Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"He was, or pretended to be, the average Joe . . . ": The Way It Was, 30 April

1945---After several years hosting a morning program for a network-owned Washington, D.C. radio station, World War II service as a Naval Reserve pilot, a brief stint as Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater announcer, and a first-hand account of Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral (in which his genuine burst to tears on the air moved listeners---Roosevelt had authorised his Naval Reserve commission and was a longtime listener himself), old-time radio mainstay Arthur Godfrey hits the CBS network full time, with the morning program Arthur Godfrey Time.

Mostly spontaneous in its potpourri of monologues, interviews, and music, Arthur Godfrey Time launches its genial-on-the-air/cantankerous-off-the-air host to two decades of radio life, and prove the longest-lasting among several shows Godfrey will do for radio and television; Arthur Godfrey Time---in spite of several remaking/remodelings---will be a radio fixture until 1972.

Godfrey's hold on his audience was that he was, or pretended to be, the average Joe, unimpressed with the glitter of showbiz or with politicians and all the other highfalutin pretensions that he ridiculed in his quasi-hayseed manner. In fact, he hung out with celebrities and made sure you knew he was on a first-name basis with politicians. Nonetheless, listeners felt he was one of them . . . but as his stature grew he became as pompous as the people he kidded.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Just Folks," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

Pompous and ruthless, as it will turn out. Julius La Rosa, especially, can tell you, on the rare days now when he isn't tired of talking about it.


1908: ALL ABOUT EVE---Little do the Mill Valley, California parents of Eunice Quedens know, when she delivers her first punch line at the sting of the doctor's slap today, that this insecure girl---intimidated for fearing her mother's beauty an impossible trait to obtain for herself---will grow up to become old-time radio's favourite high school English teacher---sardonically sexy, in and out of calamity (one historian will refer to her in due course as "the thinking man's Lucy"), and lost for ways to give the clueless object of her affections a clue.

A one-time Ziegfeld girl who made a modest name for herself in films as the wisecracking best friend (the same historian: "a master of the dry aside, sidelong look, and permanently arched eyebrow"), her radio comedy chops will be sharpened as a cast member for Danny Kaye's short-lived but engaging CBS show of the mid-1940s, not to mention The Sealtest Village Store with Jack Haley and Jack Carson.

Befriending CBS chief William S. Paley, he talks her into auditioning for the show, after Shirley Booth flunks the audition and Lucille Ball turns it down without one.

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

---Richard Crenna (Walter Denton), to Nachman.

All of which ensures Eunice Quedens has nothing to fear from anyone else's actual or alleged glamour---even if she never changes her name to Eve Arden.

1945: AUF WIEDERSEN, LORD HAW-HAW---For the final time before his capture and trial, William Joyce broadcasts as notorious pro-Nazi propagandist Lord Haw-Haw.


1939: SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY ON RADIO---Jack (Benny) remembers the nerves of his first broadcast, basks in congratulations today, and takes the usual needling from Mary (Livingstone) . . . this time, over the anniversary ad in the paper---placed by him, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Don Wilson, Kenny Baker. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra. Writers: Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.

1941: SAMMY IS BACK---He's back from the business trip he wasn't on, and Molly (Gertrude Berg) is bent on getting the truth about Sammy's (Albert Ryder) disappearance and fracturing marriage plans, no matter how frazzled Jake (James Waters) and Rosalie (Roslyn Siber) are, while Mr. Allison wants to put an end to Sylvia's (Zena Provendie) lie, on today's edition of The Goldbergs. (CBS.)

Writer: Gertrude Berg.

1944: ENGAGED TO EVE---In the middle of his still-uneasy mayoral campaign, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary)---inadvertently---announces his engagement to Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet) . . . only it might have been nice if he'd checked with her before accepting his congratulations, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Peavey: Richard Legrand. Hooker: Earle Ross. Floyd: Arthur Q. Bryan. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

1950: HIRING A SECRETARY---Alice (Faye) thinks congenitally disorganised Phil (Harris) needs one to clear his overaccumulated mail . . . and she's going to make bloody sure he doesn't get one to set the hormones moaning, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Remley: Elliott Lewis. Julius: Walter Tetley. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Walter Sharp. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


1903---Fulton Lewis, Jr. (news commentator, Mutual Broadcasting System), Washington, D.C.
1909---Bud Linn (singer, the King's Men: Fibber McGee & Molly), Indianapolis.
1910---Al Lewis (writer/director: Our Miss Brooks), New York City.
1911---Orin Tovrov (writer: The Brighter Day; Ma Perkins; Manhattan Mother), Boston.
1916---Robert Shaw (choral director: Radio Hall of Fame, American School of the Air), Red Bluff, California.
1917---Bea Wain (singer: The Children's Hour; Your Hit Parade), Bronx, New York.
1919---Jack Haskell (singer: The Dave Garroway Show), Akron, Ohio.
1925---Corinne Calvert (actress: The Martin & Lewis Show), Paris.


Blogger Gene Bach said...

Keep up the good work man. It's nice to know what happened way back when.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Keeping it up as best I can with what I've got! --- Jeff

12:16 AM  

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