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, 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.


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