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.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Of a Father and Son: The Way It Was, 17 May

As final exams bring an odd calm to the campus, and Vicki (Benita Hume Colman) longs for a summer vacation she thinks Hall (Ronald Colman) has earned but Hall fears he can't quite afford, the Halls and the campus plot a surprise for a man (Sam Hearn) whose soon-to-graduate, honour student son (Sam Edwards), a successful musician whose success paid for his college education, now wants to arrange likewise for his father---an immigrant who was unable to attain much of any formal education of his own . . . and who thinks shame is the reason his son wants to give him such a gift.

Writers: Don Quinn, Nat Wolfe.


1938: "SOMETIMES GOOD, SOMETIMES RAGGED, ALWAYS REAL"---The old-time radio quiz that will make a household name of New Yorker literary editor Clifton Fadiman---hosting a panel of known experts who just so happen to be rather witty in their own right, including erudite journalists John F. Kieran and Franklin P. Adams, trying to answer brain-benders submitted by listeners themselves---premieres today on NBC's Blue Network: Information, Please.

The show, a sort of Algonquin Round Table of the air . . . was thought up by Dan Golenpaul, hmself a pretty bright guy who put on lectures and public-service programs and devised the first broadcasting magazine called, yes, The Magazine of the Air . . . Golenpaul's idea for Information, Please came out of his frustrations at listening to MCs give contestants a hard time for blowing answers. He once explained, "A bit sadistic, I thought. I wish I had these quizmasters and so-called experts in front of me. I'd like to ask them some questions. They're probably not much brighter than the average person."

---Gerald Nachman, from "Minds Over Matter," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

The show will make a star, too, out of pianist Oscar Levant, whose withering wit will give his music career a bump and make him a personality in his own right. Guest panelists for the always-revolving fourth chair will include Gracie Allen (laugh if you must, but the lady was no dope), Harpo Marx (you guessed it: he answered with his famous taxi horn), Fred Allen (a very frequent guest panelist), Deems Taylor (musician and music critic), Grantland Rice (sportswriting legend), Russell Crouse (playwright), and even baseball legends Red Barber, Lefty Gomez, and Larry MacPhail.

[A] quiz show turned into a four-man conversation, sometimes good, sometimes ragged, always real. I was well aware that my own talents were as nothing compared with those of Frank Adams, Oscar Levant, or John Kieran. But I was also well aware that I was so placed as to be able to do one thing better than they could do it themselves. That one thing was to prod them into being Adams, Levant, and Kieran.

---Clifton Fadiman.

It was generally more fun when the answer was wrong, especially if the culprit tried to wriggle out of it. An uproarious error or a brilliant bit of irrelevance was rated far above any dull delivery of truth.

---John Kieran, from his memoirs.

One of Information, Please's unsung heroes: a Brooklyn high school teacher upon whom Golenpaul calls for factual and referential assistance, a teacher who believes what the show comes to exude behind the witty repartee: "that Brahms, Jefferson, Shelley, and baseball could and indeed should fascinate equally"---as his far more famous son would recall years later.

The teacher is Gordon Kahn, who will die a year after Information, Please's radio demise. But his son grows up to become a respected sportswriter and, in time, the man who may have done the most to graduate the Brooklyn Dodgers from memory to mythology: Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer.


THE RALEIGH-KOOL PROGRAM STARRING JACK PEARL: THE THIRD GRADER'S REVENGE (NBC, 1937)---Baron von Munchausen (Jack Pearl) ponders a new on-air contest, possibly for younger listeners, while the company takes a swing at the Robert W. Service poem recalling the legend of Dan McGrew, a favourite target for old-time radio satirists. Charlie: Cliff Hall. Additional cast: Morgan Bowe. Music: Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with Edith Wright and Jack Leonard. Writers: Unknown. (Note: The file is often mistitled as "Night Baseball Game.")

MY FRIEND IRMA: IRMA WANTS TO JOIN A CLUB (CBS, 1948)---Jane (Cathy Lewis) is invited to join a New York club for professional women, which makes Irma (Marie Wilson) nervous until she realises she'll be alone once a week---and wants something similar for herself, which she gets in a surprising way after Al (John Brown) helped her blow the initial interview. Professor Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Additional cast: Unknown. Writers: Parke Levy, Stanley Adams, Roland MacLane.

QUIET, PLEASE: GEM OF PUREST RAY (MUTUAL, 1948)---Mass murderer Dr. Moraitas (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) stuns police with the subterranean conspiracy theory that underwrites his motive. Additional cast: Morton Lawrence, Terita Bauer, Ed McSaley. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


1890---Philip James (composer/conductor: Bamberger Little Symphony; Wellsprings of Music), Jersey City.
1902---Fausto Cleva (conductor: NBC Symphony Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Auditions), Trieste, Italy.
1903---Artie Auerbach (actor: The Jack Benny Program), New York City.
1905---John Patrick (writer: Theater Guild On the Air), Louisville.
1906---Carl McIntire (evangelist: Twentieth Century Reformation Hour), Ypsilanti, Michigan.
1907---Horace McMahon (actor: Crime Does Not Pay), South Norwalk, Connecticut.
1911---Maureen O'Sullivan (actress: Dreft Star Playhouse; Family Theater), Boyle, Ireland.
1920---Harriet Van Horne (critic/actress: The Adventures of Ellery Queen), Syracuse, New York.


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