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.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Weeds: The Way It Was, 5 January

1932: HE KNOWS . . . ---He may well become the single most identifiable mystery character in old-time radio. The Shadow---suave, cultivated Lamont Cranston's mind-gaming, crime-solving alter ego---premieres on CBS, with a seemingly unlikely original star: Charles Robert Hardy Andrews, who will become better renowned as one of the most prolific soap opera writers (under the aegis of the redoubtable Frank and Anne Hummert) in radio history.

Before the series leaves the air at last in 1956, Orson Welles, Bill Johnstone, and Bret Morrison will have played the title role; and, Agnes Moorehead, Marjorie Anderson, Gertrude Warner, and Grace Matthews will have played faithful Margot Lane. As for Commissioner Watson, alternatively an ally and a near-adversary of the cerebral sleuth, he'll be played by Dwight Weist, Arthur Vinton, Kenny Delmar (yep, ol' Senator Claghorn himself), and Santos Ortega.

Based on the character born in Street and Smith's Detective Story magazines, The Shadow will be written for radio over the years by Peter Barry, Max Ehrlich, Alonzo Deen Cole, Stedman Coles, Joe Bates Smith, Nick Kegan, Robert Arthur, Jerry McGill, and Bill Sweets.

And, it will lose something of its initial implied edge as it moves onward and becomes a radio institution.

The Shadow was a total aural experience, taking place in the dark night of the soul. In a way, it was the ultimate radio show, and its concept was soon shadowed by other phantom figures . . . but by the 1940s the once-offbeat show had settled into a routine formula. By then, Lamont Cranston was established as a detective rather than a freelance playboy, with the Shadow's voice mechanically slotted twice into each show, once before the commercial. By the mid-forties, the Shadow seemed but a shadow of his original self, and the program grew less eerie, a mundane cops-and-robbers show with a cackling mystery voice that invariably cornered the bad guys in the final scene.

. . . People willingly sat through the flimsy stories for those moments of high camp when the Shadow's filtered voice . . . trapped the villains in a room . . . , then cackled them into submission with his hideous laugh . . . like many another pulp radio drama of the period, [The Shadow] never masqueraded as art, but it perfected the knack of intriguing listeners with a catchy, scarifying crafted device.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Radio Noir---Cops and Grave Robbers," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)


1929: GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS---The Hour of Charm, featuring Phil Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra, premieres on CBS.

With future game show panelist and entertainment personality Arlene Francis as the show's mistress of ceremonies, the All-Girl Orchestra's featured stars included violinist Evelyn Kay Klein, billed as "Evelyn and her Magic Violin"; Hollace Shaw (Vivien); vocalists Maxine and Jeannie; cornetist Katharine Smith; and, percussionist Viola Schmidt.

The show's theme, "American Patrol," eventually became a hit recording for Glenn Miller and His Orchestra.


THE JELL-O PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: A CHRISTMAS GIFT EXCHANGE (NBC, 1941)---Jack (Benny) got too much Christmas cologne, Don (Wilson) got two more electric razors than he really needed, Mary (Livingstone) is still steamed over going home early from their New Year's Eve date, Phil (Harris) tallies the expense accounts from the group's recent New York trip, and Mary, Jack, and Dennis (Day) recap their mishap at the Rose Bowl game. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Announcer: Don Wilson. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: ARCHIE QUITS (NBC; REBROADCAST: ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE, 1945)---Archie's had it with Duffy's penny-pinching and slave-driving---he decides to quit in favour of assembling a troupe to tour the troops in Europe with Jinx Falkenburg, who's equally happy to try talking the troupe into staying right where they are. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Eddie: Eddie Green. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Music: Matty Malneck Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Larry Marks, possibly Bill Manhoff.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: GETTING READY TO GO TO A WEDDING (CBS, 1958)---Delays with mother (Peg Lynch) getting ready, another couple late to pick them up, and accidentally sitting on his little girl's bubble gum in his best suit, have father Arbuckle (Alan Bunce) edgy that they're going to blow a wedding. Betsy: Francine Myers. Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Writer: Peg Lynch.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: LAWRENCE FECHTENBERGER, INSTERSTELLAR OFFICER CANDIDATE (IT'S SO SIMPLE EVEN I CAN THINK OF IT, 1960---That intrepid astronaut continues his effort to ward off an invasion ("They're the enemies---they're wearing black helmets!") and a crewman's craving for vanilla ice cream. Writers, actual or alleged: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1911---Jean-Pierre Aumont (actor: Hallmark Playhouse; Philip Morris Playhouse), Paris.
1916---Alfred Ryder (actor: The Goldbergs; Easy Aces), New York City.


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