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, January 06, 2009

Nerves: The Way It Was, 6 January

You would think that it's a rather pungent gathering of comic minds, when the brains behind Easy Aces and half the brains behind Duffy's Tavern hook up to write for one of the great all-around comic performers of the time, whose old-time radio cast includes the future Miss Brooks and one of the United States' most popular big bands.

It will not quite work out that way, as both star and head writer come to think the ultimately short-lived enterprise may have been a large enough mistake, in spite of several prime moments. The apparent consensus (and, here, it is only one man's view, for now): The star simply wasn't quite easily radio-adaptable just yet; and, the head writer may not have been ready quite yet to take on something a little more hydra-headed than the arresting, quiet dialogic comedy which earned him his original reputation.

But prime moments it will have, and they begin with tonight's premiere. Or, they will, if only the star (Danny Kaye) can sign his contract and get over that case of nerves, before special guest Eddie Cantor steals the whole thing from him.

Eve: Eve Arden. Lionel: Lionel Stander. Mr. Pabst: Frank Nelson. Annoucner: Ken Niles. Music: Harry James and His Orchestra. Writers: Goodman Ace, Abe Burrows, Sylvia Fine.


1974: THE OLD ONES ARE HARD TO KILL---Two old-time radio veterans star in the premiere installment: Agnes Moorhead (Suspense, Mayor of the Town, more) and Leon Janney (Charlie Chan, Chandu the Magician, mr. ace and JANE, more). And thus launches one of the most memorable bids to resurrect the feel and aesthetic of classic radio---The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, created by the venerable Himan Brown and hosted by E.G. Marshall.

In two ways, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater would live up to the title of its maiden episode. Perhaps considering its creator and mastermind, the show will seem more than a little too referential to such classic radio antedecents as The Inner Sanctum Mysteries (Brown's own creation) and Suspense, particularly its use of a slightly noisy closing door, Marshall's customary signoff ("Pleasant . . . dreams?"), and the periodic adaptations of vintage literature into the show's customary inclination toward the macabre, even when it reached out to bring in elements of comedy, historical drama, and science fiction, though not always successfully.

But also over the course of its life, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater would mix contemporary actors with the men and women who made old-time radio breathe to its original listeners. Moorehead and Janney are just two of a distinguished resurrected company that will also include:

MASON ADAMS, the longtime star of Pepper Young's Family.
HANS CONREID, the former co-star of My Friend Irma and Life with Luigi.
RICHARD CRENNA, who couldn't do enough for Our Miss Brooks.
ROBERT DRYDEN, who appeared in the casts of Big Town, Casey, Crime Photographer, and other dramas.
MERCEDES McCAMBRIDGE, one-time Big Sister star and frequently cast in other serials and dramas.
BRET MORRISON, the longtime Shadow.
VIRGINIA PAYNE, Ma Perkins herself.
ALEXANDER SCOURBY, the mellifluous veteran of Against the Storm, The Open Door, The Right to Happiness, and The Second Mrs. Burton.
ARNOLD STANG, Henry Morgan's usual second banana.
KARL SWENSON, Lorenzo Jones himself.
JOAN TOMPKINS, also a veteran of Big Sister and other classic radio soaps.

The preponderance of the show's scripts will be written by Sam Dann, Ian Martin, Murray Burnett, Arnold Moss, Gerald Keane, and Elspeth Eric; and, in 1975, its second year on the air, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater will win a Peabody Award.


CLARA, LU & EM: MEN ARE THE WEAKER SEX (NBC BLUE, 1936)---So conclude the ladies, who go from there to pondering what the gentlemen are going to do about it. Clara: Louise Starkey. Lu: Isabel Carothers. Em: Helen King. Announcer: King Carl King. Writers: Unknown.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: A NIGHT ON THE TOWN (NBC, 1942)--- McGee (Jim Jordan) bought two special dress collars for his one dress shirt, just in case one got dirty or ruined at Mrs. Uppington's (Isabel Randolph) New Year's Eve formal . . . so he's taking Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Teeny) out for a second straight night, just to get some use out of the spare, a piece of economic illogic that may cost him in the end. Wimpole/The Old Timer: Bill Thompson. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writer: Don Quinn.

MAYOR OF THE TOWN: JANIE WILLIAMS'S BABY (CBS, 1943)---Marilly's (Agnes Moorehead) nagging the mayor (Lionel Barrymore) about a wartime diet is child's play compared to having to find a frail, pregnant war widow (possibly Lurene Tuttle), who left town abruptly, after her doctor warned her that carrying the baby may kill her. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Writer: Jean Holloway.

THE FRED ALLEN SHOW: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT (NBC, 1946)---The Alley demimonde assess the best films of the previous year, before Fred (Allen) reviews his previous week's arrest at Radio City, after he ordered his cab to stop after his wallet turned up missing and he returned to the studio stuck for the cab fare. Guest: Phil Baker. Senator Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Falstaff: Alan Reed. Announcer: Kenny Delmar. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, Larry Marks, Robert Weiskopf.

THE WHISTLER: DEAR ROGER (CBS; ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE REBROADCAST, 1947)---The old flame of a nervous wife (Lurene Tuttle) reappears in her life, just time to blackmail her over her old love letters while her husband---a district attorney (William Johnstone) on the threshold of resigning to finish the term of a freshly-deceased U.S. Senator---is already edgy about possible scandals after he's rebuffed numerous bids to try buying him out of accepting the appointment. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer: Stuart Logan.

THE HALLS OF IVY: DR. HALL'S REAPPOINTMENT (SERIES PREMIERE; NBC, 1950)---The series premieres with a reworking of its Gale Gordon-led audition show: Reappointing Hall (Ronald Colman) seems a done deal, until snooty Wellman (Herb Butterfield) questions aloud whether Vicki's (Benita Hume Colman) being a former actress is an appropriate image for the campus and its president. Merriweather: Willard Waterman. Additional cast: Herbert Morriston, Gloria Gordon. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writer: Don Quinn. (Warning: Muddy sound quality.)


1903---Francis L. Sullivan (actor: U.S. Steel Hour), London.
1907---Helen Kleeb (actress: Dr. Kate; Gunsmoke), South Bend, Washington.
1911---Joey Adams (as Joseph Abramowitz; comedian/host: Rate Your Mate), Brooklyn.
1912---Danny Thomas (as Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yaqoob; comedian/actor: The Bickersons; The Chase and Sanborn Hour; The Big Show), Deerfield, Michigan.
1913---Loretta Young (as Gretchen Young; actress: Family Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Salt Lake City.
1913---Tom Brown (actor: Suspense; Lux Radio Theater; Texaco Star Theater), New York City.
1914---George Reeves (as George Keefer Brewer; actor: Lux Radio Theater; Crime Does Not Pay), Woolstock, Iowa.


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