Monday, March 4, 2013

Night Beat

Night Beat was a radio drama series that aired on NBC from February 6, 1950 until September 25, 1952, sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and Wheaties.

Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy (originally "Lucky") Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star, encountering criminals and troubled souls. Listeners were invited to join Stone as he "searches through the city for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness." Ripperologist editor Paul Begg offered this description of the series:
Broadcast on NBC, Nightbeat... starred Frank Lovejoy as Randy Stone, a tough and streetwise reporter who worked the nightbeat for the Chicago Star, looking for human interest stories. He met an assortment of people, most of them with a problem, many of them scared, and sometimes he was able to help them, sometimes he wasn’t. It is generally regarded as a "quality" show, and it stands up extremely well. Frank Lovejoy (1914-1962) isn’t remembered today, but he was a powerful and believable actor with a strong delivery, and his portrayal of Randy Stone as tough guy with humanity was perfect. The scripts were excellent, given that they had to cover much in a short time. There was a good supporting cast, orchestra and sound effects. "The Slasher," broadcast on 10 November 1950, the last show of season one, has a very loosely Ripper-derived plot in which Stone searches for an artist.
Supporting actors included Joan Banks, Parley Baer, William Conrad, Jeff Corey, Lawrence Dobkin, Paul Frees, Jack Kruschen, Peter Leeds, Howard McNear, Lurene Tuttle, Martha Wentworth and Ben Wright. The format was recreated, with Lovejoy as Stone, on an episode of the television anthology series, Four Star Playhouse ("Search in the Night" 5 November 1953).

More on Night Beat:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Red Skelton

The son of a former circus clown turned grocer and a cleaning woman, Red Skelton was introduced to show business at the age of seven by Ed Wynn, at a vaudeville show in Vincennes. At age 10, he left home to travel with a medicine show through the Midwest, and joined the vaudeville circuit at age 15. At age 17, he married Edna Marie Stilwell, an usher who became his vaudeville partner and later his chief writer and manager.

He debuted on Broadway and radio in 1937 and on film in 1938. His ex-wife/manager negotiated a seven-year Hollywood contract for him in 1951, the same year "The Red Skelton Hour" (1951) premiered on NBC. For two decades, until 1971, his show consistently stayed in the top twenty, both on NBC and CBS. His numerous characters, including Clem Kaddiddlehopper, George Appleby, and the seagulls Gertrude and Heathcliffe delighted audiences for decades.

Skelton and his wife put together an act and began to get bookings for it at some of the smaller vaudeville theaters. They somehow made their way to the Lido Club in Montreal. Despite the language barrier, the act was a success, and brought the couple theater dates throughout Canada. While in Montreal, Skelton and Edna devised the well-known "Doughnut Dunkers" routine, with Skelton's visual impressions of how different people ate doughnuts. The problem with doing this type of act was that Skelton had to eat nine doughnuts at every performance. He was performing five times a day and eating 45 doughnuts. Skelton gained almost 35 pounds rapidly and had to shelve the routine for a while until he lost the weight.

The "Doughnut Dunkers" routine also led to Skelton's first appearance on The Rudy Vallee Show on August 12, 1937. The program had a talent show segment and those who were searching for stardom were eager to be heard on it. The show received enough fan mail after Skelton's performance to invite the comedian back two weeks after his initial appearance and again in November of that year. On October 1, 1938, Skelton replaced Red Foley as the host of Avalon Time on NBC; Edna also joined the show's cast. Skelton continued as the show's host until late 1939, when he went on to begin his MGM movie career.

Skelton's success in films meant a regular radio show offer. He went on the air with his own program, The Raleigh Cigarettes Program, on October 7, 1941. The bandleader for the show was Ozzie Nelson; his wife, Harriet, who worked under her maiden name of Hilliard, was the show's vocalist and also worked with Skelton in skits.

Additional Source: IMDB

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 to September 3, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series starred Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David Nelson and Eric Nelson, better known as Ricky. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons' friendly neighbor "Thorny". The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US TV history.

When Red Skelton was drafted in March 1944, Ozzie Nelson was prompted to create his own family situation comedy. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet launched on CBS on October 8, 1944, moving to NBC in October 1948, and making a late-season switch back to CBS in April 1949. The final years of the radio series were on ABC (the former NBC Blue Network) from October 14, 1949 to June 18, 1954. In total 402 radio episodes were produced. In an arrangement that amplified the growing pains of American broadcasting, as radio "grew up" into television, the Nelsons' deal with ABC gave the network the option to move their program to television. The struggling network needed proven talent that was not about to defect to the more established and wealthier networks like CBS or NBC.

The Nelsons' sons, David and Ricky, did not join the cast until the radio show's fifth year (initially appearing on the February 20, 1949 episode). The two boys were played by professional actors prior to their joining because both were too young to perform. The role of David was played by Joel Davis from 1944 until 1945 when he was replaced by Tommy Bernard. Henry Blair appeared as Ricky. Other cast members included John Brown as Syd "Thorny" Thornberry, Lurene Tuttle as Harriet's mother, Bea Benaderet as Gloria, Janet Waldo as Emmy Lou, and Francis "Dink" Trout as Roger.

Ozzie and Harriet has long been one of my favorite radio programs and classic television shows. Corny perhaps by today's standards some might say, but there's a wholesome, genuine quality that really appeals to me.