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

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

Tuesday, 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.


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