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.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Runaway Soap Princess: The Way It Was, 7 March

1933---CBS steps into the daytime soap opera suds for the first time, premiering Marie, the Little French Princess today, with Ruth Yorke starring in the title role and James Meighan as Richard. Additional cast will include Allyn Joslyn, Alma Kruger, and Porter Hall, with Andre Baruch as the show's announcer.

The show may be remembered best, if at all, as the creation of Himan Brown, who produced and directed the show, which followed a princess from a fictitious country who ran away to live as a common young woman. But his future will include creating, producing, and directing The Inner Sanctum Mysteries and, in a respected attempt to resurrect old-time radio drama, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater of 1974-1982---major reasons why he will be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1990.

Ruth Yorke, for her part, will roll up a rather thick resume as a radio soap actress, her credits including the title role in Jane Arden as well as roles in Aunt Jenny, Amanda of Honeymoon Hill (as Olive Cortleigh), John's Other Wife (as Yvonne Claire), Life Can Be Beautiful (as Marybelle Owens), Little Italy (as Mrs. Marino), and Mother of Mine (as Helen). She will also appear in the adventure series, Eno Crime Club.


1962: MEET THE BEATLES---The Mania (as George Harrison will call it in due course, with no small discomfort) will need a year to begin its mythological explosion, and Ringo Starr isn't even in the band just yet (though he's become friendly with them). The British Broadcasting Company has absolutely no clue what is to come in due course, when it opens its airwaves to the Beatles for the first time tonight---a recording of the quartet's appearance at the Playhouse Theater the day before is included on the program Here We Go: Teenager's Turn.

With manager Brian Epstein beginning to shop them with the long-legendary tapes from their (British) Decca Records audition (as in, "We don't like your boys' sound---groups of guitars are on the way out"), and with original drummer Pete Best still in the lineup, the Beatles at the Playhouse perform four songs---three covers (Chuck Berry's "Memphis," Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby," and the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman") and one original (John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Hello, Little Girl")---but only the three covers will be heard on the broadcast.

Two days short of three full months later, Epstein having wired them to hustle home from Hamburg, the Beatles roll into EMI's Abbey Road studios, where they will audition for a Parlophone Records staff producer known best, if at all, for his recordings of Peter Sellers' legendary Goon Show troupe . . .


1943: HIS HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY---Sort of: it is his one hundredth broadcast for Texaco. That provokes mirth from the master himself and wife Portland Hoffa ("When you started in radio, Superman was just a Boy Scout"), a "March of Trivia" news segment ignoring the Oscars in favour of its own awards to those contributing nothing to film in 1942, a chat with singer-comedienne Judy Canova ("I'm glad to be back, Fred---it says here . . . "), and a sketch of what might be if Hollywood finds itself making hillbilly films alone with the yodeling Canova (whose usual schtick on her own hit comedy set her up as a hillbilly manchaser of a sort) as the biggest star of the trend, on tonight's edition of Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen. (CBS; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Service.)

Additional cast: Kenny Baker, Wynn Murray, Minerva Pious, Alan Reed. Music: Hi-Lo Jack and the Dame, Al Goodman Orchestra. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Writers: Fred Allen, Nat Hiken, Bob Weiskopf.


1913---Smokey Montgomery (musician: Columbia Country Caravan), Rinard, Iowa.
1929---Marion Marlowe (singer: Arthur Godfrey Time), St. Louis.
1937---Rhoda Williams (actress: Father Knows Best), Birmingham, Alabama.


Blogger Andrew Godfrey said...

Portland Hoffa had one of the most annoying voices in old time radio. She may have been a very nice lady but on radio she came across badly with that phony sounding voice which may have been real but it came across as phony. Still don't want to take anything away from Fred Allen as he was so fast with a quip that even Portland's voice could hurt the popularity of the show.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Andrew Godfrey said...

Meant to say Portland's voice could not hurt the popularity of the Fred Allen Show.

One of the funniest Fred Allen shows was one of the first ones when Fred manages a department store at Christmas time.

Andrew Godfrey

7:32 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Andrew---As best as I can determine, Portland Hoffa talked at the top of her voice range in radio character (basically, a kind of breathless girl; Hoffa and Allen didn't portray themselves on air as the husband and wife they were in real life), at least on the Allen shows. When she joined her husband for his later appearances on The Big Show (1950-52), she didn't go quite that high, though you still knew it was her in character, though the character was obviously enough a little more mature---indeed, once or twice during those Big Show appearances Hoffa would have a line alluding to Allen's medical regimen for his well-enough known hypertension.

(Lou Costello had actually with his voice what Hoffa did with hers on the air, but his reason was to answer complaints, early in Abbott & Costello's radio career, that the two men sounded too much alike in their New Jersey-laced voices, so he merely raised his a level or two.)

I don't know if I mentioned this before, at least I don't remember offhand, but Portland Hoffa remarried a few years after Fred Allen's death, to bandleader-turned-ad executive Joe Rimes. (You can only imagine the fun Fred Allen was having with that wherever he was . . . ) They lived long enough together that Portland Hoffa had the rare enough distinction of celebrating two silver wedding anniversaries in the same lifetime. (Rimes died in the mid-1980s; Hoffa died Christmas Day 1990.)

2:10 PM  

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