Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mystery in the Air

Regular listeners to the Abbot and Costello Show must have been a bit shocked when they heard the summer replacement for their weekly comedy. Mystery In The Air first aired in 1945, and for two summers, it was a crime series about Detective Stonewall Scott. In 1947, it became a horror series of psychological/ supernatural tales starring Peter Lorre. Titles include "The Lodger," "The Horla," "Beyond Good And Evil," "The Black Cat," and "The Mask of Medusa."

The announcer was Harry Morgan of Dragnet and later, M*A*S*H fame. Lorre was the weekly narrator and raging psychopath. In the Medusa tale, Lorre plays a criminal frozen alive by a wax curator who uses the actual death mask of Medusa to create life-like exhibits. The clever curator is quite successful, until a young girl is influenced by the frozen mob to start a fire and release the murderers from their timeless prison. The climax is chilling, thanks in no small part to the death march music by Paul Baron. Lorre would get so carried away with his live radio performances, that he would end the half hour sweat-drenched and exhausted. Co-star Peggy Webber claimed that once, in the heat of a live performance, Lorre threw his script into the air and watched helplessly as the pages rained down in different directions all around the stage. Some ad-libbing by the cast managed to carry the show through to the break, when the script was hastily reassembled (Dunning, 477). Only eight different shows from this interesting series are known to have survived.

Announcer (Harry Morgan): "Mystery in the Air starring Peter Lorre presented by Camel Cigarettes."

(SFX: Music swells, then drops.)

(SFX: A tour guide enters with a small crowd and drones on about the Chamber of Horrors wax exhibit. The tour guide's voice fades into the background as the narrator begins to speak.)

Lorre: "Yes, yes, there he goes, there he goes again, telling people all the bad things we did. Oh it's terrible, being nothing but figures in a wax museum. People staring at us all day long and not one of them, not one, ever suspects that we are still alive!"

(Music theme.)

Announcer (Harry Morgan): "Each week at this time, Camel Cigarettes brings you Peter Lorre and the excitement of the great stories of the strange and unusual. Of dark and compelling masterpieces culled from the four corners of world literature. Tonight, 'The Mask of Medusa' by Nelson Bond."

(SFX: Music sting.)

Lorre: "Well, well, well. Here we are, back again, yes, all of us. The finest criminal minds in the world. Oh, it's the elite, the cream of crime. Now we are just wax figures in a sideshow. Yes, but now, now there are 48 of us. Heh-heh. Oh, I suppose we should feel honored to have with us the great Aristead Schwige. This way he looks quite natural, yes, standing over there between Synder and Poe. And at least he doesn't bore me any more with his silly stupid lectures. No. Now he doesn't talk at all. Someone called 'Albert' is running the exhibit now. Oh, poor Albert. He's an imbecile. Albert doesn't know there was a mask of Medusa. Oh, we are much more intelligent than poor Albert. He doesn't even know that we are still alive!"

(Music theme.)

Announcer (Harry Morgan): "Next week, Mystery In The Air starring Mr. Peter Lorre, brings you an exciting story of gambling and sudden death, the immortal 'Queen Of Spades' by Alexander Pushkin. With a special musical score composed and conducted by Paul Baron."

Info via

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dark Venture

Dark Venture was an American radio anthology thriller series. This program was created by the director Leonard Reeg and the producer J. Donald Wilson. John Lake narrated the show. It originated at ABC's new KECA facilities. The show ran for 52 episodes between February 1946 and February 1947.

The first episode began with an eerie introduction with Lake saying: “Over the minds of mortal men come many shadows… shadows of greed and hate, jealousy and fear. Darkness is absence of light… so in the sudden shadows which fog the minds of men and are to be found in the strange impulses which urge them on to their venture…in the dark.”

The introduction had subtle changes in different episodes to reflect the journeying into the unknown.

ABC took Dark Venture nationwide on February 19, 1946.

The stories gave the listener the murderer’s point of view. The episodes were an adventure of a distorted reality where people were scheming ways to kill someone and try to get away with it. The killers had no sense of right or wrong and nothing would get in their way. Victims were usually killed by strangling, knifing, or shooting. Killers devised cruel mind games such as tricking a wife into believing she was going insane, or manipulating a business associate into thinking he was being stalked by a lover who did not exist. Both of these elaborate plots were thought up to provide a scapegoat for the murderer. However, small details that they forgot to cover ultimately unraveled their evil plan at the end of each episode.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Inner Sanctum Mystery

Inner Sanctum Mystery, also known as Inner Sanctum, a popular old-time radio program that aired from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952, was created by producer Himan Brown and was based on the generic title given to the mystery novels of Simon and Schuster. In all, 526 episodes were broadcast.

This anthology series featured stories of mystery, terror and suspense, and its tongue-in-cheek introductions were in sharp contrast to shows like Suspense and The Whistler. The early 1940s programs opened with Raymond Edward Johnson introducing himself as, "Your host, Raymond," in a mocking sardonic voice. A spooky melodramatic organ score (played by Lew White) punctuated Raymond's many morbid jokes and playful puns. Raymond's closing was an elongated "Pleasant dreeeeaams, hmmmmm?" His tongue-in-cheek style and ghoulish relish of his own tales became the standard for many such horror narrators to follow, from fellow radio hosts like Ernest Chappell (on Wyllis Cooper's later series, Quiet, Please) and Maurice Tarplin (on The Mysterious Traveler).

When Johnson left the series in May 1945 to serve in the Army, he was replaced by Paul McGrath, who did not keep the "Raymond" name and was known only as "Your Host" or "Mr. Host". (Berry Kroeger had substituted earlier for a total of four episodes). McGrath was a Broadway actor who turned to radio for a regular income. Beginning in 1945, Lipton Tea sponsored the series, pairing first Raymond and then McGrath with cheery commercial spokeswoman Mary Bennett (aka the "Tea Lady"), whose blithesome pitches for Lipton Tea contrasted sharply with the macabre themes of the stories. She primly chided the host for his trademark dark humor and creepy manner.

The program's familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. Himan Brown got the idea from a door in the basement that "squeaked like Hell." The door sound was actually made by a rusty desk chair. The program did originally intend to use a door, but on its first use, the door did not creak. Undaunted, Brown grabbed a nearby chair, sat in it and turned, causing a hair-raising squeak. The chair was used from then on as the sound prop. On at least one memorable occasion, a staffer innocently repaired and oiled the chair, thus forcing the sound man to mimic the squeak orally.

Its campy comedy notwithstanding, the stories were usually effective little chillers, mixing horror and humor in equal doses. Memorable episodes included "Terror by Night" (September 18, 1945) and an adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart" (August 3, 1941). The latter starred Boris Karloff, who was heard regularly in the first season, starring in more than 15 episodes and returning sporadically thereafter.

Other established stars in the early years included Mary Astor, Helen Hayes, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Claude Rains, Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles. Most of the lead and supporting players were stalwarts of New York radio. These included Santos Ortega, Larry Haines, Ted Osborne, Luis van Rooten, Stefan Schnabel, Ralph Bell, Mercedes McCambridge, Berry Kroeger, Lawson Zerbe, Arnold Moss, Leon Janney, Myron McCormick, Ian Martin, and Mason Adams. Players like Richard Widmark, Everett Sloane, Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Ken Lynch, Anne Seymour, and Santos Ortega also found fame or notability in film or television.
Of more than 500 programs broadcast, only about 200 remain in circulation, sometimes minus dates or titles.

A series of six low-budget Universal Horror movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and based on the radio show was produced in the 1940s: Calling Dr. Death (1943), Weird Woman (1944), Dead Man's Eyes (1944), The Frozen Ghost (1945), Strange Confession (1945) and Pillow of Death (1945).A Film Classics release Inner Sanctum was made in 1948.

The 1954 syndicated television series featured Paul McGrath as the off-camera host/narrator. The TV shows were produced at the Chelsea Studios in New York City.

In the 1970s, with his CBS Radio Mystery Theater series, Himan Brown recycled both the creaking door opening, and to a lesser extent, the manner of Raymond. The hosts were E. G. Marshall and Tammy Grimes. In later repeats during the 1990s, Brown himself mimicked Raymond's "Pleasant dreeeeaaams, hmmmmm?" for the familiar closing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ellery Queen

Ellery Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by two American cousins from Brooklyn, New York—Daniel Nathan, alias Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905 – September 3, 1982) and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, alias Manfred Bennington Lee (January 11, 1905 – April 3, 1971)—to write, edit, and anthologize detective fiction. The fictional Ellery Queen created by Dannay and Lee is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, a New York City police inspector, solve baffling murders.

Ellery Queen was created in 1928 when Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest sponsored by McClure's Magazine for the best first mystery novel. They decided to use as their collective pseudonym the same name that they had given their detective. Inspired by the formula and style of the Philo Vance novels by S. S. Van Dine, their entry won the contest, but before it could be published, the magazine closed. Undeterred, the cousins took their novel to other publishers, and The Roman Hat Mystery was published in 1929.

The Roman Hat Mystery established a reliable template: a geographic formula title (The Dutch Shoe Mystery, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, etc.); an unusual crime; a complex series of clues and red herrings; multiple misdirected solutions before the final truth is revealed, and a cast of supporting characters including Ellery's father, Inspector Richard Queen, and his irascible assistant, Sergeant Velie. What became the most famous part of the early Ellery Queen books was the "Challenge to the Reader." This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and that only one solution was possible. According to novelist/critic Julian Symons, "The rare distinction of the books is that this claim is accurate. There are problems in deduction that do really permit of only one answer, and there are few crime stories indeed of which this can be said."

In a successful series of novels and short stories that covered 42 years, "Ellery Queen" served as a joint pseudonym for the cousins Dannay and Lee, as well as the name of the primary detective-hero they created. During the 1930s and much of the 1940s, that detective-hero was possibly the best known American fictional detective. Movies, radio shows, and television shows were based on Dannay and Lee's works.

The two writers, particularly Dannay, were also responsible for co-founding and directing Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, generally considered one of the most influential English-language crime fiction magazines of the last sixty-five years. They were also prominent historians in the field, editing numerous collections and anthologies of short stories such as The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes. Their 994-page anthology for The Modern Library, 101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories, 1841–1941, was a landmark work that remained in print for many years. Under their collective pseudonym, the cousins were given the Grand Master Award for achievements in the field of the mystery story by the Mystery Writers of America in 1961.

On radio, The Adventures of Ellery Queen was heard on all three networks from 1939 to 1948. During the 1970s, syndicated radio fillers, Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries, began with an announcer saying, "This is Ellery Queen..." and contained a short one-minute case. The radio station encouraged callers to solve the mystery and win a sponsor's prize. Once a winner was found, the solution was broadcast as confirmation. A complete episode guide and history of this radio program can be found in the book The Sound of Detection: Ellery Queen's Adventures in Radio, published by OTR Publishing in 2002. The Adventure of the Murdered Moths (Crippen & Landru, 2005) is the first book edition of many of the radio scripts.

Helene Hanff, best known for her book 84 Charing Cross Road, was a scripter for the television series version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1950–1952), which began on the DuMont Television Network but soon moved to ABC. Shortly after the series began, Richard Hart, who played Queen, died and was replaced in the lead role by Lee Bowman. The series returned to DuMont in 1954 with Hugh Marlowe in the title role. George Nader played Queen in The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen (1958–1959), but he was replaced with Lee Philips in the final episodes.

Peter Lawford starred in a television movie, Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You, in 1971. Veteran actor Harry Morgan played Inspector Queen, but in this film he was described as Ellery's uncle (perhaps to account for the fact that Morgan was only eight years Lawford's senior, or for Lawford's English accent). This film is loosely based on Cat of Many Tails.

The 1975 television movie Ellery Queen (a.k.a. "Too Many Suspects"—a loose adaptation of The Fourth Side of the Triangle) led to the 1975–1976 Ellery Queen television series starring Jim Hutton in the title role (with David Wayne as his widowed father). The series was done as a period piece set in New York City in 1946-1947. Sergeant Velie, Inspector Queen's assistant, was a cast regular in this series; he had appeared in the novels and the radio series, but had not been seen regularly in any of the previous television versions. Each episode contained a "Challenge to the Viewer" with Ellery breaking the fourth wall to go over the facts of the case and invite the audience to solve the mystery on their own, immediately before the solution was revealed. Each episode of the 1975 television series featured a number of Hollywood celebrities. Eve Arden, George Burns, Joan Collins, Roddy McDowall, Milton Berle, Guy Lombardo, Rudy VallĂ©e, and Don Ameche were among the guests. Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of the series had won a Special Edgars Award for creating the Columbo and Ellery Queen TV series.

In 2011, the Leverage episode "The 10 Li'l Grifters Job", Timothy Hutton's character Nate Ford appears at a costumed murder mystery party as Ellery Queen, in a homage to the actor's late father, Jim.

Monday, March 9, 2015

CBS Radio Mystery Theater

One of my earliest introductions to what would be classified as Old Time Radio was via the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Many a night in the 70's of my youth would find me snuggled in bed, quietly tuning my AM/FM transistor radio to find this program. Great memories!

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater was a radio drama series created by Himan Brown that was broadcast on CBS Radio affiliates from 1974 to 1982. Hot on the heels of the release of the movie "American Graffiti" and taking advantage of the 1950s nostalgia fad that swept through America in the 70's. Remember Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Grease? Because radio mystery drama was reminiscent of that era, the program quickly developed a fan base among young listeners in addition to its target audience. The program was pitched, at least initially, to an audience old enough to remember classic radio; Brown was a legend amongst radio drama enthusiasts for his work on Inner Sanctum Mysteries, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe and other shows dating back to the 1930s.
Episodes were introduced by a host (E. G. Marshall) who provided pithy wisdom and commentary throughout. Unlike the hosts of those earlier programs, Marshall is fully mortal, merely someone whose heightened insight and erudition plunge the listener into the world of the macabre (in a manner similar to that of "The Man in Black" on yet another old time radio program, (Suspense). Each episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater opened and closed with the ominous sound of a creaking crypt door, accompanied by Marshall's disturbing utterance, "Come in. Welcome. I am E. G. Marshall." Marshall hosted the program from January 1974 until February 1982, when actress Tammy Grimes took over for the series' last season, maintaining the format.

CBSRMT was broadcast each weeknight, with three or four episodes being new originals, and the remainder were reruns. There were 1,399 original episodes. The total number of broadcasts, including reruns, was 2,969. Each episode was allotted a full hour of airtime, but after commercials and news, episodes typically ran for about 45 minutes.

You can download the entire CBSRMT collection, all 1,399 episodes for free via

Or listen to the entire collection in order at the official CBSRMT website.

12 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1976:
14 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1978:
12 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1980:

Mr. and Mrs. North

Mr. and Mrs. North are fictional American amateur detectives. Created by Frances and Richard Lockridge, the couple was featured in a series of 26 Mr. and Mrs. North novels, a Broadway play, a motion picture and
several radio and television series.

Mr. and Mrs. North was a radio mystery series that aired on NBC and CBS from 1942 to 1954. Alice Frost and Joseph Curtin had the title roles when the series began in 1942. The characters, publisher Jerry North and his wife Pam, lived in Greenwich Village at 24 St. Anne's Flat. They were not professional detectives but simply an ordinary couple who stumbled across a murder or two every week for 12 years. The radio program eventually reached nearly 20 million listeners.

In 1946, Mr. and Mrs. North received the first Best Radio Drama Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America (in a tie with CBS's Ellery Queen). The program, which was broadcast once in 1941 and continuously from December 1942 through December 1946 on NBC Radio (for Woodbury Soap), and from July 1947 to April 1955 on CBS Radio (for Colgate-Palmolive and, later, Adler sewing machines), featured Carl Eastman (1941), Joseph Curtin (1942-53) and Richard Denning (1953-55) as Jerry North. Pam North was played by Peggy Conklin (1941), Alice Frost (1942-53) and Barbara Britton (1953-55).

In his book, Radio Crime Fighters, Jim Cox wrote that the couple:

... who passed themselves off as a publisher and his homemaker-spouse continued to make lighthearted wisecracks as they stepped over bodies in dark alleys and were rendered unconscious by unknown assailants dispensing blows to the head almost every week ... The feminine half of the twosome was at least equal to the husband in solving cases that often baffled law-enforcement officers with years of training and practice—except in reading clues. No explanation was given, of course, as to why a couple of misfits could be so successful in their preoccupation while the professionals thrashed about ineffectually."

In 1946, producer-director Fred Coe brought the Owen Davis play to television (on New York City's WNBT) with John McQuade and Maxine Stewart in the leads and Don Haggerty, Joan Marlowe and Millard Mitchell repeating their Broadway roles.

Barbara Britton and Richard Denning starred in the TV adaptation, produced by John W. Loveton, seen on CBS from 1952 to 1953 and on NBC in 1954, sponsored by Revlon cosmetics. Francis De Sales starred in 25 episodes as police Lieutenant Bill Weigand, only his second screen role. Guest stars included Raymond Burr, Hans Conried, Russ Conway, Mara Corday, I. Stanford Jolley, Carolyn Jones, Katy Jurado, Jimmy Lydon, Dayton Lummis, Julia Meade, William Schallert, and Gloria Talbott. Sixteen episodes of the TV series have been released in the "Best of TV Detectives" box set. A larger set of 8 DVDs containing 32 episodes has also been released by Alpha Video Distributors and is featured by the online store


Mr. and Mrs. North were resurrected in spirit with ABC's Hart to Hart, the 1979-84 crime drama about a wealthy husband (Robert Wagner) and wife (Stefanie Powers) who spent as much time solving murders and romancing each other as pursuing careers as an industrialist and a journalist, played the crime theme with wry wit reminiscent of the Norths in their heyday.

NBC's McMillan & Wife provided a different kind of couple, with the liberated Sally McMillan doing independent investigating as an amateur detective while her husband Mac served as the police commissioner. Sally had more gumption than the conventionally pretty Jennifer Hart and frequently solved cases on her own, making her more like Pamela North.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Strange Dr. Weird

The Strange Dr. Weird is a radio program broadcast on Mutual from 1944 to 1945.

Sponsored by Adam Hats, the drama is notable in part because it was a sister series to The Mysterious Traveler, both in theme and its narrator. Maurice Tarplin, who was also the creepy voice of The Mysterious Traveler. Many of the scripts were condensed 15-minute versions of scripts originally broadcast on The Mysterious Traveler.

To the accompaniment of an organ's spooky strains, Tarplin introduced each episode:

"Good evening. Come

in, won't you? Why, what's the matter? You seem a bit nervous. Perhaps the cemetery outside this house has upset you. But there are things far worse than cemeteries. For instance..."

The closing line never changed:

"Perhaps you’ll drop in on me again soon. I’m always home. Just look for the house on the other side of the cemetery... the house of Dr Weird!"

The 29 episodes were produced and directed by Jock McGregor and written by Robert A. Arthur, who also scripted for The Mysterious Traveler.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dark Fantasy

Dark Fantasy was an American Radio supernatural thriller anthology series. It had a short run of 31 episodes, debuting on November 14, 1941 and ending on June 19, 1942. Its writer was Scott Bishop, also The Mysterious Traveler. It originated from station WKY in Oklahoma City and was heard Friday nights on NBC stations. The stories found a nationwide audience almost immediately. Tom Paxton served as announcer. The shows covered horror, science fiction and murder mysteries. Although a short series, the shows are excellent with some stories way ahead of their time.

The following is a news promo promoting the show:

Every since Lights Out went out several years ago, fans of the fiendish have been clamoring for more good old goose-pimple horror drama on the air. Now they have it. One of the programs that currently freezes the airwaves with its chilling stories is Dark Fantasy comparatively new to the networks. In the late hours of Friday nights these shivery, shocking stories go out over NBC - right straight from Oklahoma City, which you might not have thought of as headquarters for haunts. Station WKY is the home of the Dark Fantasy plays, and the writer is Scott Bishop, who lives in the midst of mystery and the supernatural, represented by the innurnerable volumes of thriller fiction, fantasy lore and all kinds of horror literature that fill his home andhis office. Bishop has long contributed to network broadcasting and to magazines. He says, "Give the listener enough material to let his imagination go to work, and he'll supply his own goose-pimples." Dark Fantasy has been furnishing plenty of such material since last November. And judging from enthusiastic comment, the horror fans are responding with goose-pimples galore! Tune in every Friday on Station WKY Oklahoma City.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mystery Playhouse

Mystery Playhouse was an American radio drama hosted by Peter Lorre which aired on the American Forces Network from July 1944–June 1946.

The series aired during World War II specifically for the purposes of entertaining the troops serving during the war.

Mystery Playhouse was created by the American Forces Network in 1944 for the entertainment of the troops during World War II.

Every week, the series aired rebroadcast of episodes of many popular radio shows of the time. Some include rebroadcast of The Whistler, Mr. and Mrs. North, Inner Sanctum Mystery, and Nero Wolfe.

Peter Lorre's way of introducing each episode was noted as "...part plot summary, and part philosophical about the human condition".

These are two typical intros that a viewer could find when watching the series;

Host: "Two pairs of footsteps echoed down the alley. He stopped. Waited. Waited for Jack the Ripper to Strike! But this is not London in 1888. No, this is Chicago in 1945! Yet, Jack the Ripper is loose again to knife, to butcher his victims... without a trace!"

Host: "Hello... Creeps. This is Peter Lorre opening the doors to the Mystery Playhouse. If you recall, some 50 years ago, London was terrorized by a one man crime wave. A murderer, who was never captured and never seen. And tonight, we follow the investigations of Sir Guy Holless, who firmly believes that Jack the Ripper is still alive. That it is he that is the fiend, that once again slashes and kills! There is an element of the supernatural in this story, that will amaze you. For it seems that the spirit world has given the black heart of Jack the Ripper, the power of everlasting life!"

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Sealed Book

The Sealed Book was a radio series of mystery and terror tales, produced and directed by Jock MacGregor for the Mutual network. Between March 18 and September 9, 1945, the melodramatic anthology series was broadcast on Sundays from 10:30pm to 11:00pm.

 Each week, after "the sound of the great gong," host Philip Clarke observed that the mysteriously silent "keeper of the book has opened the ponderous door to the secret vault wherein is kept the great sealed book, in which is recorded all the secrets and mysteries of mankind through the ages, Here are tales of every kind, tales of murder, of madness, of dark deeds strange and terrible beyond all belief." After this introduction, the dramas began, occasionally interrupted by curiously extended organ solos. These were probably included in the recorded transcription so that local stations could insert their own commercial spots. Although this anthology series did not have recurring characters (other than the Narrator and the Keeper of the Book), the writers often used the same names for different characters from week to week, including "Hester," "Drake," and most especially "Roger."

At the end of an episode, Clarke told listeners to tune in the
following week when "the sound of the great gong heralds another strange and exciting tale from... the sealed book." Scripts were by Robert Arthur, Jr. and David Kogan, who also were responsible for The Mysterious Traveler, and recycled many of the more popular stories from that parent program. "The Hands of Death" was the first of the 26 episodes which concluded with "Death Laughs Last."

Philip Clarke pictured above, Robert Arthur, Jr. at work in 1940 at right.

Life With Luigi

Life with Luigi was an American radio situation comedy series which began September 21, 1948 on CBS Radio and broadcast its final episode on March 3, 1953.

 The action centered on Luigi Basco and his experiences as a newly arrived Italian immigrant in Chicago. Many episodes took place at the citizenship classes that Luigi attended with other immigrants from different countries. Another common theme involved Luigi's landlord/sponsor, Pasquale, scheming to get Luigi to marry his obese daughter. Perennial character actor and two-time Academy Award nominee J. Carrol Naish played Luigi.

Life with Luigi was created by Cy Howard, who had earlier created the hit radio comedy, My Friend Irma. The working title was The Little Immigrant, echoed in the sign-off of each episode, "Your lovin-a son-a, Luigi Basco, the li'l immigrant." Other characters on the show included Pasquale (Alan Reed), another Italian immigrant who is always trying to trap Luigi into marrying his daughter Rosa (Jody Gilbert); native Chicagoan Jimmy (Gil Stratton), Luigi's young business associate; Miss Spaulding (Mary Shipp), Luigi's night school teacher and ideal woman; and Schultz (Hans Conried), a German immigrant and fellow student in Luigi's citizenship class. Each episode used the framing device of Luigi narrating a letter to his mother back in Italy.

The show was popular, successfully competing with Bob Hope's The Pepsodent Show. For most of its run, Life with Luigi aired at 9 pm on Tuesdays. Despite an estimated 30% share of the audience in its timeslot, the show was without a sponsor until Wrigley's Gum bought it in 1950, continuing till the show ended in 1953.

A live CBS Television version aired beginning on September 22, 1952, but was short-lived. Naish, Reed, Gilbert, and Shipp all portrayed their radio characters on the television show. Although it enjoyed high ratings, the show was pulled because of pressure from the Italian-American community. CBS tried to respond to advertisers' concerns by tinkering with the characters, the writing, and replacing Naish, Reed and Gilbert with Vito Scotti, Thomas Gomez, and Muriel Landers respectively, but the revised show was unsuccessful and was cancelled within weeks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Great Gildersleeve

The Great Gildersleeve (1941–1957), initially written by Leonard Lewis Levinson, was one of broadcast history's earliest spin-off programs. Built around Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve, a character who had been a staple on the classic radio situation comedy Fibber McGee and Molly. First introduced to FMAM on 10/3/39 ep #216. The Great Gildersleeve enjoyed its greatest success in the 1940s. Actor Harold Peary played the character during its transition from the parent show into the spin-off and later in a quartet of feature films released at the height of the show's popularity.
On Fibber McGee and Molly, Peary's Gildersleeve was a pompous windbag who became a consistent McGee nemesis. "You're a haa-aa-aa-aard man, McGee!" became a Gildersleeve catchphrase.

The character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly, and on one episode his middle name was revealed as Philharmonic. Gildy admits as much at the end of "Gildersleeve's Diary" on the Fibber McGee and Molly series (10/22/40).
He soon became so popular that Kraft Foods—looking primarily to promote its Parkay margarine spread — sponsored a new series with Peary's Gildersleeve as the central, slightly softened and slightly befuddled focus of a lively new family.

Actor Harold Peary was a much appreciated talent on the old radio series, "Fibber McGee and Molly". Over the course of time, he played a number of different characters, like a butcher or a delivery man. Eventually, the writers created the character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve for Peary to portray. Stuffy "Gildy" was the next-door neighbor of the McGee's, so now Peary could portray the major plot point in some episodes. But even this major supporting role was not enough to contain the actor's talents. So in 1941, "The Great Gildersleeve" spun-off into his very own radio series.

With a dedicated program, Harold Peary and his writers greatly expanded the depths of the Gildersleeve character. The show ran for 13 years (1941-1954), with over 550 shows produced. There were also four "official" Gildersleeve movies, and Peary appeared as Gildersleeve in a number of other films. In the fifties there was a "Great Gildersleeve" TV series, which ran for one season and resulted in 39 episodes.

However, it was not Peary who appeared in the TV series. Back in 1950, Peary's agent saw an opportunity to better his client's deal. He moved Peary from NBC to CBS. Unfortunately, the agent didn't cover all the bases of the deal, as CBS found they could not put him on as "The Great Gildersleeve", NBC still owned the rights to the character. They got Peary but not "The Great Gildersleeve" program. So CBS created a different series for Peary to play in, titled "Honest Harold". Starting on September 6, 1950, Peary's old friend Willard Waterman continued the Gildersleeve character successfully for the remaining four years of its run, then onto the year-run of the television series. Harold Peary showed up two years after that as Mayor LaTrivia on the TV version of "Fibber McGee and Molly".

via Wikipedia and

The Great Gildersleeve on TV -

Honest Harold Episodes -