Saturday, December 24, 2011
Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! Thank you for your continued support.
Bing Crosby Christmas Show - December 24, 1947.
Fibber McGee and Molly - Best Christmas Decorations - December 20, 1949.
Abbott and Costello - Christmas Program - December 25, 1947.
Dragnet - Twenty-Two Rifle for Christmas - December 20, 1951.
Suspense - Twas The Night Before Christmas - December 21, 1953.
Lux Radio Theater - Miracle on 34th Street - December 20, 1948.
If you listen to any Old Time Radio Christmas program this year, listen to this one. Easily the best. The Amos 'n' Andy Christmas Program. In the Annual Christmas Radio Show, Amos (played by Freeman Gosden) explained the Lord's Prayer to his daughter Arbadella (played by radio actress, Barbara Jean Wong). This heart-warming script was so overwhelmingly popular, it was repeated every Christmas Eve for 14 years, from 1940 to 1954.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"One extremely popular scenario that became an annual tradition on The Jack Benny Program was the "Christmas Shopping" episode, in which Benny would head to a local department store. Each year, Benny would buy a ridiculously cheap Christmas gift for Don Wilson from a store clerk played by Mel Blanc. Benny would then have second (then third, and even fourth) thoughts about his gift choice, driving Blanc (or, in two other cases, his wife and his psychiatrist, as well) to hilarious insanity by exchanging the gift, pestering about the Christmas card or wrapping paper countless times throughout the episode: in many cases, the clerk would commit suicide, or attempt and fail to commit suicide ("Look what you done! You made me so nervous, I missed!") as a result.
In the 1946 Christmas episode, for example, Benny buys shoelaces for Don, and then is unable to make up his mind whether to give Wilson shoelaces with plastic tips or shoelaces with metal tips. After Benny exchanges the shoelaces repeatedly, Mel Blanc is heard screaming insanely, "Plastic tips! Metal tips! I can't stand it anymore!" A variation in 1948 concerned Benny buying an expensive wallet for Don, but repeatedly changing the greeting card inserted—prompting Blanc to shout: "I haven't run into anyone like you in 20 years! Oh, why did the governor have to give me that pardon!?" – until Benny realizes that he should have gotten Don a wallet for $1.98, whereupon the put-upon clerk immediately responds by committing suicide. Over the years, in these Christmas episodes, Benny bought and repeatedly exchanged cuff links, golf tees, a box of dates, a paint set, and even a gopher trap." -via Wikipedia
Enjoy this collection of Jack Benny Christmas shows and have a very Merry Christmas!
"Christmas Shopping" - December 5, 1954.
"Gopher Trap for Don" - December 14, 1952.
"Setting Up Christmas Tree" - December 21, 1952.
"Christmas Party at Birmingham General Hospital" - December 22, 1946.
When Benny transitioned to TV, the tradition continued. Benny’s December 15, 1957 Christmas shopping episode is a TV classic. Mel Blanc reprising his role as a harried clerk who goes the extra mile to please his very finicky customer.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated for Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon 2000, the world's largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was a nominee for Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
Nero Wolfe made his way to radio in 1943 in The Adventures of Nero Wolfe for ABC. Three actors portrayed Nero Wolfe over the course of the series. J.B. Williams starred in its first incarnation, broadcast Wednesdays on the New England Network (April 7–June 30, 1943). Santos Ortega assumed the role when the suspense drama moved to ABC on Mondays (July 5–September 27, 1943) and Fridays (January 21–July 14, 1944). Luis Van Rooten succeeded Ortega in 1944, Nero Wolfe's last year on ABC.
"Santos Ortega played Wolfe," wrote John McAleer in Rex Stout: A Biography. "John Gibson was Archie. Gibson was breezy and Ortega wheezy — indeed, he opened the program with a wheeze, as his signature... Rex thought the actors were creditable but winced at the plots. He never listened to the broadcasts... Louis Vittes was the chief scriptwriter and wrote most of the scripts. None of Rex's story material was used. All characters beside Wolfe, Archie and Cramer were ABC's own. For the use of Wolfe and Archie, Rex received a weekly royalty.
"Differences between (ABC producer) Hi Brown and Edwin Fadiman, who represented Rex's radio, screen and television interests, as Nero Wolfe Attractions, Inc., prevented its later resumption on ABC," McAleer reported. "This fact Brown regretted. 'Nero Wolfe,' Brown says, 'is one of the strongest and most successful detective characters in all of fiction.'"
"The series next surfaced early in 1946, on Sundays, on the Mutual Network," wrote Stout biographer John McAleer, "with Francis X. Bushman, one-time movie idol, as Wolfe, and Elliott Lewis as Archie. ... The scripts once again were network originals. The humor verged on slapstick." The concluding show in the series, "The Case of the Shakespeare Folio," aired December 15, 1946.
1950 -- 1951 Series: "THE NEW ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE" (25 episodes)
NETWORK: NBC, SPONSOR: SUSTAINED, TIME: Fridays: 8:00 - 8:30 pm
STARS: Sidney Greenstreet as Nero Wolfe. Archie played by various actors
WRITER: Louis Vittes based on the stories by Rex Stout; ANNOUNCER: Don Stanley; PRODUCER: Edwin Fadiman; DIRECTOR: J. Donald Wilson.
1982, 60 minutes
Mavor Moore and Don Francks
in the CBC Radio drama series Nero Wolfe.
In 1982, Canadian actor, producer, writer and cultural pioneer Mavor Moore (1919–2006) starred as Nero Wolfe in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's 13-episode radio series Nero Wolfe (a.k.a. Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe). Don Francks portrayed Archie Goodwin, and Cec Linder played Inspector Cramer.
Sources: Nero Wolfe Wikipedia and Nero Wolfe(radio) via Wikipedia
Enjoy these installments of the original broadcasts from the 1950's series, The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe starring Sydney Greenstreet.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Like television today, radio shows during the Golden Age of Radio oftentimes produced holiday themed programming. Here is a selection of some of those classic, vintage, Thanksgiving themed programs for your enjoyment. A mishmash of different genre's this time out, but I think you'll find them all enjoyable in their own right.
The Great Gildersleeve - A Serviceman for Thanksgiving (11-16-41)
The Great Gildersleeve - Thanksgiving Dinner (11-22-42)
Jack Benny Program - Jack Dreams He's a Turkey (11/21/43)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The vigilante nature of her hero's operation quickly resulted in the Green Hornet being declared an outlaw himself, and Britt Reid played to it. The Green Hornet became thought of as one of his city's biggest criminals, allowing him to walk into suspected racketeers' offices and ply them for information, or even demand a cut of their profits. In doing so, the Green Hornet usually provoked them to attack him to remove this competitor, giving him license to defeat and leave them for the police without raising suspicion as to his true motives.
He would be accompanied by his similarly masked chauffeur/bodyguard/enforcer, who was also Reid's valet, Kato, initially described as Japanese, and by 1939 as Filipino of Japanese descent. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, references to a Japanese heritage were dropped.
The series originated on January 31, 1936, on WXYZ, the same local Detroit station that originated its companion shows The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon. Beginning April 12, 1938, the station supplied the series to the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network, and then to NBC Blue and its successors, the Blue Network and ABC Network, from November 16, 1939, through September 8, 1950. It returned from September 10 to December 5, 1952. It was sponsored by General Mills from January to August 1948, and by Orange Crush in its brief 1952 run.
Distinguished by its use of classical music for themes and for bridges between scenes, The Green Hornet was "one of radio's best-known and most distinctive juvenile adventure shows". The series detailed the adventures of Britt Reid, debonair newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighting masked hero at night.
The opening sequence of the radio show originally began with the announcer proclaiming that the Green Hornet "hunts the biggest of all game! Public enemies that even the G-Men cannot reach!", referring to FBI agents. Bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover objected to the line's implication that some crime fighting was beyond the abilities of the FBI, and it was changed to "public enemies who try to destroy our America!"
The radio show used Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin.
One relatively minor aspect of the character that tends to be given limited exposure in the actual productions is his blood relationship to the Lone Ranger, another character created by Striker. The Lone Ranger's nephew was Dan Reid. In the Green Hornet radio shows, the Hornet's father was likewise named Dan Reid, making Britt Reid the Lone Ranger's great-nephew.
In the November 11, 1947, radio show episode "Too Hot to Handle", Britt tells his father that he, Britt, is the Green Hornet. After Dan's initial shock and anger, Dan refers to a vigilante "pioneer ancestor" of theirs that Dan himself had ridden alongside in Texas. As he expressed pride in and love for his son, the Lone Ranger theme briefly played in the background.
The Green Hornet was adapted into two movie serials: The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Again!. Disliking the treatment Republic gave The Lone Ranger in two serials, George W. Trendle took his property to Universal Pictures, and was much happier with the results. The first serial, titled simply The Green Hornet and released in 1940, starred Gordon Jones in the title role, albeit dubbed by original radio Hornet Al Hodge whenever the hero's mask was in place, while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! of 1941 starred Warren Hull. Keye Luke, who played the "Number One Son" in the Charlie Chan films, played Kato in both. Also starring in both serials were Anne Nagel as Lenore Case, Britt Reid's secretary, and Wade Boteler as Mike Axford, a reporter for the Daily Sentinel, the newspaper that Reid owned and published. Ford Beebe directed both serials, partnered by Ray Taylor on The Green Hornet and John Rawlins on The Green Hornet Strikes Again!, with George H. Plympton and Basil Dickey contributing to the screenplays for both serials. The Green Hornet ran for 13 chapters while The Green Hornet Strikes Again! had 15 installments, with the Hornet and Kato smashing a different racket in each chapter. In each serial, they were all linked to a single major crime syndicate which was itself put out of business in the finale, while the radio program had the various rackets completely independent of each other.
Green Hornet comic books began in December 1940. Many other comic renditions have followed throughout the years following.
The Green Hornet was a television series shown on the ABC U.S. television network. It aired for the 1966–1967 television season and starred Van Williams as both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid, and Bruce Lee as Kato.
Williams and Lee's Green Hornet and Kato appeared as anti-heroes in the second season of the live-action 1960s Batman TV series, in the two part episodes "A Piece of the Action" and "Batman's Satisfaction".
A film version of The Green Hornet was released on January 14, 2011, starring Seth Rogen. This film, in my personal opinion, was a bastardization of the source material. A slap in the face to true fans of the character. Only earning mention on this blog for the very fact that it was such an utter embarrassment, and to urge you to avoid at all cost.
For now, the character lives on, for true fans, in the pulp magazines, comics, movie serials, television episodes and radio shows. Below is a selection of some of those radio programs, I hope you enjoy.
For more detailed information, visit the Green Hornet Wikipedia page, or the page devoted to the Green Hornet radio program.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
He first appeared in 1933 in a radio show conceived either by WXYZ radio station owner George W. Trendle or by Fran Striker, the show's writer. The show proved to be a huge hit, and spawned an equally popular television show that ran from 1949 to 1957, as well as comic books and movies. The title character was played on radio by George Seaton, Earle Graser, and most memorably Brace Beemer. To television viewers, Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger. Tonto was played by, among others, John Todd, Roland Parker, and in the television series, Jay Silverheels.
Departing on his white stallion, Silver, the Lone Ranger would shout, "Hi-yo, Silver! Away!" As they galloped off, someone would ask, "Who was that masked man anyway?" Tonto usually referred to the Lone Ranger as "Ke-mo sah-bee", meaning "trusty scout" or "trusted friend." These catchphrases, his trademark silver bullets, and the theme music from the William Tell overture are indelibly stamped in the memories of millions who came of age during the decades of the show's initial popularity or viewed the television series.
While details differ, the basic story of the origin of the Lone Ranger is the same in most versions of the franchise. Six Texas Rangers are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Barthalamo "Butch" Cavendish. Later, a Native American named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, John Francis Reid, as the man who had saved his life some time in the past. He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid's comrades, among them Reid's brother, Captain Daniel Steven Reid who is the Captain of the Texas Rangers. John Reid fashions a black mask using material from his brother's vest to conceal his identity, so that Cavendish will think there were no survivors. Even after the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight evil under the guise of the Lone Ranger.
In every incarnation of the character to date, the Lone Ranger conducts himself by a strict moral code put in place by Striker at the inception of the character. Actors Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels both took their positions as role models to children very seriously and tried their best to live by this creed. It reads as follows:
that to have a friend, a man must be one.
that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
that God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
that a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
that 'this government of the people, by the people, and for the people' shall live always.
that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
that sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
that all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
In 1948, Western Publishing, with its publishing partner Dell Comics, launched a comic book series which lasted 145 issues. This originally consisted of reprints from the newspaper strips (as had all previous comic book appearances of the character in various titles from David McKay Publications and from Dell). However, new stories by writer Paul S. Newman and artist Tom Gill began with issue #38 (August 1951). Some original content was presented as early as #7 (January 1949), but these were non-Lone Ranger fillers. Newman and Gill produced the series until its the final issue, #145 (July 1962). The Dell series came to an end in 1962. Later that same year, Western Publishing ended its publishing partnership with Dell Comics and started up its own comic book imprint, Gold Key Comics. The new imprint launched its own Lone Ranger title in 1964. Initially reprinting material from the Dell run, original content did not begin until issue #22 in 1975, and the magazine itself folded with #28 in 1977.
The Lone Ranger has also seen incarnations on the silver screen, most recently in the 1981 box-office failure, The Legend of the Lone Ranger starring Klinton Spilsbury.
Walt Disney Pictures announced in September 2008 that Johnny Depp would be portraying Tonto in the latest adaptation entitled 'The Lone Ranger' with a projected release date of May 31st, 2013.
Sources: Wikipedia, Archive.org, and Comics.org
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today with the advent of the internet and the availability of so many shows in MP3 format for free online, it has been really great to indulge my love of these wonderful old gems.
The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in pulp magazines, then on 1930s radio and then in a wide variety of media, that follow the exploits of the title character, a crime-fighting vigilante in the pulps, which carried over to the airwaves as a "wealthy, young man about town" with psychic powers. One of the most famous pulp heroes of the 20th century, the radio drama is well-remembered for those episodes voiced by Orson Welles.
Introduced as a mysterious radio narrator by David Chrisman, William Sweets, and Harry Engman Charlot for Street and Smith Publications, The Shadow was fully developed and transformed into a pop culture icon by pulp writer Walter B. Gibson.
The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. After gaining popularity among the show's listeners, the narrator became the star of The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931, a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Gibson.
Over the years, the character evolved. On September 26, 1937, The Shadow radio drama officially premiered with the story "The Deathhouse Rescue", in which the character had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him." This was a contrivance for the radio; in the magazine stories, The Shadow did not have the ability to become literally invisible.
The character and look of The Shadow gradually evolved over his lengthy fictional existence.
As depicted in the pulps, The Shadow wore a black slouch hat and a black, crimson-lined cloak with an upturned collar over a standard black business suit. In the 1940s comic books, the later comic book series, and the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin, he wore either the black slouch hat or a wide-brimmed, black fedora and a crimson scarf just below his nose and across his mouth and chin. Both the cloak and scarf covered either a black doubled-breasted trench coat or regular black suit. As seen in some of the later comics series, the hat and scarf would also be worn with either a black Inverness coat or Inverness cape.
But in the radio drama, which debuted in 1937, The Shadow became an invisible avenger who had learned, while "traveling through East Asia," "the mysterious power to cloud men's minds, so they could not see him." This revision of the character was born out of necessity: Time constraints of 1930s radio made it difficult to explain to listeners where The Shadow was hiding and how he was remaining concealed. Thus, the character was given the power to escape human sight. Voice effects were added to suggest The Shadow's seeming omnipresence.
In order to explain this power, The Shadow was described as a master of hypnotism, as explicitly stated in several radio episodes.
Even after decades, the unmistakable introduction from The Shadow radio program, long-intoned by actor Frank Readick Jr., has earned a place in the American idiom: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" These words were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a musical theme, Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel", composed in 1872). At the end of each episode, The Shadow reminded listeners, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.... The Shadow knows!"
For more information regarding The Shadow on the radio, in pulp magazines, comic books, comic strips, television, video games, and motion pictures (including the 1994 feature film starring Alex Baldwin, see below.) check out the extensive Wikipedia page here.
Here is a small collection of episodes of The Shadow via Archive.org. There are many, many more available for free download online at sites like zootradio. Enjoy!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
At the time of his death, it was estimated that 20 million people heard his voice every day.
Blanc began his radio career in 1927 as a voice actor on the Portland, Oregon, KGW program The Hoot Owls, where his ability to provide voices for multiple characters first attracted attention. He moved to KEX in 1933 to produce and host his Cobweb And Nuts show, which debuted on June 15. The program played Monday through Saturday from 11:00 pm to midnight, and by the time the show ended two years later, it appeared from 10:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
Blanc moved to Warner Bros.-owned KFWB in Hollywood, California, in 1935. He joined The Johnny Murray Show, but the following year switched to CBS Radio and The Joe Penner Show. Blanc was a regular on the NBC Red Network show The Jack Benny Program in various roles, including voicing Benny's Maxwell automobile (in desperate need of a tune-up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael, the tormented department store clerk, and the train announcer.
One of Blanc's most memorable characters from Benny's radio (and later TV) programs was "Sy, the Little Mexican", who spoke one word at a time. The famous "Sí...Sy...sew...Sue" routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny.
At times, sharp-eyed audience members (and later, TV viewers) could see Benny struggling to keep a straight face; Blanc's absolute dead-pan delivery was a formidable challenge for him. Benny's daughter, Joan, recalls that Mel Blanc was one of her father's closest friends in real life, because "nobody else on the show could make him laugh the way Mel could."
Blanc's success on The Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS Radio Network, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner of a fix-it shop, as well as his young cousin Zookie (who sounded quite a bit like Porky Pig). Many episodes required Mel to impersonate an exotic foreigner or other stranger in town, ostensibly for carrying out a minor deception on his girlfriend's father, but of course simply as a vehicle for him to show off his talents. Other regular characters were played by Mary Jane Croft, Joseph Kearns, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus, Bea Benaderet and The Sportsmen Quartet, who would supply a song and sing the Colgate Tooth Powder commercials. (Blanc would later work with Reed and Benaderet on The Flintstones.) Shows usually adhered to a predictable formula, involving a date with his girl Betty Colby (Mary Jane Croft) and trying to either impress her father or at least avoid angering him. However, Mr. Colby (Earle Ross) usually had occasion to deliver his trademark line, "Mel Blanc, I'm going to break every bone in your body!"
For his contribution to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard.
Blanc died on July 10, 1989 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California of heart disease and emphysema. He was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Blanc's will stated his desire to have the inscription on his gravestone read, "THAT'S ALL FOLKS," (the phrase was a trademark of the character Porky Pig, of whom, Blanc created the voice.)
For a more in depth insight into the life of this fascinating man, check out his extensive wikipedia page.
Below is a large collection of episodes of The Mel Blanc Show courtesy of Archive.org.