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 02, 2008

Under the Reading Lamp: The Way It Was, 2 December

Two vintage crime dramas make their old-time radio debuts fourteen years apart this day. One will provoke unintended laughs often enough.

1932: "EXCUSE, PLEASE"---He isn't exactly a complete fiction---Earl Derr Biggers has modeled him in part on a Hawaiian detective named Chang Apana, before starring him in six novels and over forty films---but he becomes almost as popular on old-time radio as he does on film: Charlie Chan, with Walter Connolly in the title role, premieres today on NBC's Blue Network.

In due course, however, Ed Begley and Santos Ortega will prove far more familiar to radio listeners as the Oriental sleuth whose powers of deduction are often thrown to reduction by his bumbling Number One Son, played on radio by future mr. ace and JANE regular Leon Janney.

The radio version will air until 1948.

1946: "LET'S LOOK AT IT UNDER THE READING LAMP"---Thus ends the customary librarian's introduction to Mutual Broadcasting System's Crime Club, featuring host Raymond E. Johnson as the genially ominous librarian who narrates each week's episode, which is based on an actual series of potboilers then published by Doubleday, and is presented in a block known as "Mutual's Mystery Hour," followed by The Case Book of Gregory Hood

Following it's premiere episode, "Death Blew Out the Match," Crime Club has far less radio life than Charlie Chan, however: the series will last one season, barely, before being replaced by an offering known as Racket Smashers.

Very possibly, one portion of Crime Club's introduction gave it no help whatsoever: a series of short, scraping squeeks that surely remind listeners only too vividly of the other show on which Raymond E. Johnson is such a familiarly ominious presence . . .


THE GEORGE BURNS & GRACIE ALLEN SHOW: THE SPONSOR DROPS BY (NBC, 1940)---It's enough to prompt George (Burns) to don his best suit for dinner, amusing Gracie (Allen), Truman (Bradley), Senor (Lee), and Artie (Shaw). Announcer: Truman Bradley. Music: Artie Shaw and his Orchestra. Writers: Paul Henning, possibly Keith Fowler, George Burns.

MAYOR OF THE TOWN: INTERMEZZO (CBS, 1942)---A renowned pianist (Carl Esmond) moves into Springdale ahead of a recital in Chicago, but the man's fiancee (Bea Benaderet) is just as jarred as the mayor (Lionel Barrymore) to learn why he's ready to leave his art and love behind entirely. Marilly: Agnes Moorehead. Music: Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra. Writers: Jean Holloway, Leonard St. Clair.

THE ABBOTT & COSTELLO SHOW: A TRIP TO PALM SPRINGS (NBC, 1943)---In a show that features their classic "U-Drive" routine, Bud (Abbott) and Lou (Costello) have to rent a car to motor to Palm Springs with ideas about getting Veronica Lake (herself) to co-star in their next film. Mrs. Niles: Iris Adrian. Little Matilda: Millie Gray. Music: Freddie Rich and his Orchestra, Connie Haines. Announcer: Ken Niles. Writers: Pat Costello, Leonard Stern, Martin A. Ragaway.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: GILDY SPONSORS THE OPERA (NBC, 1945)---It begins with a new lady in Gildy's (Harold Peary) life . . . and continues after he objects to being snubbed for the local opera committee, at first. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Jack Meekam. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

CRIME CLUB: DEATH BLEW OUT THE MATCH (MUTUAL, 1946)---A small boat approaching a Cape Cod island carries passengers to a rather dangerous interlude involving an accident-rended invalid. Host: Raymond E. Johnson. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Possibly Wyllis Cooper.

YOU BET YOUR LIFE: THE SECRET WORD IS "FACE" (NBC, 1953)---And facing Groucho Marx are a pair of grandparents (not related), a telephone girl paired with a small town mayor, and a department store buyer paired with a circus worker. Announcer: George Fenneman.


1893---William Gaxton (actor: Broadway Showtime), San Francisco.
1895---Jesse Crawford (organist: Paramount Publix Hour; Counterspy), Woodland, California; Warren William (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Aitkin, Minnesota.
1898---Peter Goo Chong (actor: Collier's Hour; The Eddie Cantor Show; This Day is Ours), Miu, China.
1902---Howard Koch (writer: War of the Worlds), New York City.
1906---Donald Woods (actor: Those We Love; The Woolworth Hour), Brandon, Manitoba.
1910---Robert Paige (actor: Old Gold Comedy Theater; Screen Guild Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Indianapolis.
1915---Adolph Green (composer: Columbia Presents Corwin), New York City; Paul Mann (actor: The Adventures of Topper; Passport for Adams), Toronto, Ontario.
1916---Charlie Ventura (tenor saxophonist, Gene Krupa Orchestra: Spotlight Bands), Philadelphia.
1917---Sylvia Sims (actress: Suspense; Broadway is My Beat; Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar), New York City.
1918---Milton Delugg (conductor: Music Depreciation), Los Angeles; Ezra Stone (actor: The Fleischmann Hour; The Kate Smith Hour; The Aldrich Family), New Bedford, Massachussetts.
1925---Julie Harris (actress: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Grosse Point Park, Michigan.


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