Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27: Happy Birthday, Dashiell Hammett

Today, dear fans of classic radio, we blow out the candles and celebrate the birthday of author Dashiell Hammett, born this day in 1894.

The debonair writer gave us The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, and Red Harvest. These works were, yes, adapted into fine radio broadcasts.

You may know that Hammett learned about the life of a gum-shoe detective by being one himself. He was employed by the Pinkerton agency from 1915-21, an experience that caused him great moral dilemmas and had a profound effect on him. It also had an effect on American letters, giving us the immortal character Sam Spade.

You may recall the great radio series based on the Maltese Falcon protagonist, The Adventures of Sam Spade. Produced by William Spier and starring, first, Howard Duffe, and later, Steve Dunne, the great radio program ran from 1946-1951.

Without the mind who birthed the words on the page, we wouldn't have these wonderful programs, so we salute Dashiell Hammett!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26: Happy Birthday, John Wayne

Hey, pilgrim, you didn't think John Wayne was one of those movie stars who didn't appear on radio, did you? One of today's birthday boys, originally christened Marion Morrison, the Duke made many memorable appearances on the biggest classic radio shows.

He crackled over the airwaves on Lux Radio Theater with adaptations of "Red River," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," and "Movie Time, USA."

Wayne, of course, is a symbol of American manhood, or at least a certain variety of it. He was a supporter of the Vietnam War, a staunch conservative, and a bar fighter who could mix it up with the best. His swaggering walk and even more swaggering speech made him one of the biggest movie stars of all time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23: Happy Birthday, Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw was a master of swing, one of the leading bandleaders of the Big Band Era. At the tender age of fifteen, he heard that calling and left his New Haven, CT home to begin making noise. He'd already learned the clarinet and saxophone, and wanted to be a pro.

His Artie Shaw Orchestra utilized the considerable talents of one Billie Holiday, and had a huge hit with "Begin the Beguine."

His notoriety as a bandleader landed him a gig broadcasting on CBS radio from November of '38 'til a year later. His shows were concerts from the Blue Room of the Hotel Lincoln in NYC.

Though he left the business mid-career, Shaw brought joy into the lives of millions with his swinging clarinet. Happy Birthday, Artie!

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20: Happy Birthday, Jimmy Stewart

It's only natural that a man with a voice as distinctive as Jimmy Stewart's would have a good time with radio. Of course he's known as a huge movie star, but he spent more than his share of time in front of a radio microphone as well.

Stewart, whose birthday we celebrate today, made frequent appearances on classic radio mainstays such as Screen Guild Theater, Lux Radio Theater, and Silver Theater. He also starred in Six Shooter from 1952-'54.

Some of the productions to which Stewart lent his talents on air include "It's a Wonderful Life," "Winchester '73," and "Destry Rides Again."

Later he would host a show called "Good News," a promotional venture for MGM. On this show, he'd interview MGM stars with upcoming films. So next time the name Jimmy Stewart comes up, remember his radio career and that he wasn't just a movie star.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18: Happy Birthday, Perry Como

Mr. Perry Como was born on this day in 1912. His show biz career spanned half a century, including his exploits as a singer and also as a radio and TV personality.

In 1943, Como signed on with RCA Victor records and began churning out an amazing string of hits, such as "When You Were Sweet Sixteen," "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," "Because," and "Forever and Ever."

Radio played a big part in Como's life, and not just for playing his songs. He'd begun as a singer in a traveling band led by Ted Weems. When he became a family man, Como decided to quit the road life and was set to begin a middle-class life as a barber. However, an offer of a CBS radio show was what kept him in show business. The RCA recording contract would come not long after.

Radio also made Como the highest paid performer at that time--he earned this big salary as the host of Perry Como's Kraft Music Show. We're glad he didn't become a barber--a close shave to say the least.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15, 1933: Irna Philip's Scripted Soap Opera Debut on NBC

 

May 15, 1933: Scripted and produced by Irna Phillips, the radio soap opera ‘Today's Children’ debuted on NBC.

Creditted for writing many of the first American soap operas, Irna Phillips was a talented American actress and writer.

After working as a writer on a day-time talk show, Irna Phillips penned the soap opera, Painted Dreams. She tried presented the serial series for airing over Chicago’s WGN during daytime broadcasts. The WGN Manager, Henry Selinger, matched the original daytime serial with sponsors that that offered products for women. Phillips continued to write the radio soap opera scripts and starred in the first episode.

Disputes about ownership of Painted Dreams serial forced Philip to moved to station WMAQ. Later She changed Painted Dreams to Today’s Children. Philips received fame and criticism regarding Today's Children scripts.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11: Happy Birthday, John Michael Hayes

Only so many screenwriters become the subject of biographies, and John Michael Hayes is one of them. He was the subject of Steven DeRosa's Writing With Hitchcock which chronicled his screenwriting work for the famed director in the 1950s.

In radio's golden age, the medium attracted the best talent, and Hayes was no exception. When not writing Hitchcock movies, Hayes wrote for such radio smashes as The Adventures of Sam Spade, Inner Sanctum, and Sweeney and March. He wrote an episode of Spade called "The Chargogagogmanchogagogchabunamungamog Caper," the name purportedly coming from a river in Webster, MA.

We salute Hayes on the day of his 1919 birth. Thanks for the scripts, John!