Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29: Happy Birthday, Jack Pearl

Vass You dere, Sharlie?  That was the question, at least from Jack Pearl's Baron Munchhausen character to the straight man, Charlie, brought to life by Ben Bard and the Cliff Hall, who didn't always believe the good Baron's tall tales.

Pearl, born in one of the world's show biz capitals, New York City, started in Vaudeville and took his comedy act to radio in 1932 on The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.  It was on that program that the outlandish German caricature, Baron Munchhausen, was born.  Let's recall, though, that he also starred as the host of The Lucky Strike Hour from '32-'34.

Today we celebrate the 1894 birth of the comedy star Jack Pearl.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 1947: This is Nora Drake' started its decade-long run on NBC

October 27, 1947: Radio soap opera This is Nora Drake debuted on NBC. The show mainly revolved around solving domestic, communal, and child upbringing issues. The program reached its end in January of 1959.

Airing for over a decade, This is Nora Drake featured the story of Nora, portrayed initially by Charlotte Holland and then later by actresses Joan Tompkins and Mary Jane Higby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 22: Happy Birthday, Joan Fontaine

The lovely Joan Fontaine led a colorful and unusual childhood, alternately living in California and Japan.

As soon as she struck adulthood she began auditioning for Hollywood film roles, racking up a spree of parts in B-movies.  A breakthrough role was in Hitchcock's Rebecca, in which she co-starred with Laurence Olivier.

The radio producers new she even sounded pretty, and snapped her up for parts in adaptations of contemporary dramas.  In this capacity, she appeared on Lux Radio Theater, Screen Guild Theater, and Theater Guild on the Air.

Born in 1917, Fontaine is now an American treasure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21: Happy Birthday, Carleton Young

Ohhh, do we gave a good one today!  If you're a knowledgeable devotee of radio's yesteryear, you live for a figure like Carleton Young.  He was the star of a strange, obscure and short-lived radio series called Whisperer.  If you remember this one, you're doing well!  Young's character was the lawyer Philip Gault, who'd gotten into a car accident in which his voice had been reduced to a creepy whisper. He figured while he was at it, he'd infiltrate organized crime cells and lead them to the police.

As interesting as that sounds, Young's output as an actor across his career was just as colorful, including parts it a panoply of projects included Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Reefer Madness, the original (1937) Dick Tracy, and From Here To Eternity.  We wish a happy birthday to Mr. Young, who got started on this day in 1905.

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20: Happy Birthday, Arlene Francis

Today marks the day on which, in 1907, "What's My Line" regular Arlene Francis was born.

Francis was a New York native and a Finch College graduate, who achieved a relatively painless entry into show business. Her first big play appearance was when she was a mere 21, and she would go on to act in 25 Broadway plays.

Radio-wise, the fetching starlet joined the cast of the intelligent and challenging game show "What's My Line?"  The show was hosted by John Charles Daly and featured, along with Francis, high-brow personages such as Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Kilgallen.

One thing to recall about "What's My Line?" is that in addition to the main guessing game, the panelists also attempted to divine the identity of a mystery guest at the show's end.  MG's included Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich and a host of others.

Thanks for the memories, Arlene!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19: Happy Birthday, John Lithgow

Terms of Endearment, The World According to Garp, Footloose, and Shrek.  Not a bad resume for an actor, and all of these film credits belong to John Lithgow.

The serious and cerebral-appearing Lithgow also appeared in many episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  Not long before his all-important roles in Garp and Endearment, Lithgow lent his voice to such episodes of RMT as "Alien Presences," "The Dagger of Almohades," and "Portrait of an Assassin."

Another tidbit is that Lithgow played Yoda on NPR adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  We wish him a happy birthday!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October 18, 1943: Debut of Perry Mason Radio Program

October 18, 1943: Debut of Perry Mason on the Radio!
Isn't it true that America's favorite courtroom drama began on radio today in 1943?
Isn't it true that the author of the novels on which it is based withdrew his support for a primetime version of the daily serial version?
Isn't it true that the radio version later came to TV transformed into "the Edge of Night"?
Isn't it true it's Perry Mason?
Well, isn't it?
Earl Stanley Gardner despised the Perry Mason radio version of his work, and would only support a TV version if it adhered more closely to his novels, which it did with Raymond Burr in the lead role.