Radio Program Reviews
September 10, 1949
Cavalcade of America
This season marks the 15th year DuPont has sponsored Cavalcade of America. The current series follows the same time-tested format utilized on previous broadcasts—dignified, ultra-conservative, historical drama, substantially educational, and with carefully worded commercials to paint big business as the people’s benevolent benefactor.
DuPont’s initial offering this season, Wire to the West, dramatized the successful efforts of Hiram Sibley, founder of Western Union, to consolidate various U.S. telegraph interests under one head and build America’s first transcontinental line (1860). According to the script, which side-stepped such controversial issues as Indians or land-grabbing, Sibley’s most formidable obstacle was the high price of poles in Utah.
Brigham Young quickly liquidated that problem, tho, and Sibley completed the estimated two-year project in less than five months. Sibley’s smooth road may be historically accurate, but his strifeless struggles made for dull drama, in spite of the scripter’s obvious effort to imbue the yearn with human interest.
Raymond Massey brought the authoritative presence of great actor to his role of Hiram Sibley, and the able supporting players turned in competent performances. Narrator Ted Pearson was particularly outstanding.
The drama’s impressive background music was the most colorful segment of the show.
Sparked by several reiterations of the DuPont slogan, “Maker of better things for better living thru chemistry,” the commercials were suitably astute and smoothly delivered. DuPont is making a dignified stock-selling pitch to women this year, and the highspot of last week’s commercial was the introduction of the corporation’s 100,000th stockholder, an equally dignified school marm. With a little prodding, she waxed enthusiastic over her recent to the DuPont plant (i.e. “they all looked so industrious, especially the executives”), and told the gals how easy it is to buy stock. All you need is the money. —June Bundy
It’s no longer news that Dennis Day is a gifted comedian with an acute sense of gag-timing and a remarkable flair for mimicry. Day has an instinctive knack (common to all top comedians) of blending comedy with pathos. His sympathetic characterizations of a simple, good-hearted, young schmo—whimsical, wistful and incredibly naive—seems to get better every year.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of his scripts. The current series teed off with a cleaned-up take-off on an old blackout skit, and some of the gag implications were in questionable taste (i.e., “I’ve missed my wife’s liver and her leg of lamb . . . Molten mouth mamma, you rang your ding dong daddy’s bell”).
Day’s forte is wholesome situation-comedy and he doesn’t need double entendre material to get laughs. His soap-selling appeal for family-type audiences alone should be sufficient reason to keep it clean.
In spite of the incongruous lines, tho, Day and a competent cast set a bright pace and the show moved along smoothly. The initial episode revolved around Dennis’s decision to make his girl friend, Mildred, jealous, so she’d forget about Terry, a lifeguard she’d met on vacation. In the process he solicited the aid of Madame de la Tour, a visiting Parisian who claimed to know all there is to know about “l’amour.”
Doubling on vocals between acts, the versatile tenor was in fine voice on three widely divergent numbers, a corned-up, pseudo-hillbilly tune, Hand-Holdin’ Music (a plug for his new Victor disk), the sprightly My One and Only Highland Fling and a lyrical rendition of Younger Than Springtime. Day’s songs should be worked into the script, tho, instead of serving as curtain waits.
The slick commercials followed the usual “Palmolive facial” routine, the pitch being that “two out of every three women, regardless of age, can find new beauty in 14 days,” followed by detailed instructions in the art of face-washing. Me, I’m dirty. —June Bundy.
Polio: A Special Report
The fear and panic which many mothers have felt during the polio epidemic met a firm and reassuring reply when the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) presented this documentary giving the facts and shattering the misinformation about the disease. Produced in collaboration with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), the show warned against fleeing from the city or keeping children out of school. It was stressed that normal surroundings are safest.
Worked into the show were comments by Dr. Hart E. Van Riper, medical director of the NFIP, several other leading medical lights who are working for polio preventatives and some tape recorded remarks by polio victims. These were quite touching and courageous, while the medics offered hope of an early preparation of anti-polio vaccines.
The show emphasized that the majority of those who become victims of the disease do not have permanent after-effects, and those who do are not necessarily permanently lost to society. Franklin D. Roosevelt, founder of NFIP, was held up as the leading proof of this, and replaying of some of FDR’s words on the subject was dramatic and effective.
Productionwise, the show could have moved more smoothly. Also, Dr. Van Riper, who had a good deal to say, was not the best script-reader in radio. But by and large, the stanza had a votal message to deliver, and it was done well. —Sam Chase