Friday, April 24, 2015

Fibber McGee and Molly

There are people who would argue that Fibber McGee and Molly were the Golden Age of radio. This is partly because of the show's very long (1935-1959) and successful run. But more than just staying power, the show showcased terrific comic and musical talent. Throughout its run, the show was a reflection of its time in the American scene.

The genesis of the program can be traced to a local Chicago show that would become Smackout. Fibber McGee and Molly would go on to great success despite (or perhaps because of) the vaudeville sensibilities of its creators and stars, married couple Jim and Marian Jordan.

Living in the fictional Midwestern city of Wistful Vista, Fibber was an American teller of tall tales and a braggart, usually to the exasperation of his long suffering wife Molly. Life in Wistful Vista followed a well developed formula, but was always fresh. Fibber's weekly schemes would be interrupted, inspired by, and often played upon the People of Wistful Vista, a set of regular players and characters that were as beloved as the stars of the program. The program used a series of running gags that would become part of the common language, many treasures can be found in the Closet at 79 Wistful Vista.

The show began as a comic reflection of Depression Era America, but as time went on and the shadows of war came over the nation, the show again caught the mood of the country. WWII was fought on the Home front on Wistful Vista as surely as anywhere else in America, but here they had the benefit of Fibber's somewhat addled perspective.

The show was formally "The Johnson Wax show with Fibber McGee and Molly." Longtime sponsor S.C. Johnson Wax Company saw the value of saving the episodes they sponsored, thereby preserving this treasure for fans of Old Time Radio today.

One of the funniest, most cleverly written shows you will find. The show ran for an epic 24 years on the radio. The show had a huge influence on popular culture as well. Catch phrases that originated on Fibber McGee and Molly like, "Tain't funny, McGee!" "That ain't the way I heered it!" "Snooky," and "Whatsay?" were common vernacular of the time.

Recently, on an episode of NCIS, Abby Sciutto reprimanded Timothy McGee with the line "T'ain't funny, McGee" as a nod to the show.

Sources: and Fibber McGee and Molly on Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

X-Minus One

X Minus One was a half-hour science fiction radio drama series broadcast from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 in various timeslots on NBC.

 Initially a revival of NBC's Dimension X (1950–51), the first 15 episodes of X Minus One were new versions of Dimension X episodes, but the remainder were adaptations by NBC staff writers, including Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts, of newly published science fiction stories by leading writers in the field, including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Frederik Pohl and Theodore Sturgeon, along with some original scripts by Kinoy and Lefferts.

Included in the series were adaptations of Robert Sheckley's "Skulking Permit," Bradbury's "Mars Is Heaven", Heinlein's "Universe" and "The Green Hills of Earth", " Pohl’s "The Tunnel under the World", J. T. McIntosh’s "Hallucination Orbit", Fritz Leiber’s "A Pail of Air", and George Lefferts' "The Parade".

The program opened with announcer Fred Collins delivering the countdown, leading into the following introduction (although later shows were partnered with Galaxy Science Fiction rather than Astounding Science Fiction):
Countdown for blastoff... X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one... Fire! [Rocket launch SFX] From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you'll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction presents... X Minus One. 
The series was canceled after the 126th broadcast on January 9, 1958.

However, the early 1970s brought a wave of nostalgia for old-time radio; a new experimental episode, "The Iron Chancellor" by Robert Silverberg, was produced in 1973, but it failed to revive the series. NBC also tried broadcasting the old recordings, but their irregular once-monthly scheduling kept even devoted listeners from following the broadcasts.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dimension X

Dimension X was an NBC radio program broadcast on an unsponsored, sustaining basis from April 8, 1950 to September 29, 1951. The first 13 episodes were broadcast live, and the remainder were pre-recorded. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors, and Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator (his famous opening: "Adventures in time and space- told in future tense...").

 Preceded by Mutual's 2000 Plus (1950–52), Dimension X was not the first adult science fiction series on radio, but the acquisition of previously published stories immediately gave it a strong standing with the science fiction community, as did the choice of well established, respected writers in the field: Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Robert A. Heinlein, Murray Leinster, H. Beam Piper, Frank M. Robinson, Clifford D. Simak, William Tenn, Jack Vance, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Williamson and Donald A. Wollheim. Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts adapted most of the stories and also provided original scripts. In Science Fiction Television (2004), M. Keith Booker wrote: It was not until the 1950s that science fiction radio really hit its stride, even as science fiction was beginning to appear on television as well. Radio programs such as Mutual's 2000 Plus and NBC's Dimension X were anthology series that offered a variety of exciting tales of future technology, with a special focus on space exploration (including alien invasion), though both series also often reflected contemporary anxieties about the dangers of technology. The series opened with "The Outer Limit," an Ernest Kinoy adaptation of Graham Doar's short story from The Saturday Evening Post (December 24, 1949), about alien contact. A week later (April 15, 1950), the program presented Jack Williamson's most famous story, "With Folded Hands," first published in the July 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. With a five-month hiatus from January 1951 to June 1951, the series spanned 17 months. All 50 episodes of the series survived and can be heard today. Later, NBC's X Minus One (1955–58) utilized many of the same actors and scripts.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Philo Vance

Philo Vance is a fictional character featured in 12 crime novels written by S. S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright), published in the 1920s and 1930s. During that time, Vance was immensely popular in books, movies, and on the radio. He was portrayed as a stylish, even foppish dandy, a New York bon vivant possessing a highly intellectual bent. The novels were chronicled by his friend Van Dine (who appears as a kind of Dr. Watson figure in the books as well as being the author).

 In the early novels, Van Dine claimed that "Philo Vance" was an alias, and that details of the sleuth's adventures had been altered to protect his true identity. This claim was conveniently forgotten as the series progressed. (A few years later, the same process occurred with another fictional detective, Ellery Queen, whose authors acknowledged the inspiration of Van Dine.)

As Van Dine described the character of Vance in the first of the novels, The Benson Murder Case:

Vance was what many would call a dilettante, but the designation does him an injustice. He was a man of unusual culture and brilliance. An aristocrat by birth and instinct, he held himself severely aloof from the common world of men. In his manner there was an indefinable contempt for inferiority of all kinds. The great majority of those with whom he came in contact regarded him as a snob. Yet there was in his condescension and disdain no trace of spuriousness. His snobbishness was intellectual as well as social. He detested stupidity even more, I believe, than he did vulgarity or bad taste. I have heard him on several occasions quote Fouché’s famous line: C’est plus qu’un crime; c'est une faute. And he meant it literally.

Vance was frankly a cynic, but he was rarely bitter; his was a flippant, Juvenalian cynicism. Perhaps he may best be described as a bored and supercilious, but highly conscious and penetrating, spectator of life. He was keenly interested in all human reactions; but it was the interest of the scientist, not the humanitarian.

Vance’s knowledge of psychology was indeed uncanny. He was gifted with an instinctively accurate judgement of people, and his study and reading had coordinated and rationalized this gift to an amazing extent. He was well grounded in the academic
principles of psychology, and all his courses at college had either centered about this subject or been subordinated to it…

He had reconnoitered the whole field of cultural endeavor. He had courses in the history of religions, the Greek classics, biology, civics, and political economy, philosophy, anthropology, literature, theoretical, and experimental psychology, and ancient and modern languages. But it was, I think, his courses under Münsterberg and William James that interested him the most.

Vance’s mind was basically philosophical—that is, philosophical in the more general sense. Being singularly free from the conventional sentimentalities and current superstitions, he could look beneath the surface of human acts into actuating impulses and motives. Moreover, he was resolute both in his avoidance of any attitude that savoured of credulousness and in his adherence to cold, logical exactness in his mental processes. In the same book, Van Dine detailed Vance's physical features:

He was unusually good-looking, although his mouth was ascetic and cruel...there was a slightly derisive hauteur in the lift of his eyebrows...His forehead was full and sloping--it was the artist's, rather than the scholar's, brow. His cold grey eyes were widely spaced. His nose was straight and slender, and his chin narrow but prominent, with an unusually deep cleft...Vance was slightly under six feet, graceful, and giving the impression of sinewy strength and nervous endurance.

Films about Vance were made from the late 1920s to the late 1940s, with some more faithful to the literary character than others. Fictional narrator S.S. Van Dine, who acts as a passive eyewitness to events in the novels, does not appear in the films.

Among the several actors who played Philo Vance on the screen were William Powell, Warren William, and Basil Rathbone, all of whom had great success playing other detectives in movies. The movie The Canary Murder Case is famous for a contract dispute that eventually helped sink the career of star Louise Brooks.

Three radio drama series were created with Philo Vance as the title character. The first series, broadcast by NBC in 1945, starred José Ferrer. A summer replacement series in 1946 starred John Emery as Vance. The best-known series (and the one of which most episodes survived) ran from 1948 to 1950 in Frederick Ziv syndication and starred Jackson Beck (pictured above). an American actor best known as the announcer on radio's The Adventures of Superman and the voice of Bluto in the Famous era Popeye theatrical shorts. "Thankfully, the radio series uses only the name, and makes Philo a pretty normal, though very intelligent and extremely courteous gumshoe. ... Joan Alexander is Ellen Deering, Vance's secretary and right-hand woman.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Black Museum

The Black Museum was a 1951 radio crime-drama program independently produced by Harry Alan Towers and based on real-life cases from the files of Scotland Yard's Black Museum. Ira Marion was the scriptwriter, and music for the series was composed and conducted by Sidney Torch. Although often mistakenly cited as being produced for the BBC, the series was produced and syndicated
commercially by Towers throughout the English-speaking world.

 Orson Welles was both host and narrator for stories of horror and mystery, based on Scotland Yard's collection of murder weapons and various ordinary objects once associated with historical true crime cases. The show's opening began:

"This is Orson Welles, speaking from London."
(Sound of Big Ben chimes)
"The Black Museum... a repository of death. Here in the grim stone structure on the Thames which houses Scotland Yard is a warehouse of homicide, where everyday objects... a woman’s shoe, a tiny white box, a quilted robe... all are touched by murder."

Walking through the museum, Welles would pause at one of the exhibits, and his description of an artifact served as a device to lead into a wryly-narrated dramatised tale of a brutal murder or a vicious crime. In the closing:

"Now until we meet again in the same place and I tell you another tale of the Black Museum", Welles would conclude with his signature radio phrase, "I remain, as always, obediently yours".

With the story themes deriving from objects in the collection (usually with the names of the people involved changed but the facts remaining true to history), the 52 episodes had such titles as "The Tartan Scarf" and "A Piece of Iron Chain" or "Frosted Glass Shards" and "A Khaki Handkerchief". An anomaly to the series was an episode called "The Letter" as this was the only story not about murder, but about forgery.

In the United States, the series aired on the Mutual Network between January 1 and December 30, 1952.

Beginning May 7, 1953, it was also broadcast over Radio Luxembourg sponsored by the cleaning
products Dreft and Mirro. Since the BBC carried no commercials, Radio Luxembourg aired sponsored programs at night to England.

In the United States, there was a contemporary programme called Whitehall 1212 written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and broadcast by NBC, that was similar in scope to The Black Museum. It was hosted by Chief Superintendent John Davidson, curator of the Black Museum. It used many of the same picked cases as The Black Museum, and it nearly mirrored its broadcast run. The two shows

were different in the respect that while Whitehall 1212 told the story of a case entirely from the point of view of the police starting from the crime scene, The Black Museum was more heavily dramatized and played out scenes of the actual murders and included scenes from the criminal's point of view.


Two episodes, "The Car Tire" and "The Gas Receipt," were the same story with minor differences between the two. Another pair of episodes, "The Baby's Jacket" and "The Spectacles," were based on the same case, as were "The Tan Shoe" and "The Leather Bag."

Four famous murder cases were dramatized on The Black Museum: John George Haigh, the "Acid Bath Murderer"; George Joseph Smith, the "Brides in the Bath Murderer"; Adelaide Bartlett, whose husband died from chloroform poisoning; and Florence Maybrick, who allegedly used arsenic from fly-paper to murder her husband James Maybrick (who was recently suspected of being Jack the Ripper courtesy of the 1993 publication of The Diary of Jack the Ripper).

In "Open End Wrench" it's mistakenly stated that the culprit was executed in Dartmoor. No 20th century executions were carried out in Dartmoor. Built during the Napoleonic Wars to contain French and American POWs, it was, after lying idle from 1815 to 1850, later commissioned as a convict gaol and used for dangerous long-term prisoners only.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Shadow

Easily one of the most favorite old time radio programs in my house is The Shadow. It was one of my dad's favorites growing up, and he passed that love on to my brother and I. Growing up when I did in the 70's and 80's of course these programs were no longer on the radio, so my interest in old time radio began with seeking out AM radio stations rebroadcasting these shows and buying them on cassette tapes.

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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Screen Guild Theater

The Screen Guild Theater is a popular radio anthology series during the Golden Age of Radio, broadcast from 1939 until 1952, with leading Hollywood actors performing in adaptations of popular motion pictures such as Going My Way and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

 The show had a long run, lasting for 14 seasons and 527 episodes. It initially was heard on CBS from January 8, 1939 until June 28, 1948, continuing on NBC from October 7, 1948 until June 29, 1950. It was broadcast on ABC from September 7, 1950 to May 31, 1951 and returned to CBS on March 13, 1952. It aired under several different titles: The Gulf Screen Guild Show, The Gulf Screen Guild Theater, The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater and The Camel Screen Guild Theater.

 Actors on the series included Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Cantor, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Johnny Mercer, Agnes Moorehead, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore. Fees these actors would typically charge were donated to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, in order to support the creation and maintenance of the Motion Picture Country Home for retired actors.

 The series came to an end on CBS June 29, 1952.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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

Monday, April 13, 2015


Dragnet, the brainchild of Jack Webb, may very well be the most well-remembered, and the best, radio police drama series. From September, 1949 through February 1957, Dragnet's 30 minute shows, broadcast on NBC, brought to radio true police stories in a low-key, documentary style.

The origins of Dragnet can be traced to a semi-documentary film,  "He Walked by Night" from 1948, in which Webb had a small role. Both employed the same Los Angeles Police Department technical adviser, used actual police cases and presented the case in "just the facts" manner that became a hallmark of Dragnet. It is interesting to note that Webb employed that format in other radio series, some pre-dating the film mentioned above.

Dragnet was a long running radio and television police procedural drama, about the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners. The show takes its name from an actual police term, a Dragnet, meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects.Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in American media history. The series gave millions of Americans a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers.

Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media. The shows cultural impact is demonstrated by the fact that even after five decades, elements of Dragnet are known to those who have never heard nor seen the program. The ominous four note introduction to the brass and tympani theme music, titled Danger Ahead, is instantly recognizable as well as the shows opening narration:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."

The original Dragnet starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday ran on radio from June 3rd, 1949 to February 26th, 1957; and on television from December 16th, 1951 to August 23rd, 1959, and from January 12th, 1967 to April 16th, 1970. All of these versions ran on NBC. There were two Dragnet feature films, a straight adaptation starring Jack Webb in 1954, and a comedy spoof in 1987. There were also television revivals, without Webb, in 1989 and 2003.

Sources: Wikipedia and

Other Dragnet links:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Favorite Husband

My Favorite Husband began on CBS Radio with Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as Liz and George Cugat. After at least 20 early episodes, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change to Liz and George Cooper. The cheerful couple lived at 321 Bundy Drive in the fictitious city of Sheridan Falls and were billed as "two people who live together and like it."

The main sponsor was General Foods' Jell-O, and an average of three "plugs" for Jell-O were made in each episode, including Lucille Ball's usual sign-on, "Jell-O, everybody!" The 1948 radio version opened with:
Bob LeMond: It's time for My Favorite Husband starring Lucille Ball!
Lucille Ball: Jell-O, everybody!
Theme music [composed by Marlin Skiles, conducted by Wilbur Hatch]
LeMond: Yes, it's the gay family comedy series starring Lucille Ball with Richard Denning and is brought to you by the Jell-O family of Red-Letter Desserts:

O! The big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
Oh, the big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
That's Jell-O!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O pudding!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O tapioca pudding, yes sir-ee!
LeMond: Now, let's take a look at the Cooper family, two people who live together and like it.
The program, which aired 124 episodes from July 23, 1948, through March 31, 1951, initially portrayed the couple as being a well-to-do banker and his socially prominent wife, but three new writers—Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, and Jess Oppenheimer—took over the writing, changed the couple's name to Cooper, and remade them into a middle-class couple, which they thought average listeners would find more accessible.

Lucille Ball was asked to do a television version of the show (with Jell-O remaining as sponsor), and CBS insisted on Richard Denning continuing as her co-star. However, Ball refused to do a husband-and-wife TV show without real-life husband Desi Arnaz playing her on-screen husband. The network reluctantly agreed, reworking the concept into I Love Lucy after Ball and Arnaz took a show on the road to convince the network that audiences would respond. When Jell-O dropped out of the show, Philip Morris became the television sponsor.
Carroll, Pugh and Oppenheimer agreed to do the switch to I Love Lucy. They subsequently reworked several My Favorite Husband episodes into I Love Lucy episodes, especially early in the TV show's run. For example, the 1948 radio episode entitled "Giveaway Program" inspired the I Love Lucy episode "Redecorating", with some lines exactly the same. Many actors who had done the My Favorite Husband radio show also appeared on I Love Lucy, sometimes in episodes where they reprised their roles using a reworked My Favorite Husband script.

Sources: Wikipedia and

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Frontier Gentleman

Frontier Gentleman is a radio Western series originally broadcast on the CBS network from February 2 to November 16, 1958, initially heard Sunday afternoons at 2:30pm (Eastern Time) through March when it moved to 7pm. 

The program opened with a trumpet theme by Jerry Goldsmith and this introduction:

Herewith, an Englishman's account of life and death in the West. As a reporter for the London Times, he writes his colorful and unusual accounts. But as a man with a gun, he lives and becomes a part of the violent years in the new territories. Now, starring John Dehner, this is the story of J. B. Kendall, Frontier Gentleman...

The character's full name is Jeremy Brian Kendall. This was revealed in the episode "Belle Sidon's Encore".

Written, produced and directed by Antony Ellis, it followed the adventures of journalist Kendall as he roamed the Western United States in search of stories for the Times. Along the way, he encountered various fictional drifters and outlaws in addition to well-known historical figures, such as Jesse James, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok.

 Music for the series was by Wilbur Hatch and Jerry Goldsmith, who also supplied the opening trumpet theme.

The announcers were Dan Cubberly, Johnny Jacobs, Bud Sewell and John Wald.

 Supporting cast: Harry Bartell, Lawrence Dobkin, Virginia Gregg, Stacy Harris, Johnny Jacobs, Joseph Kearns, Jack Kruschen, Jack Moyles, Jeanette Nolan, Vic Perrin and Barney Phillips.


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Six Shooter

The Six Shooter was a weekly old-time radio program in the United States. It was created by Frank Burt, who also wrote many of the episodes, and lasted only one season of 39 episodes on NBC (Sept. 20, 1953-June 24, 1954). Through March 21, 1954 it was broadcast Sundays at 8 p.m. Beginning April 1, 1954 through the final episode it was on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

James Stewart starred as Britt Ponset, a drifting cowboy in the final years of the wild west. Episodes ranged from straight western drama to whimsical comedy. A trademark of the show was Stewart's use of whispered narration during tense scenes that created a heightened sense of drama and relief when the situation was resolved. Some of the more prominent actors to perform on the program included Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Howard McNear, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Alan Reed, Marvin Miller and William Conrad (often credited as "Julius Krelboyne" because he was also the star of CBS' Gunsmoke at the time). Some did multiple episodes playing different characters.

Each episode opened with the announcer (Hal Gibney; John Wald in later episodes) stating: The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both "the Six Shooter". The haunting theme music was "Highland Lament" by series composer Basil Adlam. Jack Johnstone was the producer-director for NBC Radio, in association with Revue Productions.

 The final episode, "Myra Barker", provided a satisfying (if melancholy) finale to the series: Ponset falls in love with Myra, and proposes marriage. Myra, after thinking it over, appears to accept -- but then tells Britt she's heard that Sheriff Jennings of Eagle Falls has asked for his help, and Britt admits that he feels obligated to go. Myra tells Britt to go and not come back -- telling him some adventure will always call him, and he'll always go, or regret not going. Britt goes, resuming his wanderings, but not before revealing to the audience that he knows he was not needed in Eagle Falls -- and knows Myra knows that too. The moment comes across of a moment of supreme self-realization by Britt that he always will be a wanderer.

Myra Barker - June 24, 1954 - Final Episode

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Bob Hope Show

 Bob Hope, born Leslie Townes Hope, (May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003) was an English-born American comedian and actor who appeared on Broadway, in vaudeville, movies, television, and on the radio. He was noted for his numerous United Service Organizations (USO) shows entertaining American military personnel—he made 57 tours for the USO between 1942 and 1988. Throughout his long career, he was honored for this work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress declared him the "first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces."

Over a career spanning 60 years (1934 to 1994), Hope appeared in over 70 films and shorts, including a series of "Road" movies co-starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. In addition to hosting the Academy Awards fourteen times, he appeared in many stage productions and television roles, and was the author of fourteen books. He participated in the sports of golf and boxing, and owned a small stake in his hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. He was married to Grace Troxell from 1933 until 1934 and to Dolores Hope from 1934 until his death.

In the early days, Hope's career included appearances on stage in Vaudeville shows and Broadway productions. He began performing on the radio in 1934 and switched to television when that medium became popular in the 1950s. He began doing regular TV specials in 1954, and hosted the Academy Awards fourteen times in the period from 1941 to 1978. Overlapping with this was his movie career, spanning the years 1934 to 1972, and his USO tours, which he did from 1942 to 1988.

Hope's career in broadcasting began on radio in 1934. His first regular series for NBC Radio was the Woodbury Soap Hour in 1937, a 26-week contract. A year later, The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope began, and Hope signed a ten-year contract the show's sponsor, Lever Brothers. The show became the top radio program in the country. Regulars on the series included Jerry Colonna and Barbara Jo Allen as spinster Vera Vague. Hope continued his lucrative career in radio through to the 1950s, when radio's popularity was overshadowed by television.

For a more detailed account of the legendary Bob Hope's personal and professional life, start with his Wikipedia Page.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Green Hornet

In 1935, George W. Trendle, the WXYZ co-owner and managing partner who had spearheaded the development of The Lone Ranger, sought to bring on air a similar series. Trendle sought to create a series that would "show that a political system could be riddled with corruption and that one man could successfully combat this white-collar lawlessness." Liking the acoustic possibilities of a bee sound, Trendle directed it be incorporated into the show. The team experimented with names, with Trendle liking The Hornet, but that name had been used elsewhere and could have posed rights problems. Colors including blue and pink were considered before the creators settled on green.

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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Have Gun Will Travel

Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western television series that aired on CBS from 1957 through 1963. It was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons. It was one of the few television shows to spawn a successful radio version. The radio series debuted November 23, 1958.

This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin," a gentleman gunfighter (played by Richard Boone on television and voiced by John Dehner on radio). He prefers to settle without violence the difficulties brought his way by clients who pay him. When forced, he excels in fisticuffs and, under his real name, was a duelling champion of some renown.

Have Gun – Will Travel was created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow.
The title was a catchphrase used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser was ready for anything. It was used this way from the early 20th century. A form common in theatrical advertising was "Have tux, will travel," and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works such as Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

Paladin is a mercenary, a soldier of fortune, accepting commissions from people who seek to engage his services. He is not above scanning newspaper headlines to offer his services to people whose troubles find their way into print. In the parlance of chivalry, since Paladin is not attached to the service of any one liege lord, his is "a free lance." He makes it clear that his time is all his clients hire for their particular jobs.

 A "paladin" is a knight, a paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion of a cause: "like Charlemagne's fabled Roland," as the Honourable Diana Coulter (Patricia Medina) notes in "The Lady". Using this nom-de-guerre Paladin makes clear that he is motivated by a code of chivalry to act justly in a just cause. He exhibits a passion for justice as well as for the rule of law, which means that he is constantly forced to differentiate between the two concepts.

The Have Gun – Will Travel radio show broadcast 106 episodes on the CBS Radio Network between November 23, 1958, and November 27, 1960. It was one of the last radio dramas featuring continuing characters and the only significant American radio adaptation of a television series. John Dehner played Paladin, and Ben Wright usually (but not always) played Hey Boy. Virginia Gregg played Miss Wong, Hey Boy's girlfriend, before the television series featured the character of Hey Girl. Unlike the small-screen version, in this medium there was usually a tag scene at the Carlton at both the beginning and the end of the episode. Initially, the episodes were adaptations of the television program as broadcast earlier the same week, but eventually original stories were produced, including a finale ("Goodbye, Paladin") in which Paladin leaves San Francisco, apparently forever, to claim an inheritance back east. The radio version was written by producer/writer Roy Winsor.

 Many of the writers who worked on Have Gun – Will Travel went on to gain fame elsewhere. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, Bruce Geller created Mission: Impossible, and Harry Julian Fink is one of the writers who created Dirty Harry (the opening title and theme scene of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force would feature the same Paladin-like sequence of a handgun being slowly cocked and then finally pointed toward the camera, with a line of dialogue). Sam Peckinpah wrote one episode, which aired in 1958. Both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible were produced by Desilu Productions and later Paramount Television, which also now owns the rights to Have Gun – Will Travel through its successor company, CBS Television Distribution.

This photo shows radio's Paladin, John Dehner, with TV's Paladin, Richard Boone.