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, October 31, 2007

Good Evening, Boys and Ghouls: The Way It Was, 31 October

What would be a Halloween without a little shaking, rattling, and rolling from the great beyond as old-time radio has had it? It would be a little on the boring side, that's what it would be. Hence some tricks and treats from four of classic radio's classics.

As the lady with the movies likes to say, pleasant screams . . .

1946: LAZARUS WALKS---A man (Brian Donlevy) legally dead for four minutes revives with uncanny mind-reading ability, but his inability to lie melds to his new power for potential disaster, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Cathy Lewis. Writer: Unknown.

1948: CATHERINE DAILY; OR, SUICIDE OR MURDER?---That's the last question Holliday (Alan Ladd) wants to answer but it's the only question on the mind of his latest correspondent (Betty Lou Gerson), who swears her son, a decorated war veteran, was murdered in a drunken brawl, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Kling: Edmund MacDonald. Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Additional cast: Alan Reed, Lurene Tuttle. Writer: Russell Hughes.

1948: CALLING ALL SOULS---On death row for multiple murder in Iowa, Louis (Ernest Chappell, also the narrator) seeks help proving his innocence from the most unlikely sources to be found, even on All Souls' Eve---the victims, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (ABC.)

Delbert: Kermit Murdoch. Paris: Ralph Schoolman Etha: Mary Patton. Music: Albert Berman. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

1949: A CORPSE FOR HALLOWEEN---A confined maniac decides to burn his way out of his confines with deadly results, on tonight's edition of The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. (CBS.)

Host: House Jameson. Jimmy: Larry Haines. Cavanaugh: Berry Kroger. Additional cast: Mercedes McCambridge. Writer: John Rogert.


1896---Ethel Waters (blues singer: American Revue; Command Performance; Jubilee), Chester, Pennsylvania.
1909---Thelma Boardman (actress: Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air; Lux Radio Theater), unknown.
1912---Dale Evans (The Queen of the Cowgirls, as Frances Octabia Smith; actress/singer: The Charlie McCarthy Show; The Roy Rogers Show), Uvalde, Texas.
1922---Barbara Bel Geddes (actress: Ford Theater; Cavalcade of America; Lux Radio Theater), New York City; Illinois Jacquet (jazz saxophonist: One Night Stand; Command Performance; Jubilee), Broussard, Louisiana.
1926---Shirley Dinsdale (actress/ventriloquist: Judy in Wonderland; The Eddie Cantor Show), San Francisco.
1928---Cleo Moore (as Cleouna Moore; actress: Bud's Bandwagon), Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Shock Heard 'Round The U.S.: The Way It Was, 30 October

1938: THE INVADERS---Hear for yourself, decide for yourself, precisely what it was all about when Orson Welles's landmark adaptation of The War of the Worlds, for Mercury Theater On the Air, was performed on CBS.


1938: TRYING TO FIGURE OUT CHARLIE---Judy Canova isn't exactly alone in being unable to figure out the wherefore of McCarthy, with whom she wouldn't mind binding, and that's just for openers on tonight's edition of The Chase & Sanborn Hour. (NBC.)

Host: Don Ameche. Additional cast: Edgar Bergen, Dorothy Lamour, Robert Armbruster. Music: Nelson Eddy, Ray Noble and His Orchestra. Writers: Possibly Alan Smith, Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher, Royal Foster.

1947: LEON---Fake seances are bad enough without a seer's assistant trying to keep them up after the faker is dead, on tonight's edition of The Clock. (ABC.)

Gertrude: Jane Soho. Knobby: Ken Lane. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: Kevin Brennan, Rodney Jacobs. Writer: Lawrence Klee.


1879---Eily Malyon (actress: Tarzan), London.
1896---Ruth Gordon (as Ruth Gordon Jones; actress: Lincoln Highway; Meet Mr. Weeks; The Orson Welles Theater), Wollaston, Massachussetts.
1908---Patsy Montana (as Ruby Blevins; country singer/yodeler: The WLS Barn Dance), Hot Springs, Arkansas.
1910---Francia White (singer: Palmoliva Beauty Box Theater; The Fred Astaire Show; The Bell Telephone Hour), Greenville, Texas.
1914---Ruth Hussey (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Providence, Rhode Island.
1915---Fred W. Friendly (writer/director: Hear It Now; Who Said That?; The Quick and the Dead), New York City.
1918---Joan Banks (actress: Gangbusters; Portia Faces Life; Today's Children; Blue Playhouse; Bringing Up Father; By Kathleen Norris; Deadline Drama; Editor's Daughter), New York City.
1923---Herschel Bernardi (actor: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar), New York City.
1939---Sammy Ogg (actor: Red Ryder; Beulah), Lexington, Virginia.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bringing Up Baby: The Way It Was, 29 October

1891: RADIO'S MEANEST WIDDLE KID---Needless to say, Aba and Ema Borach have no idea that the little girl Fania to whom they have just become parents will become precisely that, after an earlier career as a Ziegfeld Follies star, when she swaps the stage for the microphone and---long enough renowned as Fanny Brice---creates Baby Snooks Higgins, first for Maxwell House Coffee Time and then for her own Baby Snooks Show---perhaps the closest old-time radio would ever get to a genuinely bad seed, even if Snooks isn't so much bad as she is the biggest pain in the ass on the block.

By nearly any measure, Fanny Brice's Baby Snooks---or "Schnooks," as Brice Yiddishised her off mike---should have been a radio disaster. It was a total burlesque creation that originated in one of Brice's old Ziegfeld Follies shows in a sketch written by Moss Hart, perhaps the least likely man to have fathered Baby Snooks (although another source claims that the writer Philip Rapp created her). In any case, Baby Snooks was the grandbaby of all comic brats, from Dennis the Menace, Eloise, and Madeleine to Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann, a one-note version of Brice's needling tot. Snooks was a pest but cute and, like all maddening kids, knew every trick to beguile, and just which buttons to push, to bedevil her exasperated father.

. . . During the show's seven year run, from 1944 to 1951, during which Snooks aged from four to six, Brice employed the entire range of annoying attitudes in every little girl's pestering arsenal that drives parents berserk---from petulant to persistent to self-pitying . . . Fanny Brice meant nothing to young fans of the show, but grown-ups were intrigued by a family comedy starring a major stage personality who made the switch from Broadway to radio in what must have been seen as a comedown for so grand a onetime Follies star.

. . . Brice . . . didn't see the show as a step down. In fact, she took Snooks so seriously---was "possessed by her," someone said---that, in a throwback to her burlesque days, the comic dressed in a baby-doll dress for the studio audience and refused to wear glasses to read the script for fear of ruining Snooks's image; the script was printed three times its normal size.

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


1942: SQUIRE WANTS TO MANAGE THE TRIP TO MARS---Which is the last thing Lum (Chester Lauck) and Abner (Norris Goff) need, considering how nutzo the idea is in the first place, how much they didn't want Squire (also Norris Goff) to know about the idea in the first place, and how quickly Squire suggests they sell stock in the idea, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (CBS.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Jay Sommers.

1946: THE COMMUNITY CHEST FUND DRIVE SHOW---Mel (Blanc) is interviewed for a newspaper story on the threshold of the big event, Zookie (also Mel Blanc) tries rounding up the refreshments, and mayhem as usual is magnified by the usual sort of help from Bert (The Mad Russian) Gordon, on tonight's edition of The Mel Blanc Show. (NBC.)

Betty: Mary Jane Croft. Mr. Colby: Joseph Kearns. Writer: Mac Benoff.


1894---Jack Pearl (comedian: The Jack Pearl Show), New York City.
1897---Hope Emerson (actress: The Adventures of Topper; Happy Island), Hawarden, Iowa.
1901---Akim Tamiroff (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Baku, Russia.
1921---Ed Kemmer (actor: Space Patrol), Reading, Pennsylvania.
1925---Geraldine Brooks (actress: Voice of the Army; Hollywood Fights Back), New York City.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Secret Word is "Success," At Last: The Way It Was, 27 October

1947: SO WHO WAS BURIED IN GRANT'S TOMB?---After several previous old-time radio stabs that failed for reasons ranging from dubious scheduling (Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel) to dubious premises (Blue Ribbon Town), Groucho Marx---hosting a quiz show that is far less a quiz than a congenial excuse to let the man do what he did best: his swift and often salacious ad-libs---hits the air one more time, over a month after its audition show is recorded . . . and this time, the air doesn't hit back.

And in one way, Groucho would owe his getting the gig in the first place to Bob Hope.

[You Bet Your Life was] a life preserver thrown by [creator/producer John] Guedel to Groucho Marx in 1947 to save the great comic's slowly-evaporating career. Despite great success in films and on stage, Marx had flopped in previous radio shows . . . [Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel] was a cult hit that [sponsor] Esso was not amused by. Other shows shied away from using Marx as a guest, so he was in a creative funk when Guedel heard him on a car radio freely ad-libbing with Bob Hope on a special that broke up the audience when Hope dropped his script. "I didn't know Marx was such a good ad-libber," recalls Guedel. He shrewdly drew on Marx's verbal spontaneity---the very reason Groucho hadn't done well in radio before: He had a risky habit of veering from scripted material, which, while fun for the audiences, drove directors berserk and gave him a reputation as a maverick comic who couldn't be controlled.

Groucho was only fifty-five when his screen career seemed over after the last Marx Brothers film, The Big Store, failed loudly. He was dubious about starting over in an alien medium, and going it alone for the first time in a long career frightened him. Guedel remembers, "I figured he'd be great working with people out of an audience. When the people were being funny, Groucho could be the perfect straight man; when the people played it straight, Groucho couldn't miss with his own comedy. With Groucho, I figured we'd be covered from both sides.

. . . Contrary to some accounts, Guedel claims that Marx didn't balk at playing a lowly quizmaster, bottom man on the showbiz totem pole. Newsweek said assigning Groucho to a quiz show was like sending Citation to a glue factory. He was further chastened by the fact that earlier he had actually auditioned for Take It or Leave It and failed. What clicked was the fact, unrecognised at the time, that Groucho was an antidote to every vapid, sugary quiz show MC on the air---he was radio's first uncongenial quizmaster.

---Gerald Nachman, from "Minds over Matter," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

Elgin Watches, the original sponsor, buys the show because their chieftain has no idea Groucho had been a radio flop in the past; amiable George Fenneman was brought aboard as Groucho's Ed McMahon prototype; the master himself found himself completely in his element and beyond as he could now establish himself as a wit entirely of his own making, following a few early missteps; and, You Bet Your Life---which becomes the first quiz show to win any kind of award . . . and a Peabody Award at that---goes on to live a ten-year old-time radio life and an overlapping, eleven-year life on television.

And there will be an argument to make, when it's done at last, that You Bet Your Life does what even the best of his film and stage work could do only part of the way: it finishes graduating Groucho Marx from titan to legend.


1946: MARY'S "CHISS SWEEZE" SANDWICH FLUFF---One week after the show's classic parody of The Whistler proves a hit, and after Jack (Benny) revels in the sketch's success, nervous Mary (Livingstone)---whose chronic stage and mike fright may remain unknown for many more years to fans---uncorks one of the greatest bloopers in old-time radio history, on tonight's edition of The Jack Benny Program. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Phil Harris, Dennis Day, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, Don Wilson. Waiter: Frank Nelson. Music: Dennis Day, the Sports Men. Writers: Sam Perrin, Milt Josefsberg, George Balzer, John Tackaberry.

1953: THE PINT-SIZED PAYROLL BANDIT---Just what Rocky (Frank Sinatra) doesn't need, when he's sent to a job at an all-night hamburger stand: a nine-year-old kid ordering a burger . . . and carrying a shoebox full of stolen money under his arm, on tonight's edition of Rocky Fortune. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Richard Fields, Lily Janis, Eddie Fields, Frank Richards, Barney Phillips. Writers: George Lefferts, Robert Senadella.


1890---Bob Becker (commentator: Fireside Chats About Dogs), Terryville, South Dakota.
1908---Josephine Antoine (singer: The Contented Hour), Boulder, Colorado.
1910---Jack Carson (actor/comedian: The New Sealtest Village Store; The Jack Carson Show; The Big Show), Carmen, Manitoba.
1911---Leif Erickson (actor: My Friend Irma), Alameda, California.
1918---Bill Ballance (host: Feminine Forum; The Bill Ballance Show), Peoria; Teresa Wright (Muriel Teresa Wright; actress: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1920---Nanette Fabray (as Nanette Ruby Bernadette Fabares; singer/actress: The Adventures of Ellery Queen; The MGM Musical Comedy Theater), San Diego.
1923---Ruby Dee (as Ruby Ann Wallace; actress: The Story of Ruby Valentine), Cleveland.
1933---Floyd Cramer (country music pianist: Country Music Time; Country Style, USA), Samti, Louisiana.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Twelve on Shell: The Way It Was, 26 October

1935: ---Judy Garland's old-time radio credentials would come to include a guest spot with Clark Gable on Good News Maxwell House, and four appearances at least on Lux Radio Theater, among other vintages.

But tonight MGM's tragic girl wonder appears with Wallace Beery on NBC's Shell Chateau . . . when she is a mere twelve years old, and Beery is installed freshly as the program's host after Al Jolson had to withdraw due to a film commitment.


1957: THE POPE IS ON THE AIR---Twenty-six years after Pope Pius XI becomes the first Roman Catholic pontiff to deliver a radio address---and with Guglielmo Marconi himself among those present---Vatican Radio goes on the air as a radio station in its own right.


1943: ARCHIE'S LIFE STORY---Just about the last thing guest star Ida Lupino needs is Archie (Ed Gardner) hectoring her to put on a film of his life story, on tonight's edition of Duffy's Tavern. (The Blue Network.)

Eddie: Eddie Green. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Miss Duffy: Shirley Booth. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, possibly Larry Marks.

1947: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PHIL HARRIS---The sponsor (guest Arthur Q. Bryan) wants to know whether a magazine profile of one of Phil (Harris) and Alice (Faye)'s typical days---especially about Phil---is as loaded as Remley (Elliot Lewis) usually is, on tonight's edition of The Fitch Bandwagon. (NBC.)

Willie: Robert North. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Music: Phil Harris and Walter Sharp. Writers: Martin A. Ragaway, Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


1876---H.B. Warner (Harry Byron Warner; actor: Hollywood Hotel; Lux Radio Theater), London.
1911---Mahalia Jackson (gospel singer: The Mahalia Jackson Show), New Orleans.
1913---Charlie Barnet (jazz saxophonist/bandleader: Nothing Serious; The Kate Smith Hour; Jubilee; AFRS Down Beat), New York City.
1914---Jackie Coogan (actor: Forever Ernest), Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Howwww-dee!: The Way It Was, 25 October

1912: THE GRAND OLE GAL OF GRINDERSWITCH---She doesn't exactly holler "Howww-dee!" when the doc gives her the customary introductory rap on the rump roast, but Maw and Paw Colley don't know what they're foisting upon this island earth when Sarah Ophelia Colley premieres today.

The world will never complain, however. Not about Minnie Pearl. Not ever. It'll be too busy laughing at Cousin Minnie over all those years---old-time radio and otherwise---on Grand Ole Opry to think about complaining. And she'd have it no other way, either.

1888: THE POLAR BYRD HATCHES---Little do his parents in Winchester, Virginia realise that his fame and reputation as a Navy admiral, flier, and polar explorer, will give their newborn son Richard Evelyn Byrd a place in old-time radio as well, believe it or not.

He will get it in 1933, when CBS, which sends a correspondent of its own along, allows Byrd a weekly broadcast from Antartica itself, sponsored by General Foods. The broadcasts have the Navy's full blessings---Byrd often seeks outside sponsorship as well as military sponsorship for his famed polar expeditions---but the expedition carried by CBS comes thisclose to costing Byrd his life: he attempts to spend an entire winter in Antarctica but ends the expedition prematurely after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.


1932: DOROTHY BURN HAN---Live from Pittsburgh's Nixon Theater, the Fire Chief (Ed Wynn) and his foil (Graham McNamee) zip through a bag of revue jokes involving , among other things, cheese, horses, stock, subways, a baby with a 108 degree fever, and a few jokes off letters from listeners, on tonight's edition of The Fire Chief. (NBC.)

Music: Don Voorhees and His Orchestra. Writers: Ed Wynn, Eddie Preble. (Warning: Skips midway through recording.)

1945: WHAT PRICE GLAMOUR?---A comely Daily Sentinel freelancer, on a routine assignment involving beauty products and a proposed state regulation is spooked after seeing a model's disfigured face, and her alarm spooks Britt (Bob Hall), on today's edition of The Green Hornet. (ABC.)

Michael Axford: Gil Shea. Kato: Rollon Parker. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Writer: Fran Striker.

1950: HAROLD'S CAMPAIGN SPEECH---Running for mayor against his own boss, Peabody, (Joseph Kearns), Harold (Peary) edgily rehearses an important campaign speech before deciding he needs a campaign manager, on tonight's edition of The Harold Peary Show. (CBS.)

Gloria: Gloria Mitchell. Additional cast: Mary Jane Croft, Parley Baer. Music: Jack Meakin and His Orchestra. Writers: Harold Peary, Bill Danch, Jack Robinson, Gene Stone.


1882---Richard Gordon (actor: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Valiant Lady), Bridgeport, Connecticut.
1891---Father Charles E. Coughlin ("The Radio Priest"), Hamilton, Ontario.
1901---Walter T. Butterworth (host: The Molle Merry Minstrels; Vox Pox; Take a Card), Wallingford, Pennsylvania; Daniel Landt (singer, with the Landt Trio: Doc Pearson's Drug Store; The Bob Hawk Show), Scranton, Pennsylvania.
1902---Eddie Lang (jazz guitarist: Music That Satisfies), Philadelphia.
1908---Polly Ann Young (sister of Loretta Young; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Denver.
1909---True Boardman (writer/narrator: Silver Theater; Favourite Story), Seattle.
1914---John Reed King (announcer/actor: Columbia Workshop; Sky King), Atlantic City.
1927---Barbara Cook (actress: The Great Merlini), Atlanta.
1928---Marion Ross (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Allen Challenge: The Way It Was, 24 October

1948: FIGHTING FIRE WITH . . . ---Boy, did Fred Allen find a grand way to open what proves to be his final season hosting his own singular old-time radio show: at the hoped-for expense of the burgeoning giveaway shows he believed (hoped) would not withstand the detest of time.

Ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned to The Fred Allen Show. If within the next thirty minutes you or any listener in the continental United States answer a telephone call from any giveaway program, and, because you are listening to this show, you miss an opportunity to win any gift then being offered, Fred Allen guarantees to make good by furnishing an equivalent gift; or, its value, up to five thousand dollars.

National Surety Corporation guarantees that Fred Allen shall perform this agreement up to a total of fifty thousand dollars. Notice of any claim under these guarantees must be mailed to Mr. Fred Allen, by registered mail, care of the National Broadcasting Company, Radio City, New York; and, postmarked not later than midnight, October 25, 1948.

Relax. Enjoy The Fred Allen Show.

---Kenny Delmar, Fred Allen's announcer (and immortaliser of Senator Claghorn in "Allen's Alley," of course), making the stupefying announcement before The Fred Allen Show, 24 October 1948, began in earnest.

The master satirist may have outsmarted himself at long enough last, however.

This was a tactical misstep. The announcement, a latter-day restatement of the ingenious ploys Allen practised in vaudeville, received massive publicity, but the scheme backfired. Obviously, the audience had to hear Stop the Music in order to know what it was losing; and radio critics quickly pointed out that fighting giveaways with giveaway offers undermined the aims of protest. The insurance offer spawned fraudulent claims and Allen cancelled the bond after a few weeks.

---Robert Taylor, in "Radio: Stop the Music," from Fred Allen: His Life and Wit. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.)

The indispensable New York Herald-Tribune radio/television critic John Crosby soon enough reports a dispute involving a giveaway fan and a Jack Benny fan, in Ohio, arguing over whether to listen to the giveaway show or to Benny . . . an argument that ended when the Benny fan---who happened to employ the giveaway fan as a farm worker---disappeared, returned with a gun, and shot the giveaway fan dead. "Things have come to a pass indeed," Allen will crack to Crosby, "when a man in Ohio has to shoot his way to the radio to get at Jack Benny."

The giveaway phenomenon takes up the first half of tonight's show. "Allen's Alley" having been converted to a "Main Street" presentation, possibly in deference to new sponsor Ford (for whom Allen was depicted as pulling up and parking along Main Street in a brand-new ford), Fred and Portland (Hoffa) get a few of the usual suspects (Delmar as the short-lived Russian music critic, Sergei Stroganoff; Minerva Pious, as Mrs. Nussbaum; Parker Fennelly as Titus Moody; Alan Reed, this time as Humphrey Titter) to answer questions regarding giveaway shows.

Meanwhile, Fred finds relief for his insomnia, malfunctioning toaster and coffeemaker, and delinquent bills---his psychiatrist's counsel to read Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; and, Carnegie himself, who signs Fred's newly bought copy before Fred drops a little surprise on him.

Music: Al Goodman and His Orchestra; the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, possibly Nat Hiken and Larry Marks.


2003: FAREWELL, DINO---Dean Anthony, 68, a 22-year programmer for Long Island WHLI but remembered best as "Dino on Your Radio," one of the classic WMCA Good Guys in the 1960s, dies of cancer.

Anthony premiered on WMCA 29 November 1964 and went on to become the Good Guys' overnight disc jockey, familiar especially for his weekly "Actors and Actresses" game---which yielded no prizes (not even one of the coveted Good Guy sweatshirts) but drew in trainloads of listeners; Anthony would give the initials and you had to guess the performer.

Dino on Your Radio left WMCA in 1968 when a group of incoming consultants dumped the Good Guys style temporarily in favour of a "Power Radio" talk/music format. Anthony---along with Ed (The Big Bad) Baer and Jack Spector---returned after Power Radio was dumped in favour of a stab at reviving the Good Guys in the fall of 1969, but the Strauss family that owned the station still pushed to convert the station to all-talk and did so in 1970, ending the Good Guys era once and for all.

After tours with WTFM in New York and WWDJ in New Jersey (before that memorable rock and soul alternative went to an all-religious format in early 1974), Anthony hooked on with WHLI as a disc jockey and its programmer.

The sad irony: Anthony still held both jobs when his fellow former Good Guy and incumbent WHLI host, Jack Spector, died of a heart attack in 1994---at the microphone, during his show.

1943: LET'S HIT HITLER ON THE AIR---Soldatsender Calais, a clandestine, anti-Nazi radio station based in Germany, hits the air for the first time.


1939: THE CITY OF FLINT IS STILL MISSING---It isn't the Michigan town but an American ship that collided with an Italian ship not long after the U.S. Senate repealed an arms embargo. Also, updates on the early weeks of war; rumoured activities by Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union; and, the annexing of three more territories as Soviet Socialist Republics, on tonight's edition of Elmer Davis and the News. (CBS.)

1943: THE WATER WORKS BREAKS DOWN---Water commissioner Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) learns the hard way about horrible timing when he offers to show Marjorie (Lurene Tuttle) and Leroy (Walter Tetley)---whose homework involves writing about what Uncle Mort does for a living---exactly how the water works works, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Writers: Sam Moore, John Wheedon.

1948: THE SURPRISE PARTY---What a surprise that this crowd, planning a surprise birthday party for their favourite English teacher (Eve Arden), borrows five bucks here and five bucks there to buy Connie a special present---if they can stop her from buying it for herself first, that is, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Writer: Al Lewis.


1879---B.A. Rolfe (as Benjamin Albert Rolfe; conductor: The Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra; Believe It . . . or Not), Brasher Falls, New York.
1894---Kid Lewis (as Theodore Lewis; bandleader: Live Band Remotes), London.
1904---Radie Harris (gossip: CBS Radio), New York City; Moss Hart (librettist/panelist: Who Said That?), The Bronx.
1911---Sonny Terry (as Saunders Terrell; harmonica player/blues singer: A Roomful of Music), Greensboro, North Carolina.
1925---Terri Keane (actress: Big Sister; The Second Mrs. Burton), New York City.
1930---J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper, as Jiles Perry Richardson; disc jockey/singer: KTRM-AM, an old-time radio rock and roll pioneer and artist), Sabine Pass, Texas.
1936---David Nelson (actor: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), New York City.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Get Me That Man With the Flat Voice!": The Way It was, 23 October

1932: FORGIVE THEM, FATHER, FOR THEY KNEW NOT WHAT THEY WERE MISSING---The vaudeville comedian who billed himself as "the world's worst juggler" had some tough competition for his debut as a radio host---three years after he first appeared on radio at all (on an Alexander Woollcott show featuring, among others, Helen Hayes and George M. Cohan) this Sunday night.

Kind of hard to conquer the then-popular Father Charles Coughlin; a Welfare and Relief Mobilisation appeal featuring Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Dempsey, and other athletic stars; and, Ernest Truex playing Gen. Robert E. Lee in the radio drama Roses and Drums.

But premiere he does, following what must have been one of the most gloriously profitable mishaps in classic radio history.

[I]n September (1932), Walter Batchelor (our hero's agent and financial manager) heard that Linit, a beauty potion manufactured by the Corn Products Company, sought a new program. A cast was assembled, a show fashioned, although the president of Corn Products, a wholehearted subscriber to the divine right of presidents, declined to waste time attending (our hero's) studio audition. The tycoon demanded to hear the show on a portable phonograph. So nervous was Batchelor that en route to his Corn Products appointment he damaged the phonograph aboard the subway. Not until the audition began wobbling did he realise it woldn't go beyond the musical overture plus the opening lines of (our hero's) initial scene. After several futile attempts, a flustered Batchelor tried still again, and the executive flew into a tantrum and huffed: "Never mind the show. Get me that man with the flat voice!"

And, within six weeks, The Linit Bath Club Revue---whose original cast includes doubletalk comic Roy Atwell, voice impersonator (she would be called an impressionist in a later time) Sheila Barrett, tenor vocalist Helen Morgan (who inspires our hero to demand she climb down from the piano before she enters the studio), actress Mary Lou Dix, tenor vocalist Charles Carlile, organist Ann Leaf, irrepressible spouse Portland Hoffa, and future Mighty Allen Art Players mainstay Jack Smart---will become among the talk of radio, particularly thanks to the clever topicality and breezy, often improvisational wit of its featured comedian . . . Fred Allen, whose biographer Robert Taylor composed the foregoing block passage for Fred Allen: His Life and Wit.


THE MAMMOTH DEPARTMENT STORE---Two complete editions of The Linit Bath Club Revue have survived, the first of which is this Christmas 1932 edition in which the host and his company wreak a little havoc in mind and otherwise in a department store on the day after Christmas.

THE COURT OF JUDGE ALLEN---From January 1933, well . . . just try to imagine a court with Fred Allen as the presiding judge. He pretty much said it all when Jack Smart appeared before the bar and demanded justice. "Then you'd better get out of here. This is a court."


1939: INVITATION TO HAPPINESS---Fred MacMurray reprises his film role, and Madalane Carroll stands in for Irene Dunne, in an adaptation of the 1939 film about a coarsely egocentric boxer romancing a banker's daughter, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from the screenplay by Claude Binyon, based on the story by Mark Jerome.

1943: TROUBLE WITH THE PHONE COMPANY---Miss Ryan (Irene Ryan) needs Jack (Carson) and Tugwell (Dave Willits) to help her solve her telephone problem---it's in the bookstore balcony when she can't handle the up-and-downstairs walks anymore---but getting Jack to use his political influence with the phone company may prove more rickety than she is . . . and it only begins with his not knowing anyone at the phone company, on tonight's edition of The Jack Carson Show. (CBS.)

Treacher: Arthur Treacher. Additional cast: Agnes Moorehead, Jane Morgan, Mel Blanc. Music: Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. Announcer: Del Sharbut. Writers: Possibly Leonard L. Levinson, Larry Marks, Jack Rose, Henry Taylor.

1948: THE QUIZ SHOW---Guess who's going to go on one in a bid to win new appliances, after George's (Richard Denning) repair job turns it into a projectile weapon and the dishwasher sends maid Katie (Ruth Perrott) into a nervous breakdown . . . and George thinks it's time women remembered the value of old-fashioned hard kitchen work, on tonight's edition of My Favourite Husband. (CBS.)

Liz: Lucille Ball. Atterbury: Gale Gordon. Iris: Bea Benaderet. Writers: Bob Carroll, Madelyn Pugh, Jess Oppenheimer.

1959: ONE FELLA'S FAMILY: PUTTING UP THE STORM WINDOWS---From Book Vee, Chapter Eye Ex, Pages 1,2,3, and the Top of Page 17: It almost causes a storm in studio, which may explain why they could only be followed by a message from a watchmaker, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (You have to ask?)

Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.


1884---Cesar Saerchinger (news correspondent: America's Town Meeting of the Air; The Story Behind the Headlines), Aix-la-Chapelle, France.
1901---Arthur Jacobson (actor: Woman in White; The Affairs of Anthony), New York City.
1904---Oliver Barbour (producer/director: Life Can Be Beautiful; The Parker Family; When a Girl Marries), unknown; Ford Bond (announcer: Easy Aces; Cities Service Highways in Melody/Cities Service Concert; The Manhattan Merry-go-Round), Louisville; Margaret Speaks (singer: The Voice of Firestone), Columbus, Ohio.
1906---Lucy Monroe (The Star-Spangled Soprano; singer: Hammerstein's Music Hall; The Manhattan Merry-go-Round), New York City.
1911---Martha Rountree (co-creator/moderator, Meet the Press), Gainesville, Florida.
1922---Coleen Gray (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Staplehurst, Nebraska.
1923---Frank Sutton (actor: The Couple Next Door), Clarksville, Tennessee.
1931---Diana Dors (actress: Earplay), Swindon, Wiltshire, UK.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Howdy, Bub: The Way It Was, 22 October

22 OCTOBER 1891: DROLLERY ON THE FARM---He probably didn't say it before the doctor gave him that first slap, but the man whose "Howdy, Bub" would introduce one of the wittiest portions of Fred Allen's transcendent "Allen's Alley" segments is born today in Northeast Harbour, Maine.

Parker Fennelly's place of birth seems appropriate in particular, considering that he would entertain 1940s audiences with his knowing, crustily droll, deceptively indifferent New England farmer amidst "Allen's Alley's" mirthful mock-newsiness.

TITUS MOODY: Howdy, bub.
FRED ALLEN: You're starting to sound like Dennis Day. Tell me, Mr. Moody, do you have any trouble sleeping?
MOODY: I only half sleep.
ALLEN: Half sleep?
MOODY: I got short eyelids.
ALLEN: With short eyelids, you can't close your eyes, huh?
MOODY: Only when I frown.
ALLEN: I see. Well, are you the only one awake on the farm?
MOODY: No, daylight saving time has got everything in a swivet.
ALLEN: The animals are bewildered?
MOODY: Yeah, my cow had insomny.
ALLEN: Your cow didn't sleep at all?
MOODY: The bags under her eyes were so big, I didn't know which end to milk.
ALLEN: You were confused, eh?
MOODY: Yeah. First time I milked the wrong end, and got two buckets full of homogenized tears.
ALLEN: Well, have you cured the cow's insomnia?
MOODY: I got a book on hypnotizin'.
ALLEN: Good.
MOODY: I stood in front of the cow...
ALLEN: Yeah?
MOODY I stared right into her eyes...
ALLEN: Uh, huh . . .
MOODY I started wavin' with my hands...
ALLEN: Uh, huh . . .
MOODY: I said, "alacazam, alacazen, you ain't a cow, you're a hen."
ALLEN: "You're a hen." Well, was your hypnotism a success?
MOODY: Yeah. Today, that cow thinks she's a hen.
ALLEN: Well, how do you know?
MOODY: Well, she's sitting on a nest.
ALLEN: You mean---
MOODY: She's laying egg nogs. So long, bub!

---From "Allen's Alley: Do You Have Any Trouble Sleeping," The Fred Allen Show, 26 May 1946.

Though he'll become best known as Titus Moody, Parker Fennelly wasn't limited merely to the Alley on classic radio: he played a Yankee coot on The Stebbins Boys of Bucksport Point and Snow Village Sketches; and, he appeared in scattered appearances on the like of Mystery Theater, Grand Central Station, Suspense, and Duffy's Tavern.

But he will become second best known, of course, as the old grocer hawking Pepperidge Farm products ("Pepperidge Farm remembers!") on television.


1940: GILDERSLEEVE'S DIARY---It's oh so conveniently seen by snickering nemesis McGee (Jim Jordan), to its author's (Harold Peary) consternation, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Molly/Teeny: Marian Jordan. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

1943: THE KINGFISH IS SUED; OR, COURTROOM CATASTROPHE---And, as usual, good luck explaining it to naively dubious Amos (Freeman Gosden) and gullibly blustery Andy (Charles Correll), on tonight's edition of The Amos 'n' Andy Show. (CBS.)

Special guest: Walter Huston. Writers: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll; possibly, too, Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher.

1950: STRETCH IS IN LOVE . . . AGAIN---Madison High football star Stretch (Leonard Smith) has it bad, and that ain't good, so far as Connie (Eve Arden) is concerned: his paramour is the daughter (Sondra Gould) of heated rival Clay City High's principal, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Dick Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Writer: Al Lewis.


1876---Cecilia Loftus (actress: Roses and Drums, Glasgow, Scotland.
1905---Constance Bennett (panelist/interviewer: Constance Bennett Calls on You; Leave It to the Girls), New York City.
1907---Roger DeKoven (actor: Against the Storm), Chicago.
1916---Sidney Miller (actor/director: The Eddie Cantor Show; Jeff Regan, Private Investigator), Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
1917---Joan Fontaine (as Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland; actress: The Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players), Tokyo.
1920---Mitzi Green (as Elizabeth Keno; actress: Passport to Romance), The Bronx.
1930---Jim Cox (author: Radio Crime Fighters; Great Radio Soap Operas), Pineville, Kentucky.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Deborah Kerr, RIP: Subtle Daring, Even in Voice Alone

Deborah Kerr's familiarity comes so much from From Here to Eternity, An Affair to Remember, and The King and I that it's easy to forget she could be heard on classic radio, as well.

The Scottish-born Kerr, who died last Tuesday at 86, and was renowned for disciplined elegance punctuated by a kind of subtle daring, played on two installments of Lux Radio Theater---opposite Van Heflin in the adaptation of Vacation From Marriage (26 May 1947); and, opposite Walter Pidgeon in the adaptation of Secret Heart (25 October 1948).

She also played against Ray Milland in the Screen Guild Theater (NBC) adaptation (13 January 1949) of So Evil, My Love

Kerr was also one of the cast on the memorable seventh installment (17 December 1950) of NBC's The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead---her castmates for the evening included Louis Armstrong, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, Frankie Laine, Martin & Lewis, and Dorothy McGuire.

And she proved therein that you didn't always have to see her to believe that disciplined elegance, that subtle daring.


TERESA BREWER, RIP---Born Theresa Veronica Breuer, spitfire pop and jazz singer whose brassy voice belied her diminutive figure (Bing Crosby called her "the Sophie Tucker of the Girl Scouts"; Time called her "a top notch singer with a voice somewhere between a blow torch and a cello"); appeared on numerous radio shows before she was nineteen years old.

Then, she hit the charts running with the Dixieland-influenced novelty "Music, Music, Music" before rolling a respectable catalog of 1950s pop hits ("Ricochet," "Let Me Go, Lover," "Till I Waltz Again With You," "Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall," others), but she claimed her early novelties may have stereotyped her regardless in the bid to equal her "Music, Music, Music" success. "That was my ootsy-poo period," the singer was later quoted as saying. "They were hits, but they should have been children's recordings."

After a long hiatus to raise her family, Brewer made a second career as a respected song interpreter and even jazz singer. Duke Ellington in due course thought enough of Brewer that he cut an album with her, It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing---the last studio recordings Ellington would make in his lifetime.

Brewer---whose second marriage, to jazz and blues producer Bob Thiele (John Coltrane, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Ahmad Jamal, others) ended with his death in 1996---would also record with such jazz titans as Count Basie (a 1973 album, new interpretations of Bessie Smith's classic blues), Earl (Fatha) Hines, and Stephane Grappelli.

Brewer died 17 October following a long battle with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neuromuscular disease. She was 76.


1947: PAVANNE, THE GIRL WITH THE FLAXEN HAIR---In a classic episode---one repeated in 1949---an American working in France and relaxing by playing Ravel's "Pavanne for a Dead Princess" is haunted by a little girl who claims to have come because the composition is about her, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (ABC).

Andrew/Narrator: Ernest Chappell. Joan: Joan Nabor. Additional Cast: Donald Riggs, Nancy Moore. Music from Ravel played by Albert Sherman. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

1953: TAKING MOLLY DINING AND DANCING---After a long day's housework, Molly (Marian Jordan) gets a mild surprise from Fibber (Jim Jordan), but her long day is nothing compared to their long night's ordering, on today's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC).

Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Includes a spot for Tums read by longtime Jack Benny announcer Don Wilson. Writer: Phil Leslie.

1953: THE SHIPBOARD JEWEL ROBBERY---It's more than Fortune (Frank Sinatra) bargained for when he took a temp assignment as a ship steward, on tonight's edition of Rocky Fortune. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Tony Barrett, Lynne Allen, Marvin Miller, Norma Varden, Shep Macon. Writers: Ernest Kinoy, George Lefferts.


1882---Bela Lugosi (as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó; actor: Crime Does Not Pay; Lux Radio Theater; Suspense), Lugos, Hungary.
1884---Thomas Chalmers (actor: Pepper Young's Family), New York City.
1889---Margaret Dumont (as Daisy Juliette Baker; actress: Paramount Movie Parade), Brooklyn.
1895---Rex Ingram (actor: Free World Theater), Cairo, Illinois.
1897---Adolph Deutsch (conductor/arranger/composer: The Kraft Program; This Is Hollywood), London.
1904---Dame Anna Neagle (as Florence Marjorie Robertson; actress: Keep 'Em Rolling; The Kate Smith Hour; A Radio Tribute to the King and Queen), Forest Gate, Essex, UK.
1905---Frederic Dannay (writer: The Shadow; The Adventures of Ellery Queen; The Ford Theater), New York City.
1907---Arlene Francis (as Arline Francis Kazanjian; host: Blind Date; contributor: NBC Monitor; actress: The Affairs of Ann Scotland), Boston.
1911---Will Rogers, Jr. (actor: Rogers of the Gazette), New York City.
1913---Grandpa Jones (as Louis Marshall Jones; singer/comedian/banjoist, Grand Ole Opry), Niagra, Kentucky; Barney Phillips (actor: Dragnet; Hawk Larrabee; Gunsmoke), St. Louis.
1914---Fayard Nicholas (actor/dancer: The Ben Bernie Show), Mobile, Alabama.
1922---John Anderson (actor: Horizons West), Clayton, Illinois.
1927---Priscilla Lyon (actress: Meet Corliss Archer; Those We Love), Washington County, North Carolina.
1935---Jerry Orbach (actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.


I hadn't intended to take a second and longer hiatus from this space. Let's just say that life got a little too much in the way and, thanks to one bad mistake of my own and a bunch of circumstances beyond my control, it's still a little too much in the way. A circumstance I'm working as best I can with what I have to overcome, preferably without being drowned.

But it's nice to be back. I'd almost forgotten how therapeutic classic radio can be.