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.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to Grow Old Gracefully---In One Hour: The Way It Was, 28 February

1948: HIRING A MAID---There comes a time in every man's life when he has to bring a prospective customer home for dinner. In a situation like that, a man likes to think of his wife as the little woman who helps him close the deal. I like to think of Jane that way. Excuse me a minute while I do . . . Well, enough daydreaming.

All (Goodman) Ace wants to do for one night is hire a maid for dinner, to impress his new client, a rich soapmaker . . . whose wife inadvertently hires Jane (Ace) as their maid, after she mistakes Jane---who's mistaken Ace's one-night idea for a sign of domestic dissatisfaction---for a job seeker at an employment agency where Jane was to do the hiring.

Those, alas, were only mistake numbers one, two, and three, on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.)

Norris: Eric Dressler. Ken: Ken Roberts. Additional cast: Evelyn Barton, John Griggs, Cliff Hall, Pert Kelton. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Writer: Goodman Ace.


1893---Ben Hecht (writer/panelist: Information, Please), New York City.
19141914---Jim Boles (actor: I Love a Mystery, King's Row), Lubbock, Texas.
1915---Zero Mostel (actor/comedian: The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street), Brooklyn.
1922---Joyce Howard (actress: Mary Noble, Backstage Wife), London.
1928---Louise Erickson (actress: A Date With Judy, The Great Gildersleeve), Oakland.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rearranging Living Rooms: The Way It Was, 27 February

1891---Helping to re-arrange America's living room furniture irrevocably will be the destiny of a child born today in Uzlian, Russia: David Sarnoff, who would parlay fame as a fast-fisted wireless operator who picked up a message from the Atlantic that the Titanic was sinking from his post at a Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company station in the Wanamaker department store . . . and stayed with it for 72 hours, giving (so the legend would go) perhaps the only continuing news of the world's worst passenger shipping disaster.

Sarnoff will make a career and reshape his adopted country out of being likewise in the right place at the right time. In due course he will turn his eventual employer, Radio Corporation of America (formed, according to Time, by General Electric to absorb Marconi's American assets), into a radio broadcasting pioneer when, as the company's general manager, he forms the National Broadcasting Company as an RCA subsidiary by linking several hundred radio stations.

He will prove at once a visionary and a man of short enough sight. He will anticipate television acutely enough, setting up an experimental television station in the late 1920s, after becoming convinced of the potential of Vladimir Zworykin's iconoscope; having NBC begin commercial telecasts in 1941.

But he will also appreciate his radio talent absently enough; he will seem to believe mostly that radio is a marketing tool, that listeners listen to networks first and particular performers or programs secondarily.

That attitude will help cost him his major radio star, Jack Benny, who jumps to CBS in 1948-49 and takes a truckload of NBC talent (some of whom---including Burns & Allen, in a homecoming to the network they once called home---are also Benny friends) with him.

Sarnoff will also inadvertently midwife another major broadcasting network (the others at the time: CBS, NBC Red, and Mutual), when he's forced to sell his Blue Network in the 1940s after a federal anti-trust investigation. The Blue network becomes the American Broadcasting Company.

Sarnoff, a runty, remote, frosty-eyed boy tycoon---the Bill Gates of the 1920s---was [NBC]'s technician and field manager, and a self-proclaimed "General"; he was only a reserve officer but with all the chutzpah of General Patton. Pat Weaver, the revered NBC programming innovator who worked with him for years, later wrote that Sarnoff was a publicity-seeking "monster" who cared only about radio as hardware. Weaver called him "General Fangs." The joke on Wall Street, recalled Weaver, was that if RCA stock opened at ten and Sarnoff dropped dead, it would close at a hundred.

---Gerald Nachman, Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

I realised I couldn't compete with gentiles in a gentile industry if I were merely as good as they were. But if I were, say, twice as good, they couldn't hold me down.

---David Sarnoff, cited by Nachman.

Mr. Sarnoff was a genius in his own way at NBC, [but] it was just one entity of the RCA corporation. It was a pure business thing, so there was a whole different attitude. [CBS chairman William S.] Paley would come down once in awhile; you had these very intimate studios . . . You'd see him in the doorway, interested in what you were doing. He was right there.

---Phil Cohan, radio writer/producer (for legendary jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman and Jimmy Durante).


27 FEBRUARY 1922: LET'S CONFER---U.S. Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover rounds up the first National Radio Conference, leading in due course to the formation of the National Radio Commission. Five years and one day later, of course, President Calvin Coolidge will create the NRC when he signs the Radio Act.

27 FEBRUARY 1942: THE WAVES OF THE SUN---British Army research officer J.S. Hey discovers the sun emits radio waves, a discovery crucial in the development of radio astronomy.


1942: SPAWN OF THE SUBHUMAN---A soprano's (Eleanor Nalin) premonition of danger disturbs her patron beau (Ben Morris) on a private flight, after she remembers a similar feeling leading to her road crash . . . the day her former fiance disappeared, on tonight's edition of Dark Fantasy. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Garland Moss, Muir Hite. Writer: Scott Bishop.

1944: THE GIRL IN THE PARK---Taking a shortcut through Lincoln Park to get to his car, Randy Stone (Frank Lovejoy) is halted when he lights up a cigarette and the flame illuminates a fear he's heard in the voice of a nightclub singer (Joan Banks) he runs into, a girl who thinks she has only this last night to live, on tonight's edition of Night Beat. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Paul Duboff, Ken Christie, Georgia Ellis, Carol Richards. Writer: Larry Marcus.


1880---Georgia Burke (actress: When a Girl Marries), Atlanta.
1888---Lotte Lehman (soprano: Command Performance), Perleburg, Prussia (Germany).
1892---William Demarest (actor: The Eddie Bracken Show), St. Paul, Minnesota.
1894---Upton Close (news commentator: Close-Ups of the News), Kelso, Washington.
1902---John Steinbeck (writer: Radio Hall of Fame, Lux Radio Theater), Salinas, California.
1905---Franchot Tone (actor: Arch Oboler's Plays), Niagara Falls.
1907---Mildred Bailey (singer: The Mildred Bailey Show), Tekoa, Washington; Kenneth Horne (comedian: Round the Horne, Beyond Our Ken), Wimbledon.
1909---Carl Frank (actor: Young Doctor Malone, Betty and Bob), unknown.
1910---Joan Bennett (actress: MGM Theatre of the Air), Palisades, New Jersey.
1913---Irwin Shaw (actor: Columbia Workshop), New York City.
1932---Elizabeth Taylor (actress, believe it . . . or not: Theatre Guild on the Air, Lux Radio Theater), London.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Der Dimple Meets Der Bingle: The Way It Was, 25 February

1954---Peggy Lee actually puts a little subtle, resuscitating fire into such an otherwise dry chestnut as "Golden Earrings." Then, some good natured banter with Der Bingle telegraphs the pair taking up a set similar to one he did with Dinah Shore some weeks back: a round of forgotten pop songs called Your Flop Parade, Lee's smoky style a pleasant contrast to Crosby's easygoing style . . . and it almost atones for the slightly recycled jokes (you can have fun recalling which earlier comedians first deployed some of the lines where) on tonight's edition of Philco Radio Time. (NBC.)

Cast: Ken Carpenter, the Rhythmaires. Orchestra: John Scott Trotter.


1923: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE 4077th---Before helping a certain mobile Army surgical hospital graduate from film to television as one of its co-creators and writers for its first four seasons, he would make his bones putting numerous old-time radio audiences to laughter by way of his writing for Maxwell House Coffee Time (when it was the seedbed for Fanny Brice and Baby Snooks), Duffy's Tavern, Command Performance (the Armed Forces Radio Service variety series), The Eddie Cantor Show, The Jack Carson Show, and The Bob Hope Show. Just so long as you didn't mind Larry Gelbart's having to be born in the first place, as he was today.

And he would prove a kind of anomaly when he began writing for radio---being sixteen years old.

A fellow from the William Morris Agency named George Gruskin said that if I wanted to do more, he thought I had a future. He arranged for [Duffy's Tavern star/co-creator/co-writer] Ed Gardner to take a chance. He signed me, and got me a position on Duffy's Tavern at $50 a week . . .

I saw [Gardner] once reading some material that one of the people he'd hired had written, and he read the first page and said, "This stinks, this is really terrible." And he called the guy up and fired him on the phone. And then read the next page and liked that, called him back and rehired him . . . He was a piece of work . . . [but] I will say this---his eccentricities didn't get in the way of his selectivity. He was . . . the best editor for that show, of anybody around. He really knew the characters.

---On Ed Gardner and Duffy's Tavern, to Jordan R. Young for The Laugh Crafters. (Beverly Hills, California: Past Time Publishing, 1999.)

I remember once writing a sketch for George Burns and Gracie Allen---and being told that Burns wouldn't do anything unless his own writers did it, because only they knew how to write for them. So I just put Paul Henning's name on it when I sent it over, and George said, "Fine. Good. I'll do it."---On writing for a Burns & Allen appearance on Command Performance, to Young.

Larry Gelbart once said the definitive line about the painful side of bringing in a musical comedy. At this time he was out of town with the tryout of his first show, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, for which he had written the libretto. Larry's tryout was taking place at the same time Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal, was on trial in Israel. There was a great deal of talk about how Eichmann should be punished. Hanging? Firing squad? Poison? Larry Gelbart said, "I know what they should do with Eichmann. They should send him on the road with the tryout of a musical."

---Abe Burrows (who called Gelbart "a real find" when the lad was hired for Duffy's Tavern), from his memoir, Honest Abe: Is There Really No Business Like Show Business?. (Boston: Atlantic Little, Brown, 1980.)


1942: FIBBER'S BOTTLE COLLECTION---Pack rat McGee (Jim Jordan) hopes the collection bottles up a nice little profit for himself when he takes it downtown (Teeny on a rebate: "It's when ya put another worm on the hook"), on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Molly/Teeny: Marian Jordan. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. The Old-Timer: William Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writer: Don Quinn.

1947: THE COMEDY TEAM---That's what Mel (Blanc) thinks will entertain a visiting caliph well enough to impress Betty's (Mary Jane Croft) father enough that he'll let Mel take Betty to the upcoming big dance, on tonight's edition of The Mel Blanc Show. (CBS.)

Cast: Hans Conreid, Joseph Kearns, Alan Reed, Joe Walker. Writer: Mack Benoff. Music: Victor Miller Orchestra, the Sportsmen Quartet.


1879---Frank McIntyre (actor: Maxwell House Showboat), Ann Arbor, Michigan.
1901---Zeppo Marx (as Herbert Marx; actor: American Review), Yorkville, New York.
1906---Warren Hymer (actor: Screen Guild Theatre), New York City.
1912---Richard Wattis (actor: Brothers-in-Law), Wednesbury, U.K.
1913---Jim Backus (actor: The Alan Young Show, Sad Sack), Cleveland.
1917---Brenda Joyce (actress: Stars Over Hollywood, American Showcase), Kansas City.
1927---Dickie Jones (actor: The Aldrich Family), Snyder, Texas.
1938---Diane Baker (actress: CBS Radio Mystery Theatre), Hollywood.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Smoke the Bagpipes: The Way It Was, 24 February

That would be the one featuring Arthur Treacher, whom Fred Allen is pumping as Britain's first bona-fide hillbilly star.

As if to prove good things coming to those who wait, however, the master ad-libber and peerless satirist, who has suffered neither fools nor giveaway shows gladly, takes one of his best pokes at the surging radio trend, zapping the seeming nonsensibility of some prizes and the implicit absurdity of others, before sauntering to The Alley to discuss hobbies: home movies for Senator Claghorn (Kenny Delmar); putty saving and deer end mounting for Titus Moody (Parker Fennelly); and, cooking for Mrs. Nussbaum (Minerva Pious)---"I'm throwing in two horseshoe crabs for luck!"

With Portland Hoffa, Alan Reed. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Nat Hiken, Bob Weiskopf.

(Bonus material: The AFRS recording of the show edits out the commercials but fills in the time with an extra selection of the harmony-rich DeMarco Sisters, whom arranger-composer Gordon Jenkins recommended to the Allen staff after hearing the five siblings in the elevator of his office building---and, the story has gone, was so impressed he re-ran the elevator its full length so the quintet could sing another song for him. At their absolute best, the DeMarco Sisters were a match for the Andrews Sisters aesthetically, if not commercially.)


LUM & ABNER: LUM AN AIR RAID WARDEN (CBS, 1942)---It might be something to break the monotony of Lum (Chester Lauck) fearing he might wreck Diogenes Smith's confidence in him as circulation manager for the war preparedness pamphlets---and his own chances for a prize as Pine Ridge's model citizen.

Co-star/co-writer: Norris Goff.

INFORMATION, PLEASE: THE WALSH GIRL (NBC, 1944)---Elizabeth Janeway, new to the best-seller lists with her first novel, The Walsh Girls (and the wife of Roosevelt Administration economic advisor Eliot "Calamity" Janeway), joins composer/critic (and frequent radio guest) Deems Taylor as the guest panelists lined up with regulars John F. Kieran and Franklin P. Adams. Host: Clifton Fadiman.

THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM: BUYING A NEW CAR (CBS, 1952)---That would be Jack (Benny), who sees a circular advertising "liberal trade-in allowances" and decides that's a good reason to unload the old Maxwell before its final phat-phat-bang! (Mary Livingstone: "What are you gonna get---an Essex or a Stutz?")

Additional cast: Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.


1876---Victor Moore ("The Lothario of the Lumbago Set"; comedian: The Jimmy Durante Show), Hammonton, New Jersey.
1890---Marjorie Main (actress: Columbia Presents Corwin), Acton, Indiana.
1914---Zachary Scott (actor: Suspense, Encore Theatre, U.S. Steel Hour, Screen Guild Theatre), Austin, Texas.
1919---Betty Marsden (actress: Beyond Our Ken, 'Round the Horne), Liverpool, U.K.
1921---Abe Vigoda (actor: CBS Was There/You Are There), New York City.
1924---Steven Hill (actor: Treasury Salute, Up For Parole), Seattle.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Radio President, the Radio Commission: The Way It Was, 23 February

1927: SPEAKING OF CALVIN COOLIDGE . . .Said President, who will become known as the Radio President for his easy way with the comparatively young medium, signs into law the 1927 Radio Act, formally creating the Federal Radio Commission---the forerunner of the Federal Communications Commission.


1910: CREDIT OR BLAME IT ON PHILADELPHIA---It is the first known radio contest.

1942: "DON'T SLOW OUR EFFORT"---With the United States at war around the anniversary of George Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Americans not to allow "our effort" to be slowed by "sniping at each other," thus retorting none too subtly against critics questioning both the reality of the New Deal and the actuality of the war, in tonight's Fireside Chat. (All networks.)

For eight years, General Washington and his Continental Army were faced continually with formidable odds and recurring defeats. Supplies and equipment were lacking. In a sense, every winter was a Valley Forge. Throughout the thirteen states there existed fifth columnists and selfish men, jealous men, fearful men, who proclaimed that Washington's cause was hopeless, and that he should ask for a negotiated peace.

Comprehending and embracing radio to a greater extent than perhaps any American politician of his era (Calvin Coolidge was merely the first President to appreciate the medium's potential), Roosevelt introduced the Fireside Chats during his first year in office, when he went on the air 12 March 1933 at the height of the Depression-seeded bank crisis.

Whether they concurred or demurred from his pronouncements or stated plans, whenever he stated them, Roosevelt's listeners responded broadly enough that the Fireside Chats have been a longtime, semi-regular feature of the Roosevelt presidency. The final Fireside Chat, concurrent to the opening of the fifth War Drive, was broadcast 12 June 1944 . . . six days after D-Day launched. (The night before D-Day, Roosevelt's Fireside Chat celebrated the liberation of Rome from Axis control.)

The Fireside Chats were broadcast live at 10 p.m. Eastern standard/daylight/war time, the late hour allowing Roosevelt to transcend the time difference and reach West Coast families. Roosevelt gave four such Chats in 1933, 1942, and 1943; two each in 1934, 1937 (in one of which Roosevelt discussed his controversial and rightly doomed plan to pack the Supreme Court), 1938, 1940, 1941, and 1944; and, one each in 1935, 1936, and 1939.


1948: GIVE HIM THE SIMPLE LIFE---A benign, content family business treasurer heretofore content in his work takes a course toward murder, after his uncle and cousin rebuff his partnership bid and his avaricious wife gives him an ultimatum, on tonight's edition of Diary of Fate. (Syndicated.)

Cast unknown: Writer/director/producer: Larry Finley.

1949: ARCHIE WANTS TO PATENT ELECTRICITY---The only problem Archie (Ed Gardner) has is, he's only a few decades late and about five dollars short---it's what he owes the electric company---on tonight's edition of Duffy's Tavern. (NBC.)

Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Eddie: Eddie Green. Clancy: Alan Reed. Writers: Ed Gardner, Larry Gelbart, Larry Marks, Manny Sachs.


1883---Victor Fleming (director: Gulf Screen Theatre), Pasadena, California
1899---Norman Taurog (director: Biography in Sound, Bud's Bandwagon), Chicago.
1904---William L. Shirer (reporter/analyst, CBS European News, CBS World News Roundup, William L. Shirer: News and Comment), Chicago.
1909---Anthony Ross (actor: Broadway Is My Beat), New York City.
1913---Jon Hall (actor: Texaco Star Theater, Screen Guild Theater), Fresno, California.
1935---Gerrianne Raphael (actress Let's Pretend), New York City.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooper's Spy: The Way It Was, 22 February

1950: THE SPY---A British spy captured near Tarrytown during the U.S. War of Independence, following a long search, escapes disguised as a peddler---to the consternation of the Army captain (Robert Stack) who laboured so arduously to capture him in the first place and fears prosecution for the escape, on tonight's edition of Family Theater. (Mutual.)

Co-stars: Lillian Biaff, Jack Grayson. Adapted from the story by James Feinmore Cooper.


1942: SELLING THE DRUG STORE---The continuing operating debt on the drugstore the Forrester estate owns threatens Gildersleeve's (Harold Peary) executorship of the estate---and spoils an otherwise pleasant Washington's Birthday-tribute breakfast with which Birdie (Lillian Randolph) surprises the family---until Gildy finally finds a buyer, on tonight's installment of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Peavey: Richard Legrand. Hooker: Earle Ross. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Writers: Sam Moore, John Whedon.

1952: THE REVENGEFUL GHOST---A wealthy New York suburbanite's fiancee believes he was killed on the eve of his remarriage by a ghostly presence . . . the ghost of his late wife, that is, on tonight's installment of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. (CBS.)

Cast: Arthur Hughes, Jim Kelly, Florence Malone. Writers: Barbara Bates, Charles Gussman, Lawrence Klee, Robert J. Shaw.


1857---Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (pioneer: credited with the first known transmission and reception of radio waves, in 1888; the hertz measurement of frequency is named for him), Hamburg, Germany.
1890---Enid Markey (actress: Woman of Courage), Dillon, Colorado.
1907---Sheldon Leonard (comedian/actor: The Judy Canova Show, The Jack Benny Program, Screen Directors' Playhouse), New York City; Robert Young (actor: Lux Radio Theater, Passport for Adams, Father Knows Best), Chicago.
1910---Gene Hamilton (announcer: The Voice of Firestone, The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street), Toledo, Ohio.
1915---Jules Munshin (actor: MGM Musical Comedy Theatre), New York City; Dan Seymour (actor: Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories, War of the Worlds), New York City.
1918---Sid Abel (sports announcer: Detroit Red Wings hockey), Melville, Saskatchewan; Don Pardo (announcer: The Magnificent Montague), Westfield, Massachussetts.
1925---Stratford Johns (actor: Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile), Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
1926---Kenneth Williams (actor: Hancock's Half Hour), Islington, U.K.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fate of the Free World: The Way It Was, 21 February

1943---What should have been a steady success, to gather by its mastermind and the performers attracted to its productions, is born today---Free World Theatre, on NBC's Blue Network.

The show is the creation of Arch Oboler, who took Lights Out from Wyllis Cooper and fortified it even further as a master thriller, and who will produce and direct Free World Theatre as well as adapt all its material from their sources.

In spite of that, and in spite of such film and radio titans joining in as Edward Arnold, Kenny Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Ronald Colman, Joseph Cotten, Judy Garland, Paul Henreid, Lena Horne, Charles Ruggles, and Orson Welles, Free World Theatre will run for nineteen installments only.

Among its more distinctive productions: the all-black adaptation of "Something About Joe," featuring Lena Horne, Rex Ingram, Hazel Scott, the Charioteers, and the Hall Johnson Choir, on 23 May 1943.


1943: DESERT HEAT---The 21st Ferrying Group of the Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command in Palm Springs gets some additional live heat from Carmen Miranda in the middle of the usual wisenheimer mayhem, on tonight's edition of The Chase & Sanborn Show Starring Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Don Ameche, Bill Forman, Joan Merrill, Mortimer Snerd. Music: Ray Noble. Writers: Possibly Joe Bigelow, Joe Connelly, Dick Mack, Bob Mosher.

1948: YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS---"First, I want to say I'd like to dedicate this story to all the husbands who will some day marry Jane," drawls (Goodman) Ace. What a surprise, after her usual complications set in, between Jane (Ace)'s indignation over Ace forgetting their fifteenth-and-a-half wedding anniversary, and the comely candy manufacturer (Gertrude Warner) who is his new advertising client, on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.)

Paul: Leon Janney. Norris: Eric Dressler. Sally: Florence Robinson. Ken: Ken Roberts. Additional cast: Michael Abbott. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Writer: Goodman Ace.

1950: THE RED MARK---The prison island of New Caledonia hosts a grisly clash between an inmate (William Conrad) and the island's grotesque official executioner (Will Geer), on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Harry Bartel, Paul Frees, Julius Mathews, Barbara Whiting. Adaptation (from a story by John Russell): Les Crutchfield, John Dunkel.


1880---Frank Orth (actor: Boston Blackie), Philadelphia.
1893---Ernest Whitman (actor: Beulah, Circus Days), Fort Smith, Arkansas.
1907---W.H. Auden (poet/writer: Columbia Workshop), York, U.K.
1915---Ann Sheridan (The Oomph Girl; actress: The Smiths of Hollywood, Stars in the Air), Dallas.
1916---Norman Jolley (actor: Space Patrol), Adel, Iowa.
1921---Shirley Bell (actress: the title role of Little Orphan Annie; Captain Midnight), Chicago.
1929---James Beck (actor: Dad's Army), Islington, North London, U.K.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Launching a Flagship: The Way It Was, 20 February

1922---What begins as a promotion for the Bamberger's department store's sale of the brand-new wireless radio becomes an institution of old-time radio and beyond: WOR takes the air for the first time, beginning regular programming two days later. In due course, the station will become the flagship of the Mutual Broadcasting System and the home station for two legendary programs, the early freewheeling comedy efforts of Henry Morgan (in the early 1940s) and the long-running Rambling with Gambling (hosted by three generations of John Gamblings).

The station today is a talk radio station owned by Buckley Broadcasting.


1949: A HALF-PINT STAR IS BORN---In a decade he will become one of the nation's top teenage singing stars, bearing, as it turns out, something a few of his teen-idol peers often lacked: genuine music talent, never mind a ready-made platform known as his parents' hit television show.

Tonight, however, Ricky Nelson begins to do what Henry Blair had done since 1944: play himself, "the irrepressible and irreverent Ricky" (in Gerald Nachman's phrase) on his parents' hit radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, in an episode called "Invitations to Dinner." (CBS).

Elder brother David also joined the cast, succeeding Joel Davis in playing himself and, essentially, playing straight man to little brother's barbs.

The Nelson boys messed around on the set, jealous of their performing counterparts. The idea of having them play themselves on the show came about by accident when Bing Crosby and his son Lindsay appeared on a Nelson show on which the real David and Ricky first played themselves and proved to be naturals. In exchange, Ozzie and his real sons did the Crosby show. The Nelson clan was suddenly in demand for guest shots on superstar shows with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Eddie Cantor, where they seemed a fresh breeze from suburbia.

The boys turned pro fast, questioning lines that didn't sound like them, and Ozzie became facile at working their lives into scripts. The real Ricky was a hit with his brash comebacks, which got out of hand when he began ad-libbing. Ozzie took him aside and scotched that idea, saying, Ozzie-like, "Son, there is no such thing as a child comedian." Yet he once cannily observed, "It's a cruel hard fact that a punch line delivered by a little guy of eight will get a much bigger laugh than the same line delivered by a boy of twelve." Ricky became the program's half-pint star, so much so that Harriet said, "It'll be a wonder if David doesn't murder Ricky in his bed some night."

---Gerald Nachman, Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)


1939: STAGE DOOR---A society girl (Ginger Rogers, reprising her film role) tries to make it on Broadway without her family connections and finds herself knitting into the lives of the fellow hopefuls with whom she rooms, unaware of her father's pending backstage machinations, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Adolph Menjou (as Tony Powell), Rosalind Russell (as Terry Randall; Katharine Hepburn played the role in the film), Eve Arden (as Linda Shaw; Gail Patrick---who did Lux twelve weeks earlier, in "Interference"---played the role on film).

1949: THE FROG---Tiring of competing with his favourite lab frog, resolute Connie (Eve Arden) decides Boynton (Jeff Chandler) should mate him with a lady, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Writer: Al Lewis.
1958: WAITING OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT STORE---It gets half our couple (Alan Bunce) in a momentary jam with a somewhat zealous police officer, when he has to double park waiting for his lady (Peg Lynch) to arrive at five and his friendship with the station lieutenant means three things (jack, diddley, and squat) to the cop, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer: Peg Lynch.


1900---Graham Spry (activist/lobbyist: considered the father of Canadian public broadcasting), St. Thomas, Ontario.
1906---Gale Gordon (announcer: The Wonder Show with Jack Haley; actor: Fibber McGee & Molly, The Whistler, My Favourite Husband, Our Miss Brooks, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show), New York City; Richard Himber (bandleader: Your Hit Parade), Newark, New Jersey.
1907---Nadine Conner (singer: Kraft Music Hall, The Bell Telephone Hour), Compton, California
1913---Tommy (Ol' Reliable) Henrich (baseball player turned sportscaster: The Tommy Henrich Show), Massilon, Ohio.
1914---John Daly (newscaster: CBS; host, CBS Was There, Columbia Workshop), Johannesburg, South Africa.
1919---Dick Wesson (announcer: Space Patrol), Idaho.
1929---Amanda Blake (actress: Lux Radio Theater, Escape), Buffalo, New York.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Doctor is In: The Way It Was, 19 February

1922---The actor who will serve the longest on old-time radio's Irna Phillips-created soap opera Young Doctor Malone is born George Sandford Becker in New York City.

He will land the role in 1947 and play the wise-beyond-his-years, periodically star-crossed physician until the day old-time radio fans will remember as Black Friday, 25 November 1960---the day Young Doctor Malone and five other classic radio soaps---The Right to Happiness, Ma Perkins, The Second Mrs. Burton, Whispering Streets, and The Romance of Helen Trent---air first-run episodes for the final time on network radio.

The good news will be that Sandy Becker won't exactly be lost for work---he'll already have begun earning his reputation as one of metropolitan New York's most clever children's television hosts, teaching a generation or two of metro New York children with a gift for verbal, physical, and even silent comedy (ask his fans even now about double-talking disc jockey Hambone or silent, stumbling Norton Nork) and a knack for puppeteering, all spun off the manner in which he entertains and teaches his own three children at home.

While starring in Young Doctor Malone, Becker will co-found legendary Sunday morning learn-and-laughfest Wonderama (he was the show's first host), handing off in due course to Sonny Fox and creating his own daily (even twice-daily) learn-and-laughfest, The Sandy Becker Show. Developing characters and themes out of his home skits, Becker will become one of New York's most popular children's comedians, earning a parallel reputation for treating the children who watched him exactly the way he once said he set out to do: the way their own parents might if they, too, were on television.

Becker will become respected especially for introducing children to news through puppeteering the lighter side of the news but, also, for the poignant yet non-maudlin manner in which he told them about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Becker will retire from on-camera work in 1968 but become a mentor and puppetmaking teacher to new children's hosts in the years until his death in 1996. The bad news is that most of Becker's own telecasts die; doing his shows live each day, few if any were kinescoped or videotaped in their entirety.


1922: A DECADE LATER, THE PROGRAM'S GONNA BE DIFFERENT---Somebody has to do it: Vaudeville star Ed Wynn (born Isaiah Edwin Leopold; he adapted his middle name into his stage name, reputedly, to spare his family the embarrassment of having a mere comedian in the family) becomes the first such performer to sign a radio contract. Perhaps naturally enough, the clown known as the Perfect Fool signs to perform in a show called The Perfect Fool for Newark, New Jersey station WJZ.

The effort unnerves him enough that he avoids the medium for the remainder of the decade. But a decade later---after a certain oil company lured him back with a reported $5,000 per week salary---the Perfect Fool will become one of the United States' major radio stars with The Fire Chief Program, sponsored by Texaco and featuring music by ill-fated piano virtuoso and orchestra leader Eddy Duchin.

In the ten years since the ill-fated Perfect Fool experiment, Wynn's mike fright had only escalated, and he approached the opening broadcast in a cold sweat. It was [announcer/second banana Graham] McNamee who calmed him down each week, McNamee who gave him the courage he needed to face that forbidding black enamel box. The two men became close friends---and McNamee's regular-guy enthusiasm acted on the air as the perfect complement to Wynn's manic comedy. But even with McNamee's friendship, support and encouragement, Wynn was still frightened, still insecure about his ability to perform as a radio comedian -- and to help him get thru each week's program, the show was made to be as much like a stage performance as possible. The Fire Chief Program was aired from the rooftop stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre---former home of the Ziegfeld Follies---before an enormous live audience. Wynn appeared in full costume---scooting out onto the stage each week on a toy fire engine, wearing a tiny Texaco Fire Chief helmet, and proclaiming "I'm the Chief tonight, Graham! Tonight's the program's gonna be different!"

But it really wasn't that different from what Wynn had been doing on stage for more than twenty years. The program was a series of short exchanges of revue-type jokes, broken up by musical interludes performed by Don Voorhees' Orchestra. During the musical numbers, Wynn would dart backstage and quickly change his costume---each outfit more outlandish than the last. But unlike Eddie Cantor, Wynn was able to keep the visual joke of his appearance separate form his verbal comedy---he didn't refer to his costume gags on the air, didn't make them part of the show targeted at listeners at home. In short, the theatrical trappings were there only to keep Wynn from panicking and freezing before the microphone. With the costumes, with the audience, he could pretend he was still in the theatre, and forget all about that frightening little box. Although "The Fire Chief Program" quickly became one of the most popular new shows of 1932, Wynn never overcame his terror of broadcasting, and it was a constant psychological struggle to face the microphone each Tuesday night.

However, Wynn's early, terrifying experience will not dissuade radio from inviting vaudeville's best to cross over. The door he opens will not close until the like of Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Stoopnagle and Bud, and numerous others have crossed from vaudeville to radio with historic results.


1939: CARMICHAEL, THE POLAR BEAR---Polyvocal Mel Blanc makes his show premiere as a polar bear given Jack (Benny) as a peculiar and slightly eccentric gift, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Cast: Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker, Don Wilson, Andy Devine. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Hal Perrin.

1947: THE RADIO PROGRAM BLOOD TEST---Well, the man never exactly denied he was out for blood, did he? But first he proposes some money-saving ideas for the government after examining the new national budget. That'll teach him, on tonight's edition of The Henry Morgan Show. (ABC.)

Cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Art Carney, Madaline Lee, Alice Pearce. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joseph Stein.

1950: VALENTINE'S DAY DATE---Unfortunately for Connie (Eve Arden), hers (Jeff Chandler) "isn't the most dashing person in the world, but what he lacks in ardent emotion he more than makes up for by his passionate lack of interest in romance" . . . and she learns the hard way about buck-passing when she tries a ruse to get him to finance their Valentine's Day plans, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Stretch: Leonard Lewis. Writer: Al Lewis.


1893---Sir Cedric Hardwicke (actor: BBC Home Theatre), Stourbridge, U.K.
1895---Louis Calhern (actor: Radio Reader's Digest), New York City.
1896---Eddie Jackson (comedian: The Jimmy Durante Show, Mail Call, The Big Show), unknown.
1901---William Post, Jr. (actor: John's Other Wife), unknown.
1915---Dick Emery (comedian: Educating Archie), London.
1915---Fred Frielberger (writer: Suspense, Family Theater), New York City.
1924---Lee Marvin (actor: Dragnet), New York City.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pleasant, Low-Keyed Music: The Way It Was, 18 February

1927---The Cities Service Concert, a pleasant, low-keyed broadcast of music (the sponsor is a petroleum company that graduates in due course to Citgo), premieres on NBC.

On the highways, in the homes, on the farms, in the factories, Cities Service petroleum products lead the way.---The customary promotional line that opened the broadcast.

Over the years of its long life (the show will be heard as late as 1945), featured performers will include Frank Banta, the Ross Bordon Orchestra, the Cavaliers Quartet, Jessica Dragonette, Ross Graham, Dorothy Kirsten and Milton Rettenberg. Paul LaValle will organise and conduct the show's house orchestra in due course, while Easy Aces announcer Ford Bond and, eventually, Roland Winters will serve as this show's primary announcers as well.

In later years, the show will be known as Cities Service Highways in Melody.


1949: THE ACTION-PACKED EXPENSE ACCOUNT---Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, named for the title character's invariable sign-off, after itemising his case expenses, premieres on CBS, tracking a crime-solving insurance investigator with a withering wit and a habit of tossing silver dollars as tips.

Starring Charles Russell in the title role at first, the series is believed to have hit its first stride when veteran film star Edmond O'Brien takes the title role in 1950, keeping it through 1952 and making it more of the hard-boiled detective stereotype secured by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

John Lund, Bob Bailey (the former star of Let George Do It), Bob Readick, and Mandel Kramer will also play the role before the series concludes in 1962.

With Bailey in the role, the series will convert to a fifteen-minute daily serial style in 1955 and the character will take on a few nuances without losing the hard boil entirely. It will revert to a weekly half-hour come 1956; Bailey will leave the series when it moves to New York, Readick plays the role for six months, and Kramer will take it for the rest of its life---adding even more cynical wit.

Although the show will hold up in its own right, its unique place in radio history secures when---joining Suspense---its final first-run broadcast in September 1962 becomes marked, by many if not most radio historians, as the day old-time network radio truly concluded after a decade of slow and (depending upon whom you ask) painful erosion.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar's writers included Les Crutchfield, Gil Doud, Paul Dudley, Jack Johnstone (who also created and produced the show), Sidney Marshall, Jack Newman, and Bob Ryf.


1951: NOW THEY BRING BOSTON TO ME---With an audience packed with folk who took a special show train from New England ("And they're all here for an evening of laughs---except 243 daily commuters who got off the train from force of habit and went to their offices"---hostess Tallulah Bankhead), and a cheerful clash of appropriate cracks from Fred Allen ("It just goes to show you what people will do to get away from television"), Jack Carson ("Big deal---you can't get an audience any other way, you railroad 'em into the theater"), and Ed Wynn ("Ten years ago I opened a show of mine in Boston and twelve hundred people got up in the middle of the first act and took a train to New York"), thus launches tonight's edition of The Big Show. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Portland Hoffa, Dennis King, Bea Lillie, Lauritz Melchior, and the West Point Choir. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Meredith Willson, the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, Fred Allen, Selma Diamond, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.

1952: THE SYMBOL THREE---A client (Jean Bates) is troubled by telephone calls from a tough implying blackmail over accidents involving her husband's successful building business, on Let George Do It. (Mutual.)

George: Bob Bailey. Additional cast: Virginia Gregg, Theodore von Els, Myron Cain, Donald Randolph. Writers: David Victor, Jackson Gillis.


1890---Edward Arnold (actor: Mr. President), New York City; Adolphe Menjou (host: Texaco Star Theater, Eternal Light, Hallmark Playhouse), Pittsburgh.
1892---Wendell L. Willkie (politician, guest panelist: Information Please), Elwood, Indiana.
1901---Wayne King (The Waltz King) (bandleader: The Lady Esther Serenade), Savannah, Illinois.
1907---Billy de Wolf (actor: The Ginny Simms Show, The Philco Radio Playhouse), Wollaston, Massachussetts.
1913---Dane Clark (actor: Passport for Adams, The Crime Files of Flamond), New York City.
1917---Jack Slattery (announcer: Art Linkletter's House Party, You Bet Your Life), Missouri.
1920---Bill Cullen (announcer: Arthur Godfrey Time; host: Beat the Clock, Winner Take All), Pittsburgh.
1924---Sam Rolfe (writer: Suspense; creator/writer: Have Gun, Will Travel), New York City.
1925---George Kennedy (actor: Suspense), New York City.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

They Didn't Get the Memo: The Way It Was, 12 February

1949---Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre On the Air version of War of the Worlds is old-time radio by the time Quito, Ecuador gets punk'd with a freshly-fashioned, freshly-localised, new version of the drama that first activated the panic buttons in Grover's Mill, New Jersey.

This new version is the creation of Radio Quito art director Leonardo Paez and dramatic director Alfredo Vergara Morales, alias Eduardo Alcaraz. What they wanted: A little something interesting and exciting to get Quito thinking about their station, and having hearing of the earlier Mercury Theatre exercise the duo decided a Quito-localised War of the Worlds would do the job very nicely. Why, they'd even plan the broadcast secretly enough, making no advance air announcement, the better to enhance the shock and awe factor.

They weren't exactly being careful what they wished for, senors and senoras. They are, probably, very lucky that the whole little town (population: an estimated 200,000) isn't incinerated by the time the fracas their little broadcast inspires is finito. As it is, only the radio station and part of the facility of the newspaper that owns it will burn. In terms of structural damage, that is.

Some listeners are said to believe it isn't Martians hitting the ground, levelling the small city of Latacunga, and advancing on the Ecuadorian capital---because they seem to believe it's Peruvians, with whose neighbouring country Ecuador has had a few border disputes and a couple of wars in the previous decade. And those among them who don't believe it's Peruvians are reputed to believe it's Soviets.

Still others among the panicked believe justice should be done post haste, once they realise they've been had. Those natives get restless enough to hit El Comercio, the newspaper that owns Radio Quito. Some throw dry projectiles at the place. Others incinerate copies enough of that day's edition and throw those at the place. Others upend a few fire hydrants, reportedly, the better to help ensure El Comercio burns to the suelo. A few more see four of la policia arrive and clobber one of them pronto.

Both El Comercio and Radio Quito will suffer considerable equipment damage, but the newspaper at least won't take long to get back in business.

There will even come reports that at least one priest is conducting an open-air mass of absolution for panickers who fear el fin está cerca and demand to make peace with God.

Just as happened with the original Mercury Theatre broadcast, when the Federal Communications Commission decided it had best investigate that fracas, Radio Quito's War of the Worlds will catch the Ecuadorian government's attention, the Defence Ministry assigned to investigate. Twenty-one arrests are made, of rioters and Radio Quito staffers alike, though the trial records will seem to be buried in time enough according to several sources.

Morales will be among the cuffed and stuffed while Paez will be reported as vanishing completely. That allows Morales to throw him under the proverbial bus, claiming him the mastermind behind the surprise broadcast, charging concurrently that he even kept the performers under lock and key to keep the surprise intact.

The bad news: Quito's citizens would need longer to recover from their unfortunate new nickname than from the panic itself. They will be known for a very long time as Los Mercians---The Martians.

The worse news: This isn't exactly unprecedented in Latin American radio history. Five years before Los Mercians tried to upend Quito in panic, a few towns in Chile hit the panic buttons running when a Santiago station staged a likewise localised version of The War of the Worlds.

Unlike the hapless Quitonians, the Chileans couldn't exactly claim they'd been had. The station had published enough advance notice that the show was going on, and in the intended Wellesian style, complete with warnings that it was a work of ficcion.


1945: NOW, THERE'S A PAIR---Romance novelist Faith Baldwin and master satirist Fred Allen join the panel (John Kieran, Franklin P. Adams, Oscar Levant) and host (Clifton Fadiman) tonight on Information, Please. (NBC.)

1956: THE WOMAN FROM HORSE CREEK---Taking up contributions to help Mrs. Dennis get back home, on tonight's edition of Fort Laramie. (CBS.)

Cast: Raymond Burr, John Dehner, Sam Edwards, Virginia Gregg, Barney Phillips, Larry Dobkin, Ben Wright, Jeanette Nolan, Harry Bartell. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Writer: Kathleen Hite.


1888---Victor Kolar (conductor: Ford Sunday Evening Hour), Budapest, Hungary.
1898---Wallace Ford (actor: Hollywood On the Air, Royal Gelatin Hour), Batton, U.K.
1899---Ray Knight (actor: The Cuckoo Hour, House in the Country), Salem, Massachussetts.
1904---Joseph Kearns (actor: A Date with Judy, The Adventures of Sam Spade, The Burns & Allen Show, The Judy Canova Show, The Cinnamon Bear, Frontier Gentleman, Our Miss Brooks), Salt Lake City; Ted Mack (master of ceremonies: Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour), Greeley, Colorado.
1910---Ken Roberts (actor: Easy Aces, The Shadow; announcer: Al Pearce and His Gang, Baby Snooks, Grand Central Station, mr. ace and JANE; host, Quick as a Flash), New York City.
1912---Stan Kenton (pianist/composer/bandleader, The Bob Hope Show, Stan Kenton Concerts in Minature), Wichita, Kansas.
1915---Lorne Greene (actor/host: "Western Night," Sears Radio Theatre), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
1919---Forrest Tucker (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Plainfield, Indiana.
1920---Shirley Yamaguchi (actress: The New Edgar Bergen Hour), Manchuria, Japan.
1927---Bobby Winkler (actor: Big Town), Chicago.

Monday, February 11, 2008

No Doubt World Famous: The Way It Was, 11 February

1940: SWING LONGHAIR, SWEET CHARIOT---With the swing era at its absolute peak and many swing bands turning classical selections into swingers or at least swing ballads (Freddy Martin's "Tonight We Love," mulcted from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, would probably become only the biggest of such hits), it might be thought only natural for a swinging lampoon of the classics---or, at least, the manner in which classical music was presented on air.

So, too, must have thought The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, which premieres today on NBC Blue.

Good evening, lovers of fine music. Welcome to the no-doubt world-famous Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, and another concert dedicated to the perpetuation of the three B's - barrelhouse, boogie-woogie, and the blues.

---The show's usual introduction.

They keep the satire in the presentation---and even deploy willing, longtime Metropolitan Opera broadcast announcer Milton Cross as its own announcer, Cross getting the desired effect by delivering the barbed introductions in his most sober style.

The show presents some of the best rhythm music, especially rhythm treatments of classical extracts, and often ignoring racial barriers---folk/blues legend Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Leadbelly), jazz and stage legend Lena Horne, and Hot Lips Levine (who was also one of the show's bandleaders) were just as likely to perform as Jane Pickens and a soon-to-be-famous band and solo singer who got her actual launch with this show: Dinah Shore.

Levine and Paul LaValle will lead the show's house orchestras; future Quiet, Please narrator Ernest Chappell will be one of its supporting players, and future Green Hornet and (in the television era) New York St. Patrick's Day Parade anchor Jack McCarthy will appear regularly as Dr. Giacomo.

Among the guests who appeared on the program were the duo-piano team of Henry Brant and Richard Baldwin, who played the first swing treatment of Haydn's Surprise Symphony; and, harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe, who played Mozart's Turkish March, retitled "Old Man Mozart on the Mooch."

---Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, from The Big Broadcast 1920-1950. (New York: Avon, 1971.)

Cross will also inspire Dinah Shore's first nickname, when he describes her as "start[ing] a fire by rubbing two notes together," provoking Shore's early designation as "The One-Woman Torchlight Parade."

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street will enjoy a twelve-season run.


1944: THREE TIMES, YOU'RE OUT---It ain't at the old ball game, kiddies, as Andy (Charles Correll) will learn to his bewilderment after missing the previous lodge meeting or two, on tonight's edition of The Amos 'n' Andy Show. (CBS.) Co-stars: Freeman Gosden, Ernestine Wade, Amanda Randolph, Harriett Widmar, Elinor Harriot, Terry Howard, Madeline Lee, Lou Lubin, Eddie Green, and Johnny Lee. Writers: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll.

1949: VALENTINE'S DAY---It's hard enough for Liz (Lucille Ball) to make diffident George (Richard Denning) think of Valentine's Day as more than just another commercial racket---without her valentine to him getting switched with the butcher bill, on tonight's episode of My Favourite Husband. (CBS.) Co-stars: Gale Gordon, Bea Benaderet, Hans Conreid, Ruth Perrot. Writers: Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh.


1908---Philip Dunne (director: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1909---Max Baer (Sr.) (boxer-turned-actor: Lucky Smith), Omaha, Nebraska; Joseph L. Mankiewicz (writer/director: Theatre Guild on the Air, Lux Radio Theater), Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
1920---Billy Halop (actor: Bobby Benson's Adventures, Home Sweet Home), New York City.
1926---Leslie Nielsen (actor: Jive Patrol), Regina, Saskatchewan.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Birth of the Schnozz: The Way It Was, 10 February

1893: "I'M DYNAMITE. DYNAMITE!"---It will never be verified whether he emerged nose first, but Mitchell and Margaret Durante's third child freshly born today will grow up to become one of America's most beloved entertainers, on old-time radio and elsewhere.

I eats raw eggs. I eats rawr eggs an' I t'rows out me chest, like dis, an' I'm dynamite. Dynamite!

---Jimmy Durante, to H. Allen Smith, circa 1939-1940.

Rawr eggs may be the answer. Or perhaps it's some uncaptured cosmis ray that creates the dynamite. In all events there can be no dispute about the results in the case of Mr. Durante. He's dynamite in his sleep. On the stage, before the sound cameras, in front of the mike, he's a clown without peer. And he carries his artistic madness beyond those regions where it means money in his kilts. I, for one, can testify that Jimmy Durante is dynamite during an interview.

---H. Allen Smith, in "All Nose," from Low Man on a Totem Pole. (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1941.)


1938: MYSTERY IN THE HOTEL---The Man With the Yellow Face has threatened a prominent Egyptologist, and Tracy (Matt Crowley) has retrieved a mysterious code---but now he has to pull a friend out of the ocean fast, on today's edition of The Adventures of Dick Tracy. (NBC Blue Network.)

1958: HOUSE FOR SALE---Our couple is puzzled by a telephone call asking her (Peg Lynch) how much they're asking for their home, which isn't for sale, in spite of his (Alan Bunce) reminding her they've often speculated idly on the prospect of a future sale, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer: Peg Lynch.


1910---James Monk (actor: Mr. Moto), unknown.
1922---Neva Patterson (actress: Cavalcade of America), Nevada, Iowa.
1929---Jerry Goldsmith (composer/conductor: Frontier Gentleman, Romance), Los Angeles.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jot it Down: The Way It Was, 9 February

1902---One half of old-time radio's favourite rural enterpreneurs and friends is born today in Aleene, Arkansas: Chester Lauck, better known as Lum Edwards and a few other Pine Ridge denizens (specifically, and especially, Grandpappy Spears, Snake Hogan, and Cedric Wehunt) who will make Lum & Abner one of the medium's sleepy favourites for a quarter of a century.


1958---One of the last new series to get a try in what we now call the old-time radio era premieres on CBS: Frontier Gentleman.

Herewith, an Englishman's account of life and death in the West. As a reporter for the London Times, he writes his colorful and unusual accounts. But as a man with a gun, he lives and becomes a part of the violent years in the new territories. Now, starring John Dehner, this is the story of J. B. Kendall, Frontier Gentleman.

---The show's usual introduction.

Written and directed by Anthony Ellis---who sketches Kendall's travels through the American West for London Times stories, during which travels Kendall crosses paths (and, periodically, pistols) with the like of Jesse James, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok, among others---the show's premise probably sounds more interesting than the execution. Frontier Gentleman will last only until 16 November 1958.

The cast is filled out with Harry Bartell, Lawrence Dobkin, Virginia Gregg, Stacy Harris, Johnny Jacobs, Joseph Kearns, Jack Kruschen, Jack Moyles, Jeanette Nolan, Vic Perrin and Barney Phillips---most of whom comprise a kind of Gunsmoke alumni association, with Bartell, Dobkin, Kearns, and Perrin all having featured on the earlier, classic Western.

Bartell has also been heard on The Charlotte Greenwood Show (comedy-variety); Dobkin, on Ellery Queen (he was the second actor to play the title role) and One Man's Family (on which Gregg and Perrin also appeared); and, Kearns, on The Jimmy Durante Show, The Judy Canova Show, The Mel Blanc Show, and Suspense, to name a few within his volume of radio credits.

When Frontier Gentleman begins, Kearns is on the threshold of gaining broad television face recognition: he will play cranky Mr. Wilson in the television version of Hank Ketcham's syndicated newspaper cartoon, Dennis the Menace. Upon his death, Kearns will be succeeded (sort of) by another radio veteran of long and distinguished service---Gale Gordon, who will play Mr. Wilson's brother for Dennis the Menace's final season.


1940: THE FORMATION OF THE MEN'S PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION---That's what the husbands of Pine Ridge have formed, frustrated by their wives' actual or alleged unreasonable demands, with Abner (Norris Goff) suffering early and having a second thought or three after he tests the association credo with Lisbeth, on today's installment of Lum & Abner. (CBS.)

Lum: Chester Lauck. Writers: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

1947: THE HITCHHIKER---She's an attractive lady (Wendy Playfair), accepting a somewhat fateful lift to Salt Lake City, on tonight's episode of The Clock. (ABC.)

Additional cast: Charles Kingwall, Ellen Weinberg. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Writer: Lawrence Klee.


1891---Ronald Colman (actor: The Jack Benny Program; Lux Radio Theater; The Halls of Ivy), Richmond, Surrey, U.K.
1899---Brian Donlevy (actor: Dangerous Assignment), Portadown County, Armagh, Ireland.
1914---Bob Hite (announcer: Challenge of the Yukon; The Green Hornet; Casey, Crime Photographer), unknown; Ernest Tubb (singer/host: Grand Ole Opry), Crisp, Texas.
1915---Charlotte Holland (actress: Lone Journey; This is Nora Drake), unknown.
1939---Janet Suzman (panelist: Quote . . . Unquote), Johannesburg, South Africa.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Coast-to-Coast General: The Way It Was, 8 February

1924: AIR GENERAL---A Chicago speech by Gen. John Joseph Carty is the first coast-to-coast old-time radio broadcast hookup.

Carty has been an American Telephone and Telegraph vice president in charge of research and development for the Bell System, who was commissioned by the military and, for World War I, organised fourteen Signal Corps battalions from Bell System personnel, as well as serving the chief signal officer of the American Expeditionary Forces and designing communication circuits for military supply services operating in France, securing and maintaining transatlantic communications between U.S. forces in France and Washington.

After the war, Carty was officer in charge of communications for the American Committee to Negotiate Peace.

In due course, the National Academy of Sciences will come to present an annual John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science, established by AT&T in 1932 in his honour.


1922---Just over three months before his administration (via Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall) was to begin boiling over Teapot Dome (the scandal that will begin with Fall's exposure for having accepted $404,000 worth of gifts to lease public oil reserves to oilmen Harry F. Sinclair and Edward Dolheny without competitive bidding; the leases were legal, but the gifts were not), President Warren G. Harding has a radio installed in the White House.

Harding is also the first American President to have spoken on radio directly.

1929: PLAYING KOY---Phoenix, Arizona radio station 6 BBH begins broadcasting under its newly approved change in call letters, to KOY. Three years later, the station will become an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System.

One of the station's earliest employees, according to its own history notes, is a twelve-year-old boy whose job it is to sweep the floors of owner Earl Nielsen's combination of sporting goods store and radio station. The boy's name: Barry Goldwater.


1933: TARZAN TO THE RESCUE---After rescuing Professor Porter's party, Tarzan (James H. Pierce) returns to his jungle to face a challenge to his leadership of the apes and a new rescue to perform---Jane (Joanne Burroughs), who's been kidnapped by pirates, on today's edition of Tarzan. (Syndicated.)

Jane: Joan Burroughs. Additional cast: Unknown. Based on the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

1944: MUDDLING WITH THE MENJOUS---Adolph Menjou and his wife Veree Teasdale get their crack at getting muddled by Gracie---who opens the broadcast with a gentle appeal for more war bond buying---as she and George celebrate their wedding anniversary while the Menjous split over a dubious quarrel, on tonight's edition of The Burns & Allen Show. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Elvia Allman, Mel Blanc, Jimmy Cash. Music: Felix Mills and His Orchestra. Writers: Paul Henning, George Burns, Keith Fowler, possibly Hal Block.

1954: McGEE'S NEW DIAL PHONE---He simply has to have one after one of his more annoying lodge buddies turns out to have one first, on today's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Writer: Phil Leslie.


1886---Charles Ruggles (actor/comedian: Texaco Star Theatre; Suspense; This Is My Best), Los Angeles.
1902---Lyle Talbot (actor: Your Hollywood Informer; Calling All Cars; The Unexpected), Pittsburgh.
1905---Truman Bradley (announcer: Easy Aces; The Red Skelton Show; Drene Time), Sheldon, Missouri.
1908---Myron McCormick (actor: Portia Faces Life), Albany, Indiana.
1911---Judith Allen (actress: The Shadow), New York City.
1913---Betty Field (actress: The Aldrich Family), Boston.
1914---Margot Stevenson (actress: The Shadow), New York City.
1917---Robert Dryden (actor: We Love and Learn; Call the Police), unknown.
1920---Lana Turner (actress: The Abbott and Costello Show; Lux Radio Theater), Wallace, Idaho.
1925---Jack Lemmon (actor: Dimension X; X Minus One), Boston.
1931---James Dean (actor: Hallmark Playhouse), Byron, Indiana.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Take the Radio Train: The Way It Was, 7 February

1915---The first known train-to-station radio message is transmitted to Binghamton, New York. And if anyone Out There knows precisely what that message said, I'd still appreciate your sharing it greatly---since, a year after learning of it, I'm having only slightly less luck still finding that message, than I'd have catching and taking the A train on schedule and with room to squeeze into the morning rush hour crowd without having to leave a foot between the doors when they close.


1935: LUM SAYS ABNER'S ARMS AREN'T BROKEN---He has to, just about, since Abner's (Norris Goff, who also plays Dick Huddleston) wife was fool enough to call the insurance company to put in a claim, and since Abner blames Lum (Chester Lauck) for starting the events that led to the ruse in the first place, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (Mutual.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

1937: JACK'S VIOLIN IS STOLEN---"They have nominated the thief for the Nobel Peace Prize," is what Fred Allen might say about it, after hearing of the theft---which Jack himself discovers after proclaiming he'll play "The Bee" this very night to show him and everyone else---on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program with Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, William Morrow, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.

1954: BEN'S FATHER COMES FOR A THREE-WEEK VISIT---Retired and presumed overactive, Father Marriott (Edwin Jerome) impresses the children (Denise Alexander, David Pepper) but wanting to be "no trouble at all" proves troubling to Ben (Hume Cronyn) and Liz (Jessica Tandy), on tonight's edition of The Marriage. (NBC.)

Writer: Ernest Kinoy.

1954: FOREIGN TEACHERS---They're visiting Madison High, and their rude criticisms prompt reactions that may cost Connie (Eve Arden), Boynton (Jeff Chandler), and Conklin (Gale Gordon) their jobs, prompting the trio to a desperate gesture when a major national education figure follows up, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Possibly Al Lewis.

1956: VARIATIONS ON A THEME---The best laid plans go to waste even for someone such as a man (Parley Baer) who thinks planning equals the perfect murder, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Paula Winslowe, Sam Edwards, Barbara Fuller, George Walsh, Peter Lee. Writer: Anthony Ellis.


1915---Eddie Bracken (comedian/actor: The Aldrich Family; The Eddie Bracken Show), Astoria, New York.
1923---Keefe Brasselle (actor: Stars in the Air, Suspense), Elyria, Ohio.
1924---Hattie Jacques (actress: It's That Man Again, Educating Archie), Sandgate, Kent, U.K.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Airing the Lord's Praise: The Way It Was, 6 February

1924---The first worship service ever heard on radio---from St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church (Anglican), Trafalgar Square, London---is broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Toward year's end, the first of the church's Vicar's Christmas Appeal annual broadcasts will air.


1943: YOUNG BLUE EYES---Freshly minted as a solo singing star on Columbia Records, following an arduous break with bandleader Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra makes his first old-time radio turn as a solo performer, on Your Hit Parade. It preludes the debut of The Voice's first radio program as a host, the fifteen-minute music offering The Frank Sinatra Show, later the same year.


1935: ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT OF THE JOT 'EM DOWN STORE---After Lum (Chester Lauck) went along with Abner (Norris Goff) pretending an accident injury to get the latter back in his wife's good graces---and gets stuck doing just about all the duo's work in store and matrimonial agency---the dynamic duo hits on an idea to resolve the open question of ruling the store, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (Mutual.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

1939: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO---Robert Montgomery and Josephine Hutchinson, have an aural tour-de-force in the Dumas classic of the imprisoned Napoleonic messenger (Montgomery) whose fiance (Hutchinson) is forced to marry a rival after being told he died in prison, and two decades before he escapes to plot revenge on three co-conspirators (Lloyd Nolan, Sydney Blackmer, Paul Lukas), on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Lewis Stone. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Music: Lewis Silvers. Adapted from the screenplay by Philip Dunne, from the novel by Alexander Dumas.

1949: PLANNING A TV SHOW---That's what a slightly disbelieving, customarily caustic Fred (Allen) is doing, with Bert Lahr as a particular partner in crime for a new television revue "before [television] turns back into radio again," heaven help them, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

With Portland Hoffa. Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax: Peter Donald. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Bob Weiskopf.

1949: THE STOCK ROOM; OR, THE MISSING ELECTRIC HEATER---A nightmare about Conklin's (Gale Gordon) coming school discipline crackdown is nothing compared to the nightmare he has in store for Connie (Eve Arden) when his intended school crackdown gets burned by the missing appliance---which she set up in Boyton's (Jeff Chandler) chilly biology lab---and his inadvertent stock room imprisonment, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Writer: Al Lewis.


1888---Bennett Kilpack (actor: Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), U.K.
1905---Bill Johnstone (actor: The Shadow; Pepper Young's Family), New York City.
1911---Ronald Reagan (actor/panelist: Hollywood Byline; actor: Lux Radio Theater; Suspense), Tampico, Illinois.
1913---John Lund (actor: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Chaplain Jim); Rochester, New York.
1914---Thurl Ravenscroft (singer, with the Sportsmen Quartet: The Jack Benny Program; My Friend Irma), Norfolk, New Brunswick.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Laid in a World Few Americans Know": The Way It Was, 5 February

1940: THE HONEYMOON BEGINS---Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, a Hummert soap opera written by Elizabeth Todd and starring Joy Hathaway as Charity Amanda Dyke Leighton---premieres on NBC's Blue Network.

The story of love and marriage in America's romantic South. The story of Amanda and Edward Leighton. Amanda of Honeymoon Hill . . . laid in a world few Americans know.

---From the show's introduction.

The cast includes such old-time radio mainstays as Helen Shields (as Sylvia Meadows), Jackie Kelk (as Jim Tolliver), and Boyd Crawford (as the first Edward Leighton). Also cast is John Brown (as Mr. Lenord), who will become far more familiar as the friendly undertaker, Digger O'Dell (as in, "Well, I guess I'll be shoveling off now") on NBC's The Life of Riley, before appearing regularly as the shifty boyfriend of scattered secretary Irma Peterson on CBS's My Friend Irma beginning in 1947.

Frank Gallop, Hugh Conover, and Howard Claney were the announcers, but Gallop may have been the most memorable of the trio, if his periodic fill-in can be believed.

. . . [H]is occasional tendency to almost break up but still manage to hang on for dear life while on the air was the giggly gossip of New York radio. The reason was the opening announcement which, as on all the Hummert soaps, was written by Anne Hummert. This particular lead-in indicated how truly naive Mrs. Hummert must really have been: "We bring you now the story of Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, laid in a world few Americans know" . . . The attention-getting word remained for the entire run of the program because, evidently, none of Anne Hummert's subordinates at Air Features had the temerity to approach her about deleting the double entendre and replacing it with a word or phrase less suggestive. Rather than chance it, they skipped it. But by substituting for Gallop myself once in a while, I found out what it must have been like for poor Frank to not break up. And for five years yet.

---George Ansbro, from I Have a Lady in the Balcony. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2000.)

On which note we may say Amanda of Honeymoon Hill was laid in the world few Americans knew for five years.


1943--- A key entry in the Allied propaganda campaign against the Nazis, Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik (German Short-Wave Radio Atlantic), organised by Sefton Delmer and shortening its name in due course to Atlantiksender, makes its first broadcast. Regular broadcasts will begin a month later, with its targets the infamous German U-boats---where commanders and radio operators seem to have had greater latitude in choosing what allow piped in than did regular German radio people on land under Hitler and Goebbels, according to military historian Robert Rowen.

Winston Churchill was very keen that the U-boats (German submarines) should receive a radio service like this. He felt that because the submarines were cut off from Germany the men on board were more likely to believe what was broadcast, if it sounded genuine. To help the show sound really German the band of the British Royal Marines recorded real German military music. They even invented a sailor's sweetheart called Vicky. The show spread rumours that German prisoners of war were earning large wages working in America . This was to make the Germans feel that there might be advantages to being captured or surrendering. The German Authorities soon realised this station was British propaganda but could do nothing to stop it or to stop their sailors from listening to it.

. . . The star announcer of Atlantiksender was Vicky, the 'sailor's sweetheart' who sent birthday greetings to her 'dear boys in blue', congratulated them on the birth of a son or daughter, and discussed the problems of their
wives and families. From the sweetness of her voice, nobody could suspect that Vicky had in fact lost half of her family in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

---Sefton Delmer, as acknowledged by Robert Rowen.

According to Rowen, Atlantikseder's advantages are a one-time U-boat radio operator on staff "who wrote many of his own scripts and gave his former comrades at sea inside dope including tips on how to delay sailings or operations"; music uninhibited by Nazi ideological demands, including jazz and banned musical stage and film star Marlene Dietrich; "[a] working German News Service teletype, left behind in London in 1939, so that tuning into this not-hard-to-find station got you the most up-to-date news & information right from Berlin---so no one could object; and, "multiple short-wave transmitters, including a mobile one so that the Germans would continually get different fixes on the source.

Atlantiksender also had one intractable advantage: its mastermind himself, the German-born son of an Australian professor of English who taught at Berlin University. Delmer himself had begun his education in German schools before World War I, and his family relocated to England in 1917.

Later after a degree at Oxford he retuned to Berlin to become Berlin correspondent for the Daily Express. It was in this capacity as a newsman, he first met Ernst Roehm, head of the Nazi storm troopers. Through his connection with Roehm he became personally acquainted with Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Göering, and the other members of the Nazi elite.

In 1940, at the outset of the war, Sefton Delmer decided the time had come for him no longer report the war but to take an active part. At seventeen stone he realised he would be of no use to the fighting forces so, he approached the two friends he knew to have something to do with the secret intelligence world, Ian Fleming and Leonard Ingrams. The British security services were very wary of him; indeed they considered him a possible Nazi Agent. His acquaintance with the Nazis was held not to be a qualification but was held against him.

During the time he was awaiting security clearance and at the request of Duff Cooper, he gave a number of talks over the BBC to Germany. One notable broadcast in which he replied to Hitlers final peace offer telling Hitler that we here in Britain hurl it his back at him into his evil smelling teeth, caused eruptions in both Germany, and the House of Commons.

The man who first approached Delmer with the idea of creating what became Atlantiksender was the personal assistant to British Navy intelligence official Admiral John Henry Godfrey: future James Bond creator/author Ian Fleming.

1916: MULTIPLE TUNES---Ernst Alexanderson conducts a successful test of a multiple-tuned antenna. In due course (1924, to be precise) he transmits the first known successful facsimile message (that's fax to you and I, folks) across the Atlantic.

1977: ONE MORE TIME?---The General Mills Adventure Theater, one of several attempts to resurrect the feeling, if not the original repertoire, of classic radio, premieres on CBS Radio. CBS has tried other such attempts, the best-known and perhaps best-executed of which was CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

1979: ONE MORE TIME, PART DEUX---Precisely two years to the day that The General Mills Adventure Theater launched, perhaps the second-best known and remembered of old-time radio resurrections premieres, also on CBS: Sears Radio Theater, which will be paired occasionally with The CBS Radio Mystery Theater on several stations during its brief life.

Oddly enough, Sears Radio Theater will borrow a device from an early television hit (see if you can guess) in the manner by which the show's five nights will be presented: Monday night will be Western Night (host: 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 former Adventures of Sam Spade old-time radio star Howard Duff).

But Sears Radio Theater will engage a number of old-time radio performers during its very brief life, including but hardly restricted to:

ELVIA ALLMAN, once a cast member for Burns & Allen and half (with Blanche Stewart) of the Brenda and Cobina duo who bedeviled Bob Hope on his Pepsodent radio show now and then.
EVE ARDEN, Our Miss Brooks herself. (And, her husband, Brooks West, for that matter.)
PARLEY BAER, remembered well as Chester on Gunsmoke.
VANCE COLVIG, once a writer and performer on Breakfast in Hollywood.
MARY JANE CROFT, whose credits included Blondie and Dagwood, The Mel Blanc Show, Our Miss Brooks, and Suspense, not to mention marriage (until his death) to radio jack-of-all-trades Elliott Lewis (his second).
VIRGINIA GREGG, once on staff for Dr. Kildare and Richard Diamond, Private Detective.
MARVIN MILLER, once The Whistler, often an announcer (for Drene Time/The Bickersons, especially) and character actor.
SHIRLEY MITCHELL, whose Leila Ransom bewitched, bothered, and bewildered The Great Gildersleeve himself.
LURENE TUTTLE, maybe old-time radio's most valuable player, whose acting credits only began with The Great Gildersleeve (as niece Marjorie) and The Adventures of Sam Spade (as Effie).

Unfortunately, even the foregoing talent would not be enough to ensure a life longer than a couple of years for Sears Radio Theater.


1941: MOUNTAIN JUSTICE---Singer June Brady, amateur of the month from Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour, highlights an hour that includes Fred (Allen) interviewing poets thrown out of the Poetry Society Annual Dinner trying to crash the affair; Portland (Hoffa) recounting her hunt for the ground hog; and, the Texaco Workshop Players (formerly the Mighty Allen Art Players) perform another edition of Hillbilly Court, "Mountain Justice: Or, the Judge Made a Pass at the Plaintiff's Wife and Later Denied the Motion"), on tonight's edition of Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen. (CBS.)

Texaco Workshop Players: Jack Smart, John Brown, Minerva Pious, Charles Cantor. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend, Herman Wouk.

1945: LAURA---A police detective (Dana Andrews) falls in love on the job . . . with the murdered advertising mover (Gene Tierney) whose killing he's trying to solve, through probing her diaries and letters, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Vincent Price. Guest host: Lionel Barrymore. Adapted from the screenplay by Jay Dratler, based on the novel by Vera Caspery.

1948: A NEW MINK COAT---Guess who wants one, at the February clearance sale, and guess the havoc potential, with tonight's edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Gale Gordon, Elliott Lewis, Verna Felton. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Meredith Willson. Writers: Paul Henning, George Burns.

1958: TO THE POLICE STATION---Husband (Alan Bunce) reports to tell what little he knows of the jewelry store heist in his office building, and he seems more nervous about his wife (Peg Lynch) letting the news be known to Aunt Effie (Margaret Hamilton), who drops a troubling family secret, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer: Peg Lynch.

1960: THE GREEN PICKEREL---Our dynamic duo lets The Scarlet Pimpernel have it, but good, after Spencer Markel reports from the civilian space agency Space House, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Don't prompt me, I'll get it . . . )

Writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1898---Sidney Fields (writer/comedian, The Abbott & Costello Show), unknown.
1906---John Carradine (actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1911---Bert Wilson (play-by-play announcer, Chicago Cubs), unknown.
1918---Tim Holt (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Beverly Hills.
1919---Red Buttons (as Aaron Chwatt; comedian/actor: Guest Star), New York City.