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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

One Good Plug Deserves Another . . .

My eleventh reader is now verifiable. (If he's reading yours truly he may also be certifiable.)

He writes under the name Mr. Liberty (now, there's a non de plume you can't refuse), he composes a rather genially crusty blog of his own, Libertarianism and Things, giving near-equal time to the sociopolitical animation implied by the first part of the name and to the friendly good humoured carp and roll implied by the second part.

Aside from all of which, he gave me a very good plug. Amend that. He gave me the kind of plug that makes your ego feel as if it's just been invited to sink into a warm bath with a glass of champagne on the rim of the Jacuzzi. And one good plug deserves another. (I'm not sure, but I think Mr. Liberty paid $3.50 to place . . . )

I'm going to have to take issue with my new friend on one piece of flattery, however. He says of me that I provide rich commentary. If he knows something I don't know yet about how rich my commentary isn't yet making me, I wish he'd let me in on the secret. I can use the money.

All About Eve: The Way It Was, 30 April

1908---Little do the Mill Valley, California parents of Eunice Quedens know, when she delivers her first punch line at the sting of the doctor's slap today, that this insecure girl---intimidated for fearing her mother's beauty an impossible trait to obtain for herself---will grow up to become old-time radio's favourite high school English teacher---sardonically sexy, in and out of calamity (one historian will refer to her in due course as "the thinking man's Lucy"), and lost for ways to give the clueless object of her affections a clue.

A one-time Ziegfeld girl who made a modest name for herself in films as the wisecracking best friend (the same historian: "a master of the dry aside, sidelong look, and permanently arched eyebrow"), her radio comedy chops will be sharpened as a cast member for Danny Kaye's short-lived but engaging CBS show of the mid-1940s, not to mention The Sealtest Village Store with Jack Haley and Jack Carson.

Befriending CBS chief William S. Paley, he talks her into auditioning for the show, after Shirley Booth flunks the audition and Lucille Ball turns it down without one.

She never played the comedian offstage---she didn't need to be the funniest person in the room, unlike so many comics, who find it difficult to get off. She went out, got the laughs, and went back to her ranch in the [San Fernando] Valley. She was just a wonderfully unselfish actress, and was just so up all the time; she made you feel good to be around her.

---Richard Crenna (Walter Denton), to Gerald Nachman, in "Valued Families," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

All of which ensures Eunice Quedens has nothing to fear from anyone else's actual or alleged glamour---even if she never changes her name to Eve Arden.


1945---After several years hosting a morning program for a network-owned Washington, D.C. radio station, World War II service as a Naval Reserve pilot, a brief stint as Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater announcer, and a first-hand account of Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral (in which his genuine burst to tears on the air moved listeners---Roosevelt had authorised his Naval Reserve commission and was a longtime listener himself), old-time radio mainstay Arthur Godfrey hits the CBS network full time, with the morning program Arthur Godfrey Time.

Mostly spontaneous in its potpourri of monologues, interviews, and music, Arthur Godfrey Time launches its genial-on-the-air/cantankerous-off-the-air host to a decade and a half of radio and television life. It will also prove the longest lasting of several shows Godfrey will host on both media; Arthur Godfrey Time---in spite of several remaking/remodelings---will be a radio fixture until 1972.

Godfrey's hold on his audience was that he was, or pretended to be, the average Joe, unimpressed with the glitter of showbiz or with politicians and all the other highfalutin pretensions that he ridiculed in his quasi-hayseed manner. In fact, he hung out with celebrities and made sure you knew he was on a first-name basis with politicians. Nonetheless, listeners felt he was one of them . . . but as his stature grew he became as pompous as the people he kidded.

---Gerald Nachman.

Pompous and ruthless, as it will turn out. Julius La Rosa, especially, can tell you, on the rare days now when he isn't tired of talking about it.

1945: AUF WIEDERSEN, LORD HAW-HAW---For the final time before his capture and trial, William Joyce broadcasts as notorious pro-Nazi propagandist Lord Haw-Haw.


1939: SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY ON RADIO---Jack (Benny) remembers the nerves of his first broadcast, basks in congratulations today, and takes the usual needling from Mary (Livingstone) . . . this time, over the anniversary ad in the paper---placed by him, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Don Wilson, Kenny Baker. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra. Writers: Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.

1944: ENGAGED TO EVE---In the middle of his still-uneasy mayoral campaign, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary)---inadvertently---announces his engagement to Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet) . . . only it might have been nice if he'd checked with her before accepting his congratulations, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Peavey: Richard Legrand. Hooker: Earle Ross. Floyd: Arthur Q. Bryan. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.


1903---Fulton Lewis, Jr. (news commentator, Mutual Broadcasting System), Washington, D.C.
1909---Bud Linn (singer, the King's Men: Fibber McGee & Molly), Indianapolis.
1910---Al Lewis (writer/director: Our Miss Brooks), New York City.
1911---Orin Tovrov (writer: The Brighter Day; Ma Perkins; Manhattan Mother), Boston.
1916---Robert Shaw (choral director: Radio Hall of Fame, American School of the Air), Red Bluff, California.
1917---Bea Wain (singer: The Children's Hour; Your Hit Parade), Bronx, New York.
1919---Jack Haskell (singer: The Dave Garroway Show), Akron, Ohio.
1925---Corinne Calvert (actress: The Martin & Lewis Show), Paris.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's a Doctor in the House: The Way It Was, 29 April

1940---After five months on NBC's Blue Network, the Irna Phillips creation Young Doctor Malone moves to CBS, sponsored by General Foods' Post cereals and starring future Ethel & Albert co-star Alan Bunce as Jerry Malone, a small-town physician in fictitious Three Oaks.

Young Doctor Malone will change sponsors, from General Foods to Procter & Gamble, in 1945---the fourth Phillips soap to be sponsored by the soap and hygiene products giant since they bought the rights to The Right of Happiness. And, as of 1947, the title role will be played by its best-remembered portrayer, future New York children's television legend Sandy Becker.

The soap will also achieve a kind of milestone in June 1952, when Procter & Gamble begins taping the live CBS broadcasts of Young Doctor Malone and The Brighter Day one day . . . and repeating them on NBC the next.

In between Alan Bunce and Sandy Becker, Jerry Malone will be played by Carl Frank and Charles Irving. Elizabeth Reller and, later, Barbara Weeks will play Malone's first wife, Ann; daughter Jill will be played by Madeleine Pierce, Joan Lazer, and Rosemary Rice; Malone's intrusive mother, by Evelyn Varden and Vera Allen; and, second wife Tracy by Joan Alexander, Jone Allison, and Gertrude Warner.

The heroes of Young Doctor Malone, Big Sister, and Young Widder Brown are doctors, and medical men flit in and out of all other serials. The predominance of doctors may be accounted for by the fact that radio surveys have frequently disclosed that the practise of medicine is at the top of the list of professions popular with the American housewife.

. . . Dr. Jerry Malone, by the way, won my True Christian Martyr Award for 1947 by being tried for murder and confined to a wheelchair at the same time. In March of this year, the poor fellow came full Soapland circle by suffering an attack of amnesia.

---James Thurber, in "Soapland: Ivorytown, Rinsoville, Anacinville, and Crisco Corners," The New Yorker, 1948; republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals: A New Collection of Pieces and Drawings About Human Beings and Less Alarming Creatures. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1948.)

The show's writers included David Driscoll, Julian Funt, David Leeson, and Charles Sussman---the last of whom also wrote for such Phillips soaps as The Right to Happiness and The Road of Life.


1939: THE CLIFF---Five years after forcing his naive subordinate (Milton C. Herman) over a cliff following a botched job, counterfeiter Mack Weber (Frank Lovejoy) looks about to face a similar fate---at the gunpoint of the subordinate's widow (Betty Winkler), on tonight's edition of Arch Oboler's Plays. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Betty Kane, Curt Conway. Writer/director: Arch Oboler.

1945: "WE MUST TAKE THE GOOD NEWS WITH THE BAD"---A Kamikaze attack on an American hospital ship docked off Guam, killing 29 and wounding 33; unconfirmed dispatches of Hitler's death in Berlin; a Swedish confab regarding reputed surrender offerings and terms by SS chief Heinrich Himmler; and, other flashes, bashes, speculations, and rapid-firing on tonight's edition of The Jergen's Journal with Walter Winchell. (ABC.)


1896---Harry McNaughton (actor/panelist: It's Higgins, Sir; It Pays to be Ignorant), Surbiton, U.K.
1899---Duke Ellington (as Edward Kennedy Ellington; jazz composer/pianist/bandleader: Jubilee; Orson Welles Theatre; The Story of Swing), Washington, D.C.
1903---Richard Leibert (organist: Dick Liebert's Musical Revue; Organ Rhapsody), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Frank Parker (singer: The A&P Gypsies; The Jack Benny Program; The Frank Parker Show), New York City.
1904---Russ Morgan (bandleader: The Russ Morgan Orchestra), Scranton, Pennsylvania.
1912---Richard Carlson (actor: Lux Radio Theater); Albert Lea, Minnesota; Ian Martin (actor: Young Doctor Malone; Meet Corliss Archer), Glasgow; John McVane (NBC News World War II correspondent), Portland, Maine.
1914---Derek Guyler (actor: It's That Man Again), Wallasey, Merseyside, U.K.
1915---Donald Mills (singer, with the Mills Brothers: The Mills Brothers Show), Piqua, Ohio.
1919---Celeste Holm (actress: The House on Q Street, Great Scenes from Great Plays, Lux Radio Theater), New York City.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

" . . . And, to Their Bewildering Offspring": The Way It Was, 27-28 April

28 APRIL 1932---Carlton Morse's One Man's Family premieres on NBC in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, joining the full NBC western network within three weeks and the nationwide network offerings by May 1933. The serial is also the first soap opera to originate from San Francisco and will appear in a condensed retrospective between May 1933 and January 1934 to catch up the country with the full story of the Barbours, according to The Big Broadcast: 1920-1950.

One Man's Family is dedicated to the mothers and fathers of the younger generation, and to their bewildering offspring.

---From the show's usual introduction, followed by episode introductions by book and chapter.

Contrary to standard soap opera practise of the day, One Man's Family is a half-hour, weekly offering, converting to daily fifteen-minute offerings only by 5 June 1950, remaining in that format until it leaves the air 8 May 1959. It will be the longest-running radio soap in American history, with J. Anthony Smythe playing patriarch Henry Barbour for the show's entire life and Marvin Miller playing twenty individual roles on the show, more than any other cast member.

Set in the Seacliff area of San Francisco, the soap is written by creator Morse with Harlan Ware and Michael Raffetto. (Raffetto also plays eldest son Paul Barbour from inception through 1955.)

Henry's wife, Fanny, will be played by Minetta Ellen from the show's inception through 1955. Other significant cast will include numerous old-time radio stalwarts, including Bill Idelson (Vic & Sade), Janet Waldo (Meet Corliss Archer), Frank Porvo, Herb Butterfield (The Halls of Ivy), Eddie Firestone, Jr. (That Brewster Boy), Anne Whitfield (The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show), Sharon Douglas (The Life of Riley), Mary Jane Croft (Our Miss Brooks, not to mention the second Mrs. Elliott Lewis), Virginia Gregg (Dragnet), Page Gilman, Francis X. Yarborough, Ken Peters, Vic Perrin (Gunsmoke), Jay Novello (I Love a Mystery), Norman Fields, and Conrad Binyon (The Life of Riley).

Comic duo Bob & Ray will pay the soap the supreme compliment, satirising it in a periodic series they called One Fella's Family, continuing the satire even after the soap itself leaves the air.

27 APRIL 1952---The Chase, an anthology of mystery, drama, adventure, and fantasy/horror created by Lawrence Klee (Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), premieres on NBC, often sharing casts with director Fred Weihe's X Minus One.



1947: THE CRIMINAL MIND---Known also as "The Perfect Crime," the criminal mind proves to be a police lieutenant who thinks he has the experience at least to bring it off, on tonight's edition of The Clock. (ABC.)

Rex: Ken Wade. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: John Millian, George Sterling, Joseph McCormick. Writer: Lawrence Klee.


1950: SOMETHING FOR NOTHING---In northern California, a woman leaps desperately from a car about to jump a cliff, giving a drifter (William Conrad) driving the other way a blackmail opening after he witnesses the incident, on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS.)

Cast: Unknown. Writers: Les Crutchfield, John Dunkel, from a novel by H.V. Dixon.



1902---Harry Stockwell (singer: Broadway Matinee), Kansas City; Ned Wever (actor: Dick Tracy, Young Widder Brown), New York City.
1907---Matty Matlock (jazz musician: Pete Kelly's Blues), Paducah, Kentucky.
1933---Casey Kasem (as Kemal Amin Kasem; disc jockey/actor, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Detroit.
1937---Sandy Dennis (actress: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Hastings, Nebraska.


1874---Sidney Toler (actor: It's Time to Smile), Warrensburg, Missour.
1878---Lionel Barrymore (actor: Numerous radio productions of A Christmas Carol, usually as Scrooge; Dr. Kildare, Mayor of the Town, Our Hour of National Sorrow), Philadelphia.
1896---Edith Evanson (actress: Myrt & Marge), Tacoma, Washington.
1908---Micharl Fitzmaurice (actor: The Adventures of Superman, Stella Dallas), Chicago.
1929---Carolyn Jones (as Carolyn Sue Baker; actress: Dragnet, Survivors), Amarillo, Texas.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

" . . . and the smell of gunsmoke": The Way It Was, 26 April

1952---Despite (even defiant of) the beginning of the end of old-time radio drama, Gunsmoke premieres as a regular series on CBS, with mellifluous William Conrad as federal marshal Matt Dillon, almost three years after it was auditioned for the first time.

Yet, for all that it is written and acted with an intelligence rare among radio (and, in due course, televison) Westerns, what many critics and historians will seem to remember most about the show was its sound, for which Tom Hanley and Ray Kemper were responsible. Kemper in due course would tell the critic Leonard Maltin that he and his sonic partner credited producer Norman MacDonald with refusing to allow any "cheating" in creating and deploying the striking, realistic sound---right down to the rumbling hooves, spurs on the floorboards, and gunshots---that helped separate Gunsmoke from its predecessors and successors. (It is, in truth, ridiculous to suggest the show has peers among the horse operas.)

If you walk from Point A to Point B and then you have to return, you should walk the same amount of steps. Most directors simply wouldn't allow it. They would say, 'Turn around and walk back,' and you'd go two steps and that's it, they're into the script again. And you couldn't convince them it was important to return the same amount of steps. Norm MacDonald, if you had a particular distance to walk, gave you the time to walk back again. Once in a great while we'd cheat if we were hurting for time, but most of the time he gave us all the time we needed.

---Ray Kemper, to Leonard Maltin, The Great American Broadcast. (New York: Dutton, 1997.

When Marshal Dillon went out on the plains, you didn't need a narrator to know what was happening. You heard the faraway prairie wind and the dry squeak of Matt's pants against saddle leather . . . When Matt opened his jail cell door, you heard every key drop on the ring. When he walked the streets of Dodge, his spurs rang with a dull clink-clink, missing occasionally, and the hollow boardwalk echoed back as the nails creaked. Buckboards passed, and you heard them behind the dialogue, along with muted shouts of kids playing in an alley, and from the next block the inevitable dog was barking.

---John Dunning, from Tune In Yesterday. (New York: Prentice Hall, 1976.)

Still, the realistic, painstakingly produced sound is far from the sole reason why Gunsmoke will be remembered and respected far beyond its predecessors or successors---including, even, its comparatively tame television interpretation.

In radio, I think the show was more authentic. The original characters were more extreme. They've mellowed with age---maybe they mellowed too much. They didn't used to be quite so warm. Kitty was more of a madam, Doc was more of an abortionist, and Matt smoked big black cigars, drank rye whiskey, and very often a man rode into town who could shoot faster and straighter than Matt Dillon.

---Norman MacDonnell, comparing the radio and television versions of Gunsmoke, as cited by Gerald Nachman, in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

With the writing produced mostly by Les Crutchfield, John Meston, and Marian Clark, Gunsmoke co-stars Parley Baer as Chester, Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell, and Howard McNear as Doc, until the western rides off radio and into the sunset in 1961---still leaving the listener's nose catching as close to the smell of gunsmoke as radio drama could bring.


1937: THE MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION---Adaptation of the rather soap operatic 1935 film, based upon the Lloyd C. Douglas novel about a reckless and gravely injured playboy---blaming himself for his doctors' being unable to reach and save a renowned surgeon---swapping the high life for medical school, falling in love with the surgeon's widow, and obsessing on restoring her eyesight---the loss of which he caused in the first place in another accident, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Robert Merrick: Robert Taylor. Helen Phillips: Irene Dunne. Otto Kruger: Pedro de Cordova. Writers: Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, George O'Neil.


1890---Edgar Kennedy (actor: Screen Guild Theater, Radio Reader's Digest), Monterey, California.
1905---Cecilia Parker (actress: Good News of 1939, Mail Call, Lux Radio Theater), Fort William, Ontario.
1906---A.L. Alexander (moderator: Goodwill Court, later known as The Court of Human Relations), Winthrop, Massachussetts.
1912---John McGovern (actor: The O'Neills), unknown.
1916---Vic Perrin (actor: One Man's Family, Fort Laramie), Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin; Frances Robinson (actress: Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Let George Do It), Fort Wandsworth, New York.
1918---Helen Burgess (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Birth of a Father, Death of a Diary: The Way It Was, 25 April

1874: BIRTH OF A FATHER---Guglielmo Marconi is born in Bologna; his future experiments in producing and detecting over long distances the radio waves discovered by Heinrich Hertz launch the activities---including the world's first known successful commercial wireless company---that earn him the sobriquet "the father of radio."

1969: DEATH OF A DIARY---Five thousand and four hundred broadcasts after it first appears in 1948, Britain's first post-World War II radio soap, Mrs. Dale's Diary, airs for the final time, in an episode in which daughter Gwen Dale (Aline Waites) becomes engaged to a television producer (John Justin).


1945---Radio 1212---the so-called "black propaganda" operation based at Radio Luxembourg (who turned its facilities over to the U.S. Army after the Grand Duchy had been liberated) and operated by the U.S. Office of War Information's Psychological Warfare Division (supervised by CBS chief William S. Paley), whose mission it was to broadcast as though from Nazi Germany and gain an audience of loyal Nazis before using that influence against them---broadcasts for the final time.


1939: ROTTEN DAVIS TELEPHONES---There went the calm after dinner, interrupting leisurely Vic (Art Van Harvey) on the davenport, pondering Seattle; Sade (Bernadine Flynn) in the easy chair, pondering nothing in particular; and, Rush (Bill Idelson) pondering his old enemy algebra, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1944: TROUBLE OPENING THE PACKAGE---Merely receiving a mysterious package from Tennessee is nothing compared to that kind of trouble---especially with Lum (Chester Lauck) itching to get to whatever's inside and Abner (Norris Goff) thinking it isn't all that much to begin with, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (Blue Network.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, possibly Wedlock & Snyder.

1948: SCALPING BASEBALL TICKETS---For which your host and the then-manager (returning from suspension and not very long for his job as it was) of the Boys of Summer in waiting are brought to trial, after the Alley deminonde is compelled to ruminate on superstitions, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

Senator Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus Moody: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Leo Durocher: Himself. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Bob Schiller, Nat Hiken.


1899---Guinn Williams (actor: Biography in Sound), Decatur, Texas.
1908---Edward R. Murrow (as Egbert Roscoe Murrow; newscaster/commentator, CBS), Pole Cat Creek, North Carolina.
1918---Ella Fitzgerald (jazz singer: Flow Gently, Sweet Rhythm, Jubilee, The Big Show), Newport News, Virginia.
1919---Albert Alley (actor: Hop Harrigan, Stella Dallas), New York City.
1921---Robert Q. Lewis (actor/comedian: The Horn and Hardardt Children's Hour, Arthur Godfrey Time, The Robert Q. Lewis Show, mr. ace and JANE), New York City.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Not Funny Haw-Haw: The Way It Was, 24 April

1906---He would earn his infamous nickname thanks to a London Daily Express reporter's allusion to his "aristocratic, nasal drawl." He would earn his infamy as the most persistent known broadcaster of pro-Nazi propaganda reaching British listeners, even if his broadcasts were made illegal at one point.

But he is born today in Brooklyn, will live in Ireland and London with his family before becoming a German national in 1939---yet his carriage of a British passport will provide the jurisdiction under which the British will try, convict, and hang him for treason, on the way to which gallows he would yet blame the Allies for the deaths exposed from the rubble of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps.

He is born William Joyce. He will die in infamy as Lord Haw-Haw.


1947: WIN, PLACE, AND MURDER---Dire consequences show when a gambler (Richard Conte) is desperate to get down a bet on a white-hot tip when his regular bookie decides to take no more action for the week, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Unidentified. Writer: Emil C. Tepperman.

1948: BRIDGE GAME---Have you ever run across those frightening little medical ads in magazines that say, "Men! Do you wake up mornings?" Underneath that, they list a lot of symptoms. And if you read the symptoms long enough, you get all of them. The other morning I woke up feeling terrible. Something I read, no doubt.

Thus pronounces (Goodman) Ace, who's feeling a little low of late. Thus a bridge game is just what Dr. Jane (Ace) orders, but a bridge game with Dr. Jane is just what the ulcers order, on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.)

Doctor: John Briggs. Norris: Eric Dressler. Miss Denison: Jo Carol Denison. Keane: William Keane. Mr. and Mrs. Hudson: Ed Jerome, Katherine Emmett. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Writer: Goodman Ace.

1949: FIND ME, FIND DEATH---A hand-delivered letter to the office promises Dan (Alan Ladd) more than an adventure: his own death, within four days, unless he can learn the identity of his potential killer in the same time or less, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Lurene Tuttle, Frank Lovejoy, Luis van Rooten, Betty Lou Gerson, possibly Alan Reed or John Beal. Writer: Russell Hughes.


1924---Marilyn Erskine (actress: Lora Lawton, Young Widder Brown, Living 1948), Rochester, New York.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cruisin': The Way It Is, 22-23 April

22 APRIL 1907---Elmer H. Wavering is born in Quincy, Illinois. Before you send forth a large chorale of BIG DEAL! you might wish to consider what he grows up to help create. If not for Mr. Wavering and a partner named William Lear, you might wait quite awhile longer before you could flip a switch and twist a knob on the dashboard to dial in your favourite old-time or otherwise radio shows on the road.

Wavering and Lear will spearhead the 1930 invention of possibly the first commercial car radio for the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation---the Motorola.

Wavering will take a big hand, too, in making sure you won't spend too many days suffocating behind the wheel in the long hot summertime, in due course. He will invent the alternator, without which you won't even be able to think about your car running an air conditioner or any of your other favourite high-tech, in-vehicle toys.



1929: RUBY'S FATHER SEES AMOS TALKING TO ANOTHER GIRL---That's all Amos (Freeman Gosden) needs, enough to wake Andy (Charles Correll) out of a sound sleep to talk it over, though Andy tries to assure him it won't kill the old man to think his daughter isn't the only flower in the proverbial garden, on tonight's edition of Amos 'n' Andy. (NBC.)

Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

1945: AUCTION---In a program originally pre-empted for coverage of President Roosevelt's death a week earlier, Charlie and Edgar (Bergen) point Rita Hayworth (herself) toward an auction for some new furniture, at least while Charlie isn't looking to invest in a gold mine, on tonight's edition of The Charlie McCarthy Show. (NBC.)

With Ken Carpenter, Don Ameche. Music: Ray Noble and His Orchestra, Joan Merrill. Announcer: Frank Barton. Writers: Royal Foster, Roland McLane, Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher.


1950: THE TAPE RECORDER---The tales of the tape don't necessarily ensure simple endings, as Connie (Eve Arden) hopes to convince penny-pinching Conklin (Gale Gordon) it's not a bad idea to buy a tape recorder for school use, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Dick Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Announcer: Bob Lamond. Writers: Al Lewis (who also directed), Lester White, Joe Quillan.

1955: BORN TO HANG---That would be a man lynched as a falsely-accused horse thief, cut down alive from a rope, and bent on revenge against his lynchers, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Dillon: William Conrad. Kitty: Georgia Wells. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Joseph Kearns, John Dehner, Lawrence Dobkin, James Nasser. Writer: John Meston. Sound: Tom Hanley, Ray Kemper.



1887---James Norman Hall (writer: Words at War), Colfax, Iowa.
1900---Joan Blaine (actress: Tale of Today, The Story of Mary Marlin), Fort Dodge, Iowa.
1902---John W. Vandercook (commentator: Newsroom of the Air, News of the World), London.
1905---Ed Ludes (sound: Fibber McGee & Molly---it was Mr. Ludes who developed and created Fibber McGee's famous clattering closet), unknown.
1906---Eddie Albert (actor: The Eddie Albert Show), Rock Island, Illinois.
1907---Elmer H. Wavering (inventor, with William Lear, first commercial automobile radio: the Motorola), Quincy, Illinois.
1909---Ralph Byrd (singer/actor, numerous local and Hollywood radio programs), Dayton, Ohio.
1915---Dick Dudley (announcer: Archie Andrews, Believe It . . . or Not), Louisville.
1916---Yehudi Menuhin (violinist, New York Philharmonic: The Pause That Refreshes), New York City; Maurice Webster (announcer: Meet the Missus, Scattergood Baines, Surprise Party), Gibbon, Nebraska.
1920---Hal March (actor/comedian: December Bride, Too Many Cooks, Maxwell House Coffee Time with Burns & Allen), San Francisco.
1921---Vivian Dandridge (writer: Beulah), Cleveland; Charlotte Lawrence (actress: The Adventures of Christopher Wells, Just Plain Bill), California.
1922---Charles Mingus (jazz bassist/composer: Here's to Veterans), Nogales, Arizona.
1924---Bill Simmons (gospel musician: The Light Crust Doughboys), unknown.

1879---Talbot Mundy (writer: Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy), London.
1884---Edwin C. Hill (commentator: The Human Side of the News, Your News Parade), Aurora, Indiana.
1893---Frank Borzage (director: Lux Radio Theater, Screen Guild Theater), Salt Lake City.
1898---Lee Vines (announcer: Columbia Workshop), Texas.
1910---Simone Simon* (actress: The Inner Sanctum Mysteries), Pas de Calais, France.
1915---James F. Fleming (announcer: Vic & Sade, John's Other Wife), Baraboo, Wisconsin.
1921---Janet Blair (actress: Lux Radio Theater, The Abbott & Costello Show, The Charlie McCarthy Show), Altoona, Pennsylvania.
1928---Shirley Temple (actress: Junior Miss), Santa Monica, California.

*---The homonymous Mme. Simon became a reference point in a memorable Easy Aces storyline: when a film director rented a home next door to the Aces, to run a local contest to discover a fresh new local talent for his next feature, one of the contest entrants was star-struck malaproprietess Jane Ace, who drew on Mme. Simon's monicker to adopt for herself the unlikely stage name Jane Jane.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

That's the First $64 Question: The Way It Was, 21 April

1940---Call it the birth of a notion, call it the birth of a cliche, call it, even, the grandfather of a scandal if you must---but the first $64 question reached and yielded today, on CBS's popular Take It or Leave It, hosted by Phil Baker.

For those who don't mind taking it (right up the wazoo or otherwise), here is one surviving sample of the show, first aired 13 July 1947. For those who prefer to leave it, please feel free to enjoy one of quite a number of charming parodies of the quiz, such as this, killing two satirical birds with one stone, cast by cheerfully cantankerous Henry Morgan.


1941: THE LETTER---The W. Somerset Maugham morality play, adapted to radio from the 1940 film, with Bette Davis re-creating her 1940 film role of a wife whose self-defence claim in the killing of her suspected lover is complicated by the letter his widow produces, in which she seems to have invited him to meet her as lovers the night of the killing, a letter producing in turn a moral dilemna for her husband (Herbert Marshall, also re-creating his film role) and the family attorney (James Stephenson, likewise), on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

1949: EDDIE CANTOR IS WORKING TOO HARD---Only the first hints involve how many dates he books in a day and how long it's been since he's kissed his wife, on tonight's edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Bill Goodwin, Toby Reed, Bea Benaderet. Writers: Paul Henning, Keith Fowler, George Burns.

1957: CHICKEN FEED---A domestic quarrel over the mere dime he gave his young son causes a frustrated husband and father (Lloyd Bridges) to take a long cooling-off drive that brings him into a fortune of trouble in a coffee shop, when he realises he left the house without his wallet . . . and his wife won't accept his collect call home, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Amzie Strickland, Betty Groble, Lou Krugman, Jack Cruschen, Charlie Long, Lou Merrill, Dick LeGrand. Writer: Lawrence Goldman.


1898---King Calder (actor: The Second Mrs. Burton, Barry Cameron, Martin Kane, Private Eye), Maryland.
1905---Ted Osborne (actor: Dr. Kildare, Cinnamon Bear), Grand Rapids, Michigan.
1907---Beatrice Kay (singer: Gaslight Gayeties, The Beatrice Kay Show), New York City.
1911---Leonard Warren (singer: The Voice of Firestone, The Bell Telephone Hour), New York City.
1914---Norman Panama (writer: The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope, Lux Radio Thater), Chicago.
1915---Anthony Quinn (as Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn; actor: Lux Radio Theater), Chihuahua, Mexico.
1919---Don Cornell (singer: Sunday Serenade, Fountain of Fun, One Night Stand, The Big Show), New York City.
1921---Betty Jane Rhodes (singer: Meet Me at Parky's, The Packard Hour), Rockford, Illinois.
1923---Tex Antoine (announcer: The Eternal Light, The Jane Pickens Show), unknown.
1932---Elaine May (comedienne: NBC Monitor), Philadelphia.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Big Finish: The Way It Was, 20 April

1952---Throwback and forward pass at once, a valiant, usually engaging bid to preserve big-time, old-time radio variety programming against the swelling of television ends tonight with a lineup of performers just as arresting as any presented in the show's two-year history.

Big budget, big losses (NBC is believed to have lost a million dollars, big money for 1952, trying to sustain the show it produced at $100,000 per show), big hostess ("the glamorous, unpredictable Tallulah Bankhead"), and big writing talent behind it. (Goodman Ace, heading up a staff of Selma Diamond, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson, and---for those shows on which he appeared---Fred Allen.) The Big Show closes forever with Fred Allen (practically the show's co-host, for having appeared 25 times), Eddy Arnold, Phil Foster, Julie Harris, Groucho Marx, Ethel Merman, William Prince, and George Sanders.

Remarkably, its entire first season will survive on full recordings, most in good-to-excellent condition, for future radio collectors' enjoyment. At its absolute best, The Big Show lived up to its slightly hyperbolic name. At its absolute worst, The Big Show was still a far more ambitious and earnest player than nine-tenths of what television threw up (I leave it to my readers, all nine of them, to decide whether a pun was present, never mind intended) in a comparable genre. (If it tells you anything, let it be noted that Milton Berle, Mr. Television himself, appeared on The Big Show exactly twice . . . far less often than other performers who had made their television bones or weren't too far from it.)

It was in practically every respect a perfectly wonderful show---witty, tuneful, surprisingly sophisticated and brilliantly put together . . . one of the fastest and funniest ninety minutes in my memory.

---John Crosby, The New York Herald-Tribune.

If radio was to go out with a bang, there was nobody who gave audiences a better bang than Tallulah Bankhead, but it was the wrong sort of explosion. Running scared, radio was trying to turn itself into TV, not that anything would have helped. TV then was far worse---ragged, raw, and stumbling---but it was something that radio could never be again: novel.

The Big Show was not just more grand than most radio shows---it was also more witty, smoothly produced, smart, and ambitious, with an interesting juxtaposition of guests, but it wasn't significantly different. It was just a more lavish, inflated revival of radio's earliest form---the variety showcase; you could almost hear the sequins . . . It was all fairly sophisticated, but nothing could pry audiences from their expensive new glass boxes, and nothing could induce NBC to keep the lavish show on as a partly sustaining enterprise forever.

---Gerald Nachman, from "We're A Little Late, Folks, So Good Night," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

---[The Big Show was] good enough to make one wish he could have seen it.

---Jack Gould, The New York Times.

Mayhap someone instructed the smugger-than-thou Mr. Gould that he'd have been sorely disappointed to "see" that The Big Show never crossed the line from mere contrast to following a powerfully condensed dramatic adaptation or classical music performance with a wild animal act?


1943: KILL---A biology teacher accused murderer awaiting his trial verdict tries to take his mind off the jury deliberations by recalling the events leading to the crime he's accused of committing---and his pre-trial confession, on tonight's edition of Lights Out. (NBC.)

Cast: Unknown. Writer/host/producer: Arch Oboler.

1947: THE DISINTEGRATING FAMILY---A doting young father (Ozzie Nelson) is impatient to get home to his family after getting an interesting perspective on modern family security from a stranger (Jeff Chandler) he meets at a bus stop, on tonight's edition of Family Theater. (Mutual.)

Harriet: Harriet Nelson. David: Tommy Bernard. Ricky: Henry Blair. Additional cast: Janet Waldo, John Brown. Writers: Ozzie Nelson, John Kelley, Robert O'Sullivan.

(Program note: This is usually listed and labeled, in both the available MP3 file and in various episodic logs, as an episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.)

1958: ACES AND EIGHTS---While probing around the Dakota territory, Kendall (John Dehner) discovers just how the hand known as the dead man's hand earns its name, on tonight's edition of Frontier Gentleman. (CBS.)

Additional cast: John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan, Jack Moyles, Larry Dobkin, Stacy Harris, Vic Perrin. Writer/director: Antony Ellis.


1893---Harold Lloyd (director/host: Old Gold Comedy Theater), Burchard, Nebraska.
1897---Gregory Ratoff (panelist: Information, Please; actor: The Fred Allen Show), St. Petersburg, Russia.
1904---Bruce Cabot (actor: Hollywood On the Air), Carlsad, New Mexico.
1908---Lionel Hampton (jazz vibraphonist: One Night Stand, Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra), Louisville, Kentucky.
1914---Betty Lou Gerson (actress: The Story of Mary Marlin, The Guiding Light, The Road of Life, The Whistler, Crime Classics, Escape, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Lux Radio Theater), Chattanooga, Tennessee.
1923---Tito Puente (percussionist/bandleader: Manhattan Melodies), New York City.
1924---Nina Foch (actress: Lux Radio Theater, Suspense, Cavalcade of America), Leyden, The Netherlands.
1926---Elena Verdugo (actress: Meet Millie), Paso Robles, California.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All News, All the Time: The Way It Was, 19 January

1965---Once one of New York's premiere rock and roll stations (and once the New York home of the man who gave the music its name, Alan Freed), WINS goes all news, all the time, in due course becoming trademarked by the sound of a ticker machine running behind the desk anchors (a sound effect still in use at the station in 2007) and by a long-running slogan, "You give us twenty-two minutes, we'll give you the world."

From our WHY ON EARTH SHOULD AN OLD-TIME RADIO FAN CARE? department: The station was born in 1924 as WGBS, owned as many stations of the day were by a major department store (Gimbel's, in this case), and its premiere broadcast should be considered a classic radio lover's dream: hosted by Eddie Cantor, featuring guests including George Gershwin, Ukulele Ike Edwards, Rube Goldberg, the Dolly Sisters, Rudolf Friml, and the Vincent Lopez Orchestra.

Not that the station wasn't an old-time radio fan's delight in its latter day life as WINS: even as the station graduated toward rock and roll (at one time being even competition for the like of WABC, WMGM, and WMCA), it had room in 1954 for a morning show featuring Bob & Ray, who moved from WNBC.

WGBS (and its sister station in Philadelphia, WIP) might have become one of the great majors of the classic radio era had it not been for the Federal Radio Commission---the FRC in in 1928 ordered Gimbel (which had organised its radio arm into the Gimbel Broadcasting Service a few years earlier) to move both WGBS and WIP to share time on the same frequency, which ended up undermining them in both markets, three years before Gimbel sold the station to William Randolph Hearst . . . who changed the call letters to WINS.

You can read more about the foregoing here


1943: A NIGHT TO REMEMBER---Not to be confused with the book and film about the Titanic disaster: A wife (Ann Sothern) renting a cozy little Greenwich Village apartment for her mystery writing husband (Robert Young) hopes it provides a more appropriate atmosphere for him to work in---which they get only too quickly when a corpse turns up among the decor, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Based on the screenplay by Richard Fluornoy and Jack Henley, from a story by Kelley Roos.


1897---Vivienne Segal (actress: Jantzen Radio Program), Philadelphia,
1913---Sylvia Froos (singer: The Sylvia Froos Show, The Fred Allen Show), New York City.
1914---Betty Winkler (actress: the third of five to play the title role in Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern/Joyce Jordan, M.D.; also, Abie's Irish Rose, Theater of Romance), Berwick, Pennyslvania.
1920---Frank Fontaine (comedian/singer: The Jack Benny Program, The Bob Hope Show), Cambridge, Massachussetts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Turnabout's Fair Play: The Way It Was, 18 April

1945: OR, AS THE WORM TURNS---Radio 1212---the so-called "black propaganda" operation based at Radio Luxembourg (who turned its facilities over to the U.S. Army after the Grand Duchy had been liberated) and operated by the U.S. Office of War Information's Psychological Warfare Division (supervised by CBS chief William S. Paley), whose mission it was to broadcast as though from Nazi Germany and gain an audience of loyal Nazis before using that influence against them---turns its worm and cranks up a broadcast effort that trapped 350,000 German troops. The 1212 effort's finale includes a farewell broadcast of a sort giving the impression that the Allies have captured their fictitious station.


1943: THE CORPSE THAT WASN'T THERE---He is when Britt (Al Hodge) and Kato (Rollon Parker) deliver a found letter to what proves the home of a war plant official, but he isn't after Britt returns from phoning police to revive a knocked-out Kato, on today's edition of The Green Hornet. (NBC Blue.)

Miss Case: Lee Allman. Lowry: Jack Petruzzi. Writer: Fran Striker.

1948: DRUMS OF THE FORE AND AFT---A raw British regiment, sent to the front against a fanatical Muslim troop during the Afghan War, is shamed back to battle after a crushing retreat by a pair of young drummer boys (Gil Stratton, Jr., Jimmy Ogg), adapted from the Rudyard Kipling story, on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS, first broadcast; AFRS, rebroadcast.)

Kipling: Eric Walsh. Writer: Les Crutchfield.


1880---Donald Crisp (actor: Jonathan Trimble, Esquire), Aberfeldy, Scotland.
1882---Leopold Stokowski (conductor: NBC Symphony of the Air), London.
1887---Bill Hay (announcer: Amos 'n' Andy), Dumfires, Scotland.
1889---Gene Carroll (comedian: Fibber McGee and Molly, Quaker Early Birds, Gene and Glenn), Chicago.
1902---Harry Owens (bandleader: Hawaii Calls), O'Neill, Nebraska.
1904---Pigmeat Markham (as Dewey Markham; comedian/singer: Jubilee), Durham, North Carolina.
1907---Miklos Rozsa (composer: Lux Radio Theater), Budapest.
1912---Wendy Barrie (as Marguerite Wendy Jenkins; actress/hostess: Detect and Collect, The Jack Haley Show, Star for a Night), Hong Kong.
1913---Al Hodge (actor: The Green Hornet, Columbia Workshop), Ravenna, Ohio.
1918---Page Gilman (actor: One Man's Family), San Francisco; Tony Mottola (jazz guitarist: The Gordon McRae Gulf Spray Show), Kearney, New Jersey.
1922---Barbara Hale (actress: Lux Radio Theater, Screen Guild Theater, This Is Hollywood), DeKalb, Illinois.
1925---Bob Hastings (actor: Archie Andrews, Sea Hound), Brooklyn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Imus, RIP? The Way It Is, 17 April

Submitted for your perusal, if not necessarily your approval, two recent commentaries, both in the New York Post, regarding Don Imus and the hoopla which seems to have needed the evil at Virginia Tech to knock it the hell out of the conversation at last, if only for a little while.

Some of us recall, years ago, listening to a Mets game when WFAN ambushed listeners with an Imus In The Morning promo, a clip from the show that asked whether Mother Teresa is a legitimate candidate for sainthood or "a no-good bitch."

Hilarious stuff.

Some of us also recall when [New York WNBC-TV] sports anchor Len Berman resigned his gig at WFAN after a short and failing run.

Imus could've called Berman "Lenny the Bum" or "Lenny the Quitter." Instead he referred to him as "Lenny the Jew."

Might that have provided a clue as to which way his instincts---and his marvelous sense of humor---run?

So where was everyone back then?

And now, because his act could no longer be indulged, Imus was so desperate . . . that he answered to Al Sharpton, a man with zero credibility.

---Phil Mushnick, Post columnist, from "This Is An Ugly, Old Story."

There's no excusing Imus' recent ridiculous remark, but there's something not kosher in America when one guy gets a Grammy and one gets fired for the same line.

The Matt Lauers and Al Rokers of this world live by the cue-card and die by the cue-card; Imus is a rare bird, indeed---he works without a net. When you work without a net as long as Imus has, sometimes you make mistakes.

Take heart, Imus. You're merely joining a long and legendary laundry list of individuals who were summarily sacrificed in the name of society's sanctimonious soul: Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Mozart and Mark Twain, who was decried as a racist until the day he died for using the N-word rather prolifically in Huckleberry Finn.

---Kinky Friedman, a singer and author who moonlighted recently as a Texas gubernatorial candidate, from "Cowards Kick Away Another Piece of America's Soul."

But you may care to note, too, that a one-time colleague of Imus, in the days when both were engaged by WNBC-AM (which became WFAN before the 1980s expired), where he was a night bird and Imus in the Morning was the awakening preferred by those to whom the like of the elder and longer-living Rambling With Gambling was just so much gentility, isn't exactly going sleepless over Imus's gainful unemployment.

[D]espite his own fight for free speech, he was happy Imus lost his job. [He] went on to explain he felt this way because he once witnessed Imus refer to an African American secretary at WNBC as the n-word, and therefore thought his remark about the Rutgers basketball team wasn’t a joke at all . . . [H]e thought one of the reasons MSNBC fired Imus from his television simulcast was because of its poor ratings, and proceeded to play a clip of one of Imus’ coworkers, Keith Olbermann, discussing how Imus made people cry on a weekly basis because of his behind-the-scenes remarks to women and minorities. Upon hearing that, [he] noted critics could say anything they wanted about his show, but that they wouldn’t be able to find any of his coworkers who could put down how he treated them off the air.

There's also something not kosher in America when Don Imus can be compared Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Mozart and Mark Twain with a straight face (well, word processor), if only because Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, and Joan of Arc weren't exactly aiming their thumbs toward the eyes of their purported superiors simply to make themselves look superior.

I'm not entirely sure about Mozart, unless you accept that Kinky Friedman has bought the Amadeus storyline, long since discredited to a profound extent as biography, though of course it remains too much the truism that facts do get in the way of making a terrific play (which I've read but not seen) or film (which I've seen).

Mark Twain wouldn't have minded getting a thumb into the eyes of his purported superiors, when all was said and done, but he had two things over Imus. Twain, unlike Imus, deployed his too-often-remarked, too-often attacked time-and-place vernacular against the dehumanisation that yielded it. And, unlike Imus, who hasn't been so since the Ford Administration and on rare enough occasions at that, Mark Twain was actually funny.


1941: BETTY LEAVES CARL OVER THE BABY'S NAME---Betty (Ethel Blume) says "Sheila"; Carl, apparently, says "Susan"; and, Jane (Ace) says a mouthful (what a surprise), after allowing Betty to stay with the Aces until the whole megillah blows over, on tonight's edition of Easy Aces. (CBS.)

Ace: Goodman Ace. Marge: Mary Hunter. Announcer: Ford Bond. Writer/director: Goodman Ace.

1949: SEALED INSTRUCTIONS---A proposition promising Dan (Alan Ladd) ten thousand dollars "if you'll go through with it" brings him to an uneasy correspondent, a sealed envelope, a trip to the Philippines to retrieve an unnamed valuable, a phony Manila police lieutenant might have killed to keep Dan from retrieving for him, a troubling revelation about his original correspondent, and half a mysterious map, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Additional cast: Possibly Alan Reed, Luis Van Rooten, John Beal. Announcer: Vern Cartensen. Writer: Charles Gannett.

1949: DINNER FOR TEACHER---More accurately, for principal---the children's principal (possibly Elvia Allman), whom Alice (Faye) invited for Easter dinner, making her nervous about randy Remley (Elliott Lewis) making hash of the evening . . . until everyone gets a taste of the principal's haughty manner and her badly browbeaten husband, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Phil: Phil Harris. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Willie: Robert North. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


1898---Howard Claney (announcer: American Album of Familiar Music, NBC Symphony), Pittsburgh.
1903---Gregor Piatigorski (cellist, Pittsburgh Symphony: The Pause that Refreshes On the Air), Yekaterinoslav, Russia.
1905---Arthur Lake (actor: Blondie), Corbin, Kentucky.
1910---Ivan Goff (writer: Lux Radio Theater), Perth, Australia.
1911---George Seaton (actor: The Lone Ranger, Screen Director's Playhouse), South Bend, Indiana.
1918---John Hess (writer: The Human Adventure), Chicago; William Holden (actor: Hour of Mystery, The Smiths of Hollywood, So Proudly We Hail), O'Fallon, Illinois; Anne Shirley (actress: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1923---Harry Reasoner (CBS News), Dakota City, Iowa.

Monday, April 16, 2007

From Smackout to Wistful Vista: The Way It Was, 16 April

1935---After four years as The Smackouts, two former vaudevillians graduate to new characters, a new sponsor, and practically a new show written by their collaborator Don Quinn.

They're moved from the small general store to a pleasant little home in which the head of the household blusters and blunders his way into and out of schemes and dreams only to be brought down to earth---sometimes with a crash, sometimes with a mere slow burn, and abetted especially by his gently tart but loving wife, to say nothing of a small host of quirky neighbours.

And if it takes five full years to hit complete stride, hit stride they will, their own formidable talent buttressed by Quinn's clever writing and one of old-time radio's most dependably facile supporting casts.

No twosome was more perfectly attuned to middle-class 1930s sensibilities . . . The show, which seamlessly blended vaudeville high-jinks with radio's cozier atmospherics, came along at the right time---a home remedy for a shaken, insecure, Depression-era America that needed reassuring that its values were still intact, alive and well at 79 Wistful Vista.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Nesting Instincts," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

And, although the official title won't reflect it for many years hence, you can probably presume that very few of its fans ever addressed or referred to it by its longtime official title: The Johnson Wax Program with Fibber McGee & Molly.


1942: CATCH AS CATCH CAN FRED WARING---Lamenting who has to leave the game before the ninth, Greater Deep in the Heart of Texas Week, and a new game in which the object is to catch a certain bandleader, among other hits and runs on today's edition of Here's Morgan, one of the very few surviving editions of Henry Morgan's earliest radio comedy. (Mutual.)

Writer: Henry Morgan.

1946: THE BASEBALL PLAYER MURDER---A baseball player with no known vices is shot to death while sliding into second with a double . . . in a game before which he was switched in the batting order---and was overheard trying to reach Blackie (Dick Kollmar), who also finds a murdered scoreboard operator later that day and an ancient motive the day after, on tonight's edition of Boston Blackie. (Ziv Syndication.)

Faraday: Maurice Tarplin. Mary: Jan Miner. Shorty: Tony Barrett. Writers: Kenny Lyons, Ralph Rosenberg.

1953: PATIENCE'S ROMANCE---Susan (Irene Dunne) thinks George (Fred MacMurray) may be the intended target when her housekeeper runs a lonelyhearts ad in the Morning Star---until the ad draws at least five replies, on tonight's edition of Bright Star. (NBC.)

Sammy: Possibly Richard Crenna. Writers: Unknown. Announcer: Wendell Niles.

1953: THE FAMILY GETAWAY---It was just an overnight business trip for Jim (Robert Young)---at first, on tonight's edition of Father Knows Best. (NBC.)

Margaret: Dorothy Lovett. Bud: Ted Donaldson. Betty: Rhoda Williams. Kathy: Helen Strom. Writers: Paul West, Roswell Rogers. Announcer: Bill Forman.


1889---Sir Charles Chaplin (actor: Dodge Brothers Hour), London.
1895---Mischa Mischakoff (violinist: NBC Symphony), Proskourov, Russia.
1897---Milton J. Cross (announcer/commentator: The Voice of the Met,General Motors Concerts
1898---Marian Jordan (comedienne: Smackout, Fibber McGee & Molly), Peoria, Illinois.
1913---Les Tremayne (actor: Adventures of the Thin Man, The Falcon), London.
1914---John Hodiak (actor: L’il Abner, The Lone Ranger), Pittsburgh.
1918---Spike Milligan (comedian: The Goon Show), Ahmednagar, India.
1921---Sir Peter Ustinov (actor: Freedom Forum), London.
1924---Henry Mancini (conductor: Family Theater, Voices of Vista), Cleveland.
1930---Herbie Mann (jazz flutist: Voices of Vista), New York.
1931---Edie Adams (singer/comedienne: The Stewart Foster Show), Kingston, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"I Pray You To Believe What I Have Said About Buchenwald": The Way It Was, 15 April

1945: While some of one country's most popular entertainers say a final farewell to a freshly-interred Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of her most signature broadcast journalists says a harrowing hello to the Holocaust's actuality, while an Englishman introduces the world to a second such notorious camp . . .

"FOR MOST OF IT, I HAVE NO WORDS"---There still exist numerous examples of what made Edward R. Murrow's reputation as a larger-than-life journalist with the gift of the prose poet. But among them there exists no equal to his harrowing "rather mild" report from Buchenwald. We almost need no visual evidence to know its grotesquery. Almost. The mute horror underwriting Murrow's understatement is only too vivid. (CBS.)

"HERE, OVER AN ACRE OF GROUND . . . "---Richard Dimble is almost as harrowing in this brief, jarring extract from his report on the liberation of another notorious Nazi camp---Bergen-Belsen. (BBC.)

"NOW, EVEN THE MUFFLED DRUMS ARE QUIET"---Anchored by Robert Trout, a report from Hyde Park conveying the graveside service and morning burial of FDR on the grounds of his primary home; another CBS legend, Eric Sevareid, freshly dispatched to the U.N.'s founding conference in San Francisco, delivers his first report from that milieu, including a retrospective on his most recent coverage of the war abroad; and, Charles Collingwood from Paris on further reaction to FDR's death and further war advance news. (CBS.)

OUR HOUR OF NATIONAL SORROW---A small phalanx of film and old-time radio stars rounds up in a moving, sometimes mawkish, sometimes wishfully wistful, and music-wrapped farewell to President Roosevelt. The stars include Ronald Colman, Jim and Marian Jordan (in character as Fibber McGee & Molly and Teeny), Ginny Simms, Ed Gardner (Duffy's Tavern), Bette Davis, Robert Young, Harold Peary (The Great Gildersleeve), James Cagney, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, and others. (NBC.)


1944: THE CAT BRINGS DEATH; OR, THE MISSING PERSIAN---Already pressured by a rash of unsolved jewel robberies, the last thing Lt. Riley (Humphrey Davis) needs is a dowager (Bryna Raeburn) demanding her missing and possibly stolen expensive Persian cat be returned post haste, on tonight's edition of Nick Carter, Master Detective. (Mutual.)

Carter: Lon Clark. Patsy: Helen Choate. Writer/director: Jock MacGregor.

1948: WANTED---ONE BABY---A tiremaker's manager (Kenny Baker) is driven to two-front desperation: at work from his indifferent boss (Alan Reed); and, at home after he and his wife (Marla Dwyer) think they've conceived at last only to learn otherwise yet again, on tonight's edition of Family Theater. (Mutual.)

Additional cast: Daws Butler. Host: Paul Henreid. Writers: Frances Rickett, Van Rodden.

1960: HIDING EASTER EGGS---One Fella's Family, Book Ex Eye Eye, Chapter Vee Eye, among other tender mercilessness, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Three guesses.)

Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1900---Eddie Garr (actor: The Fleischmann Hour), Philadelphia.
1907---Theodore Granick (moderator: American Forum of the Air), Brooklyn.
1915---Hans Conreid (actor: Lux Radio Theater, The Great Gildersleeve, Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air, My Friend Irma, Life with Luigi), Baltimore.
1933---Roy Clark (singer/guitarist: Town and Country Time), Meherrin, Virginia.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Simple Funeral for a Complex President: The Way It Was, 14 April

1945---A nation pauses for the funeral of its most old-time radio-friendly President.

"IT WAS THAT SIMPLE"---Franklin D. Roosevelt apparently asked for, and received, a simple funeral . . . even with a phalanx of flowers in the East Room of the White House that contravened a reported request from Eleanor Roosevelt. Ray Henley and Carlton Smith of CBS give a simple report.

"THIS IS A SOLEMN HOUR IN AMERICAN HISTORY"---CBS News' Report to the Nation, between the funeral and the final journey to Hyde Park, including Charles Collingwood (from Paris, reporting on American GIs' reaction to Roosevelt's death), Frederick March (no known relation to the actor), and John Daly (who covered the White House for part of the Roosevelt Administration), the third analysing particularly the President's reputed personal touch and the the exhausted final months of his life.


1947: MAID OF HONOUR---Radio actress Elaine Brand (Lurene Tuttle) has to convince the sister of the bride to stand as maid of honour despite her disapproval of the groom-to-be . . . before she learns the bride is dead, on tonight's edition of The Whistler. (CBS.)

Margaret: Mary Lansing. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Writer: Brian Thorn. Sound: Bernard Surrey, Gene Twombly.

1949: HENRY THE SHORTSTOP---Alice (Katherine Raht) and Sam (House Jameson) think the good news is Henry (Ezra Stone) bagging the highest grade on the history exam, but Henry has other ideas about what makes good news, on tonight's edition of The Aldrich Family. (NBC.)

Homer: Jackie Kelk. Kathleen: Jean Gillespie. Agnes: Judith Abbott. Willie: Norman Tokar. Mr. Bradley: Bernard Lenrow. Writers: Norman Tokar, Ed Jurist. Sound: Bill Brinkmeyer.


1904---Sir John Gielgud (actor: Sherlock Holmes, Theater Guild On the Air), London.
1913---John Howard (actor: Lux Radio Theater, Hollywood Hotel), Cleveland.
1914---John Hubbard (actor: The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show), East Chicago.
1917---Valerie Hobson (actress/contestant: One Minute Please), Larne, Ireland.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Death of a President, Continued: The Way It Was, 13 April

1945---Radio accompanies a country stricken by the death of its President yet reminds it of further advances toward triumph in war.

"THE TRAIN HAS JUST ARRIVED . . . "---The train carrying President Roosevelt's coffin arrives in Washington after a baleful journey from Warm Springs, and there forms a procession to bring him to the White House.

"THE TRIUMPH THAT WILL BE DEDICATED . . . "---NBC's continuing coverage of the death of FDR includes a Senate Republican pledge (there were forty Republican Senators at the time) to join the rally behind newly-sworn President Truman and news of Vienna falling to Soviet troops as American Ninth Army troops advance as close as fifteen miles from Berlin.

"THE CONGREGATION BEARS JUST ABOUT EVERY KIND OF AMERICAN . . . "---A report from memorial services around the United States begins with a quiet, almost unassuming description of a service in Chicago.


1944: THE CASE OF THE LEAPING DOG---It's an otherwise friendly Belgian shepherd named Tony, whose elderly owners may have gone from vacationing to missing, and whose hopping up and down outside the ground-floor office window leads Keen (Bennett Kilpack) and Clancy (Jim Kelly) to an apartment complex across the street---and to two gamblers who think the two investigators' interest in Tony equals snooping around their doings, on tonight's edition of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. (CBS.)

Miss Ellis: Florence Malone. Announcer: Larry Elliott. Writers: Barbara Bates, Lawrence Klee, Robert Shaw, Charles Gussman, Stedman Coles, David Davidson.

1946: TRADING IN THE OLD CAR---Bent on going back home for the spring, Judy (Canova) has to unload the old heap that'll barely make it out of California, on tonight's edition of The Judy Canova Show. (NBC.)

Aunt Aggie: Ruth Perrott. Geranium: Ruby Dandridge. Pedro: Mel Blanc. Brenda: Sharon Douglas. Benchley: Joseph Kearns. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople. Announcer: Howard Petrie. Music: Charles Dant and His Orchestra, the Sportsmen.

1947: DARK DESTINY---Desperate to pay for a risky but expensive surgery that might prevent his wife from a bedridden life, thirtysomething locksmith Joe Harrison (Joseph Julian)---who can't get a loan from institutions or a wealthy boyhood friend---stumbles into a surprising way to raise it, on tonight's edition of The Mysterious Traveler. (Mutual.)

Mary Harrison: Elaine Kemp. The Traveler: Maurice Tarplin. Additional cast: Palmer Ward, Kenny Lynch, Bill Smith. Announcer: Carl Caruso. Writers: Robert Arthur, David Kogan. Sound: Jack Amerine, Jim Goode, Ron Harper.


1887---Christian Rub (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Austria.
1899---Larry Keating (actor: Murder Will Out; announcer: Scramby Amby; This Is Your FBI), St. Paul, Minnesota.
1906---Bud Freeman (as Lawrence Freeman; jazz saxophonist: Camel Caravan, Fats Waller Jam School, Doctor Jazz), Chicago.
1919---Howard Keel (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Gillespie, Illinois.
1923---Don Adams (comedian: Kraft Music Hall), New York City.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Death of a President: The Way It Was, 12 April

1945---His thinning, weakened appearance has startled some of those who've seen him in person, as Congress did upon his return from the Yalta conference two months earlier. At his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, preparing for an anticipated appearance at the founding conference of what will be the United Nations, the 32nd President of the United States, who has made old-time radio his own via his Fireside Chat series and other appearances, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after complaining of a severe headache while sitting for a portrait.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's death probably hits with such ferocity of grief because---aside from the shock of any President dying in office, never mind one conducting a war of the magnitude and ultimate ramifications of World War II---his presidency coincided with radio's unquestioned height as a primary and rapid mass medium. And radio now brings so stunning a death (such were the times that Roosevelt's health issues and private life were not dissected contemporarily, as will occur in later generations to later Presidents) to the country's homes with shattering immediacy.

The place for analysing Roosevelt's life, work, and legacy is not here. The place for reviewing the manner in which radio accepted, conveyed, and discussed his death and its immediate impacts, and shepherded a nation if not a world through its gravity, is.

A BULLETIN---Breaking into a broadcast to announce the news of Roosevelt's death from a cerebral hemorrhage.

A NEWS SUMMARY---CBS World News editor John Daly and CBS correspondent Robert Trout review the doings and undoings surrounding the President's death immediately, including early reaction from around the world and a report of the last legislation Roosevelt was known to have signed as President.

A REPORT FROM WARM SPRINGS---CBS's Don Fisher delivers a gentle report from Warm Springs itself, including reaction to Roosevelt's death from around the small region he made his second home.

THE ORDER OF SUCCESSION---From Washington, CBS's Bill Henry delivers a formal introduction of newly-sworn Harry S. Truman and a discourse on the constitutional order of succession.

A CRITIC EMPATHISES---A frequent, often unapologetic critic of Roosevelt's New Deal delivers a brief, sober, but implicitly empathetic report: Fulton Lewis, Jr. for Mutual.

"MR. ROOSEVELT PILOTED THE NATION TO WITHIN SIGHT OF VICTORY"---The Blue Network, not quite yet known entirely as ABC (it was spun off from NBC following a Federal Trade Commission round a few years earlier), with continuing coverage of the President's death.

"THE GREATEST CASUALTY"---New York's usually ebullient Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia sounds anything but, when he goes on city-owned WNYC to discuss Roosevelt's death.


1924: PASSING THE TESTS---After two days' testing, Chicago's Sears, Roebuck & Company launches their new radio station officially, assigning it call letters that stand acronymously for "World's Largest Store."

As I remember, the call letters WLS were not definitely selected until that afternoon (of April 12th). Much consideration had been given to other call letters, among them, WBBX, WJR and WES.

---George C. Biggar, WLS farm/market director and eventual program director.

Launching WLS officially at 6 p.m. Central Time: stage/screen legend Ethel Barrymore . . . whose attack of mike fright caused her to launch the station on-the-air rather unforgettably: Turn the damned thing off!


1947: MARRIAGE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL---A newspaper article cautioning against taking marriage for granted catches Peg's (Paula Winslowe) eye and Riley's (William Bendix) cynicism ("I'm particular about the kind of trash that goes in my head")---until it begins getting into his head after Peg questions his attentiveness following an evening out, on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Junior: Scotty Beckett. Babs: Sharon Douglas. Waldo: Dink Trout. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Robert Sloane.

1948: TWELVE TO FIVE---In an episode that might inspire the eventual television series Early Edition, an easygoing disc jockey (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) receives an unexpected visitor who reads the news on the air---with the only problem being that the events are half an hour from actually happening, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (Mutual.)

Intruder: Jack LaSculi (an actual disc jockey and commentator). Additional cast: Connie Linton, Merrillee Joel, Ed Lattimer. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


1899---Boake Carter (as Ephraim Boake Carter; news commentator), Baku, Russia.
1902---John White (singer/actor: Death Valley Days), unknown.
1904---Lily Pons (as Alice Josephine Pons; singer: The Voice of Firestone, The Bell Telephone Hour), Draguigan, France.
1912---Herbert B. Mills (singer, The Mills Brothers: The Fleischmann Hour, The Mills Brothers Show, Piqua, Ohio.
1914---Ken Williams (actor: David Harum), Canada.
1918---Helen Forrest (as Helen Fogel; singer: Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Harry James and His Orchestra), Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1923---Ann Miller (as Lucille Ann Collier; dancer/actress, Forecast, Hollywood Hotel), Chireno, Texas.
1926---Jane Withers (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In This Corner, KDKA: The Way It Was, 11 April

1921---Already the first old-time radio station known to have aired a commercial broadcast (the returns of the 1920 presidential elections), Pittsburgh's KDKA jumps into another ring first---a boxing ring: the station broadcasts live the bout between Johnny Ray and Johnny Dundee.

Dundee and Ray fight to a draw on this night and in a rematch in mid-May, also held in Pittsburgh. Dundee, will stop George (KO) Chaney later the same year to win the world junior lightweight title.

Come summer, KDKA will also have the real answer to "Who's on first": the station will become the first ever to broadcast a live major league baseball game.


1940: "IT AIN'T COSTIN' A CENT---THE NETWOIK'S JUST DOIN' IT FA PRESTIGE"---And thus is an old-time radio audience invited for the first time to audition a rather informal evening . . . at a cozily crumbling New York dive whose ill-tempered (and terminally unseen) owner---a fellow named Duffy---is feeling as kvetchy as an Irish barkeep can feel, when his shiftless manager can't seem to find one Irish tenor in the whole of New York to enhance its first known radio appearance, on tonight's edition of Forecast. (CBS.)

Archie, the Manager: Ed Gardner. Additional Cast: Gertrude Niessen, F. Chase Taylor (Col. Stoopnagle), Larry Adler. Music: Don Kirby and His Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows. Announcer (believe it . . . or not): Mel Allen. (Yes, children---that Mel Allen.)

1947: A DINNER PARTY FOR JANE'S BOSS---Airheaded receptionist Irma Peterson (Marie Wilson) and sensible Jane Stacy (Cathy Wilson) become accidental roommates following a sidewalk collision---but that may be nothing compared to the collision Jane fears after Irma invites her boss and would-be boyfriend to a dinner party . . . in their two-room flat, on tonight's premiere of My Friend Irma. (CBS.)

Richard: Leif Erickson. Al: John Brown. Mrs. O'Reilly: Jane Morgan. Professor Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Writers: Stanley Adams, Parke Levy, Roland MacLane.

1948: ONE LONG PAN ANSWERS BASIL RATHBONE---After he mulcts thoughts and asides on exaggeration in advertising from the Allen's Alley demimonde, Fred (Allen) answers Basil Rathbone's (himself) call for new mystery scripts---with a new yarn for One Long Pan, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

With Portland Hoffa. Senator Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Music: Al Goodman and His Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Nat Hiken, Bob Weiskopf.


1893---Lou Holtz (comedian: The Fleischmann Hour, Kraft Music Hall), San Francisco.
1904---Paul McGrath (host: The Inner Sanctum Mysteries; actor: My Son Jeep), Chicago.
1907---Paul Douglas (actor: Meyer the Buyer), Philadelphia.
1909---Sylvia Picker (actress: Box 13), New York City.
1912---John Larkin (actor: Perry Mason, Dimension X, Ford Theater), Oakland.
1921---Toni Darnay (actress: Just Plain Bill, The Strange Romance of Evelyn Winters, Nona from Nowhere), Chicago.