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.

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.


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