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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Only Way to the White House: The Way It Was, 28 February

Perhaps their second greatest comedy stunt launches tonight, when George (Burns) is surprised to discover the Surprise Party has a presidential candidate---Gracie (Allen), "because that's the only way you can get to the White House, you can't just walk in and sit down!" That's almost nothing compared to what he doesn't think when he learns she's promised the entire cast government jobs if she's elected.

Himself: Truman Bradley (announcer.) Cast: Frank Parker. Music: Ray Noble and His Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, Paul Henning.


THE JELL-O PROGRAM WITH JACK BENNY: JACK PLAYS "THE BEE" (NBC, 1937)---After weeks of practise, following the gauntlet throw-down from Fred Allen ("who even thinks wrestling is crooked"), Jack (Benny) girds himself to play "The Bee" at last . . . after getting through a letter from Mary in New York, a couple of odd jokes from Kenny's (Baker) new girl friend, and an offer to let the audience affirm he isn't carrying a trick violin, unaware that playing the piece only begins the real challenge. Cast: Kenny Baker, Andy Devine, Phil Harris, Don Wilson (announcer). Music: Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: George Balzar, Al Boasberg, Milt Josefsberg, John Tackaberry.

THE FRED ALLEN SHOW: LIFE AT THE SOUTH POLE (NBC, 1940)---That's life as seen by the Mighty Allen Art Players and reported about Admiral Rupert T. Allen (f.a.), who's been stranded with his exploration team on Antarctica, with a tenuous short-wave connection, a frostbitten jaw, and a restless team cook. Until then, the Ipana News World in Review revises a newspaper survey on rooming houses, Statue of Liberty custodian David Ledmerer gets a chance to be grilled and chilled by the master satirist, and the Town Hall Tea Shoppe exchanges singing waiters for educated, talking waiters. With Portland Hoffa. The Mighty Allen Art Players: John Brown, Charles Cantor, Wynn Murray, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden Orchestra, Wynn Murray, the Merry Macs. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend, Herman Wouk.

mr. ace and JANE: HIRING A MAID (CBS, 1948)---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 the employment agency where Jane was to do the hiring. Those, alas, were only mistake numbers one, two, and three . . . 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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hare and Hounds: The Way It Was, 27 February

A Box 13 letter intercepted by a shady character who follows Suzy (Sylvia Picker) to meet Dan (Alan Ladd), pretending to be a curiosity seeker hoping to hear some of Dan's adventures, to which the sleuthing writer agrees to his immediate regret---especially when he discovers he's being framed rather elaborately for the murder of the letter's actual writer.

Kling: Edmund MacDonald. Additional cast: . Announcer: Vern Carstensen. Music: Rudy Schrager. Writer: Russell Hughes.


1891: RE-ARRANGING AMERICA'S FURNITURE---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.


DARK FANTASY: SPAWN OF THE SUBHUMAN (NBC, 1942)---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. Additional cast: Garland Moss, Muir Hite. Writer: Scott Bishop.

NIGHT BEAT: THE GIRL IN THE PARK (NBC, 1944)---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. Additional cast: Paul Duboff, Ken Christie, Georgia Ellis, Carol Richards. Writer: Larry Marcus.

THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM: TELEVISION WRESTLING (CBS, 1955)---Following a radio rehearsal and a pleasant dinner, Jack (Benny) plans to watch a little wrestling---until his television set blows out, forcing him to listen on radio, where he finds anything but the bouts. Dennis: Dennis Day. Rochester: Eddie Anderson. Don: Don Wilson (announcer). Television announcer: Frank Nelson. Music: The Sports Men, Malin Murray Orchestra. Writers: Sam Perrin, George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg.


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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Foul Ball: The Way It Was, 26 February

Conklin (Gale Gordon) has a tall enough order for Connie (Eve Arden): yank up the English grades of oafish Stretch Snodgrass (Leonard Smith) to keep him eligible for baseball, while Stretch has a companion problem---he's smitten with a new transfer student . . . who just so happens to have transferred from Madison High's staunchest baseball rival.

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

Digs at legendary 20th Century Fox magnate Darryl F. Zanuck---whom Alice Faye believed undermined her when he became enamoured enough with Linda Darnell---have become periodic gags for Faye and husband Phil Harris on their hit radio show. Here, Phil's learned from Zanuck himself that his scenes in Wabash Avenue were cut out and, determined to prove himself on screen, he becomes just desperate enough to think he can make his own movie . . . and that Remley (Elliott Lewis) can settle merely for writing and directing it, with Alice playing just "a bit part."

Willie: Robert North. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


THE FIRE CHIEF: ED BECOMES A WARDEN (NBC, 1935)---After having his butcher arrested for selling him horse meat ("I knew it was horse meat because, after I ate it, I spent the rest of the day rubbing my nose against an honest policeman's sleeve"), Ed (Wynn) has applied for a new job---at the state prison. Cast, music, and writers: Unknown.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: FIBBER LOSES HIS FOUNTAIN PEN (NBC, 1946)---Late as usual writing his Christmas thank yous, the Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) isn't going to write a word, until or unless he can find the gold-tipped pen, a long-ago gift from his old vaudeville partner, which he used the day before to do his income tax. Molly/Teeny: Marian Jordan. The Old Timer/Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. Himself/Dry cleaner: Harlow Wilcox (announcer). Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King's Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

THE HENRY MORGAN SHOW: DEDICATED TO AMERICAN LANDLORDS (ABC, 1947)---After slightly botching his customary introduction ("'Anybody,' I meant!") and solving the housing shortage ("More houses---or, less people"), our antihero salutes American landlords in his usual fashion, before Vladimir Morgan (three guesses) tells the tale of "Peter and the Landlord." Cast: Arnold Stang, Art Carney, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein. (Note: Audio file mistitled as "The Invention of Work." For that matter, the audio file for the 26 March 1947 installment, "Dedicated to American Landlords," is mistitled as "The Invention of Work!")

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: FIBBER'S HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC TROPHY (NBC, 1954)---McGee (Jim Jordan) found it wrapped in an old jersey, behind an old trunk in the attic, and---after it provokes Molly (Marian Jordan) to remember his high hurdling record ("Saturday night, ten o'clock, on the dot, my father would raise the upstairs window, and you'd leap over the porch swing, over the porch railing, and over the front fence, in three and a half seconds flat!")---he tries to find some silver polish to take off the tarnish, the better to remember just why he won the trophy in the first place. The Old Timer: Bill Thompson. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Lester: Bob Easton. Announcer: John Wald. Writer: Phil Leslie.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: PAINTING OF AN ANCESTOR (CBS, 1958)---It's delivered to the house from Aunt Effie and provokes an interesting debate between husband (Alan Bunce) and wife (Peg Lynch), neither of whom can figure out just which of their ancestors is portrayed. Writer: Peg Lynch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Your Flop Parade, Revisited: The Way It Was, 25 February

Smoky Peggy Lee actually puts a little subtle, resuscitating fire into such an otherwise dry chestnut as "Golden Earrings"; then, some good-natured banter between Der Dimple and 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 subtly suggestive 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.) Almost.

Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: John Scott Trotter Orchestra, the Rhythmaires.


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 were okay with 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 at the time.

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.)


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: FIBBER'S BOTTLE COLLECTION (NBC, 1942)---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.") 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.

THE MEL BLANC SHOW: THE COMEDY TEAM (CBS, 1947)---That's what Mel (Blanc) thinks will entertain a visiting caliph, well enough to impress Betty's (Mary Jane Croft) father (Joseph Kearns)---and perhaps enough that the old man'll let Mel take Betty to the upcoming big dance. Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Alan Reed, Joe Walker. Music: Victor Miller Orchestra, the Sportsmen Quartet. Writer: Mack Benoff.


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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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.)


LUX RADIO THEATER: THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING (CBS, 1941)---Though they're announced as their famed radio comedy selves, Jim and Marian Jordan (Fibber McGee and Molly, of course) have a romp remaking the Edward G. Robinson/Jean Arthur farce about a straight arrow whose life turns inside out when he oversleeps, loses his job, and . . . is mistaken for a killer (Paul Guilfoyle) who steals his special police pass, moving about inducing even more chaos. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from W.R. Burnett's story, "Jail Breaker"; and, a screenplay by Robert Riskin and Jo Swirling.

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 HALLS OF IVY: EDDIE GRAY---DID HE STEAL? (NBC, 1950)---Hall (Ronald Colman) won't suffer visiting the sins of a father upon a son, when his gossipy barber (Earle Ross) accuses a popular student (Gil Stratton, Jr.) with a budding magic act of making things and money disappear . . . on evidence no stronger than the boy's being the son of a highly visible public enemy. Victoria: Benita Hume Colman. Additional cast: Gloria Gordon, Ben Wright. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writers: Nat Wolfe, Don Quinn.

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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

So Pale, So Cold: The Way It Was, 23 February

Pop and film musical star Rosemary Clooney as a starry-eyed thrillseeker who begins questioning her choice of love interest, when it catches her in the middle (and, mortal danger) between a bootlegger (William Conrad) and his overambitious executioner (Anthony Barrett) in a 1920s speakeasy. Clooney herself is heard singing the classic blues that lends this story its name, hinting at her distant future, years after the hit records stopped coming, as a respected jazz interpreter.

Additional cast: Billy Halop, Joseph Kearns, Clayton Post, Vivi Janiss, Sheff Mencken. Music: Lucien Morowick. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.


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

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.


FIRESIDE CHAT: "DON'T SLOW OUR EFFORT" (ALL NETWORKS, 1942)---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.

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 concur or demur from his pronouncements or stated plans, whenever he states them, Roosevelt's listeners respond broadly enough that the Fireside Chats have been a longtime, semi-regular feature of his presidency. The final Fireside Chat, concurrent to the opening of the fifth War Drive, will broadcast 12 June 1944 . . . six days after D-Day will launch. (The night before D-Day, Roosevelt's Fireside Chat will celebrate the liberation of Rome from Axis control.)

The Fireside Chats---four 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---have been, are, and will be 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.

DIARY OF FATE: GIVE HIM THE SIMPLE LIFE (SYNDICATED, 1948)---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. Cast: Unknown. Writer/director/producer: Larry Finley.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: ARCHIE WANTS TO PATENT ELECTRICITY (NBC, 1949)---The only problem old-time radio's favourite downtown tavern malaproprietor (Ed Gardner) has, however, is being merely a few decades late and about five dollars short---as in, the five dollars he owes the electric company. 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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Tarrytown: The Way It Was, 22 February

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.

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


THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: SELLING THE DRUG STORE (NBC, 1942)---Marjorie (Lurene Tuttle) and Leroy's (Walter Tetley) late parents owned a drugstore whose continuing operating threatens Gildersleeve's (Harold Peary) executorship of their 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. Peavey: Richard Legrand. Hooker: Earle Ross. Writers: Sam Moore, John Whedon.

MR. KEEN, TRACER OF LOST PERSONS: THE REVENGEFUL GHOST (CBS, 1952)---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. 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.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"To All The Husbands Who Will Someday Marry Jane": The Way It Was, 21 February

"First," drawls (Goodman) Ace, "I want to say I'd like to dedicate this story to all the husbands who will some day marry Jane."

What a surprise, after her usual complications set in, between Jane (Ace)'s indignation over Ace forgetting their fifteenth-and-a-half wedding anniversary (if you don't ask, we won't tell) . . . and, over the comely candy manufacturer (Gertrude Warner) who is his new advertising client.

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


1943: FATE OF THE FREE WORLD---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.

It's 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.


THE CHASE & SANBORN SHOW WITH EDGAR BERGEN & CHARLIE McCARTHY: DESERT HEAT (NBC, 1943)---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. Additional cast: Don Ameche, Bill Forman, Joan Merrill, Mortimer Snerd. Music: Ray Noble. Writers: Possibly Joe Bigelow, Joe Connelly, Dick Mack, Bob Mosher.

ESCAPE: THE RED MARK (CBS, 1950)---In a rather jolting casting against types (for future audiences become accustomed to portly, brainy detective Cannon and sage, kindly Grandpa Walton, that is), the prison island of New Caledonia hosts a grisly clash between an inmate (William Conrad) and the island's grotesque official executioner (Will Geer). 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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Wonder He Won't Murdered in His Bed? The Way It Was, 20 February

1949---In a decade he will become one of the nation's top teenage singing stars, bearing something, as it turns out, that no 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.)


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, becoming in due course 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.


LUX RADIO THEATER: STAGE DOOR (CBS, 1939)---Ginger Rogers reprises her film role as a society girl trying to make it on Broadway without her family connections, while finding herself knitting into the lives of the fellow hopefuls with whom she rooms . . . unaware of her father's pending backstage machinations. 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). Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from the screenplay by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller; based on the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.

OUR MISS BROOKS: THE FROG (CBS, 1949)---Tiring of competing with Boyton's (Jeff Chandler) favourite lab frog for the clueless biologist's attention (and affection), resolute Connie (Eve Arden) decides Boynton should mate the frog with a lady. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Writer: Al Lewis.

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: WAITING OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT STORE (CBS, 1958)---It gets half our couple (Alan Bunce) in a whole 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. 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.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Decade Later, the Program's Gonna Be Different: The Way It Was, 19 February

1922---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 an old-time 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 after a certain oil company lures him back with a reported $5,000 per week salary, the Perfect Fool will become one of the United States' major old-time radio stars with The Fire Chief Program, featuring eventual foil (and future sportscasting legend) Graham McNamee and, in due course, 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] 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.

But Wynn's early, terrifying experience will not dissuade radio from inviting vaudeville's best to cross over, or vaudeville's best from agreeing to the crossing. The door Wynn 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.


1922: THE DOCTOR IS IN---The actor who will practise the longest on old-time radio's Irna Phillips-created soap opera Young Doctor Malone---after having begun as the show's announcer---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 will tell his viewers 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. Not so, however, with his years as Young Doctor Malone.

The irony of his career: Sandy Becker will be a real-life pre-medical student at New York University, in the late 1930s, when he decides to audition for an announcing job at Queens, New York radio station WWRL . . .


THE JELL-O PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: CARMICHAEL, THE POLAR BEAR (NBC, 1939)---Polyvocal Mel Blanc makes his show premiere as a polar bear given Jack (Benny) as a peculiar and slightly eccentric gift. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker, Don Wilson, Andy Devine. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Hal Perrin.

THE HENRY MORGAN SHOW: THE RADIO PROGRAM BLOOD TEST (ABC, 1947)---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. 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.

OUR MISS BROOKS: VALENTINE'S DAY DATE (CBS, 1950)---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." He does, however, have a knack for inadvertent lessons the hard way about buck passing, when she tries a ruse to get him to finance their Valentine's Day plans. 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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Action-Packed Expense Account: The Way It Was, 18 February

Named for the title character's invariable sign-off, after itemising his case expenses, a crime-solving insurance investigator, working for a kind of clearing-house for several companies, with a withering wit and a habit of tossing silver dollars as tips, premieres on CBS.

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.

TONIGHT'S EDITION: Dollar (Charles Russell) doesn't know the half of it, when he hits Benton, Ohio investigating a slightly inside-out murder---a man who killed his beneficiary---and gets hit at once for help by the killer's defence attorney. Additional cast: Unknown. Writers: Paul Dudley, Gil Doud.


1927: LEADING THE MUSIC WAY---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.


THE BIG SHOW: NOW THEY BRING BOSTON TO ME (NBC, 1951)---Before a studio 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 a remarkable ninety minutes that also include 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.

LET GEORGE DO IT: THE SYMBOL THREE (MUTUAL, 1952)---A client (Jean Bates) is troubled by telephone calls from a tough implying blackmail over accidents involving her husband's successful building business. George: Bob Bailey. Additional cast: Virginia Gregg, Theodore von Els, Myron Cain, Donald Randolph. Writers: David Victor, Jackson Gillis.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: WARD STUFFER REPORTS (GO AHEAD . . . TAKE A STAB AT IT, 1959)---The roving literary critic has to wait for an old-time radio announcer recalling a memorable blunder, and a group of cracked family singers, to review Barracks and Brickbats. Writers, reputedly: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


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 17, 2009

Rhubarb From The Catbird's Seat: The Way It Was, 17 February


1908---The doctor's slap provokes a rhubarb from the catbird's seat: Red Barber---arguably, the man who will introduce an element of objectivity into the old-time radio play-by-play booth, through his groundbreaking work with the Cincinnati Reds and, especially, the Brooklyn Dodgers---is born in Columbus, Mississippi.

And, as he will discuss in his memoir, in due course, Barber will have Larry MacPhail to thank once for each of those two gigs, MacPhail having hired Barber when the former was president first of the Reds and, in short order, the Dodgers. Which didn't exactly come easy, as if anything involving Dem Bums in those years ever really did.

MacPhail was violently pro-radio. He knew it was the strongest single promotional tool he could have, and he wanted it. [A] five-year anti-radio ban then in existence among the New York clubs was expiring after the 1938 season, and almost before MacPhail had warmed the executive chair at 215 Montague Street in Brooklyn he notified the Giants and the Yankees that he was not going to renew it. He was going to broadcast in 1939. They protested but MacPhail told them flatly that he would not be a party to another five-year ban, he would not be a party to a five-month ban, he would not be a party to a five-minute ban. He was going to broadcast.

It created a big rhubarb. The Giants and the Yankees blustered and threatened. They said, "We'll run you out of town if you broadcast." MacPhail said, "You go right ahead and run me out of town all you want to. I'm going to broadcast. Next season. 1939."

And he did, and this is where I came in . . . In March of 1939, I left my friends and associates at the radio station in Cincinnati and drove down with [my wife] Lylah and the baby down to Clearwater, Florida, where the Brooklyn club was training. I was to spend a couple of weeks with the team to get acclimated and then I was going to drive on up to New York and get settled before the ball club got there . . .

. . . [O]ne day that spring MacPhail and I had been sitting out in the sun watching practise, not saying much of anything, and when it was over he got up to leave. On the spur of the moment, I asked, "Larry, do you have any instructions for me about this job in Brooklyn?" . . . MacPhail just said, "No," and started to walk away. he had never given me an instruction in Cincinnati as to how he wanted a broadcast done, and never in the years to come at Brooklyn did he ever give me an instruction.

He walked away about ten or fifteen feet and then . . . all of a sudden he whirled around and his face was furious. He came striding back to where I was and he bellowed, "Yes! Yes, I have! . . . When I told the Yankees and the Giants that I was not going to be a party to that anti-radio ban any more and that I was going to broadcast, that [Eddie] Brannick [Giants team secretary] said to me, 'If you dare broadcast, if you dare break this agreement, we'll get a fifty thousand watt radio station and we'll get the best baseball broadcaster in the world and, MacPhail, we'll blast you into the river'."

MacPhail's face got even redder, and the veins stuck out another inch or two, and he yelled, "That's what that [and I won't quote exactly what he called him] Brannick said to me. He threatened me! Now, yes, I have an instruction for you. I've got a fifty-thousand-watt radio station: WOR. Whether you know it or not . . . there's not a bigger one. And I've got you." He let that sink in, and then he said, "And I don't want to be blasted in the river."

He glared at me and then he spun around and walked away. This time he kept walking.

---Red Barber (with Robert W. Creamer), from Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat. (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1968.)

He became as famous for his repertoire of folksy colloquialisms ("tearin' up the pea patch," for a team mounting a ferocious rally; "we have quite a rhubarb going, folks," for an on-field argument or brawl; "the catbird seat," for his own spot in the broadcast booth) as for his refusal to root overtly for the teams who hired him. Until subsequent Dodger boss Walter O'Malley began to object to his pointing forth shortcomings as well as strengths in various Dodger players' games, Barber never had to deal with even sponsors trying to pressure him to root in the booth.

He also possessed a dryly Southern wit that never abandoned him, entirely.

BOB EDWARDS: Are hearts still heavy in Tallahassee this week?
RED BARBER: Well, I'll tell you something. I was around the Ohio State-Notre Dame game in 1935, and the Bobby Thomson home run, and the Mickey Owen dropped third strike, and the Chicago Bears' 73-0 win over the Redskins. And I saw the FSU-Miami one-point game, and you know what happened the next morning?
BARBER: The sun rose right on time.

---An exchange between Red Barber and his producer/host, Bob Edwards, for Barber's regular Friday morning segments on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, November 1991. Cited in Bob Edwards, Fridays with Red: A Radio Friendship. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.)

Red Barber's most remembered sports call was probably the following. It is the sixth game of the 1947 World Series, Brooklyn Dodgers versus New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium. Joe Hatten is on the mound for the Dodgers; the Bums have an 8-5 lead, Joe DiMaggio is at the plate and the Brooklyn outfield includes a runt named Al Gionfriddo.

Joe DiMaggio up, holding that club down as the big fellow, Hatten, sets and pitches---a curveball, high outside for ball one. So---the Dodgers are ahead, 8-5. And the crowd well knows that with one swing of his bat this fellow's capable of making it a brand-new game again . . . Joe leans in---he has one for three today, six hits so far in the Series . . . Outfield deep, around toward left, the infield overshifted . . . Swung on---belted! It's a long one deep into left center---back goes Gionfriddo! Back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back he makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! Ohhh-hooo, Doctor!

Red Barber's second-most remembered sports call? Most likely, two games earlier, from his own catbird seat in Brooklyn's Ebbets Field---when Yankee pitcher Bill Bevens, despite surrendering ten walks, stood on the threshold of consummating the first no-hit, no-run game in World Series history. Due up to hit for the Dodgers: Eddie (The Brat) Stanky, a man who had broken up a no-hit bid by Cincinnati pitcher Ewell (The Whip) Blackwell with two outs to go in that game.

The scenario as Stanky comes up: Al Gionfriddo is the runner on second (and he's there in the first place after a daring steal against an extremely young Yogi Berra behind the plate), Eddie Miksis is the runner on first.

So Stanky's up with the idea of trying to---wait a minute! Stanky is being called back from the plate and [Cookie] Lavagetto goes up to hit . . . Gionfriddo walks off second, Miksis off first . . . they're both ready to go on anything . . . Two out, last of the ninth . . . the pitch---Swung on---there's a drive hit out toward the right field corner. Henrich is going back---he can't get it! It's off the wall for a base hit! Here comes the tying run . . . and here comes the winning run!

A rift over O'Malley's failure to support him in negotiating his annual World Series contract with Gillette sent him across the rivers and into the enemy camp, Barber joining the Yankees for a memorable decade's run until his dismissal. A firing, likely provoked when Barber ordered a near-empty Yankee Stadium panned by camera at the climax of a very bad Yankee season (1966, their first in the cellar since before Babe Ruth's time), that sent him out of full-time baseball broadcasting at long enough last.

But the Dodgers didn't go quietly without a Barber protege: it was Barber in 1950 who hired the man who's been their primary voice since 1954, perhaps the only man (though many have tried) who's ever really earned the right to be considered Red Barber's equal.


VIC & SADE: HANK GUTSTOP, HOSTESS (NBC, 1942)---Taking the family out to dinner as a favour to Hank is one thing, but the reason Vic (Art Van Harvey) wants to do the favour surprises Sade (Bernadine Flynn) a moment. Rush: Bill Idelson. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR: GRAVEDIGGER'S SPADES; OR, MR. AND MRS. TRUMP (CBS, 1950)---Dollar (Edmond O'Brien) braves North Dakota cold on behalf of an eerie case involving an eccentric family who usually receives odd parcels from overseas to their large, oddly-lighted home . . . and whose heads plan suicide, now that the policy clause is long expired. Additional cast: Peggy Weber, Parley Baer, Hugh Thomas, Dick Ryan, Jess Kirkpatrick, Mary Shipp. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Writer: Possibly Gil Doud.

GUNSMOKE: DOUBTFUL ZONE (CBS, 1957)---One shopkeeper refuses to gate his windows in spite of a recent rash of burglaries. Matt: William Conrad. Chester: Parley Baer. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Les Crutchfield.


1881---Arthur Judson (impresario; created United Independent Broadcasters, the embryonic Columbia Broadcasting System), Dayton, Ohio.
1908---Staats Cotsworth (actor: Front Page Farrell; Mark Trail), Oak Park, Illinois.
1914---Wayne Morris (actor: Radio Reader's Digest; NBC University Theater of the Air; Lux Radio Theater), Los Angeles.
1919---Kathleen Freeman (actress: California Artists Radio Theatre), Chicago.
1924---Margaret Truman (singer: The Big Show), Independence, Missouri.
1925---Hal Holbrook (actor: The Brighter Day), Cleveland.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Life and Death on the Docks: The Way It Was, 16 February

In a story paralleling Malcolm Johnson's shattering New York Sun series to come on waterfront crime, Blackie (Dick Kollmar) gets drawn in when a new dockworker, hungry just for a job, learns the hard (and fatal) way just how much control Fred Palmer has over life and death on the Boston waterfront.

Mary: Jan Minor. Faraday: Maurice Tarplin. Additional cast: Herbert Vigran. Writer: Ralph Rosenberg.


1929: MESSIN' WITH THE KID---KID (those are the actual call letters, kiddies) signs on in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Today it is owned by Clear Channel Communications and holds to a predominantly news format.


SUSPENSE: IN FEAR AND TREMBLING (CBS, 1943)---A clifftop mansion wreaks a supernaturally ruinous effect upon a formerly happy couple, after the wife's half sister (Mary Astor) comes to live with them. Additional cast: Unknown. Based on a story by J. Donald Wilson.

THE CHARLIE McCARTHY SHOW: UNPLEASANT SUBJECTS (NBC, 1947)---Such is the appellation affixed to Edgar Bergen's birthday by his ever-trenchant marionette about town. Additional cast: Nelson Eddy, Anita Gordon, Billie Burke. Music: Ray Noble. Writers: Possibly Roland McLane, Dick Mack, Carrol Carroll.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: ONE FELLA'S FAMILY---RAKING (THINK HARD! 1960)---From Chapter Twenty, Book Fourteen, Pages One, Two, and Three . . . and yes, it may be a blooper, considering their previous introductory style. Writers, as if they'd have admitted it: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1893---Katherine Cornell (actress: A Tribute to Ethel Barrymore; Kate Smith Sings), Berlin.
1901---Chester Morris (actor: Boston Blackie; The Great Merlini), New York City.
1903---Edgar Bergen (ventriloquist/comedian: The Chase & Sanborn Hour; The Charlie McCarthy Show), Chicago.
1909---Hugh Beaumont (actor: known to have appeared in various radio roles in the early 1930s), Lawrence, Kansas; Jeffrey Lynn (actor: Lux Radio Theater; Hallmark Playhouse), Auburn, Massachussetts.
1910---Jerry Lester (actor: The Life of Mary Sothern), Chicago; Del Sharbutt (actor: Hobby Lobby; Victory Theatre; The Jack Benny Program), Fort Worth, Texas.
1918---Patty Andrews (singer, with the Andrews Sisters: The Andrews Sisters Revue; Lux Radio Theater; The Big Show), Minneapolis.
1926---Vera-Ellen (born Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe; actress: The Martin & Lewis Show), Norwood, Ohio.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sweetest Comedy This Side of Heaven: The Way It Was, 15 February

1932: GRACIE, HOW'S YOUR BANDLEADER?---Old-time radio may never quite be the same---which is saying something, considering it's barely a decade old as we know it to this point---after vaudeville and film short veterans George Burns and Gracie Allen premiere as regulars on The Guy Lombardo Show. (CBS.)

The couple---who will not present themselves on air as the married couple they actually are until over a decade later---are not unanimously acclaimed, unfortunately. As Burns himself will relate later in life (in his memoir, The Third Time Around), an indignant fraternity complained that their weekly house dances, when they invite their girlfriends to come and dance to half an hour of "the sweetest music this side of heaven," is so rudely interrupted by these interlopers.

It depends, of course, on what your definitions of "sweet" and "this side of heaven" are.

Said fraternity will prove a minority, of course. Burns & Allen go on to become radio fixtures---including a few memorable characters (most notably, the Mortons next door and Mel Blanc as the Happy Postman who was always spreading cheer on the verge of tears) and at least two of the most memorable gags in the history of the art: the search for Gracie's brother, and Gracie's mock 1940 presidential campaign---right to the day they graduate to television in 1950.


1941: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY---Real enough tragedy attaches to popular, semi-comic old-time radio soap opera Myrt & Marge---28-year-old co-star Donna Damerel Fick, who has played chorus trouper Marge Minter since the soap was born, dies while giving birth to her third son.

Fick is the real-life daughter of creator-writer Myrtle Vail (Myrt Spear), who's based the show on her own vaudeville experiences and plays the hard-patinaed veteran chorus trouper who took innocent newcomer Marge under her wing a decade earlier. (Vail is believed to have thought of the idea while unwrapping a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint---which became the show's original sponsor.)

Possibly as a way to salve grief---though Movie-Radio Guide says she believes her daughter wanted the show to continue no matter what---Vail continues Myrt & Marge, writing Marge out of the script entirely for a short spell, until Fick's successor can be chosen. Vail simply writes a plotline involving Marge's hiding in the hills until a mixup involving a murder is cleared.

Following what Time will call arduous auditions (at one point taking over CBS studios for them), including sponsor Colgate-Palmolive-Peet interviewing a reported two hundred possible new Marges and presenting sixty before Vail herself pared the candidates down to 35, film actress Helen Mack---perhaps familiar most as a streetwalker in His Girl Friday---becomes the new Marge Minter.

Fick was married to former Olympic swimmer Peter Fick at the time of her death (they married over a year earlier); her two previous marriages produced her two older sons, Charles Griffith (a future screenwriter) and William Kretsinger.

Myrt & Marge will continue on radio until 1946. But Fick's death will be listed sometimes as 14 February, because she had done into labor on that date, after performing a Myrt & Marge episode earlier in the day. She dies after midnight, technically 15 February, shortly after her new son was born.

In later years, there will be those believing Fick died in a road accident, garbling her death (according to radio historian Elizabeth McLeod) with the accident that hospitalised Myrtle Vail for several weeks in 1933 and provoked a Myrt & Marge storyline involving Myrt Spear's kidnapping (by gangsters) and Marge Minter's hunt for her, a storyline that allowed Vail a full recovery.

1943: IT ISN'T THE JIVE FIVE, KIDDIES---My True Story, a dramatic anthology, premieres on NBC's Blue Network (which is just months away from being sold to Edward J. Noble, who will rename it the American Broadcasting Company in due course) and will stay on radio until 1962---the year considered the last year of old-time radio.

Written by Margaret Sangster, announced by Glenn Riggs, directed by Martin Andrews, Charles Warburton, and George Wiest, My True Story will feature various performers and no known regular cast. On television (ABC), it will last a single season. (1950-51.)


THE RALEIGH-KOOL PROGRAM WITH JACK PEARL: RIO DE JANEIRO (NBC, 1937)---Rio just won't be the same after The Baron (Jack Pearl) gets through with it. Charlie: Cliff Hall. Additional cast: Mae Questel, Morton Bowe. Music: Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with Jack Leonard. Writers: Possibly Parke Levy, Billy K. Wells, George Wells.

THE BURNS & ALLEN SHOW: FRED ASTAIRE DRIVES GEORGE CRAZY (CBS; ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE REBROADCAST, 1944)---George (Burns) complains to his office landlord about the constant racket from the dancer rehearsing in the office above . . . unaware it's Fred Astaire "You tell him," Astaire indignantly rejoins to the landlord, "that when he sings 'Ain't Misbehavin', tell him it sounds like plumbing that's working"), auditioning for a new dance partner---and unaware Gracie (Allen) has just the candidate for the job. Tootsie: Elvia Allman. Himself: Bill Goodwin (announcer). Music: Felix Mills Orchestra, Jimmy Cash. Writers: Paul Henning, George Burns.

YOU BET YOUR LIFE: THE SECRET WORD IS 'SUGAR' (NBC, 1950)---And the none-too-secret word is humour, beginning with a milkman partnered with a brewer. Host: Groucho Marx. Announcer: George Fenneman.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: WHAT'S IN THE ATTIC? (NBC, 1954)---The Squire of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) and his missus (Marian Jordan) struggle to rent their neighbour's house as a favour to him, but nobody wants it so long as the owner doesn't want the attic opened. Dowager: Natalie Masters. Mr. Clark: Parley Baer. Announcer: John Wald. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.


1882---John Barrymore (actor: The Rudy Vallee Show; Lux Radio Theater), Philadelphia.
1893---Walter Donaldson (composer: "Theme For The Fitch Bandwagon"), New York City.
1896---Arthur Shields (actor: Cavalcade of America), unknown.
1899---Gale Sondergaard (actress: Columbia Presents Corwin), Litchfield, Minnesota.
1907---Cesar Romero (actor: Movietone Radio Theatre), New York City.
1908---William Janney (actor: We're Always Wrong; Howie Wing), New York City; Hartzell Spence (writer: Cavalcade of America; Lux Radio Theater), Clarion, Iowa; Hugh Wedlock, Jr. (writer: The Jack Benny Program, Lum & Abner, That's My Pop), unknown.
1914---Kevin McCarthy (actor: Richard Lawless; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Seattle.
1916---Mary Jane Croft (actress/comedienne: Beulah; The Story of Sandra Martin; Our Miss Brooks; The Mel Blanc Show), Muncie, Indiana.
1919---Frank Behrens (actor: Billie the Brownie; Jack Armstrong, All-American), Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
1930---Mary Lee Robb (actress: The Great Gildersleeve), Chicago.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Skinflint: The Way It Was, 14 February

1894---Whether or not it means romance takes a back seat---or the cheap seats---probably depends on your point of view. But thus is born on Valentine's Day old-time radio's classic comic skinflint fall guy: Jack Benny (as Benjamin Kubelsky, in Chicago), destined to reshape his art, probably the only man of his time who could get laughs merely by arching his brow, shooting a quick glance, or leaning upon his palm in a pause so pregnant it would mean sextuplets in the maternity ward.

Practically all the comedy shows owe their structure to Benny's conceptions. The Benny show was like a One Man's Family in slapstick. He was the first comedian in radio to realise you could get big laughs by ridiculing yourself instead of your stooges.

---Fred Allen.

O, Jack Benny; O, Jack Benny
you've had birthdays, but how many?
Is it 21 and more
or twice that much, and more and more?
Years ago, in old Waukegan
in the state of Illinois
A child was born unto the Bennys
and it wasn't Myrna Loy.
'Twas a boy, they called him Jackie
and even then, he looked quite whacky . . .

I see you, Jack, at the age of two
glowing curls and eyes of blue.
And then I see you three years old
with silver threads among the gold.
At twelve you said you'd run away
unless the fiddle you could play.
And when you got one, what do you think?
Were you good or did you 'tink?
(JACK: Tink?
MARY: Yeah---baby talk.)
O, Jack Benny; O, Jack Benny---
you've had birthdays, but how many?
So happy returns and all good wishes
from us and Jell-O, so delicious.

---Birthday doggerel, read by Mary Livingstone, on the broadcast of 12 February 1939.

As a matter of fact, Benny was a generous and appreciative audience for anyone else's wit. He was a fine performer, a funny comedian and actually a very skillful actor. He never missed praising his writers---people like Bill Morrow, Ed Beloin, Milt Josefsberg, and Sam Perrin. There was once a joke about Benny that went around. I don't know where it started but Jack himself used to quote it. He said: "Ad-lib? Me? I couldn't ad-lib a belch after a Hungarian dinner." However, witty or not witty, Benny was damned funny. Wherever the dialogue came from, no one else could have done what Benny did. He created the character he played, he was a skillful editor, and every one of his writers gave him full credit for whatever went over the air.

---Abe Burrows, Duffy's Tavern head writer, from his memoir, Honest Abe. (Boston: Atlantic Little, Brown, 1980.)

Almost as many years since his death as he claimed for his age, he will continue to inspire respect and affection. And, he will still get laughs with impeccable timing, nuanced understatement, and pauses so pregnant they'd mean sextuplets in the maternity ward.


1924: OVER TO YOU, MR. PRESIDENT---It is an era in which politicians are not universally anxious to use it. Some pols and a few influential journals (including The Nation, hardly the last time that journal was wrong about something) think it's a fad that's likely to be dead by decade's end. But President Calvin Coolidge isn't exactly allergic to radio. He becomes the first sitting American President to deliver a purely political speech on radio. (His predecessor, Warren G. Harding, had inaugurated a new, high-power RCA antenna with a broadcast speech three years earlier.)

The normally reticient Coolidge will take such a comfortable liking to radio that it will help provoke the image of the coming election campaign (Coolidge's first and only shot at seeking the White House in his own right) as "The Radio Election."

1924: IT WOULD KEEP GOING . . . AND GOING . . . AND GOING---While Silent Cal was being anything but on the air, the National Carbon Company was becoming the first major sponsor of a network radio program. Name the famous battery that was promoted on The Eveready Hour . . .

1949: "IT'S A MAN! HE'S COMING RIGHT AT US!"---The generally-accepted formal premiere of Superman, "Clark Kent, Reporter," is broadcast on WOR, New York City's Mutual Broadcasting System flagship. The star---whose identity is kept secret by, apparently, formal edict, at least until he steps into a Time interviewer's phone booth in 1946---is Clayton Collyer, familiar at the time as the announcer for The Goldbergs and destined to become famous as the host of television's Beat the Clock and To Tell The Truth.

The actual premiere of the series aired two days earlier. But it may be understandable why it isn't considered Superman's radio premiere: the episode covers the doom of his home world and his launch toward earth therefrom as a sleeping infant, an episode called "The Baby From Krypton."


I'm breaking the customary pattern and listing not so much shows that were aired on this specific date but some particularly amusing shows that had something---anything---to do with Valentine's Day at all. Even if it involved a couple to whom marriage could have been murder . . . if one or the other could have gotten away with it.

THE BICKERSONS MISSING IN ACTION (NBC, UNDATED)---Doesn't it figure that, on Valentine's Day, the usually snoring John (Don Ameche) isn't snoring . . . because he isn't even home from work yet? That leaves Blanche (Frances Langford) to fret on the phone, to her sister, Clara, until exhausted John finally makes it home from a long day---turning Blanche from worried to her usual sniping, shrewish self. Writer: Philip Rapp.

EASY ACES: ACE TELLS JANE ABOUT LOSING ALL HIS MONEY (ORIGINAL BROADCAST: CBS; SYNDICATED REPEAT: FREDERICK W. ZIV COMPANY)---It seems only appropriate to play this for Valentine's Day, even for harried, cynical Ace (Goodman Ace) and scattered but dreamy Jane (Ace): Ace finally screws up the courage to tell Jane he lost his business and his money, after sinking everything into a low-income housing deal he still doesn't know was a setup on the part of the local pol who owns the property in question. The part he still doesn't have the heart to reveal: Jane herself inadvertently torpedoed Ace's deal, when she landed big publicity for a women's group protesting on behalf of a different deal. Marge: Mary Hunter. Announcer: Truman Bradley. Writer: Goodman Ace.

THE PHIL HARRIS-ALICE FAYE SHOW: SOMEONE SENDS ALICE FLOWERS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY (NBC, 1949)---The trouble is, they're coming several times during the day, beginning with a dozen astertiums . . . and it isn't exactly forgetful Phil's doing. ("Good! Good! Dip 'em in butter and sautee 'em!"). Remley: Elliott Lewis. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


1884---Grace Valentine (actress: Stella Dallas), Springfield, Ohio.
1900---Eddie Marr (actor: The Jack Carson Show, The Jack Benny Program, I Fly Anything), New Jersey.
1902---Stu Irwin (comedian: Phone Again, Finnegan)
1904---Jessica Dragonette (singer: Philco Hour Theatre of Memories), Calcutta, India.
1905---Thelma Ritter (actress: The Aldrich Family, Big Town), Brooklyn.
1908---Lonnie Glosson (musician, harmonica: Grand Ole Opry), Judsonia, Arkansas.
1912---Tyler McVey (actor: One Man's Family), Bay City, Michigan.
1913---Mel Allen (as Melvin Israel; announcer/play-by-play, New York Yankees; announcer: The White Owl Sports Smoker, Truth or Consequences), Birmingham, Alabama.
1921---Hugh Downs (announcer: The Dave Garroway Show; host: Doctors Today), Akron, Ohio.
1931---Phyllis McGuire (singer, with the McGuire Sisters: Arthur Godfrey Time), Middletown, Ohio.
1934---Florence Henderson (singer/actress, Coke Time with Eddie Fisher), Dale, Indiana.