Old Time Radio Thursdays – #042: Signing Off For Now

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Yeah, the implication in the headline is true. This is probably going to be the last Old Time Radio Thursday post for awhile. Oh, I’m sure it’ll be back eventually, but everything runs its course, and I feel like for me at least, it’s time for a bit of a change. Actually, there are probably going to be a few changes upcoming to the blog, including a new feature that will be taking up this Thursday slot that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as this one, but I’ll have more info on all of that for you tomorrow.

Anyway, rather than just having the feature simply disappear, I thought I’d leave you with another sampler round of some of the great shows from radio’s golden age. Some of these, if you’ve been following along all this time, you will have heard before, some of them are new ones, but all of them should make for fun listening.

So one last time (for now) let me invite you to sit back, close you eyes, and join me in enjoying some of the greats from the years when radio was king.

Until next time, whenever that might be, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #041: Boris Karloff On The Radio – A Spotlight Feature

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

English: no original description

There are certain voices that stand out pretty much no matter what the context. One of those voices belonged to today’s spotlight star, Boris Karloff. No matter what role he was playing, from urbane gentleman to mad scientist to his most famous role as The creation of Victor Frankenstein, Mr Karloff’s voice always stood out.

Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t quite as identifiable when he was playing Frankenstein’s monster, but in all fairness, he really didn’t get a whole lot of lines to work with there, either.

Nonetheless, it was this voice that made him a welcome presence not only in movie theaters, but in many diverse roles throughout the Golden Age of Radio. Therefor, I thought that today, instead of focusing on a particular show, we’d turn the spotlight on Mr. Karloff and sample a number of his roles in a variety of shows over the years. So just sit back and enjoy this visit with the always wonderful Mr. Boris Karloff.

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #040: Escape (1947-1954) – Part Two

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

escEscape!

In some ways, the title itself evokes the very reason for being of Old Time Radio. Along with, of course, movies, television, books, stage plays, and whatever other forms of entertainment you might enjoy. Sure, these forms can be used for other purposes, especially education (though often even there, the two purposes often intermingle and entwine), but quite often, they are purely meant to provide us with a chance to get away, to live outside of ourselves for awhile, to enter someone else’s life or to travel to some exotic setting and leave behind our own troubles if only for a little while.

Or, as one version of the popular opening script to the radio show Escape put it:

Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you … ESCAPE!

esc2I’ve referred to Escape here before as a “sister show” to the series Suspense, but in doing so, I don’t mean to denigrate either show. Actually, I consider them to be on a fairly equal footing, with Escape at times even moving forward in my estimation, purely based on its willingness to include more science-fiction and other fantastical elements than Suspense.

Okay, so let’s shelve the comparisons for a moment and take a look at the show itself, shall we?

Escape was created as a sustaining show on the CBS Radio Network, and had its first official broadcast on July 7, 1947, with an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”. Over the course of the next seven years, it would present a total of approximately 250 shows, most of which are still in circulation today. (Exact figures appear to be a matter of some debate, depending at least partially on how one counts the various rebroadcasts and east-west variants.) The final show was titled “The Heart of Kali”, written by Ross Murray, and broadcast on September 29, 1954.

esc3The show was originally broadcast as a summer replacement for the second half-hour of the time slot then occupied by the Lux Radio Theatre on Monday nights. (The first half hour of the hour-long Lux slot was filled by a show titled CBS Is There.) Though Escape seemed to immediately grab hold of the listeners ears and imaginations, it never did really enjoy the comfort of having a regular, long-time sponsor, and for the largest part of its run, it continued on a sustaining basis. Unfortunately for listeners this meant that it also never really enjoyed the kind of long-running time-slot that many other shows had, and, in a kind of circular catch-22, that also meant that it was continually under budget constraints that were not as much of a concern for those shows that did have bigger budgets thanks to their sponsors.

Escape (radio program)This did, however, in a way prove to be a “less is more” type situation which forced the show to rely on adaptations of popular novels and short stories, and many of those proved to be true classics, As a matter of fact, I’d personally contend that some of these shows are amongst the best that were ever produced during radio’s golden age. Highlights include the William Conrad starring adaptation of Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen vs. the Ants”, Vincent Price‘s incredibly stirring turn in “Three Skeleton Key”(which was taken from a short story that originally appeared in Esquire magazine by George Toudouze,  and John Dunkel’s adaptation of  John Collier’s story  “Evening Primrose,”Other noteworthy adaptations include Algernon Blackwood’s “Confession”, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven,” George R. Stewart’s “Earth Abides”, Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” among many, many others.

Nor was the show lacking for star power, as, alongside the already mentioned voices of William Conrad (who not only starred in a large number of the shows, but also, for awhile at least provided the “voice of the show”, intoning the opening lines and introduction) and Vincent Price, but also such luminaries as Parley Baer, Harry Bartell, John Dehner, Howard McNear, Dan O’Herlihy, Jeanette Nolan, Alan Reed, Bill Johnstone, Sandra Gould, Marvin Miller, Frank Lovejoy, Berry Kroeger, Vic Perrin, Elliott Lewis, and Jack Webb.

Here, of course, is where I would usually leave you with some YouTube samples of the show, but to be honest, there unfortunately aren’t that many posted, and rather than simply repeat the selections from my last post, instead I’m going to direct you to this page at the Internet Archives where you can download a complete collection of the Escape shows known to still exist, along with some other ephemeral material to accompany them.

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #039: Escape (1947-1954) – Part One

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

escLast week in writing about the long-running CBS series Suspense, I mentioned that in its later years the show often reused scripts from its “sister show”, Escape, so it only seems appropriate to follow that post with a couple devoted to that show. So, much like I did with Suspense, this first post will simply be a sampler of some of the shows from the series, and I’ll be back next week with more info and more shows.

So, if you’re “Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you… Escape!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #038: Suspense (1942-1962) – Part Two

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

sus1Last week I provided you with just a sampling of the 900 episodes known to still exist of the 945 that were produced for the long running CBS radio show Suspense. This week I thought I’d go into a bit more of the show’s origins and history.

Suspense actually got its start on the CBS program Forceast, which was designed as a tryout show which provided a place for pilots of ideas that the network was considering giving their own slot. The pilot for Suspense, which aired on July 22, 1940, featured an adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ story “The Lodger”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, and Lurene Tuttle. Hitchcock had already filmed the story in England in 126, so he was already familiar with it, and this was his American radio-directing premier. Interestingly, in a very audacious move, Hitchcock holds back the actual ending of the story from the radio audience, thus compounding and confounding the promised emotion. I’ve provided this Forecast audition/pilot as the first item below.

Over its twenty year run the program went through, as would be expected, a number of various iterations and sponsors. Beginning as a sustained program in 1952, it wasn’t until two years later that it picked up its first advertiser, Roma Wines. Eventually, during what most consider the heyday of the program, it was sponsored by Autolite spark plugs.

sus3As indicated by the title, the main focus of the show was mystery/thriller stories, though in later years it did tend to present more horror/science fiction tales along with the mysteries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program, and perhaps one of the reasons not only for its longevity but also for its popularity, was that it wasn’t afraid to re-present stories that proved popular with its audience. These were not actual re-runs, however, but actual new productions of the same script, sometimes with the participation of the original cast, and sometimes without. For instance, Suspense presented Lucille Fletcher’s story “Sorry, Wrong Number” eight different times during its run, first on May 25, 1943, and for the final time on February 14, 1960. Amazingly, every one of these presentations featured the great Agnes Moorehead in the lead role!

Suspense also, especially in its later years, was known for re-using scripts from other popular CBS programs, most notably what some consider to have been in a way its sister show, Escape, and The Mysterious Traveler. (Both of which, btw, I’ll be featuring in upcoming OTR Thursday posts.)

sus4At its height, Suspense was able to draw a number of great Hollywood stars to its microphones, including Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Eve McVeagh, Lena Horne, and Cary Grant.

One final note: the date of Suspense’s last broadcast, September 30, 1962, is often cited as “the day the golden age of radio died”. Though that may not be literally true – obviously there were other broadcasts and shows that continued beyond that point, it is a significant milestone and turning point for the radio drama format, and for lovers of these great radio shows.

But let’s not dwell upon that today. Instead let’s sit back and simply be entertained by one of the truly all-time great radio programs and more tales calculated to keep you in…

SUSPENSE!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #037: Suspense (1942-1962) – Part One: A Preview

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

I’ll be back next week with a more in depth look at one of Old Time Radio’s most enduring dramatic shows (and one of my all-time favorites) but for now, here are some episodes for you to simply listen to. Consider it a preview, if you will, of these tales calculated to keep you in…

Suspense!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #036: The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show (1948-1954)

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Phil Harris is another one of those voices that you know, but whose name you likely don’t.

Some of you out there might know him as the bandleader for Jack Benny‘s radio show, where he would regularly trade ripostes with Jack.

Most of you, however, are going to know him for one particular character that he played.

That’s right, Phil Harris was the voice of Baloo the Bear in Walt Disney’s 1967 classic The Jungle Book.

What many people, even those who know about his role on The Jack Benny Program, is that Harris, along with his wife Alice Faye, also had his own radio show  – aptly named The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show – which ran on NBC from 1948 to 1954. The show was a situation comedy in which the two stars played fictionalized versions of themselves living as a showbiz couple raising two daughters. Interestingly, though Harris and Faye did have a pair of daughters in real life, on the radio they were portrayed by actresses Jeanine Roos and Ann Whitfield.

For this show, Harris toned down the playboy aspects of his Benny character, instead portraying more of a family man type who was incredibly vain about his looks -especially his hair – and also thought himself much more intelligent than he actually was.

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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