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, December 05, 2007

The Bathtub Jokes: The Way It Was, 5 December

1892: THE GREATEST?---Jack Benny, to whom he'd provide gags on and off the air until his too-early death, would come to call him the greatest natural gag man of them all. Numerous vaudeville and radio comedians were believed to be earning a large enough chunk of their keep on the gags he'd provide. Indeed, the first radio routine for which Benny would become more than just a dry master of ceremonies will be composed largely by this distinguished gentleman.
Uh, thank you, Mr. Thorgeson, that's pretty good from a man who doesn't even know me. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Benny talking, and making my first appearance on the air professionally. By that, I mean I'm finally getting paid, which of course will be a great relief to my creditors.

I, uh, I really don't know why I'm here, I'm supposed to be a sort of a master of ceremonies, and tell you all the things that will happen, which would happen anyway. I must introduce the different artists, who could easily introduce themselves, and also talk about the Canada Dry made-to-order by the glass, which is a waste of time if you know all about it. You drink it, like it, and don't want to hear about it.

So, ladies and gentlemen, a master of ceremonies is really a fellow who is unemployed and gets paid for it.

---The Canada Dry Program, 2 May 1932.

And the last line he will ever write for Benny, or so the legend has it, is a line for Eddie Anderson, who made his first known appearance on the Benny program just a couple of months before our hero's unexpected death at 45.

Seldom did he write an entire [script]; instead, he was what now would be called a script doctor, punching up and improving the work of other writers. Disdaining the regimen of studio life, [he] preferred working at home, sitting in a huge bathtub and firing off jokes into a Dictaphone.

The exponential sorrow is that he will die the day after he signs an absolute dream contract: $1,500 per week from Jack Benny, merely to be on call if and when needed to punch up a Benny radio script.

None of which---to say nothing, too, of work he will do for Burns & Allen (their legendary "Lamb Chops" routine), Bob Hope, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers---especially the famous stateroom scene of A Night at the Opera---and even Myrt & Marge (the comic soap ladies' film debut as headliners in their own right, a film now remembered best for being the screen premiere of a trio known as Moe, Larry, and Curly)---even hints at crossing the minds of the couple who become the proud parents today of Al Boasberg in Buffalo, New York.


1945: THE HOUSE IN CYPRESS CANYON---The story of a couple (Robert Taylor, Cathy Lewis) terrorised out of their would-be new home haunts in turn a realtor who finds the story in a boxed manuscript left at the now-finished home, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additonal cast: Hans Conreid, Jim Backus, Howard Duff, Paul Frees, Wally Meher. Writer: Robert L. Richards.

1948: REMLEY WANTS TO BORROW PHIL'S FAMILY---There's even better reason than usual for Phil (Harris), Alice (Faye), Willie (Robert North), and the children (Jeanine Roos, Anne Whitfield) to quake when Remley (Elliott Lewis) needs yet another favour: the shifty guitarist wants to rent Alice and the girls a few hours: his wealthy aunt's named him her heir, after he lied about being married with children, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Aunt Harriet: Mary Voland. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

1948: A VERY UNIMPORTANT PERSON---An aviation worker (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates), his wife (Nancy Sheridan), and---to their surprise---a now-former VIP (James Monks) with a surprising secret, escape narrowly by air as the world is destroyed in a series of seemingly unplanned atomic explosions, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (ABC.)

Additional cast: Frank Thomas. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

1951: PEOPLE WHO BRAG---This time, it's a cowboy named Deadeye (Red Skelton), who never squeezed a shot except in his tale telling, and Cauliflower McPug (Skelton) is caught shadow boxing in front of a store mirror, on tonight's edition of The Red Skelton Show. (CBS.)

Cast: Lurene Tuttle, Pat McGeehan. Music: David Rose and his Orchestra, the Smith Twins. Announcer: Rod O'Connor. Writers: Edna Skelton, Jack Douglas, possibly Johnny Murray.


1901---Grace Moore (soprano: General Motors Concerts; Vicks Open House), Jellico, Tennessee; Walt Disney (host/actor: Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air), Chicago.
1903---Fred Vandeventer (newscaster/panelist: Vendeventer and the News; Twenty Questions), Tipton, Indiana.
1904---Harold Huber (actor: Hercule Poirot; The Shadow of Fu Manchu), New York City.
1906---William Spier (producer/director: The Adventures of Sam Spade; Suspense), New York City.
1922---Alan Freed (as Albert James Freed; disc jockey: The Moon Dog Rock and Roll House Party; The Alan Freed Show; Jamboree [Radio Luxembourg]), Windber, Pennsylvania.


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