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, June 04, 2007

That is No Lady, That is My Wife: The Way It Was, 2-4 June

4 JUNE 1948: "MR. KING AND JEAN"---First, I want to say that the two principal characters in this story are not fictitious. Very often, I wish to heaven that I were. And any similarity to persons alive or on transcription is purely intentional. So laments (Goodman) Ace, launching one of old-time radio's funniest self-satires.

He is under pressure from an automobile advertiser to convince a retired husband-and-wife comedy team to return to radio. The couple gave it up because, well, nobody believed a harried husband and his scatterbrained, malapropping wife were believable.

Then, said couple spend one evening of dinner and conversation at the home of a certain ad man and his scatterbrained, malapropping wife (Jane Ace)---who begins the proceedings by throwing one of her typical curves, having gotten a little pre-briefing from her radio announcer neighbour on just what radio folk talk about, no tricks.

And, almost, no treat, and no deal, until . . .

You'll find out on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Eric Dressler, Ken Roberts, possibly Everett Sloan and Beatrice Lawrence. Writer: Goodman Ace.


2 JUNE 1884: THE STRAIGHT SOAP---One-half of old-time radio's most prolific team of soap opera producers, Frank Hummert, is born in St. Louis, and will grow up to become a prominent enough Chicago advertising executive and---in partnership with his wife, the former Anne Ashenhurst (it was her second marriage; the marriage endured until his death)---the co-producer/co-head writer of numerous soaps (Just Plain Bill, The Romance of Helen Trent, Our Gal Sunday, Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern, Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, Mary Noble-Backstage Wife, the comic soap Lorenzo Jones, and far, far more) and a few other serials such as Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons . . . not to mention a children's classic (Terry and the Pirates) or two.

To fuel their repertoire of soap operas, the Hummerts employed a bank of sixteen to twenty writers, who worked from a brief outline supplied by the feisty, indefatigable, and high-strung Mrs. Hummert, though the Hummets were the only ones ever credited (" . . . created and written by Frank and Anne Hummert" became a familiar daytime radio chant). Her husband eventually ran the mystery-and-music program end of the business. The astonishingly prolific but remote Hummerts rang an amazing number of changes on the reliable theme of female unfulfillment, male unreliability, and general domestic knavery . . .

---Gerald Nachman, in "The Soap Factory," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

They may be very successful in family life, or in the way they manage to help their neighbours and friends, they're everyday people---[with] stories that can be understood and appreciated on Park Avenue and on the prairie.

---Frank Hummert, describing the couple's basic, rarely-wavering soap formula, as cited by Nachman.

In 1927, Frank Hummert . . . became a vice president of Blackett & Sample, a Chicago advertising agency. The Messrs. Blackett and Sample wanted to round out their firm with a topflight idea man. Hummert was one of the best-paid men in advertising . . . He had been a reporter for awhile in his younger days, but his recessive temperament was not suited to that aggressive calling. He liked to work at home, and during his seven years as a copywriter he rarely showed up at the office. He had hit on the idea of writing advertising as if it were feature news, and the idea was successful. The one thing he enjoys remembering from the old advertising days is the work he did on behalf of the Brunswick New Hall of Fame, which brought new voices to the operatic and concert stages. Blackett & Sample became Blackett Sample Hummert, though the new man was not a partner. The change was made because it was felt that his name would lend a certain prestige to the agency, and he began to build up a unit of his own in the company for the production of radio programs.

Sample introduced Hummert, one day, to a small, smartly dressed young woman named Anne S. Ashenhurst, and later suggested to him that she might develop into a useful assistant. Hummert said he was skeptical, but he was persuaded to give the young woman a trial . . . Her lack of radio and advertising experience was offset by what proved to be a sound understanding of how to catch and hold the ear of the woman radio listener. Like Hummert, she had an inventive mind and could make up a story line and write nimble dialogue. Hummert and Mrs. Ashenhurst figured that the largely dallow daytime air of twenty years ago could be transformed into valuable advertising time.

---James Thurber, in "O Pioneers!" from "Soapland," 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 and Company, 1948.)

As might be expected often enough, not everyone will see the Hummerts' success in terms strictly glowing.

[W]hy, outside of the circle of media historians . . . are they largely forgotten today? [Jim] Cox [in Frank and Anne Hummert's Radio Factor; Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing] attributes it in part to “their preferred reclusive lifestyle” (p. 150)but also to their methodical, at times harsh, entrepreneurial approach to producing radio programming: “mass production, low costs, standardization, and specialization” (p. 36).

. . . [The Hummerts] are not warm and fuzzy characters. As Cox tells us, they would routinely conduct surreptitious auditions for their lead characters when they thought a change would add to the bottom line of their production empire. And their “assembly-line approach to producing drama” (p. 134) was nothing if not effective; Anne Hummert died in 1996 a multimillionaire.

2 JUNE 1959: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN?---Alan Freed opens for business on New York's WABC, not too long after WINS chose not to renew his contract in the wake of violence at a Boston rock and roll show he promoted and hosted which got him charged with inciting a riot. (The charges would be dropped in due course.)

Freed will be on the air at WABC for barely a few months when the station fires him, after he refuses to sign a statement saying he never took money to play certain records on the air. The payola scandal will destroy Freed's career as a radio big-timer.

3 JUNE 1940: MERGE BEFORE SWAP---Atlantic City, New Jersey station WPG merges with WBIL and WOV (AM stations all) and becomes a new WOV . . . until over a year later, when WOV and WNEW switch call signs.



1957: CROSSING PARIS---Cupidity and retribution are the order of the day in wartime, Nazi-occupied Paris, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Cast: Hans Conreid, John Dehner. Writer: John Messner, adapting a story by Martell Heimay.


1941: BACK IN HOLLYWOOD WITH HUMPHREY BOGART---Bogart: "Just a minute, just a minute, Hope, my pals call me Bogie. What do fellas on this program call you?" Hope, after a pause so pregnant the birth might have been quadruplets: "There must be some way to answer that and still stay on the air." And Bogart proves rather engaging in a comic turn trying to show Skinnay Ennis how to handle a girl, before he and Hope have to ponder an unexpected jailbreak---their own, after they were detoured into the calaboose trying to spend a counterfeit dollar, on tonight's edition of The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Jerry Colonna, Bill Goodwin, Brenda and Cobina (Blanche Stewart, Elvia Allman). Music: Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra, Six Hits and a Miss. Writers: Possibly Mort Lachman, Norman Panama, Al Schwartz, Sherwood Schwartz.


1940: THE BIG SPAGHETTI DINNER---Leave it to Fibber (Jim Jordan) to volunteer to cook and host one for a few of his cronies---enough to set the culinary arts back a few decades while the Old-Timer (Bill Thompson), for one, isn't exactly jumping to partake, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Molly: Marian Jordan. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. Mrs. Uppington: Amanda Randolph. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

1947: MORGAN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD LISTENING POST---Summer in a stuffy studio moves Morgan to want to get out like a globetrotting newscaster, but he's stuck doing the next best thing---his own globetrotting anti-news program, on tonight's edition of The Henry Morgan Show. (ABC.)

Additional cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee, Ben Grauer. Music: Bernie Green and His Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein, Carroll Moore, Jr.

1955: JEALOUSY---Chester (Parley Baer) and Kitty (Georgia Ellis) aren't the only ones a little leery of new dealer Lonnie Pike when Matt (William Conrad) has to step in before a fuming player slices worse than his hand, but Matt only thinks all is well after he runs the player out of town and Pike leaves on his own accord---a calm lasting a month, before an old and newly married friend returns . . . and hires newly returned Pike and his otherwise unemployable right behind, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Vic Perrin, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell. Writer: John Meston.



1879---Florence Edney (actress: Amanda of Honeymoon Hill), London.
1889---Martha Wentworth (actress: Cinnamon Bear; The Witch's Tale), New York City.
1902---Jimmie Lunceford (bandleader: numerous radio remote performances), Fulton, Missouri.
1908---Ben Grauer (annonucer: Information Please), Staten Island.
1914---Nicholas Saunders (actor: Martin Kane, Private Eye), Kiev.
1915---Walter Tetley (actor/comedian: Town Hall Tonight; The Great Gildersleeve; The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show), New York City.


1901---Maurice Evans (actor: Texaco Star Theater; Keep 'Em Rolling), Dorchester, U.K.
1904---Jan Peerce (operatic tenor: Music Hall of the Air; The A&P Gypsies; The Golden Treasury of Song; The Goldbergs; The Big Show), New York City.
1905---Paulette Goddard (actress: The Cresta Blanca Players), Whitestone Landing, New York.
1906---Josephine Baker (singer: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour), St. Louis; Brooke Temple (actor: Red Ryder), Niagara Falls.
1911---Ellen Corby (actress: Bud's Bandwagon), Racine, Wisconsin.
1916---Jack Manning (actor: Young Doctor Malone), Cincinnati.
1917---Leo Gorcey (actor, one of the Dead End Kids: Texaco Star Playhouse; Blue Ribbon Town), New York City.
1925---Tony Curtis (as Bernard Schwartz; actor: Hollywood Star Playhouse; Suspense), New York City.


1881---Clara Blandick (actress: Campbell Playhouse; Lux Radio Theater), Hong Kong.
1891---Erno Rapee (conductor: Roxy's Gang; General Motors Concert), Budapest.
1900---Dan Golenpaul (producer: Information, Please), New York City.
1901---Carlton E. Morse (writer/producer/director: One Man's Family; I Love A Mystery), Jennings, Louisiana.
1906---Vinton Haworth (actor: Archie Andrews; Michael Shayne), Washington, D.C.; Richard Whorf (actor: Cavalcade of America; Screen Guild Theater; The Jack Benny Program), Winthrop, Massachussetts.
1917---Charles Collingwood (The Duke; reporter/commentator: CBS News), Three Rivers, Minnesota; Helen Wood (actress: Those We Love), Clarksville, Tennessee.
1918---Howard Culver (actor: Straight Arrow; Free Lance), Colorado.
1919---Robert Merrill (operatic baritone: An Evening with Romberg; The Robert Merrill Show; The Big Show), Brooklyn.


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