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, December 31, 2008

Let Auld Acquaintance Be Unforgot: The Way It Was, 31 December

Another year is on the way out. And, once again, you needn't imprison yourself with television's customary bill of unfare this New Year's Eve. You needn't even imprison yourself in the clink tonight, should you run afoul of the sobriety checkpoints. All you have to do, on my (hopefully) annual invitation, is round up your party, stay inside, break out the booze, crank up the computer speakers to turn them into the old Philco, for a few rounds of auld lang syne as they did it on old-time radio.

You needn't even do it for any reason beyond the sake of plain good entertainment. Remember---Seeking nostalgia? Move along, nothing (much) to see here. Seeking art? (I leave it to you whether highbrow or Lowenbrau.) You've come to the right party. So, in the immortal words of a certain former M*A*S*H commander, here's to the new year and may she be a damn sight better than the old one.

And may we never neglect the majesty bequeathed us from the art of classic radio.


VARIOUS ARTISTS: NEW YEAR'S RADIO DANCING PARTY (ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE, 1945)---With some of the biggest names in jazz and popular music, live from their various New Year's Eve hotel/ballroom engagements, American servicemen still stationed around the world in the aftermath of World War II are the privileged few and the privileged proud to be in on this remarkable hour's music.

The highlights: Harry James (the broadcast’s leadoff hitter), with an exuberant "Sad Sack"; Count Basie, with a ripping "One O’Clock Jump"; Louis Armstrong with a bristling "Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive"; Jimmy Dorsey with a version of "I Got Rhythm" that he and his troops play at 78 rpm speed, or so it feels; Artie Shaw, with guest trumpeter Roy Eldridge in a shivery "Little Jazz"; the irrepressible Stan Kenton, with his customarily rousing "Tampico," featuring his near-signature vocalist June Christy; Benny Goodman, and a snappy "Gotta Be This or That"; and, Duke Ellington, with his rarity "Let The Zoomers Zoom," a number he may never have released, assuming he and his men recorded it at all.

Those are the mere highlights of the show, with Ellington fans perking up in particular when high-note trumpet specialist Cat Anderson boots it home with his usual style; and, Guy Lombardo auld langing his customary syne to seal the proverbial deal.

Also featuring: Freddy Martin, Les Brown, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Henry King, Carmen Cavallaro, and Louis Prima.


THE JELL-O PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: WHAT ARE YA DOIN' NEW YEAR'S EVE? (NBC, 1939)---Jack (Benny) marvels over his gift calendars; Phil (Harris) is astonished that Jack didn't get a gift calendar of him and his band; Mary (Livingstone) needles Jack about the calendar from his life insurance company and his Christmas gift to her; and, the troupe ponders each other's New Year's Eve plans---until Jack's date leaves him in the lurch. Guest: Andy Devine. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Writers: Ed Beloin, Bill Morrow, possibly George Balzar, possibly Sam Perrin.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: FIBBER FINDS A GOLD WATCH (NBC, 1940)---And, advertises for its owner, though it was tempting to McGee (Jim Jordan) to think this was one time finders/keepers should have applied, all things considered. Molly: Marian Jordan. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. The Old Timer: Bill Thompson. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Writer: Don Quinn.

THE CHARLIE McCARTHY SHOW: NEW YEAR'S EVE PLAY (NBC, 1944)---You can argue a little with Effie Klinker singing "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week" on an otherwise festive night, but you can't really argue with Charles Loughlin making Edgar's (Bergen) New Year's Eve party a night---and a play---to, well, let's just say you won't necessarily forget, if Edgar playing Father Time and Charlie playing the usual have anything to say about it. With Don Ameche. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Ray Noble Orchestra. Writers: Possibly Roland MacLane, Joe Connolly, Bob Mosher.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: NEW YEAR'S EVE (NBC, 1944)---Well, it's actually the day before, and our hero (Harold Peary) lets Marjorie (Lurene Tuttle) and Leroy (Walter Tetley) talk him into ice skating, which only begins the chill Hooker (Earle Ross) puts into him by roping him into a mock trial putting the year about to end into the docket. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

LUX RADIO THEATER: PRIDE OF THE MARINES (CBS, 1945)---John Garfield re-creates his film role as blinded-in-battle (at Guadalcanal) Marine Sgt. Al Schmid, who rehabilitates back home with the aid of the wife (Eleanor Parker, also re-creating her film role) who married him in spite of his tries at breaking their engagement because he feared himself less a man. Additional cast: Dane Clark. Adapted from the screenplay by Marvin Borowsky.

MATINEE WITH BOB & RAY: NEW YEAR'S EVE DAY (WHDH, BOSTON, 1949)---Recalling choice high, middle, low, and off-chart lights of the year about to end, not to mention a little problem trying to spell "juxtaposition." Writers, such as they were: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.

THE BIG SHOW: ONCE MORE WITH LITTLE MARGARET (NBC, 1950)---Margaret O'Brien returns following her charming Christmas appearance a week earlier; Dame Tallulah's usual bitchcraft includes Gloria Swanson; Sam Levine plays in a smartly-compressed scene from Guys and Dolls; Jose Ferrer joins Swanson for a torrid scene from the revival of 1931's Twentieth Century (Ben Hecht); and, a rousing finale medleys the year's signature Broadway song hits. Additional cast: Vivian Blaine, Ken Murray. Music: Meredith Willson and the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.


1897---Paula Hemminghous (singer: The Philco Hour; The National Radio Pulpit; Highlights of the Bible), Columbus, Ohio.
1904---Nathan Milstein (violinist, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra), Odessa, Ukraine.
1908---Jonah Jones (trumpeter: Eddie Condon's Jazz Concert; Army Bandstand; Manhattan Melodies), Louisville.
1910---Richard Kollmar (co-host: The Dorothy and Dick Show; actor: John's Other Wife; Big Sister; Boston Blackie), Ridgewood, New Jersey.
1914---Pat Brady (comedian: The Roy Rogers Show), Toledo, Ohio.
1921---Rex Allen (singer: Country Music Time; Country Hoedown), Wilcox, Arizona.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Death, as it must to all, came this year to several who left one or another imprint upon old-time radio.

BOB LeMOND, 6 JANUARY---Announcer remembered best, perhaps, for announcing the CBS comedies My Favourite Husband, Our Miss Brooks, My Friend Irma, and Life With Luigi. In 1998, LeMond and surviving My Favourite Husband cast and crew held a reunion in which LeMond reprised his old job---including one of the studio audience warmups he did before each week's performance---for pediatric AIDS research. 94; complications from dementia.

RICHARD WIDMARK, 24 MARCH---Forged a successful radio acting career (Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories, Front Page Farrell; Gangbusters; The Inner Sanctum Mysteries; Joyce Jordan, M.D.; Molle Mystery Theater; Suspense; Ethel & Albert) before forging an even more successful film career playing heavies and returning prodigally to radio, performing on The CBS Radio Mystery Theater and hosting the "Adventure" night of Sears Radio Theater. 93; long illness.

JUNE TRAVIS, 14 APRIL (b. June Dorothea Grabiner)---This daughter of a Chicago White Sox executive became known as the Queen of the B-Movies at Warner Brothers in the 1930s, and often appeared on Lux Radio Theater. She once prepared for a film role as an aviatrix by taking flying, jumping, and navigation lessons from Amelia Earhart. 93; unknown.

LYNNE COOPER HARVEY, 3 MAY---Produced legendary husband Paul Harvey's equally legendary The Rest of the Story radio segments. Inducted to the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997. 92; leukemia.

ROBERT LEWIS SHAYON, 28 JUNE---CBS News producer and writer in the 1940s; his projects included close work with Edward R. Murrow and producing and writing for the Goodman Ace-created history-drama CBS Was There, which became You Are There on television. Best known, perhaps, for "The Eagle's Brood," a 1947 entry for the radio news program Between the Ears that highlighted plights in American slums and prisons and pre-empted an installment of the respected Information, Please. 95; pneumonia.

EDDY ARNOLD (THE TENNESSEE PLOWBOY), 8 MAY---Temperate, mellifluous country singer (his nickname referred to his hardscrabble boyhood---he lost both his father and the family farm during the Great Depression) who became a star on Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1948, and enjoyed a long career as a country star. His 1955 recording of "The Richest Man in the World," with strings conducted by Hugo Winterhalter, is credited (or blamed, depending) with inventing the string-oriented style that came to be known, not always in praise, as countrypolitan, a style that dominated Nashville over the next decade and a half and that became Arnold's dominant style for much of the rest of his career. 89; complications following a hip injury, two months after his wife, Sally.

TONY MELODY, 26 JUNE---In the final years of old-time radio, British division, he starred in The Cltheroe Kid and The Straw Hat Club before moving on to television and a familiar presence in long-running British comedies and soaps. 85; unknown.

JO STAFFORD, 16 JULY---Numerous radio appearances with Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra as one of the Pied Pipers ("I'll Never Smile Again"); eventual host of The Chesterfield Supper Club from 1944; had pop hits solo with "You Belong to Me" (her biggest seller) and "Shrimp Boats," and in duets with Gordon MacRae and Frankie Laine, then enjoying a distinguished recording career as a pop standards interpreter before her retirement in 1975. With her second husband, Paul Weston, Stafford hatched a gag that became a sensation---musical parodies in which they performed under the non de plumes Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, with Stafford as the latter singing deliberately off-key---and planted the seeds for such hit work by Allan Sherman and Weird Al Yankovic. 90; congestive heart failure.

LARRY HAINES, 17 JULY---Actor on CBS's Gangbusters in the 1930s and, as a sort-of homecoming, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater in the 1970s. In between, he became famous as Stuart Bergman on the network's television soap Search for Tomorrow, joining upon its eleventh episode and staying for the rest of the soap's life, following which he had roles on the NBC soap Another World and the ABC soap Loving. 89; unknown.

GEORGE PUTNAM, 12 SEPTEMBER---Began in radio in Minneapolis and Los Angeles before becoming one of southern California's most distinguished and controversial television news anchor/reporter/commentators for over four decades. (Ted Knight once said he patterned his Ted Baxter character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in part on Putnam.) Late life work included a syndicated talk radio show in which his primary focus, over his final decade on the air, became illegal immigration. 94; heart failure.

CONNIE HAINES, 22 SEPTEMBER (b. Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais)---Big band singer who specialised in upbeat songs; a radio regular since age 9 (known then as Baby Yvonne Marie, the Little Princess of the Air), her later radio credits include The Abbott & Costello Show (she was a regular on that show for several years). Changed her name when Harry James hired her following her win on Major Bowes's Original Amateur Hour. 87; myasthenia gravis.

AL GALLODORO, 4 OCTOBER---Jazz saxophoniast/clarinetist/bass clarinetist; numerous radio remotes with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; member of the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini after the original Whiteman orchestra disbanded in 1940; best remembered for the famous opening clarinet glissando for the 1945 film Rhapsody in Blue, which he once estimated he'd played over ten thousand times in the years to come. Performed numerous saxophone solos on New York WJZ beginning in 1947 and did live radio work most of the rest of his life; he also had a brief role as a street musician in The Godfather, Part II. 95; unknown.

GIL STRATTON, 11 OCTOBER---Youthful radio actor (The Great Gildersleeve; Lux Radio Theater; My Little Margie) who later became a distinguished CBS sportscaster. 86; congestive heart failure.

JACK NARZ, 15 OCTOBER---Radio announcer (KXO Los Angeles) who became a familiar television game-show announcer and host in the 1950s and 1960s after dodging the quiz show scandal (his first television hosting gig, the instantly-popular Dotto, was found to be rigged; Narz himself was deemed innocent after passing a polygraph, but Dotto's cancellation finally kicked off the long-enough-festering scandal in earnest in 1959), hosting such television games as Top Dollar, Seven Keys, an unlikely but popular revival of Beat the Clock in the 1970s, and a revamped Concentration in the same decade. Brother of fellow game show host Tom Kennedy (born Jim Narz); one-time brother-in-law of game show legend Bill Cullen. 85; complications from strokes.

NORM MARSHALL, 5 NOVEMBER---Canadian broadcaster; teamed with Larry O'Brien for the first-ever radio broadcast of a Grey Cup football game, on Toronto CBLT. 89; unknown.

IRVING BRECHER, 17 NOVEMBER---Screenwriter (and the only such known to have received sole writing credit for any Marx Brothers film, receiving it for At the Circus and Go West) and creator-producer-writer for radio comedy The Life of Riley. His other radio credits included writing for Good News of 1938; The Old Gold Show (Al Jolson); The Gillette Original Community Sing (Milton Berle); and, briefly, The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. On screen, he worked uncredited on The Wizard of Oz; but he received full credit (and an Academy Award nomination) for Meet Me in St. Louis. Other screenwriting credits: Shadow of the Thin Man; Ziegfeld Follies; Bye, Bye, Birdie. 94; heart attack.

BILL DRAKE, 29 NOVEMBER---Credited with perfecting (with partner Gene Chenault) the Top 40 radio format born in the late 1950s; later, the partners created a legendary package of stylised radio jingles with the Johnny Mann Singers. 71; lung cancer.

VAN JOHNSON, 12 DECEMBER (b. Charles Van Johnson)---Played significant roles on Lux Radio Theater and Suspense; guested on Tallulah Bankhead's legendary The Big Show. 92; natural causes.

PAGE CAVANAUGH, 19 DECEMBER---Los Angeles-born jazz pianist whose Page Cavanaugh Trio (with Al Viola, guitar; and, Lloyd Pratt, bass), modeled after Nat (King) Cole's King Cole Trio, appeared frequently on Songs By Sinatra and The Jack Paar Show in the 1940s. Their biggest hits were probably their versions of "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and "All of Me." 86; kidney failure.

EARTHA KITT, 25 DECEMBER (b. Eartha Mae Keith)---Steamy singer-actress who appeared on several radio variety programs including The Big Show. Later thought to have been blacklisted unofficially but no less profoundly in the United States, after she criticised the Vietnam War to then-First Lady Lady Bird Johnson's face; she continued her career overseas before enjoying an American revival of sorts, including annual New York cabaret stands. And, yes, "Santa, Baby" remains a ribald Christmas classic. 81; colon cancer.

Cherish them all, great and small.

Crime Couple: The Way It Was, 30 December

1942: NO CRIME TO BE MIXED UP IN MURDER---It begins as a light comedy, just as the novel which birthed the first couple of old-time radio sleuthing. But it turns swiftly enough into playing the crime theme for laughs and romance. Mr. and Mrs. North, with Joseph Curtin and Alice Frost in the title roles, premieres tonight on NBC and, once it switches the congenial couple more toward crime solving, the show becomes a swift ratings rival to Mr. District Attorney.

The show also features Betty Jane Tyler as the Norths' niece, Susan; Staats Cotsworth, then Frank Lovejoy and Francis DeSales as Chief Det. Bill Weigand; Walter Kinsella as Sgt. Mullins; and, Mandel Kramer as Mahatma McGloin. Michael Morris, Jerome Epstein, Hector Chevigny, Louis Vittes, and Robert Sloane write the show's scripts, based on the Mr. and Mrs. North series of mystery novels by Francis and Richard Lockridge.

The series proved to be enormously successful, spinning off a movie starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, a long-running (162 performances) play on Broadway, a radio drama which lasted for thirteen years, and a popular television show, with Richard Denning and Barbara Britton, which aired for two years. Of the small number of married sleuths in the history of crime fiction, the Norths had the longest sustained series, which ended only with of the death of Frances Lockridge in 1963.

The characters were originally invented by Richard for some vignettes he wrote for the New York Sun during the early thirties and which he later resurrected in the short domestic comedies he contributed to The New Yorker, by which time the Norths had acquired their full names but not yet their abilities as amateur detectives. A collection of the stories was published in 1936 as Mr. and Mrs. North. The crime novels originated when Frances Lockwood started writing a mystery during one summer vacation. Stuck on a plot complication she called on her husband for help and the writing team was launched. Because the Norths already had some name recognition, the Lockridges decided to use Pam and Jerry as their central characters and retain the humorous tone and the playful interaction between the couple from the earlier stories. The first Mr. and Mrs. North mystery, The Norths Meet Murder, was published in 1940.


1933: FROM THE BOUNDLESS EVERYWHERE---A one-man show with a one-of-a-kind (for its time) sponsor's tag. Such was Majestic's Master of Mystery, premiering tonight and starring Maurice Joachim as the sole performer---reading the stories and performing all the evening's roles.

The one-of-a-kind sponsor's tag was in the show's introduction.

In the majesty of motion, from the boundless everywhere, comes the magic name---Majestic... mighty monarch of the air!

Majestic Radio, having enjoyed share enough of the radio market in the 1920s, dreams up the introduction as their idea of a clever grabber to reinvigorate the brand's sales.


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: FIX-IT McGEE (NBC, 1941)---Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Mrs. Wearybottom) has reason enough to fret when she sees that look in McGee's (Jim Jordan) eye---the look of a man itching to fix things, regardless of whether they're necessarily broken. Mrs. Uppington: Amanda Randolph. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: THE END OF THE CONTEST (NBC, 1945)---That would be the "I Can't Stand Jack Benny Contest," of course, the entries from which rather amaze the wry protagonist while amusing his companions, including Mary's (Livingstone) parrot whom he struggles to teach to say "Happy New Year." Cast: Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Writers: George Balzar, Sam Perrin, Milt Josefsberg.

YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR: THE FORBES MATTER (CONCLUSION) (CBS, 1955)---Dollar (Bob Bailey) confronts Sheldon Forbes (Jack Edwards), who stole nearly five thousand dollars trying to win a singing actress (Sandra Gould) with no apparent interest in him---and who ended up in the hospital following a suicide attempt, all of which provoke the woman to an unexpected decision. Writer: John Dawson.

GUNSMOKE: HOUND DOG (CBS; REBROADCAST: ARMED FORCES RADIO AND TELEVISION SERVICE, 1955)---Doc (Howard McNear) loses a patient---a spotted dog whose shooting death makes Matt (William Conrad) fear for its owner's life. Chester: Parley Baer. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Walsh. Writer: Les Crutchfield.


1885---Ed Jerome (actor: Blackstone, the Magic Detective), New York City.
1894---Vincent Lopez (bandleader: Luncheon with Lopez), Brooklyn.
1899---Michael Raffetto (actor: One Man's Family; I Love a Mystery), Placerville, California.
1900---Everett Marshall (singer: Broadway Vanities), Lawrence, Massachussetts.
1911---Jeanette Nolan (actress :One Man's Family; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Los Angeles.
1912---Nancy Coleman (actress: Young Doctor Malone), Everett, Washington; Hugh Griffith (actor: Under Milk Wood), Mariangalas, Anglesley, North Wales.
1914---Bert Parks (as Bert Jacobsen; singer/comedian: The Eddie Cantor Show; host: Break the Bank; Stop the Music; Double or Nothing), Atlanta.
1922---Bert Holland (actor: Shorty Bell), unknown.
1927---Bernard Barrow (actor: Golden Door), New York City.
1931---Skeeter Davis (as Mary Frances Penick; singer: Barnyard Frolics; Grand Ole Opry), Dry Ridge, Kentucky.
1935---Sandy Koufax (as Sanford Braun; Hall of Fame baseball player: Tops in Sports), Brooklyn.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It Started Here---We Think: The Way It Was, 29 December

1945---It will rank in due course as Number 99, on the invaluable Elizabeth McLeod's ranking of the one hundred old-time radio moments of the 20th Century. "It," in this case, is the launch of home audience participation media, by Truth or Consequences host Ralph Edwards, when he introduces the mystery voice known as Mr. Hush to his studio audience and his listeners and challenges them to guess that voice.

Among those who will be the mystery voices will be former world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, silent screen legend Clara Bow (as Mrs. Hush, of course), and (as Miss Hush) dance pioneer Martha Graham.

As a matter of fact, Time---in "So They Took the $17,000 (May 1948)---will describe the happy recaps of the three Truth or Consequences listeners who guessed the three Hushes aforesaid.

◙ Mrs. William H. McCormick of Lock Haven, Pa. has taken up public life since winning the $17,590 Mrs. Hush (Clara Bow) contest. "A lot of civic groups asked me to make speeches. I ran for the school board and made it. If I hadn't won the contest the town never would have put a woman on the school board." At first Mrs. McCormick was a cynosure: "People arrived from hundreds of miles around, just to look at me. They made pilgrimages . . . If I didn't come to the door, they peered in the windows."

◙ Richard Bartholomew, 25, who identified Mr. Hush (Jack Dempsey), got "an awful lot of letters, from people wanting me to do favors for them. A couple of women actually proposed . . . Lots of girls wrote in for a pair of nylons." But Bartholomew gave his nylons to his mother and his girl friend, distributed most of his prizes to his family. Then he went back to the University of Michigan, where he is working for a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Last summer he got married, took a free honeymoon trip to Banff. "It was very beautiful, even more so than we'd expected. I guess it was the gift I appreciated most. It was the one we got the most use out of."

◙ Mrs. Ruth Annette Subbie, of Fort Worth, who guessed Miss Hush (Martha Graham), has sold six of her 21 prizes, but she wrote an "enthusiastic letter" to every manufacturer who donated something. She exchanged the $1,500 beaver coat for three $500 coats—and gave each of her two daughters one. Her home has been transformed by the Venetian blinds, Bendix home laundry, Tappan range and television set. She has since won two $10 radio prizes and a radio console. But she is no professional, she insists; it's just her hobby.

Your chronicler hopes that Lock Haven, Pennsylvania schools had nothing but benefit from Mrs. McCormick's Hush-inspired tenure, that the Richard Bartholomews (assuming they are still alive) have enjoyed a long and happy marriage and life together; and, that Mrs. Subbie's daughters have been as wonderful to her as was she to they.


1891: EDISON'S TRANSMISSION---It may or may not become the most immediately identifiable patent with his name on it, but today Thomas Edison receives a patent for electric transmission of signals---also known as radio transmission---developed by himself and his famous Menlo Park team of inventors and researchers.

1980: THERE'S LESS FOR YOUR RADIO LIFE THROUGH SEARS---Another late attempt to revive the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of old-time radio begins to die: what remains of the Mutual Broadcasting System cancels the nightly Mutual Radio Theater, following a very short season after the network buys it from CBS, on which it was known as Sears Radio Theater.

You could almost have called it The Mickey Mouse Radio Theater, considering how the series was designated rather like the ancient Mickey Mouse Club on television, more or less: Monday night was "Western Night" (hosted by 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 Howard Duff).

But you couldn't say they didn't try . . .


THE AMOS 'N' ANDY SHOW: NOT INVITED TO THE PARTY (NBC, 1944)---The party would be a New Year's Eve party, the host would be a Harlem society patron whose daughter Andy (Charles Correll) dated "once or twice," and Andy only thinks he's the only one among the usual gang who's been invited. Miss Blue: Madaline Lee. Amos: Freeman Gosden. Shorty: Lou Lubin. Ruby: Elinor Harriot. Arbadella: Terry Howard. Additional cast: Unknown. Writers: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll, Joe Connolly, Bob Mosher.

QUIET, PLEASE: RAIN ON NEW YEAR'S EVE (MUTUAL, 1947)---Asked to create a second monster for his film script, a deadline-crunching screenwriter (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) imagines---fatefully---what it must be like to be such a monster . . . who only has his powers for the year's final hour. Mary Lou: Muriel Kirkland. Dody: J. Pat O'Malley. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: EXCHANGING GIFTS AT THE BON TON (NBC, 1953)---It's hard enough for most mortals but a genuine chore for the McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan), when they need to exchange a slightly impractical Christmas gift from Doc (Arthur Q. Bryan). The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Timsdale: Jody Collins. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: CHARLIE CHU, ORIENTAL SLEUTH (NO PEEKING, 1959)---Much like Fred Allen with his longtime "One Long Pan" sketches, those two zany characters of many characters couldn't resist satirising---albeit a little more gently---Charlie Chan in all his guises, sending their satirical gumshoe and his number one boy to solve the Case of the Ugly Entry. Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1892---Emory Parnell (actor: The Grouch Club; The Eddie Bracken Show; Lux Radio Theater), St. Paul.
1894---Harry Lang (actor: Blondie & Dagwood; The Cisco Kid), New York City.
1898---Jules Bledsoe (baritone: Amalgamated Broadcasting System Inaugural Program), unknown; Pat Padgett (comedian: Show Boat; Model Minstrels), Atlanta.
1904---Wendell Niles (announcer: The Burns & Allen Show; The Chase & Sanborn Hour; The Bob Hope Show; A Man Called X; Hollywood Star Playhouse), Twin Valley, Minnesota.
1920---Viveca Lindfors (as Elsa Viveca Torstensdotter Lindfors; actress: U.S. Steel Hour), Uppsala, Sweden.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Such as Too Much Fred: The Way It Was, 28 December

So nothing of earthshattering historical import regarding radio (old-time or otherwise) occurred on this date? Relax. Listen. And anyone who says there's such a thing as too much Fred Allen is talking through his or her chapeau . . .

For everyone who's ever gotten the business from whatever place of business gives them a hard time over post-Christmas exchanges, this one's for you . . .

All Fred (Allen) wants to do is exchange the cuckoo he got for Christmas . . . because the little bird comes out of his house backward. All he had to do to make things go from bad to worse was let Monty Woolley (himself) talk him into suing when the store refuses to take the clock back.

Portland: Portland Hoffa. Senator Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus Moody: Parker Fenelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Robert Weiskopf.


THE INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES: DEATH HAS CLAWS (NBC Blue, 1941)---A tenement tenant (Santos Ortega) disturbed by howling cats along the side wall may have a lot more to disturb him than just their infelicity. Additional cast: Unknown. Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer/director: Himan Brown. (Note: Static and squelch in this recording.)

LUX RADIO THEATER: KATHLEEN (CBS, 1943)---Herbert Marshall and a maturing Shirley Temple reprise their 1941 film roles in this slightly sugary but still tautly produced and performed adaptation, in which a twelve-year-old girl (Temple)---whose mother died in her babyhood, whose absentee workaholic father (Marshall) amplifies her longing for a real family, and who's invented one, forcing her to keep her friends at bay and her nanny to hire a psychologist (Frances Gifford, in the Laraine Day film role)---hopes to marry her father to the psychologist, instead of seeing him marry his icy girl friend. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from the screenplay by Mary C. McCall, from a story by Kay Van Riper.

SUSPENSE: A THING OF BEAUTY (CBS, 1944)---A once-renowned English stage actress (June Dupres, standing in for an ill Ida Lupino), living nine years in seclusion following ten years of institutional isolation, finally---and unexpectedly---reveals what caused her original breakdown to her priest and his protege, both of whom know she thinks only a man of God will help her find peace. Additional cast: Herbert Rawlinson, John McIntire. Writer: Robert L. Richards, based on a story by Elizabeth Hiestand.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: BALANCING THE BOOKS (NBC, 1945)---Fearing the worst when the boss hires an accountant to go over the bar's books, edgy Archie (Ed Gardner) wangles a tavern gig for The $64 Question (featuring guest Garry Moore), hoping to use the prize to balance the books. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Writers: Ed Gardner, Larry Gelbart, possibly Larry Marks.


1887---Charles Dingle (actor: Meet the Dixons), Wabash, Indiana.
1890---Frank Butler (actor: Mr. Chameleon), Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK.
1903---Earl (Fatha) Hines (pianist/composer/bandleader: Chamber Music of Lower Basin Street), Duquesne, Pennsylvania.
1905---Cliff Arquette (actor: Myrt & Marge), Toledo, Ohio.
1908---Lew Ayres (actor: Dr. Kildare), Minneapolis.
1909---Olan Soule (actor: Bachelor's Children; Joan and Kermit), La Harpe, Illinois.
1914---Lee Bowman (actor: Life in Your Hands; My Favourite Husband), Cincinnati.
1915---Dick Joy (announcer: My Secret Ambition; The Saint; Adventures of Sam Spade), Putnam, Connecticut.
1923---Andrew Duggan (actor: Hollywood Radio Theater; The Voice of the Army; Top Secret), Franklin, Indiana.
1927---Martin Milner (actor: Dragnet), Detroit.
1929---Brian Redhead (host: A World in Edgeways; Today (U.K.); From Plato to NATO), Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Ticket to Portability: The Way It Was, 27 December

1947---Bell Laboratories' John Bardeen, William Shockley*, and Walter Houser Brattain invent the transistor---which many consider the 20th Century's most important invention, and which will put radio into massive portability mode within a very few years of its invention, after the first transistor radio is introduced by Intermetall at the 1952 Dusseldorf Radio Fair; and, after Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates (Indianapolis) produces the first commercial transistor radio in 1954.


1939---The Glenn Miller Show, a fifteen-minute offering featuring the rising trombonist/arranger/bandleader in his own old-time radio showcase, premieres on CBS.


THE FRED ALLEN SHOW (AN HOUR OF SMILES): DR. ALLEN'S CLINIC (NBC, 1939)---After spoofing the opening of Gone With the Wind and "interviewing" humourist Robert Benchley, three from the audience host a roundtable chat with the master on whether spouses should vacation together after each year's together; and, the Mighty Allen Art Players (John Brown, Charles Cantor, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley) spoof the analyst's office. With Portland Hoffa. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter Van Steeden Orchestra, Wynn Murray. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Herman Wouk.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: LEROY MAKES NITRO (NBC, 1942)---Leroy's (Walter Tetley) anxiety to experiment with his new Christmas present---a chemistry set---may just be enough to make Gildy (Harold Peary) explode. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

THE WHISTLER: THE DOUBLE-CROSS (CBS, 1942)---Living with the widowed detective who stopped him from going to reform school, and caring for his young son, a one-time hoodlum has to prove himself straight come Christmas Eve, when he discovers he's being framed for a safecracking at the store where the detective got him his job. Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.

THE JUDY CANOVA SHOW: JUDY DISCUSSES HER DIARY (NBC, 1947)---With Aunt Aggie (Ruth Perrott), to whom Judy (Canova) translates the Mona Lisa's smile and decides to put some of her diary entries on the air. Pedro: Mel Blanc. Geranium: Ruby Dandridge. Benchley: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Howard Petrie. Music: Charles Dent Orchestra, the Sports Men. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople, John Ward.


1879---Sydney Greenstreet (actor: Adventures of Nero Wolfe; Hollywood Star Preview), Sandwich, UK.
1893---Ann Pennington (actress: Good News of 1938), Camden, New Jersey.
1901---Marlene Dietrich (as Marie Magdalene Dietrich; actress: Cafe Istanbul; Texaco Star Theater Starring Fred Allen; Lux Radio Theater), Berlin.
1906---Oscar Levant (pianist/panelist/raconteur: Information, Please; Kraft Music Hall; Texaco Star Theater Starring Fred Allen; The Fred Allen Show), Pittsburgh.
1916---Cathy Lewis (actress: The First Nighter; The Great Gildersleeve; The Whistler; My Friend Irma; actress/producer/director: Suspense), Spokane, Washington.

* - This is, indeed, the same William Shockley who would become controversial, many years later, for his eugenics theories and published opinions---including that which stated his belief that individuals with IQs below 100 should be sterilised.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Sister and a Shadow Sign Off: The Way It Was, 26 December

'Tis the day after Christmas, and all through the old-time radio house, the Glens Falls Town Hall tower clock strikes for the final time . . . and, the Shadow no longer knows . . .

1953: "IT AROUS(ED) NORMAL AND ADAPTIVE ANXIETY . . . "---Big Sister, a CBS daytime mainstay since 1936, airs its final episode today, with Grace Matthews (the fifth to play the role) in the title role of self-sacrificing Ruth Evans Wayne and Fran Carden (the fourth to play the role) as younger sister Susan Evans Miller, one of several orphaned siblings for whom Ruth has cared before and after her own marriage.

ANNOUNCER: Rinso presents . . . Big Sister.
SFX: (Tower clock begins to strike)
ANNOUNCER: Yes, there's the clock in Glens Falls Town Hall, telling us it's time for Rinso's story of Big Sister.

---The show's standard introduction.

Alice Frost originated the title role in 1936, with Haila Stoddard as the original Sue. The other three actresses who played Ruth were Nancy Marshall, Marjorie Anderson, and Mercedes McCambridge; the other two who played Sue were Dorothy McGuire and Peggy Conklin.

The show was created by Lillian Lauferty and written by Julian Funt, Robert Newman, Carl Bixby, and Bill Sweets and sponsored for most of its life by Rinso detergents. It also had the distinction of becoming one of the radio soaps analysed academically enough, by University of Chicago researchers W. Lloyd Warner and William E. Henry, even if CBS instigated the project in a bid to determine just what kind of listener was listening in to the show.

The Big Sister program arouses normal and adaptive anxiety in the women who listen. [It] directly and indirectly condemns neurotic and non-adaptive anxiety and thereby functions to curb such feelings in its audience. This program provides moral beliefs, values, and techniques for solving emotional and interpersonal problems for its audience and makes them feel they are learning while they listen . . . It directs the private reveries and fantasies of the listeners into socially approved channels of action. [It] increases the women's sense of security in a world they feel is often threatening, by reaffirming the basic security of the marriage ties (John's and Ruth's); by accentuating the basic security of the position of the husband (Dr. John Wayne is a successful physician); by "demonstrating" that those who behave properly and stay away from wrong-doing exercise moral control over those who do not; and, by showing that wrong behaviour is punished . . . The women aspire to, and measure themselves by identification with Ruth, the heroine; however, the identification is not with Ruth alone, but with the whole program and the other characters in the plot. This permits sublimated impulse satisfaction by the listeners, first, unconsciously identifying with the bad woman and, later, consciously punishing her through the action of the plot. Unregulated impulse life is condemned, since it is always connected with characters who are condemned and never related to those who are approved.

---Warner and Henry, cited by James Thurber, in "Soapland: The Listening Women," The New Yorker, 1947-48; republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948.)

[Newman and Funt] have made [Big Sister] one of the most popular of all serials. For more than two years, it has dealt with a moony triangle of Ruth Wayne, the big sister of the title, her estranged husband, Dr. John Wayne, and another doctor named Reed Bannister. The authors, I am told, plan to tinker with the popular old central situation, but they are aware that they must proceed with caution. The identifiers are strongly attached to the status quo of plot situation, and to what psychologists call the "symbols" in soap opera---serial authors call them "gimmicks"---and they do not want them tampered with. Thus, the soap opera males who go blind or lose the use of both legs or wander around in amnesia are, as the psychologists put it, symbols that the listening women demand. As long as the symbols are kept in the proper balance and the woman is in charge and the man is under her control, it does not seem to make a great deal of difference to the female listeners whether the story is good or not.


Presumably, we may leave it to those who listened to determine whether Dr. John Wayne merely got his, when he was killed in a plane crash late in the serial's run.

Several old-time radio mainstays appeared on Big Sister at various times during its run, including Teddy Bergman (a stage alias for Fred Allen Show mainstay Alan Reed, as Asa Griffin); future mr. ace and JANE castmates Evelyn Varden (as Mrs. Carvell) and Eric Dressler (as Frank Wayne); Boston Blackie star Richard Kollmar (as Michael West); future Richard Diamond, Private Detective co-star Ed Begley (as Waldo Briggs and Charles Daniels); Pepper Young's Family star Mason Adams (as Dr. Marlowe); and, future game and talk panelist Arlene Francis (as Lola Mitchell), among others.

1954: CRIME DOES NOT PAY ANY LONGER---Not for The Shadow, whose radio life began in 1932 but ends today, with Bret Morrison in the title role he's played for a decade, succeeding (in ascending order) Robert Hardy Andrews, Orson Welles, and Bill Johnstone.

The final cast includes Lesley Woods as the fifth Margot Lane (succeeding, in ascending order, Agnes Moorehead, Marjorie Anderson, Gertrude Warner, and Grace Matthews); Ted de Corsia as the sixth Commissioner Weston (succeeding, in ascending order, Dwight West, Arthur Vinton, Kenny Delmar, Santos Ortega, and Jimmy La Curto); and, Mandel Kramer as the third Shrevie (succeeding, in ascending order, Keenan Wynn [the son of comedy legend Ed Wynn] and Alan Reed).

Andrews, the original Lamont Cranston/Shadow, led one of the more interesting of double lives at the time he originated the role: he was a former journalist who became one of the most prolific radio soap writers in the business, especially for Frank and Anne Hummert---including for Ma Perkins and Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy (which he created), before making a distinguished career as a screenwriter and short story author.


QUIET, PLEASE: BERLIN, 1945 (MUTUAL, 1948)---In a repeat of a December 1947 broadcast, five American soldiers still in Berlin following the war's end invite a mysterious stranger (Ernest Chappell) to join them for their Christmas dinner. Additional cast: Inaudible. Writer: Wyllis Cooper.

THE PHIL HARRIS-ALICE FAYE SHOW: THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT (NBC, 1948)---It's from sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon), and it's got Phil (Harris) and Alice (Faye) in a stir because they've mistaken it for something else with potentially fateful results. Remley: Elliott Lewis. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Willie: Robert North. Julius: Walter Tetley. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

THE HALLS OF IVY: SWEET SORROW (A.K.A. DRAMATIC CLUB TRYOUTS) (NBC, 1951)---It's almost sour grapes before the Halls (Ronald and Benita Colman) can slog through the annual drama tryouts . . . and the annual pressures to play favourites and roles in the show. Wellman: Herbert Butterfield. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writer: Don Quinn.


1891---Tony Wons (host: The Tony Wons Scrapbook; The House By the Side of the Road; The Camel Quarter Hour), Menasha, Wisconsin.
1893---Vladimir Golschmann (conductor: The New York Philharmonic), Paris.
1902---Irene Handl (actress: Hello, Playmates), London.
1914---Richard Widmark (actor: Home of the Brave; Joyce Jordan, M.D.), Sunrise, Minnesota.
1921---Steve Allen (comedian/composer/actor: Smile Time; The Steve Allen Show), New York City.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Old-Time Radiyule: The Way It Was, 25 December

Now that you've opened the presents, it's time to open our holiday cybergreetings with a trio of remarkable classics, two of which hook around a department store, and each of which features a twist no old-time radio fan should avoid . . .

A treat for any old-time radio fan: the oldest-known surviving program hosted by the singular Fred Allen, in whose spotlight sketch he plays a man with a sometimes unenviable profession---managing a department store . . . on the day after Christmas.

Cast: Portland Hoffa, Sheila Barrett, Roy Atwell, Charles Carlile. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Music: Lou Katzman Orchestra, Mary Leaf at the organ. Writer: Fred Allen.

Just what is that, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) wants to know? "It's a gay boyish wintertime prank," explains Vic (Art Van Harvey) about the shivaree-like reputed custom for newlyweds, leaving Sade and Rush (Bill Idelson) just a little curious as to whether they're to be part of the gag, when Vic's old friend Y.I.I.Y. Skeever plans to lead a contingent of wintertime pranksters to the Gook abode for a fast hello en route. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

A surprising Yuletide twist from the popular mystery-twist series.

Six months after his release from prison for a one-time petty crime, successful department store clerk Michael Cobb's (unknown) holiday spirit is shattered when, following a series of thousand-dollar cash thefts from the store, he's fired suspiciously by a superior who thinks his recent past means guilty until proven innocent.

But a music box playing "Silent Night" that he buys as a Christmas present for his wife (possibly Cathy Lewis), while trying to shake a pair of detectives he discovers following him, may turn from a farewell to the life he might have had into the punctuation for the proof of his innocence---and a jarring revelation, tied to his severance pay and to a loan a store co-worker repaid him---after he allows himself to be distracted from a small plot to get even.

Additional cast and writers: Unknown. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Bob Anderson. Music: Wilbur Hatch Orchestra. (Note: This episode is introduced, mistakenly, as "Lies and Consequences," which was the name of an episode that aired two weeks previous.)


1931: SO PLUMP YOU CAN TASTE THE JUICES---With Lawrence Tibbett as featured vocalist, the Metropolitan Opera is featured in an old-time radio broadcast for the first time, performing Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (no relation to the British pop singer, who borrowed the composer's name as his own stage name beginning in 1966) on NBC.

1937: THE SYMPHONY IS ON THE AIR---The maestro Arturo Toscanini---for whom the legendary NBC Symphony was created, with Toscanini himself hiring most of the musicians---conducts the symphony on the air for the first time, with the premiere of Symphony of the Air on NBC.

1938: 'TWASN'T IT SUPPOSED TO BE THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS?---Old-time radio's first known Christmas Day performance of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is delivered on CBS by Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore---who has been playing Ebenezer Scrooge in various radio programs since 1934, making the role something of an annual tradition.


THE CHRISTMAS PACKAGE (NBC, 1943)---A special broadcast, coordinated with the U.S. War Department---a charming 1943 holiday half-hour, hosted by film star Linda Darnell, featuring music by the Andrews Sisters, Ginny Simms, and Lena Horne; messages from the Army and Navy's chiefs of chaplains; a comedy monologue from Bob Hope ("our Santa Claus for tonight---the man who's been trying to get me on his lap all afternoon to whisper what I want for Christmas," cracks Darnell); and, a sweet but not sugary holiday sketch from Jim and Marian Jordan as Fibber McGee, Molly, and Teeny ("Whatcha doin' Mister?") with the Wistful Vista kids. Writers and director: Unknown.

LUX RADIO THEATER: THE VAGABOND KING (CBS, 1944)---Dennis Morgan and Kathryn Grayson step into the Dennis King and Jeanette MacDonald roles remaking the 1930 Ernst Lubitsch film of the rogue poet sentenced to hang for verses against Louis XI but offered a reprieve if he can defeat the invaders of Burgundy---and win the heart of the king's angelic niece. Additional cast: J. Carroll Naish. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from the screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz, based on the operetta by Rudolf Firml.

THE RALEIGH CIGARETTE PROGRAM STARRING RED SKELTON: CHRISTMAS TREES (NBC, 1945)---Somewhere in the middle of bantering about Raleigh's then-contest to win a new Chevrolet (you had to complete the sentence, "We should all buy Victory Bonds because . . .," in twenty-five words or less), Red (Skelton) and company manage to swap Christmas gifts, Anita Ellis manages to sing "Toyland," and Clem Kadiddlehopper ("I wish they had winter in the summer, then it wouldn't be so cold") lands a gig selling Christmas trees around the corner. Additional cast: Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton, GeGe Pearson. Guest star: Arthur Q. Bryan. Writers: Edna Skelton, Jack Douglas, Ben Freedman, Johnny Murray.

THE HENRY MORGAN SHOW: A CHRISTMAS STORY; OR: THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS (ABC, 1946)---The cheerfully cantankerous comedian's opening monologue does a subtly racy job of setting it up:

Not so many Christmases ago, we broadcast a little Christmas story for children. And, ah, it was definitely for children, but we heard later that a number of grownups sneaked out of bed and listened.

Welllllll, you know how parents are, kids. Just when you think they're asleep, they come out of the bedroom with all kinds of excuses. They want a drink of water . . . or, uh, there's a tiger in the room . . . or, their blanket fell on the floor, or something. So this year, ah, we might as well let 'em stay up and listen.

But parents---no snickering. We're not gonna stand for a lot of grownups listening to the radio and shaking their heads doubtfully, as though we were making the whole thing up. Now, kids, if you notice your mommy or your daddy saying things like, um, "ohhhhh, nonsense! or, uh, "Well, that couldn't happen," just look 'em in the eye and say, "I find this story thoroughly credible!"

Of course, I don't have that kind of trouble with my parents. If they say "oh, nonsense!" to me, I just don't give 'em tickets to my show.

Then, the story: Little Joey sits examining the ruins of an electric train "that took a dozen graduate engineers to put together" . . . and which his father wrecked when the kid let the old man fool around with it until he came up with a theory about how to make it run different.

"What's a theory?" asks little Norman. "I dunno," answers Joey. "Something ya father has when tells ya to hand him a screwdriver."

All little Norman had to worry about was getting Santa into the house---because they had not a chimney but radiators. What the kids had to worry about was being careful what they wished for. Especially if they were audacious enough to ask Congress for it.

But for further details, you'll just have to listen.

Cast: Arnold Stang, Pert Kelton, Fran Warren, Ben Brower, Art Carney, Jack Albertson, Joan Gibson. The children: Butch Cabell, David Anderson, Joan Laser. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joseph Stein.

MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: NUMEROLOGY (CBS; ARMED FORCES RADIO AND TELEVISION SERVICE REBROADCAST, 1948)---"Oh, that stuff, that's a lot of nonsense," snorts George (Richard Denning) to Liz (Lucille Ball), who's become enamoured with a book she's been reading on the subject. Iris: Bea Benaderet. Atterbury: Gale Gordon. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: SPENDING CHRISTMAS AT HOME (NBC, 1953)---It's where Molly (Marian Jordan) decides she'd rather spent it with McGee (Jim Jordan), who was just as bent on taking her out for a fancy holiday dinner. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.


1886---Kid Ory (as Edward Ory; trombonist/bandleader: This is Jazz; Radio Almanac; Here's to Veterans), LaPlace, Louisiana.
1889---Nat Shilkret (conductor: The Eveready Hour; Music That Satisfies; Palmolive Beauty Box Theater), Queens, New York.
1893---Robert L. Ripley (host: Colonel Beacon Light; Baker's Broadcast; Believe It . . . or Not), Santa Rosa, California.
1899---Humphrey Bogart (actor: Bold Venture; Stars in the Air; Streamlined Shakespeare; Lux Radio Theater; The Fred Allen Show), New York City.
1902---Barton MacLane (actor: Thirty Minutes in Hollywood), Columbia, South Carolina.
1904---Gladys Swarthout (singer: Palmolive Beauty Box Theater; The Prudential Family Hour; The Voice of Firestone), Deepwater, Missouri.
1907---Cab Calloway (The Hi-De-Ho King; bandleader: Quizzical), Rochester, New York.
1909---Mike Mazurki (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Tarnopol, Austria.
1912---Tony Martin (as Alvin Morris; singer/actor: The Burns & Allen Show; The Tony Martin Show), Oakland.
1913---Candy Candido (comedian: Sealtest Village Store; The Jimmy Durante Show), New Orleans.
1915---Richard Wilson (actor/writer/director: Mercury Theater On the Air), McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
1924---Rod Serling (writer/host: Zero Hour), Syracuse, New York.
1932---Mabel King (as Donnie Mabel Elizabeth Washington; actress/singer: Camel Rock and Roll Party), Charleston, South Carolina.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Little Margaret and the Three Wisenheimers: The Way It Was, Christmas Eve

'Tis the night before Christmas (and smack in the middle of Hanukkah), and all through the house, not a creature is stirring . . . except for those who bring us some of the most pleasant---occasionally jarring, but still pleasant---holiday entertainment lingering from the legacy of old-time radio.

And, with wishes for an edifying season and year to come, we will launch with a bang and take things from there . . .

First, your hostess opens with a variation upon her standard introduction.

TALLULAH BANKHEAD: To the men and women in service all over the world on this Christmas Eve, through the cooperation of the Associated Services of the Armed Forces, you are about to be entertained by some of the biggest names in show business. For the next hour and thirty minutes, this program will present in person such bright stars as . . .

Then, as is the custom established already by this last-gasp, big-bucks old-time radio variety offering, the stars introduce themselves. Jimmy Durante. Bert Lahr. Robert Merrill. Margaret O'Brien. Edith Piaf. Fran Warren. Ed Wynn. Meredith Willson. And, following that soaring theme music around and behind Ed Herlihy's introduction, back comes Madame Tallu.

BANKHEAD: A safe and Merry Christmas, darlings, to all our Armed Forces, wherever you may be. And to you here at home, I hope all your stockings are hung, and that you find in them all the things you wished for. I know what I'm going to find in mine---a run! I always do on this show!

But when I heard that one of our guests today would be Margaret O'Brien, I decided to make it my business to see that this child has a Merry Christmas away from her home. After all, it's only been a few years since I was a child, heh heh heh. (Laughter.) Those darling writers---they'll stop at nothing for a Christmas present. And that's exactly what they're getting.

But to make sure little Margaret has a wonderful Christmas, I invited three of the theater's greatest clowns---Jimmy Durante, Bert Lahr, and Ed Wynn.

JIMMY DURANTE, BERT LAHR, and ED WYNN (in unison): Hello, Tallulah! (Applause.)
BANKHEAD: Hello Ed, Jimmy, Bert. Hello Bert, Ed, Jimmy. Hello Jimmy, Bert, Ed. Well, now that I've given you all equal billing, we can get down to our problem. We've got to arrange a wonderful Christmas party for this little girl. Anybody have an idea what to give her?
LAHR: I've got an idea, Tallulah.
BANKHEAD: Uh, huh.
LAHR: Something that's very popular this time of the year.
BANKHEAD: Oh, really, darling? What is it, Bert?
LAHR: How about givin' her a Christmas present?
BANKHEAD (lowers voice smugly): Uh, now, isn't that brilliant?

From there, the foursome swap gags about Christmas bed jackets, horses, and John Dillinger, before Lahr reprises "If I Was The King of the Forest" from The Wizard of Oz (with a little help from O'Brien, of course); before Durante suggests a toy-spangled Christmas tree and finds a way to sing "Isn't It A Shame That Christmas Comes But Once A Year"; before Wynn and company try to prove Santa Claus; and, before some stunning music from Warren ("Look to the Rainbow"), Metropolitan Opera star Merrill ("O Holy Night") and the tragic French chanteuse Piaf. (A beautiful "Autumn Leaves.")

There is also a gentle message from Army Gen. Jonathan Wainwright at Camp Breckenridge (Kentucky). The message could be deployed today without losing a beat or a drop of relevance.

I'm happy to join with all your folks at home in bringing a Christmas greeting to you, my comrades of the armed forces, wherever you may be. We have shared the joy of other Christmas days together, and we look forward as a united people to that time when peace on earth and good will to men may again prevail. May God be with you.

And I didn't even stop to mention the soaring, caroling almost-finale. But I'm leaving you to hear it for yourself, along with the rest of tonight's Christmas Eve edition of this near-impeccable variety series.

Music: Meredith Willson with the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.

Second, we'll continue the wisenheimer tradition by turning to old-time radio's favourite misogynist marrieds . . .

Herewith the likely inspiration---derived likewise from "The Gift of the Magi"---for the eventual classic Honeymooners [the Original 39] episode about Ralphie Boy having to hock his brand-new bowling ball to buy Alice the Christmas present for which he forgot (as usual) to sock a few simoleons away, and to retrieve his jaw from the floor when he saw what she got him . . .

Only here, it's weary husband John (Don Ameche) snoring on the ladder while trimming the tree, shrewish wife Blanche (Frances Langford) snorting him awake and into one of their usual arguments, from John's daily bag lunch to his reputedly forgotten Christmas card (he didn't forget, by the way---but you'll have to listen to learn where it turned up), the bill money spent on presents . . .

But then bourbon-loving John and highfalutin' Blanche end up opening their presents to each other just past midnight---and discovering just what each sold to buy the other's gift (hint: What the other could have used with his or her gift), not to mention an unexpected (for audience as well as for couple) revelation.

Writer: Philip Rapp.


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: GILDY'S RADIO PHONOGRAPH (NBC, 1940)---Gildersleeve's (Harold Peary) new radio-phonograph combine is delivered---to the McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan), by mistake---but they get a bigger shock when they plug it in and play it. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writer: Don Quinn.

NORMAN CORWIN'S WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC: THE PLOT TO OVERTHROW CHRISTMAS (CBS, 1942)---Norman Corwin's vintage verse satire gets a tour de force treatment from Will Geer (as the Devil) and House Jameson (The Aldrich Family's Sam Aldrich) as Santa Claus, when some of history's most notorious convene a meeting Down Under (it isn't Australia tonight, kiddies) to plan Christmas's downfall---if only they can quell this little family squabble, first, between Haman and Ivan the Terrible---after Lucrezia Borgia dreams up the winning idea. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer/director: Norman Corwin.

THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: TRIMMING A TREE (NBC, 1944)---Jack (Benny) and Mary (Livingstone) finish trimming Jack's tree . . . and the first results come as quite a shock to the pregnant pausing, electricity-challenged miser. Cast: Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Larry Stevens, Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Larry Stevens. Announcer: Don Wilson. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin.

THE OLD GOLD COMEDY THEATER: BACHELOR MOTHER (NBC, 1944)---Brenda Marshall and Louis Hayward step into the Ginger Rogers and David Niven roles from the 1939 film about a department store clerk (Marshall) selling ducks until she's canned the day before Christmas for obscure reasons---and getting a shock on her doorstep that leads to a few odd events and her re-hiring. Host/director: Harold Lloyd. Adapted from the screenplay by Norman Krasna.

RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (NBC, 1949)---The jaunty gumshoe (Dick Powell) casts his own usual suspects---most of whom are the police with whom he normally works and/or fences---into an analogic interpretation of the Dickens classic. Levinson: Ed Begley. Helen: Virginia Gregg. Otis: Wilms Herbert. Announcer: Eddie King. Writer: Blake Edwards.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: ONE FELLA'S FAMILY---MERRY CHRISTMAS, ONE AND ALL (NO COACHING FROM THE AUDIENCE, PLEASE, 1959)---From Book Eye Ex, Chapter Eye Eye, Pages Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, and the bottom of Page Seventeen. Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.


1886---Michael Curtiz (director: Screen Guild Theater; Screen Director's Playhouse), Budapest.
1895---Ruth Chatterton (actress: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1906---Franz Waxman (conductor/composer: Good News of 1939), Konigshutte, Germany.
1910---Mitchell Ayres (bandleader: The Dunninger Show; The Chesterfield Supper Club), Milwaukee; Fritz Lieber (writer: X Minus One; Future Tense; Audition Theater), Chicago.
1915---Helen Brown (actress: Big Town), Washington.
1920---John Barron (actor: Dad's Army; Brothers-in-Law), London.
1922---Ava Gardner (actress: So Proudly We Hail; The Prudential Family of Stars; Lux Radio Theater), Grabtown, North Carolina.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"It's Almost Like Waitin' For Someone To Take Our Place": The Way It Was, 23 December

One of the no-questions-asked classic entries in the long-running, much venerated (and adored) old-time radio rural serial comedy.

Grandpap (Norris Goff) asks Lum (Chester Lauck) and Abner (also Goff) to drag through the Pine Ridge snow with him, following the east star, bringing supplies for a couple expecting a child, and helping them find another place to stay.

That's after Doc (also Lauck) reveals the couple is staying in an abandoned barn, with the trio waiting outside to toast the coming of 1939 while Doc brings and arranges supplies inside for the couple---a carpenter and his pregnant wife

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.


1922: NOW, THE NEWS---The British Broadcasting Company launches its first regularly-scheduled daily newscasts.

1938: FAREWELL, MRS. WIGGS---Based on the 1901 novel by Alice Caldwell Hegan, and adapted for old-time radio after a 1934 film (with Pauline Lord in the title role and W.C. Fields as Ellsworth Stubbins), the soap Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch airs for the final time on NBC.

Produced by Frank and Anne Hummert, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch premiered on CBS in 1936 and moved to NBC in September of that year. It followed the story of the title widow whose family and friends led her through tribulations while she strained to keep a cheerful attitude through it all---even as her character and life setting graduated perhaps too swiftly from simple slices of life and angst to none-too-simple slabs of near-relentless and often straining action.

Th[e] isolation of soap opera characters [from animation of community life] was brought about by the interminability of daytime serials, some of which began as authentic stories of small town life. The inventiveness of writers flagged under the strain of devising long plot sequences, one after another, year after year, involving a given family with the neighbours and other townsfolk. Furthermore, the producers and sponsors of soap opera and the alert advertising agencies set up a clamour for bigger and wider action and excitement. The original soap opera characters are now often nothing more than shadowy and unnecessary ficelles, awkwardly held onto as confidants or advisers of the principal figures in the melodramas that come and go in chaotic regularity. Even Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch followed the formula and degenerated into radio melodrama after six months. Its heroine spent her time dodging the bullets of gangsters and the tricks and traps of other scoundrels from the city.

---James Thurber, in "Soapland: Ivorytown, Rinsoville, Anacinburg, and Crisco Corners," The New Yorker, 1947-1948; republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948.)

The show starred future Lorenzo Jones co-star Betty Garde and, later, Eva Gordon in the title role. The cast included Robert Strauss as Pa Wiggs; Andy Donnelly as Billy; Joe Latham as Stubbins; Frank Provo and then Bill Johnstone as Mr. Bob; Agnes Young and then Alice Frost as Miss Hazy; and, Marjorie Anderson as Lucy Redding. George Ambro served as the show's announcer.

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch will also be remembered for being one of radio's few early soap operas that wasn't sponsored by a soap maker or brand---the sponsors included Jad Effervescent Salt, Hill's Nose Drops, and Olde English Wax.


SUSPENSE: BACK FOR CHRISTMAS (CBS, 1943)---The Christmas spirit of a henpecked botanist (Peter Lorre) with a particular passion for experiments with home-grown orchids is compromised by his impatient wife, who has little use for his passion and less patience to get aboard their planned holiday cruise. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: John Collier.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: CHRISTMAS AT HOME (NBC, 1945)---Gildy (Harold Peary) has a problem the day before Christmas---hiding the presents in any spot in the house Leroy (Walter Tetley) hasn't discovered first, assuming such a spot can be found. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Hooker: Earle Ross. Floyd: Arthur Q. Bryan. Peavy: Richard LeGrand. Writers: Sam Moore, John Whedon.

THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: THE ENGLISH BUTLER (NBC, 1945)---Reciprocating for a dinner invitation he received a fortnight earlier, Jack (Benny) invites Ronald Colman and his wife, Benita Hume Colman (as themselves) for dinner---assuming Colman gets over his trepidation about the evening and Jack can get the butler he hired for the night to take it all seriously. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mel Blanc, Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Writers: George Balzar, Sam Perrin, Milt Josefsberg.

THE ALDRICH FAMILY: CHRISTMAS PROGRAM (NBC, 1948)---It's beginning to look a lot like a pain in the rump roast to find a few too many classic radio holiday episodes called, "Christmas Program" or "Christmas Show." But here 'tis the week before Christmas, and all through the house, Sam (House Jameson) thinks Henry (Ezra Stone) is being solicitous enough of late to suggest an ulterior yuletide motive; Alice (Katherine Raht) thinks Sam's being too suspicious for his own good; and, Hen-reeeeeeeee! really is maneuvering for a certain Christmas present---unaware that his parents think he's angling for something else. Writer: Clifford Goldsmith.


1887---John Cromwell (actor: Lux Radio Theater), unknown.
1893---Anne O'Neal (actress: Grapevine Rancho), St. Louis.
1903---Helen Troy (actress: Telephone Operator; It Happened in Hollywood), San Francisco.
1907---Don McNeil (host: The Breakfast Club), Galena, Illinois.
1911---James Gregory (actor: 21st Precinct), The Bronx.
1913---Anton M. Leader (director: Murder at Midnight; Suspense; Words at War), Boston.
1922---Ruth Roman (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Hollywood Sound Stage), Boston.
1923---Ray Kemper (sound: Gunsmoke; Fort Laramie; Voyage of the Scarlet Queen), Lankersham, California.
1943---Harry Shearer (actor, with the Beavers: The Jack Benny Program), Los Angeles.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Santa on Strike? The Way It Was, 22 December

Precious enough are any surviving Christmastime or Christmas-themed installments of any Fred Allen program, considering how few of them have survived among the truckload of surviving Allen shows. Precious more: Guest Jack Benny, with Allen performing live from Hollywood while in town to make a film, and the pair swapping rapiers in the slot where Allen would normally begin the show in earnest.

JACK BENNY: Jello again, this--—
FRED ALLEN: Go away.
BENNY: --—is Jack Benny talking.
ALLEN: Go away. Go away, boy.
BENNY: Oh, all right, gee, right away y—--
ALLEN: Get away from this microphone here.(Pause.) Good evening. We must get a weather strip put on this floor.

Meanwhile, the Mighty Allen Art Players perform Allen's classic routine about weary Santa finally throwing in the towel and going on a sit-down strike---preceded by a cleverly low-key "Town Hall News" zap against the cold spell of the day, an interview with a Warner Brothers backlot lunch cart operator, a jivey musical number about a riveter, a segment with Radio Guide photographer Eugene Lester, a segment with second bananette Portland Hoffa, and a few more break-ins from Benny. (“I didn’t expect to get paid for this, I haven’t any more right to take money for working on this program than you have.”)

The Mighty Allen Art Players: John Brown, Charlie Cantor, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley, Harry Von Zell. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Herman Wouk. (Yes, children---that Herman Wouk.)


THE EDDIE CANTOR SHOW: CHRISTMAS PROGRAM (CBS, 1935)---Eddie (Cantor) gets lassoed into helping a woman plug a leak; a little runaway boy tries to adopt him; and, he ponders a new car. Parkyakarkus: Harry Einstein. Annoucer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Louis Glass Orchestra. Writers: Possibly David Freedman, Carrol Carroll, Philip Rapp.

THE BURNS & ALLEN SHOW: : SANTA AND THE WICKED PIRATE (CBS, 1942)---Two days before Christmas, while trimming the tree, Gracie fears her favourite duck, Herman, is missing---but when he turns up safe and sound, the duck just might quack up listening to Gracie telling him a Christmas story. Additional cast: Elvia Allman, Jimmy Cash, Lawrence Nash. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Writers: Paul Henning, Keith Fowler, George Burns.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: MIRACLE IN MANHATTAN (NBC, 1948)---One measly egg nog atop some bad nutmeg, and one snide Christmas card from his boss, put Archie in a slightly sour mood . . . until guest Jeff Chandler tries to convince the cynical barkeep ("There's two kinds of guys go to church---them that doesn't, and them that don't") a spell in church might lift his spirit---leading Archie to an unexpected moment of true faith and a miracle before his weary eyes. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Writers: Ed Gardner, Vinnie Bogert, Robert Schiller.

ROCKY FORTUNE: THE PLOT TO MURDER SANTA CLAUS (NBC, 1953)---Assigned to work as a department store detective, Rocky (Frank Sinatra) lands smack into the middle of trouble intended for the store's Santa. Additional cast: Ted Borneo, Mary McGovern, Kay Stewart, Frank Bristol, Barney Phillips. Writer: George Lefferts.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: THE CHRISTMAS ECONOMY (CBS, 1959)---Shoving out of bed early under threat of a bucket of cold water is the least of their problems compared to trying to live up to their vow to cut down on frivolous Christmas spending. The Couple: Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce. Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Writer: Peg Lynch.


1885---Deems Taylor (commentator: Deems Taylor Music Series; The Prudential Family Hour; The RCA Victor Show; Information, Please), New York City.
1901---Andre Kostelanetz (conductor: The Chesterfield Hour; Light-Up Time; The Pause That Refreshes), St. Petersburg, Russia.
1907---Dame Peggy Ashcroft (actress: Queen Victoria), London.
1911---Bob Guilbert (actor: Don Winslow of the Navy), Wisconsin.
1917---Gene Rayburn (comedian/host: Rayburn and Finch), Christopher, Illinois.
1918---Frankie Darrow (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Chicago.
1921---Hawkshaw Hawkins (singer: Country Style USA; Country Music Time), Huntingdon, West Virginia.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leave Us Yule a Log on the Fire: The Way It Was, 21 December

So history takes a day off. Doesn't mean old-time radio does . . .

In one of the best of the series' Christmas season programs, "The wise old actor with the sage old brush"---as Archie (Ed Gardner) describes guest Monty Woolley---is going to play Santa Claus in Duffy's Tavern's annual Christmas pageant. Or, so thinks Archie, who hasn't quite invited him until he happens to turn up in everybody's favourite Lower East Side dump. ("Look what a challenge it'd be to you as a thespedestrian!")

This installment includes Archie reading the anti-classic holiday poem Abe Burrows composed for him, "Merry Christmas to Yez All." ("It'll go beautifully wid dat cracked mirror"---Eddie the waiter.) Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Florence Halop. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Music: Pete Reems and His Orchestra, Bob Graham. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, further unknown.


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: LOOKING FOR A CHRISTMAS TREE (NBC, 1943)---In which the Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) learns the hard way (doesn't he usually?) that waiting until the last minute to get the Christmas tree is as big a pain in the rump roast as waiting until the last minute to buy the Christmas presents---especially when everyone they know seems to have the same problem. The real treat: Teeny (Marian Jordan, who also plays Molly) reprises her charming performance "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" with the King's Men, whose Ken Darby set the classic poem to music. Uncle Dennis: Bill Thompson. Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Louie: Possibly Hugh Studebaker. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

THE JUDY CANOVA SHOW: A QUIET CHRISTMAS PARTY (NBC, 1946)---Following a charming, quasi-countrified Christmas medley, Judy (Canova) and Aunt Aggie (Ruth Perrot) hope to have a quiet home Christmas party. Geranium: Ruby Dandridge. Pedro: Mel Blanc. Benchley: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Howard Petrie. Music: Bud Dant Orchestra, the Sports Men. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople, John Ward, Hank Ladd.

THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM: LAST-MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING (NBC, 1947)---With three more shopping days before Christmas, Jack (Benny) meets Mary (Livingstone) for shopping and opens a charge account, Dennis (Day) ponders a gift for his parents, and Phil (Harris) flirts with a salesgirl (possibly Shirley Mitchell) who remembers him from last year's shopping. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, the Sports Men. Announcer: Don Wilson. Writers: George Balzar, Sam Perrin, Milt Josefsberg.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: ONE FELLA'S FAMILY: WRAPPING THE PRESENTS (YOU'LL NEVER GUESS, 1959)---From Book Ex Ex Eye Eye, Chapter Vee Eye Eye Eye, Pages 1, 112, and the Bottom of Page 113. Writers (actual or alleged): Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Don't Overlook Those Lovely Intangibles": The Way It Was, 20 December

---In a presentation just as sterling (and stirring) on old-time radio as it was on screen, Edmund Gwenn reprises his virtuoso, Oscar-winning film role as what TV Guide would describe, in due and inimitable course, as "the department store Santa who goes on trial to prove he's the real Kris Kringle," challenging at once the recalcitrance of the law, the stubborn idealism of the young lawyer (John Payne, also reprising his film role) who defends him, and the stubborn literalism of an embittered mother (Maureen O'Hara (also reprising her film role) and her cynical little daughter.

Host: William Keighley. Adapted from the screenplay by Valentine Davies and George Seaton.


2003: AU REVOIR TO NORA'S MAN---Les Tremayne, remembered best as Nick Charles in old-time radio's Adventures of the Thin Man and as the first leading man for The Romance of Helen Trent, dies of heart failure at 90.

The Briton who moved to America as a boy, and learned to hide his native English accent under assault from Chicago bullies, was also a prominent actor in such radio vintages as One Man's Family, The Falcon, Wendy Warren and the News, and Grand Hotel, after receiving his first break stepping in for Don Ameche to host The First Nighter in 1936.

Though known primarily for radio drama, Tremayne also teamed with a barely-known comic for a radio series in the 1940s. The barely-known comic's name was Jackie Gleason.

Renowned for his ability to perform with little or no rehearsal, Tremayne was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.


LUX RADIO THEATER: SONG OF SONGS (CBS, 1937)---It isn't exactly a Christmas story--- but it is what host Cecil B. DeMille calls the Christmas gift to the nation from one of its favourite and best-respected old-time radio dramatic anthologies: Marlene Dietrich---on the threshold of her becoming an American citizen---reprises her 1933 film role as the orphan who stays with her Parisian aunt and falls for a sculptor who wants her to marry a wealthy client. Richard: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (in the Brian Aherne film role). Additional cast: Lionel Atwill (reprising his film role as Baron von Merzbach), Pedro DeCordoba; special guest: Walt Disney. Adapted from the screenplay by Edward Sheldon, Leo Birinsky, and Samuel Hoffenstein.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: CHRISTMAS 1942 (NBC, 1942)---Rushed to get the annual state of the water department report done by Christmas Eve, an exhausted Gildy (Harold Peary) collapses asleep at his desk and sleeps there through the night . . . haunted into the holiday anti-spirit by rapid-fire dreams of gift demands, and a romantic misunderstanding. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Floyd: Arthur Q. Bryan. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Leila: Shirley Mitchell. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: John Wald. Writers: John Whedon and Sam Moore.

GUNSMOKE: CHRISTMAS STORY (CBS, 1952)---Stranded after he has to put his injured horse out of his misery as Christmas Eve arrives, Matt (William Conrad) is offered a ride the rest of the way home by a drifting former sailor (possible John Dehner)---who unburdens a terrible secret and makes a major decision, after Matt tells him of last year's Christmas in Dodge. Chester: Parley Baer Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Antony Ellis.


1889---Ernest la Prade (conductor: Collier's Hour; Orchestra of the Nation), Memphis.
1898---Irene Dunne (actress: Bright Star; Family Theater; Hallmark Hall of Fame), Louisville.
1900---Ted Fio Rito (bandleader: Presenting Al Jolson; The Wonder Show with Jack Haley), Newark.
1905---Albert Dekker (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Brooklyn.
1906---Marion Talley (singer: Ry-Krisp Presents Marion Talley), Nevada, Missouri.
1907---Al Rinker (singer, with the Rhythm Boys: Paul Whiteman Presents), Tekoa, Washington.
1918---Audrey Totter (actress: Meet Millie; Bright Horizon), Joliet, Illinois.
1923---Charita Bauer (actress: The Aldrich Family; The Guiding Light), Newark.
1931---Mala Powers (actress: Stars Over Hollywood), San Francisco.