But first I wanted to start this Christmas with special selection for kids of all ages...
It's the holiday season again and for the nest couple week I thought it would be fun to post some fun holiday themed episodes from some of my favorite shows like Fibber McGee and Molly, My Favorite Husband with Lucille Ball, Chase and Sanborn Hour with Bergen and McCarthy, My friend Irma, The Falcon, Joan Davis Show, Vic and Sade, Lum and Abner, The Red Skelton Show and many more.
But first I wanted to start this Christmas with special selection for kids of all ages...
First... Airing during the holiday season of 1938 Jonathan Thomas and Christmas on the Moon ran as a daily serial between Thanksgiving and Christmas for 26 episodes. The story follows 6 year old Jonathan who finds out that Christmas may not come this year because Santa has been kidnapped and is being held on the Moon! Jonathan is aided by silly characters all trying to save Santa and Christmas. Here is the first episode of the series I will post more episode on LISTENING TO OTR...Pull the kids up and listen them and see if Jonathan can save the day!
During this Thanksgiving season I want to highlight some wonderful Thanksgiving themed episodes from some of our favorite shows. See these coming in the coming days LISTENING TO OTR!
To start us off...Here is a special episode of the popular variety show Command Performance airing for the troops on Thanksgiving day 1944. The show was hosted by Lionel Barrymore featured Dinah Shore and comedian Wally Brown and had a fun featurette of Fanny Brice as Baby Snook being a real turkey to Daddy.
Command Performance was called "the best wartime program in America" though most American's never heard it. The show was created for the entertainment of the troops overseas during World War II. All the talent that appeared on the show worked for free and attracted the absolute biggest stars from Radio, Stage and Movies. The shows were created from letters of actual service men requesting to hear their favorite girl singer, radio comedian or Big Band. It appeared exclusively on the Armed Forces Radio Service a short wave network broadcast out to troops all over the world. Known for it's annual Christmas Eve Holiday show, the 1942 show was heard by the services men and the audience at home as well a first for the series. When the War ended so did the show.
One of the most popular genre of radios golden age was detective stories. Mystery stories intrigued listens through out the entire 30 years, private investigators, police detective, private detective and people of all walks solved crimes. These shows gave listeners just enough clues to solve the crime but not before they could have their favorite detectives figure out the whole crime and tell them the facts. Characters created by some of the greatest mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Raymond Chandler. The shows were full of famous actors’ form screen, stage and radio, played some of the most well-known sleuths on radio. Dick Powell, Alan Ladd, Basil Rathbone, Jack Webb, Bob Bailey, Howard Duff, Gerald Mohr, and John Lund.
Here is my list of the 5 Best Detectives of the Golden Age of Radio...
5) Yours Truly Johnny Dollar
“America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” started a long run 1949 on CBS starring Charles Russell as Dollar Edmund O’Brien, John Lund, Gerald Mohr, Bob Bailey, Bob Readick and finally Mandel Kramer would all play the “man with the action-packed expense account”. The show played until 1962 and with Suspense was the last shows from golden era. The Bob Bailey/Jack Johnstone era was considered it’s best run the show went from weekly 30-minute show to a 75-minute broken into daily 15-minute serial episodes. Bailey played Dollar less like a gumshoe Detective but more like true investigator. The most unique part of the show was the listing of expenses incurred during the investigation which made it unique to other shows of its kind.
4) The Adventures of Sherlock Homes
Created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Homes was pretty much the most perfect character to transition from novels to radio. Homes tended to explain things a lot talking to his friend Doctor Watson which pretty much how radio worked. Starting in 1935 and running until 1955 (though BBC would continue Sherlock radio stories for years and years to come) had many distinguished British actors but most famously Basil Rathbone as Homes and Nigel Bruce as Watson who played the characters in 16 movies. The series used the novels in the beginning but later ran out of stories so original plays were created. A format of Watson as narrator telling the thrilling exploits of his genius friend was adopted. Ever clever Homes was the intellectual Detective and always solved the mystery.
3) Box 13
Starring movie star Alan Ladd Box 13 ran for a short time from 1948 to 1950, Ladd played Dan Holiday a retired newspaper reporter who was writing a novel he ran an ad reading “Adventure wanted-will go anywhere, do anything-Box 13”. This ad brought in all kinds of mystery and adventure. Ladd was a veteran radio actor and did a great job as Holiday. Less episodes then most on this list but all are top notch Detective stories.
2) Richard Diamond, Private Detective
Dick Powell was the perfect actor to play the wise cracking singing detective. Running from 1949 to 1953 (On NBC, ABC and CBS). Diamond was funny and less gritty as other detective shows of the era. Powell who was known for being song and dance man in movies brought the right flair to the character of very ex-cop. His relationship with girlfriend Helen Asher and Lt. Walt Levinson highlighted his sarcastic wit and made show less gritty and more lighthearted. The shows character was created by a young Blake Edwards (Pink Panther Movies) in first radio writing gig. Diamond often played the piano and sang each week which made the show different from other Detective series.
And #1 Detective show of old-time radio….
The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
Famously created by Raymond Chandler Phillip Marlowe ran on radio form 1947-1950 cast first by Van Heflin but famously switching to Gerald Mohr. Mohr was right actor for the role and his distinct voice was perfect for the character. The opposite from Richard Diamond this show was tough and hard-boiled detective, the lines ran like classic detective lingo. “Listen good” and “Get this straight Mister” this was an action show and Marlowe was a tough guy through and through. This was Detective story telling at radios very best!
Here is one of the very best shows for series!!!!
Let me know what do you think are these Top 5 is someone not on the list you think should be???
Give me your comments and look for future posts on LISTENING TO RADIO of other great detective shows!
The up and down career of Groucho Marx is remarkable. Wildly popular on Broadway and in films with 1930's along side his brothers. Groucho didn't fair as well on radio taking awhile to find a vehicle for his quick wit. The show did come along that showcased his talents and made him a star again, YOU BET YOUR LIFE. A simple game show which had Groucho interviewing all types of common people was a hit on NBC. So NBC made sure his star made the rounds on show and no show showcased as well as THE BIG SHOW, NBC showcase of talents that came all long as TV started to steal the Radio audience.
This beautiful Blaupunkt radio was a staple in my family home growing up. It sat most of my life in our kitchen on top of the refrigerator and we listened to music and news mostly from WJR-AM "The great voice of the Great Lakes"...We'd wait for school closing on snowy days and catch OTR shows that local stations would rebroadcast.
As a tribute to my Dad (who past away in 2016) I have a couple of my Father's favorites as a child...Enjoy!
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 the Big Show premiered NBC had all 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...all switched networks by Paley 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 by CBS radio 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 her deep husky 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!