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, January 15, 2009

The Easiest Ace: The Way It Was, 15 January

Yes, this is an explicit rerun. If they could have reruns thanks to transcription discs and, in due course, magnetic tape in the old-time radio era; or, thanks to kinescope and, in due course, film and videotape in television; then, I can have a rerun on an archived Internet blog.

1899---Latvian immigrants to Kansas City, Mr. and Mrs. Aiskowitz have no suspicion just yet that the son to whom she has just given birth will grow up to become first a newspaper reporter; then---having abbreviated his surname---one of their new homeland's most respected and admired old-time radio, television, and magazine humourists . . . beginning when he and his wife fall, by accident, into a classic serial comedy, after having to ad-lib fifteen minutes' air time when a scheduled show doesn't feed the Kansas City station where he does two spots of criticism and humour a week.

Unlike Fred Allen (who overmodestly says Goodman Ace is America's greatest wit), Goodman Ace burns no midnight oil, drips no sweat. He usually tosses off a script in an hour and a half. His cigars give him a convenient yardstick: a one-cigar script is apt to be terrific, a two-or three-cigar script fair, a four-cigar script a stinkaroo. Rehearsals are similarly carefree. A light once-over usually suffices. Anything more than that, Goodman Ace insists, kills the spark of spontaneity.

Easy Aces has always broadcast at the same hour as Amos 'n' Andy, has never achieved a listener rating worth crowing about. But instead of being sensitive, the Aces consider it an uproarious joke on themselves.

---From Time, 2 November 1942.

Mastermind of the comedy for which this journal is named; stubborn disciple of developed character humour ("A lot of times, on the air, I noticed comics in a sketch do a joke that destroys the character because it gets a big laugh"); head writer for Danny Kaye and, especially, for Tallulah Bankhead's The Big Show; head writer, in due course, for the like of Milton Berle, Bob Newhart, and Perry Como; regular columnist for Saturday Review . . . and, once upon a time, director of a CBS experiment in training young comedy writers (two of his students: Neil Simon and George Axelrod).

I'll tell you a little secret, Mr. Ace. We don't have anybody here who understands comedy.---A CBS vice president to Goodman Ace, informing him the network was terminating his comedy writing workshops.
I'll tell you a little secret---that's no secret.---Ace, in reply.

Relative, in a wire to Goodman Ace: Send $10,000 or I'll jump from the fourteenth floor of my building.
Ace, in a response wire: Jump from seven. I'll send $5,000.

And we were gifted to have had Goodman Ace for 83 years on this island earth.


Your chronicler's picks for the best of the master . . .

EASY ACES: BETTY LEAVES CARL OVER THE BABY'S NAME (CBS, 17 APRIL 1941)---Carl (Alfred Ryder) says, "Susan"; Betty (Ethel Blume) says, "Sheila"; and, Jane (Ace), as usual, says a mouthful when letting Betty and the baby stay with the Aces until the whole thing blows over. Ace: Goodman Ace. Marge: Mary Hunter. Announcer: Ford Bond.

EASY ACES: JANE SMASHES THE CAR (CBS, 13 MAY 1941)---The baby name rift has led to both the Aces and the young Neffs separating; now, the husbands (Goodman Ace, Alfred Ryder) and the wives (Jane Ace, Ethel Blume) outsmart themselves---in the middle of Jane's scheme for selling the Aces' furniture at auction and buying it back to a profit---when Ace borrows Carl's car to go back to the house, Jane has to back Betty's car out of the driveway to take Ace's car to go to the Neff apartment, and everyone's a smash when they meet just off the Ace driveway. Marge: Mary Hunter. Announcer: Ford Bond.

EASY ACES: AUNT LOUISE'S HUNGER STRIKE (POSSIBLY NBC, 1935)---Jane (Ace)'s crotchety Aunt Louise (unknown) refuses to get out of bed or eat a morsel until someone can determine what's really wrong with her. Ace: Goodman Ace. Doctor: Unknown.

EASY ACES: JANE'S INSTRUCTOR WANTS HER TO TEACH BRIDGE (ORIGINAL: CBS; SYNDICATION: ZIV)---The kicker is that he wants her to serve his students as the classic example of how not to play the game. (Note: It was their impromptu, ad-libbed repartee around their own real life bridge playing---tied to chat of a local murder case ["Would you like to shoot a game of bridge, dear?"]---that led a Kansas City radio station to think about the Aces trying their own regular comedy series in the first place, in the late 1920s.)

EASY ACES: JANE LISTENS TO A QUIZ SHOW; JANE PREPARES FOR THE QUIZ SHOW; JANE APPEARS ON THE QUIZ SHOW (ORIGINAL: CBS; SYNDICATION: ZIV)---In a classic sequence, Jane (Ace)---who was reluctant to listen at first---decides she could clean up on the Question Mark radio quiz, amusing (Goodman) Ace and Marge (Mary Hunter), but after she gets Neal (possibly Paul Stewart) to help her prepare she goes on the show . . . and Ace won't be laughing any longer.

mr. ace and JANE: THAT IS NO LADY, THAT IS MY WIFE (CBS, 4 JUNE 1948)---Under the aegis of the expanded mr. ace and JANE, (Goodman) Ace---under pressure from an automobile advertiser who wants them back---has to convince a retired husband-and-wife comedy team to return to radio: they quit because nobody (they claimed) believed a harried husband and his scatterbrained, malapropping wife were believable . . . so all Ace has to do, then, is invite them to dine at his house, with his scatterbrained, malapropping wife, in one of the classic self-parodies of old-time radio. Paul: Leon Janney. Norris: Eric Dressler. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ken Roberts.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO . . . : AN INTERVIEW WITH GOODMAN ACE (WBAI, 1971)---Whatever Happened To . . . ? host Richard Lamparski engages Mr. Ace for an engaging chat, hooked around the publication of Ladies and Gentlemen, Easy Aces, a collection of scripts and essays and the third of Mr. Ace's four post-radio books.


1882---Henry Burr (singer: National Barn Dance; Uncle Ezra), St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
1909---Gene Krupa (drummer/bandleader: Rhythm Masters; New Year's Radio Dance Party), Chicago.
1913---Stephen Courtleigh (actor: The Shadow), New York City.
1920---Yvonne King (singer, with the Four King Sisters: Horace Heidt and his Brigadiers), Salt Lake City.
1922---Thelma Carpenter (singer: The Eddie Cantor Show), Brooklyn.
1937---Margaret O'Brien (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Suspense; The Big Show), San Diego.


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