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, July 28, 2007

The Bird! The Plane! Take Him to Heaven: The Way It Was, 28 July

2004: FAREWELL, JACKSON---Veteran old-time radio and cartoon voice actor Jackson Beck---he who first hollered, "It's a bird! It's a plane!" as part of the introduction to the original radio serial, The Adventures of Superman, dies at age 92.

Cartoon fans remember him as the voice of Bluto during the Paramount/Famous Studios editions of Popeye, the Sailor, but Jackson Beck's old-time radio cred included Brownstone Theater; Casey, Crime Photographer; The Cisco Kid (the title role); Dimension X; The FBI in Peace and War; Hop Harrigan; Joe and Ethel Turp; The Man Behind the Gun; March of Time; Mark Trail; The Milton Berle Show; Myrt & Marge; The Mysterious Traveler; Philo Vance (also the title role); and, The Timid Soul . . . to name a few.

Beck was also known to do voices for children's recordings of the late 1950s and early 1960s, including such stories as "The Little Red Caboose" (narrating), "Little Toot" (portraying the plucky little tugboat's father), and "The Little Engine That Could" (portraying a diesel engine) on an album (for Diplomat Records) named after the third of those stories.


1892---Joe E. Brown (comedian/host: Ceiling Unlimited; The Joe E. Brown Show; Stop or Go), Holgate, Ohio.
1901---Rudy Vallee (as Hubert Prior Vallee; singer/host: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour; The Rudy Vallee Show; The Fred Allen Show; The Big Show), Island Pond, Vermont.
1910---Frank Loesser (composer: Cavalcade for Victory; The Abe Burrows Show; Heartbeat of Broadway), New York City.
1911---Ann Doran (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Amarillo, Texas.
1912---George Cisar (actor: Tina and Tim), Illinois.
1914---Carmen Dragon (conductor: Maxwell House Coffee Time; The Baby Snooks Show; The Railroad Hour), Antioch, California.
1915---Frankie Yankovic (bandleader: Frankie Yankovic and His Yanks; Guest Star Time), unknown.
1916---Laird Cregar (actor: Hello, Americans; Suspense), Philadelphia.
1931---Darryl Hickman (actor: Family Theater), Hollywood.
1937---Peter Duchin (pianist/conductor: Stars for Defense), New York City.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Son Who Saved The Father: The Way It Was, 27 July

1916---When vaudeville clown and future old-time radio legend Ed Wynn (b. Isaiah Edwin Leopold) becomes the father of Keenan today, he little knows just how devoted his new son will prove to become when he is at the absolute depth of his career.

For it will be Keenan Wynn---himself to become a distinguished character actor in his own right (including a few appearances on old-time radio's Lux Radio Theater, but probably remembered best as the second and final Digger Barnes on the 1980s television hit Dallas)---who finds his father a new set of bootstraps by which the old man will pick himself up, following the collapse (hardly his fault) of his fourth-network experiment (the Amalgamated Broadcasting System), the end of his radio stardom, a nasty public divorce in the wake of the collapse, and a soul-wrenching mental breakdown.

With the help of his son Keenan, Ed Wynn gradually re-emerged from seclusion in the early 1940s, venturing first onto the stage and then back into radio in 1944 for one of the most unusual series ever broadcast. Entitled "King Bubbles of Happyland," the new show presented Wynn as the monarch of a fairytale kingdom in which he traveled about helping his subjects with their problems. The show was fully-staged for its live audience, with elaborate sets and costumes for Wynn and his entire cast, and sponsor Borden's Dairies had high hopes when the series premiered in September 1944 . . .

It was at the instigation of son Keenan that Ed Wynn turned to straight acting in the late fifties. The senior Wynn knew that comedy had changed, that his style was outmoded and old-fashioned -- but he still wanted to work. Keenan had been cast in a "Playhouse 90" television drama by Rod Serling, a compelling story of the seamy world of small-time boxing entitled Requiem For A Heavyweight. The play contained a key role for a trainer -- a wistful, elderly man named "Army" who represented the faint voice of decency in an otherwise corrupt business. In a suggestion that might have seemed bizarre, Keenan approached producer Martin Manulis and reccomended his father for the role -- and Manulis took the idea to Serling, who against his better judgment, agreed. Ed Wynn himself was terrified, certain he would fail and ruin the show -- but at Keenan's prodding, he reluctantly took the part.

Requiem For A Heavyweight aired live on October 11, 1956---and was one of the true high points of the Golden Age Of Television. Keenan Wynn played Maish, a corrupt fight manager ruthlessly manipulating the career of the simple-minded boxer Mountain McClintock, played by Jack Palance. And Ed Wynn, as Army, surprised everyone----critics and author alike----by turning in an extraordinary, searing performance in his first real dramatic role.

Over the next decade, Wynn would appear in twenty films---sometimes in comedy relief roles as gently-batty old men, and sometimes in touchingly-dramatic parts. His work as the gentle Mr. Dussell in the 1959 film adaptation of The Diary Of Anne Frank earned him an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, he returned to the Disney Studios for a part in the Fred MacMurray family comedy The Absent Minded Professor, and his role in this film was an inside joke for old-time radio fans---he appeared as a dithery small-town Fire Chief. Somewhere, Graham McNamee was smiling.

Few fathers were ever so loved and tended by their sons.


1890---Judith Lowry (actress: Valiant Lady; Welcome Valley), Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
1905---Leo Durocher (baseball manager/personality: The Fred Allen Show; The Big Show), West Springfield, Massachussetts.
1918---Veola Vonn (actress: Blondie; Chandu the Magician), New York City.
1919---David Swift (writer: The Opie Cates Show), Minneapolis.
1920---Homer Haynes (as Henry Haynes; musician/comedian, Homer & Jethro: Town and Country Time; Grand Ole Opry), unknown.
1928---Barbara Eiler (actress: The Life of Riley; A Day in the Life of Dennis Day), Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

" . . . and I'm as Good as Nuts!" The Way It Was, 26 July

1902 (?): DOWN WITH COMMON SENSE---George and Margaret Allen have no clue that the newborn daughter they will christen Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie (though no one---including her future husband---will seem to remember precisely when she arrives) is destined to become the world's unchallenged queen of illogical logic, as the wife and zany partner of one Nathaniel Birnbaum, known better as George Burns.


8 MAY 1940: AUNT CLARA'S KANGAROO---The first of three classic episodes during the "Gracie for President" gag chosen for this tribute, a trip to the Surprise Party convention will have to wait at least long enough to retrieve the train tickets---because the Surprise Party's Presidential candidate (three guesses) gave the tickets to a stranger who wanted to be at the broadcast . . . not to mention assuring George (Burns) will tend Aunt Clara, on tonight's edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program with Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Frank Parker, Truman Bradley. Music: Ray Noble and His Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

15 MAY 1940: RAH-RAH IN OMAHA---George (Burns) and Gracie (Allen) and her presidential campaign arrive at Omaha's Exarbin Coliseum in advance of the Surprise Party convention, on this edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Show with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Truman Bradley, Bubbles Kelly. Music: Ray Noble and the Union Pacific Band, Frank Parker. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

29 MAY 1940: SWEEPING INTO OFFICE---Broadcasting from Treasure Island at the San Francisco World's Fair, George (Burns) thinks Gracie (Allen) will be a shoe-in for the White House if they can get a powerful Bay Area wheel behind her campaign---assuming he can shut her up about the man's sensitivity about his red beard, on this edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program Starring Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Frank Parker, Truman Bradley. Music: Ray Noble & His Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

15 FEBRUARY 1943: ARE HUSBANDS NECESSARY---In an adaptation of the 1942 Ray Milland-Betty Field film comedy, an aspiring but unlucky banker (Burns) sees his hopes of a vice presidency get compromised by the inadvertent meddling of his scattered wife (Allen), who doesn't realise she's abetting the overt corruption of a rival (Arthur Q. Bryan), on this edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Adapted from the screenplay by Frank Davis and Tess Slesinger, based on the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Cugat by Isabel Scott Rorick. (This may or may also have provided a seed for what would become radio's My Favourite Husband in due course.)

6 JUNE 1944: KANSAS CITY'S FAVOURITE SINGER---Discouraged George (Burns), who thinks he's just a miserable, broken-down flop, gets a letter intended for Dinah Shore by mistake---and Gracie (Allen) uses it to help cheer him up, unaware that an official decree naming Shore Kansas City's favourite singer is also going to the Burns home by mistake, on tonight's edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns & Gracie Allen. (CBS.)

Dinah Shore: Herself. The Happy Postman: Mel Blanc. Tootsie Stagwell: Elvia Allman. Additional cast: Jimmy Cash, Hans Conreid, Bill Goodwin, Lawrence Nash. Music: Felix Mills Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, Hal Block, Aaron Ruben, possibly Helen Gould Harvey.

17 MARCH 1949: GEORGE HAS A COLD---Not to mention a few headaches when Gracie gets Marlene Dietrich mixed up in her inimitable style, on a St. Patrick's Day edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Bea Benaderet, Bill Goodwin, Harry Von Zell, Toby Reed. Music: Harry Goodwin Orchestra.

21 APRIL 1949: EDDIE CANTOR IS WORKING TOO HARD---Only the first hints involve how many dates he books in a day and how long it's been since he's kissed his wife, on this edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Bill Goodwin, Toby Reed, Bea Benaderet. Writers: Paul Henning, Keith Fowler, George Burns.


1896---Charles Butterworth (comedian: The Fred Astaire Show), South Bend, Indiana.
1899---Danton Walker (columnist/host: Forty-Five Minutes on Broadway; Twin Views of the News), Marietta, Georgia.
1903---Donald Voorhees (conductor: Cavalcade of America; The Bell Telephone Hour), Allentown, Pennsylvania.
1907---Galen Drake (news commentator), Kokomo, Indiana.
1911---Buddy Clark (singer: Your Hit Parade; The New Carnation Contented Hour), Dorchester, Massachussetts.
1918---Stacy Harris (actor: This Is Your FBI; Pepper Young's Family), Big Timber, Quebec.
,small>1922---Blake Edwards (writer: Lineup; Richard Diamond, Private Detective), Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"He's a Briii-ii-iight Boy, Mr. and Mrs. Peary": The Way It Was, 25 July

1905: ENTER GILDERSLEEVE---The man who made Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve---first as the pompous next-door nemesis of hapless Fibber McGee, then as the clumsily doting uncle of an orphaned niece and nephew on The Great Gildersleeve, making him, arguably, old time radio's first bona fide spinoff star---is born in San Leandro, California.

Harold Peary's magic ride will end only when he makes the biggest mistake of his career: thinking The Great Gildersleeve would jump with him when he succumbed to the legendary CBS talent raid of 1948-50, hardly bargaining that sponsor Kraft prefers to remain with NBC and had the ownership of the show (a piece of which Peary had hoped to obtain, fruitlessly) to back it up.

Peary will create another comedy, The Harold Peary Show (often called Honest Harold, mistaking the fictitious show his new character hosted for the show itself), that lasts a single year because of an unmistakeable problem: Peary's singular, booming voice just couldn't shake the Gildersleeve image. He will go on to a distinguished second career as a voice actor but never again achieve the stardom of the Gildersleeve years.


2005: GOODBYE TO A GOOD GUY---Joe O'Brien, the morning drive host amid the original WMCA "Good Guys" lineup of disc jockeys, is killed in an automobile accident.

Already a New York radio veteran (and once half of the Gallagher and O'Brien morning team), O'Brien became one of the linch pins of the new lineup---the idea is credited to Ruth Meyer, WMCA's production/program manager, who formed the original lineup, though they wouldn't be called the Good Guys for another three years---in 1960, one of a team that included Harry Harrison, Jack Spector, Don Davis, and Jim Harriot.

They were joined by Dandy Dan Daniel and Ed (The Big Bad) Baer in 1961 and, by 1965, the Good Guys included Dean Anthony, B. Mitchel Reed, Gary Stevens, Johnny Dark, Herb Oscar Anderson, Don Davis, and, occasionally, WABC veteran Scott Muni.

O'Brien held down the morning drive slot (6-10 a.m.) as the Good Guys became famous in New York for their team style, even down to matching clothes and hair styles and their frequent remote appearances. O'Brien became popular for his ability to reach any age group with wit, friendliness, and thorough credibility.

O'Brien left WMCA in 1969, when the station tried a brief and ultimately disastrous format shift that was abandoned swiftly enough in favour of a return to the Good Guys style.

He took WNBC's morning drive show for a time before moving to WHN for fill-in work and, in due course, signing on with Peekskill (New York) WHUD to become its morning drive personality, a slot he held for fourteen years until his retirement in 1986, though he continued doing a weekly Sunday morning show until his death.


1958: THE TROUBLE WITH HOUSEWORK---It isn't necessarily anything that much out of the ordinary trouble, notwithstanding that "trouble" and "ordinary" don't necessarily unite for this couple (Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce) in this household, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Writer: Peg Lynch.


1894---Walter Brennan (actor: You Can't Take It With You; Law West of the Pecos), Swampscott, Massachussetts.
1899---Ralph Dumke (actor: We, the Abbotts; Quality Twins), South Bend, Indiana.
1900---Al Pearce (comedian: Here Comes Elmer; The Al Pearce Show), San Francisco.
1901---Lila Lee (actress: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour), Union Hill, New Jersey.
1906---Johnny Hodges (saxophonist, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Esquire Jazz Concert; numerous radio remotes), Cambridge, Massachussetts.
1907---Jack Gilford (actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pleasant Screams: The Way It Was, 24 July

1911---It will never really be known whether the proud parents will applaud his transformation from a bank teller, but neither did Raymond Edward Johnson respond to that first slap with a cheerily chilling, "Good evening, friends, this is Raymond, your host, welcoming you to The Inner Sanctum."

Perhaps Mother and Father Johnson were somewhat relieved to know their son will make his way through other old-time radio classics as well, including Mr. District Attorney; Roger Kilgore, Public Defender; Calling All Cars; Don Winslow of the Navy; Mandrake the Magician; Cavalcade of America; Gangbusters; The Goldbergs; and, Famous Jury Trials.


1941: ESTHER MILLER IS EXPECTED---Still feeling obliged to help the Allysons in the wake of the marriage disaster between Sammy (Alfred Ryder) and Sylvia (Zina Provendie), Molly (Gertrude Berg) prepares for the arrival of someone from Sylvia's past, on today's edition of The Goldbergs. (CBS.)

Rosalie: Roslyn Silber. Dr. Cater: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Gertrude Berg.


1853---William Gillette (actor: Sherlock Holmes), Hartford, Connecticut.
1890---Basil Ruysdael (announcer: Beggar's Bowl; Your Hit Parade; Cavalcade of America), Jersey City.
1901---Mabel Albertson (actress: The Phil Baker Show), Lynn, Massachussetts.
1904---Delmer Daves (writer/director: Lux Radio Theater; Screen Guild Theater), San Francisco.
1907---Glenn Riggs (announcer: Musical Varieties; Hop Harrigan; Boston Blackie), East McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
1911---Jane Hoffman (actress: The Author's Studio), Seattle.
1913---Hollace Shaw (as Vivien Shaw; singer: The Vic Damone and Hollace Shaw Show; Blue Velvet), Fresno, California.
1914---Frank Silvera (actor: X Minus One), Kingston, Jamaica.
1921---Billy Taylor (host: The Mildred Bailey Show; The Bing Crosby Show; The Genius of Duke), Greenville, South Carolina.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Loveable, Impractical: The Way It Was, 23 July

1908: MORE SMILES THAN TEARS---He will prove something of an old-time radio jack of all trades in his way; his credits will include Cavalcade of America, The Chase, Columbia Presents Corwin, Columbia Workshop, The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Joe Palooka, Lawyer Q, The March of Time, The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Our Gal Sunday, Portia Faces Life, Rich Man's Darling, So This Is Radio and This Is Your FBI. And, he will also play the title character when G.K. Chesterton's classic crime-solving Roman Catholic priest is adapted to radio as The Adventures of Father Brown.

But when Mother and Father Swenson become the proud parents of infant Karl today, they little suspect he will become remembered best for playing the title role in one of the classic comic soap operas of old-time radio.

ANNOUNCER:---And, now, smile awhile with Lorenzo Jones and his wife, Belle.
MUSIC: ("Funiculi, Funicula"; up and under)
ANNOUNCER: We all know couples like loveable, impractical Lorenzo Jones and his devoted wife, Belle. Lorenzo's inventions have made him a character to the town, but not to Belle, who loves him. Their struggle for security is anybody's story, but somehow, with Lorenzo, it has more smiles than tears.
MUSIC: ("Funiculi, Funicula," up and out)
ANNOUNCER: (reading spot for Bayer aspirin)
ANNOUNCER: And, now, Lorenzo Jones and his wife, Belle. Lorenzo has boarded up the workshop. His house gadgets are old fashioned, and has turned his attention to the world of tomorrow. Weather control, rockets to the moon, and splitting the atom, etcetera. He's also written a letter to the paper, describing a model town which science could produce immediately, if the people demanded it, and has received an enthusiastic response. A batch of letters has come in agreeing with him. Then, yesterday, the mayor called Lorenzo and made an appointment with him for this afternoon. And, now, in the Jones's living room, we find Lorenzo and the little woman . . .

Lorenzo Jones will premiere on NBC in 1937 and will endure as its comic self (written by Theodore and Mathilde Ferro) until, for whatever reason, Frank and Anne Hummert, who produced the show, decided to throw it more into the semi-standard soap mode of crime and disaster (one particular, memorably absurd storyline will involve Lorenzo as a kidnapped amnesiac and Belle on murder charges), destroying the show's singularity and life.


1935: SELLING SHARES IN AN ARIZONA SILVER MINE---Having parted with Abner (Norris Goff) and thrown in with Squire (also Goff), Lum (Chester Lauck)learns just what kind of business he's joined with the shifty swindler while Abner tries to talk Grandpap (also Lauck) into joining him, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Jay Sommers.

1943: THE LODGE ROBE NEEDS ALTERATION---Vic's (Art Van Harvey) and Rush's (Johnny Coons) repose on the porch is interrupted when he reads Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) a letter from the lodge, at least when he can get a word in edgewise through Fletcher's usual diversionary talk, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Writer: Paul Rhymer.


1894---Arthur Treacher (actor: Philco Radio Playhouse; Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway; The Jack Carson Show; The Fred Allen Show; Duffy's Tavern), Brighton, U.K.
1901---Maurice Brachhausen (chief of sound effects, American Broadcasting Company), unknown.
1910---Gale Page (actress: The Story of Holly Sloan; Masquerade), Spokane, Washington.
1912---Jackson Beck (actor: Philo Vance; The Casebook of Gregory Hood; March of Time; announcer: The Adventures of Superman), New York City.
1915---Frances Chaney (actress: Terry and the Pirates), Odessa, Ukraine.
1916---Sandra Gould (actress: Sad Sack; Duffy's Tavern), Brooklyn.
1920---Christopher Lynch (singer: The Voice of Firestone), County Limerick, Ireland.
1925---Gloria de Haven (actress: NBC Radio Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Relax: The Way It Was, 22 July

I'm not exactly prepared to say flatly that summertime is a history killer, but there do seem to be those summer days on which nothing of major import/impact upon classic radio occurred. The only thing you can do on such days? Relax. Listen.


1959: TOUR OF A ROAD SIGN---A change of plans for the monthly fish fry, the status of the Great Bird, a road sign company tour, and "Lawrence Fechtenburger, Interstellar Officer Candidate" arrive at Planet Polaris, provoking the usual cheerful insanity on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Gee, I dunno . . . )

Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.


1913---Licia Albanese (singer: The Treasure Hour of Song), Bari, Italy.
1917---Lou McGarity (trombonist: Eddie Condon's Jazz Concert; Arthur Godfrey Time), Athens, Georgia.
1922---Jason Robards, Jr. (actor: Pepper Young's Family), Chicago.
1924---Margaret Whiting (singer: Philip Morris Frolics; The Barry Wood Show; The Bob Hope Show), Detroit.
1928---Orson Bean (as Dallas Frederick Burroughs; actor: The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street; Sez Who?), Burlington, Vermont.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Good Guys Reunite: The Way It Was, 21 July

1980: ONE MORE TIME---Four of the station's famous Good Guys disc jockeys---Dan Daniels, Harry Harrison, Joe O'Brien, B. Mitchel Reed, and Jack Spector---are the guests of honour when New York WMCA hosts a Good Guys reunion, highlighted by talk host Barry Gray's interviews with the old jocks, including what's believed the last known interview of Reed.

The reunion occurs almost ten years after WMCA signed off as a rock and soul outlet, becoming a talk station until 1989 when it converted to mostly religious programming.


12 OCTOBER 1963: B. MITCHEL REED---Including one of his once-familiar "Reed Reactivated Mashback" oldies plays.

22 APRIL 1963: "DANDY" DAN DANIEL---Considered a classic of Daniel's seamless drive-time style.

20 MARCH 1965: B. MITCHEL REED'S FINAL HOUR---On WMCA, at least, before the rapid-fire jock returned to Los Angeles KFWB. He counts down the most voted-for songs by listeners and promos his successor, Gary Stevens.

1965: JACK SPECTOR---Undated, specifically, but a classic extract of Spector's enthusiastic midday style.

21 SEPTEMBER 1968: HARRY HARRISON'S FAREWELL---"The Morning Mayor" does his final WMCA gig---including a play and backsell of the Beatles' "Hey, Jude"---before moving to WABC to hold down the same morning office.


1947: PIANO LESSONS FOR JUNIOR---It figures that Irma (Marie Wilson), determined to better herself, enrolls for piano lessons---never mind that Jane (Cathy Lewis) already returned the piano they were renting to cut back on household expenses, on tonight's edition of My Friend Irma. (CBS.)

Al: John Brown. Richard: Leif Erickson. Professor Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Mrs. O'Reilly: Jane Morgan. Writers: Parke Levy, Stanley Adams, Roland MacLane.


1863---C. Aubrey Smith (actor: Lux Radio Theater), London.
1895---Ken Maynard (actor: The Ken Maynard Show), Vevey, Indiana.
1901---Allyn Joslyn (actor: Island Boat Club; Page of Romance; Show Boat), Milford, Pennsylvania.
1902---Elsie Hitz (actress: The Story of Ellen Randolph; Dangerous Paradise), Cleveland.
1910---Himan Brown (actor/writer/producer/director: The Little French Princess; Little Italy; The Inner Sanctum Mysteries; The Adventures of the Thin Man; Grand Central Station; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Brooklyn.
1915---Floyd McDaniel (singer/guitarist, with the Ink Spots: The Four Ink Spots; Let's Go Nightclubbing), Athens, Alabama.
1920---Isaac Stern (violinist: The Jack Benny Program; The New York Philharmonic Program), Kreminiecz, Ukraine.
1921---Barbara Fuller (actress: One Man's Family; Stepmother), Nahant, Massachussetts; Jean Shepherd (writer/host: The Jean Shepherd Show), Chicago.
1924---Don Knotts (actor/comedian: Bobby Benson's Adventures), Morgantown, West Virginia.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Vague Patent? The Way It Was, 20 July

1872: WIRELESS IN THE BLUE RIDGE?---Six years after (he claimed) transmitting signals in the Blue Ridge Mountains, between two points fourteen miles apart and using kites for antennae, Mahlon Loomis receives a wireless technology patent based upon "atmospheric electricity" eliminating the need for existing overhead wiring such as used on telegraph systems. The kicker: Loomis receives the patent without having included diagrams on precisely how this technology might be built or operated.

The Loomis experiment will become part of the technology credited with making radio possible, if not beginning radio outright.


1949: CORNELIA---A wealthy man (Ernest Chappell) has no regrets that his wife (Anne Seymour)---who deceived him into turning away from his childhood sweetheart (Peggy Stanley)---is now dead, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (Mutual.)

Allen: Walter Black. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


1881---Hugh Sothern (actor: Those We Love), Anderson County, Kansas.
1890---Theda Bara (as Theodosia Burr Goodman; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Cincinnati; Verna Felton (actress: Sealtest Village Store; The Judy Canova Show; mr. ace and JANE), North Hollywood.
1896---Harry Horlick (bandleader: The A & P Gypsies), Tiflis, Russia.
1905---Murray Forbes (actor: Ma Perkins; The Foxes of Flatbush), unknown.
1908---Jerry Desmonde (actor: Crime Classics), Middlesbrough, U.K.
1910---Bill Goodwin (announcer/actor: The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show; Johnny Fletcher), San Francisco.
1919---K.T. Stevens (as Gloria Wood; actress: Junior Miss), Los Angeles.
1938---Natalie Wood (as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko; actress: Lux Radio Theater), San Francisco.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Opening Bell: The Way It Was, 19 July

1948: CLASS IS IN SESSION---Two auditions and one reworked audition script later, one of old-time radio's most beloved situation comedies premieres as a regular series.

Well, I'll tell you. I originally loved the theater. I still do. And I had always wanted to have a hit on Broadway that was created by me. You know, kind of like Judy Holliday and Born Yesterday. And I griped about it a little. And someone said to me, 'Do you realise that, if you had a hit on Broadway, probably a hundred or two hundred thousand people might have seen you in it, if you'd stayed in it long enough. And this way, you've been in [Our] Miss Brooks, everybody loves you, and you've been seen by millions.’ So, I figured I'd better shut up while I was ahead.

---Eve Arden, to radio historian John Dunning, a quarter century after school let out at Madison High forever.

Making a bona-fide star of Arden as the sardonically attractive high school English teacher, Our Miss Brooks will enjoy a ten-year radio life amidst which it enjoys a concurrent five-year television life. Pretty fly for a star who turned out to have been the third choice for the role that made her name, after Shirley Booth tried but failed an audition and Lucille Ball, reportedly, was considered next to audition but didn't because of her commitment to another CBS radio comedy, My Favourite Husband.

Written cleverly by Al Lewis (who also directed many episodes), Our Miss Brooks's radio life will make and secure the show's reputation as a thinking person's situation comedy. It also makes stars of cast members Gale Gordon (as blowhard principal Osgood Conklin), Jeff Chandler (as nebbish, almost indifferent biology teacher Philip Boynton), and Richard Crenna (as clumsy, adenoidal student Walter Denton). Rounding out the well-aligned cast are Jane Morgan (as absentminded landlady Margaret Davis), Gloria McMillan (as principal's daughter/Denton paramour Harriet Conklin), and Leonard Smith (as witless star school jock Stretch Snodgrass), with Mary Jane Croft in a recurring role as catty English teacher Miss Enright.

Rounding out the cast will be Leonard Smith as witless jock Stretch Snodgrass, Jane Morgan as absentminded landlady Margaret Davis, Gloria McMillan as principal's daughter Harriet Conklin, and jill-of-all-trades Mary Jane Croft in occasional appearances as catty fellow English teacher Miss Enright.

She never played the comedian offstage---she didn't need to be the funniest person in the room, unlike so many comics, who find it difficult to get off. She went out, got the laughs, and went back to her ranch in the [San Fernando] Valley. She was just a wonderfully unselfish actress, and was just so up all the time; she made you feel good to be around her.

---Richard Crenna, remembering Eve Arden to Gerald Nachman, in "Valued Families," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

Shirley Booth, unable to find the lighter side of the put-upon teacher's life as Arden in due course did, wasn't exactly left in the cold, not with an Academy Award and a couple of Emmys (as television's sardonic housekeeper Hazel) in her not-too-distant future. Lucy? She had a pretty decent future in her own right . . .


21 NOVEMBER 1948: THE MODEL SCHOOL TEACHER---That would be Connie, who's been nominated for such a magazine citation, but the men in her life---from Dopey Denton to Blowhard Conklin to Bashful Boynton---seem more impressed with the sultry reporter who's come to profile her.

1 MAY 1949: THE GRUDGE MATCH---When Walter learns who joined Harriet when she went to the movies alone the night before, he insists on settling it in a grudge match . . . with Conklin not only setting aside his usual professed rule against school violence but looking to referee the bout himself . . . so he can watch Walter get whatever passes for his brains turned into tapioca pudding.

5 JUNE 1949: SCHOOL KEY---There's only one thing wrong on the day Madison High is supposed to receive a district attendance award---thanks to absentminded Mrs. Davis, in whose custody it was left for the morning, the key to the school is missing and nobody can get in or answer its phones.

17 JULY 1949: THE CARELESSNESS CODE; OR, GREAT CAESAR'S BUST(ED)---Levying petty fines for often spontaneously-enacted school safety rules is the way Conklin plans to finance a new bust of himself, to replace a bust of Julius Caesar in front of the school library---until frequent defendant Connie finds a way to teach him the hard way how finely pettiness comes to bury Caesar's would-be successor.

19 SEPTEMBER 1949: WEEKEND AT CRYSTAL LAKE; OR, KEEP YOUR HEAD---Boyton invites Connie to spend the weekend boating at the Conklins' Crystal Lake retreat---but with everyone seeming to think he plans to re-enact a certain scene from An American Tragedy, she may be seasick before she even steps into the boat. As Conklin puts it so inimitably, "He plans to end his romantic obligations to Miss Brooks by bashing her over the head with an oar and using her as bass bait!"

9 APRIL 1950: DYEING EASTER EGGS---It's to die for when Stretch unwittingly refills Mrs. Davis's suddenly busy powdered soap dispenser with Walter's newly-invented, delayed-action, powdered Easter egg dye---but the mishap's an unexpected blessing for at least one victim.

23 APRIL 1950: THE TAPE RECORDER---The tales of the tape don't necessarily ensure simple endings, as Connie hopes to convince penny-pinching Conklin it's not a bad idea to buy a tape recorder for school use.

5 MAY 1950: THE DEACON JONES SQUARE DANCE TROUPE---Connie balks at signing up to tutor the children of a touring square dance troupe, until she learns how generously they'll pay for one summer month---and how her favourite square might be rounded up for the gig, too.

21 MAY 1950: THE RARE BLACK ORCHID---It's what Conklin wants Connie to protect as a surprise for his wife (guest Paula Winslowe)---which probably seems akin to asking a mongoose to protect a cobra so far as Conklin's concerned.

22 DECEMBER 1950: WALTER'S RADIO BOMBAY---With Conklin delayed awaiting a bamboo furniture delivery at home, Walter's science project radio panics acting principal Connie into dismissing school early when it delivers news of an impending hurricane . . . that nobody realises is heading for Bombay, not Madison.


1891---Raymond Bramley (actor: Howie Wing; David Harum).
1901---Juano Hernandez (actor: Jungle Jim; Mandrake the Magician), San Juan.
1914---Lou Krugman (actor: The Romance of Helen Trent; Dear Mom; Gunsmoke), Passaic, New Jersey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Workshop Experiment: The Way It Was, 18 July

1936: THE LAB IS OPEN---One of old-time radio's best respected and remembered dramatic laboratories opens for business today. Though Columbia Workshop---created by studio engineer Irving Reis (once a sound man on Buck Rogers)---will prove perhaps best known for giving Norman Corwin the place in which he found his genuine voice as a dramatic titan in the first place, the experimental series (which will endure in its original format and identity through 1947) will also prove a kind of launching pad for the like of Archibald MacLeish, Burgess Meredit, Orson Welles, William N. Robson (who directed the program's adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with music only and no sound effects, daring for its time in 1947), and Agnes Moorehead (in Beauty and the Beast), among others.


1946: MIDSUMMER MADNESS---It only begins with a gas meter reading and a sleeper in the cellar to punctuate Sade's (Bernadine Flynn) day, on tonight's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Vic: Art Van Harvey. Rush: Bill Idelson. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1948: THE MISSING NEWSHAWK CAPER---Somewhere in the middle of her gossipy phone call, Effie (Lurene Tuttle) manages to get Sam (Howard Duff) to look at some snapshots . . . before he looks into the wherefores of a reporter who's turned up missing and perhaps worse, on tonight's edition of The Adventures of Sam Spade. (CBS.)

Writers: Gil Doud, Bob Tallman.


1872---Fred Sullivan (actor: Arnold Grimm's Daughter; The Story of Mary Marlin), London.
1891---Gene Lockhart (actor: Doctor Fights; Abroad with the Lockharts), Ontario.
1893---Richard Dix (actor: The Eveready Hour), St. Paul, Minnesota.
1903---Riza Royce (actress: Young Widder Brown), Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Chill Wills (actor: Armed Forces Radio Theater; Dinner Bell Roundup Time), Seagoville, Texas.
1906---Clifford Odets (playwright: Fleischmann's Yeast Hour; Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players), Philadelphia.
1908---Lupe Velez (as María Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez; actress: Lux Radio Theater; Speed Show), San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
1909---Harriet Nelson (as Harriet Hilliard; singer/actress: The Red Skelton Show; The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet; The Fred Allen Show; Suspense; The Big Show), Des Moines, Iowa.
1911---Hume Cronyn (actor: The Marriage), London, Ontario.
1913---Marvin Miller (actor: Jeff Regan, Investigator; The Romance of Helen Trent; announcer: The Bickersons), St. Louis; Red Skelton (as Richard Bernard Skelton; comedian: Avalon Time; The Red Skelton Show), Vicennes, Indiana.
1916---Irene Winston (actress: Valiant Lady; The Woman in White), New York City.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Farewell, Bruce: The Way It Was, 17 July

1981---Popular WBZ (Boston) disc jockey Bruce Bradley---who joined the station at the tail end of the old-time radio era, and whose career highlights included introducing the Beatles for the 18 August 1966 concert at Suffolk Downs on their final American tour---performs his final WBZ program. His departure coincides with WBZ's fortieth anniversary year.


1946: THE PRISONER OF ZENDA---Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Virginia Bruce highlight this interpretation of the Oscar-nominated (best art direction, best music score) 1937 swashbuckler about a king's distant cousin (Fairbanks) asked to impersonate the kidnapped monarch, whose fiance (Bruce) notices one too many personality changes for comfort, on tonight's edition of Academy Award Theater. (CBS.)

Adapted from a screenplay by Albert Sanchez Moreno.

1949: THE CARELESSNESS CODE; OR, GREAT CAESAR'S BUST(ED)---Levying petty fines for often spontaneously-enacted school safety rules is the way Conklin (Gale Gordon) plans to finance a new bust of himself, to replace a bust of Julius Caesar in front of the school library---until frequent defendant Connie (Eve Arden) finds a way to teach him the hard way how finely pettiness comes to bury Caesar's would-be successor, in a classic episode tonight on Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Writer: Al Lewis.


1889---James Cagney (actor: Arch Oboler's Plays; Screen Guild Theater), New York City; Erle Stanley Gardner (author and creator of Perry Mason; The Adventures of Christopher London), Malden, Massachussetts.
1902---Edward Gargan (actor: This Is Your FBI; This Is Our Heritage), Brooklyn.
1904---William Gargan (actor: Martin Kane, Private Eye; Barrie Craig, Private Investigator), Brooklyn.
1906---John Carroll (actor: Hello Mom; Suspense), New Orleans.
1912---Art Linkletter (as Gordon Arthur Kelly; comedian/host: Art Linkletter's House Party; People Are Funny), Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
1914---Eleanor Steber (singer: The Voice of Firestone), Wheeling, West Virginia.
1915---Cass Daley (comedienne: The New Fitch Bandwagon; The Cass Daley Show; Maxwell House Coffee Time), Philadelphia.
1916---Irene Manning (singer: Mr. Broadway; The Railroad Hour), Cincinnati.
1918---Red Sovine (as Woodrow Wilson Sovine; singer: Country Music Time; Country Hoedown), Charleston, West Virginia.
1920---Helen Walker (actress: Proudly We Hail; Suspense; Old Gold Comedy Theater), Worchester, Massachussetts.
1935---Diahann Carroll (as Carol Diahann Johnson; singer/actress: Army Bandstand; Manhattan Melodies; Stars for Defense), Bronx, New York.

Monday, July 16, 2007

History Still Slumbers: The Way It Was, 16 July

Unfortunately, nothing of even mildly earthshattering import in old-time radio history occurred on this date. So there's fault in merely leaning back, lighting up, relaxing, and surfing the channels?


1942: A GROSS OF GRAVELS---After dinner, on the porch, the "important situation" to be coped with, the one Sade (Bernadine Flynn) raised earlier at dinner, proves just a little bit more on the absurd side than Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Rush (Bill Idelson) imagined, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Announcer: Ken Roberts. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1949: BUTCHER KILLED---After police can do little beyond posting an officer near her building, a panicked woman (Joan Banks) hires Rick (Dick Powell) for protection after she claims several attempts on her life in recent days, including a man following her home and trying to kidnap her, on tonight's edition of Richard Diamond, Private Detective. (NBC.)

Helen: Virginia Gregg. Levinson: Ed Begley. Otis: Wilms Herbert. Additional cast: Paul Debarg, Herbert Ellis, Sidney Miller. Writer (you're not seeing things!): Blake Edwards. (Note: The sound file is mistitled as "The Man Who Hated Women.")

1959: SMELLY DAVE ON TOUR---The ticklish twosome review a few of their show ground rules, Ward Stuffer eschews his usual theatrical review for a television commercial, Wally Ballou reports live at sea, and Arthur Shrank is in Quincy, Illinois covering Smelly Dave's summer tour stop arrival, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (If you have to ask, they're not doing it right.)

Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1882---Charles Egleston (actor: Ma Perkins; Just Plain Bill), Covington, Kentucky.
1887---Floyd Gibbons (news commentator), Washington, D.C.
1888---Percy Kilbride (actor/host: Paul Whiteman Presents; Melody Roundup; Stars in the Air), San Francisco.
1902---Andrew Stone (writer: Lux Radio Theater), Oakland.
1903---Carmen Lombardo (saxophonist, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadiens: Guy Lombardo and His Orchestra; The Esso Marketer; New Year's Radio Dance Party 1945-1946), London, Ontario.
1907---Ned Calmer (news analyst: The CBS World News Roundup), Chicago; Barbara Stanwyck (as Ruby Catherine Stevens; actress: Prudential Family Hour of Stars; This Is My Story; Lux Radio Theater), Brooklyn.
1908---Frank Singiser (newscaster: Mutual News), Montevideo, Minnesota.
1911---Ginger Rogers (as Virginia Katherine McMath; actress: The Star and the Story; The Packard Hour; Lux Radio Theater; The Big Show), Independence, Missouri; Sonny Tufts (actor: Old Gold Comedy Theater; Screen Guild Theater), Boston.
1917---William Woodson (actor: Just Plain Bill; narrator: This Is Your FBI), unknown.
1925---Cal Tjader (vibraphonist: Music for Moderns; All-Star Parade of Bands), St. Louis.
1926---Stanley Clements (actor: Family Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Long Island City, New York.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Unlike MacArthur, I Have Returned: The Way It Was, 15 July

The only problem is that I picked a pretty dry day in old-time radio history to return, never mind that the hiatus did me well. Well, I suppose everyone's entitled to a dry day now and then. Meanwhile, I owe thanks to those who sent me their good wishes while I was on hiatus. They mean more than I have the words to say.

And could there be any better soundtrack for a return than two particularly classic episodes of two particularly classic shows?


1935: LUM'S THEATER BURNS DOWN---Which is exactly what Lum (Chester Lauck) doesn't need, after Abner (Norris Goff) finally decides he wants to be a partner, and after everything he went through including litigation with Squire (also Goff) to open the movie house, whose fire seems to be of mysterious origin, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Writers: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

1941: SYLVIA'S PAST---After the dubious marriage plans of Sammy (Alfred Ryder) and Sylvia Allison (Zina Provendie), Sylvia's father wants to see her psychologist (Raymond Edward Johnson) but isn't entirely comfortable until Molly (Gertrude Berg) reassures him, on tonight's edition of The Goldbergs. (CBS.)

Jake: James R. Waters. Rosalie: Roslyn Silber. Announcer: Clayton (Bud) Collyer. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.


1889---Marjorie Rambeau (actress: The Adventures of Ellery Queen; Lux Radio Theater), San Francisco.
1893---William Dieterle (director: Lux Radio Theater; Screen Directors' Playhouse), Rhein-Palatinate, Germany.
1897---Howard Lanin (bandleader: The Ipana Troubadors; Benrus Tricksters), Philadelphia.
1900---Helen Shields (actress: I Love Linda Dale; Amanda of Honeymoon Hill), Champaign, Illinois.
1919---Eve McVeagh (actress: The Clyde Beatty Show), Ohio.