Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9, 1936: Edgar Bergen: A ventriloquist’s success

May 9, 1936: After months of their debut on Rudy Vallee's program, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy broadcast their own show on NBC. With help from W.C Fields, Don Ameche and Dorothy Lamour, the show was one of the top old time radio hits.

Edgar Bergen was an actor and a radio performer best known for his superb skill of being a ventriloquist. Along with Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, his dummy puppet, rose to fame from their radio performances.

Following his legal change of name from Berggren to Bergen, Edgar and Charlie were spotted performing at  a New York Party where they were offered a guest appearance in Rudy Vallee’s radio show.  Their first appearance in 1936 was so successful that they were offered their own show as part of The Chase and Sanborn Hour.

Their success in the radio often puzzles the critics since the radio audience cannot  the dummy (Charlie) or even Bergen’ ventriloquist skill. The radio ventriloquist duo is best remember for their hilarious quick wit and comedic timing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7: Happy Birthday, Gary Cooper

Lux Radio Theater was one of the chief homes of the radio work of Western film star Gary Cooper. On the legendary program, he starred in adaptations of his hit films "The Virginian," "The Pride of the Yankees," and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington."

Mr. Cooper lent his talents to Screen Guild Theater with adaptations of "Sergeant York," "A Farewell to Arms," and "Along Came Jones."

In 1947, the actor appeared on The Charlie McCarthy Show. In the same year, he also graced Philco Radio Time, hosted by Bing Crosby. The debonair screen star showed that he could shine on more than one medium. Let's give props to the star, born on this day in 1901.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 6, 1937: The Hidenburg Dirigible disaster of 1937

May 6, 1937: On this day, the  unforgetable recorded explosion of dirigible, Hindenburgh at Lakehurst,NJ was broadcast coast to coast by NBC Red and NBC Blue network from New York City. That event was reported by NBC's broadcaster, Herbert Morrison.

Herbert Morrison's eyewitness report of the Hindenburg Disaster from the actual site of the disaster was the most famous broadcast of that event. His report was actually aired the day after the event took place. One thing that was well-remembered about his report was his phrase "Oh, the humanity!" which became a part of the popular culture back then. His very passionate reporting, along with the breathtaking footage of the incident, caused the public and other industries to lose their faith in huge passenger airships.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5: Happy Birthday, Alice Faye

Alice Faye was born on this day in 1915, and took a somewhat circuitous path to eminence in the universe of old time radio. She started in vaudeville and went on to a brief but very successful film career.

Her leap to radio came from very personal circumstances. After ending her first marriage in 1940, Faye began a romantic relationship with radio icon Phil Harris. We know Harris has the hipster bandleader of The Jack Benny Show. After Faye married Harris, she joined him in his radio career. It began with their collaboration on the music show The Fitch Bandwagon, which aired on NBC. That show evolved into a sitcom and was re-named The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Their real-life marriage and family was re-created--to perhaps some small degree of realism--on the show, with actors playing equivalents or their two young daughters.

The couple remained married until Harris's 1995 death. Faye died three years later. We salute this talented actress and songstress.

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, May 2, 2013

May 2: Happy Birthday Hedda Hopper!

If Hedda Hopper looks like someone who should host a gossip show on the radio, chalk that up to one instance of order in the universe.  From 1939-'47 she did that very thing on a couple of networks with a few different sponsors.  The former actress and gossip columnist was nimble-tongued and clever, a good fit for the airwaves.

Later, she would turn her show into Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, a variety show with guests such as Bob Hope, Audey Murphy, and Humphrey Bogart.

Hopper's radio gossip began as a series of segments on Rudy Vallee's show.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1, 1947: Fred Allen and his unusual comedy

May 1, 1947: Fred Allen was the most frequently censored artist of his time. He was suddenly cut off the air while joking about the legendary network vice president.

Fred Allen was cut off rudely a number of times by his own network, NBC. Nevertheless, the most serious instance occurred when he called NBC vice presidents "molehill men." His exact line was "they came to work every morning at 9 o'clock and found a lot of molehills on their desks; then they had until 5 o'clock to make mountains out of them…"

The incident sparked serious strife within the network. The fight leaked out to the press, and Fred Allen took revenge against his censors by blasting them again with vicious statements, to which the network again reacted. From there, other shows started to join the feud.