Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWII. Show all posts

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14: Burl Ives

Whether it was his irascible personality in various motion pictures or as an animated host for playful reindeer, people instantly knew who Burl Ives was. Mr Ives had the voice that played to the radio audience because of its intrinsic calming quality and valued variance of intonation. Born June 14 of 1909, Burl Ives captured the American stage, movie and radio enclave with an almost operatic enhancement. One could say his first public performance was of him singing to a group of old soldiers. His uncle asked him to sing before the group and immediately his talents were noticed.

His early days had him partnered with the Boy Scouts of America as a spokesman and a former scout. Radio was a big part of Burl Ives, beginning with his first 1940’s radio program called The Wayfaring Stranger, where Ives first heard the news of WWII. Mr Ives continued to work on radio guest-starring on programs such as Bing Crosby, Martin and Lewis and Command Performance. He continued to parlay his hand with folk music, becoming part of the “The Almanacs”. As the war with Germany was going on, Burl Ives and his group could be seen around the country supporting the war effort and urging Americans to stay strong.

In 1947, Ives paired with the Andrews Sisters to record for Decca Records and held for weeks one of the highest selling recordings of the day. Although cleared of any communist sympathies, Burl Ives had to face the charges during the 1950s.

During this period, and into the 60’s, Mr Ives performed in various motion pictures. Into the 90’s, he was a great lover and performer of country music, stay involved in films and lent his voice to animated characters. He is probably most remembered as the host snowman for the classic , “Rudolph, The Red-nosed Reindeer”. Burl Ives was married twice and one son.

In 1995 he passed away from complications dealing with oral cancer. It has always been a well-known belief that Burl Ives personified joy and happiness in everything he did...and lived.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30, 1926: Happy Birthday Richard Crenna


If anyone had the acting prowess to change characterizations over the years, that was embodied in Richard Crenna. Born November 30, 1926, Crenna started his early years as a character actor for radio, eventually moving on to film and television. He grew up in Los Angeles and served his tour of duty as a radio operator in WWII. Upon his return after the conflict, Crenna attended college and took up acting. Richard Crenna began his radio legacy on The Great Gildersleeve as Walter “Bronco” Thompson. He played that role for 9 years, 1948-1957. His stimulus as a comic actor carried him over to do a duel run on another radio program from 1948 to 1952, as Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks. His portrayal as the affable and naive Mr Denton played well in attracting him handle television roles in similar character positions. He performed on the I Love Lucy program and  George and Gracie. In both guest star roles Crenna hit his mark as a “lacking worldly wisdom, but sure willing to learn” framework teenager. As he grew older and developed his skills, Richard Crenna starting playing rougher characters...most remembered as the iron-hide Colonel on the Rambo movies. During Richard Crenna's work on Judging Amy (2003), Richard Crenna passed away of a heart attack. For all the talent in Hollywood, very few actors have possessed the dimensional abilities that belonged to Richard Crenna.

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18: Happy Birthday, Richard Bernard "Red" Skelton


Richard Bernard “Red” Skelton came to be on July 18, 1913. This comedy genius made performing a part of his early years. If anything could be said suggest what began Skelton’s interest in performing it would have been his newspaper hawking days as a young boy. Red liked to patter off his “papers for sale” repeatedly until someone came by to buy his tabloid.  He was a classic buffoon inspired by his teens spent as a circus clown. By way of vaudeville and the stage, Skelton continued his artistry for undermining the ticket bone of Americans due his sixth sense for timing and ad-lib. As he grew, many of character creations (like Freddy the Freeloader) would make-up much of Skelton’s anthology of comic performance. Red Skelton made his appearance nationwide in films in 1932 when he came to Hollywood. After a couple of films, he made his entrance into radio 1937. he was such a hit from his first appearance on the Rudy Vallee Show, that he was asked to come back twice more to perform. Later he would host Avalon Time for NBC. By 1941 he was hosting a regular program on-air, The Raleigh Cigarettes Program; which had Ozzie Nelson and his band as the music accompaniment. Characters, such as Clem Kadiddlehopper and Junior, The Mean Widdle Kid, made their debut on this program. after a tour of duty during WWII, Skelton came back and did radio for a couple more years. He later performed on television and as a guest on a number of variety program. Red Skelton passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. With that passing went many of the memorable characters and laughs that only Red Skelton could convey.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29: Happy Birthday, Bob Hope

I don't know, I think Leslie Townes Hope would be a great name for a comedian and all-around show biz icon. LT Hope, perhaps. But we know the man born on this day in 1903 not by his birth name but as Bob Hope. Self-effacing but razor-sharp, wholesome but with a racy edge, Hope had wide appeal and will go down in history as one of the top comedians of the twentieth century.

Like all the big stars of the Depression and World War II eras, Hope was versatile enough to thrive in various media: film and radio, and later television. His biting monologues sizzled on the airwaves to American homes on The Pepsodent Show. He then began broadcasts on military bases, entertaining overseas troops, something for which he would go on to be best known.

1943 would take Hope into perilous locales in Sicily, Ireland, Africa, and England, with his USO troupe made up of Jack Pepper, Tony Romano, and Frances Langford. In the upcoming years, he'd entertain servicemen and servicewomen fighting in the Vietnam War and in Beirut, wherever there was an armed conflict. Often this would come in the form of a Christmas show. This service gained him the nickname #1 Soldier in Greasepaint.

Hope lived a hundred years and entertained for seventy of them. He is #1 in longevity and versatility. Happy birthday, Bob Hope!

Friday, May 9, 2014

May 9: Happy Birthday, Mike Wallace


While Massachusetts was Mike Wallace's 1918 birthplace, Michigan was the birthplace of his broadcasting career. Wallace was a writer and newscaster at WOOD in Grand Rapids, and then an announcer at Detroit's WXYZ. After his tour of duty in the Navy during the WWII, Wallace returned stateside and found employ as radio announcer in Chicago, doing the emcee duties for such shows as Sky King and Curtain Time. He got a higher-profile gig announcing for Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life.

It was then on to broadcast journalism with an interview show called Night Beat. Mike Wallace radio life was concluding as he would go on to television super-stardom, with his claim to fame being 60 Minutes. Wallace died in 2012.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12: Happy Birthday, Ann Miller



Today we commemorate the birth on this day in 1920 of charming and lovely screen actress Ann Miller. No flash in the pan or overnight success, Miller paid her dues and toiled for years before becoming a major film star.

She is reputed to have been discovered by Lucille Ball during a nightclub song and dance act, and went on to spectacular musical roles in such films as "Small Town Girl," "On The Town," and "Kiss Me Kate."

The versatile performer made a few, memorable radio appearances. Many of these were on the shows devoted to entertaining the WWII troops, including G.I. Journal and Command Performance. In 1940, she appeared in Forecast a series highlighting notable people from a particular state. Her episode took a look at Texas's Sam Houston.

Happy birthday, Ann Miller!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 13: Happy Birthday, Chuck Yeager



Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, was born on this day in 1905.  The pride of Hamlin, West Virginia, he enlisted in the Air Force and served in WWII.

Yeager made a few interesting radio appearances.  In 1951, he guested on The Bob Hope Show giving the host a ride in an airplane.

In 1953, The Hallmark Hall of Fame dramatized General Yeager's breaking of the sound barrier, with Raymond Burr, Lamont Johnson, and host Lionel Barrymore.  After the program proper, Yeager had a brief conversation with Barrymore.

Finally, he appeared in a brief clip on the series Eyes On the Skies, discussing the Ground Observer Corps.

One learns something new every day, right?  Happy birthday, Chuck Yeager.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25: Happy Birthday, Al Pearce


Born July 25, 1898, Al Pearce would early on become a name to remember...both musically and comically. The man who eventually penned the catchphrase, “Nobody home, I hope, I hope, I hope,” as a nervous door to door salesman, came to be one of the early on favorites to reach America at home. Pearce began his work history as a real estate salesman; but also did sang on-air for a glee club in San Francisco in 1928. He would later change over to comedy for KFRC in the Bay area, doing a sketch as a nervous door-to-door salesman...Elmer Blurt. 1928 was a busy year as Al Pearce began the Happy Go Lucky Hour for KFRC as Pearce and his gang grew in popularity as a musical-comedy hour. In 1932, the program moved over to a new network, Blue Network, airing Saturday evenings and twice weekday evenings. By the mid-30’s, his program brought on-board talents such as Arlene Harris and Morey Amsterdam. Pepsodent came along as a new sponsor and the show continued strong on NBC. His program bounced around between CBS and NBC for almost 10 years (1944). He would do guest spots for Armed Forces Radio during the waning days of WWII. Pearce was one of the few radio stars to gain a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1961, Al Pearce passed away. He would not be knocking on any more doors or heartstrings.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June, 30: Happy Birthday, Lena Horne

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917. This versatile lady would grown to become an inspiring actress, singer, dancer and involved in civil rights. This descendant of notable early American colonists, John C Calhoun; Lena Horne spent a very uninspired childhood shuffling from grandparents to mother to an uncle growing up. Her mother was involved in a roving black troupe and that had an early impact on Horne’s desire to entertain.

By 1933, Ms Horne became a part of the Cotton Club in NYC. She later became a part of Noble Sissle’s Orchestra, with whom she made her first recording with Decca Records. She then became the main vocalist for the The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street with NBC. during the 30’s and into the 40’s she made a few low-budget films. In 1944, Lena was featured in the radio mystery program Suspense, which featured her singing and acting as a nightclub performer. Also during the period of WWII, Lena Horne could be heard singing on radio programs like, Command Performance, Mail Call and G.I. Journal.

These on-air programs were major hits with the servicemen overseas. By the 1950’s and into the early 90’s, Ms. Horne would be seen on television programs with the likes of Bill Cosby and Frank Sinatra. She was very involved with civil rights issues that affected African-Americans. Lena Horne was married twice and had a son (passed away of kidney disease) and a daughter, Gail, that became a noted author. Lena Horne left this earth in 2010 after a heart attack. The Grammy award winning singer and actress had finally gone home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22: Happy Birthday, Paul Frees

June 22, 1920 was when American voice and character actor Paul Frees was born. Born Solomon Hersh Frees, his voice range that covered multiple octave levels made Frees a popular pick for voice characterizations over 40 years.

 To this day, some of his voice offerings can be found in the Disney company of entrees, including Walt Disney World. Beginning in 1942, Frees would extend his voice to cartoons, and other venues of entertainment...including commercials.

While beginning a career in radio, Frees was drafted into WWII and fought in the European theatre. Injured in Normandy, he would would convalescent for a year at home. His return to radio would endear him to millions of Americans as a voice actor in such popular programs as Gunsmoke and Suspense Theatre. In fact, if actor William Conrad was not the voice narration, Paul Frees would be heard giving the voice to Suspense. In the radio drama The Player , Frees handled all the parts; cast and storyteller.

Paul Frees talent ran into handling various dialects and into narration. Disney loved using Frees because of the versatility of his vocal talents. He would be the voice of Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, portraying a solid rendition actor James Mason’s voice...the performer from the movie. In the 1959 Disney hit, The Shaggy Dog, Frees came on -board the filming for a bit part as a psychiatrist. This was an example of the few times America actually caught a glimpse of the actor that was a voice of a thousand parts.

In November of 1986, Paul Frees lost his life to a heart attack at the age of 66. Whether it was hearing the snobbish Von Drake or the Little Green Pea of Green Giant commercials, America lost a talented voice.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11: Happy Birthday Gerald Mohr


On June 11, 1914, Gerald Mohr was born and appeared in radio, movies and television as one of the all-time favorite character actors. For 20 plus years, Mohr performed in radio as the tenacious gumshoe detective Philip Marlowe on radio in almost 120 radio plays.

Before this Gerald Mohr had been on a path towards becoming a doctor when he was stricken with an illness and taken to the hospital. During the stay he met a radio personality who invited him down to audition for an on-air position as a reporter. in the mid 1930’s he was invited by Orson Welles to join the Mercury Theatre.

By the late 30’s he had moved onto the screen as a villain in the Jungle Girl series. after his military time during WWII, Gerald Mohr began to perform in a number of hit westerns and other serial programs, which ran through the 1950’s. His screen presence made him a favorite to be cast as the tough guy or the murderous villain. His portfolio for hit shows grew until he was one of the most sought after actors to be in the weekly hits. He also made guest appearances on a few of the comedy hits as well, including the Jack Benny Show and George and Gracie. Mohr continued acting until 1969 when he was struck down by a heart attack while performing in Sweden.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9: Happy Birthday, Fred Waring

What does a famous American iconic blender and a famous bandleader have in common? That will become evident soon.

Fred Waring was born in 1900 and became one of America’s most well-beloved bandleaders and tv/radio personalities.

His band, “Waring Pennsyvanians” performed during the 1920’s for Victor Records and held incredible acclaim on the radio. He later added to the band by promoting glee style singing with the Robert Shaw Chorale through the 1930’s.

One of his signature aspects was that tuxedos were posh as the uniform of the chorale. His band was a huge promoter for war bonds during WWII which travel across the bulk of the contiguous United States.

He became a hotel owner when he purchased an Inn and named it the Shawnee Inn. When approached by an inventor to back a new creation of a food blender,

Waring jumped at the opportunity with the proviso his name be on the consumer device. Radio was not the only venue to have Fred Waring’s talents presented.

By the late 1940’s, Waring signed on with CBS and hosted a program, The Fred Waring Show. The choral style of music stayed put on the program for many years until the adolescent crowd wanted a hipper tone, so he combined chorale with the new music and was a hit for a season.

Waring was also a collector of comics and hosted a number of parties and shows that brought together the great talent of the time in comic art to showcase their creations. Fred Waring passed away in 1984. Thanks to Mr Waring, tuxedos never went out of style.

Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3: Happy Birthday, Norman Corwin


Today we salute an innovative and pioneering writer and producer, Norman Corwin. In 2011, Corwin died at the age of 101. He is known for his production of the broadcast "On a Note of Triumph," which trumpeted the Allied victory in World War II.

In 1938, Corwinbegan his noteworthy radio program Words Without Music. One of his next endeavors was Columbia Presents Corwin, which took flight in March of 1944. Corwin wrote the original scripts for the programs, each of which was a documentary-style look at the topic at hand. The inaugural episode was "Movie Primer," which looked at some of the pomposity of the movie business. For his thoughtful, high-quality programs, he tapped into the Rolls Royce of available talent: Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, and Everett Sloane, to name a few.

A later work of distinction was American in England, in which Corwin conducted man-on-the-street interviews with British folks during World War II.

Corwin would go on to win many awards and distinctions, ultimately making it into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25: Happy Birthday, Edward R. Murrow


The Michael Jordan of broadcast journalism. The Beethoven. The Ben and Jerry's. The google. Yet Edward Murrow has one up on all of them by having a high school named after him.

Edward Murrow was a man of principle, toiling feverishly to uphold journalistic integrity and high standards and to use reporting as a tool for supporting and enhancing democracy.

Bringing the horrors of World War II and the tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin into American living rooms, Murrow adopted a very descriptive style filled with visual imagery.

Upon returning from his daring European coverage of WWII, Murrow recorded an album called I Can Hear It Now, an account of his wartime experiences. His life was cut short in 1965, but he lives on as a pioneer and standard-setter for broadcast journalism.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22: Happy Birthday, Ann Sothern

January 22: Happy Birthday, Ann Sothern


The Adventures of Maisie crackled from radio speakers nationwide from 1945 to '52. It starred the vivacious Ann Sothern, who was born on this day in 1909. Star of film, television, and radio, Sothern may be best known for her Maisie character.

Maisie originated in the 1939 film of the same name. Maisie is a New York dancer who finds herself in adventures in Wyoming. The movie spawned a few sequels and then Sothern got to play the role in a radio adaptation of Maisie Was a Lady, produced by Lux Radio Theatre. A small empire was born, and the comic actress became a radio staple.

Like many talented lookers of the day, Sothern entertained the WWII troops and appeared at military hospitals. Reportedly, a plane was named Sothern Comfort in her honor.

She was a good friend of comedienne Lucille Ball. Ball once remarked, "the best comedienne in this business, bar none, is Ann Sothern."

Late in her life, Sothern retired to whence she had come, Ketchum, Idaho. She died in 2001.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9: Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas!

December 9: Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas!

Issur Danielovitch is considered one of the all-time leading American movie actors of all time. Issur, aka Kirk Douglas, holds the title of living all-time movie actor. Born in 1916, Kirk Douglas has spent over half a century as an actor, producer and author. As a youth, Douglas was on the wrestling team in college and worked as a gardener to pay for his college education. Kirk served in the military during WWII, which added credibility and expertise to the many war movies he performed in. Douglas’s career lent him opportunity to act in all types of movies; from a gladiator in Spartacus to riding the range with legendary John Wayne. Kirk Douglas made a few on-air radio appearances with certain legendaries, such as Jack Benny. Douglas was married twice and had four sons (including famous actor Michael Douglas), one of which he lost to a drug overdose in 2004. In his later years, Douglas returned to his religious roots of Judaism and is a staunch supporter of the people of Israel. Although his acting has curtailed significantly in his later years, Mr. Douglas still stands as a symbol of longevity and talent in a profession that sees the transition of many actors and actresses out of the limelight.To this date, Kirk Douglas commends the movie profession as a true art form that has depth and meaning.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 4: Happy Birthday, Iva Toguri D'Aquino (Tokyo Rose)

Probably one of the most misrepresented stories out of WWII, was that of the infamous “propagandist” Tokyo Rose. Iva Toguri was born on July 4, 1916 on American soil and eventually would be penned with the moniker Tokyo Rose, although it was more of a coverall name for any woman in Japan making propaganda radio broadcasts.

Toguri was stranded in Japan after making a visit there and Pearl Harbor having come under attack. Due to mistakes by the US State Department, Toguri did not have proper credentials to return to the United States. While in Japan she was employed by Radio Tokyo.

After refusing to renounce her allegiance to the US. Miss Toguri had to settle for work as an alien in Japan. While with Radio Tokyo, She was encouraged to become the on-air voice for a program, Zero Hour, that was produced and performed by prisoners of war. Penning herself the name “Orphan Annie,” Iva Toguri performed comedy routines and played music to the servicemen that were in the Pacific. In all the broadcasts made, no form of scripting demonizing the USA was ever found, yet her time on the show made by an enemy radio station would come back to haunt her in the United States years later. Hers was a sarcastic approach to humor and she loved her birth country very much and she refused to ever speak against America.

After the war she was able to return to the United states, but events occurred that would eventually place in prison for “treason” and , later, a pardon from President Gerald Ford. One time married, her husband was never able to return to this country and they were separated the remainder of their lives. In September of 2006, Iva Toguri passed away at the age of 90.