Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24: Happy Birthday, F. Scott Fitzgeraldg

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as one of the greatest American novels of all time.  Fitzgerald gained a reputation as being urbane and sophisticated and a chronicler of the international experience of young socialites like him.

His relationship with his wife Zelda caught the nation's attention and helped define some of the panache of the Roaring Twenties.

In addition to Gatsby, Fitzgerald is the author of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned.  Since he was a celebrity author and author of legendary work, it was inevitable that his prose would be widely adapted for radio.

We salute Francis Scott Fitzgerald's birth on this day in 1896.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 22, 1943: Kate Smith's 'War Bond' airs for the last time

September 22, 1943: Vocalist Kate Smith’s campaign on the radio for war bonds came to an end. She accumulated an enormous thirty nine million dollars in thirteen uninterrupted hours of radio broadcast.

Kate was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom due to her talents on radio and off. She was a spokesperson for many products and spread a message of peace.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 21, 1948: 'Life with Luigi' began on CBS

September 21, 1948: The comedy series Life With Luigi aired for the first time on CBS. J. Carroll Naish appeared in the lead role. He also starred as Luigi Basko in the TV form of the show in 1952.

Life with Luigi was a radio sitcom that aired on CBS for four and half years, beginning in September of 1948 and ending in March 1953. It featured the story of Luigi Basco, an immigrant from Italy who became a newly-naturalized citizen of the United States. Irish-American actor J Carroll Naish was given the lead role.

Other characters on the show included the German Shultz (played by Hans Conreid), an immigrant and Luigi's classmate in his English class, and Pasquale (played by Allan Reed), an Italian-American who had a daughter named Rosa, whom he always set up with Luigi.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20, 1953: Jimmy Stewart debuts in 'The Six Shooter'

September 20, 1953: Jimmy Stewart was starred as Britt Ponset on the Western in his first appearance in an NBC program radio western ‘The Six Shooter’.

The well-known parts of the show were when Stewart would whisper during high drama scenes. Only 39 episodes aired on this show, lasting only one season. The classic radio western ended well, with Stewart's character proposing marriage.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19, 1932: Premier of Just Plain Bill on CBS

September 19, 1932: On this day in 1932, what could be described as just a plain day, Just Plain Bill premiered on CBS. As the program's tag line said, it was "The real life story of people just like people we all know."

Just Plain Bill was a serial soap opera with elements of suspense. The suspenseful aspect made Just Plain Bill rather unique. The show's story lines were more engaging than the classic soap opera standard.
The show ran for 15 minutes, Monday through Friday at 7:15 PM, and centered on (just plain) Bill Davidson and daughter Nancy, in (just plain) Hartville. Everybody in town came to Bill with their problems, since Bill was the town barber. and Bill helped his town mates set things straight. For the first time, it was not the usual organ that was played for the intro music, but a harmonica. Hall Brown played the instrument, performing "Darling Nellie Gray," the introduction music of Just Plain Bill. Hal also performed the closing theme ("Polly Wolly Doodle") in this manner. The show's creators, Frank and Anne Hummert, who also created Mr.Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, Little Orphan Annie, Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, Front Page Farrell, John's Other Wife, Mr. Chameleon, and a lot of other dramas, eventually transferred to NBC. Audiences were entertained for 23 years by Just Plain Bill, until its last airing on September 30, 1955. Kolynos toothpaste and Clapp's baby food were just two of Just Plain Bill's sponsors over the years.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18, Happy Birthday, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson

When people talk about African-American show biz pioneers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Hattie McDaniel, it's a bit surprising that Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's name doesn't come up a bit more often.  Anderson was the first Black actor to land a regular spot on the prevailing media of the time, radio.

In 1937, Anderson played the role of a porter on The Jack Benny Program and the rest is history.  He would later land the role of Benny's personal house man, Rochester.  The cachet from this huge radio program would allow the actor and comedian to land subsequent television roles.

Anderson was born into a show business family in Oakland, CA, the son of a minstrel performer and a tightrope walker. While Anderson started performing at a young age, it was a job outside of show business that would affect his later life.  Working as a newspaper salesman, he was in the habit of trying to shout as loud as possible to help his sales, and as a result, he injured his vocal cords.  As a radio performer, he'd showcase a raw, sandpapery voice.  We salute you, Rochester, on the day of your birth in 1905.