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, April 06, 2009

Meow, Baby: The Way It Was, 6 April

Whether this will turn up in the top ten of old-time radio's all-time greatest horror episodes depends upon a listener's point of view, but there will be no question as to whether this helps make the bones of one of the art's classic writers, with no little help from one of horror's most memorable actors.

It involves a troubled marriage going from bad to worse, when the husband (Boris Karloff, in the third of five consecutive anniversary appearances from the show's Chicago base) bars his wife's (Betty Winkler) friends from their home and comes to regret calling her a heartless cat . . . after the lady undergoes a peculiarly literal transformation.

Writer: Arch Oboler.


1931: WHO'S THAT LITTLE CHATTERBOX?---Already a local hit on Chicago's WGN, cartoonist Harold Gray's spunky ten-year-old, carrot-topped orphan, taken in with her dog by a rich industrialist, becomes old-time radio's first children's afternoon network serial today, beginning a decade-plus life on NBC. Who can that be? It's Little Orphan Annie.

With one interruption---a 1934-35 contract dispute, during which Bobbie Dean stands in for her for a short while---Shirley Bell will play Little Orphan Annie for a decade, until she's succeeded by Janice Gilbert in 1940. (A West Coast version, using the same scripts as the Chicago-based original, will run from 1931-33 with Floy Hughes in the title role.) And, in due course, as Shirley Bell Cole, she will write a memoir, Acting Her Age: My Ten Years as a Ten Year Old (2005), enjoying a long late life making personal appearances to talk about her Little Orphan Annie career.

The original cast also includes Henry Saxe as Daddy Warbucks, Allan Baruck as Joe Corntassle (he was the shy boy down the road with a ferocious crush on Annie), Jerry O'Mera as Mr. Silo, Henrietta Tedro as Mrs. Silo, Olan Soule as Aha, the Chinese cook, the inadvertently appropriately named Brad Barker as the voice of Sandy, the dog, and Pierre Andre (a.k.a. Uncle Andy) as the show's announcer. The writers include Roland Martini, Ferrin N. Fraser, Day Keene, and Wally Norman.

Sponsored by Ovaltine, the chocolate milk mix whose promotional premiums become almost as famous as the show itself, Little Orphan Annie stays on NBC through 19 January 1940, with Mutual airing it concurrently in 1937-38. With Janice Gilbert as Annie, the show will be taken full by Mutual (sponsored by Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies) from 22 January 1940-26 April 1942.

The little red adventuress's radio life won't quite end when her serial does, however. Not so far as New York mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia will be concerned. During a 1945 newspaper strike, he'll sit down in front of a microphone on city-owned WNYC, one fine Sunday morning, and read the comics to children in the New York metropolitan area . . . including Little Orphan Annie.


SUSPENSE: FIRE BURN, AND CAULDRON BUBBLE (CBS, 1943)---Opening night of Macbeth in Drury Lane is compromised for a retired, remarried actress who just wants to enjoy the evening on her first wedding anniversary: she's haunted by a threat against her remarriage, purportedly from her late first husband, prompting her new husband to express alarm to the show's producer/star (Paul Lukas), who knew the dead actor. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: John Dickson Carr.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: ARCHIE AND FINNEGAN DOUBLE DATE (NBC, 1949)---After Archie (Ed Gardner) wins the coin flip with Eddie (Eddie Cantor) for who gets the night off after the bar's spring cleaning, he lands a prize date---after he agrees to bring a friend for the friend she won't leave behind. Miss Duffy: Hazel Shermet. Eddie: Eddie Green. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Writers: Ed Gardner, Bob Schiller, Larry Rhine.


1884---Walter Huston (as Walter Houghston; actor: Cavalcade of America, Theater Guild On the Air), Toronto, Ontario.
1892---Lowell Thomas (news commentator: Lowell Thomas and the News), Woodington, Ohio.
1895---Dudley Nichols (writer: Cavalcade of America, Lux Radio Theater), Wapakoneta, Ohio.
1924---Mimi Benzel (singer: The Railroad Hour, The Raleigh-Kool Program, Best of All), Bridgeport, Connecticut.


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