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.

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.


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