OTR Tuesday – Variety Shows

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

There’s one genre of Old Rime radio show that I don’t spend a lot of time writing about: variety shows.

Springing from the traditions of the European Music Halls and American Vaudeville stages the variety show featured numerous acts in, as the name implies, a variety of different genres and styles. Obviously, a lot of the acts that worked on the stage wouldn’t translate to radio, so most of the shows featured singers or comedians as their hosts. These shows were very popular because they gave audiences a chance to hear artists that might not be able or willing to carry a regular show of their own.

So lets give a listen to some of these great shows.

Enjoy!

 

 

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OTR Tuesday – Suspense (1942-1962) Revisited

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. OTR  Tuesday 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 thought today might be a good time to take another look at one of the true classics of the Golden Age of radio.

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.

As 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.)

At 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!

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – The Adventures of Archie Andrews (1943-1953)

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. OTR  Tuesday 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’d like to say everybody knows Archie Andrews, because he’s been a part of everybody’s childhood for so long, but I don’t know that it’s really true, Still, at least once upon a time, Archie was considered the quintessential teen comedy. Constantly put upon,  constantly broke, constantly torn between two girls, constantly hanging out with his friends, and constantly just trying to make his way in the world, Archie was, in may ways symbolic if not of real teens, at least a kind of idealized teen world.

Also, surprisingly, perhaps for a character created in 1941, Archie has managed to stay, if not perhaps relevant, at least contemporaneous with his times. As styles and fashions and society have changed, so has Archie. And he has been interpreted in various ways in different media, from the animated series of the late 60s and early 70s that gave us the hit song Sugar Sugar to today’s CW series Riverdale which is far from the character as he is generally known, but nonetheless is at least acknowledged and supported by the comics company which bears his name.

And, of course, as you may have guessed, since we’re discussing it here, there was also once an Archie radio show. Beginning on the NBC Blue network on 1943, The Adventures of Archie Andrews switched to Mutual for a short while, but then returned to NBC where it was broadcast until 1953. Though in the early years, different actors voiced the leas, for most of the series’ run, Bob Hasting was the voice of Archie. Other voice actors included Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews and Arnold Stang as Jughead, Rosemary Rice as Betty, Gloria Mann as Veronica, Alice Yourman as Archie’s mother, Mary Andrews and Arthur “Art” Kohl as Archie’s father, Fred Andrews.

Okay, let’s see what kind of mischief Archie is into now, shall we?

Enjoy!

 

 

OTR Tuesday – The History of Old Time Radio

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

This seems like a good time to revisit a couple of earlier posts that looked back at the history of what we affectionately call Old Time Radio.

First up is a three part audio documentary entitled The First Fifty Years. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the origins of this beyond the little bit of information given to us in the opening by the host, Ben Brooks, who says he was a radio and television columnist for the New York Daily News. The documentary was obviously produced in the early 1970’s in order to celebrate the first broadcast of radio station KDKA which took place in November 1920.

Next up: Here’s a video documentary about both the history of radio and the impact it had on those who grew up listening to it.

One of the most important yet all-too-often overlooked features of Old Time Radio is the sound effects, and thee way that they helped to shape the pictures that were being created in one’s mind. Without them, radio would have been just a bunch of people talking to each other or describing what was going on, but with them… wow, what a difference!

Again, I don’t have a whole lot of information on this short, which is entitled Back of the Mike, except that it was created in 1937 (or 1938, dates vary) and was sponsored by / is an ad for the Chevrolet division of the General Motors Corporation.

Noe here are a couple of more network specific behind the scenes looks:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look at the history of OTR, and be sure to check back in next time when we’ll revisit another great radio show.

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – The Hermit’s Cave (1930s-1947)

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

“Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee . . . Gho-o-o-o-st stories,we-i-i-i-i-rd stories . . . murders, too! Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee. The Hermit knows of them all! Turn our y’er lights. Tu-r-r-r-n them out . . . ahhhh . . . ‘ave you heard the story, [insert story name]? ‘Eh? Then listen while The Hermit tells you the story . . . Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee!”…

Today we take kind off a deep dive into the radio archives for a show that unfortunately has very few surviving episodes.

The Hermit’s Cave originally began at station WJR in Detroit with a group of local actors who called themselves “The Mummers”. The group began appearing on WJR in 1930 in a series of 15 minute dramatic sketches. Around 1935 the players began calling their sketches “The Mummers’ Little Theater of the Air” and that.is a phrase you will hear often at the beginning of these shows.

Among the recurring sketches The Mummers would.present was “The Hermit’s Cave” which would feature eerie stories of the supernatural presented in an over-the-top manner by an old hermit who lived in a cave on a lonely hill, complete with wind blowing and wolves howling in the background. These sketches drew the attention of the Carter Coal Company which agreed to sponsor a weekly series featuring the character of the Hermit and his tales.

The show was an immediate hit and was soon being transmitted via electrical transmission throughout the midwest. Eventually the program was brought to the west coast by WJR owner Dick Richards and Don Lee who was part of the Mutual Broadcast Network.

In this iteration, the show was at first known as The Devil’s Scrapbook with the host being transformed to the devil, who read stories from his scrapbook. The rest of the show was mostly the same, and when radio station KMPC – which was part of Lee’s network -expanded its operations to  twenty-four hours., they finally managed to secure the rights to produce their own version of The Hermit’s Cave.

One of the interesting things Lee did was to hire William Conrad as producer, director, and even, at times, writer of this version of Cave.

Between the Midwest and West Coast versions of the show, it appears there were over 800 episodes of the show produced, but unfortunately only somewhere around 40 episodes are known to survive.

Let’s listen to a few, shall we?

OTR Tuesday – Dragnet (1949-1957) 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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

While those words may not have the resonance that they once did, there was a time when they could only mean one thing: Dragnet was on the air. Though most people are probably more familiar with the television version of the show which ran from 1951 to 1959 and was then revived from 1967-1970, the series actually began on radio, running from 1949 to 1957.

Dragnet was created by star Jack Webb after he met LAPD sergeant Marty Wynn, who was a technical advisor on the film He Walked By Night in which Webb played a forensic scientist. During filming, Wynn would tell stories of actual cases and the rigors of the daily life of policemen, and Webb was inspired to create a more no-frills, less melodramatic police procedural radio show. While creating the show, Webb sought and got an endorsement from the Los Angeles Police Department and searched their case files for stories that he thought would make for good episodes. He would also interview officers, go on ride-alongs, and even attended the police academy to bring a sense of authenticity to the show.

Though the show got off to a shaky start, Webb and the rest of the cast (including Raymond Burr as the police commissioner) soon found their footing, an the show lasted for a total of nine seasons and also spun into a long lasting television show which also starred Webb.

Okay, enough talking. Let’s listen to some episodes.

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – Dragnet (1949-1957)

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. OTR  Tuesday 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.

Next week we’ll spend more time talking about the radio version of Dragnet, but today I thought I’d give you a sampling of episodes to listen to to get you in the mood.

Enjoy!