Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Blue Beetle

The Blue Beetle had a short career on the radio, between May and September 1940. Motion picture and radio actor Frank Lovejoy was the Blue Beetle for the first 13 episodes, while for the rest of the shows, the voice was provided by a different, uncredited actor. The Blue Beetle was a young police officer who saw the need for extraordinary crime fighting. He took the task on himself by secretly donning a superhero costume to create fear in the criminals who were to learn to fear the Blue Beetle's wrath. The 13-minute segments were usually only two-parters, so the stories were often simpler than other popular programs, such as the Superman radio serial.

The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garret, first appeared in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (cover-dated August 1939), with art by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski (as Charles Nicholas); though the Grand Comics Database tentatively credits Will Eisner as the scripter.  A rookie police officer, he used special equipment, a bulletproof costume and a superstrength-inducing "2-X vitamin", and the assistance of a neighborhood pharmacist to fight crime. He starred in a comic book series, comic strip and radio serial, but like most Golden Age superheroes, he fell into obscurity in the 1950s. The comic book series saw a number of anomalies in publication: 19 issues, #12 through #30, were published through Holyoke Publishing; no issue #43 was published; publication frequency varied throughout the run; and there were gaps where issues were not published, with large ones occurring in early 1947 and between mid-1948 and early 1950.

Charlton Comics obtained the rights to the Blue Beetle and reprinted some stories in its anthology titles and in a four-issue Blue Beetle reprint series numbered 18-21. In 1964, during the Silver Age of comics, Charlton would revise the character for a new Blue Beetle series.

Two other men called themselves The Blue Beetle in comics published by AC Comics and DC Comics. For more info check out The Blue Beetle Wikipedia page.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is a comic strip featuring Dick Tracy (originally Plainclothes Tracy), a square-jawed, hard-hitting, fast-shooting, and intelligent police detective. Created by Chester Gould, the strip made its debut on October 4, 1931, in the Detroit Mirror.

Although stories often end in gunfights, Tracy uses forensic science, advanced gadgetry, and wits, in an early example of the police procedural mystery story. Stories typically follow a criminal committing a crime and Tracy's relentless pursuit of the criminal. The strip's most popular villain was Flattop Jones, a freelance hitman hired by black marketeers to murder Tracy. When Flattop was killed, fans went into public mourning, and the Flattop Story was reprinted in DC's series of Oversize Comic Reprints in the 1970s. Reflecting film noir, the villains' small crimes led to bigger, out of control. Similarly, innocent witnesses were frequently killed, and Tracy's paramour Tess Trueheart was often endangered by the villains. As the story progressed, Tracy adopted an orphan under the name, Dick Tracy Jr., or "Junior" for short, who appeared in investigations until becoming a police forensic artist in his father's precinct, and cultivated a professional partner, the ex-steel worker Pat Patton, who gradually became a detective of skill and courage enough to satisfy Tracy's requirements.

 Dick Tracy had a long run on radio, from 1934 weekdays on NBC's New England stations to the ABC network in 1948. Bob Burlen was the first radio Tracy in 1934, and others heard in the role during the 1930s and 1940s were Barry Thompson, Ned Wever and Matt Crowley. The early shows all had 15-minute episodes.

On CBS, with Sterling Products as sponsor, the serial aired four times a week from February 4, 1935 to July 11, 1935, moving to Mutual from September 30, 1935 to March 24, 1937 with Bill McClintock doing the sound effects. NBC's weekday afternoon run from January 3, 1938 to April 28, 1939 had sound effects by Keene Crockett and was sponsored by Quaker Oats, which brought Dick Tracy into primetime (Saturdays at 7 pm and, briefly, Mondays at 8 pm) with 30-minute episodes from April 29, 1939 to September 30, 1939. The series returned to 15-minute episodes on the ABC Blue Network from March 15, 1943 to July 16, 1948, sponsored by Tootsie Roll, which used the music theme of "Toot Toot, Tootsie" for its 30-minute Saturday ABC series from October 6, 1945 to June 1, 1946. Sound effects on ABC were supplied by Walt McDonough and Al Finelli.

Directors of the series included Mitchell Grayson, Charles Powers and Bob White. Cast members at various times included Walter Kinsella as Pat Patton, Helen Lewis as Tess Trueheart and Andy Donnelly and Jackie Kelk as Junior Tracy. Announcers were Ed Herlihy and Dan Seymour.

On July 8, 1945, during a New York newspaper deliverers' strike, New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia read a complete Dick Tracy strip over the radio.

The beginning of the May 1, 1945 episode ("The Case of the Empty Safe") was interrupted on the Blue Network for a "special news flash" relating that Adolf Hitler had "died of a stroke." Copies of this episode, complete with the mistaken news flash—Hitler had committed suicide the day before, not died of a stroke—still exist today.

Side note: Dick Tracy can be enjoyed throughout comic strips, cartoons, movie serials, and even several feature length films, but one of his briefest and most interesting incarnations came about during the 60's.  In 1967, William Dozier, the producer responsible for the 1966 Batman television series, produced a pilot for a live-action Dick Tracy series, starring Ray MacDonnell in the title role. While the quality of the pilot ("The Plot To Kill NATO", featuring "Special Guest Villain" Victor Buono as 'Mr. Memory') was slightly above-average, the series was not purchased by either ABC or NBC as ratings for the Batman series were dropping, and a similar series featuring The Green Hornet had recently flopped. To the networks, the "Hero Camp" or Batmania craze was dying, and they chose not to take a risk on another series.
The pilot is notable for the non-appearance of the future Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) as Bonnie Braids. Although cast in the role, she only appears in the title credits at the opening of the show.

Dick Tracy [1967][Unsold Pilot] by UnknownArchiveTV

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Alan Young Show

The Alan Young Show is an American radio and television series presented in diverse formats over a nine-year period and starring Canadian-English actor Alan Young, of later Mister Ed fame.

The series began on NBC Radio as a summer replacement situation comedy in 1944, featuring vocalist Bea Wain. It then moved to ABC Radio with Jean Gillespie portraying Young's girlfriend Betty. The program was next broadcast by NBC for a 1946-47 run and was off in 1948. When it returned to NBC in 1949, Louise Erickson played Betty and Jim Backus was heard as snobbish playboy Hubert Updike III.

In 1950 The Alan Young Show moved to CBS television as a variety, sketch comedy show, taking an 11-month hiatus in 1952. When it returned for its final season in 1953, the tone and format of the show changed into the more conventional sitcom, with Young playing a bank teller with Dawn Addams (pictured) cast as his girlfriend and Melville Faber portraying his son. The show alternated weeks with Ken Murray's The Ken Murray Show under the title Time to Smile.

In the last two weeks of the season, the format returned to its earlier style, but it was cancelled at the end of the season. The Alan Young Show received two Emmy Awards during its run.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crime Classics

Crime Classics was a United States radio docudrama which aired as a sustaining series over CBS from June 15, 1953, to June 30, 1954.

 Created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott Lewis, the program was a historical true crime series, examining crimes and murders from the past. It grew out of Lewis' personal interest in famous murder cases and took a documentary-like approach to the subject, carefully recreating the facts, personages and feel of the time period. Comparatively little dramatic license was taken with the facts and events, but the tragedy was leavened with humor, expressed largely through the narration.

The crimes dramatized generally covered a broad time and place frame from ancient Greece to late 19th-century America. Each episode in the series was co-written by Morton Fine and David Friedkin, in consultation with Lewis, although the scripting process was more a matter of research, as the stories were "adapted from the original court reports and newspaper accounts" or from the works of historians.

The cases ranged from famous assassinations (of Abraham Lincoln, Leon Trotsky, and Julius Caesar) and the lives (and often deaths) of the likes of Cesare Borgia and Blackbeard to more obscure cases, such as Bathsheba Spooner, who killed her husband Joshua Spooner in 1778 and became the first woman tried and executed in America.

The only continuing character was the host/narrator, Thomas Hyland, played by Lou Merrill. Hyland was introduced by the announcer as a "connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders." Merrill's deadpan portrayal of Hyland provided the welcome note of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings. Unlike the ghoulish weird storytellers of The Whistler and The Mysterious Traveler, Hyland was an ordinary fellow who, in a dry, droll manner, would present a tale from his files, his wry comments interspersed between dramatized scenes. The episodes would typically begin with Hyland inviting the audience to listen to a sound, from drops of rain to horses' hooves, and then introducing the main players and events of his report.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator

Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator was a detective drama heard on NBC Radio from October 3, 1951 to June 30, 1955.

 Detective Barrie Craig (William Gargan) worked alone from his Madison Avenue office. Unlike his contemporaries Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, Craig had a laid-back personality, somewhat cutting against the popular hard-boiled detective stereotype.

Others in the cast included Parley Baer and Betty Lou Gerson. Gargan also starred in the role in an unsuccessful 1955 TV pilot written and directed by Blake Edwards.

Friday, May 2, 2014

George Burns and Gracie Allen

Burns and Allen, an American comedy duo consisting of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen, worked together as a comedy team in vaudeville, films, radio and television and achieved great success over four decades.

Burns and Allen met in 1922 and first performed together at the Hill Street Theatre in Newark, New Jersey, continued in small town vaudeville theaters, married in Cleveland on January 7, 1926, and moved up a notch when they signed with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum circuit in 1927.

 Burns wrote most of the material and played the straight man. Allen played a silly, addle-headed woman, a role often attributed to the "Dumb Dora" stereotype common in early 20th-century vaudeville comedy. Early on, the team had played the opposite roles until they noticed that the audience was laughing at Gracie's straight lines, so they made the change. In later years, each attributed their success to the other.

In 1929 they made their first radio appearance in London on the BBC. Back in America, they failed at a 1930 NBC audition. After a solo appearance by Gracie on Eddie Cantor's radio show, they were heard together on Rudy Vallee's The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour and on February 15, 1932 they became regulars on The Guy Lombardo Show on CBS. When Lombardo switched to NBC, Burns and Allen took over his CBS spot with The Adventures of Gracie beginning September 19, 1934.

Along the way, the duo launched the temporary running gag that made them near-irrevocable radio stars: the famous hunt for Gracie's "lost brother," which began on January 4, 1933 and eventually became a cross-network phenomenon. Gracie was also liable to turn up on other shows (especially those produced by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, which produced the Burns & Allen series) looking for her brother. Bad publicity after a bid by NBC to squelch the stunt---and an accidental mention by Rudy Vallee on his Fleischmann's Hour---helped the stunt continue, according to radio historian John Dunning's On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, which also mentioned that Gracie's real brother, a "publicity-shy accountant" living in San Francisco, went into hiding until the gag ran its course.

Burns and Allen followed this up with another stunt: "Gracie Allen for President." During the election year of 1940, Gracie represented the fictitious Surprise Party and advocated nonsense as part of her platform. The "campaign" was successful enough for Gracie to actually receive write-in votes on election day.

The title of their top-rated show changed to The Burns and Allen Show on September 26, 1936. One successful episode, Grandpa's 92nd Birthday, aired on 8 July 1940. In 1941 they moved from comedy patter into a successful sitcom format, continuing with shows on NBC and CBS until May 17, 1950. As in the early days of radio, the sponsor's name became the show title, such as Maxwell House Coffee Time (1945–49).

Burns and Allen had several regulars on radio, including Toby Reed, Gale Gordon, Bea Benaderet, Gracie's real-life friend Mary "Bubbles" Kelly, Ray Noble, singers Jimmy Cash and Tony Martin and actor/writer/director Elliott Lewis. The Sportsmen Quartet (appearing as "The Swantet" during the years the show was sponsored by Swan Soap) supplied songs and occasionally backed up Cash. Meredith Willson, Artie Shaw and announcers Bill Goodwin and Harry Von Zell, who were usually made a part of the evening's doings, often as additional comic foils for the duo.

 When The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, aka The Burns and Allen Show, began on CBS Television October 12, 1950, it was an immediate success. The show was originally staged live before a studio audience (during its first three months, it originated from the Mansfield Theatre in New York, then relocated to CBS' Columbia Square facilities in Los Angeles). Ever the businessman, Burns realized it would be more efficient to do the series on film (beginning in the fall of 1952); the half-hour episodes could then be syndicated. From that point on, the show was shot without a live audience present, however, each installment would be screened before an audience to provide live responses prior to the episodes being broadcast. With 291 episodes, the show had a long network run through 1958 and continued in syndicated reruns for years.

After the live series ended, the shows were filmed at General Service Studios. The sets were designed to look like their real-life residence, often using an establishing shot of the actual house at 312 Maple Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Although extensively remodelled, that house still exists today—including the study over the garage where George would "escape" from Gracie's illogical logic. Burns lived in that house for the rest of his life.