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Radio’s Gold-Plated Screwballs
George Burns and Gracie Allen, CBS

Merrymakers, Are Sensible,
Down-to-Earth Folk off the Air

As Gracie Allen she’s a nitwit of the airways, a chirruping, dithering damself of many words and absolutely no sense.  But as Mrs. George Burns, Gracie is an intelligent, charming and witty housewife, mistress of a lovely home and the devoted foster mother of two children.

For more than twenty years, George and Gracie lived out of trunks, for they were troupers, ever on the go.  But several years ago they settled down to radio and movie work, built a twelve-room house in California and adopted Sandra Jean and Ronnie.

Their new life has been rich and happy.  Gracie’s talents easily swung into domestic channels.  Like every other homemaker, concerned with the coming generation, Gracie takes the war effort seriously.  She and George have toured many Army camps as far from home as the East Coast.  They are now making shorter trips to boost the war-bond drive.  The American Women’s Voluntary Services recently dedicated the “Gracie Allen Canteen” for servicemen.  Gracie privately backs this canteen and serves as a hostess.

Gracie is a serious student of first aid, and spends several nights a week attending Red Cross classes.  She practises on the family—usually with better results than those shown in the picture below.  Yes, Gracie Allen is doing her part.

GEORGE AND GRACIE, heard on CBS Tuesday nights, are among radio’s most famous and successful zanies.  The couple are sensible married folk off the air, proud of home and kids.

-Movie Radio Guide
October 24, 1942 edition

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In memory of Tony Curtis, OTRCAT has posted a couple of old time radio episodes in which Tony guest starred—including an episode of Suspense (McKat College Basketball Scandal, 09-24-1951) and an episode of Martin & Lewis from February 29, 1952.

Listen here!

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August 11th in Radio History – Free MP3 Files 

August 11, 1932
Pittsburgh Press

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President Hoover is going to have things pretty much his own way on the ether waves at 10 o’clock tonight.  The city’s three chain stations, KDKA, WCAE and WJAS will carry the formal notification speech and Mr. Hoover’s acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination.  KDKA will be doing a triple job; broadcasting on the regular frequency, short waving on 6140 and 11.870 kilocycles.  If you prefer music—KQV and WWSW.

Pittsburgh, at least, must have reached that prosperity corner—here’s nothing but an an announcement that Eddie Peyton, the operator of that hot night spot not far from downtown is going on the air every night over WJAS at 11:30.  Anyway, Jimmy Murray, the press agent, says it’s so.  There was some smoke but no fire about putting Russ Columbo on the air when he hits town tomorrow night.  But somehow there was a slip:  the story seems to be that an NBC artist can’t do his stuff over a station on the rival Columbia chain.

But going back to that political business again; we wonder if the Republicans are paying for that time tonight.  Probably night.  The chains got together the other day and agreed that from now until the fall elections—“pay as you go” on political speeches.  But this event tonight is something the stations fight to get.  The United Press comes through with the story that the companies anticipate a million dollars worth of business this election but so far—nothing doing.  Maybe that approximately $16,000 an hour for a nation’s hook-up has something to do with it, huh?

Maybe, like Gracie Allen, we “weren’t in the mood for it” last night, but it seemed as though the clever comedy team had lost some of its usual punch.  Or maybe we’re wrong.  The way they took the pronunciation of the names Colonel Stoopnagle and Bud was rather amusing, though.

In the day’s post come a couple of hints from “A Radio Fan.”  He—or she—says “the artists at WWSW who put on the ‘Behind the Kitchen Door’ spoil an otherwise exceptionally good and original program by the lady taking the part of a maid.  It is distorted, as no maid would ever dare to talk back to an employer as she does—or would any employer permit it.”  That sounds reasonable.  The Radio Fan continues “The Goldman Band on KDKA gives a program which, in my humble opinion, cannot be equalled.  But why give us a long list of classical compositions and then render at the very most but four?”  And now, dear Radio Fan, about your complaints about the Goldberg and Amos ‘n’ Andy advertising—our friend and regular conductor of this column, Si Steinhauser, who is far, far away from the job on vacation, has often and very pointedly expressed his opinion of all long-winded advertising talks.

Somehow or other, we get a funny kick out of the way some of these orchestras jazz up these sentimental tunes—you know, shrieking clarinets and heavy brass effects on a tune similar to “Somebody Stole My Gal” like Johnny Johnston’s orchestra last night on WWSW.  But it’s all right with us.

Listenin’ in on the chatter at KDKA yesterday:  Bill Rose, continuity writer and guardian angel of many a struggling entertainer, now wears the title of “Production Man.”  Congrats, Bill.

A peep into the future—via the press agents—shows that Dr. Sigmund Spaeth, the famous “Tune Detective,” will begin a new series of programs tonight under the monicker of “The Song Sleuth.”  KDKA at 8:15.

WWSW promises a new program, an hour of dance music from Webster Hall every Sunday afternoon from 5 to 6—played by Bill Cowden and his orchestra.  Remember?  They furnished the music for many of the flights of the Mythical Dirigible, piloted by Joe Sartory and Jerry Wyman.

It’s often asked:  “What do radio stars do with their money?”  P. A. (press agent) rises to the occasion again—this time to inform the world that the Boswell Sisters, Columbia stars, put every penny they earn, except $100 a week each, into a trust fund which they cannot touch for at least 10 years.  So that’s that.

Pity the poor reporters—what a ride they were taken for with Jack Benny last night.  One came puffing into the program to get some information—he was looking for some dope on that program.  Jack said he must mean Paul Small.  The program—good as usual.

If you were listening for Senator L. J. Dickinson last night and didn’t hear him, blame it on the chain; the program was cancelled at the last minute.

WWSW’s scoop last night, the Leonard-Walker fight broadcast was all wet—or almost so.  Threatening weather forced a postponement until tonight. — C. B. K.

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Jack Benny Christmas Shows

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Before television, Christmas generally included a well-loved or much anticipated radio show with a Christmas theme.  Not a year went by when a special presentation of “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, or a Disney movie converted into a radio play was not heard!  And Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without a special Jack Benny Christmas episode—the best of which, consisted of Jack and Mary shopping for Christmas presents for the gang.  This most hilarious of all of Jack Benny’s Christmas shopping shows, consisted of Jack shopping for a particular item to give to Don Wilson, his announcer.

It all started in 1946 when the ever-thrifty Jack Benny decided to buy shoelaces for Don.  Shoelaces for Christmas?  Well, that’s just the Jack was!  Cheap!  Hilarity ensued when Jack couldn’t decide on plastic-tipped or metal-tipped shoelaces.  As soon as Jack would step away from the counter, he would change his mind.  Metal-tipped shoelaces tend to rust, but plastic-tipped shoelaces tend to crack.  The show would always end with the clerk (played by Mel Blanc) going insane.

The next such Christmas show was in 1951 when Jack bought cuff links for the hefty Don Wilson, but made several trips back to the counter to change the engraving.  In 1952, Jack bought a gopher trap; in 1953 he bought a box of dates and in 1954 he bought a paint set.  Included below are also the 1947 and 1950 episodes, both of which make reference to the 1946 shoelace episode, but don’t include the back-and-forth shopping routines.

I just quickly threw these episodes together, so if I’m missing any of the classic “shopping for Don” episodes, let me know!

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

12-08-1946 – Jack Benny buys shoelaces for Don – MP3

12-21-1947 – The Jack Benny Show – Last minute Christmas shopping – MP3
(Reference to the “shoelaces episode”)

12-17-1950 – Jack Benny buys golf tees for Don – MP3
(Reference to the “shoelaces episode”)

12-02-1951 – Jack buys cuff links for Don – MP3

12-14-1952 – Jack buys a gopher trap for Don – MP3

12-27-1953 – Jack buys a box of dates for Don – MP3

12-05-1954 – Jack buys a paint set for Don

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September 17, 1944
St. Petersburg Times

Gracie Allen Says. . .

 

HOLLYWOOD—It’s amazing how quickly French fashion designers got back into production after the liberation of Paris.  I understand it was possible because they kept working underground during the Nazi occupation.

That’s wonderful, but imagine the styles they may bring out after spending four years underground.  Instead of sable and mink we may have mole and ground hog.  Why the whole fashion world may turn upside down.  Instead of flowers and birds on our hats we may have roots and gophers.

I think we women ought to band together and refuse to wear any such silly hats.  let’s just keep our sensible, conservative last year’s models—with oil derricks, bird cages, waffle irons, etc.  I have one built like an aircraft carrier—and when I bend over a little airplane takes off.  And I’m keeping it—none of those silly hats for me.

Burns & Allen – 08-29-1944 – No Money for the Auction

 

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Television Reviews
09-11-1954 & 09-12-1954

Mickey Rooney Show
Cast:  Mickey Rooney, Regis Toomey, Claire Carleton, Carla Balenda, John Hubbard, Joey Forman, Alan Mowbray
Writers:  John Fenton Murray and Benedict Freedman
Director:  Leslie Martinson
Producer:  Joseph Stantley
Sponsored by Green Giant and Pillsbury Mills thru Leo Burnett Company
(NBC-TV, 8 to 8:30 p.m., EDT, August 28)

[Note:  The first episode of “The Mickey Rooney Show,” a.k.a. “Hey Mulligan” can be watched at Internet Archive by clicking here.  More episodes are available to watch free online.]

The debut of the new Mickey Rooney show, subtitled “Hey Mulligan,” was mostly slapstick.  Rooney carried off his pratfalls with a bewildered air that was usually quite funny.  But towards the end of the half hour, the stunts began to seem too mechanical and studied, especially since each one was automatically punctuated with a canned roar of laughter.

If the slapstick can be restrained from going too far and if the show’s other assets are given a chance to pay off, “Hey Mulligan” can become an audience favorite.  Rooney is a talented, likable and distinct personality.  And the dialog did have an occasional sparkle.

Rooney plays an NBC page with an unrestrainable desire to become a performer.  His mother had been in burlesque, and his father was a cop on the squad that raided the theater.  It was love at first sight.  According to the network executive in the script (played by John Hubbard), Rooney will have a hard time getting into TV because “he’s too small to be a wrestler and too big to be a puppet.”

At the “Jonathon Page School of Drama and Theater Arts,” Rooney is working as understudy to the entire cast of a new play of Rogerson Hammerstein.  The play is a corny melodrama titled “Tomorrow Starts September.”  Rooney gets his big chance when the leading man gets laryngitis.  And here the slapstick got out of hand.

Rooney’s dad (Regis Toomey) puts glue in the leading man’s throat spray to keep him out of action.  Rooney goes on stage in elevated shoes and breaks up the entire set.  And the audience reaction recorded on the sound track turned into a steady roar.  —Gene Plotnik  (Billboard, Sep. 11, 1954)

~ ~ ~

Advance notices got one very excited about Micky Rooney’s new filmed half-hour show on WTMJ-TV (6 p.m. Saturday), but after inspecting them we notice there is some room for improvement.  For one thing, the continuity bogs down as the result of two interruptions for commercials.  To mid-commercials instead of one is a development that is becoming all too customary these days in television.  These two, of course, are in addition to those at the beginning and end.

Not particularly appealing is the dubbed-in laughter, another custom becoming entrenched in filmed shows.  And the crowd guffaws were exactly alike each time.  Otherwise the show is all Mickey—and Mickey is in his element.  Although the program isn’t anything like the old Judge Hardy movies, there is something reminiscent occasionally, such as a scene from his home life.  His parents, incidentally, are played by Regis Toomey and Claire Carleton.

In spite of the fact Rooney will be 32 Sept. 23, he still plays the role of a teenager (he’s a page boy in a Hollywood TV studio) with the same zest he did in his younger days.  He is as cocky as ever, even when things are going against him.  This assurance extends to his feelings toward his girl friend, played by Carla Balenda.  (The Milwaukee Sentinel, Sept. 12, 1954)
 

Steve Allen Show

WNBT, New York, Tursday, 11:20 to 12 midnight, EDT

The smoothness and professional quality of the Steve Allen Show, the nucleus from which “Tonight” is to be built, is virtual insurance that when that late night network stanza gets going it will have plenty to offer.  Allen, now in the homestretch on his local programming stint,has developed into a warm yet smooth master of the quip and aside.  His bufoonery with the studio audience, and his horseplay with a Ruppert Beer commercial which was printed for his reading on cards were the highlights on the show.

Supporting him were Steve Lawrence, guest Faye Emerson, chirper Betty Johnson replacing the vacationing Edye Gorme, and Bobby Byrne and his orchestra.  Lawrence has developed into one of the smoothest male singers around.  The handsome lad, full of poise and confidence, brought a freshness and sound to “Alone Together” which must have had the bobby-soxers doing nip-ups.

The wholesome-looking Betty Johnson did equally as well with “Joey.”  Miss Johnson has a sweetness to her voice and adds to that a distinctiveness of sound that cannot but help impress the viewers.  Miss Emerson acted in a sketch with Allen which was a satire on English movies.  The Ruppert beer commercials emphasize the no-calorie kick, and the refreshing quality of the beverage.  —Leon Morse.  (Billboard, Sep. 11, 1954)
 

Old Shows Return

So far, fall television has been largely a procession of old shows returning after summer vacation.  The 30 or so new ones are due later.  There were obvious efforts at improvement, but the changes were not particularly exciting.  Certainly no one would want to shout because the song quiz now on CBS-TV Thursday nights, “Name That Tune,” has a new emcee in Bill Cullen.  He is quick with the phony, planned quips, but so was his predecessor, Red Benson.

Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” one of NBC-TV’s Thursday shows, has resumed with new material after a summer of repeats.  This is its third TV season, which could be the best yet if the opening pace is maintained.  Webb, however, seems to be everywhere.  He’s producer-director, star actor and even commercial announcer.

“The Hall of Fame” on NBC-TV is continuing with the arena style in which scenery is made incidental to acting.  This close up method permits the viewer to concentrate on the action without distraction.  Its hostess, Sarah Churchill, has returned to England, but she may be back in January.  Many of the scripts will continue to be based on biographies of noted personalities.

Other regulars that have come back early in the fall season are “Ethel and Albert,” still working out in comedy the problems of married life; “Mama” and her family, on CBS-TV, all one year older, and Loretta Young’s filmed drama on NBC-TV, in which she appears in a different play each week.  Among returning shows was a re-run of “Mr. Peepers'” wedding of last spring.  Someone must have done some editing, for the commercial that blared in right after the ceremony on the original has been carefully transplanted.  (The Milwaukee Sentinel, Sep. 12, 1954)

OKK #1

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Sep. 11, 1954

New Deejay Show on CBS-Radio to Star Bergen & Co.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4—Three dummies will launch a network deejay show from here over the CBS radio web starting September 12.  Rounding out the party will be Edgar Bergen, a trio of wooden wax spinners—who will assist Charley McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd and Lars Lindquist—in an hour long records and interview program on Sunday nights from 9 to 10.

Bergen will interview will-known political figures and music business names on the show, and has hopes of lining up Mamie Eisenhower for an air chat.  Charley will be the program’s “expert” on international affairs, while Mortimer will “interpret” the news.  The series will be sponsored by Bergen’s long-time backer, Kraft, thru J. Walter Thompson. (Billboard)

The following video features Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on “What’s My Line?” in 1954.  At the and of the clip, Bergen plugs his new Washington-based show.

 

From Jet Magazine

Tuskegee Institute Choir on Eddie Fisher’s Coke Time (Thurs., September 2, 7:45 p.m. EDT) on MBS radio.

Louis Armstrong and Dinah Washington on Hear America Swingin’ (Fri., September 3 at 9 p.m. EDT) on NBC radio.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong on Sunday With Garroway (Sun., September 5, 8 p.m. EDT) on NBC radio.

Teddy Wilson on Peter Lind Hayes Show (Sat., September 11, 1:35 p.m. EDT) on CBS radio.

Tuskegee Institute Choir on Negro College Choirs (Sun., September 12, 10:30 a.m. EDT) on ABC radio.

Ezzard Charles vs. Rocky Marciano in 15-round heavy-weight championship bout (Wed., September 15, 10:30 p.m. EDT) on CBS radio.

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