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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chaser, Chased: The Way It Was, 19 June

With Claudette Colbert taking Jean Arthur's 1936 film role, she's still in love with the husband (William Powell, reprising his film role) she drove to divorce because of her addiction to mysteries. But while she chases him hoping to re-marry him, after a horse trainer ropes him into the suspicious death of a jockey, a group of hoods chase them.

Nick Martell: John Archer. Mrs. Summer: Alice Eden. Based on the story and screenplay by James Edward Grant and Anthony Eiler.


1910: "AMERICA'S MOTHER OF THE AIR"---Little do Mother and Dad Payne in Cincinnati know that the baby daughter born to them today, Virginia, will grow up to become known as precisely that, when she plays the title role of legendary old-time radio serial Ma Perkins from its inception until its finish . . . never once missing a performance, and never failing to apply matronly makeup and acoutrements for public appearances tied to the Frank and Anne Hummert serial.

Like other daytime heroines, Ma neither drinks, smokes, takes snuff or has affairs with men. Unlike Ma, Cincinnati-born Virginia Payne, 47, has never been married, downs an occasional whisky sour and makes up to $50,000 a year—more than any other actress in daytime broadcasting. Her present writer (she has had ten) lived on the Riviera for two years, now counts his money on Cape Cod. A devout Roman Catholic with an M.A. in literature (University of Cincinnati), Virginia sheds Ma's vocabulary of "ain'ts," "folks" and "Land o' Goshens" with ease, but insists on making personal appearances in wig, makeup, frumpy clothes and spectacles, "though I often feel like a great imposter." She is an accomplished pianist, lives alone in a posh East Side Manhattan apartment decorated with Duveen-collected oil paintings, accumulates antiques, and grows roses (two varieties have been named for her).

---Time, 1957.

Ma Perkins . . . was an audio milestone that spanned almost the entire lifetime of network radio drama. Typical of Hummert serials, Ma had tears, maniacs, and melodrama in her arsenal of cliffhangers. But she overcame this with long quiet spells, with deep conversations about the meaning of life against an unfolding panorama of family and personality conflicts . . .

In an incredible performance, Virginia Payne played Ma Perkins without missing a show in 27 years. Payne, just 23 when the show premiered, gave a convincing portrayal of a middle-aged battleaxe despite her youth. It was Payne who softened the character by degrees until the real Ma Perkins emerged. Unlike her fictitious counterpart, Payne had a college education and finally a master's degree; at $50,000 a year, she earned more than any other actress in the soaps.

---John Dunning, in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998; pp. 440, 442.)

This is our 7,065th broadcast, and I want to thank you all for being so loyal all these years . . . If you write to me, I'll try to answer all your letters. Goodbye and may God bless you.

---Virginia Payne, signing off on the final Ma Perkins broadcast, 25 November 1960. (Her message was interrupted only by the show's closing credits---also read by Payne herself on this occasion.)

As the trusting, warmhearted, widowed Ma, Payne would also become the only member of the cast to feature on the soap for that entire 7,065-episode broadcast life.

Payne's Ma Perkins will be one of six classic old-time radio soaps to sign off for the final time 25 November 1960, a date known to radio soap buffs as Black Friday. The others: The Right to Happiness, The Romance of Helen Trent, The Second Mrs. Burton, Young Doctor Malone, and Whispering Streets.


VIC & SADE FIVE HUNDRED BIJOU TICKETS (NBC, 1944)---They're a topic of gentle debate between Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Sade (Bernadine Flynn), who want to know whether Gumpock has the rightful title to the old tickets he found in someone else's garbage can but left with our friends. Russell: David Whitehouse. Announcer: Ed Roberts. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: BIG DEAL WITH CARSTAIRS (NBC, 1945)---Fibber (Jim Jordan) is being a little too secretive about a big deal with the wealthy wheeler-dealer ("When you've got a better mouse trap, every big cheese wants to get into it"), amusing Molly (Marian Jordan) as he plays hard to get. Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Beulah: Marlin Hurt. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie. (Note: This broadcast concludes with a special presentation to the Jordans of the National Commander's Citation from the Catholic War Veterans.)

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: CHARLIE HELPS WITH THE COWS (CBS, 1959)---Under the gun to lose two runaway cows that ended up in his garage, our husband (Alan Bunce) isn't that much more thrilled to have obnoxious Charlie Beeman's (Don Briggs) help moving them. Writer, as well as The Mrs.: Peg Lynch.


1865---Dame Mae Whitty (as Mary Whitty; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Liverpool.
1901---Frederic Tozere (actor: Stella Dallas), unknown.
1902---Guy Lombardo (bandleader: The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven; Lombardo USA), London, Ontario.
1908---Lou Gehrig (as Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig; Hall of Fame baseball player/guest actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City; Mildred Natwick (actress: Starring Boris Karloff; Best Plays; Campbell Playhouse).
1912---Martin Gabel (actor: Big Sister; The Casebook of Gregory Hood), Philadelphia.
1915---Pat Buttram (actor: National Barn Dance), Addison, Alabama.
1919---Louis Jourdan (actor: Hallmark Playhouse; Screen Guild Theater), Marseilles, France.
1922---Gwen Davies (actress: The Adventures of Helen and Mary; Let's Pretend), New York City.
1928---Nancy Marchand (actress: Cavalcade of America; A Private Space), Buffalo, New York; Barry Took (writer/comedian: Round the Horne; We're In Business), London.


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