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.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"The Story of a Modern Marriage": The Way It Was, 21 September

1941---The Second Mrs. Burton---starring Sharon Douglas as Claire Burton, who qualified as two second Mrs. Burtons: her husband's (Dwight Weist) second wife, and a perceived rival to the meddling mother-in-law (Charme Allen) she learned to humour---premieres on CBS.

The soap will become remembered for a number of quirks, not the least of which included three writers at the same time, who often took the soap in three distinct directions, to the point where listeners who missed a scripting change often lost the plot themselves for the time being.

Touting itself as "the story of a modern marriage," The Second Mrs. Burton wasn't exactly the only such soap to brandish an out-of-ordinary protagonistic family. Second Husband, a Hummert soap starring Brenda Cummings and Joe Curtin, premiered in 1937, albeit as a weekly half hour (a la One Man's Family), converting to a daily fifteen-minute show in 1942. And, in the same year that show premiered, there came Stepmother (usually remembered as Kay Fairchild, Stepmother), starring Sunda Love as a second wife with stepchildren, a rare scenario in family programming in that time and place.

Sharon Douglas---later familiar as Babs Riley in The Life of Riley---would be followed as The Second Mrs. Burton by Claire Neisen, Patsy Campbell, and Teri Keane. Charme Allen would be followed as Mother Burton by Ethel Owen and Evelyn Varden (mr. ace and JANE); Anne Stone and Joan Alexander would play Marion, the first Mrs. Burton by marriage; Dwight Weist would play Stan Burton for the entire life of the soap.

And that entire life would come to an end even more dubious than some might have thought the show's premise: it would be The Second Mrs. Burton that, when signing off for the final time in November 1960, would be the last-aired episode of six regularly-scheduled network radio soap operas---the others: Ma Perkins, The Right to Happiness, The Romance of Helen Trent, Young Doctor Malone, and Whispering Streets---on what old-time radio lovers still call Black Friday.


1948: "DEAR MAMA MIA . . . "---The endearing Life with Luigi---starring J. Carrol Naish (an Irishman) as the title immigrant, an antiquer both fascinated by his newfound country and befuddled in his efforts to stop his patron Pasquale (Alan Reed) from matchmaking him to Pasquale's hefty daughter, Rosa (Jody Gilbert)---premieres on CBS.

1949: ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON---The final known American radio presentation of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes---starring Ben Wright as Holmes and Eric Snowden as Watson---premieres on NBC.

For this series, which will run only one season, original (as in, the Basil Rathbone version) series writer Denis Green returns . . . without his original Holmes writing partner, Anthony Boucher.

1953: THE FINAL FRONTIER---Journey Into Space, borne of creator Charles Chilton's fascination with the embryonic space race, and one of the longest-surviving programs to have been born in the old-time radio era, premieres on the BBC.

The show begins as a six-part science-fiction story but becomes a regular series thanks to the original six-parter proving a major hit with the British listening public---so much so that, in due course, Journey Into Space, in whatever variation, will become the last network series radio program to out-rate anything on that network's television schedule.


1947: THIS IS AMERICA?---A cheerfully jaundiced look at American agriculture, on tonight's edition of The Jack Paar Show. (NBC.)

Music: Trudy Irwin, The Page Kavanaugh Trio, Jerry Fielding and His Orchestra. Announcer: Hy Averback. Writers: Unknown.

1958: BIG GIRL LOST---In a rerun from 1953, Philip Lock hires Noonan's gun for $500 in his quest to find Laura Simpson,
on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Matt: William Conrad. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: Unknown. (Note: This recording begins with a CBS newscast and ends before the closing credits can be read.) Announcer: George Fenneman. Writer: John Meston.


1901---Talitha Botsford (violinist/composer: various programs), Millport, New YOrk; Lloyd Shaffer (conductor: The Chesterfield Supper Club), Ridgeway, Pennsylvania.
1902---Dymphna Cusak (writer: Shoulder the Sky), Wyalong, Australia.
1903---Westbrook van Voorhis (announcer/narrator: March of Time), New Milford, Connecticut.
1907---Jack Mather (actor: Cisco Kid), California.
1913---Janet Ertel (singer, The Chordettes: Arthur Godfrey Time), Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
1914---Geoffrey Clarkson (pianist, with Les Brown and His Band of Renown: various radio remotes), Yonkers, New York.
1915---Mac Benoff (writer: Forecast; The Mel Blanc Show; Life with Luigi), New York City.
1921---Gail Russell (actress: Screen Guild Theater), Chicago.
1927---Jeanne Mazure (writer: Across 22), Melbourne, Australia.
1930---John Morgan (writer: It's All in the Mind of John Morgan), Aberdale, Wales.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Gentleman and (when He Had To Be) A Gunfighter: The Way It Was, 20 September

1953---One supposes this could file under better late than never, but James Stewart---who isn't exactly a stranger to old-time radio---hits it as a leading man at last . . . in a subtly clever Western, The Six Shooter, which premieres tonight on NBC.

Stewart was never better on the air than in this drama of Britt Ponset, frontier drifter created by Frank Burt. The epigraph set it up nicely: "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged: his skin is sun dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl. People call them both The Six Shooter." Ponset was a wanderer, an easy-going gentleman and---when he had to be---a gunfighter.

Stewart was right in character as the slow-talking maverick who usually blundered into other people's troubles and sometimes shot his way out. His experiences were broad, but The Six Shooter leaned more to comedy than other shows of its kind. Ponset took time out to play Hamlet with a crude road company. He ran for mayor and sheriff of the same town at the same time. He became involved in a delighful Western version of Cinderella, complete with grouchy stepmother, ugly sisters, and a shoe that didn't fit. And at Christmas he told a young runaway the story of A Christmas Carol, substituting the original Dickens characters with Western heavies. Britt even had time to fall in love, but it was the age-old story of people from different worlds, and the romance was foredoomed despite their valiant efforts to save it.

So we got a cowboy-into-the-sunset ending for this series, truly one of the bright spots of radio. Unfortunately, it came too late, and lasted only one season.

---The Old-Time Radio Researchers Group.

Regardless, The Six Shooter will wield an influence. A few years later, network television will find a hit in a show that plays the mature Western theme for laughs and gets them in abundance enough---ABC's Maverick.


1945: THE LIBRARY BOOK---It's Myrna Loy's show as a public librarian who drops everything to discover who vandalised her library's copy of Gone With the Wind, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Conrad Binyan, Cathy Lewis, Wally Maher. Writer: William Speier, based on the novel, The Book That Squealed by Cornell Woolrich.


1869---George Robey (singer: Music Hall), London.
1896---Si Wills (writer: Joan Davis Time), Pennsylvania.
1899---Elliot Nugent (actor: Best Plays; U.S. Steel Hour; Lux Radio Theater), Dover, Ohio.
1911---Frank DeVol (composer/conductor: The Rudy Vallee Show; Sealtest Village Store; The Dinah Shore Show), Moundsville, West Virginia.
1912---Ron Cochran (newscaster: Sounds of the World; Feature Project), unknown; John W. Loveton (director: The Shadow; Mr. and Mrs. North; The Court of Missing Heirs), unknown.
1915---Joe King (announcer: Songs by Morton Downey; Walk a Mile), Birmingham, Alabama.
1918---Gordon Heath (actor: New World a-Coming; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City; Peg Phillips (actress: Studio One; The Big Show), Everett, Washington.
1919---Frances Heflin (actress: Aunt Jenny; Big Sister), Oklahoma City.
1924---Michael Hardwick (writer: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Leeds, UK.
1925---Joan Barton (actress: Meet Me at Parky's), unknown; Joyce Brothers (psychologist/commentator: NBC Monitor), New York City.
1930---Anne Meara (comedian/actress: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.