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 01, 2009

Staging: The Way It Was, 1 January

1953:---Sometimes considered old-time radio's first couple (though some including the employers of half of the couple, Phil Harris and Alice Faye, might well have pondered a challenge to that consideration), thanks to their near-ubiquitous presence as actors and producers, Elliott and Cathy Lewis give old-time radio audiences a New Year's Day present: they launch the old-time radio drama On Stage, on CBS.

The couple co-star in the series while Elliott Lewis produces and directs. The casts they assemble for each episode will include such radio veterans as Howard McNear, Alan Reed, Hal March, Herbert Butterfield, Joseph Kearns, Parley Baer, William Conrad, Peggy Webber, Jeanette Nolan, and Mary Jane Croft.

But the 7 May 1953 episode will prove particularly telling for the short-lived drama: the story, "Happy Anniversary Album," is written and produced as the Lewis's tribute to each other on their tenth wedding anniversary.

The sad news: Four years after On Stage ends its year-long radio life, the Lewises will end their sixteen year marriage. One year later, Elliott Lewis will marry Mary Jane Croft, a marriage that endures until his death in 1990; ten years later, Cathy Lewis will die of cancer.


1926: ROSES ON THE AIR---Twenty-four years after its premiere launches the tradition of New Year's Day college football bowl games, the Rose Bowl goes on the air for the first time, with an NBC audience listening to the University of Alabama defeat the University of Washington, 20-19.

1927: THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS ARE BROUGHT TO YOU OVER LIVING COLOUR---The National Broadcasting Company launches its multiple-network strategy, creating NBC Red (entertainment) and NBC Blue (mostly non-sponsored, more "serious" programming), the colours believed to come based upon the pins the company's engineers used to designate affiliates of the two NBC flagships, WEAF New York (red pins) and WJZ New Jersey (blue pins).


THE INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES: THE AMAZING DEATH OF MRS. PUTNAM (NBC BLUE, 1941)---The venerable thriller auditions with an hysterical woman telephoning police as she's about to be murdered, the only wrinkle being her niece telling the gendarmerie that her aunt died well enough before they received the call. Cast: Unknown. Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Himan Brown.

OUR MISS BROOKS: NEW YEAR'S BABYSITTING (CBS, 1950)---Bad enough: Boynton (Jeff Chandler) can't afford a ticket to squire Connie (Eve Arden) to a biologist's club New Year's Eve jamboree. Worse: She only thinks she'll be in time to join him for auld lang syne when Conklin (Gale Gordon) strong-arms her into babysitting his obnoxious six-year-old nephew for five dollars until ten o'clock. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Little Stevie: Jeff Silvers. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Announcer: Bob LeMond. Writer: Al Lewis. (NOTE: This broadcast ends with an announcement---Eve Arden wins a magazine editors' poll conducted by Motion Picture Daily, as 1949's best radio comedienne.)

THE PHIL HARRIS-ALICE FAYE SHOW: PHIL TAKES SINGING LESSONS (A.K.A. THE CONCERT STAGE; NBC, 1950)---Already nursing a hangover from the musicians' union's New Year's Eve bash ("It was a very orderly party---the cops only had to use tear gas three times!"), Phil (Harris) is heartbroken when a fan tells him his personality's top flight but his voice is too good to sing mere pop songs . . . and he's too good to be associating with Remley (Elliott Lewis). Willie: Robert North. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

REMOTE FROM BIRDLAND: THE COUNT BAGS THE BIRD (NBC, 1953)---Count Basie's still-newly-reconstituted aggregation---considered the aesthetic equal of his classic early 1940s outfit, even if the style shifts to more precise rhythm and arranging, though never compromising the signature accents and the punctuative Basie keyboard---spends New Year's Day swinging New York's signature jazz club.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: A PHONE CALL TO MEXICO CITY (CBS, 1958)---The Arbuckles (Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce) review their New Year's Eve revelry, but the poor husband gets a shock when a call he put through at three a.m. finally connects. Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Betsy: Madelyn Pierce. Announcer: Roger Foster. Writer: Peg Lynch.


1889---Charles Bickford (actor: Radio Hall of Fame), Cambridge, Massachussetts.
1897---Walter Greaza (actor: Columbia Workshop; Suspense), St. Paul.
1900---Xavier Cugat (The King of the Rhumba; bandleader: Camel Caravan; The Big Show), Triona, Spain.
1908---Bob Russell (singer/composer: Name That Tune), unknown.
1909---Dana Andrews (actor: I Was a Communist for the FBI), Collins, Mississippi.
1911---Hank Greenberg (Hall of Fame baseball player: We the People; Philco Radio Time), New York City.
1916---Earl Wrightson (singer: Highways in Melody; Getting the Most Out of Life), Baltimore.
1917---Ted Cott (host: So You Think You Know Music?; Music You Want), Poughkeepsie, New York.
1919---Carole Landis (actress: Warner Bros. Academy Award; Command Performance), Fairchild, Wisconsin.
1929---Terry Moore (actress: The Smiths of Hollywood), Los Angeles.
1938---Norma Jean Nilsson (actress: Blondie and Dagwood; Father Knows Best), Hollywood.


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