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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Public Enemies Even the G-Men Cannot Reach": The Way It Was, 31 January

1936---Three years and a day to the day his great uncle premieres, nocturnal crimefighter The Green Hornet---starring Al Hodge as the playboy heir turned crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who disguises himself as the title character---premieres on the same Detroit station, WXYZ.

Both are the creation of George W. Trendle and his writer Fran Striker, with Reid revealed in due course to be the great-nephew of John (The Lone Ranger) Reid. Unlike the Silver Bullet Rider, however, the younger Reid turns a twist on the Lone Ranger's style: the Green Hornet infiltrates underworld operations or challenges them for rackets as if an underworlder himself . . . the better to break up those rackets, even if it means allowing himself to be seen as a wanted major criminal by authorities, an image he uses as a crimefighting weapon in its own right.

Reid at first tells no one of his double life beyond his valet, Kato, who is portrayed first as a Japanese-American, then as a Filipino-American (following Pearl Harbour), and finally as a Korean-American. Or, was he?

Kato, Britt Reid's faithful valet, was an Oriental, a distinction of some consequence after the Japanese drew the USA into World War II by launching a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. From this era arose the legend that the character of Kato was originally identified as being Japanese, but after Pearl Harbor his nationality was abruptly changed to Filipino.

Was there a change? Some people insist there was, others claim that Kato was an Oriental of unspecified nationality prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the "Filipino" aspect of his character was emphasized afterwards (understandably leaving some listeners with the impression that a change had occurred), and yet another group asserts that Kato had been explicitly Filipino all along. In this case we defer to the expertise of John Dunning, who notes in his comprehensive encyclopedia of old-time radio that although Kato was voiced by an actor of Japanese descent (Tokutaro Hayashi, later "renamed Raymond Toyo by director James Jewell for professional reasons"), he was "described as a Filipino of Japanese descent at least two years earlier" than the events of 7 December 1941. The "Japanese descent" part of his character may have been downplayed thereafter, but he had indeed been identified as a Filipino well before 1941.

In due course, however, the radio Green Hornet will be exposed inadvertently by a woman and, from there, share his dual identity with the police commissioner.

The Green Hornet will become a network radio offering on Mutual, NBC Blue, and ABC before expiring in the mid-1950s. A decade later, it will air for a single season on television, with Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato (who is now Chinese-American); Reid’s dual identity this time is known to his secretary, Lenore Case, and to district attorney Frank Scanlan.

The radio Hornet carries no weapon other than a non-lethal gas gun and his jiu jitsu-trained valet, not to mention a high-powered car, the Black Beauty, that can get him from point A to point B faster than any police cruiser. (The television Hornet, of course, will add a retractable electronic laser, or "sting," through which he can cut through thick layered steel and iron, and a Black Beauty affixed with short-range rockets and gas shells and a deployable electronic aerial scanner.)

Within its first few old-time radio seasons, however, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover will take a troublesome interest in The Green Hornet. Hoover will object to the show’s introduction ("He hunts the biggest of all game: public enemies that even the G-men cannot reach") because it offends him that the line implies there are criminals beyond the FBI's competence to stop. He'll prevail upon the show producers to substitute a less offencive but somewhat more cartoonish introduction. ("He hunts the biggest of all game: public enemies who try to destroy Our America.")

With Hodge, the original cast of The Green Hornet includes Raymond Hayashi as Kato, Lee Allman as Lenore (Casey) Case, Jim Irwin as Mike Axford (a Daily Sentinel reporter with a robust Irish brogue and a past as a police officer whose service is implied to have ended under less than honourable circumstances), and Jack Petruzzi as reporter Edward Lowry.

Rollon Parker plays the unidentified newsboy who ends virtually every episode with a street corner holler selling Daily Sentinal "extrys" following the Green Hornet's latest crimebusting---always ending with the line, "Green Hornet still at large!" Within a decade, however, he'll serve double duty, becoming the second Kato, before handing that role off to Mickey Tolan.

Hodge will play the Green Hornet through 1943; Donovan Faust and Bob Hall will play the role in 1943; and, Hall continues until 1946. His successor and the final radio Hornet will be Jack McCarthy, later the host (known as Captain Jack) of local children’s programming in New York City . . . and the annual anchor for WPIX-TV coverage of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Allman and Petruzzi are the only actors to keep their roles for the life of the radio series. The show's announcers will include Fielden Farrington, Robert Hite, Harold Neal, Charles Woods, and future 60 Minutes founding co-anchor Mike Wallace.


1937: NIGHTMARES OF FRED ALLEN; OR, JACK TO PLAY "THE BEE"---Addled with a cold, it's almost time to put up or shut up for Jack (Benny), who's been cleaned at the racetrack when not rehearsing "The Bee" ever since Allen's crack following young Stuart Canin's performance, and he ponders whether bribery was involved among other subterfuges, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Cast: Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: George Balzer, Al Boasberg, Milt Josefsberg, John Tackaberry.

1937: EDDIE'S BIRTHDAY---Ol' Banjo Eyes (Eddie Cantor) gets a birthday bash that includes a few comic greetings, a dinner (he thinks) from orchestra leader Jacques Benard, a backhanded salute from his sponsor, and other offbeat treats, on tonight's edition of Texaco Town. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Parkyakarkus (Harry Einstein), Deanna Durbin, Bobby Breen, Pinky Tomlin. Announcer: Jimmy Wallingford. Music: Jacques Benard. Writers: Possibly Philip Rapp, Carrol Carroll, David Freedman, Bob Colwell.

1940: EMPHASIS ON THE "BOOM"---If you can forgive him for trying to make a jazz swinger out of "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay" (in a just world it would get you tried by jury for attempted murder---of jazz), you can have a pleasant time listening otherwise to Gene Krupa and his Orchestra playing the Meadowbrook (on the Newark-Pompton Turnpike in New Jersey, the same pike that once provided Charlie Barnet with a secondary theme for his band), on tonight's edition of Krupa's weekly radio remote. (NBC.)

1943: THE CONFESSION---An underworld gambler who killed a rival in self defence romances a young woman whose father is a successful defence attorney priding himself on rejecting guilty clients . . . but the gambler's scorned former lovers include her stepmother, who finds one way to get even with him---so it seems---on tonight's edition of The Whistler. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Probably Joseph Kearns. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.


1872---Zane Grey (writer: The Rudy Vallee Show), Zanesville, Ohio
1892---Eddie Cantor (as Israel Iskowitz; a.k.a. Adrian Cantrowitz; comedian/singer/actor: The Chase & Sanborn Hour; Texaco Town; Time to Smile; The Big Show), New York City.
1902---Tallulah Bankhead ("the glamorous, unpredictable" host: The Big Show), Huntsville, Alabama.
1905---John O'Hara (writer: Information Please), Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
1906---Edith Adams (actress: Those Happy Gilmans), West Union, Iowa.
1908---Connie Desmond (sportscaster: play-by-play partner with Red Barber for the 1940s-1950s Brooklyn Dodgers), Ohio.
1909---Walter Coy (actor: Lone Wolf), Great Falls, Montana.
1913---Maurice Manson (actor: One Man's Family), unknown.
1915---Garry Moore (as Thomas Garrison Morfit; host: Take It or Leave It; Beat the Band; comedian: The Durante-Moore Show; The Garry Moore Show), Baltimore.
1921---John Agar (actor: The Big Show), Chicago; Carol Channing (singer-actress: Arthur Godfrey Time;, Stagestruck), Seattle; Mario Lanza (operatic tenor: The Mario Lanza Show), Philadelphia.
1923---Joanne Dru (as Joanne Letitia LaCock; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Logan, West Virginia.
1929---Jean Simmons (actress: Lux Radio Theater), London.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hi-Yo, Gold Mine! The Way It Was, 30 January

1933---The overture finale for Rossini's operatic interpretation of William Tell's story isn't exactly remembered half as much for introducing that operatic interpretation as it is for introducing old-time radio's all-time most remembered (if not quite best) Western. And The Lone Ranger* hi-yos Silver for the first time tonight, on the three-station hookup of its creator, George Trendle, but within four years the show's popularity spreads it nationwide and instigates the formal creation of the Mutual Broadcasting System.

George Stenius plays the title role for its first four months, director James Jewell and actor Jack Deeds will play it for an episode each, Earl Graser will assume the role until he's killed in a 1941 automobile accident, and---after five episodes in which the Ranger himself is bedridden, injured, and barely able to whisper (faithful companion Tonto, played by John Todd, carries much of the storytelling)---Brace Beemer, originally the show's narrator in 1941, will play the Silver Bullet Man for the rest of his radio life.

Within its first four years, however, The Lone Ranger's success will spread it to nationwide broadcast and provoke directly the formation of the Mutual Broadcasting System---"an outgrowth," historian Gerald Nachman will record in due course, "of the half-dozen stations that originally signed on to air the hit Western."

The Lone Ranger may have been the first "adult Western," a phrase that began to be heard in the 1950s to describe movies like High Noon and Shane, not to mention the 1950s radio program often cited as the first grown-up horse opera---Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke was decidedly better written and acted, but The Lone Ranger was mythic---the first such show to employ a loner hero and moody effects, a kind of noir Western.

The Lone Ranger shows sound no less hackneyed today than others of the era, yet something elevated the program above more ordinary sagebrush series with Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Roy Rogers (anointed "King of the Cowboys"), and his slick rival Gene Autry . . . Other heroes wore masks . . . and others bent the law for their own purposes . . . but none in Western lore had near the appeal of a "lone ranger." That was the show's basic grabber, along with the fact that . . . the Lone Ranger was modest almost to a fault, so pathologically shy that he refused to stick around for even a simple thank-you . . .

What ennobled him was that he seemed aloof and above the fray---a snob, almost, who, rather than hang around to take his bows after he'd brought the bad guys to justice, beat a hasty retreat. He was utterly humourless---no comic sidekicks for him---and had no time for obsequious thank-yous and small talk. Was it humility, boredom, timidity, or arrogance? He disliked having grateful townsolk slobbering all over him, that was clear, but it seemed impolite for him to exit so quickly. Yet you never tired of the famous fade-out: "Who was that masked man, anyway?" "Why, don't you know? That was . . . the Lone Ranger!" As if there were lots of other cowboys on white horses sporting black masks who handed out silver bullet mementoes and had Indian assistants . . .

In some ways, it was just another schlock Western, but to those who refused to miss a single chapter, The Lone Ranger took on the aura of art. Not even the fairly faithful TV version had the hypnotic power of its radio predecessor.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Saddle Sore," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon, 1998.)

Trendle has softened the original character sketch from his writer Fran Striker, whose vision of the Ranger as "a laughing macho Robin Hood" (Nachman) is transformed into the sober, occasionally soapboxing formal guardian angel, "the embodiment," Trendle is quoted as saying, "of granted prayer."

* -- Just in case you might have forgotten (some do) or never have known (some don't, believe it . . . or not), the Lone Ranger is lone in the first place because he, John Reid, is the only survivor of the Cavendish Gang's wipeout of a troop of Texas Rangers (no, silly, we're not talking about a pitcher named Cavendish who no-hit the hell out of a certain baseball team), and Tonto, the Indian who brought him back to health, tells him the bad news about his fellow Rangers, punctuating it with, "You only Ranger left. You lone Ranger now."


1940: FIBBER'S OLD SUIT---It's the old worn-out, ill-fitting blue serge Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Teeny) is desperate to convince Fibber (Jim Jordan) to lose, but trying to lose it almost causes him to lose his---I hate to use a four-letter word---mind, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Old-Timer/Nick/Officer Kelly: Bill Thompson. Stranger: Gale Gordon. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

1949: THE PHILANTHROPIST---A semi-hobo piques Dan's (Alan Ladd) interest with a small note written on the back of an old handbill and his unkempt appearance---but when he asks Dan to try his idea for finding his traveling pal, after being separated during one railroad hop, Dan gets a different view of the down-and-out, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual)

1949: FRED TRIES TO GET RUDY VALLEE INTO TELEVISION---After Main Street's meanderers mash the weekly newspaper's call on outstanding women, Fred (Allen) bumps into the old crooner at the bus station and thinks he can get him on the small screen to dissuade his swank retirement, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

With Portland Hoffa. Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax: Peter Donald. Announcer: Kenny Delmar. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Robert Schiller.

1949: CUSTODIAN OF STUDENT FUNDS---That would be Connie (Eve Arden), when Conklin (Gale Gordon) implements a student banking system, but she regrets her foray into low finance soon enough when the money she holds onto gets mistaken for a rent payment,
on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Mr. Pearson: Frank Nelson. Miss Atterbury: Possibly Mary Jane Croft. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Announcer: Bob Lamond. Writer: Al Lewis.

1950: BATTLE OF THE CENTURY---That may be what they all say, but this happens to be part two of an eighteen-part Western in which Jack Packard (Russell Thorson) and Reggie York (Tony Randall) agree to help a rich rancher's runaway daughter (Mercedes McCambridge) bent on marrying a poor farmhand, on tonight's edition of I Love a Mystery. (Mutual.)

Writer: Carlton E. Morse.


1896---Joseph Gallicchio (music: Amos 'n' Andy, Music from the Heart of America), Chicago.
1907---Lois Wilson (actress: numerous programs, including The Jack Benny Program), Iowa.
1911---Hugh Marlowe (actor: Ellery Queen, Brenda Curtis), Philadelphia.
1914---John Ireland (actor: MGM Theater of the Air, U.S. Steel Hour), Vancouver, B.C.; David Wayne (actor: Eternal Light, Lux Radio Theater, Stars in the Air), Traverse City, Michigan.
1915---Dorothy Dell (actress: Stars of Tomorrow), Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
1925---Dorothy Malone (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Chicago.
1931---Conrad Binyon (actor: Mayor of the Town; The Life of Riley), Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Time Now for Spry's Double Feature Treat of the Day": The Way It Was, 29 January

1937---Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories, also known as just Aunt Jenny or Aunt Jenny and Spry (the shortening which sponsors the show), premieres on CBS.

The fifteen-minute series is something of a hybrid, melding a semi-serial soap opera-style program of stories with the title hostess's cooking hints and recipes. By 1939, it will be the concluding wedge of a CBS morning hour that includes three other soaps, Mary Lee Taylor, Brenda Curtis, and the redoubtable Big Sister . . . and popular enough that it bumps sales of Spry shortening to levels competitive enough to Crisco, the rival against whom Lever Brothers (which planned the show as far back as 1936) sent the product.

The installment of Aunt Jenny's Real-Life Stories that appears in the 21 September 1939 broadcasting day that survives from Washington WJSV is one of two known surviving editions of the show. The other, a soapy story about a woman who breaks an engagement over a lie about her father's death ("Marriage of Convenience"), airs 6 May 1946.

Edith Spencer plays Aunt Jenny on the air and in print promotions for the show, with Dan Seymour as annoucer Danny and Henry Boyd providing the whistling of Aunt Jenny's trademark canary. (In due course, however, Agnes Young will assume the title role.) A number of old-time radio legends appear on the show throughout its life, including Alfred Ryder (known also as Alfred Corn, who also plays Sammy on The Goldbergs and Carl Neff on Easy Aces), Helen Shields (Sylvia in Amanda of Honeymoon Hill), Ed MacDonald (Tommy Hughes, Big Town), and Nancy Kelly (The March of Time; and, as Dorothy, the 1933 NBC version of The Wizard of Oz).

Aunt Jenny's Real-Life Stories will air until 1956.


1951: PLAY BALL!---Baseball signs a six-year deal for television and radio rights for a then-formidable $6 million.

1956: CASE FILES---Indictment, based on the case files of former New York assistant district attorney, playwright, and novelist Eleazar Lipsky, premieres on CBS to enjoy a three-year old-time radio life. At least three episodes of the show will survive for future old-time radio collectors.


1944: THE CITY OF THE DEAD---In the first serial in the series, San Francisco investigators Bart Friday and Skip Turner (Elliott Lewis, David Ellis) continue helping their fathers---the mayor and the town's most prominent doctor---fight a continuing grave-robbing epidemic, on tonight's edition of Adventures by Morse. (Syndicated.)

Additional cast: Russell Thorson; unknown. Writer: Carlton E. Morse (also renowned as the creator-writer of One Man's Family).

1945: "WE JUST GOT A LITTLE MIXED UP THERE"---Announcer Jack Scanlan may confuse the opening two numbers, but there'll be no confusing the driving swing of Count Basie and his men, from the Blue Room of New York City's Hotel Lincoln, on tonight's edition of Mutual Coast to Coast. (Mutual.)

Highlights: "Together," "Just After Awhile," "On the Upbeat," "One O'Clock Jump"; soloists: Jimmy Rushing (vocal), Earle Warren (tenor saxophone, vocal), Count Basie (piano), Lester Young (tenor saxophone).

1951: BOOK 82, CHAPTER 21---The new Harper and Barbour real estate partnership's experiencing growing pains, with Harper (Marvin Miller) questioning Clifford's (Barton Yarborough) drive until Henry (J. Anthony Smythe)---whom Harper's thinking of selling his half the business---cautions Harper not to mistake Clifford's casual style for business listlessness, while Clifford has misgivings about a successful deal, on tonight's edition of One Man's Family. (NBC.)

Writer: Carlton E. Morse.


1874---Owen Gibson (writer, The Gibson Family, Pulitzer Prize Plays), Portland, Maine.
1880---W.C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield; comedian-actor: frequent guest, The Chase and Sanborn Hour/The Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show), Philadelphia.
1902---Florence Rinard (panelist: Twenty Questions), unknown.
1915---Victor Mature (actor: Hollywood Star Playhouse), Louisville, Kentucky.
1916---Bill Lawrence (reporter: ABC), Lincoln, Nebraska.
1917---Lloyd Perryman (singer: The Sons of the Pioneers, The Roy Rogers Show), Ruth, Arkansas; John Raitt (actor-singer: MGM Musical Comedy Theater), Santa Ana, California.
1918---John Forsythe (actor: NBC Star Playhouse), Penns Grove, New Jersey.
1923---Paddy Chayevsky (writer: Theater Guild On the Air), Bronx, New York; Martin Ragaway (writer: The Abbott and Costello Show, The Milton Berle Show), unknown.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Getting Your Kix: The Way It Was, 28 January

1940: "FOLKS, LISTEN FOR THE BOOM OF THE OL' BASS DRUM"---Beat the Band---with Garry Moore hosting, Ted Weems (featuring a vocalist named Perry Como) leading the band, Marvel Maxwell also singing, longtime Easy Aces announcer Ford Bond in the same slot here, and General Mills sponsoring the show for its new corn cereal Kix---premieres on NBC, based in Chicago.

A precedent to the later, somewhat landscape-changing hit Stop the Music, Beat the Band listeners will receive ten dollars if their question is used on the air, and the answer is always the title of a song. If they can beat the band they land twenty dollars and a case of Kix, with the musicians who miss the answer having to “feed the kitty”---tossing half dollars onto the bass drum, with the musician scoring the most points answering the listeners’ questions getting to take the money home.

Folks, listen for the boom of the ol’ bass drum---that means the question beat the band.---Country Washburn, bassist with the Weems orchestra.

There is, of course, more, as explained by Moore on the 7 April 1940 broadcast, after explaining the twenty dollars and case of Kix.

But, now, that sum may be much more, because we have a hundred dollar bonus which is divided equally among those who beat the band. For example, if four persons beat the band, they receive twenty-five dollars, plus ten for the question. However, if only one person beats the band, that person receives the full one hundred dollars, ten for the question, and the case of Kix.

Beat the Band's first incarnation will expire in 1941, but the show will be reborn in 1943, out of New York, with "The Incomparable Hildegarde" (Walter Winchell hung that tag upon the famed cabaret/supper club singer) as hostess, Harry Sosnik joining Ted Weems in handling the music, Marilyn Thorne joining Marvel Maxwell in the singing, and a slight change in the rules, tied to the new sponsor, Raleigh cigarettes.

Listeners sent in musical questions and it was up to the band to identify songs from a few clues. Prizes of twenty-five dollars and a carton of the sponsor’s cigarettes . . . went to contestants whose questions did not beat the band. If the question did beat the band, the contestant received fifty dollars and two cartons of cigarettes, and the boys in the band had to throw a pack of cigarettes "on the old bass drum for the men in service overseas."

---Frank Buxton and Tim Owen, The Big Broadcast 1920-1950. (New York: Avon, 1971.)

A typical musical question might be something such as, "What song title tells you what Cinderella might have said if she awoke one morning and found that her foot had grown too large for the glass slipper?" (The correct answer, by the way, is, "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?")

A classic question, all things considered, will be this from a listener in Hopkins, Minnesota, also on the 7 April 1940 show: “If Joe DiMaggio hits sixty-one home runs this summer, what would Babe Ruth’s present mark represent?” The correct musical answer: “Broken Record,” then a novelty hit.

The second Beat the Band will expire in 1944, but not without sending Hildegarde's catch-phrase---"Give me a little traveling music, Harry"---into the American lexicon, somewhat: comedian Jackie Gleason will appropriate the phrase for his popular Saturday night television show, breaking off his opening monologue and calling to his bandleader, Sammy Spear, "A little travelin' music, Sam!"---before dancing crazily enough from center stage to the left rear wing, where he claps once, thrusts a hand from his not-incosiderable girth, and hollering, "And a-waaay we go!"


1948: THE RADIO SHOW---Looking for a second income because his regular job isn't paying him quite enough, Dennis (Day) mulls a chance to write and perform in a radio show, on tonight's edition of A Day in the Life of Dennis Day. (NBC.)

Mildred: Barbara Eiler. Mrs. Anderson: Bea Benaderet. Mr. Anderson: Dick Trout. Willoughby: John Brown. Writer: Frank Galen.

1948: THREE GOOD WITNESSES---Alone and unarmed, crossing Turkey on the Taurus Express train, a State Department oil investigator (Morgan Foley) eager to return to return home to California has more than he can handle eluding a nonchalant killer, on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS.)

Hetfield: Jack Webb. Mary: Jeanette Nolan. Kiborkian: Harry Bartel. Writer: John Dunkel, from a story by Harry Lamb.

1953: A STUDY IN OILS---The FBI can't back Matt Cvetic (Dana Andrews)'s latest Party assignment---softening a wealthy, anti-Communist oilman out of some of the yield from government-land oil leases---until he learns more about why the Party really needs the oil, as if he didn't have enough trouble having to meet the oilman with an odd oil painting as a kind of introduction, on tonight's edition of I Was a Communist For the FBI. (Syndicated by Frederick Ziv Company.)

Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Truman Bradley. Writer: Possibly Robert Lee.

1954: TRASH CAN LIDS---They've been crushed once too often by careless neighbourhood garbagemen for Jim's (Robert Young) taste, which is why being interrupted by Bud's (Ted Donaldson) sudden interest in telepathy isn't have as frustrating as the sanitation representative blaming the Andersons for the problem, on tonight's edition of Father Knows Best. (NBC.)

Margaret: Jean Vander Pyl. Betty: Rhoda Williams. Kathy: Norma Jean Nilsson. Writer: Paul West.


1882---Richard Barrows (actor: Death Valley Days, Ellery Queen, Second Husband), Buffalo, New York.
1910---Arnold Moss (actor: Against the Storm, Big Sister)
1911---Donald Briggs (actor: The Adventures of Frank Merriwell), Chicago.
1912---Monty Masters (actor-producer: The Mad Masters; Candy Matson, Yukon 2-8209), New Haven, Connecticut.
1914---Nelson Olmstead (actor: Bachelor's Children), Minnesota.
1935---Nicholas Pryor (actor: CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Baltimore.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Three Gossips and a Milestone: The Way It Was, 27 January

1931: THE CHATTERING CLASS?---Classified as a soap opera but more a dialogic comedy---symbiotically related in that manner to such as Easy Aces and Vic & Sade---Clara, Lu & Em, the title referring to the three ladies/neighbours/friends who gossip incessantly and plot almost likewise on behalf of various interests and passions, premieres on NBC's Blue Network.

Perhaps it will fall to history to classify the quietly absurd show properly, but Clara, Lu & Em proves groundbreaking daytime programming anyway so far as old-time radio is concerned, when it moves to daytime within a little over a year: it is the first daytime show to break the dominance of household hints, cooking, and other such daytime programming; and, it gives Colgate-Palmolive-Peet---which sponsors the show for Super Suds---the honour of beating the redoubtable Procter & Gamble to the proverbial punch as the first soap manufacturer ever to sponsor a daytime serial.

Little else will remain known of Clara, Lu & Em beyond its three co-stars---Louise Starkey (Clara; succeeded later by Fran Harris), Isabel Carothers (Lu; succeeded later by Dorothy Day), and Helen King (Em; succeeded later by Harriet Allyn)---and few episodes will survive to the post old-time radio listening era, but its standing as a genuine shaft of comic brilliance amidst a daytime milieu dominated by doom, gloom, and drama queening will remain inscrutable.


Or, two new worlds, one of them brave . . .

1927: THE SEED OF CBS---A concert violinist turned talent agent, Arthur Judson, and his partner George Coats launch United Independent Broadcasters, Inc. Within less than two years it will become William S. Paley’s Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)---and the story will prove anything but simple. We bring you now to invaluable radio historian Elizabeth McLeod.

. . . [T]he more you look at [Judson's and Coats's] activities during this period, the more you have to wonder how they managed to stay out of jail, let alone how they managed to stay in business.

Judson was originally less interested in starting a radio network than in finding a new outlet for his roster of musical artists.* His first venture in this direction was the Judson Radio Program Corporation, formed in 1926. His idea was to act as a middleman between sponsors and networks -- an independent packager of radio programming, using talent under contract to the company. He approached David Sarnoff with this idea in the fall of 1926, but was shown the door almost immediately---the better for Sarnoff to help himself to the idea, and use it as the basis for the NBC Artists Bureau.

Judson and his associate Coats then decided to try to start a network of their own, and they had everything they needed to do it except money, radio stations, and any knowledge of the broadcasting business. So they went right ahead and had certificates printed for stock shares in United Independent Broadcasters and divided them up among themselves -- and then without the slightest idea of how to start a radio network, Coats hit the road to find affiliates. The idea was that UIB would pay each affiliate a flat rate of $500 for a guarantee of ten hours per week of broadcast time---and most stations of this era being shoestring operations, most of them jumped at the chance---even though the network didn't exist anywhere but on paper. With nothing but promises, Coats signed up a dozen affiliates---but still didn't have any way to deliver on the promises.

The big problem was raising the money to lease the network lines from AT&T---and this was where Coats got lucky. In the spring of 1927, Coats managed to convince the president of the Columbia Phonograph Corporation to buy $163,000 worth of time on the new network---and pay cash up front for it. The idea was that Columbia Phonograph would then resell this time, in ten-hour units to other clients. The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company was set up as a paper corporation to handle this work---with its stock divided up among a number of additional investors, none of whom had anything to do with Judson, Coats, or UIB. The only link between the two corporations was the contract for Columbia to buy the time from UIB.

Columbia handed over the money with no guarantee that Coats and Judson would ever get the network off the ground, but they were able---perhaps with a bit of political arm twisting---to get AT&T to lease the necessary lines. Meanwhile, Coats and Judson finally realized they knew nothing about broadcasting, and sold Major J. Andrew White 200 shares of stock in UIB in order to get access to his expertise. However, even White was unable to do anything meaningful in the way of lining up clients because of the clumsy arrangement with Columbia---no sponsor wanted to share sponsorship credit with another company for its programs. It was perhaps because of this that "Phonograph" was apparently not used on air.

When the new network finally signed on, there were three corporations involved---Judson Radio Program Corporation, which assembled the programming; United Independent Broadcasters, which arranged for the network lines; and, Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company, which fronted the cash and made its contract talent available for broadcasting. None of these three corporations had any control over the others, and all were most concerned with their own interests. Columbia Phonograph lost $100,000 on the project over the first month of the project, sold no sponsors whatsoever, and dropped out. That cut off the cash flow before the network was a month old. They did, however, leave their name behind---figuring any advertising is good advertising---and also retained the block of time they had bought, to be used for their own "Columbia Phonograph Hour," at that time the only sponsored program on the chain.

It was here that George "Kingfish" Coats saved the network. With a mountain of debt, no source of income, no future prospects, and no assets other than a pile of essentially worthless stock certificates, Coats sold a Philadelphia millionaire named J. H. Louchheim an interest in the company and got him to agree to put up the money to keep it running. Loucheim then pooled his shares with a minority interest Coats had sold to the Levy brothers---owners of WCAU---and took a controlling interest in UIB, with Judson and Coats retaining most of the rest of the stock, as well as control of the Judson Radio Program Corporation, which had a five-year contract to produce programs for the network. A few sponsors signed on---very few---but the losses continued to mount.

Over the next eight months, Louchheim flushed a fortune into UIB, and lost it all---although he got plenty of additional stock certificates to show for his investment. Finally, in September of 1928, Loucheim---by this time ready to kill Coats on sight---jumped at the chance to dump the whole soggy mess into the lap of a snappy-dressing 27-year-old millionaire whose family's company---Congress Cigar Co.---was one of the few Columbia sponsors. William Paley then convinced his father and several of his uncles to join him in the venture---and took a three month leave of absence from the cigar business to see if the new purchase was worth anything.

One of the first things the new owner did was clean up the messy corporate structure. The Columbia Broadcasting Company was dissolved, but its name was kept---and on 1/3/29, United Independent Broadcasters officially changed its name to Columbia Broadcasting System Inc. Judson and Coats retained Judson Radio Program Corporation, along with their minority interest in the new CBS---but from here on, Paley was in control. The network lost over $380,000 thru the end of 1928, but it would never have another losing year.

1956: YOU PAYS YOUR MONEY AND YOU TAKES YOUR CHOICE---Thirty-nine years to the day that CBS's UIB predecessor was founded formally, the first of a two-part adaptation of Aldous Huxley's futuristic tale of benign tyranny, Brave New World---with Huxley himself as the narrator---launches The CBS Radio Workshop.

The series will live for two years but it will earn respect as one of the most ingenious programs in radio history, regardless of the fact that it arrives as classic network radio is, so to say, rounding third and heading for home.


1948: HIT AND RUN---An insider about to expose the commission's involvement in a liquor smuggling racket he wants to leave is run down and killed by a potentially stolen taxicab---the moment he crosses the street from the Daily Sentinel offices, after exposing the racket to Britt Reid (Jack McCarthy) and Lenore Case (Lee Allman), on today's edition of The Green Hornet. (ABC.)

Kato: Raymond Hayashi. Axford: Gil Shea. Writer: Fran Striker.

1950: WELLMAN'S NOSE AND THE CHARTER DAY CEREMONIES---Hall and Victoria (Ronald and Benita Colman) can't just shake off the mishap of board of governors chairman Wellman's (Herbert Butterfield) broken nose as a dinner guest: he's the key man for Ivy's Charter Day ceremonies the day after. Meanwhile, Victoria can't just shake off a magazine reporter assigned to the festivities who can't help reminiscing to her about what her film-days visit to the troops on Anzio meant to them, on tonight's edition of The Halls of Ivy. (NBC.)

Merriweather: Willard Waterman. Maid: Gloria Gordon. Writer: Don Quinn.

1950: JUNIOR IS IN LOVE---Riley (William Bendix) and Peg (Paula Winslow) learn the hard way that it wasn't Junior (Scott Beckett) in his bed early every night this week. The (misinterpreted) evidence: a bracelet he inadvertently left among the bric-a-brac he used to fake his sleeping form, but they also misinterpret the manner in which he acquired it---and why---on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Babs: Sharon Douglas. Writer: Alan Lipscott, Ruben Ship.


1885---Jerome Kern (composer: Treasury Hour; The Pause That Refreshes; Command Performance), New York City.
1888---Harry Frankel (Singin' Sam, the Barbasol Man; singer: Reminiscin' with Singin' Sam), Hillsboro, Ohio.
1895---Violet Heming (actress: The Right to Happiness), Leeds, Yorkshire, UK; Harry Ruby (composer: Thirty Minutes in Hollywood; Great Moments to Music), New York City.
1905---Howard McNear (actor: Gunsmoke; Fibber McGee and Molly; Frontier Gentleman), Los Angeles.
1908---Hot Lips Page (Oran Thaddeus Page; trumpeter: Milt Herth Trio; The Floor Show; Eddie Condon's Jazz Concert), Dallas.
1912---Benay Venuta (as Benvenuta Rose Crooke; actress/singer: Benay Venuta's Program; Shell Chateau; The Abbott and Costello Show; Duffy's Tavern; Freddie Rich's Penthouse Party; Take a Note), San Francisco.
1916---Merrill Mueller (reporter: NBC Stands By; Morning News Roundup; The Navy Hour), New York City.
1918---Skitch Henderson (as Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson; conductor: The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope; Philco Radio Time; Songs By Sinatra), Halstad, Minnesota.
1921---Donna Reed (as Donnabelle Mullenger; actress: Lux Radio Theater; Star and the Story; Silver Theater), Dennison, Iowa.
1924---Sabu (Dastagir; actor: Confidential Closeups), Mysore, India.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"In Appearance He Belies His Ghastly Army of Brain Children": The Way It Was, 26 January

1899---Little do Mother and Father Cooper suspect their son newborn today will become one of old-time radio's masters of genuine psychic suspense---after changing the spelling of his first name, reputedly to pleasure his wife's numerologic inclinations---as the mastermind and writer of two nonpareil series, Lights Out and (after an interruption to pursue, among other things, film scriptwriting in Hollywood) Quiet, Please.

From 1933 to 1936 Radioman Cooper wrote and directed the silo-of-blood programs called Lights Out. Late at night, so children couldn't hear them and have their little livers scared out of them, they gushed from Chicago's WMAQ and were beyond doubt the most goose-fleshing chiller-dillers in air history. At each broadcast's opening a deep, dark, dank voice would instruct listeners to put their lights out and settle back in their chairs, whereupon gore would commence to flow, bones to snap, screams and groans to rowel the air.

Lights Out was a sound-effect's man's paradise. On one occasion the audible illusion of a victim's hand being smashed on an anvil had to be achieved. Everything was tried from slapping a pork chop with a cleaver to pounding wet paper with a hammer. At last came triumph: a lemon was laid on an anvil and struck with a small sledge.

Another time there was the problem of the exact noise of a man being skinned alive: pulling apart stuck-together pieces of adhesive tape was the solution. Beheading acoustics were attained by slicing cantaloupes with a cleaver. Fingers were scissored off by substituting pencils for fingers. Dropping a raw egg on a plate simulated perfectly the blup of an eye-gouging. Flowing corn syrup furnished the voop-vulp of freely flowing blood. When a mechanical giant pulled a wretch's arm off, the leg of a cold storage chicken was pulled off beside the mike.

There were about 600 Lights Out clubs in the U.S. when Mr. Cooper stopped writing the show to go to Hollywood to do picture scripts. A Kansas City, Mo. chapter whose meeting he attended had officers and by-laws and fined any member who spoke or lit a cigaret during broadcasts.

In appearance and character Cooper belies his ghastly army of brain children. A short roly-poly of 42, resembling nothing so much as an amiable Alexander Woollcott on a smaller scale, he is a dutiful husband,* an ardent dog-lover, an amiable drinker, and loved by his friends. Despite Latin-American fondness for the sanguine (bullfights, the annually-produced slaughter melodrama Don Juan Tenorio, the "Day of the Dead," etc.), Cooper will not in his new job employ his Lights Out talent. "This one's in earnest," he says.

---From "Mouths South," Time, 2 June 1941, an article trumpeting among other things Wyllis Cooper's then-current assignment writing the NBC Latin America travelogue show, Good Neighbours.


1947: JESUS CHRIST, RADIO STAR---The Greatest Story Ever Told---a radio series presenting dramatisations of the stories, sayings, and parables of Jesus Christ---premieres on ABC, sponsored by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, based on the best-seller by Fulton Oursler (an editor of the original Liberty magazine), and starring Warren Parker as Jesus, to enjoy a ten-year life, with its first Christmas episode, "No Room at the Inn" (first broadcast 19 December 1947) becoming its annual Christmas episode, and the final series broadcast airing 30 December 1956.

During its tenure on the air this program featured most of the regular New York dramatic radio actors; the only continuing role is that of Jesus. The sound effects were particularly unique. Instead of modern footsteps, for instance, the sound of sandals had to be employed; and, unusual door effects had to be devised since there were no doors with modern latches and hinges in Biblical times.

---Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, The Big Broadcast 1920-1950. (New York: Avon, 1971.)

Henry Denker writes the show’s scripts in an understated yet firmly dramatic style and co-directs the episodes with Mark Loeb. Terry Ross handles the sound effects, and Jacques Belasco directs the music (a small orchestra and sixteen-voice chorale).

Goodyear’s sponsorship, however, is announced only once a program---at the end of each episode, by announcer Norman Rose: "The Greatest Story Ever Told has been brought to you by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company." That’s it. There is no commercial advertisement during any episode of the series otherwise.

At least 46 episodes have been known to survive, including "The Prodigal Son," "The Parable of the Lost Coin," "And Her Name Was Mary," and "Ye That Are Heavy Laden." Several of these, however, survive by way of Armed Forces Radio Service transcription discs.

Warren Parker will make a few more radio appearances during the final decade of network radio as it was known, including "A Gun For Dinosaur," an episode of the science fiction series X Minus One.


1941: PEN PAL---A misinterpreted newspaper ad moves a female pen pal to congratulate Hen-reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Ezra Stone) on his nonexistent marriage, while he fears answering the letter---as Alice (Kathleen Raht) and Sam (House Jameson) insist he do---will cause even more complications . . . with his actual girl friend, especially, on tonight's edition of The Aldrich Family. (NBC.)

Writer: Clifford Goldsmith.

1944: THE MATRIMONIAL AGENCY---Which is what Lou's (Costello) rhapsodising over his cousin Hugo's wedding ("Just think: his ration book . . . her ration book . . . side by side . . . ") inspires Bud (Abbott) to suggest as an investment for Lou's $75 in savings, on tonight's edition of The Abbott & Costello Show. (NBC.)

Writers: Pat Costello, Martin Ragaway.

1948: GREEN LIGHT---Traveling to reunite with a girl unseen in 42 years, a railroad man (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) recalls memories---including the bizarre work accident that cost him a leg, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (Mutual.)

Addie: Anne Seymour. Engineer: Jeff Gordon. Singer: Bill Hudgins. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

1953: THE BLACK FIGURINE OF DEATH---The figurine figures disturbingly, after a neglected old man (Richard Thone, who also wrote the script)---who thinks his niece and nephew care nothing about him---dies after warning them inheriting his estate is something they'll regret . . . which they might, when they learn the condition of their inheritance and discover a corpse whose murder was unsolved, on tonight's edition of The Hall of Fantasy. (Mutual.)

Additional cast: Eloise Kummer. Writer: Richard Thome.


1880---Douglas MacArthur (General of the Army, U.S. military commander: Special Broadcast from the Philippines; Special Broadcast from Tokyo), Little Rock, Arkansas.
1905---Charles Lane (writer: Dramatisations from Redbook Magazine), San Francisco.
1907---Eddie Ballentine (bandleader: The Breakfast Club), Chicago.
1913---William Prince (actor: Crime Does Not Pay; Philco Radio Playhouse; Somerset Maugham Theater), Nichols, New York; Jimmy Van Heusen (composer: Amos 'n' Andy; The Frank Sinatra Show; Command Performance), Syracuse, New York.
1914---Jack de Manio (announcer: Jack de Manio Precisely; The Woman's Hour), Hampstead, UK.
1918---Vito Scotti (actor: Romance; Broadway is My Beat; Gunsmoke), San Francisco.
1922---Michael Bentine (comedian: The Goon Show), Watford, Hertfordshire, UK.
1925---Joan Leslie (as Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel; actress: Screen Guild Theater), Detroit.
1927---Billy Redfield (actor: The Brighter Day; Tales of Willie Piper), New York City.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Well, Portland!": The Way It Was, 25 January

1910: "SHE MAKES MY LIFE LIVABLE"---Long Island optomestrist Frederick Hoffa's penchant for naming his first two daughters for the communities where they happen to have been born will prove a natural to help attract old-time radio's master satirist in due course---Dr. Hoffa's second daughter, Portland, is born today.

She will become a rather comely chorus girl and comedienne, in which lines of work she will meet comedian Fred Allen during backstage during The Passing Show of 1922, though Allen will court her for four years before marrying her at last and, in time, making her his indispensable comic sidekick, whose high-pitched "Mis-ter Allll-llennn!" will be as much a signature of his radio shows as his clever satires and ad-libs.

Theirs will be a love to endure until Mr. Allen's death in 1956.

When Allen's radio contract ran out [likely in the years of Texaco Star Theater---JK.], it was always [a certain advertising agency vice president]'s distasteful job, in broaching the subject of renewal, to relay the . . . sponsor's suggestion that Portland Hoffa be dropped from her featured comedienne role on the program. Allen invariably refused outright, usually with sarcastic reference to the comedy expertise of oil-company executives. One year, however, the sponsor must have insisted on it and [the ad executive] reluctantly raised the point again.

Allen was never one to suffer indignities meekly---what self-respecting star ever was---and this time he blew his stack. The adman said later that he'd never seen Allen so angry. The comedian declared he would discuss dropping Portland from the show only after the oil company president divorced his wife.

"You tell him that Portland is my wife, that she makes my life livable, and that her presence on the show is not a matter of negotiation. We're a family and we work as a family. If he doesn't want Mrs. Allen, he doesn't want Mr. Allen. I'm telling you and you tell him---never mention this subject to me again."

---Hobe Morrison, eventually a Variety staff member, but then employed by the ad agency in question, to Robert Taylor, for Fred Allen: His Life and Wit. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.)

Portland Hoffa---who will up the correspondence that became the published, posthumous collection of Fred Allen's letters, a decade after his death---will also live to enjoy a rarity: remarried to bandleader Joe Rimes, Hoffa and Rimes will live long enough to enjoy a silver wedding anniversary, the second Hoffa will celebrate in her lifetime.

But it will be the love between herself and Fred Allen, obvious even in her on-air guise as his follower, that will mark her in life and in work.

"Portland's presence," Taylor will write, "assumed an importance on par with Fred's. During the forties, she often cued in the program's guest star, but her commentary also ranged over broader themes, from frozen foods to the United Nations. The March 14, 1948 show found Allen asking her to take over---an inconceivable request during the thirties. On the final show, June 16, 1949, her nonsense touched upon Gregory Peck, socialised medicine, Milton Berle, and Halloween. It is innocent commentary, of course, and topical, but comedic light-years away from misspelling Schenectady. The little-girl, dumb-Dora aspects of the character fade away, and listeners follow the progress of a stereotype into an identiy. Fred Allen, like George Burns or Goodman Ace, doesn't fit the popular concept of a romantic figure, but even the opulent Tchaikovsky theme music of Lux Radio Theater could not match the Maytime duets of Fred and Portland. American radio of the period offered few more enduring romances."

PORTLAND HOFFA: Mister Alll-llennnn!
FRED ALLEN: Well, Portland! (applause) Well, Portland, pull up an old rejoinder and sit down. What's new?
PORTLAND: Mama says President Truman has taken over all the coal mines.
FRED: Does your mother need coal?
PORTLAND: Yes. Mama's calling up the White House tomorrow and ordering two tons.
FRED: Oh, that's fine. Do away with the middleman, go right to the top. Well, if she needs any wood the President could sit down at the piano and give her a couple of chords, I imagine. (Ad-libs to the audience.) Not good, huh? Can I help it? A man crept in here and did something to the script tonight. I won't mention any names.
PORTLAND: Mama says the world today is a bowling alley.
FRED: The world is a bowling alley?
PORTLAND: Every time you turn around, there's a strike.
FRED: Well, I'm glad---(ad-libs to the audience) anything you don't understand, applaud, it's perfectly all right. That's what they do in Hollywood: people come in, just applaud, and get warm and go home. (Returning onto script.) Well, I'm glad the trains are running again, Portland.
PORTLAND: Yes, if the railroad strike lasted one more week...
FRED: Yeah?
PORTLAND: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe would have been off the Hit Parade.
FRED: Oh, that would have been terrible. Well, I think I'll run along, Portland. I have to get my magnifying glass and worm a crabapple.
PORTLAND: Mama says Friday is your birthday.
FRED: That's right.
PORTLAND: How old are you?
FRED: Nobody knows, Portland. I was born before the Decca company started, so there weren't any records in those days.
PORTLAND: (laughing) Mama says last---
FRED: (Ad-libbing.) Now, don't you laugh, don't you start up, if you're going to establish a precedent in here I want to know about it.
PORTLAND: Mama says last year when the candles on your birthday cake melted down . . .
FRED: Yeah?
PORTLAND: There was enough grease to wax the floor at Roseland.
FRED: Oh, I'm not that old, Portland.
PORTLAND: Mama says, if you were a piece of furniture, you'd be an antique.
FRED: If I was an antique in radio I'd be Duncan's other fife. Well . . . Well, that's life I guess, Portland.
PORTLAND: Mama says life is like the Australian fig bird.
FRED: The Australian fig bird?
PORTLAND: It lives on the seeds in figs.
FRED: But there areen't any figs in Australia.
PORTLAND: The Australian fig bird dies at birth.
FRED: And the Australian fig bird has nothing on our jokes, let me tell you.

---From The Fred Allen Show, "King For a Day" (NBC, 26 May 1946).


1937---The Guiding Light, a serial drama anchored around the family of a preacher named Rev. Dr. John Ruthledge (Arthur Peterson) in the fictitious Chicago suburb Five Points, launches on NBC. Seventy-one years later, it will remain the longest-running soap opera in broadcasting history, and the only continuously-airing program left on American television that was born in old-time radio.

The new Duz brings you . . . The Guiding Light, created by Irna Phillips.---The show’s simple introduction.

The show's name carries a double meaning. On the show, the title light alludes to a lamp in Rev Ruthledge’s study that his family and neighbours might see as a sign for them to find the guidance they need; for Phillips’s part, it alludes as well to the spiritual solace she found listening to a Chicago radio preacher’s sermons (the Rev. Preston Bradley of the People's Church of Chicago) after giving birth to a stillborn baby.

Phillips, radio lore has it, was allegedly mistaken for an actress during a tour of a Chicago radio station while on vacation and was offered a job---without pay. She went back to Dayton instead but, on a later trip to Chicago, auditioned for a script-writing job and wrote one herself that she starred in, Today’s Children, which became a staple.

In time, Phillips created three huge hits that later were transferred to television---The Guiding Light, The Right to Happiness, and Road of Life, plus a hospital drama, Woman in White. She was able to write three scripts a day---or, like [Pepper Young’s Family creator-writer Elaine] Carrington, dictate them. Phillips, who prided herself on creating more realistic stories, liked to act out the parts as she paced the floor and recited the lines, upward of sixty thousand words a week. Under deadline conditions, often scripts wold be torn from her typist’s hands and, still wet from the mimeograph machine, rushed to waiting actors in an adjoining studio.

. . . Les White, a former soap opera writer, credited Phillips with creating the soaps’ first amnesia plots, first kidnapping, first illegitimate child, and first trial. He added that she paid lawyers for synopses of their trial cases and then filled in fictitious names; she even hired lawyers to write scripts.

---Gerald Nachman, "The Soap Factory," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

The Guiding Light’s radio cast will include some of broadcasting’s most recognizable and distinguished performers, including future Academy Award winner Mercedes McCambridge (as Mary Ruthledge), Marvin Miller (as the third Ellis Smith, "Mr. Nobody From Nowhere"; he will later announce for The Bickersons and play the narrator-secretary in television’s The Millionaire), Willard Waterman (the future second Great Gildersleeve, as Roy Fencher), Bret Morrison (the future successor to Orson Welles as the longest-serving Shadow, as Clifford Foster), Betty Lou Gerson (a soap and romance mainstay until voicing Cruella de Vil in the original 101 Dalmatians, as Charlotte Brandon), Raymond Edward Johnson (your future host of The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, as Gordon Ellis and the fourth Ellis Smith), and Clayton Collyer (as Bud Collyer calls himself at the time; The Adventures of Superman is in his not-too-distant future, and Beat the Clock meets him in the early television era) as the serial’s announcer, a job he also does for The Goldbergs.

Known in due course as the "Mother of the Soaps" (a title she could also be seen as earning on television, with The Guiding Light the first television soap), Phillips is known already as the creator-writer (and star, for a time, as Mother Moynihan, the family matriarch) of such soaps as Painted Dreams, often considered radio’s first genuine soap opera, to which scripts she lost the rights when Chicago’s WGN and its owner, the Chicago Tribune, claimed ownership of the entire enterprise and prevailed.

She will exercise the lessons learned in that instance (she brought Today's Children to NBC post haste; it was, as Elizabeth McLeod noted, "a thinly-disguised version of . . . Painted Dreams) and secure ownership of everything she creates in the future, including and especially The Guiding Light---but that will not stop NBC’s Chicago promotion manager, Emmons C. Carlson, from suing for an accounting of her income from the soap.

A lower court decided in favour of Miss Phillips, but a superior court, on appeal, reversed the decision, and Mr. Carlson received a large amount of money in a final settlement of the case. The sponsors of The Guiding Light at the time the suit was filed were General Mills, but they subsequently dropped the program. [William] Ramsey grabbed the show for Procter & Gamble. In 1945, Miss Phillips returned to Northwestern [University], where she had studied for a year, to teach classes in the writing of radio serials on the side, and shortly afterward she moved to California. Her serials have been described as vehicles of evil and also as documents sincerely devoted to public welfare. Miss Phillips now writes only The Guiding Light for a thousand dollars a week.

---James Thurber, from "O Pioneers," part one of "Soapland" (The New Yorker, 1948).

At one time, in the same decade in which she created The Guiding Light, Phillips was believed to have earned as much as $250,000 a year in some years.

Coincidental to her move to California, The Guiding Light will shift its locale from a fictitious Chicago suburb to one near Los Angeles, called Selby Flats. The show also shifts focus from the Rutledge and Holden families to the Bauer, Roberts, and White families. In due course, the locale shifts to a fictitious suburb of New York---and the show will move to television on CBS in 1950, born there as a fifteen-minute offering before graduating in due course to half an hour and, finally, an hour.

Phillips will give up writing The Guiding Light in favour of her protégé---future One Life to Live and All My Children creator Agnes Nixon (who trained under Phillips in writing for Woman in White)---in 1958, to become the head writer for a new CBS television soap, As The World Turns.

Phillips will also adopt two children, a son and a daughter, while never marrying. (Depending upon which sources you believe, Phillips does or does not a love affair with a man who refuses to marry her when he learns she can conceive no longer. She is also believed never to have fallen in love again.)

Professionally, her future will also serve as a creative consultant to the prime-time serialization of Peyton Place and a story editor for daytime soap Days of Our Lives before her death in 1973. She will also mentor William J. Bell, the creator of the long-running CBS-TV soaps The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.

Daughter Katherine, will grow up to create her own soap, A World Apart, based somewhat on her mother’s life---the short-lived (ABC, 1970-71) soap’s lead was a woman who wrote soap operas for a living while raising two adopted children. The show has a unique tie to soap opera’s radio past: its two lead actors, Augusta Dabney and William Prince---whose characters married as their apparent inspiration did not, prodding storylines about the tension between middle-aged spouses and their children---were a real-life husband-and-wife who appeared two decades earlier on Young Doctor Malone.

In due course, The Guiding Light’s radio era will survive in the form of a handful of episodes available to classic radio collectors. As for the other Phillips radio soaps, the last to leave radio will be Road of Life, in 1959---on the same day that two longtime soap mainstays also die, Mary Noble, Backstage Wife and Our Gal Sunday.


1941: BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL WALLPAPER---Such are the patterns from Mr. Erickson that Rush (Bill Idelson) shows suspicious Sade (Bernadine Flynn), who thinks they're just so much shoddy trash, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Vic: Art Van Harvey. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1944: YOU DON’T SAY "WHAT ARE THEY," YOU SAY "WHO IS HE?"---And he is Deems Taylor, the composer and music critic whom Archie (Ed Gardner) flummoxes into hearing his minor masterpiece of musical mangling, "Leave Us Face It," on tonight's edition of Duffy’s Tavern.* (Original broadcast: CBS; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Network.)

Miss Duffy: Florence Halop. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Music: Peter Van Steeden Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, possibly Larry Marks, possibly Lew Meltzer.

1954: CITIZEN X REVEALED---And at least one Wistful Vista denizen (Jim Jordan) will not necessarily be amused, on today’s installment of Fibber McGee and Molly. (NBC.)

Molly: Marian Jordan. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Writer: Phil Leslie.


1874---Somerset Maughan (writer: The Somerset Maughan Theater), Paris.
1878---Ernest Alexanderson (engineer, and possibly the first human voice ever heard on radio), Uppsala, Sweden.
1901---Mildred Dunnock (actress: Theater Guild on the Air), Baltimore.
1916---Les Crutchfield (writer: Gunsmoke; Escape; Fort Laramie), unknown.
1920---Roy Rowan (announcer: Escape; Gunsmoke; Rogers of the Gazette; Young Love), unknown.
1923---Rusty Draper (singer: Dude Martin's Radio Ranch), Kirksville, Missouri.
1924---Speedy West (as Wesley Webb West; steel guitarist: Grand Ole Opry; The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show), Springfield, Missouri.

* -- Or, Duffy’s, as the show is compelled to present itself formally, in 1943-44. That is after an unknown busybody in the sponsor’s promotions department convinces the sponsor rep to insist on the name change, claiming protests that the original title overpromotes "the hobby of drinking." The claims are proven exaggerated soon enough (the show's fans and reviewers continued called the show by its given name), and the nameless nanny, one presumes, was told in due course to peddle her Puritanism elsewhere . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"I'm Laughing---There's a Law Against That?": The Way It Was, 24 January

1942---Abie’s Irish Rose---sponsored by Drene Shampoo, and based on the earlier (1922-1927) Anne Nichols Broadway hit about a Jewish boy from a well-to-do family who marries a poor Irish Catholic girl, with both families feuding as it was, prompting bride and groom to try keeping their marriage a secret for awhile---premieres on NBC.

The show will air for two years and feature Richard Bond, Sydney Smith, Richard Coogan, and Bud Collyer (then known as well for the Superman radio serial and eventually famous as the host of television’s Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth) as Abie; and, Betty Winkler, Mercedes McCambridge, Julie Stevens (later to succeed Virginia Clark and Betty Ruth Smith in the title role of The Romance of Helen Trent), and Marion Shockley as Rose.

At least three complete episodes and perhaps a few other fragments of Abie’s Irish Rose will survive for 21st century radio collectors.

Abie’s Irish Rose wasn’t exactly a hit with the critics in its earlier life---one was known to have suggested its characters were "painted with a brush a mile wide" and about as full of finess as a comic strip---but The New Republic’s Jenna Weissmann Joselit, reviewing Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical (Andrea Most) in 2004, will suggest subtlety wasn’t exactly early Broadway’s strength, anyway.

Everything was on the surface, immediately accessible: broad sighs, mighty guffaws, mangled English, heaps of sentiment. But that was the point. While critics squirmed in their seats, the men and women in the audience were thrilled to see their recognizably humdrum lives and conflicts dramatized---and happily resolved---on the American stage. Audiences came to be entertained, of course, but they left feeling heartened, welcomed, even affirmed. As one eyewitness observed, they were "warm and happy every minute they're in their seats."

The play inspired one controversy well before its adaptation to radio. Nichols sued Universal Pictures over the film The Cohens and the Kellys, about feuding families who just so happened to be Jewish and Irish. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held, however, that copyright protection didn’t extent to "stock" characteristics in a character or characters no matter the medium, and Nichols lost the case. Her creation itself was made into a 1928 film (Buddy Rogers and Nancy Carroll in the title roles), and it will be made into a second film in 1946 (Richard Norris, Joanne Dru).

A second controvery will come almost three decades after the second film, when Abie's Irish Rose is updated into a promising television comedy with one twist. Bridget Loves Bernie (CBS, 1972-73)---starring Meredith Baxter and David Birney (the couple married in real life after the show was cancelled)---will flip the lead characters, Bernard Steinberg (Birney) the son of modest, delicatessen-owning Jewish parents, driving a taxicab, aspiring to playwriting; Bridget Fitzgerald (Baxter) the daughter of wealthy Irish Catholic parents, falling in love with and marrying the aspiring playwright.

Bridget Loves Bernie's plotline will hook as much around the couple's differences in social status as around their religious differences. But the latter inspires pressure from both Jewish and Catholic groups that leads CBS to cancel the show after a single season---despite its placing in the season's top five ratings. There went the arguments that the earlier 20th Century was just so unenlightened.

(Some will sniff that Bridget Loves Bernie's high ratings belong almost entirely to its placement between CBS's two Saturday night monster hits, All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore show. But while M*A*S*H finds its stride in the time slot the following season, before moving on to its own night, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers---starring the understated comedian as a lovelorn Boston Symphony bassist---flops in the timeslot in 1974-75, suggesting Bridget Loves Bernie earned its ratings on its own merit, though the Sand vehicle will be seen later as having been too highbrow, perhaps, for even the audience All in the Family led its way.)

The hook around status differences in young marrieds doesn't really die, perhaps suggesting the most durable legacy of Abie's Irish Rose. From 1997-2002, the status hook will receive a more contemporary twist when a young, composed, Ivy-educated attorney (Thomas Gibson) from a Social Register-type family marries the freewheeling daughter (Jenna Elfman) of unrepentant hippies (on their first date, in Reno, yet) and withstand their families' mutual near-animosities, on ABC's Dharma and Greg.


1946: MY DEAR NIECE---A widow (Dame Mae Witty) working as a home-based publishing secretary writes her niece about the murder plot that sprang out of her agreement to host a promising new author secretly, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Wally Maher.

1950: TREASURE, INC.---John and Gwen Bagney turned a tropical island retreat into a laundromat for greed, until John (Frank Lovejoy) rethinks everything including Gwen, on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS.)

Writer: Les Crutchfield.

1951: A STAR FOR HELEN---It isn't always easy to honour thy father or mother, as tenement janitor Ed Branagan (Walter Brennan) learns from a favourite tenant's (Betty Lynn) growing pains around her widowed mother's burial in the bottle, on tonight's episode of Family Theater. (Mutual.)

Writer: Fr. Patrick Payton.

1951: A SHOWER FOR MARJORIE---The 21st episode of the show's second (read: post-Harold Peary) era finds Uncle Mort (Willard Waterman) tricking a neighbour (guest Cathy Lewis) into tossing niece Marjorie (Mary Lee Robb) a baby shower, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Leroy: Walter Tetley. Hooker: Earle Ross. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Additional cast: Richard LeGrand, Gale Gordon. Writers: Paul West, Andy White.

1953: THE OLD LADY---Widow Ellen Henry (guest Jeanette Nolan) fires on Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer) when they stop to water their horses on the way back to Dodge, surprising them with her bitterness until they learn too much about her shiftless son---and herself, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Writer: Kathleen Hite.

1954: GETTING TO KNOW BOBBY LOGAN---That's what Ben and Liz (Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy) are doing, particularly since Bobby (William Redfield) is Emily's (Denise Alexander---the future Dr. Leslie Webber on the television soap General Hospital) boyfriend, and a slightly nervous type at that, who's wrangling over his post-graduation life, on tonight's edition of The Marriage. (NBC.)


1883---Estelle Winwood (actress: Theater Guild On the Air), Lee, Kent, UK.
1902---Walter Kiernan (host/commentator: Sparring Partners; Weekend), New Haven, Connecticut.
1909---Ann Todd (actress: Those We Love), Hartford, Cheshire, UK.
1918---Oral Roberts (Granville Oral Roberts; evangelist: Healing Waters), Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Town Cardiac: The Way It Was, 23 January

1943---Just days after he suffers a heart attack on the air---right in the middle of a CBS round-table book discussion, The People's Platform; scrawling (according to radio historian Gerald Nachman) I AM SICK on a slip of paper---Alexander Woollcott, the dandyist (some might have said "elitist" or "smarty-pants spoiled brat" in his early years with The New Yorker) who became a household name with old-time radio's The Town Crier (Mutual, then CBS), dies in New York City at age 56.

It might seem that an elitist like Woollcott was an unlikely radio star, but the flip side of this flowery, cape-wearing Wildean snob was his firmly held belief that, despite his shameless name-dropping, he was a man of the people. Perhaps it was merely another hue in his performer's coat of many colours, but Woollcott was a good enough actor to make audiences buy his populist pose, quite the opposite of his scathing print personality as withering cosmopolitan critic . . .

Woollcott was a one-man show who case his web wide enough to dragoon friends and colleagues from the worlds of theater, literature, society, politics, and films, all of whom considered an invitation to share his microphone an honour. He dropped names in his gabby reports on the Great White Way, but he later produced them in the studio. For anybody on Broadway, at the mercy of Woollcott's whim as New York Times drama critic, a request to appear alongside Woollcott himself amounted to a command performance. At the show's peak, six million people tuned in each week.

---Gerald Nachman, from "Wise Guys Finish First," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998; p. 132-133.)

I saw in him a unique personality. He had a quality I felt would appeal to a mass audience.

--William S. Paley, chairman, CBS, as cited by Nachman.

Woollcott is sometimes credited with launching the Marx Brothers as major stars practically overnight, thanks to his glowing review of their early, slapdash stage show, I'll Say She Is, in 1924. The review also launched a lifelong friendship with pantomomist Harpo Marx, who recalled among other things in his memoir (Harpo Speaks) the period in which Woollcott was banned from certain Broadway productions* for a period thanks to his caustic reviews.

He appeared in a number of films in blink-of-an-eye cameos in the 1930s and 1940s, though he is also known to have played a character he inspired, Sheridan Whiteside, in a traveling revue of The Man Who Came To Dinner, in 1940, during the height of his radio career.

A member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, he wrote or compiled fifteen books, though there seems to be the sense that his prose style was so overly ornate as to render him unreadable by contemporary audiences. Yet his Shouts and Murmurs (1922), a collection of his theatre writings, provoked The New Yorker to give his weekly column the same name, and the magazine revived the name in the 1990s for a section of humour.

Enchanted Aisles (1924) was a second such anthology. Perhaps the books to find are 1946's The Portable Woollcott, which binds up the absolute better of his written work; or, Morris U. Burns's 1980 anthology, The Dramatic Criticism of Alexander Woollcott.

As for his radio work, almost none of it seems to have survived that I've seen, beyond the 6 October 1933 broadcast of The Town Crier (CBS) and the 31 January 1941 edition of Information, Please (NBC, on which he was joined by humourist/screenwriter S.J. Perelman). His opening monologue on the surviving Town Crier shows that, for all his prior image as a self-fashioned upper-echelon dandy, Woollcott had a self-deprecating side, to say nothing of a side that could and did question his earlier elitism to a particular extent:

SFX: (distant ringing hand-held bell)
MALE VOICE (calling out): Hear, ye! Hear, ye!

ANNOUNCER: Alexander Woollcott, the Town Crier. The sound of his bell is the signal that he has taken up his stand once more at the great crossroads of the world. Ladies and gentlemen . . .

ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT: Tonight, your old Town Crier has something on his mind, such as it is. I know it's my job to tell you the news as I note it in the passing crowd; to talk of people I've seen, plays I've just attended, books I've just read, jokes I've just heard. But tonight, for a change, I've a pilgrimmage to propose. I jingle my bell in the hope that all who feel as I do about such things, all who find solace in the remembrance of things past, will go with me. I want to make a little journey in opposition to that mysterious and relentless factor we call time.

The other day, the bottomless pit of learning named H.G. Wells dug up a new book. It's the product of his prophetic soul, entitled The Shape of Things to Come. It's a guess at the future. Now, my soul is not prophetic. Your Town Crier is no gypsy queen like Mr. Wells. You can cross my palm with silver, or even paper, and hear no news of tomorrow. It's hard enough, heaven knows, to see the shape of things past. But we can try.

Tonight I'm inviting you to come along with me back through the years. Of course, you've read what A. Edward Newton of Philadelphia describes as "the greatest little book in the world." It was written ninety years ago, by Mr. Dickens, and is called, A Christmas Carol. If you belong to that vast community which loves the Christmas Carol, I don't have to tell you how that mean old man named Scrooge encountered one night a ghost, the ghost of Christmas past, who took Scrooge back through the years, and through the windows of a miserable schoolhouse let him see, sitting on a bench, the hungry and lonesome little boy he used to be.

Why don't we go on such a journey tonight? Come on. Are you ready? I seem to hear the music of an earlier day, coming faintly down the wind. Are you ready? Let's go. Back through the years. Back through depression, back through the boom, back through that smug time that someone had the impertinence to call "normalcy." Back through the armistice, back through the war. 1915, 1914, 1913. Here we are, December 1913, November, October, twenty years ago this month. Twenty years ago this minute.

Now we are standing, you and I, on a high platform---outside of space, outside of time, onlookers of the universe, watching the world as it used to be. Do you hear the music of that day, the songs we used to sing, the measures to which we danced, the bunny hug and the turkey trot, and the grizzly bear? October nineteen hundred and thirteen.

We're looking through the window of a building in New York. It's the hive from which The New York Times emerges. Up on the third floor, a bespectacled young man of twenty-six is banging away on a typewriter. I hardly recognise him. His name is Alexander Woollcott. He doesn't know much. I look at him and think of all the time he's going to waste in the twenty years ahead, and all the pounds he's going to put on. Things that will be commonplace to any child of 1933 are miles and years outside his knowledge.

Think of the things he knows nothing about, this 1913 reporter. Why, he's never heard of Calvin Coolidge. He's never heard of midget golf. He's never seen or heard a radio. He's seen a Ford, but never heard a Ford joke. To him, it's inconceivable that a civilised nation would ever send bombing planes across its frontier to rain destruction on helpless homes. Why, the poor, incredulous wretch will live to see submarines deliberately sinking passenger ships in mid-ocean. He'll live to see the incompetent rulers of the world out-Herod Herod by killing ten million of the world's youth.

But as you watch him there, in 1913, he doesn't know it. He never dreamed of the transatlantic telephone. He's never seen a concrete road, or played a game of Mah-Jongg, or worked a crossword puzzle. He has a lot to learn, this poor schlemeil. October 1913, October 6. Not merely twenty years ago this month, but twenty years ago this very night. What's happening?

Well, up in Albany, we're impeaching the governor of New York. In a few days, we'll throw him out.** On their way to Boston are two thousand bankers gathering for a convention . . . A mild measure called the Owen Glass bill is on the carpet in Congress. These banker chaps will denounce it as "confiscatory." They'll call it downright socialism, bless their heart.† If we can go to their convention and tell them what's really ahead of them, they'd die of apoplexy.

Up at the Polo Grounds, the first game of the 1913 World Series has just been played. It's the Athletics against the Giants. This afternoon, the Athletics won the first game, 4-2, thanks to Frank Baker, who hit a curve of Marquard's and knocked it for a home run. He brought Eddie Collins in, too.

On the other side of the world, in the Russian town of Kiev, the Beilis trial is on.†† It's another chapter in the ancient story of the Jews, a chapter which some of us have thought of as closed in the Middle Ages. Here in America we shake our heads and say, "But what can you expect of darkest Russia?"

Who can dream, on this 1913 night, that twenty years later an ultramodern country, under the spell of a mean neutrotic, will revert to such barbarism as poor old Russia never dreamed of? But over in England, England that was when Russia and Germany were not, England that will be when they no longer exist, over in England the 1913 gossips are saying that Sir Rufus Isaacs will be made Lord Chief Justice. And the gossips are right.

While we're in England, let's look around us. What's this that's been going on down at Wimbledon? Why, the Davis Cup has just been won by a young Californian named McLaughlin. The English are a good deal upset by this. They say it isn't fair to serve as hard a ball as McLaughlin does. They say it isn't cricket. And, of course, when you come right down to it, it isn't. It's tennis. Up in London, an American mining engineer whose work has carried him to many parts of the world has now taken a house in Bruton Street and settled down as a resident of England. He intends to spend the rest of his life there. But he is miscalculating. Something will happen to prevent it. His name is Herbert Hoover . . .

From there, Woollcott ("sometimes known as Dorothy Parker's Fat Chance") goes to a few more historical items before tipping his pince-nez glasses and top hat toward two decades' worth of popular music, in a pleasant if sometimes jarring outing when all is said and done. Considering his earlier snobbish reputation, the broadcast is downright low-keyed, modest, and even plebeian on Woollcott's terms.

On the day Woollcott's heart stopped him cold on the air, one of his guests was mystery writer Rex Stout. Stout, according to Nachman, "later said he knew it was serious because otherwise the persnickety Woollcott would have written I AM ILL."


1937: IN AN OCTOPUS'S GARDEN---In Honolulu under assumed names, Speed (actor unknown) and Barney (John Gibson) rescue a girl who mentions their real names, forcing them to deny their identities to protect their assignment of catching the Octopus---who sends a note warning the boys to turn back, on tonight's edition of Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police. (Syndicated.)

Uncle Clint: Howard McNear.

1944: DOES LEROY NEED A MOTHER?---Six months after his wedding plans with Leila collapse, still hesitant about romancing randy nephew Leroy's principal Eve Goodwin (Shirley Mitchell), Uncle Mort (Harold Peary) wonders whether Leroy (Walter Tetley)---whose solicitousness of late seems a shade suspicious until he finally takes his report card out of its three-week hiding---isn't missing something without the maternal touch, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

1945: DEATH IS AN ARTIST---A police reporter (Lee Bowman) has a once-in-a-lifetime story interrupt his cribbage game with a precinct officer: a barge dweller who slaughtered his own cats before slitting his own throat, on tonight's edition of The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Unknown. Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Frederick Mayfield.

1949: THREE TO DIE---"Great oaks from little acorns grow. And before this one was over, the acorn grew into a large, large oak," pronounces Dan Holliday (Alan Ladd) upon a vague letter, from a major builder whose tunnel project has been hit by accidents he thinks are inside jobs . . . and who fears publicity if he complains to the police, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Unknown. Writers: Richard Sandhill, Russell Hughes.

1949: HEAD OF THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT---Connie's (Eve Arden) hope to head the English department ramp up when the pregnant incumbent retires . . . until she remembers exactly who makes the official recommendation to the school board that has to approve the appointment, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Miss Enright: Mary Jane Croft. Writer: Al Lewis.

1949: TRUMAN'S INAUGURAL---The mixup resolved, Phil (Harris) leads his band to President Truman's inaugural after all, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Remley: Elliot Lewis. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Willie: Robert North. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

1949: IMPULSE---His wife's incessant dissatisfaction moves an English professor (John Beale) to give in---fatefully---to the temptation to walk out of his own life and into that of a friend forced to retirement on doctor's orders, on tonight's edition of The Whistler. (CBS.)

Blanche: Betty Lou Gerson. Additional cast: Mary Lansing. The Whistler: Bill Johnstone. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Writer: Bob Wright.

1952: MEDAL OF HONOUR---The Halls (Ronald and Benita Colman) and Merriweather (Gale Gordon) try to help Ivy's ROTC captain (Kirk Bartell) reconcile his snobbish girl friend (Alice Backus) to her modest father (possibly Jess Kirkpatrick), whose popular campus hot dog stand is putting her through Ivy in the first place, on tonight's edition of The Halls of Ivy (NBC; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.)

Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writers: Don Quinn, John DiGrassio.


1893---Franklin Pangborn (actor: Screen Guild Theater), Newark.
1898---Randolph Scott (actor: Academy Award Theater; Campbell Playhouse), Orange County, Virginia.
1907---Dan Duryea (actor: The Man From Homicide), White Plains, New York.
1910---Django Reinhardt (guitarist; leader of the Quintette of the Hot Club of France: numerous radio broadcasts), Belgium.
1913---Max Smith (singer, with the Sports Men: The Jack Benny Program), Des Moines, Iowa.
1919---Ernie Kovacs (comedian/host: WTTM), Trenton, New Jersey; Millard Lampell (singer, with the Almanac Singers: Treasury Star Parade), unknown.
1923---Florence Halop (comedian/actress: The Jimmy Durante Show; Duffy's Tavern; The Henry Morgan Show), Jamaica Estates, New York.
1925---Lyn Osborn (actor: Space Patrol), Wichita Falls, Texas.
1933---Chita Rivera (as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero; singer: WOR Diamond Jubilee), Washington.

* -- Specifically, from the Shubert productions, after Woollcott reviewed one of their shows as "not terribly amusing."

** -- This was Gov. William Sulzer, a Democrat. He was impeached, in fact, after a mere ten months in office, for diverting campaign funds to his own personal use. There are those who believed, then and now, that Sulzer---a product of the notorious Tammany Hall organisation---lost Tammany support when he refused to accept Tammany instructions on political appointments and sough primary elections over conventions, instead, making an enemy of Tammany leader Charles Murphy, and thus instigating the maneuvering that led to his impeachment and removal from office.

Sulzer did recover enough to run for and win election to the New York State Assembly (where he had served previously, before becoming a Congressman and then governor), representing Greenwich Village for a single term. He later tried another, unsuccessful gubernatorial run, and a sort-of try for the presidency on a third-party ticket, before moving to Alaska (whose home rule he'd championed as a Congressman) for a period, and eventually dying penniless in 1941.

Sulzer's impeachment was alluded to in October 2006, by the Albany Times-Union, during a time when New York Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady) called for the impeachment of state comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, on charges comparable to those under which Sulzer was impeached. You can read the entire item on the newspaper's Capitol Confidential blog.

† -- One of Woollcott's close friendships was with Walter Duranty, the notoriously pro-Soviet New York Times correspondent known long enough---thanks first to Malcolm Muggeridge's recollections (Duranty, fumed Muggeridge, was "the greatest liar I have ever known in journalism"; Muggeridge and others had defied travel restrictions to report eyewitness to the Ukraine famine that Duranty dismissed as mere anti-Soviet propaganda) and Robert Conquest's scholarship; then, to a scrupulous biographer, Sally J. Taylor---as Stalin's Apologist (the title of Taylor's book).

In due course, the committee that confers the Pulitzer Prizes debated whether to revoke the Pulitzer Duranty won for his reporting as the Times's Moscow correspondent. The prize wasn't revoked but Duranty's reputation has been.

But Woollcott himself had suggested something of Duranty's truth when, after diplomatic relations were established between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1933, he wrote Duranty received such a role in the formal recongition celebration dinner that "one quite got the impression that America, in a spasm of discernment, was recognising both Russia and Walter Duranty."

†† -- Menachem Mendel Beilis, a Ukraine Jew, was accused of kidnapping and murdering a Ukrainian boy, Andrei Yushchinski, on his way to his religious school. In spite of a few months of murderous comment in the Soviet press that included accusations of blood libel and ritual murder, Beilis was acquitted at his 1913 trial when a lamplighter on whose testimony the case rested, largely, admitted he'd been confused by secret police into saying he had seen a Jew kidnap the boy.

Andrei Yushchinski turned out to have skipped school to visit a friend on the day he disappeared, according to several sources. I have seen nothing as yet that indicates whether the boy's actual murderer was ever known or found.

An all-Christian jury acquitted Beilis; Kiev Theological Seminary professor Aleksandr Glagolev told the trial Mosaic law "forbids spilling human blood and using any blood in general in food." Fearing reprisal regardless, Beilis and his family first emigrated to Israel, then under control of the Ottoman Empire, before settling in the U.S., where he died in 1934. Beilis's story inspired Bernard Malamud's novel, The Fixer, made into a popular 1968 film starring Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde.