler) orders to dump all relatives out of the advertising firm---while trying to jam one of his relatives down Ace's throat, under pressure from Mrs. Norris (Evelyn Varden) who resents that none of her relatives have ever been hired at the ad firm . . . until Jane (Ace) schemes to maneuver the new Norris relative right back where she came from, on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.) Additional cast: Florence Robinson, Ken Roberts. Writer: Goodman Ace.

1949: THE LOVE LETTER CAPER---Spade (Howard Duff) gets a delivery that's a dangerous kind of special: an inscribed photograph and matching, passionate love letter from a woman (Cathy Lewis) who wants to escape her controlling---and possibly murderous---uncle, though she may have some explaining to do when Spade's accused of robbing her, on tonight's edition of The Adventures of Sam Spade. (CBS.) Additional cast: Lurene Tuttle, June Havoc. Writers: Gil Doud, Bob Tallman.


1898---Gloria Swanson (actress: Suspense; panelist: Hollywood Byline), Chicago.
1904---Hal Kemp (bandleader: The Good Gulf Program, The Phil Baker Show, Lady Esther Serenade), Marion, Alabama.
1907---Mary Treen (actress: Lux Radio Theater), St. Louis.
1914---Richard Denning (actor: My Favourite Husband, Mr. and Mrs. North), Poughkeepsie, New York; Snooky Lanson (as Roy Landman; singer: Your Hit Parade, The Snooky Lanson Show), Memphis.
1916---Howard Merrill (writer: The Adventures of Leonidas Witherall, Leave It to Mike, Secret Missions), New York City.
1921---Fletcher Markle (actor/director/producer: Columbia Workshop, Mercury Summer Theater), Winnipeg, Manitoba.
1924---Sarah Vaughan (singer: Your Rhythm Revue), unknown.


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