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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Black Friday: The Way It Was, 25 November

1960---In what will become known to old-time radio fans and historians alike as Black Friday, a once-groundbreaking comedy duo and six of radio's once-venerated soap operas air for the final time on CBS.

Long converted to a musical variety format, its heyday as a master serial comedy-drama seeming centuries old, Amos 'n' Andy---now known as The Amos 'n' Andy Music Hall---says farewell with creators/original writers/co-stars Freeman Gosden (Amos Jones) and Charles Correll (Andy Brown) ending the broadcast by speaking retrospectively about their phenomenon, right back to the day it was born in Chicago as Sam 'n' Henry

But saying goodbye on Black Friday, too, are

The Right to Happiness, a signature creation of soap pioneer Irna Phillips.

Young Doctor Malone, starring Sandy Becker (at the time beginning, also, his career as a titan of metropolitan New York children's programming) as the wise-beyond-his-years but concurrently star-crossed suburban physician.

The Second Mrs. Burton, whose title refers to a put-upon young wife against her meddling mother-in-law, with four actresses including one-time Life of Riley cast member Sharon Douglas playing the title role.

Whispering Streets, the youngest of the now-executed radio soaps.

The Romance of Helen Trent, one of the melodramatically treacly of the Frank and Anne Hummert creations, hooked around a costume designer (Julie Stevens, succeeding Virginia Clark since 1946) with an active enough love life even after age thirty, and an equally active shortfall when it came time to approach the altar.

Ma Perkins, created and long enough written by a Hummert discovery, former newspaper reporter Robert Hardy Andrews, and almost a twin (in terms of age, not characters: both were born in 1933) to Helen Trent; starring Virginia Payne as the redoubtable, widowed lumberyard owner, whose nurturing of her two daughters---and genteel demurral from serious romance---is equaled only by her becoming a whole town's maternal shepherd.

Of the four, it will be The Romance of Helen Trent and Ma Perkins which deliver the most memorable endings. Listeners are left to wonder whether Helen Trent is even alive---a balcony, on which Helen and her incumbent beau, politician John Cole, have discussed whether she'll wait until his senatorial campaign concludes to ponder marriage, collapses cacophonously . . . with Helen's longtime truest love, attorney Gilbert Whitney, calling to her, "Helen, it's Gil . . . Helen!"

With this broadcast, we bring to an end the present series of The Romance of Helen Trent.

---The final words to be heard as the soap signs off permanently.

Ma Perkins ends with a lot less calamity and a lot more heartfelt folksiness . . . from its star herself.

This is our 7,065th broadcast, and I want to thank you all for being so loyal all these years . . . If you write to me, I'll try to answer all your letters. Goodbye, and may God bless you.

---Virginia Payne, signing off as Ma Perkins for the final time. (The pause: she reads the show's credits between each part of her personal farewell.)

If Amos 'n' Andy's farewell seems anticlimactic (what they have become by 1960 is too much a shell of what they were at the height of their fame and influence), the abrupt farewell of the radio soaps---even as the radio soaps have been fading slowly for several years, and notwithstanding their flaws and cliches---secures the point that it is only a question, now, of how long it will take old-time radio's corpse to go from the autopsy table to the grave at long enough last.

The answer, of course, proves to be just shy of two full years . . .


1938: SERGEANT O'HALEY---Gale (Gordon) has a hard time recovering from Thanksgiving indigestion, and Jack (Haley) imagines himself of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police saving mountain goats from extinction, on tonight's edition of The Wonder Show with Jack Haley. (CBS.)

Cast: Lucille Ball, Arti Auerbach, Virginia Verill. Music: Ted Fioretto and his Orchestra. Writers: Unknown.

1942: THE BBC, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT---The March of Trivia's weekly lowlights from the news hits the coming prohibition against Christmas telegrams, and musical star Gracie Fields helps Fred (Allen) kill two birds with one gun---imagining the British Broadcasting Company having a whack at a rising American quiz show, on tonight's edition of Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Portland Hoffa, Alan Reed, Minerva Pious, Parker Fennelly. Announcer: Arthur Godfrey. Music: Al Goodman and his Orchestra, Hi-Lo Jack and the Dame. Writers: Fred Allen, Bob Weiskopf, possibly Herman Wouk.

1943: FORMAL THANKSGIVING DINNER PARTY---Lou (Costello) invites Bud (Abbott) for a Thanksgiving dinner---at Bud's place, but Bud already has plans to host a Thanksgiving bash for an exclusive club, on tonight's edition of The Abbott & Costello Show. (NBC.)

Music: Freddie Rich and his Orchestra, Connie Haines. Writers: Parke Levy, Martin A. Ragaway, Pat Costello.

1956: TAIL TO THE WIND---A chicken coop is burned to the ground by a father-and-son team whose victim (Ralph Moody) is reluctant to give Dillon (William Conrad) details, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: John Dehner, Helen Weed. Announcer: George Fenneman. Writer: Les Crutchfield.

1959: LAWRENCE FECHTENBERGER'S NEW RECRUIT---Still failing to reach Planet Polaris, "Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate" and crew break (in) a new recruit in the space academy lab, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Tune in tomorrow . . . )

Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1896---Virgil Thomson (composer: Columbia Workshop), Kansas City.
1899---Kay Strozzi (actress: I Love Linda Dale; Our Gal Sunday; Young Widder Brown; Young Doctor Malone; Lights Out), Swan's Point Plantation, Virginia.
1900---Helen Gahagan Douglas (actress: A Report to the Nation; Hollywood Fights Back), Boonton, New Jersey.
1904---Jessie Royce Landis (as Jessie Royce Medbury; actress: The House on Q Street), Chicago.
1904---Will Osborne (bandleader/singer: The Abbott & Costello Show), Toronto.
1916---Peg Lynch (as Margaret Frances Lynch; writer/actress: Ethel & Albert; The Couple Next Door), Lincoln, Nebraska.
1920---Ricardo Montalban (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Mexico City.


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