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.

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.


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