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, 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.


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