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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Catch: The Way It Was, 29 September


With first and second and nobody out in the top of the eighth, Game One of the World Series tied at two, and New York Giants starter Sal Maglie having walked future Cleveland Indians Hall of Famer Larry Doby and surrendered a single to third baseman Al Rosen, Tribe outfielder Vic Wertz launched New York reliever Don Liddle's 2-1 pitch on a rising line toward the rear end of the Polo Grounds's famous, cavernous straightaway center field, the ball traveling on a slight angle toward the high fence afront the bleachers to the right of the park's famous elevated straight center field clubhouses.

The scrambling Giants center fielder with the number 24 on his back ran down the drive, which threatened to become a two-run triple at least, a possible three-run, inside-the-park homer at worst, before he hauled down the ball, over his shoulders, without leaving his feet, though some photographic angles will come to suggest he went at least partially airborne to get the ball. Then, he wheeled and fired a perfect strike back to the infield, keeping Doby from advancing past third, giving Liddle's reliever, Marv Grissom, a chance to set the Indians down and keep the game set for what proved to be the winning blow---Dusty Rhodes's famous pinch hit bomb in the bottom of the tenth, launching the Giants toward an improbable sweep of the 111-game winning Indians.

Warning: Muddy sound. Announcer: Jimmy Dudley.


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: BACK FROM VACATION (NBC, 1942)---And the first order of business for the freshly-returned McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan) is to retrieve the camera Fibber inadvertently left on the train---assuming they can negotiate the Old-Timer (Bill Thompson), a chatty lost-and-found director, a fuming Mayor LaTrivia (Gale Gordon), a pestiferous Teeny (also Marian Jordan) who's donated her father's car radiator to the wartime scrap drive, and a customarily wife-bedeviled Wimpole (also Bill Thompson). Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writer: Don Quinn.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wrong Note Samba? The Way It Was, 28 September

In which a small group of Lebanese clerics get theirs for thwarting a harmless-enough Brazilian samba troupe touring the country otherwise to acclaim enough; Rachael Laser whomps up (or should that be blows up) a dish straight from the allegedly endangered species list; and, your host humbly reminds one and all what David Letterman isn't guilty of committing around the office.

And, we serve up an old-time radio treat: the premiere edition of the fifteen-minute, semi-serialisation of beloved comedy. . .
FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: HANGING AUNT SARAH'S PICTURE (NBC, 1953)---In which the Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) can't hang it without first negotiating a small barrage of visitors---namely, Dr. Gamble (Arthur Q. Bryan) and Teeny (Marian Jordan, who also plays Molly)---welcoming the McGees back from vacation. (Announcer: John Wald. Writer: Phil Leslie.)
Partner-in-Crime: Patty Price. Announcer/Rachael Laser: Siri Morgan. Writer-host-producer-director: Your extinguished editor.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Goya, Vey! The Way It Was, 27 September


Series star Ronald Colman himself has written this script that launches with a particularly Hall (Colman)-like dilemna: Only Vicki (Benita Hume Colman) can turn a grump about the morning junk mail, which already bothers Hall no end, into a soliloquy on behalf of increasing Ivy College's student enrollment. And only Hall could find amid the junk mail rubble a query from the attorney for a wealthy Ivy graduate's widow, who spent her final years trying to recover her family's lost art treasures . . . including and especially an authenticated Goya.

The question at first: whether to sell the painting and using the proceeds for a new Ivy arts center, or whether to display the painting on campus. Then the attorney (Ken Peters) visits the Halls with a development the Halls may not like hearing---a knowledgeable art critic believes the painting may be a fake, but that the dead widow may have hyped it to avoid paying duty when she brought it home to the United States. And to make things worse: board chairman Wellman (Herbert Butterfield), not exactly a Hall ally, wants it hung in the hall named after him, unaware it may be a fraud.

And there's a sealed letter from the dead widow that's addressed to Hall . . . and can be opened by no one but himself---after the painting's accepted or a monetary compensation is accepted in its place, which raises the question of what Wellman might do if and when he learns the truth about the painting.

Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolff. Writer: Ronald Colman.


INFORMATION, PLEASE: (NBC BLUE, 1938)---On the day he opens in The Night of the King, Basil Rathbone (better known for playing Sherlock Holmes) joins musicologist Sigmund Spaeth---the author (Read 'Em and Weep; The Common Sense of Music), composer, and scholar whose old-time radio career as a music appreciator and analyst earns him the nickname that also titled one of his radio programs, The Tune Detective---to augment the regular panel of Franklin P. Adams (humourist, New York Post) and John F. Kieran (sports columnist, The New York Times). Moderator: Clifton Fadiman. Announcer: Howard Claney. Music: Joe Kahn. Director: Don Golenpaul.

AVALON TIME: MEETING THE IN-LAWS (NBC, 1939)---Host Red Skelton, in his final months hosting the show, peels through a stream of news jokes and a little give-and-take with some of the musical cast debating whether the show needs more music or more comedy, before launching a sketch in which a newlywed couple (Edna Stillwell, Skelton) is meeting her parents---for the first time. Additonal cast: Dick Todd, Bud Vandover, Marlin Hurt. Announcer: Del King. Music: The Avalon Chorus; Bob Strong Orchestra. Writers: Unknown.

THE GREEN HORNET: VOTES FOR SALE (NBC BLUE, 1940)---With the city's anti-machine mayor facing a dangerous and even violent re-election challenge from his corrupt machine predecessor, the Green Hornet (Al Hodge) wants the city to think he's backing that predecessor---the better to push the critical, machine-breaking ward's votes the mayor's way. Kato: Raymond Toyo. Lowry: Jack Petruzzi. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: James Jewell. Writers: Fran Striker, Dan Beattie, Leo Boulette.

MAYOR OF THE TOWN: THE PAPA DEAR CONTEST (NBC, 1942)---A pleasantly crusty evening of checkers with the judge (possibly Irvin Lee) is interrupted by two Hollywood producers who want the skeptical mayor (Lionel Barrymore) to help with a project the town's chamber of commerce is abetting already: finding the ideal father figure in Springdale for their next film, inspiring the mayor to make a surprising choice for the honour. Marilly: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: . Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Gordon Jenkins Orchestra. Director: Jack Van Nostrand. Writer: Jean Holloway. (Final broadcast for NBC; show moves to CBS as of 7 October 1942.)

THE SIX SHOOTER: THE COWARD (NBC, 1953)---Stopping in Temple City on a job to retrieve cattle, Ponset (James Stewart)'s conscience is troubled by a once-rough man who's changed to a gunless, even even-keeled soul, leaving him with an unwarranted image as a coward, a possibly nasty battle with a rancher who's poaching his and his pregnant wife's cattle, a secret Ponset learns unexpectedly from the frightened woman, and an unexpected rifle purchase. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Basil Adlam. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: Frank Burt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Run 'Em Down Store: The Way It Was, 26 September


A year earlier, running a CBS workshop that serves as much as a script hospital as a training school for new comedy writers, Goodman Ace fumed over CBS's remake of The Little Show, which he'd already retooled for a rising old-time radio comic named Robert Q. Lewis:
I give them a good, tight fifteen-minute comedy show and what do they do? Expand it to half an hour and throw in an orchestra and an audience. Who the hell said a comedy show had to be half an hour? Marconi? Ida Cantor?
Little did Ace know that CBS would perform a similar assassination upon one of the most landmark "good, tight fifteen-minute comed[ies]" of all old-time radio. Of any such show that ever graced the medium (including Ace's own Easy Aces, which he himself tried to retool as a half-hour exercise---mr. ace and JANE---by which he tried to beat the premise senseless via a self-satire in which his prime target was the very mindset that helped destroy the shorter serial comedy), an argument exists that Lum & Abner doesn't deserve the fate about to befall it.

That longtime master exercise in rural absurdism is about to be reshaped into a half-hour sitcom. Its introduction seems benign enough, a tribute to the solidity and the popularity of the original show and its two masterminds, but it actually telegraphs the worst of what is to become: this is a sap-and-claptrap variety exercise, fashioned as a "surprise party" for the sages of Pine Ridge, complete with showbiz stalwarts (specifically, tonight, Bob Crosby, Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, the Modernaires, Red Skelton [in Clem Kadiddlehopper guise], and Margaret Whiting), showbiz glitz, and rapid-fire showbiz punch lines, bordering on witlessness, inexplicably subverting the subtlety of the Chester Lauck/Norris Goff serial comedy.

Lauck and Goff themselves make a quick appearance toward the show's finish, suggesting they'll go along cheerfully enough with the transformation (they had already added more writers to the show at the onset of the 1940s), perhaps blissfully unaware that the very premise of this tribute to their creation is what will prove to be fact in due course---that they already had created something durable, something that didn't necessarily have to die with the kind of grave-stomping the sitcom version would prove often enough to imply.

Lum & Abner would be dead as a regularly-scheduled radio program within five years. The belly laughs would hardly be lame, but they'd dissipate almost as soon as the punch line. History will render its judgment in due course, and Lum & Abner will be remembered as they should have been, and not as the coming revamp threatened to render them.

Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music, direction, and writers: Unknown.


BUNNY BERIGAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA: FROM MANHATTAN CENTER, NEW YORK (NBC, 1939)---The one-time CBS studio orchestra sideman (under the auspices of Freddie Rich) ,who became a jazz star and a jazz tragedy, shines in this remote broadcast performed near the end of his serious career as a bandleader, and three years before his life ended at 33. The only trumpeter known to be equal to Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge at the peak of the Swing Era, Berigan delivers a performance that betrays none of the smothering insecurities that have driven him to the bottle and would, in due course, bankrupt and then kill him. Highlights: A bristling "Caravan," in which Berigan rides that Ellington jewel into a display of his equal prowess at lower and upper horn register; and, "Oh, Ya Ya," whose theme and countermelody may have helped prod Ellington sideman Juan Tizol's future standard, "Perdido," and which pumps at least as hard as the best of the Ellington or Count Basie bands of the period. Other selections: "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" (vocal by Danny Richman), "Night Song," "Swingin' and Jumpin'," and "Little Gate Special." Announcer: Unknown.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: LEILA RETURNS (NBC, 1943)---Leila Ransom (Shirley Mitchell)---who jilted Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) at the altar when her husband turned up alive---returns to Summerfield widowed in sad fact . . . after first sending Gildy a note hoping she can "remain eternally your friend," confusing him a little further considering his unexpected interest in school principal Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet) and his reluctant determination to keep things platonic with Leila. Hooker: Earle Ross. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Claude Sweeten Orchestra. Director: Cecil Underwood. Sound: Floyd Caton, Virgil Reimer. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rap Sheets: The Way It Was, 25 September

(CBS, 1949)

In which Madison High's blowhard principal (Gale Gordon), whose contempt for daughter Harriet's (Gloria McMillan) beau Walter (Richard Crenna) runs the gamut from pathological to pathetic, is beside himself after Walter takes the rap, to Harriet's adoring gratitude, for Harriet accidentally crashing her father's car . . . in his own garage.

Which is nothing compared to what Conklin might do to Walter if he wises up to Walter's plot to cause Boynton (Jeff Chandler) to gravitate closer to Connie (Eve Arden): a similar accident, or offence, attributable to Boynton, for which she might take the rap the better to endear herself to the reluctant object of her affections---assuming it doesn't backfire.

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.


THE WHISTLER: MARRIED TO MURDER (CBS, 1944)---Acquitted of killing his former girl friend when his society fiancee (possibly Betty Lou Gerson) testifies to his alibi, a bohemian painter (possibly Wally Maher) learns too late that his fiancee marries him for the perverse thrill of marrying a murderer. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Marvin Miller. Announcer: Bill Pennell. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling: Dorothy Roberts. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Robert Libbott.

THE PHIL HARRIS-ALICE FAYE SHOW: KEEPING REGULAR OFFICE HOURS (NBC, 1949)---That's what sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon) demands after Phil (Harris) barely presented a show last week, and that's what Phil fears will wreck his lifestyle, even if Alice (Faye) is rather enthusiastic about the idea. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Remley: Elliott Lewis. Willie: Robert North. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another Enchanted Cottage: The Way It Was, 24 September

Disfigured and embittered following a harrowing road accident, Livia Ashley (Joan Fontaine), who owns a coastal honeymoon cottage accepts the friendship of a blind sculptor (Tom Tully), and---crying out in her loneliness---proposes to his plain assistant (William Johnstone), to ward off the entreaties of her sister and brother-in-law to return to their high society life.

But their marriage of mutual self-protection falls unexpectedly under the cottage's reputed, honeymooners'-only spell, a spell of which she was unaware previously, which now carries unnerving ramifications when her sister (Lurene Tuttle) and brother-in-law (Dan O'Herlihy) return to visit the newlyweds . . . provoking a surprising consequence.

This version stays more strictly along the line of the original Arthur Wing Pinero drama than to the popular (and enchanting) 1945 film adaptation starring Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire (which they re-created in a striking installment of Lux Radio Theater)---in which they played a socialite disfigured in war and the cottage's plain, lonely caretaker (with Mildred Natwick as the cottage owner, a widow who masks her grief in brusqueness), but it's still an engaging if too-abreviated listen.

Mrs. Morgan: Gloria Gordon. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jaime del Valle. Writer: Walter Brown Newman, adapting the Arthur Wing Pinero play.


THE WHISTLER: BLIND ALLEY (CBS, 1943)---A weak-willed playboy, whose wealthy grandfather has threatened to cut him off until or unless he reforms, learns the hard way where his wastrel life of wine, women, and gambling---patterned after that of his father, who met an early death because of it---might lead if he's foolish enough to think he can't be burned . . . or buried, after a night on the town and a jarring accident with his new girlfriend and her shifty, blackmailing brother. Nella: Possibly Lurene Tuttle. Investigator: Possibly Jeff Chandler. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: J. Donald Wilson. Writers: J. Donald Wilson, Harold Swanton.

THE GREEN HORNET: UNDERWATER ADVENTURE (ABC, 1946)---The Hornet (Bob Hall) and Kato (Rollon Parker) target a salvage company they suspect is a front for mass theft, even if they're the only ones who believe it, looking to thwart a crooked salvage scow doing business with an unsuspecting city operation and hot for a sea-buried bank haul. Axford: Gil Shea. Announcer: Possibly Hal Neal. Director: Possibly Charles Livingstone. Sound: Fred Fry, Bill Hengsterbeck, Ken Robertson. Writer: Fran Striker.

THE HAROLD PEARY SHOW: RENAMING BOOMER PARK (CBS, 1950)---Warding off Billy's (Will Wright) suggesting that he offer racing tips on his morning radio show is nothing compared to Harold (Peary) trying to romance an Evie (Mary Jane Croft) who thinks he wastes too much time on "frivolous" local crusades. Stanley: Ken Peters. Gloria: Gloria Holliday. Old Doc Yak-Yak: Joseph Kearns. Additional cast: Frances Robinson, Jerry Marron, Jack Moyles. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Jack Meakin. Director: Norman McDonnell. Writers: Gene Stone, Jack Robinson, Dick Powell, Harold Peary.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tripwires, Gongs, and Ducks: The Way It Was, 23 September

(NBC, 1935)

By now well settled at 79 Wistful Vista, after several years of rambling, and well-settled into their soon-to-be-familiar personalities as the scattered, bighearted but clumsy-minded Fibber and salt-of-the-earth, acid but patiently loving Molly, McGee (Jim Jordan) trips into a mouse trap, crosses the wrong wire, longs for his own gong to ring away amateur handymen, and looks for any and every other excuse to duck the back porch scrubbing for which Molly (Marian Jordan) has hankered long enough.

Includes a special appearance by the then-president of show sponsor Johnson's Wax, Herbert F. Johnson, Jr., about to embark on a South American expedition for his company. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Rico Martelli Orchestra; Lynn Martin; the Three Kings. Writer: Don Quinn.


SUSPENSE: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (CBS, 1943)---Launching a four-week stand as the show's star, Orson Welles also features in this adaptation of the Richard Connell story (published first in Collier's, 19 January 1924) in which a crack hunter from New York (Keenan Wynn) becomes the hunted---by a Russian aristocrat (Welles)---after swimming to safety in the Carribbean following his fall from a yacht. The Man in Black: Joseph Kearns. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Truman Bradley. Music: Lucien Morawick. Director: William Spier. Writer: Jack Anson Fink.

MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: THE ATTIC (CBS, 1949)---George's (Richard Denning) longtime habit of newspaper reading at the breakfast table finally drives Liz (Lucille Ball) to a desperate measure; Liz translates for Katie (Ruth Perrott) when an old friend calls George, inviting him to a reunion of his old music group and prompting him to hunt down his old ukulele---hoping Liz's habit of discarding his old belongings pre-emptively is broken at last. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Abandoning a Sinking Boat: The Way It Was, 22 September


The Trophy Train hits San Diego pausing, for Arthur Shrank's reporting and the duplicates of Bob & Ray's high school diplomas . . . and the latest installment of One Fella's Family shows Mother and Father taking a box lunch to the seawall, where they witness a slightly jarring boating incident.

Otherwise, well, Wally Ballou reports from Las Vegas and a new hotel opening, interviewing its manager who hopes for a big sendoff for the new emporium.

Writers/improvisors: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


VIC & SADE, SADE TAKES NAMES; A.K.A. WALLFLOWERS (NBC, 1939)---After lunch, and just before Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Rush (Bill Idelson) need to return to office and school, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) on the phone with Ruthie Stenbottom shoos Rush off to school and commits Vic to recording information---and at least half a dozen names---on various wildflowers, for her thimble club. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

DUFFY'S TAVERN: FINNEGAN'S INSURANCE POLICY (NBC, 1944)---With guest Gene Tierney ("She's got the face that launched a thousand ships---and the legs that brought 'em right back home") expected to visit, Archie (Ed Gardner) thinks she might appreciate a life of simplicity with him, while Finnegan (Charles Cantor) wants a five dollar loan to take out an accident insurance policy. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Florence Robinson. Mr. Hancock: Possibly Alan Reed. Music: Marty Malneck Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, possibly Larry Marks, Larry Gelbart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Profiles in Absurdity: The Way It Is, 21 September

In which the online dating profile, at least the more typical of the breed, is reflected, inspected, and dissected. And, in which your host takes advantage of one of radio's (old-time or otherwise) salient blessings---namely, the do-over---and re-examines Thurber's sixth rule of humour, before having quickly at rules one through five and finding them a little wanting . . .

Cast: Patty Price, Siri Morgan. Tonight's music: The Butterfield Blues Band, Booker T. & the MGs. Writer/host/director/producer: Jeff Kallman.

Our old-time radio selection for tonight:

LORENZO JONES: LORENZO PLANS A MODEL TOWN (NBC, 1948)---His published letter outlining such a town in draft gets Lorenzo (Karl Swenson) a visit from the mayor, which astonishes and dismays Belle (Lucille Wall) at once . . . at first. Announcer: George Putnam. Music: Ann Leaf. Director: Possibly Stephen Gross. Writers: Theodore and Mathilde Ferro.


LIFE WITH LUIGI: LUIGI DISCOVERS AMERICA (SERIES PREMIERE---CBS, 1948)---Freshly arrived in Chicago, antique-and-curio shopman Luigi Basco (J. Carroll Naish) is at once fascinated by his newly-adopted America ("Some-a country when a Washington a-drive off in a Lincoln!") and repelled by the fellow Italian (Alan Reed) who brought him over with one purpose in mind---to marry his fat, giggly daughter (Jody Gilbert). Jimmy: Gil Stratton. Miss Spaulding: Mary Shipp. Banker: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: William N. Robson. Writers: Hy Kraft, Arthur Stander.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Angular and Long-Legged: The Way It Was, 20 September

One supposes this could file under better late than never, but James Stewart---who isn't exactly a stranger to old-time radio---hits it as a leading man at last . . . in a subtly clever Western premiering tonight.

Stewart was never better on the air than in this drama of Britt Ponset, frontier drifter created by Frank Burt. The epigraph set it up nicely: "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged: his skin is sun dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl. People call them both The Six Shooter." Ponset was a wanderer, an easy-going gentleman and---when he had to be---a gunfighter.

Stewart was right in character as the slow-talking maverick who usually blundered into other people's troubles and sometimes shot his way out. His experiences were broad, but The Six Shooter leaned more to comedy than other shows of its kind. Ponset took time out to play Hamlet with a crude road company. He ran for mayor and sheriff of the same town at the same time. He became involved in a delighful Western version of Cinderella, complete with grouchy stepmother, ugly sisters, and a shoe that didn't fit. And at Christmas he told a young runaway the story of A Christmas Carol, substituting the original Dickens characters with Western heavies. Britt even had time to fall in love, but it was the age-old story of people from different worlds, and the romance was foredoomed despite their valiant efforts to save it.

So we got a cowboy-into-the-sunset ending for this series, truly one of the bright spots of radio. Unfortunately, it came too late, and lasted only one season.

---The Old-Time Radio Researchers Group.

The Six Shooter came well past radio's best years and was an unusual and at times fetching western . . . Stewart was a superb radio actor, overcoming the drift of some scripts into folksy platitude . . . [but] the series as a whole just lacked the fine edge to be found in radio's two best Westerns, Gunsmoke and Frontier Gentleman . . . Despite Stewart's great prestige, the show was largely sustained. Chesterfield was interested, but Stewart declined, not wanting a cigarette company to counter his largely wholesome screen image.

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

Regardless, The Six Shooter will wield an influence. A few years later, network television will find a hit in a show that plays the mature Western theme for laughs and gets them in abundance enough---ABC's Maverick.

Here, young Jenny Garver (possibly Elvia Allman), with a plain if feminine face but a quietly reserved, almost masculine carriage and fashion sense, intrigues Ponset (Stewart), who doesn't quite understand why the townsmen deride her as mercilessly as they do, and who finds himself concerned for her in spite of her air of perhaps too-prounounced self-reliance . . . and her unusual kind of compassion---the kind that allows her to love and hide an outlaw merely because he didn't deride her as other men do.

Additional cast: B.J. Thompson, Jess Kirkpatrick, George Niess, Harry Bartell. Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Basil Adlam. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: Frank Burt.


MAYOR OF THE TOWN: AMY LOU GOES TO WAR (NBC, 1942)---Torn between joining the Army nursing corps and staying behind as the wife of her lifelong love (Stan Ferrar), who's edgy enough about marrying a woman who doesn't want to just stay home, one-time tomboy Amy Lou Peters (Veola Vonn) joins the corps . . . only to become seriously wounded---and possibly facing court-martial---when she goes to the front lines to treat wounded who may not survive to reach rear-echelon field marshals. Marilly: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Gordon Jenkins. Director: Jack Van Nostrand. Writers: Jean Holloway, Leonard St. Clair.

THE WHISTLER: FOG (CBS, 1942)---During a spell of heavy fog, a merchant shipman rended temporarily amnesiac in a fall at port, on the way to meet a hood who owes him money, wants to escape when the hood turns up dead and he fears he may have killed the man---especially after a friend tries to blackmail him over the crime. Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling: Dorothy Roberts. Director: J. Donald Wilson. Writer: Herbert Connor.

SUSPENSE: THE LIBRARY BOOK (CBS, 1945)---It's Myrna Loy's show as a public librarian who drops everything to discover who vandalised her library's copy of Gone With the Wind. Additional cast: Conrad Binyan, Cathy Lewis, Wally Maher. Writer: William Speier, based on the novel, The Book That Squealed by Cornell Woolrich.


1869---George Robey (singer: Music Hall), London.
1896---Si Wills (writer: Joan Davis Time), Pennsylvania.
1899---Elliot Nugent (actor: Best Plays; U.S. Steel Hour; Lux Radio Theater), Dover, Ohio.
1911---Frank DeVol (composer/conductor: The Rudy Vallee Show; Sealtest Village Store; The Dinah Shore Show), Moundsville, West Virginia.
1912---Ron Cochran (newscaster: Sounds of the World; Feature Project), unknown; John W. Loveton (director: The Shadow; Mr. and Mrs. North; The Court of Missing Heirs), unknown.
1915---Joe King (announcer: Songs by Morton Downey; Walk a Mile), Birmingham, Alabama.
1918---Gordon Heath (actor: New World a-Coming; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City; Peg Phillips (actress: Studio One; The Big Show), Everett, Washington.
1919---Frances Heflin (actress: Aunt Jenny; Big Sister), Oklahoma City.
1924---Michael Hardwick (writer: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Leeds, UK.
1925---Joan Barton (actress: Meet Me at Parky's), unknown; Joyce Brothers (psychologist/commentator: NBC Monitor), New York City.
1930---Anne Meara (comedian/actress: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To Be, or Not to Be: The Way It Was, 19 September

Having hit stride early, the landmark dramatic anthology gets a Shakespearean adrenaline shot from the rising Orson Welles.

The importance of The Columbia Workshop in the history of radio is underscored by the state of the art in mid-1936. Network radio was just a decade old. For much of that time, what was heard was a crude product by its later standards . . . Was radio by its nature simply another vehicle for pop culture, to be absorbed by the least common denominator and immediately forgotten? Among those who had little respect for the new medium was a sizeable percentage of the country's writers, actors, and musicians. If radio was to become a serious art form, clearly that direction had to come from within the industry. Radio had to develop its own artists, writers, actors, musicians.

When The Columbia Workshop opened, "there was no show on the air without many limitations, taboos, and sacred cows," wrote CBS executive Douglas Coulter in Columbia Workshop Plays. "The way was clear for the inauguration of a radio series without precedents, one that would experiment with new ideas, new writers, new techniques; a series that would stand or fall by the impression made on a public of unbiased listeners, with no restriction save the essential and reasonable one of good taste."

---John Dunning, from On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.)

You can argue which observation (Dunning's or Coulter's) is the more presumptuous of the two. There are, after all, certain radio comedies established well enough by 1936 that are stretching certain limitations. Amos 'n' Andy, for almost a decade the most popular radio program in the United States, may need two white men to do so but co-stars/co-writers Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll are shredding the stereotype that black Americans in the Depression era have no business thinking ambitiously or enterpreneurially, even in Amos 'n' Andy's withering way, to say nothing of knitting comedy and drama effectively enough to blur the line between the two. And Easy Aces, six years old as a network entity, has cracked and scrambled the limitations of language and ambience, with mastermind Goodman Ace seeking and getting natural-sounding conversation, atmosphere as opposed to "acting," and displaying a breezy way of language play that doesn't compromise its integrity while subtly overthrowing the idea that comedy needs to be a barrage of punch lines to get the laughs.

But you can argue concurrently that, until Columbia Workshop, radio drama, such as it is, is weighed heavily enough with overacting and underatmospherics, a point not lost on former control engineer Irving Reis, who has pushed for and finally received---thanks to a CBS vice president for programming, William B. Lewis, who gives a small host of new writers and producers a wide berth and, perhaps unusually for the era, credit---an outlet for drama with honest acting and proper atmospherics.

Tonight, no less than Orson Welles, soon enough to become legend but for now another aspiring dramatist, actor, and theoretician, confronts Shakespeare's tragedy of the Danish prince (Welles) whose hesitant revenge on his murderous uncle takes a deadly detour or three, including his apparent love for the daughter of his uncle's chief advisor, through moral confusion and to grave consequences . . . and admits from the outset the dilemna between trying to compress the longest of Shakespeare's plays or cherry-picking selected extracts without compromising its integrity.

Our final decision was this: To present to you the first two acts of the play, containing wherever possible the most notable scenes in their entirety. And giving you, we hope, a clear dramatic statement of the causes of Hamlet's tragedy.

King: Alexander Scourby. Queen: Rosalind Pinchot. Polonius: Edgerdin Paul. Horatio: Sidney Smith. The Ghost: George Gaulle. Bernardo: Harold Sherman. Announcer: John Reed King. Sound supervision: Irving Reis. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Adapted and directed by Orson Welles. (Part Two to follow in one week.)


THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: PREPARING FOR LEILA'S RETURN (NBC, 1943)---Freshly home from an evening with the symphony and Eve Goodwin, and not necessarily in that order, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) discovers keeping culture into his home has stiff competition from Leroy's (Walter Tetley) sudden obsession with boogie piano playing, Marjorie's (Lurene Tuttle) concurrent obsession with Frank Sinatra and a new boyfriend . . . and his unexpected longing for the woman (Shirley Mitchell) who broke his heart by jilting him at the altar when her late husband turned out to be very much alive. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Claude Sweeten. Director: Frank Pittman. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

OUR MISS BROOKS: WEEKEND AT CRYSTAL LAKE (CBS; AFRS REBROADCAST, 1949)---In a classic installment, Connie (Eve Arden)---relieved to discover Boynton (Jeff Chandler) has chosen her over a society girl with whom he enjoyed a brief flirtation---is surprised and pleased to receive an invitation from Conklin (Gale Gordon) and wife (Paula Winslowe) to spend a weekend at their Crystal Lake retreat---with Boynton in tow, but with nearly everyone else around her thinking he's out to re-create An American Tragedy . . . planning, in Conklin's words, to "bash her over the skull and using her as bass bait." Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Announcer: Unknown. Music: Lud Luskin. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Something Fishy: The Way It Was, 18 September

Everyone's rounded up for rehearsal for the first show of the new season except for Phil (Harris), who's still up on a Canadian jaunt with some of his band with one day left before showtime.

And the delay in his return has Alice (Faye) just a little bit worried; harrumphing deadbeat Willie (Robert North) just a little bit too eager to think of standing in for his vain brother-in-law; and, Little Alice (Jeanine Roos) and Phyllis (Anne Whitfield) snorting at the very idea . . .

Then Phil returns rather jauntily, with a suitcase full of salmon as proof he went fishing; a snootful of indifference from Remley (Elliott Lewis), who isn't comfortable with emotional reunions even with his best friend; the standard withering contempt from sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon), who thinks (as usual) that one and all need to step up the show preparation, after seeing a too-leisurely magazine spread ("For what I'm paying you people, I expect at least one ulcer"); and, when it proves Phil forgot to re-hire the writers for the new season, an offer to help write the show from . . .

Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, conducting the Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


THE WHISTLER: BLACK MAGIC (CBS, 1944)---Near an American mine in equatorial Africa, mine executive Paul Arnold (possibly Elliott Lewis) hopes enough illness among the natives forces the mine closure he secretly hopes for, at least until the unexpected arrival of his company doctor---who's now married to the girl (possibly Cathy Lewis) from whom he ran in a jealous rage, who now tries to convince him she still loves him . . . but for her own reasons. Additional cast: Possibly Joseph Kearns, Wally Maher, John Brown, Gerald Mohr. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling: Dorothy Roberts. Director: George Allen. Sound: Berne Surrey. Writer: J. Donald Wilson, Harold Swanson, Joel Malone.

OUR MISS BROOKS: THE FACULTY CHEERLEADER, A.K.A. THE SWEATER (CBS, 1949)---Connie (Eve Arden) is only slightly less aghast at being tapped to become a faculty cheerleader than she is at Conklin's (Gale Gordon) tightened-up anti-faculty fraternisation rules moving her room farther away from Boynton's (Jeff Chandler). Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Miss Enright: Mary Jane Croft. Stretch: Leonard Smith. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aw, What the Hell, Just Listen: The Way It Was, 17 September

Since your chronicler can't make up his mind as to which deserves the feature highlight, he's going to say to hell with it, he can't make up his mind, so just sit back and enjoy them all. You get the customary cheerful absurdity from the small house halfway up in the next block, the Man of a Thousand Voices, the Sage of Summerfield, Mrs. Cugat (as she was still known), and Miss Brooks, plus a passable if no great shakes Cyrano . . .


VIC & SADE: UNCLE FLETCHER CLEANS HOUSE (A.K.A. DON'T HELP DUST, UNCLE FLETCHER; NBC, 1941)---Sade (Bernadine Flynn) has too much work to do to accompany Ruthie Stenbottom on a downtown jaunt, a load Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) is only too happy to lighten for her and Sade is only too happy, likewise, to carry herself. Announcer: Vincent Pelletier. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: McGEE'S INVENTION (NBC, 1944)---Ousted as water commissioner by the mayor he once challenged, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) is surprised to hear from old buddy Fibber McGee with a new proposition he thinks is going to make them both rich---only he has to wait for a letter to learn just what the invention happens to be, while promising elaborate gifts to his family. Marjorie: Louise Erickson. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Hooker: Earle Ross. Music: Claude Sweeten. Director: Frank Pittman. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

THE MEL BLANC SHOW: MEL BAKES A PRIZE-WINNING PUTTY CAKE (CBS, 1946)---Mel (Blanc) and Betty (Mary Jane Croft) both look forward to the county fair, but Betty's plan to enter and win the fair's baking contest runs into an unlikely obstacle, courtesy of Mel's being hired to fix the YWCA's kitchen ovens. Colby: Joseph Kearns. Uncle Rupert: Earle Ross. Miss Stanhope: Bea Benaderet. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Director: Joe Rines. Writers: David Victor, Herb Little, Jr..

MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: LIZ AND THE GENERAL (CBS; AFRS REBROADCAST, 1948)---He's an eccentric neighbour to Liz (Lucille Ball), a whack job to George (Richard Denning), and a retired Army general over whom Liz frets because he hasn't been out of his house for a week, which she thinks is very unlike him. Katie: Ruth Perrot. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.

OUR MISS BROOKS: ELOPEMENT WITH WALTER (CBS, 1950)---Frustrated by Boynton's (Jeff Chandler) involvement with the volunteer fire department, which cuts down on her chances to land him, Connie (Eve Arden) thinks a clever togetherness idea might be to become his ladder practise rescue---from Conklin's (Gale Gordon) house, assuming she can trick the principal into leaving the house. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Martha Conklin: Paula Winslowe. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATER: CYRANO DE BERGERAC (NBC, 1953)---James and Pamela Mason highlight this passable adaptation of the classic Edward Rostrand play in which a disfigured dramatist provides the poetic depth by which a shallow baron (Dan O'Herlihy) romances a beauty. Additional cast: Ben Wright. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Adaptation: James Pohl.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"The Sea Will Bring Me Back": The Way It Was, 16 September

"The sea has made me fortune," said the dutiful son, "and the sea will bring me back." Those last seven words especially haunt a woman torn between two sons---one a stalwart, steady fisherman who's carried the family load; the other, a shiftless, fanciful brawler---who confesses an unspeakable terror and a terrible crime to her priest.

Compounding the woman's terror: she sanctioned his going on the fatal operation, which was provoked by the shiftless brother's overheated enthusiasm for the operation and all but insistence that he go on the operation, for a prospective fortune with which to begin his marriage.

Cast: Unknown. Sound: Possibly Ed Joyce. Writer/director: Arch Oboler.


LUM & ABNER: THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IN PINE RIDGE (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Now that Lum (Chester Lauck, who also plays Grandpappy) has resolved his side of the mine issue, he has a new problem on his hands---fighting accusations that he's neglecting mine business, specifically getting the stockholders' money back to them after Squire's bilking, to court the returning schoolmarm, while Grandpappy tries to assure wary Abner (Norris Goff) that they're not the only ones who've been hosed in get-rich-quick schemes. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

SUSPENSE: THE KETTLER METHOD (CBS, 1942)---A neurosurgeon (Roger DeKoven) committed to a sanitarium following an unsuccessful surgery is convinced he was sent there because of professional jealousy over his unusual surgical technique---especially since he can't convince them that his patient is still alive and the procedure actually succeeded . . . because, for one thing, he's convinced fellow surgeons spirited the alleged corpse away. Winton: John Gibson. Claire: Gloria Stuart. Additional cast: Guy Repp, Martha Falkner, Winifield Hoeny, Ralph Smiley. Music: Bernard Herman. Writer: Peter Barry. (Recording begins with a network announcement urging war bond support.)

SUSPENSE: THE CROSS-EYED BEAR (CBS, 1943)---Virginia Bruce and John Loder star in a yarn about a young, thrill-seeking woman, who hires on to help find the second son of a wealthy mining enterpreneur whose unusual will---dividing his wealth between the three sons he despised, knowing one, a Nazi sympathiser, would kill the other two---while that second son lives under a false identity in the guise of a European pianist, and unaware that it all portends to a surprising end for her. Additional cast: Unknown. The Man in Black: Ted Osborne. Music: Bernard Herman. Sound: Berne Surrey. Director: Ted Bliss. Writer: Dorothy B. Hughes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time Waits For No One: The Way It Was, 15 September

With the always-unseen Duffy back from his vacation and legendary crooner/bandleader/impresario Rudy Vallee returning to radio, Archie (Ed Gardner) has another one of his brilliant ideas---getting Vallee to do one of his shows live from the dive, even if neither Duffy nor Archie are big fans, necessarily.

"But what's our opinion against that of a million stupid dames?" asks Archie with his customary cultivation.

And what's their idea against the actuality of convincing Vallee to do the show from the dive---an actuality both Eddie (Eddie Green) and Finnegan (Charles Cantor) seem aware of---before Archie gets a clue, as usual, even if Vallee deigns to regale the denizens with a rendition of "Time Waits for No One."

Miss Duffy: Florence Halop. Announcer: John Reed King. Music: Marty Malneck Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows.


THE JUDY CANOVA SHOW: AN EXCLUSIVE PLACE IN BRENTWOOD (NBC, 1945)---Judy (Canova) can't wait to hit a rather exclusive picnic with Benchley (Joseph Kearns) after returning from her summer in Cactus Junction, Aunt Aggie (Verna Felton) can't wait to talk her out of bringing pork chops to a do that would sooner require a more elegant dish, Geranium (Ruby Dandridge) crows over a letter from her boyfriend at war, Pedro (Mel Blanc) frets over a failed elopement attempt, and Judy has to fend off a society rival who thinks she's worthier of Benchley than Judy is. Announcer: Verne Smith. Music: Opie Cates Orchestra, the Sports Men. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: LEONARD BURNSIDE (WAIT, DON'T TELL US! 1959)---The iminent conductor/composer (Bob Elliott) analyses American crooning, before giving way to a brief analysis of current education mysteries with an extinguished professor (Ray Goulding). Writers/improvisors: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In the Bag: The Way It Was, 14 September

In which your chronicler muses about a few doings and undoings of God's Only Begotten Grandson . . . unfurls part two of his running sketch about a down-and-out pair of married college professors stumbling into unusual (even for Las Vegas) fortune . . . and another cobbling of a new Easy Aces sketch, from the post old-time radio writings of that jewel's mastermind Goodman Ace, with a few interjections and alterations from yours truly.

Our OTR selection for tonight will be described in this journal's "Channel Surfing" section below . . .

Helen/Jane Ace: Patty Price. Announcer: Siri Morgan. Tonight's music: Wes Montgomery, the Blues Project. Writer/producer/director: Three guesses.


THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: LEROY'S PAPER ROUTE (NBC, 1941)---After Leroy (Walter Tetley) can't talk Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) into just fronting him the money for a new model airplane motor, he lands an early-morning paper route---but the household quakes at the early hours, how Hooker (Earle Ross) might react, and how he's going to deliver the papers in an unexpected thunderstorm. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Announcer: Jim Bannon. Music: William Randolph. Director: Possibly Cecil Underwood. Writer: Leonard L. Levinson.

VIC & SADE: SADE AND RUTHIE COME OUT EVEN (NBC, 1942)---This time, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) and her shopping partner came out even in their money management, after they decided to quit listening to everyone else's advice and Vic's (Art Van Harvey) gentle needling. Rush: Bill Idelson. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: "ONE FELLA'S FAMILY---GOING LIKE SIXTY" (YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS OURS, 1959)---Introducing the Butcher family, in the beginning of the duo's classic soap satire; and, catching up with the unexpectedly recovered Smelly Dave in Nashville. Writers/improvisors: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Lady's No Tiger: The Way It Was, 12 September

The Daily Sentinel newsroom bristles when a racketeer is shot to death over suspicion of turning to cooperate with authorities, but Britt (Al Hodge) neutralises Lowry's (Jack Petruzzi) and Casey's (Leonore Allman) excitement when he reveals the killer---a woman---confessed to the crime, a possible crime of passion borne of jealousy. Which prompts the Sentinel staffers to smell a rat, after eager young reporter Gayle Manning (unknown) gets to question the woman in jail . . . and begins to suspect she's taking the fall for another killer.

Her suspicion sends Britt and Kato (Rollon Parker) after the full story, despite Kato's rare reservation, after Manning reveals a possible ploy by the lady suspect---an engagement ring she claims to have worn for longer than she's really worn it. The team rolls out and slips into the apartment in spite of constant police vigil---and rescues a police officer when a fire breaks out in the building, but not before finding evidence that could exonerate the confessor even if it doesn't immediately yield a hint toward the actual killer.

Mike Axford: Gil Shea. Newsboy: Also Rollon Parker. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Possibly Charles Wood. Director: James Jewell. Writer: Fran Striker.


THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: WAR BOND DRIVE (NBC, 1943)---Back from vacation, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) has his hands full keeping Leroy (Walter Tetley) from faltering in school or in hygiene, a newspaper call for him to improve Summerfield's water flavour, and a city department head meeting at which the mayor calls for improved war bond driving . . . under the guidance of the newspaper editor who ripped the city's water quality. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Bessie: Pauline Drake. Hooker: Earle Ross. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Claude Sweeten. Director: Prank Pittman. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

BOX 13: THE ACTOR'S ALIBI (MUTUAL, 1948)---Holiday doesn't understand at first why tickets to a live radio performance turned up in the box, courtesy of fearful leading lady Jean Blake (Betty Lou Gerson), whose ultimately justified fear of her impending murder is stoked by a call Holiday gets at the restaurant where he meets her---and rejects her, at first, after receiving a phone call from a man predicting he won't help her . . . with a gun pointed right at them. Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Kling: Edmund MacDonald. Additional cast: Alan Reed, Luis van Rooten, John Beal. Director: Ted Hennigan. Music: Rudy Schrager. Writer: Frank R. Crawford. (Note: Dragging in spots toward the end of the surviving recording.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Anything But Quiet on the Set: The Way It Was, 11 September

In a mostly effective episode, compromised briefly by a momentary lapse into melodrama toward the finish, the arguable best of old-time radio's very few female private investigators learns the hard way what happens when there's anything but quiet on the set.

There's a full cast and crew shooting on location a block or so from Candy's (Natalie Masters) San Francisco home, bemusing Mallard (Henry Leff) and amusing her when they visit the set, in part out of general curiosity and in part out of Candy's pleasure in catching up to veteran actor Buck Arnold (Curt Martell), whom she dated once when trying in earlier times to make it in Hollywood herself. But when Arnold escorts her on a set tour, it turns up three dummies suspended from a tree for a lynching scene . . . one of which proves no dummy but an unexpected corpse, thought erroneously to be another local film extra.

That launches a probe exposing a series of set accidents; a very dead director (Hal Verdick), whom Candy interviews early in the probe; a very nervous and temperamental actress (Mary Milford), who accuses Candy of trying to steal her role when she happens upon the director's interview by Candy; and, an equally edgy assistant director (John Gober), once Dana's husband, who carries both a brighter torch for his former wife than he likes to let on and a deeper tie to the dead dummy than anyone suspects at first.

Announcer: Dudley Manlove. Music: Eloise Morgan. Sound: Bill Brownell. Writer/director: Monte Masters.


LUM & ABNER: THE STORY OF ABNER'S RESCUE KEEPS GETTING BIGGER (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Lum's (Chester Lauck) original ruse was nothing compared to Abner's (Norris Goff) turnaround---he lets it be known that Lum was his rescuer, a whopper that threatens to get even bigger than the original kidnap ruse when Lum tries to downplay the rescue on the phone at Cedric's (also Lauck) place. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

OUR MISS BROOKS: THE SCHOOL BOARD (CBS, 1949)---You'd think an out-of-town picnic with Boynton (Jeff Chandler), Walter (Richard Crenna), and Harriet (Gloria McMillan) wouldn't be too much for Connie (Eve Arden) to ask---unless you're Conklin (Gale Gordon), who's re-opening school early, demanding a full faculty and student presence, to impress a visiting state school board official . . . and unaware that he was the victim of one of Walter's practical jokes. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Stretch: Leonard Smith. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

MEET MILLIE: THE PARTY INVITATION (CBS, 1951)---Boone & Sons's most prominent customer (Barton Yarborough) is opening a New York nightclub and invites the entire firm to the club's opening, prompting Millie (Audrey Totter)---of whom said customer is particularly fond---to a shopping spree during which Mama (Bea Benaderet) gets invited to the party as well, and seems to press Millie to think about marrying him and not the apparently reluctant Boone, Jr. (Rye Billsbury). Boone, Sr.: Earle Ross. Morton: Bill Tracy. Operator: Jean Tatum. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Irving Miller. Writers: Frank Galen, Bill Manhoff, Roland McLane.


Today's offering is dedicated to the memory of those who were murdered in an act of war against the United States of America on 9/11. To the hope that the pursuit of their murderers and the hosts thereof, should never end without justice. And, that it should never destroy our patrimony or, above all, become or remain an excuse by any American leadership, or any American citizen, to compromise or usurp our American birthright.

That those who were murdered, and those who have died on their behalf since, shall not have died in vain, let us never forget what one of old-time radio's most incandescent voices counseled, once upon a time, in a different context but with the appropriate and imperative thrust.

We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom---what's left of it in the world---but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Affairs of the Fair: The Way It Was, 10 September

Ann Blyth has center stage in this adaptation of the 1933 film---based on a novel by Philip Strong, and remade into a film musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (and the only musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote directly for film)---about a farm family whose discontented daughter (Blyth), her brother, and her father's prize hog each find romance at an Iowa State Fair . . . with each pondering whether the end of the fair means the end of the affairs.

Buy the premise, buy the production, even if it is done with fine enough understatement.

Additional cast: Verna Felton, Sam Edwards, Joseph Kearns, Dick Ryan, Lamont Johnston. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writers: Bill Starr, Kathleen Hite.


LUM & ABNER: LUM DECIDES TO ADMIT TO THE WHOLE THING (NBC BLUE, 1935)---With his plan to rescue Abner (Norris Goff) from a fictitious kidnapper blowing up in his face slowly but surely, Lum (Chester Lauck) gets ready to confess the whole plot---borne of silver mine stockholders trying to hold him to account for Squire's scheme---when a detective closes in on the "evidence". Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE WHISTLER: THE TANGLED WEB (CBS, 1943)---A dying widow, who has taken in her late husband's orphaned nephew and late sister's daughter, wants to force the two to marry in order to keep her considerable estate in the family---except that each has already married the ones they really love, causing them to probe for a way to effect their cantankerous aunt's earlier-than-expected demise . . . even as neither fully trusts the other. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer:

QUIET, PLEASE: HOW ARE YOU, PAL (MUTUAL, 1947)---An old betrayal and a crime involving the girl (Vicki Vola) who ditched one old friend (Ernest Chappell, who narrates) for the other (Pat O'Malley) provokes the former to remember the crime---from the dead, where he was sent with a knife in his back to prevent him from exposing the earlier crime. Mother: Charme Allen. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

OUR MISS BROOKS: RUMOURS (CBS, 1950)---When Connie (Eve Arden) goes to prepare her classroom a week before fall semester began---knowing Boynton (Jeff Chandler) plans to do likewise---she's wrestling as well with rumours ranging from faculty changes to Conklin (Gale Gordon) possibly leaving Madison High. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Twenty-Thousand People and a Million Butterflies": The Way It Was, 9 September

It probably seems like an annual event by now. Virtuoso pitcher Sandy Koufax, who has thrown a no-hitter in 1962, 1963, and 1964, proves that practise makes perfect when he finished his work against the Chicago Cubs in the ninth inning. With virtuoso broadcaster Vin Scully calling every pitch and nuance until the finish.

It is a record-setting game on several counts, not the least of which is that it is only the ninth perfect game recorded in modern major league baseball history, and it is the second time in four years that the final out of a Koufax no-hitter is Harvey Kuenn, the veteran outfielder now a Cub spare part, who was once an American League batting champion.

On the flip side, had it not been for Dodger outfielder Lou Johnson, Cub pitcher Bob Hendley would have had a no-hitter in his own right: the Dodgers scored the game's only run on a walk, a sacrifice, a stolen base, and a throwing error; Johnson's single elsewhere in the game (he was stranded on base) was the evening's only base hit.

The game even carries a future aesthetic connotation: Koufax's second victim in the three-strikeout ninth inning (Koufax was well en route to shattering Bob Feller's single-season strikeout record), a rookie Cub catcher named Chris Krug, would go on from a brief career as a baseball player to become a landscape architect. And you will know his work even if you will not necessarily remember his name: Krug designed the famous baseball field within a corn field that becomes the fulcrum of the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams, based on W.P. Kinsella's classic novel, Shoeless Joe.


COMMAND PERFORMANCE: QUIZ MANIA (AFRS, 1944)---Groucho Marx hosts a program that spoofs in its way a genre of which he will become, soon enough, a singular avatar in his own right, when he gets You Bet Your Life, and he finishes off himself with "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady." Cast: Georgia Gibbs, Gloria DeHaven, Frank Morgan, Kenny Baker, Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Director: Glenn Wheaton. Writers: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama.

STUDIO ONE: THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (CBS, 1947)---Rudolf Besier's play chronicling the tumultuous, tyrannised family one of whose daughters stirred one of history's greatest literary love stories receives a tastefully arresting treatment by the landmark CBS series. Elizabeth: Ann Burr. Edward: Horace Graham. Henrietta: Kathleen Cordell. Robert Browning: Fletcher Markle. Arabel: Hester Sondegaard. Additional cast: Otto Francis, Morris Levine, Dennis King, Jr., Miriam Wolf, Dorothy Sands, Gregory Morton, Robert Dryden. Music: Alexander Semler. Director: Fletcher Markle. Writer: Vincent McConnor, adapting the Rudold Besier play.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Tenth Anti-Versary: The Way It Is, 7 September

We didn't exactly throw the proverbial kitchen sink into this one, ladies and gentlemen, but we did find it rather irresistible to commemorate our tenth broadcast with a little satire of anniversary programs, by way of establishing your host as the fall guy for a round of mock tributes from his station colleagues, who probably still have no idea for what they signed up when they agreed to bring him aboard in July.

From which point he and his crew slice a now-disbanded small-town police department's, ahem, desperation in fund raising . . . dice Rachael Ray in "Rachael Laser Returns" . . . and puree, with affection and respect for the longevity of the thing if perhaps nothing else, The Guiding Light, which will leave the air a week from Friday after an unprecedented 72-year life on old-time radio and longtime television, in a sketch he calls "The Groping Dark."

With Patty Price (also Meaty in "The Groping Dark"). Announcer/Rachael Laser: Siri Morgan. Writer/director: Jeff Kallman.


DUFFY'S TAVERN: ARCHIE BUYS AN ARMY SURPLUS HELICOPTER (NBC, 1950)---Archie's (Ed Gardner) shifty childhood buddy has gotten into the war surplus business, and naturally Archie's a little too eager to throw him some business. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Gloria Erlanger. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Writers: Ed Gardner, Bob Schiller.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Fortune Seekers: The Way It Was, 5 September

A wealthy businessman, whose wife abandoned him and eluded his fourteen-year pursuit of her and her second husband, remarries to a widow whose freshly-graduated son he takes into his business, unaware that the young man's mother has married him for his fortune alone . . . and bigamously.

And he receives a shock when his remorseful former wife knocks on his library window and asks him to take care of a daughter he never knew he had, born shortly after she first abandoned him, to which he agrees . . . threatening his current wife and stepson's plans for splitting his considerable estate.

Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: J. Donald Wilson. (Advisory: Muddy sound quality in several portions.)


LUM & ABNER: KIDNAPPING ABNER (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Desperare to return to his neighbours' good graces, Lum (Chester Lauck) hits on a bizarre idea and rousts Abner (Norris Goff) from a sound sleep to launch his idea. Writer: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

BOX 13: BLACKMAIL IS MURDER (MUTUAL, 1948)---What greets Holiday (Alan Ladd) in the box this time is a query from an elderly woman who's found a very dead man in her hotel room's closet and threatens to tell police he killed the man, unless he obeys her wish and disposes of the body himself. Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Probably Betty Lou Gerson, John Beal, Alan Reed. Music: Rudy Schrager. Writer/director: Ted Henninger.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep: The Way It Was, 3 September

Even the least sentimental listener will likely prove gripped and embraced by this tastefully arresting adaptation of the film hit that paired an unlikely couple in this romantic fantasy about love conquering even disfigurement, plainness, bitter isolation, and lonely impetuosity.

Called to war on the day he was to have been married, battle-disfigured socialite Oliver Bradford (Robert Young, reprising his film role) repairs to the remote cottage where he would have honeymooned but now seeks isolation from even his family and the fiancee who was first repelled by his injuries. There, he is befriended by the cottage's newly-hired caretaker, Laura Pennington (Dorothy McGuire, reprising her film role), a plain girl seeking a place in a shallow hometown to which she's returned after eight long wandering years.

But solace in loneliness turns unexpectedly to marriage, to guilt, and, then, to an unexpected revelation when the legend of the cottage---that it casts a spell upon newlywed couples who honeymoon there---takes an unexpected hold upon the newlywed Bradfords . . . who can't convince anyone else, except a blind pianist who befriends them, that his disfigurement and her plainness have disappeared as a result.

Additional cast: Unknown. Host/guest producer: Hunt Stromberg. Announcer: John Milton Kennedy. Director: Sanford Barnett. Adapted from the screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen and Herman J. Mankiewicz; based on the novel by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero.


THE WHISTLER: DESTINY (CBS, 1943)---Former bookkeeper Milton Strong (possibly John Dehner), retired unceremoniously after he finally demanded a raise, forges an elaborate escape from the shrewish, nagging wife (possibly Cathy Lewis) he can't bring himself to kill . . . but finds, in mining country out west, not a new life but new death---a corpse found on a property he hopes to buy, allowing him to make an identity switch that backfires gravely on him. Steve: Possibly Wally Maher. Kate: Possibly Betty Lou Gerson. Additional cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling theme: Dorothy Roberts. Director: George Allen. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.

THE CHARLIE McCARTHY SHOW: A STOOGE FOR A STOOGE (NBC, 1945)---During a visit to New York, at which the tuxedoed termite tree can't quite wiggle out of doing his schoolwork, anyway, he has to explain a rather inflated hotel lunch check---and bear the iniquity of possibly being grounded for the entire trip, which prompts McCarthy to advertise for a new on-air partner . . . an ad answered by Fred Allen, in a sketch Allen will reference and expand upon memorably when resuming his own radio show. Also guest star: Portland Hoffa. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Music: Ray Noble Orchestra, Anita Gordon. Writers: Possibly Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher, Joe Bigelow.

THE MEL BLANC SHOW: THE FIX-IT SHOP FOR SALE (SERIES PREMIERE---NBC, 1946)---Betty (Mary Jane Croft) urges Mel (Blanc, who also plays Zookie) either to send Zookie and Uncle Rupert (Earle Ross) packing or sell the Fix-It Shop, the better to ease the drain---and ease their way to the altar after five years' engagement. Mr. Colby: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Ken Niles. Music: Victor Miller Orchestra. Director: Joe Rines. Writers: David Victor, Herb Little.

MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: LIZ'S MOTHER HAS SECOND THOUGHTS (CBS; AFRS REBROADCAST, 1948)---Going for a weekend with her mother (possibly Bea Benaderet, who usually plays Iris Atterbury in this series), ahead of George (Richard Denning) who has to attend an important bank board conference first, Liz (Lucille Ball) is surprised to learn her mother plans to marry again, to a rancher who arrives moments after George does. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Here Was This Empty Half Hour Sticking Out": The Way It Was, 2 September

Now, about this show---I'll tell you the truth. The American Broadcasting Company was suddenly stuck with about thirty minutes of dead air. They had all this time, see, there was nothing in it. Now, where this thirty minutes came from is quite a fantastic story. Some say that the guy who comes in here in the morning and opens the station for the day arrived one morning when his watch was a half hour fast. And he started broadcasting a half hour too soon, see, and by evening, here was this empty half hour sticking out. Of course, the executive responsible for this was dealt with. Before they fired him, they made him turn in his ulcer. And, then, they flogged him with a wet Jimmy Fiddler script.

Anyway, they were stuck with this time. One vice president suggested that they get the public library to sponsor thirty minutes of silence. They were going to call it A Program to Read By. Well, the library turned it down because they said they weren't getting a full thirty minutes of silence because at the opening the announcer said, "Ssssshhhh!"

Thus does cantankerous satirist Henry Morgan launch his destined-to-be-brief career as a network radio comedian, after several years of forging locally (on WOR, the Mutual flagship) what may have been the most iconoclastic and barbed quarter-hour schpritz in the history of old-time radio.

Three radio comedians became celebrities by heckling the establishment. Fred Allen and Arthur Godfrey needled their victims. Henry Morgan battered his with a club . . . clobber[ing] his clients with such unprecedented candor that some of them fired him and one threatened to sue. This was delightful to listeners who scorned the radio commercial as an odious interruption of an otherwise enjoyable half-hour. It made Morgan the darling of his generation's rebels and thinkers, the grand guru of a hard core of intellectuals who considered the jousts of Godfrey and Allen too soft.

---John Dunning, from On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.)

From where our hero examines "Great Sayings of Unimportant Men," a substitute for the Ink Spots (who were "too worried" to come out tonight), the final inning of a baseball game between two British teams, and the first installment of a recurring Morgan feature, "The Question Man."

Among other manifestations of madness.

Cast: Susie Dusso, Charles Irving (also announcer). Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Director: Charles Powers. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein.


LUM & ABNER: LUM HIDES IN THE BARN (MISTITLED OFTEN AS "ABNER HIDES IN THE BARN"; NBC BLUE, 1935)---Visiting disheartened Lum (Chester Lauck) hiding in his barn loft, trying to avoid being drawn and quartered by angry silver mine stockholders, Abner (Norris Goff) tells him they're also hunting for Squire---the real silver mine mastermind---and tries assuring him the entire uproar would blow over once they realise Lum didn't realise the silver mine was a scam. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

SUSPENSE: THE HITCHHIKER (CBS, 1942)---Freshly returned from abroad, Orson Welles introduces and presents a well-respected Mercury Theater of the Air story---and drops a wry wisecrack about his most notorious broadcast---in which he plays slightly-fevered Ronald Adams, driving along Route 66 and headed for California, seen off by his nervous mother, on a journey that launches in high spirits but turns to fear after he confronts a hitchhiker he's seen a few times in the early going. (Pre-empted from 26 August; concludes with a Welles plea for payroll savings plan support for the war effort. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Bernard Herman. Director: John Dietz. Writer: Lucille Fletcher.

STUDIO ONE: THUNDER ROCK (CBS, 1947)---A disillusioned journalist (Robert Dryden), whose early warnings about the advent of fascism went unheeded, escapes to become a lighthouse keeper and becomes inordinately fascinated with the shipwreck to the memory of whose victims the lighthouse was dedicated decades earlier. Captain Joshua Stuart: Clarence Durwins. Dr. Kurtz: Stefan Schnabel. Director/narrator: Fletcher Markle. Adapted from the play by Robert Audrey; script editor: Vincent McConnor.