Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mail Call


Mail Call was an American radio program that entertained American soldiers from 1942 until 1945, during World War II. Lt. Col. Thomas A.H. Lewis (commander of the Armed Forces Radio Service) wrote in 1944, "The initial production of the Armed Forces Radio Service was 'Mail Call,' a morale-building half hour which brought famed performers to the microphone to sing and gag in the best American manner." The program featured popular entertainers of that day, such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and Dinah Shore, performing musical numbers and comedy skits to boost the morale of soldiers stationed far from their homes. Lewis added, "To a fellow who has spent months guarding an outpost in the South Seas, Iceland or Africa a cheery greeting from a favorite comedian, a song hit direct from Broadway, or the beating rhythm of a hot band, mean a tie with the home to which he hopes soon to return.

 Mail Call and other AFRS programs were produced in Los Angeles, Calif., with the organization's headquarters at 6011 Santa Monica Boulevard, The location provided access to top-flight entertainers, staff and facilities. The Encyclopedia of Radio noted: "Los Angeles was selected as the headquarters because of its proximity to the entertainment industry, which quickly gave its overwhelming support. The mission of the new AFRS was to provide American servicemen 'a touch of home' through the broadcast of American news and entertainment." Among the behind-the-scenes people was Meredith Willson (perhaps best known for writing "The Music Man"), who was the first musical director for AFRS.

After World War II ended, the need for shows like Mail Call diminished, resulting in changes in AFRS programming. Broadcasting magazine reported that the end for Mail Call and eight "other service radio shows requiring outside talent" came in 1950 when the "AFRS budget was ... cut by $153,000 by the Secretary of Defense." Other shows discontinued in the move were as follows Command Performance, Redd Harper Hollywood Roundup, GI Jive, Jill's Juke Box, Chiquita, Personal Album, Lucky Grab Bag and Bob Carleton Show.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Adventures of Maisie


The Adventures of Maisie (aka Maisie) is a radio comedy series starring Ann Sothern as underemployed entertainer Maisie Ravier, a spin-off of Sothern's successful 1939–1947 Maisie movie series, based on the Maisie short stories by Nell Martin. The series was heard on CBS Radio, NBC Radio, the Mutual Radio Network, and Mutual flagship radio station WHN in NYC.

 Sponsored by Eversharp, the first series ran on CBS Radio from July 5, 1945, to March 28, 1947, airing on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. during the first two months, then moving to Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. (1945–46), then Fridays at 10:30 p.m. (1946–47). The supporting cast included Hy Averback, Arthur Q. Bryan, Hans Conried, Virginia Gregg, Peter Leeds, Johnny McGovern, and Sidney Miller. John 'Bud' Hiestand was one of its many announcers, Harry Zimmerman and Albert Sack supplied the music, and John L. Greene was the producer. Tony Sanford directed scripts by Samuel Taylor and others.

The series was heard on the Mutual Radio Network from January 11 to December 26, 1952, and it was syndicated from 1949 to 1952 with Pat McGeehan as Eddie Jordan. Bea Benaderet and Elvia Allman portrayed Mrs. Kennedy. The supporting cast included Averback, Conreid, Leeds, McGovern, Lurene Tuttle, Ben Wright, Sandra Gould, and Jeffrey Silver. Harry Zimmerman led the orchestra with John Easton and Jack McCoy announcing.

The show popularized the 1940s catch phrase, "Likewise, I'm sure."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Blackstone, the Magic Detective


Blackstone, the Magic Detective was a 15-minute radio series based on Elmer Cecil Stoner's short-lived comics series Blackstone, Master Magician. The program aired Sunday afternoons at 2:45pm on the Mutual Broadcasting System from October 3, 1948, until March 26, 1950.

 Starring Edwin Jerome as "the world's greatest living magician," the radio series was based on real-life magician Harry Blackstone, Sr.

The series was announced by Don Hancock from October 1948 through June 1949, and Alan Kent from July 1949 through to the end of the series in March, 1950. The background organ music was supplied by Bill Meeder. Scripts were mostly by Walter B. Gibson, the ghostwriter of Blackstone's books, and Nancy Webb, who worked with Gibson on Chick Carter, Boy Detective.

The show usually opened with Blackstone (Ed Jerome) and his assistant Rhoda Brent (Fran Carlon) talking with a friend of theirs, either Don Hancock or Alan Kent (played by the episodes' announcers in-character as themselves) or John (Ted Osborne). A past adventure of Blackstone's would come up in conversation, and that mystery story was then dramatized as a flashback.

After the mystery's climax, the narrative returned to the three main characters as Blackstone performed a magic trick. After a commercial break handled by the announcer, Blackstone returned to demonstrate and explain the trick so that listeners could perform it for the amusement of their friends.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Shadow

Easily one of the most beloved 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.








Monday, October 30, 2017

Mercury Theatre on the Air: The War of the Worlds

79 years ago tonight...perhaps the most famous Halloween radio broadcast of all time, The War of the Worlds. The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds.


The first two-thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated "news bulletins", which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a "sustaining show" (it ran without commercial breaks), adding to the program's realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated.


In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who believed the events described in the program were real. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. The episode secured Welles's fame. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Click PLAY below to listen to the original 1938 broadcast.




BONUS: This is a rare meeting between the author of The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, and the brilliant Orson Welles who adapted his story to the radio. Enjoy!





Orson Welles apologizes for The War of the Worlds broadcast (October 31 1938)



Info regarding the 75th Anniversary - http://mashable.com/2013/10/30/orson-welles-war-of-the-worlds/

An interesting article disputing the validity of the original reports of panic that fateful night - http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/history/2013/10/orson_welles_war_of_the_worlds_panic_myth_the_infamous_radio_broadcast_did.2.html

A new 'War of the Worlds' documentary, 'War of the Welles' goes behind the scenes of the 1938 radio classic - http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2013/10/25/34299/new-war-of-the-worlds-documentary-peeks-behind-the/

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Suspense-ful Halloween!

One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 are extant.

Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.

In its early years, the program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy. Notable exceptions include adaptations of Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain and H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", but by the late 1950s, such material was regularly featured.

Alfred Hitchcock directed its audition show (for the CBS summer series Forecast). This was an adaptation of The Lodger, a story Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 with Ivor Novello.

In the earliest years, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) with many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr.

One of the series' earliest successes and its single most popular episode is Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number," about a bedridden woman (Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960) — each time with Moorehead.




Another notable early episode was Fletcher's "The Hitchhiker," in which a motorist (Orson Welles) is stalked on a cross-country trip by a nondescript man who keeps appearing on the side of the road. This episode originally aired on September 2, 1942, and was later adapted for television by Rod Serling as a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone.




The House in Cypress Canyon is consistently cited as one of the most terrifying programs broadcast during radio's Golden Age. It was originally broadcast December 5, 1946.




Ghost Hunt, starring Ralph Edwards, is the story about a stunt that goes horribly wrong. This episode aired on June 23, 1949.




The well-written Suspense radio dramas are easily some of my all-time favorite old-time radio programs. I hope you enjoy these tantalizing Suspense-ful tales that I've picked for this chilly Halloween season. Though not Halloween themed necessarily, they have been chosen for their particular ability to keep you in....Suspense!

If you'd like to know more about the Suspense radio dramas, my friend Martin Grams Jr, literally wrote the book on the subject.

Source: Wikipedia

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fibber McGee and Molly - Trick or Treating with Teeny - 1953



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: http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/ and Fibber McGee and Molly on Wikipedia

Enjoy this Halloween show from October 30th, 1953.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Archie Andrews: A Halloween Party - 1948



Archie Andrews, created in 1941 by Vic Bloom and Bob Montana, is a fictional character in an American comic book series published by Archie Comics, as well as the long-running Archie Andrews radio series, a syndicated comic strip, The Archie Show, and Archie's Weird Mysteries.

Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead were heard on radio in the early 1940s. Archie Andrews began on the NBC Blue Network on May 31, 1943, switched to Mutual in 1944, and then continued on NBC radio from 1945 until September 5, 1953. The program's original announcer was Kenneth Banghart, later succeeded by Bob Shepard (during the 1947-48 season, when Swift and Company sponsored the program) and Dick Dudley. Archie was first played by Charles Mullen (1943-1944), Jack Grimes (1944) and Burt Boyar (1945), with Bob Hastings (1945-1953) as the title character during the NBC years. Jughead was portrayed by Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews and later by Arnold Stang. Stone later wrote about his radio career in his autobiography, Relax... Archie! Re-laxx! (Bygone Days Press, 2003). During the NBC run, Rosemary Rice portrayed Betty, Gloria Mann portrayed Veronica, Alice Yourman portrayed Archie's mother, Mary Andrews and Arthur "Art" Kohl was Archie's father, Fred Andrews.

"A Halloween Party" originally aired October 30, 1948

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Aldrich Family: Halloween - 1940



The Aldrich Family, a popular radio teenage situation comedy (1939-1953), was also presented in films, television and comic books. In the radio series' well-remembered weekly opening exchange, awkward teen Henry's mother called, "Hen-reeeeeeeeeeeee! Hen-ree Al-drich!", and he responded with a breaking adolescent voice, "Com-ing, Mother!"

The creation of playwright Clifford Goldsmith, Henry Aldrich began on Broadway as a minor character in Goldsmith's play What a Life. Produced and directed by George Abbott, What a Life ran for 538 performances (April 13, 1938 to July 8, 1939). The Broadway cast included Eddie Bracken, Betty Field and Butterfly McQueen. The actor who brought Henry to life on stage was 20-year-old Ezra Stone, who was billed near the bottom as the 20th actor in the cast. Stone was also employed as the play's production assistant.


The Aldrich Family was launched in its own series as a summer replacement program for Jack Benny in NBC's Sunday night lineup, July 2, 1939, and it stayed there until October 1, 1939, when it moved to Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., sponsored by General Foods's popular gelatin dessert Jell-O, which also sponsored Jack Benny at the time. The Aldriches ran in that slot from October 10, 1939 until May 28, 1940, moving to Thursdays, from July 4, 1940 until July 20, 1944. After a brief hiatus, the show moved to CBS, running on Fridays from September 1, 1944 until August 30, 1946 with sponsors Grape Nuts and Jell-O before moving back to NBC from September 5, 1946 to June 28, 1951 on Thursdays and, then, as a Sustaining program in its final run of September 21, 1952 to April 19, 1953 on Sundays.

 The show was a top-ten ratings hit within two years of its birth (in 1941, the show carried a 33.4 Crossley rating, landing it solidly alongside Jack Benny and Bob Hope). Earning $3000 a week, Goldsmith was the highest paid writer in radio, and his show became a prototype for the teen-oriented situation comedies that followed on radio and television.

 Stone kept the lead role until 1942, when he entered the Army for World War II. Norman Tokar succeeded Stone as Henry for two seasons. Best known for his later work directing the television hit Leave It to Beaver — whose approach of telling its stories from the vantage point of a child may have been inspired by the similar implication in many Aldrich episodes — Tokar also helped write many of the Aldrich episodes. On The Aldrich Family, Tokar was followed by Dickie Jones (1943-44) and Raymond Ives (1944-45), before Stone returned to his signature role. Bobby Ellis became the last Henry Aldrich in 1952.

On October 2, 1949, the program premiered on NBC while continuing to air on the radio with a primarily different cast. Over the course of its nearly four-year run on television, Henry was portrayed by five different actors: Robert Casey, Richard Tyler, Henry Girard, Kenneth Nelson and Bobby Ellis, the only one to participate in the radio production as well. Other characters — including Mrs. Aldrich, Henry's sister Mary, and his best friend Homer Brown — were portrayed by multiple actors as well, a practice not uncommon in radio but unusual for television, where cast changes are more noticeable.

The program garnered some adverse publicity when film and radio veteran Jean Muir was signed to play Mrs. Aldrich in the second season, which was to begin on August 27, 1950. Shortly before Muir's scheduled premiere, Right-wing groups accused the actress of being a Communist sympathizer (her name appeared in Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of performers allegedly involved in left-wing activities), and General Foods, the show's sponsor, cancelled the first episode of the new season, replacing her with Nancy Carroll a week later, when the series returned on September 3rd. Muir went on to defend herself before a Congressional committee, but her career never recovered from the charges. After General Foods ended their sponsorship in the spring of 1951, Campbell Soup Company became the new sponsor when the series moved from Sundays to Friday nights that fall. The final episode was broadcast on May 29, 1953, slightly more than a month after the radio series came to an end.

"Halloween", originally aired October 31, 1940

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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.



http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0611075/?ref_=ttep_ep3

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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: The Halloween Masquerade Party - 1939



JACK BENNY (Feb 14, 1894 – Dec 26, 1974)

Jack Benny, born Benjamin Kubelsky, was an American comedian, vaudevillian, radio, television, and film actor.

Widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th century, Benny played the role of the comic penny-pinching miser, insisting on remaining 39 years old on stage despite his actual age, and often (although an accomplished violinist) playing the violin - poorly!

Benny was known for his comic timing and ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature wave of the hand with an exasperated "Well!"

His radio & television programs, tremendously popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, were a foundational influence on the situation comedy genre. Dean Martin, on the celebrity roast for Johnny Carson in November 1973, introduced Benny as "the Satchel Paige of the world of comedy."

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny was so successful in selling Jell-O, in fact, that General Foods could not manufacture it fast enough when sugar shortages arose in the early years of World War II, and the company had to stop advertising the popular dessert mix. via Archive.org


This Halloween themed program originally aired October 29th, 1939.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Our Miss Brooks: Halloween Party - 1949



Our Miss Brooks is an American situation comedy starring Eve Arden as a sardonic high school English teacher. It began as a radio show broadcast on CBS from 1948 to 1957. When the show was adapted to television (1952–56), it became one of the medium's earliest hits. In 1956, the sitcom was adapted for the big screen in the film of the same name.

Our Miss Brooks was a hit on radio from the outset; within eight months of its launch as a regular series, the show landed several honors, including four for Eve Arden, who won polls in four individual publications of the time. Arden had actually been the third choice to play the title role. Harry Ackerman, at the time CBS's West Coast director of programming, wanted Shirley Booth for the part, but as he told historian Gerald Nachman many years later, he realized Booth was too focused on the underpaid downside of public school teaching at the time to have fun with the role.

Lucille Ball was believed to have been the next choice, but she was already committed to My Favorite Husband and didn't audition. Then CBS chairman Bill Paley, who was friendly with Arden, persuaded her to audition for the part. With a slightly rewritten audition script--Osgood Conklin, for example, was originally written as a school board president but was now written as the incoming new Madison principal--Arden agreed to give the newly-revamped show a try.

Produced by Larry Berns and written by director Al Lewis, Our Miss Brooks premiered on CBS July 19, 1948. According to radio critic John Crosby, her lines were very "feline" in dialogue scenes with principal Conklin and would-be boyfriend Boynton, with sharp, witty comebacks. The interplay between the cast--blustery Conklin, nebbishy Denton, accommodating Harriet, absentminded Mrs. Davis, clueless Boynton, scheming Miss Enright--also received positive reviews. Arden won a radio listeners' poll by Radio Mirror magazine as the top ranking comedienne of 1948-49, receiving her award at the end of an Our Miss Brooks broadcast that March. "I'm certainly going to try in the coming months to merit the honor you've bestowed upon me, because I understand that if I win this two years in a row, I get to keep Mr. Boynton," she joked. But she was also a hit with the critics; a winter 1949 poll of newspaper and magazine radio editors taken by Motion Picture Daily named her the year's best radio comedienne.

For its entire radio life, the show was sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, promoting Palmolive soap, Lustre Creme shampoo and Toni hair care products. The radio series continued until 1957, a year after its television life ended. This content is now available under public domain for download at http://www.archive.org at http://www.archive.org/details/Our_Miss_Brooks_190_Episodes

This Halloween episode is from October 30, 1949

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Great Gildersleeve: Halloween Party - 1943




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 http://www.greatgildersleeve.net/

This show is from October 31st, 1943.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Father Knows Best: Halloween Blues - 1953



Father Knows Best is an American radio and television comedy series which portrayed a middle-class family life in the Midwest. It was created by writer Ed James in the 1940s.

The series began August 25, 1949, on NBC Radio. Set in the Midwest, it starred Robert Young as the General Insurance agent Jim Anderson. His wife Margaret was first portrayed by June Whitley and later by Jean Vander Pyl. The Anderson children were Betty (Rhoda Williams), Bud (Ted Donaldson), and Kathy (Norma Jean Nillson). Others in the cast were Eleanor Audley, Herb Vigran and Sam Edwards. Sponsored through most of its run by General Foods, the series was heard Thursday evenings on NBC until March 25, 1954.
On the radio program, the character of Jim differs from the later television character. The radio Jim is far more sarcastic and shows he really "rules" over his family. Jim also calls his children names, something common on radio but lost in the TV series. For example, Jim says, "What a bunch of stupid children I have." Margaret is portrayed as a paragon of solid reason and patience, unless the plot calls for her to act a bit off. For example, in a Halloween episode, Margaret cannot understand how the table floats in the air, but that is a rare exception.

Betty, on radio, is portrayed as a status seeking, boy-crazy teenage girl. To her, every little thing is "the worst thing that could ever happen." Bud, on radio, is portrayed as an "all-American" boy who always seems to need "just a bit more" money, though he gets $1.25 per week in allowance (equal to $11.52 today). Bud is in charge of always having to answer the front door, which he hates. He is also shown as a somewhat dim boy who takes everything literally; for example, Jim might say "Go jump in the lake," to which Bud would reply "Okay, Dad; which lake should I go jump into?" He also uses the phrase "Holy Cow" to express displeasure. On radio, Kathy often is portrayed as a source of irritation. She whines, cries and complains about her status in the family as overlooked. She often is the source of money to her brother and sister, although she is in hock several years on her own allowance.

The Television series began on CBS on October 3, 1954. Originally sponsored by Lorillard's Kent cigarettes in its first season, Scott Paper Company became the primary sponsor when the series moved to NBC in the fall of 1955, remaining as sponsor even after it moved back to CBS in September 1958, with Lever Brothers as an alternate sponsor from 1957 through 1960. A total of 203 episodes were produced, running until September 17, 1960, and appearing on all three of the television networks of the time, including prime-time repeats from September 1960 through April 1963.

Sources: Wikipedia and FatherKnowsBest.com

Television episodes of Father Knows Best can also be seen on Hulu.

This episode entitled,"Halloween Blues" originally aired October 29, 1953.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Life of Riley: Halloween Haunted House - 1944

The Life of Riley, with William Bendix in the title role, is a popular American radio situation comedy series of the 1940s that was adapted into a 1949 feature film, a long-run 1950s television series (originally with Jackie Gleason as Riley for 1 truncated season, then with Bendix for 6 seasons), and a 1958 Dell comic book.
The show began as a proposed Groucho Marx radio series, The Flotsam Family, but the sponsor balked at what would have been essentially a straight head-of-household role for the comedian. (Groucho went on to host Blue Ribbon Town from 1943 to 1944 and then You Bet Your Life from 1947 to 1961.) Then producer Irving Brecher saw Bendix as taxicab company owner Tim McGuerin in Hal Roach's The McGuerins from Brooklyn (1942). The Flotsam Family was reworked with Bendix cast as blundering Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. His frequent exclamation of indignation became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s: "What a revoltin' development this is!" The radio series benefited from the immense popularity of a supporting character, Digby "Digger" O'Dell (John Brown), "the friendly undertaker."

The first Life of Riley radio show was a summer replacement show heard on CBS from April 12, 1941 to September 6, 1941. The CBS program starred Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth and had no real connection with the more famous series that followed a few years later.
The radio program starring William Bendix as Riley initially aired on the Blue Network, later known as ABC, from January 16, 1944 to June 8, 1945. Then it moved to NBC, where it was broadcast from September 8, 1945 to June 29, 1951. The supporting cast featured Paula Winslowe portraying Peg, Riley's wife, as well as John Brown, who portrayed not only undertaker "Digger" O'Dell but also Riley's co-worker Jim Gillis. (Brown also played the character of Waldo Binny.) Whereas Gillis gave Riley bad information that got him into trouble, Digger gave him good information that "helped him out of a hole," as he might have put it. Brown's lines as the undertaker were often repetitive, including puns based on his profession; but, thanks to Brown's delivery, the audience loved him. The program was broadcast live with a studio audience, most of whom were not aware Brown played both characters. As a result, when Digger delivered his first line, it was usually greeted with howls of laughter and applause from surprised audience members.

Source: Wikipedia


Original Broadcast date: October 29th, 1944



Monday, October 9, 2017

My Favorite Husband - Halloween Surprise Party - 1949



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:







Singers:

J-E-L-L-

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 LucyFan.com


This Halloween episode originally aired October 28th, 1949


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Baby Snooks Show: Halloween - 1946

The Baby Snooks Show was an American radio program starring comedian and Ziegfeld Follies alumna Fanny Brice as a mischievous young girl who was 40 years younger than the actress who played her when she first went on the air. The series began on CBS September 17, 1944, airing on Sunday evenings at 6:30pm as Post Toasties Time (for sponsor General Foods). The title soon changed to The Baby Snooks Show, and the series was sometimes called Baby Snooks and Daddy.

 In 1904, George McManus began his comic strip, The Newlyweds, about a couple and their child, Baby Snookums. Brice began doing her Baby Snooks character in vaudeville, as she recalled many years later: "I first did Snooks in 1912 when I was in vaudeville. At the time there was a juvenile actress named Baby Peggy and she was very popular. Her hair was all curled and bleached and she was always in pink or blue. She looked like a strawberry ice cream soda. When I started to do Baby Snooks, I really was a baby, because when I think about Baby Snooks it's really the way I was when I was a kid. On stage, I made Snooks a caricature of Baby Peggy."

 Early on, Brice's character was sometimes called "Babykins." By 1934 she was wearing her baby costume while appearing on Broadway in the Follies show. On February 29, 1936, Brice was scheduled to appear on the Ziegfeld Follies of the Air, written and directed by Philip Rapp in 1935-37. Rapp and his writing partner David Freedman searched the closest bookcase, opened a public domain collection of sketches by Robert Jones Burdette, Chimes From a Jester’s Bells (1897) and adapted a humorous piece about a kid and his uncle, changing the boy to a girl named Snooks. Rapp continued to write the radio sketches when Brice played Snooks on the Good News Show the following year. In 1940, she became a regular character on Maxwell House Coffee Time, sharing the spotlight with actor Frank Morgan, who sometimes did a crossover into the Snooks sketches. Danny Thomas as Jerry Dingle, 1945.

In 1944, the character was given her own show, and during the 1940s, it became one of the nation's favorite radio situation comedies, with a variety of sponsors (Post Cereals, Sanka, Spic-n-Span, Jell-O) being touted by a half-dozen announcers—John Conte, Tobe Reed, Harlow Willcox, Dick Joy, Don Wilson and Ken Wilson.

Hanley Stafford was best known for his portrayal of Snooks' long-suffering, often-cranky father, Lancelot “Daddy” Higgins, a role played earlier by Alan Reed on the 1936 Follies broadcasts. Lalive Brownell was Vera “Mommy” Higgins, also portrayed by Lois Corbet (mid-1940s) and Arlene Harris (after 1945). Beginning in 1945, child impersonator Leone Ledoux was first heard as Snook’s younger brother Robespierre, and Snooks returned full circle to the comics when comic book illustrator Graham Ingels and his wife Gertrude named their son Robespierre (born 1946) after listening to Ledoux's child voice.

 In 1945, when illness caused Brice to miss several episodes, her absence was incorporated into the show as a plot device in which top stars (including Robert Benchley, Sydney Greenstreet, Kay Kyser and Peter Lorre) took part in a prolonged search for Snooks. In the fall of 1946, the show moved to Friday nights at 8pm, continuing on CBS until May 28, 1948. On November 9, 1949, the series moved to NBC where it was heard Tuesdays at 8:30pm. Sponsored by Tums, The Baby Snooks Show continued on NBC until May 22, 1951. Two days later, Fanny Brice had a cerebral hemorrhage, and the show ended with her death at age 59.

Halloween- 11/01/1946

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Halloween with 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: http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/ and Fibber McGee and Molly on Wikipedia





Enjoy this Halloween show from October 24th, 1939.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ozzie and Harriet: Haunted House

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

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

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

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











This episode of the radio program is from October 31st, 1948. This is before the real David and Ricky began performing on the program. David and Ricky in this episode are played by Tommy Bernard and Henry Blair respectively.




I've also included a Halloween episode from the popular television series...enjoy!

 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nightfall


Nightfall is the title of a radio drama series produced and aired by CBC Radio from July 1980 to June 1983. While primarily a supernatural/horror series, Nightfall featured some episodes in other genres, such as science-fiction, mystery, fantasy, and human drama. One episode was even adapted from a folk song by Stan Rogers. Some of Nightfall's episodes were so terrifying that the CBC registered numerous complaints and some affiliate stations dropped it. Despite this, the series went on to become one of the most popular shows in CBC Radio history, running 100 episodes that featured a mix of original tales and adaptations of both classic and obscure short stories.

 Nightfall was the brainchild of producer Bill Howell, who was best known at the time for his work on CBC Playhouse and the cult favorite adventure series, Johnny Chase: Secret Agent of Space. (Howell later went on to be executive producer of CBC Radio's highly-popular series, The Mystery Project, which ran from 1992 to 2004.) When CBC Radio was revamped and given an expanded budget in 1980, Howell approached the newly appointed head of radio drama, Susan Rubes, about his idea for a supernatural/horror anthology series that would push the envelope. Though not a fan of the horror genre, Rubes recognized a hit when she saw one and gave Howell the green light to begin production.

Bill Howell served as executive producer of Nightfall at CBC Toronto for the first two seasons. The reins were passed for the third season to veteran CBC Radio producer Don Kowalchuk (Doctor Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show) at CBC Vancouver.

Nightfall featured two hosts during its run. The Toronto years (1980–1982) were hosted by "the mysterious Luther Kranst", a character created by Bill Howell's devious imagination and played by character actor Henry Ramer. For its Vancouver run (1982–1983), Don Kowalchuk worked with voice actor Bill Reiter to develop the character of Frederick Hende.

Nightfall episode plot summaries can be found here - http://www.otrplotspot.com/nightfall.html


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Mysterious Traveler



The Mysterious Traveler was an anthology radio series, a magazine and a comic book. All three featured stories which ran the gamut from fantasy and science fiction to straight crime dramas of mystery and suspense.

 Written and directed by Robert Arthur and David Kogan, the radio series was sponsored by Adams Hats. It began on the Mutual Broadcasting System, December 5, 1943, continuing in many different timeslots until September 16, 1952. The lonely sound of a distant locomotive heralded the arrival of the malevolent narrator (portrayed by Maurice Tarplin), who introduced himself each week in the following manner:

"This is the Mysterious Traveler, inviting you to join me on another journey into the realm of the strange and terrifying. I hope you will enjoy the trip, that it will thrill you a little and chill you a little. So settle back, get a good grip on your nerves and be comfortable—if you can!" 



Cast members included Jackson Beck, Lon Clark, Roger DeKoven, Elspeth Eric, Wendell Holmes, Bill Johnstone, Joseph Julian, Jan Miner, Santos Ortega, Bryna Raeburn, Frank Readick, Luis van Rooten, Ann Shepherd, Lawson Zerbe and Bill Zuckert. Sound effects were by Jack Amrhein, Jim Goode, Ron Harper, Walt McDonough and Al Schaffer.

"Behind the Locked Door," a popular, much-requested episode which took place in total darkness, was repeated several times during the years. Two archaeologists discover a century-old wagon train that had been sealed in a cave following a landslide. When their Native American guide is mysteriously and brutally attacked, the two, now lost in the darkness, conclude that the descendants of the wagon train are still living in the cave.



Only 75 of the original 370 Mysterious Traveler episodes still exist. The popularity of the series spawned other supernatural shows, such as The Sealed Book. With scripts by a Mysterious Traveler writer and Tarplin as host-narrator, The Strange Dr. Weird was a nearly identical program.


Grace Publishing's 1951-52 Mysterious Traveler digest-sized magazine ran for five issues with cover paintings by famed pulp illustrator Norman Saunders. The publisher was David Kogan, and managing editor Robert Arthur also contributed many stories.

Trans-World Publications' one-shot Mysterious Traveler Comics #1 (Nov. 1948) had a direct tie-in with the radio series, including the story "Five Miles Down," taken directly from an episode scripted for the radio program. Only a single issue was published.

Charlton Comics published a separate Tales of the Mysterious Traveler comic book for 13 issues from 1956 to 1959, followed by two more issues in 1985 shortly before the company went under. Steve Ditko illustrated many stories in this title. Stories intended for future issues saw print in Renegade Press's Murder. In 1990, Eclipse Comics published a large-format paperback collecting 19 Ditko stories from the Charlton title. Some of those stories were reprinted in Pure Imagination's Steve Ditko Reader.

Via Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lights Out



Lights Out is an American old-time radio program devoted mostly to horror and the supernatural. Created by  Wyllis Cooper and then taken over by Arch Oboler, versions of Lights Out aired on different networks, at various times, from January 1934 to the summer of 1947 and the series eventually made the transition to television. Lights Out was one of the earliest radio horror programs, predating Suspense and Inner Sanctum.



The Wyllis Cooper era

In the fall of 1933, NBC writer Wyllis Cooper conceived the idea of "a midnight mystery serial to catch the attention of the listeners at the witching hour." The idea was to offer listeners a dramatic program late at night, at a time when the competition was mostly airing music. At some point, the serial concept was dropped in favor of an anthology format emphasizing crime thrillers and the supernatural. The first series of shows (each 15 minutes long) ran on a local NBC station, WENR, at midnight Wednesdays, starting in January 1934. By April, the series proved successful enough to expand to a half hour. In January 1935, the show was discontinued in order to ease Cooper's workload (he was then writing scripts for the network's prestigious Immortal Dramas program), but was brought back by huge popular demand a few weeks later. After a successful tryout in New York City, the series was picked up by NBC in April 1935 and broadcast nationally, usually late at night and always on Wednesdays. Cooper stayed on the program until June 1936, when another Chicago writer, Arch Oboler, took over. By the time Cooper left, the series had inspired about 600 fan clubs.

The Arch Oboler era

When Cooper departed, his replacement—a young, eccentric and ambitious Arch Oboler—picked up where he left off, often following Cooper's general example but investing the scripts with his own concerns. Oboler made imaginative use of stream-of-consciousness narration and sometimes introduced social and political themes that reflected his commitment to antifascist liberalism.

Although in later years Lights Out would be closely associated with Oboler, he was always quick to credit Cooper as the series' creator and spoke highly of the older author, calling him "the unsung pioneer of radio dramatic techniques" and the first person Oboler knew of who understood that radio drama could be an art form.

Like Cooper, Oboler was much in demand and highly prolific. While working on Lights Out, he wrote numerous dramatic sketches for variety shows (The Chase and Sanborn Hour, Rudy Vallee's programs), anthologies (Grand Hotel, The First Nighter Program, The Irene Rich Show) and specials. In August 1936, singer Vallee, then the dean of variety show hosts, claimed that Lights Out was his favorite series. Oboler occasionally redrafted his Lights Out scripts for use on Vallee's and other variety hours. A version of Oboler's "Prelude to Murder" starring Peter Lorre and Olivia de Havilland was scheduled to air on a November 1936 Vallee broadcast. Other Lights Out plays that turned up on various late 1930s variety programs included "Danse Macabre" (with Boris Karloff), "Alter Ego" (with Bette Davis) and "The Harp."

Oboler met the demand by adopting an unusual scripting procedure: He would lie in bed at night, smoke cigarettes, and improvise into a Dictaphone, acting out every line of the play. In this way, he was able to complete a script quickly, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes, though he might take as long as three or four hours. In the morning, a stenographer would type up the recording for Oboler's revisions. Years later, Rod Serling, who counted radio fantasists like Cooper, Oboler, and Norman Corwin among his inspirations, would use a similar process to churn out his many teleplays for The Twilight Zone, a series that in many respects was to television what Lights Out was to radio.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Weird Circle


The Weird Circle premise is noteworthy: an anthology of classic, supernatural mystery thrillers from the pens of the world's best known and respected supernatural fiction authors. The scripts--with rare few exceptions--acquit themselves well for the genre. 

The supernatural thriller genre was highly popular throughout the mid-1930s, right on through the mid-1950s over Radio.

 The Weird Circle was an RCA-syndicated feature from RCA Recorded Program Services, the independent programming production division of RCA Victor. Its sound quality, voice talent, and production values meet traditionally high RCA standards. As a consequence of those standards, the resulting recordings have stood the test of time--a huge bonus for Golden Age Radio transcriptionists, preservationists and collectors.

 The program was reportedly recorded out of RCA's New York Studios, and almost immediately licensed to both NBC-Red/RCA [WEAF] and the Mutual Broadcasting System [WOR and W-G-N], consisting of two, 39-script seasons of 25-minute productions, for local sponsors and networks alike. As illustrated in the Provenances section, NBC [RCA] created their own set of transcription disks as well, as did the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS).



 Sponsors varied as the series was picked up throughout affiliate stations across the U.S. One incarnation of note was Ogden Fine Cut Tobacco's sponsorship of The Weird Circle, packaged as the Odgen's Playhouse. Ogden's Playhouse didn't air the run in transcription order over U.S. stations. It aired other features under the Ogden's Playhouse banner as well. In Canada however, Ogden's Playhouse aired The Weird Circle series weekly without other intervening productions. Other sponsors of note were the Farr Ice Cream Company [West Coast], 7-Up [Arizona], and Remar's Bread [West Coast].



 The Weird Circle's earliest airing appears to have been over Chicago's W-G-N, a founding Mutual Broadcasting System station, as a sustaining program for its first season (the program aired as two syndicated seasons of productions). Previous difficulty in nailing down the program's episode sequence and earliest broadcast run are probably contributing factors in the poor results of past efforts to document this otherwise highly collectable program.