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.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Minister's Daughter: The Way It Was, 6 December

1900---The Rev. John Henderson Moorehead and his wife, Mildred, welcome to their home flock a daughter whose early penchant for mimicking her father's parishioners will turn her toward acting (though not without a formal, serious education as her father will insist) . . . and toward one of the most distinguished careers in old-time radio.

She will join Orson Welles's Mercury Theater of the Air group. She will play Margot Lane in The Shadow. She will play the secretary to Lionel Barrymore's crankily sentimental title character in Mayor of the Town. She will earn respect and a boatload of regular work based on her doings in such programs as Campbell Playhouse, Cavalcade of America, Ceiling Unlimited, Hello, Americans, The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Screen Guild Theater, Way Down East, Terry and the Pirates, and Mystery in the Air, among others.

And not even a concurrent and respectable supporting career in film (especially as Humphrey Bogart's former lover turned hidden nemesis in the noir classic Dark Passage, or a television generation locking in upon her arch, sarcasticaly harrumphing, and, ahem, bewitching and bothering murder-in-law (er, mother-in-law)---climaxing a career in which she makes neurotic characters a particular specialty---vapourises her signature performance in any medium: her self-possessed, disabled, bedridden wife, who discovers the hard way she's overhearing her own murder being plotted, in Suspense's for-radio written-for-radio "Sorry, Wrong Number" . . . which will become a film (and an Oscar nomination for Barbar Stanwyck) and a Lux Radio Theater entry long enough after she makes the Lucille Fletcher original her own.

"Her own" will be just so right, in fact---she will repeat that impeccable performances seven times in the future, all fresh performances, and all using the same by-then dog-eared original script she used in 1943.

You could suggest her as a powerful candidate for the title of the First Lady of Old-Time Radio, and you might receive only minimal arguments against, even if you receive concurrent arguments that her competition would be as stiff as she feared herself in line to become in her most famous Suspense performance.

So not even a single nose twitch, but a birthday toast for Agnes Moorehead, whose Maker still minds not one whit her intriguing Him . . . stirring His nerves . . . keeping Him in . . .


1923---For the first time, a sitting American President, Calvin Coolidge, who just so happens to be radio friendly in the first place, delivers an official presidential address on the air. What's called his first annual message to Congress and the nation---a State of the Union address, which Coolidge seems to prefer delivering on the threshold of winter (he assumed office in August 1923, on the death of Warren G. Harding, and was elected in his own right in November 1924)---is carried live on radio.


THE SHADOW DEATH SHOOTS AN ARROW (MUTUAL, 1942)---Lamont (Bill Johnstone) and Margot (Marjorie Anderson) are troubled by an anonymous warning of danger against a disabled local elder, whose nephew has returned from South America feeling spooked by an unusual mind-gaming cult. Additional cast and writers: Unknown. Announcer: Ken Roberts.

BOSTON BLACKIE: ATKINS, THE JEWEL THIEF (ABC, 1945)---A clever jewel thief---who thinks it'll net him $25,000---steals and hides a pearl necklace from the wife of Blackie's (Richard Kollmar) doctor . . . and the necklace insurer's investigator is murdered outside Blackie's apartment. Faraday: Maurice Tarplin. Mary: Jan Minor. Additional cast: Unknown. Writers: Kenny Lyons, Ralph Rosenberg.

THE LIFE OF RILEY: THE GREATEST MAN I KNOW (NBC, 1947)---That's the school composition Junior's (Tommy Cook) writing, to be printed in the local paper, but what a revoltin' development that is when Riley (William Bendix) learns the hard way for whom Junior wrote it. Babs: Barbara Eiler. Peg: Paula Winslowe. Hobart Morris: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Ken Niles. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Ruben Schipp.

DRAGNET BIG CANARIES (NBC, 1951)---A high school student (Joyce McCluskey) jolts Friday (Jack Webb) and Romero (Burton Yarborough) twice, when she admits she doesn't regret her embittered, constantly argumentative mother was found stabbed deeply to death . . . and, when she admits to stabbing her cherished canaries to death when her mother ordered them out of the house. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Writer: Jim Moser.


1887---Lynn Fontanne (as Lillie Louise Fontanne; actress: Theater Guild On the Air; Biography in Sound), Waterford, Essex, UK.
1888---Will Hay (comedian: Various British radio programs), Stockton-on-Tees, UK.
1904---Elissa Landi (actress: Lux Radio Theater; I'm an American), Venice.
1909---Lyn Murray (conductor: Chesterfield Presents; Your Hit Parade; The Ford Theater), London.
1913---Karl Haas (musician: Adventues in Good Music), Speyer-on-the-Rhine, Germany.


Blogger Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

i caught Aggie in three movies the other night: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey Into Fear. I still think Ambersons' Aunt Fanny is her best screen role, but I was surprised to see how good she was in Fear--particularly since I'd forgotten she was in the film in the first place!

6:34 AM  

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