As Television captured the attention of American families in the early 1950's NBC radio made the last great attempt to save radio listeners in the form of a All-Star Review called The Big Show. Several year before NBC had it's biggest talents raided by William Paley and CBS stars like Jack Benny, Amos & Andy, Burns and Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Harold Perry etc...By helping these star save tons of money through tax loopholes that NBC would not grant. The once all might NBC was now in real competition and TV was causing ratings to drop so they created a BIG show, 90 minutes of the most talent and exciting stars (they could book)...they brought on Broadway darling Tallulah Bankhead as host with the deep voice, dry comic delivery and air of sophiscation, she bantered with likes of Bob Hope, Grouch Marx, Ed Wynn and Jim Durante while introduces top singers from all arenas of music. The show was the most expensive radio show in the history of the medium and after 2 years proved disappointing in the ratings....if the show was produced a decade before it would have been a hit but with TV and the changing American taste it didn't stand a chance.
I think it had some really great moments from likes of Groucho Marx and Bob Hope so I think it's really worth listening too. Here is a great episode with a great segment with Jimmy Durante and Tallulah!! Enjoy!!!!!
I just returned from a trip home to visit my family and friends in Michigan; just buying a new car I decided to drive from Dallas to Detroit approx. 18 hour drive each way I decided to break it up in 2 days there and 2 days back this gave me plenty of time to listen to radio so I decided I would listen to Gunsmoke and l was reminded very quickly of how outstanding the show was!!! I was totally engaged and the time flew quickly as I eagerly listened to episode after episode....So I decide to focus on some of the very best episodes from the shows long run 1952-1961!!!!
Here is a great episode with a wonderful grim ending that Gunsmoke was know for!!! At times Marshal Dillon saved the day but grim reality was he often didn't and a lesson was learned about good out weighing evil. The Photographer from May 6th 1956....
The production duo of Macdonnell and Meston who created, directed and wrote the radio series (and some of the TV shows). Meston wrote or oversaw all the episodes in series long run. The duo's aim with the show was to give the western a true and "adult" view. Most westerns were created with kids in mind, shows like Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid and Red Ryder were very simple cowboy verses despertos or Indians or general bad guys. Gunsmoke was very different in the way it handled Native Americans and many episodes showed the bigotry and unfair treatment the Indians faced.
The cast with it's lead actor William Conrad did amazing jobs with the excellent scrips bringing the characters to life and take us back to new frontier during it's early days.
I'm going to pull out more of the very, very best episodes and some of my favorites and share on Listening to OTR.
No mans Birthday on OTR is more celebrated and meant nothing at all as Jack Benny's did...every year he turned 39! I love any reason to celebrate the late, great Benny who is wove himself into the American fiber and into the hearts of millions of fans. The most popular OTR comedy of the era Benny's program stretched from 1933-1955 and he did what not many radio stars did transition to TV and successful lasted there until 1965.
Famously Jack was born on February 14th 1894 as he joked "long before it was Valentine's day". Each year the Benny gang celebrated usually at Jack's expense. Here is a classic from 1954 Jack is 39 again!!!!!
So as a tribute this week I'm going to share some great shows as well as a great Tribute done in 1975 by NPR look for these in coming post on Listening to OTR.
Here is a gem, a rehearsal episode from 1955 with Bob Hope, Jack and Bob go on a double date...Enjoy!
Happy New Year! Now that it's 2016..... I've decided for next couple of weeks to focus on rare shows! These are shows that may have been a radio for years but there are only a few recorded episodes or things that just didn't catch on or unique genres that aren't considered the most popular OTR shows.
One of the saddest parts of early radio was almost the entire days shows were preformed Live and taping these live broadcast wasn't regular practice; unless the sponsor insisted on it like the Johnson's Wax Company recording almost all of the Fibber McGee and Molly broadcast. The recording process was difficult an half hour show would be recorded on to very large disc, much like records but not the vinyl LP's, these were very heavy and didn't hold much time on them. Then they needed to be stored and stationed didn't have the space or the staff to manage.
What we do have available are mostly AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service) show which were recorded to play later or sent overseas for the Military personal and recorded shows by fans or collectors. These have been edited and sound quality enhanced when possible.
For my first selection I pick a fun but short lived series starring Mickey Rooney called Shorty Bell. In the late 1930's Mickey Rooney was one of the biggest stars on the Big Screen, starring in the Andy Hardy series, a collection of movies with Judy Garland and a few classic drama like Boys Town with Spencer Tracy and nominated for a Oscar for Babes in Arms. He was drafted into WW2 and after his career slumped, no longer a teenager and not real leading man type, Mickey tried radio in 1948 on CBS. The show didn't last long but was a fun attempt. Here is the audition show were Mickey plays Shorty a crackerjack newspaper reporter.
It's finally the Holiday Season and that means Christmas decorations, cookies, presents, music and festive holiday entertainment like movies and TV shows and one my personal favorite holiday traditions is listening to Christmas Themed Old Time Radio shows!! The Golden Age of Radio is full wonderful episode from some of the very best OTR series. Memorable episodes some being rerun year after year for eager audience who made these shows part of their families holiday traditions (Much as we do with Charlie Brown and Rudolph on TV) Shows like Gunsmoke, a sober classic from Dragnet, Amos and Andy famous show with lords prayer, Fibber McGee and Molly, all the classic Hollywood movies with Holiday themes, Suspense, Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby singing all his classic Christmas songs like White Christmas....all types of shows from Comedies, Drama, Westerns, Kids Shows, Detective shows all had seasonal inspired episodes that help make the season more bright especially during WWII when so many families were apart.
So for the rest of the year I'm going to feature dozens of wonderful holiday shows...I'l feature Classics and some of my personal favorites that I try to listen to every year. Look for these great episodes on the LISTENING TO OTR page!
One of the shows that did the holiday season right every year was the Jack Benny Program. Jack would have several holiday themed show through out December with a annual episode with him throwing a Christmas party at his home in Beverly Hills, but the absolute best were his Christmas shopping episodes!!! The theme yearly was Jack going to the local Department store with Mary and selecting gifts for the whole gang. It used all the best Benny gags, his penny pinching and short temper and they best used his great cast of character actors to their best abilities; actors like Mel Blanc, Bea Benedrict, Frank Nelson, Sheldon Leonard and many more!!! but Don Wilson, Dennis Day, Mary Livingston, Phil Harris and Eddie Anderson all got into the mix to make them all-time great episodes!
So for my first selection I've picked 4 of the best episodes from these Jack Benny Christmas Shopping episodes but if you get a chance to here more they are all wonderful!!! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!!
There is no more improbable success story then the long amazingly popular radio career of Edgar Bergen. The very idea of a ventriloquist on radio being a smash hit boggling critics and peoples minds for years but it was built on the comic talent of Bergen and his pinnochio alter ego Charlie McCarthy.
Bergen would get his big break in radio on the Rudy Vallee Hour in 1937 and would be a overnight success. Bergen established the characters he would work from for the next 2 decades, the kind but stern Father figure to Charlie's naughty, wisecracking wooden boy. He proved so popular a year later the Chase and Sanborn Hour was created and Bergen and McCarthy the stars with Don Ameche. The show would be one of the top shows for the next 2 decades and it was all the popularity of Charlie McCarthy. Bergen the man behind the dummy was the sidekick and Charlie the star. So convincing was Charlie that people forgot he wasn't real.
One of the best gags was the mock Feud between Vaudeville star comic W.C. Fields and Charlie...So popular Fields would appear many times creating some of the best shows in the series.
Bergen would quickly add a second character Mortimer Snerd, a dunder headed anti-Charlie as quick witted Charlie was Mortimer was slow and goofy. Mortimer would be popular too but quite as much as Charlie...A third character Effie Klinker would premiere in 1944 a man crazy spinster, who never quite caught on.
Later in the shows run Bergen would bring on his own daughter Candice (Candice Bergen of Murphy Brown Fame). She would play the roll of Charlie's sister a role she played in way in real life.
Bergen would continue on until 1955 but never found a home on TV like other popular radio stars like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. His last appearance was a cameo in the Muppet Movie.
In honor of Halloween I'm going to share some of my favorite Horror shows from radios golden age...From shows like The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Mysterious Traveler, Suspense, Quiet Please, Mercury Theater, Hall of Fantasy and the greatest Horror show of all-time, Lights Out!!! (See more shows under Listening to OTR coming in the next 2 weeks!)
Lights Out was created in 1935 by the amazing Willis Cooper for NBC. Cooper created, wrote and produced the show and win instant praise for the writing sadly Cooper left the show in 1936 and handed over to the man who become a legend in radio writing, Arch Obler. Obler took over all Coopers duties and filled his shoes and then some. Obler created some of the most unique and memorable horror stories in entertainment history. The show was known for excellent writing and amazing sound effects.
Obler would leave the show 10 years later and recreate it in a new show in the 1970's called Devil and Mr. O.
Cooper would return to radio with a new series called Quiet please which had great horror shows of its own.
So listen to this Light's Out classic The Dark considered one of the best in the shows history!!!....and listen to it in the dark if you dare