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.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Laid in a World Few Americans Know": The Way It Was, 5 February

1940: THE HONEYMOON BEGINS---Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, a Hummert soap opera written by Elizabeth Todd and starring Joy Hathaway as Charity Amanda Dyke Leighton---premieres on NBC's Blue Network.

The story of love and marriage in America's romantic South. The story of Amanda and Edward Leighton. Amanda of Honeymoon Hill . . . laid in a world few Americans know.

---From the show's introduction.

The cast includes such old-time radio mainstays as Helen Shields (as Sylvia Meadows), Jackie Kelk (as Jim Tolliver), and Boyd Crawford (as the first Edward Leighton). Also cast is John Brown (as Mr. Lenord), who will become far more familiar as the friendly undertaker, Digger O'Dell (as in, "Well, I guess I'll be shoveling off now") on NBC's The Life of Riley, before appearing regularly as the shifty boyfriend of scattered secretary Irma Peterson on CBS's My Friend Irma beginning in 1947.

Frank Gallop, Hugh Conover, and Howard Claney were the announcers, but Gallop may have been the most memorable of the trio, if his periodic fill-in can be believed.

. . . [H]is occasional tendency to almost break up but still manage to hang on for dear life while on the air was the giggly gossip of New York radio. The reason was the opening announcement which, as on all the Hummert soaps, was written by Anne Hummert. This particular lead-in indicated how truly naive Mrs. Hummert must really have been: "We bring you now the story of Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, laid in a world few Americans know" . . . The attention-getting word remained for the entire run of the program because, evidently, none of Anne Hummert's subordinates at Air Features had the temerity to approach her about deleting the double entendre and replacing it with a word or phrase less suggestive. Rather than chance it, they skipped it. But by substituting for Gallop myself once in a while, I found out what it must have been like for poor Frank to not break up. And for five years yet.

---George Ansbro, from I Have a Lady in the Balcony. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2000.)

On which note we may say Amanda of Honeymoon Hill was laid in the world few Americans knew for five years.


1943--- A key entry in the Allied propaganda campaign against the Nazis, Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik (German Short-Wave Radio Atlantic), organised by Sefton Delmer and shortening its name in due course to Atlantiksender, makes its first broadcast. Regular broadcasts will begin a month later, with its targets the infamous German U-boats---where commanders and radio operators seem to have had greater latitude in choosing what allow piped in than did regular German radio people on land under Hitler and Goebbels, according to military historian Robert Rowen.

Winston Churchill was very keen that the U-boats (German submarines) should receive a radio service like this. He felt that because the submarines were cut off from Germany the men on board were more likely to believe what was broadcast, if it sounded genuine. To help the show sound really German the band of the British Royal Marines recorded real German military music. They even invented a sailor's sweetheart called Vicky. The show spread rumours that German prisoners of war were earning large wages working in America . This was to make the Germans feel that there might be advantages to being captured or surrendering. The German Authorities soon realised this station was British propaganda but could do nothing to stop it or to stop their sailors from listening to it.

. . . The star announcer of Atlantiksender was Vicky, the 'sailor's sweetheart' who sent birthday greetings to her 'dear boys in blue', congratulated them on the birth of a son or daughter, and discussed the problems of their
wives and families. From the sweetness of her voice, nobody could suspect that Vicky had in fact lost half of her family in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

---Sefton Delmer, as acknowledged by Robert Rowen.

According to Rowen, Atlantikseder's advantages are a one-time U-boat radio operator on staff "who wrote many of his own scripts and gave his former comrades at sea inside dope including tips on how to delay sailings or operations"; music uninhibited by Nazi ideological demands, including jazz and banned musical stage and film star Marlene Dietrich; "[a] working German News Service teletype, left behind in London in 1939, so that tuning into this not-hard-to-find station got you the most up-to-date news & information right from Berlin---so no one could object; and, "multiple short-wave transmitters, including a mobile one so that the Germans would continually get different fixes on the source.

Atlantiksender also had one intractable advantage: its mastermind himself, the German-born son of an Australian professor of English who taught at Berlin University. Delmer himself had begun his education in German schools before World War I, and his family relocated to England in 1917.

Later after a degree at Oxford he retuned to Berlin to become Berlin correspondent for the Daily Express. It was in this capacity as a newsman, he first met Ernst Roehm, head of the Nazi storm troopers. Through his connection with Roehm he became personally acquainted with Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Göering, and the other members of the Nazi elite.

In 1940, at the outset of the war, Sefton Delmer decided the time had come for him no longer report the war but to take an active part. At seventeen stone he realised he would be of no use to the fighting forces so, he approached the two friends he knew to have something to do with the secret intelligence world, Ian Fleming and Leonard Ingrams. The British security services were very wary of him; indeed they considered him a possible Nazi Agent. His acquaintance with the Nazis was held not to be a qualification but was held against him.

During the time he was awaiting security clearance and at the request of Duff Cooper, he gave a number of talks over the BBC to Germany. One notable broadcast in which he replied to Hitlers final peace offer telling Hitler that we here in Britain hurl it his back at him into his evil smelling teeth, caused eruptions in both Germany, and the House of Commons.

The man who first approached Delmer with the idea of creating what became Atlantiksender was the personal assistant to British Navy intelligence official Admiral John Henry Godfrey: future James Bond creator/author Ian Fleming.

1916: MULTIPLE TUNES---Ernst Alexanderson conducts a successful test of a multiple-tuned antenna. In due course (1924, to be precise) he transmits the first known successful facsimile message (that's fax to you and I, folks) across the Atlantic.

1977: ONE MORE TIME?---The General Mills Adventure Theater, one of several attempts to resurrect the feeling, if not the original repertoire, of classic radio, premieres on CBS Radio. CBS has tried other such attempts, the best-known and perhaps best-executed of which was CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

1979: ONE MORE TIME, PART DEUX---Precisely two years to the day that The General Mills Adventure Theater launched, perhaps the second-best known and remembered of old-time radio resurrections premieres, also on CBS: Sears Radio Theater, which will be paired occasionally with The CBS Radio Mystery Theater on several stations during its brief life.

Oddly enough, Sears Radio Theater will borrow a device from an early television hit (see if you can guess) in the manner by which the show's five nights will be presented: Monday night will be Western Night (host: former Bonanza star Lorne Greene); Tuesday, Comedy Night (host: Andy Griffith); Wednesday, Mystery Night (host: Vincent Price); Thursday, Love and Hate Night (host: Cicely Tyson); and, Friday, Adventure Night (host: Richard Widmark, then former Adventures of Sam Spade old-time radio star Howard Duff).

But Sears Radio Theater will engage a number of old-time radio performers during its very brief life, including but hardly restricted to:

ELVIA ALLMAN, once a cast member for Burns & Allen and half (with Blanche Stewart) of the Brenda and Cobina duo who bedeviled Bob Hope on his Pepsodent radio show now and then.
EVE ARDEN, Our Miss Brooks herself. (And, her husband, Brooks West, for that matter.)
PARLEY BAER, remembered well as Chester on Gunsmoke.
VANCE COLVIG, once a writer and performer on Breakfast in Hollywood.
MARY JANE CROFT, whose credits included Blondie and Dagwood, The Mel Blanc Show, Our Miss Brooks, and Suspense, not to mention marriage (until his death) to radio jack-of-all-trades Elliott Lewis (his second).
VIRGINIA GREGG, once on staff for Dr. Kildare and Richard Diamond, Private Detective.
MARVIN MILLER, once The Whistler, often an announcer (for Drene Time/The Bickersons, especially) and character actor.
SHIRLEY MITCHELL, whose Leila Ransom bewitched, bothered, and bewildered The Great Gildersleeve himself.
LURENE TUTTLE, maybe old-time radio's most valuable player, whose acting credits only began with The Great Gildersleeve (as niece Marjorie) and The Adventures of Sam Spade (as Effie).

Unfortunately, even the foregoing talent would not be enough to ensure a life longer than a couple of years for Sears Radio Theater.


1941: MOUNTAIN JUSTICE---Singer June Brady, amateur of the month from Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour, highlights an hour that includes Fred (Allen) interviewing poets thrown out of the Poetry Society Annual Dinner trying to crash the affair; Portland (Hoffa) recounting her hunt for the ground hog; and, the Texaco Workshop Players (formerly the Mighty Allen Art Players) perform another edition of Hillbilly Court, "Mountain Justice: Or, the Judge Made a Pass at the Plaintiff's Wife and Later Denied the Motion"), on tonight's edition of Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen. (CBS.)

Texaco Workshop Players: Jack Smart, John Brown, Minerva Pious, Charles Cantor. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend, Herman Wouk.

1945: LAURA---A police detective (Dana Andrews) falls in love on the job . . . with the murdered advertising mover (Gene Tierney) whose killing he's trying to solve, through probing her diaries and letters, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Vincent Price. Guest host: Lionel Barrymore. Adapted from the screenplay by Jay Dratler, based on the novel by Vera Caspery.

1948: A NEW MINK COAT---Guess who wants one, at the February clearance sale, and guess the havoc potential, with tonight's edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Gale Gordon, Elliott Lewis, Verna Felton. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Meredith Willson. Writers: Paul Henning, George Burns.

1958: TO THE POLICE STATION---Husband (Alan Bunce) reports to tell what little he knows of the jewelry store heist in his office building, and he seems more nervous about his wife (Peg Lynch) letting the news be known to Aunt Effie (Margaret Hamilton), who drops a troubling family secret, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer: Peg Lynch.

1960: THE GREEN PICKEREL---Our dynamic duo lets The Scarlet Pimpernel have it, but good, after Spencer Markel reports from the civilian space agency Space House, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Don't prompt me, I'll get it . . . )

Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1898---Sidney Fields (writer/comedian, The Abbott & Costello Show), unknown.
1906---John Carradine (actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1911---Bert Wilson (play-by-play announcer, Chicago Cubs), unknown.
1918---Tim Holt (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Beverly Hills.
1919---Red Buttons (as Aaron Chwatt; comedian/actor: Guest Star), New York City.


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