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.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26: Happy Birthday, Winston Churchill

October 26: Happy Birthday, Winston Churchill

One of the most quotable men of all time, Winston Churchill, contributed to old time radio with his amazing speeches.

One such speech came on the occasion of Hitler's invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941. "Hitler is a monster of wickedness," Churchill intoned into BBC microphones, "insatiable in his lust for blood and plunder. So now, this bloodthirsty gutter snipe must launch his mechanized army at the new fields of slaughter, pillage, and devastation."

Also broadcast on the BBC were speeches that go by the titles "War of the Unknown Warrior," "Give Us the Tools," and "These are Great Days," "We Shall Never Surrender."

Some rumors hold that it wasn't Churchill himself who delivered the speeches, but an actor, perhaps Norman Shelley, who did actually claim to have done so. In either case, it was Churchill who wrote the inspiring words.

The Prime Minister's first radio address came as German forces were marauding across France, and he took it as one of his most solemn duties to do his best, through his oration, to boost the morale of the Allies.

Churchill, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and an American mother, became British Prime Minister in 1940.

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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

October 17: Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth

A dancer as a child and actress and sex symbol as an adult, Rita Hayworth was born Margerita Carmen Cansino on this day in 1918.

Star of Gilda, Pal Joey, and Separate Tables, the stunning brunette was also once married to Orson Welles and romantically involved with Prince Aly Khan, Aga Khan's son.

But let's allow others to worry about her lovelife, her scandals and intrigues.  We're here to celebrate her radio performances: there were many.  She appeared on The Lux Radio Theatre, Gulf Screen Guild Theatre, The Pepsodent Show (hosted by Bob Hope), Suspense, and Command Performance.  On these top-flight shows, she acted alongside Cary Grant, Cecil B. DeMille, George Burns, and Angela Lansbury.

Hayworth was dashing and sensual, and has been recognized by collective memory as one of the great film actresses of all time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 16: Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde

Scandalous author, incurable wit, and patron saint of cheeky wags, Oscar Wilde was born on this day in 1854.  His work became a mainstay on radio, with plays such as An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Picture of Dorian Gray being regularly adapted.

His biting aphorisms make his work ideal for delivery by comedic radio actors.  Though he may have found the sentiment trite, we bid a happy birthday to playwright Oscar Wilde.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13: Happy Birthday, Tex McCrary

Hold on to your hats, buckaroos and buckarettes: today, we're bidding happy birthday to a public relations man!  It's no pretty business, working to protect corporations and other often-guilty parties.

But in addition to that line of work, Tex McCrary is often credited with being one of the pioneers of the radio talk-show format.

Born as John Reagan McCrary on this day in 1910, Tex broadcast two radio shows with his wife, Jinx.   Subjects were as weighty as venereal disease and the A-bomb.  On their show "Meet Tex and Jinx," the couple broadcast from a catbird seat just outside New York City's Waldorf-Astoria hotel.  They would grab celebs coming and going from the swanky lodging and cajole them into appearing on the air.  Thus the modern talk show was born.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

October 11, 1948 'The Brighter Day' debuted on CBS

October 11, 1948: America’s afternoon radio soap opera The Brighter Day showed up in the town of Three Rivers and remained on radio for 6 years. The program was based on Dennis and his children. Famous actors like William Redfield and Hal Holbrook were part of the program. Show’s sponsors Blue Cheer detergent, Ivory Soap flakes and Hazel Bishop Lipstick are still seen in the market today.

The Brighter Day was a radio soap opera that owed its beginning to the series Joyce Jordan, MD, where Joyce introduced the character of Liz Dennis. Liz's character became so popular that it resulted in the discontinuation Joyce's series.

The soap had both a radio and TV series, which were aired simultaneously. Other characters that gave life to the story included Liz's sisters Althea, Barbara, and Patsy, and their father Reverend Richard Dennis.