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 10, 2008

Settling In: The Way It Was, 10 December

1941: PEARL HARBOUR---SETTLING IN . . . A nation and its radio begins to settle into the reality that the United States at last is at world war. Again.

CBS NEWS: THE THREE FRONT WAR---Updating a passel of war maneuvers around the fulcrums of the battles.

CBS BULLETIN: "THREE DIRECT HITS"---Citing sources from the Army, that's what John Daly reports were made by Army Air Corps bombers against Japanese ships in the Philippines. Also: Further war updates, including the situation in Hawaii itself three days after Pearl Harbour was attacked, and the British standing regarding its then-colony Hong Kong, among others.


1982: AU REVOIR---Freeman Gosden---who entertained millions, including several American presidents (at least one of whom, reputedly, refused interruption when the show was on the air), as one-half of old-time radio's ubiquitous (and, originally, groundbreaking) serial comedy-drama Amos 'n' Andy (as co-star and, with Charles Correll, co-writer)---dies of congestive heart failure, at age 83, in Los Angeles.

I don't think blacks as a body resented the program. That certainly wasn't what we intended, nor did we ever feel it when we were on the air.

---Freeman Gosden, in a rare interview in 1972.

Listen for yourself, think for yourself, but while you listen and think keep very much in mind that, often as not, Gosden and Correll also received---at the absolute height of the show's popularity (when it was still the cleverly-written and played fifteen-minute serial comedy-drama)---numerous invitations to perform live for black audiences . . . and no blackface.

Amos 'n' Andy, unlike many blackface acts [of the time], didn't drink, gamble, or cheat on their women---or eat pork chops, fried chicken, and watermelon. Gosden boasted that ministers and mothers praised the show's wholesomeness and "cleanliness." To quench any flickering protests, and for goodwill purposes, Gosden and Correll posed with black groups to promote their affection for and knowledge of urban blacks. A black newspaper, the Philadelphia Tribune, praised them as role models in their ability to re-create black culture; "Some of the imitators" of blacks, it noted, "are better than the original article." The leftist columnist Heywood Broun wrote that the pair went beyond racial or even comic considerations and could be enjoyed simply as "living, breathing persons." Many felt Amos 'n' Andy wasn't just funny but cathartic and universal and mirrored "life itself." One exuberant columnist called their humour "Shakespearean." A San Francisco reporter wrote that Gosden and Correll "never slur or make fun of the coloured race, and portray their characters in a human, appealing manner at all times" . . .

. . . [T]hey inhabited an all-black community, but they weren't isolated from the country's real concerns, which the two comics were plunged into when the Depression struck only two months after Amos 'n' Andy went network. Indeed, Amos 'n' Andy reached its greatest popularity during---and due to---the Depression, when the characters' financial woes reflected the nation's but were funnier; they were worse off than most, but ever determined and optimistic . . .

. . . Is there any radio or TV comedy today that could captivate a nation for more than three decades? Amos 'n' Andy was the show that did just that, more deserving of being cherished for its sly, charming self than for being chastised---in the safely enlightened sanctuary of hindsight---for what it was not.

---Gerald Nachman, in "A Voice of Another Colour," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)


THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: FROM SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA (NBC, 1944)---Guest Dorothy Lamour joins the crew, barely recovered from Jack (Benny) and Don's (Wilson) argument over famous sayings, before a crowd of troops. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Eddie Anderson, Larry Stevens. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: GETTING LaTRIVIA AND DOC TO FIGHT (NBC, 1946)---Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Teeny) can't understand why McGee (Jim Jordan) wants to force the mayor (Gale Gordon) and the doctor (Arthur Q. Bryan) into a brawling showdown over a woman in whom they both seem interested. Mrs. Carstead: Bea Benaderet. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

THE BIG SHOW: "AND WHAT PATENT MEDICINE ARE YOU SELLING?" (NBC, 1950)---Clifton Webb opens with some good-natured needling of hostess Tallulah Bankhead's newfound radio and lecturing life, before the typical striking potpourri of comedy, music, and drama. Additional guests: Eddy Arnold, Charles Boyer, Joe Bushkin, Mindy Carson, Imogene Coca, Jimmy Durante. Music: Meredith Willson Orchestra, the Big Show Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, Selma Diamond, Frank Foster, Mort Greene.

SUSPENSE: BLACKJACK TO KILL (CBS, 1951)---An assassin (Victor Mature) draws high card to draw a $10,000 job for whom the victim won't be revealed until he meets his actual employer. Additional cast: Herbert Butterfield, Clayton Post, Harry Bartell, Eddie Firestone, Joseph Kearns, Steve Roberts. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Lucien Morelick, Bud Ludkin. Writers: Morton Spillane, David Friedkin.

YOU BET YOUR LIFE: THE SECRET WORD IS "FIRE" (NBC, 1952)---Groucho Marx sings two verses of his legendary Animal Crackers signature (and, coincidentally, this show's usual theme song), "Hooray for Captain Spaulding." Then, a French war bride (World War I, in fact) and a film grip; a processed food packer and a theater manager; and, a UCLA teaching student and a small business owner get to bathe in Groucho's usual repartee. Announcer: George Fenneman.


1889---Ray Collins (actor: County Seat; Mercury Theater of the Air; Suspense), Sacramento, California; Arthur Vinton (actor: Buck Rogers; The Shadow), Brooklyn.
1903---Una Merkel (actress: The Great Gildersleeve; Johnny Presents; Texaco Star Theater), Covington, Kentucky.
1911---Chet Huntley (Chester Robert Huntley; newscaster/commentator: They Burned the Books), Cardwell, Colorado.
1913---Morton Gould (conductor: Music for Today; The Original Amateur Hour; The Cresta Blanca Carnival), Richmond Hill, New York.
1914---Jean Dickenson (The Nightengale of the Airwaves; soprano: American Album of Familiar Music; Hollywood Hotel), Montreal; Dorothy Lamour (as Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton; actress: The Chase & Sanborn Hour; Front and Center; The Bob Hope Show; The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny; The Sealtest Variety Show), New Orleans.
1920---Dennis Morgan (singer/actor: Lux Radio Theater; U.S. Steel Hour; Screen Guild Theater), Prentice, Wisconsin.


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