Old Time Radio Tuesday – Dr. Tim, Detective

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.

One of the great things about being a fan of Old Time Radio is that there are always new and interesting shows out there waiting to be discovered. For me, today’s spotlight show, Dr. Tim, Detective is just such a show. Up until just a few days ago I had never even heard of it. Actually, I only ran across it because I was looking for something new and different to write about for today’s entry.

Of course, there may be a reason I didn’t know about it. So far, my research on the show hasn’t turned up much information except for this excerpt taken from the Sept. 3rd, 1950 edition of the Rockford (IL) Morning Star:

“Dr. Tim, Detective,” a radio series to present health education by means of mystery-dramas to interest Rockford’s school age boys and girls, will be presented weekly on Mondays at 6:15 p.m. over radio station WROK beginning Labor day.

Dr. R.J. Mroz, president of the Winnebago County Medical society, announced the 13-week dramatized series, especially produced for young listeners, is being presented through the public relations committee of the medical society. It is offered through the co-operation of the Rockford radio council, sponsored by the Central Illinois Electric and Gas company and station WROK.

Each episode will be a mystery-drama dealing with a disease or health subject. It will be presented through the scientific detection of “Doctor Tim, Detective” and his young friends, “Sandy” and “Jill.”

Some of the subjects to be included are safe water supply, rabies, blood fractions, rheumatic fever, the home medicine chest and contaminated foods.

It appears that a total of 13 episodes (standard for a show at the time were produced, running from Aug 28, 1950 Nov 27, 1950, and of those, seven apparently still survive today.

Now, you may notice that some references (and some of the shows that I’ve posted below) give a date of 1948, but I suspect that that date was just a guess, and that the above information is correct. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear from someone who might have more definitive information on the program.

As far as the quality of the show, well, it certainly fits the “educational” part of its billing, though it does seem to be a little light on the mystery aspect. Still since it was designed mostly for children, the balance seems appropriate.

Let’s give a listen, shall we?

Happy Throwback Thanksgiving! – Thanksgiving With Jack

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Here’s a special Thanksgiving edition of Throwback Thursday, And I hope that all of you, whether traveling or at home with your family or wherever the day might find you, are safe and happy.


Old Time Radio Thursdays – #020: Jack Benny Celebrates Thanksgiving

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.

Last week we started our Thanksgiving celebration with a sampler from various shows as they celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, and we’ll pick that back up next week, but I thought this week we’d actually take a look at how one long-running comedy show featured the holiday throughout the years.

The Jack Benny Program has long been one of my favorite Old Time Radio comedy shows, and obviously, considering how long the show ran, I am not alone in that feeling. Since the setup of the show was that it basically chronicled the stars lives as they went through them, it was only natural that each year there would be a show featuring how the gang celebrated the holidays. So, here’s a look at how they did that over time.

Next week? Even more Old Time Radio shows to be thankful for.

Until next time, Happy Listening!

Old Time Radio Tuesday – Talking Turkey Day

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.

(Just a quick aside – it occurs to me I may soon have to change that introduction to not only explain what I mean by “Old Time Radio”, but even what the concept of radio itself is. Now that everyone gets their music from streaming services and the like, does anyone even listen to the radio anymore? Ah, but that’s a post for another day.)

Well, we’re just over a couple of weeks out from Thanksgiving, so that seems like a good time to take a look back at how some of the great radio shows of the past celebrated the holiday. Which means, lucky you, no long-winded history lesson from me today, just a selection of shows that hopefully you won’t think are turkeys.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

 

OTR Tuesday – Ma Perkins

mp1Of course, we’re all familiar with the concept of the soap opera. It’s a serial, either daily or weekly, that usually dramatizes (often overly so) the lives of a generally small group of people linked to gether in some way. They might live in the same city, work together in a hospital, or even just be members of the same family. The daily soaps especially are known for their rushed production and generally lower production values than night time programming, but they still have an incredible number of followers who will make it “appointment tv” to make sure they don’t miss their “stories”.

(A quick aside: I put the word “stories” in quotes there not to imply anything abput the plots of these shows which can, at times and over the years become quite intricate, but because that’s the phrase my grandmother used to use to describe them, and I’ve heard it used quite often since.)

Of course,like a lot of our entertainment options,the soap operas began on the radio where they were broadcast to provide entertainment to housewives as they went through their day. As a matter of fact,that’s where the phrase “soap opera” comes from as often the shows were accompanied by advertisements for laundry detergents and other household cleaners that the women would use while doing their daily cleaning.

mp2
The cast of Ma Perkins

One of the earliest and longest running soap operas was Ma Perkins, which was broadcast on the NBC network from 1933 to 1949 and on the CBS network from 1942 to 1960.Now you may notice some overlap there, and yes, it’s true. For awhile the show was so popular that from 1942 to 1949 it was carried by both networks. In total, 7,065 episodes were produced.

Ma Perkins was a widow who owned and operated a lumber yard (which she had presumably inherited from her husband in the small town of Rushville Center located somewhere in the south. She was the mother of three children, Evey, Faye, and John. Ma was portrayed through the entire run by Virginia Payne, who was 23 then the show started and never missed a show until it came to a close when she was 50.

However, even regular listeners would not have known the star by name, because even though everyone else would get their name read during the closing credits, the announcer would simply end with “…and Ma Perkins.” As a matter of fact, the only time Payne’s name was mentioned was in the last show when Payne took to the airwaves as herself to make a farewell speech to the audience.

It’s often noted that due to their very nature, daytime soaps tend to drag out their plot-lines often to an excruciating extent. After all, people might not be able to tune in every day, and if viewers miss too much that happens in a particular day or week, they might get so confused they simply tune out. This was especially true for Ma Perkins,where storylines could go on for three or four months without any resolution. At the same time, loyal listeners were rewarded for their tenacity with such over-the-top plots as when Ma exposed a black market baby-smuggling ring or when she gave safe shelter to Soviet political dissidents in her home.

Generally, though, the stories were more low-key, and simply dealt with Ma dealing with the crises that affected her friends and family.

Here’s a selection of episodes:

 

 

Old Time Radio Tuesday – It Pays to Be Ignorant

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.

ignorantI’m thinking that now that we’re all done with the spooky Halloween season we could all use a bit of levity. That’s why this week’s feature show is It Pays to be Ignorant. IPTBI is a sort of parody of all those panel shows such as Quiz Kids and Information Please which allowed their panels to show their erudition. In the case of It Pays…, well, let’s just say that if one of the panelists was asked to use “erudition” in a sentence the answer would probably be something along the lines of “Erudition do that right”. (Spoken as “‘Ere you dishn’ do that right”.)

The show lasted for a total of nine seasons, from 1942 to 1951, though it did change networks three times during that period and had a number of different sponsors.

Hosted by quiz-master Tom Howard, the show featured “a board of experts who are dumber than you are and can prove it” which consisted of Harry McNaughton, Lulu McConnell and George Shelton. Howard and Shelton were both vaudevillians, while McConnell and McNaughton were mostly known for their stints on Broadway in comedy and musical revues.

The basic format of the show was quite simple. It would open with a few jokes, the panelists would be introduced, and then Howard would begin to ask them questions. even though quite often the question would have the correct answer contained within it e.g. “What animal does a blacksmith make horse shoes for?” or “What town in Massachusetts had the Boston Tea Party?”, the panelists would inevitably give an incorrect answer, but would then provide some outrageous rationale for their answer often leading to a minutes-long diversion which often led to insults being hurled at them by the other panelists.

During the last two years of its run, there was also a television version of the show with the same cast. It was also revived on television for a run during the 1973-74 season, that version starred Joe Flynn (Captain Binghamton on McHales Navy) as the quiz-master along with Jo Anne Worley, Billy Baxter and Charles Nelson Reilly as the panelists.

Okay, that’s enough erudition from me. Now let’s all just settle back and get ready to get ignorant.

And here’s a bonus for you – one of the TV episodes:

Old Time Radio Tuesday – Halloween Roundup

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.

It’s that time of year again, time to celebrate some of the Spookier offerings from the golden age of radio. I’ve tried to pick a mortician’s dozen of episodes for this time around that I don’t think I’ve featured before. So relax, close your eyes, and let your imagination take hold…

 

Old Time Radio Tuesday – Three Skeleton Key

tskThe 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.

Usually for OTR Tuesday I post a whole bunch of shows covering a particular genre or a specific series, but I thought today, since we’re well into the spooky season, and especially in light of this week’s release of Robert Eggers’s movie The Lighthouse, it would be a good time to take a look at one of the true classic episodes of the era.

For those unfamiliar with the show Escape, it was broadcast on the CBS radio network from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954. Escape was an anthology series, presenting a new story each week, many of them adapted from short stories such as Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds”, Carl Stephenson’s “Leiningen Versus the Ants”, Algernon Blackwood’s “Confession”, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven”, and Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game”.

On of the most popular episodes of Escape was their adaptation of French author George Toudouze’s short story “Three Skeleton Key”. In the story, three men are trapped inside a lighthouse by a horde of thousands of hungry and angry rats. It was first broadcast on November 15, 1949, and was subsequently rebroadcast (with different casts) a number of times, and it also made the leap to Escape‘s “sister show” Suspense.

The version I’m posting below is from March 17, 1950, and stars Vincent Price in the role of Jean.

Okay, that’s definitely enough words from me. Now just sit back, turn out your lights, and have yourself a little… escape… if you can…

By the way, if you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out my previous posts featuring Escape. You can find them here and here.

 

OTR Tuesday – Horror Roundup

wt2The 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.

Happy Halloween!

This week, in honor of the scary season, I thought we’d take a look back at some classic OTR horror.

One of the best things about the old radio shows was that they largely left the perception of what was happening to your imagination. Sure, there would be descriptions of horrific things, but unlike television or movies, in which the special effects are often limited by budget or other considerations, as long as you have an active and engaged mind while listening to these shows, pretty much anything is possible.

That’s a large part of why it is such an effective medium for horror. Take a ghost for instance. If someone in a radio show says they see a spectral figure, well, what that actually looks like is not dependent upon what the special effects team is able to come up with. Instead, if in your mind you simply see a figure covered in a sheet, then that is what is there. If, on the other hand, your mind conjures up a shambling, decaying corpse covered with worms and maggots, then that is what the people in the cast are confronting.

You, and your imagination, are the director and the special effects and makeup people.

Add to that evocative music and sound effects, and soon you have the possibility of an incredibly effective spook show right there in your living room. Or, to be more prcise, in your mind.

So here are just a few tales from this great medium. I suggest getting comfortable, turning out the lights, perhaps closing your eyes, and sitting back and letting the voices you are about to hear take you on a journey through the corridors of mystery and imagination. But be careful. You never know just what might be lurking around that next corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTR Tuesday – A (Re)Introduction

Some of the most popular posts here recently seem to have been those dealing with Old Time Radio, so I thought maybe it was time to bring back a regular weekly feature on old radio shows. Back when I first started this blog, a regular feature was Old Time Radio Thursday, so I figured that as a good way to restart the exploration of old radio I’d re-present the introduction that I wrote back in 2013 to give you a taste of what’s to come.


Old Time Radio Thursdays – #001: An Introduction

No real long-winded introduction today. 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.

 People gathered around to listen to the radio in the 1920s and '30s CREDIT: French, Herbert E., photographer.

People gathered around to listen to the radio in the 1920s and ’30s
CREDIT: French, Herbert E., photographer. “Atwater Kent, Standing By Radio, and Seven Other People Listening to the Radio.” National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

These shows encompassed many different genres, including drama, adventure, comedy, science fiction, westerns, soap operas, sports… basically it was the television of its day. Before, that is, television (network television at least) became overrun mostly by unreality tv and CSI clones.

So why am I writing about old radio shows on what is ostensibly a blog about movies? Well, two reasons really. First of all, I have an affinity to these shows that dates back to my childhood when my father collected these shows on cassette tapes that he would either purchase or trade with other collectors, and secondly, many of these shows had definite connections to Hollywood. Many of them would simply adapt popular movies for radio audiences, others would feature or even star Hollywood performers.

Anyway, I said I was going to try not to be too long-winded with this introduction, so for now I’m going to stop there, and let the shows begin speaking for themselves. For this first installment, I’m simply going to give you a variety of different shows to help those unfamiliar with the whole concept get a taste of what I’m talking about. Then, in weeks to come, I’ll feature a specific show and talk more about it and its Hollywood connections, and hopefully. over time, some of you will come to enjoy these shows as much as I do.

Plus, who knows, we might even find some connections between these shows and current movies, too. (As a matter of fact, I know we will.)

For now, though, just sit back, relax, maybe close your eyes, and let the magic of radio transport you back to an earlier time…

(By the way, just a quick note… you’ll notice varying quality on some of these recordings. While many of them are taken from transcription records that would be sent to various stations for playing at the appropriate time, others were simply recorded from the actual broadcasts by listeners who had set up (most likely) reel-to-reel tape machines to capture the broadcasts, and it is from those amateur recordings that the only known copies of those shows still exist. Hopefully, however, these quality variences won’t take away too much from your enjoyment of the shows themselves.)

This last one is actually from a later period, and is a show that I actually grew up listening to. Locally it was broadcast at 9pm on our CBS affiliate, so I got to lie in bed and listen to it each weeknight before nodding off to sleep. One of the interesting things about going back and listening to these today is that many of them, this one included, also include the original commercials and news broadcasts that would round out the hour of programming, and since this one, for instance, was first broadcast in 1974, the news often included coverage of the developing scandal which would become known as Watergate. Just keep listening through the commercials at the end, and you can hear how radio was reporting the latest news coming from the Nixon White House as more facts were coming to light.

(Oh, and yes, there are some definite movie connections in this story also, as you’ll see. Or should I say, as you’ll hear?)

Well, I hope that’s given you at least a taste of what’s to come as we explore the connections between Old Time Radio and the cinema, and be sure to check back next week as we focus in more closely on one of these great shows. And if you have any particular memories of radio shows, or any favorites, or if any of these caught your attention and you want to hear more, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Superman to Fight The KKK Again!

This past week, DC Comics held a meeting with the American Library Association at which they announced two new imprints within the company – DC Ink and DC Zoom, both of which will be aimed at younger readers than their current main line of comics.

One of the interesting announcements to come out of the meeting was of a new graphic novel which will be written by Gene Luen Yang, the author of American Born Chinese, which was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz award. The new graphic novel he is writing for C s to be entitled Superman Smashes the Klan.

The graphic novel is not going to be set, however, in the present day. Instead it will be set in 1946, and will relate directly to the Adventures of Superman radio show, and especially to the serial within the show known as “The Clan of the Fiery Cross”.

According to DC, Superman Smashes the Klan will tell the story of an American Chinese girl who moves to Metropolis to find herself and her family’s ethnicity targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. Through her experience with Superman and the radio serial, she learns to overcome some of the trials and understand what it means to be American.

I’ve written a couple of times before about the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” serial and how it was a prime example of a radio serial taking on what could have been a controversial topic, even if it was within a superhero setting. So, even though it’s not Thursday, I thought I’d go ahead and give you an extra throwback article to give you some info on the serial, and even an opportunity to listen to it if you’d like.

So, here you go, from June 14, 2015:


When Superman Fought The KKK – The Adventures Of Superman (1946)

aos2Considering the current furor over the Confederate battle flag, African-American church burnings occurring across the south, a possible resurgence of Klan groups and other ongoing problems across America, I was reminded of this series of shows and thought perhaps it might be apropos to take a quick look. Yes, I’ve actually written about this series-within-a-series before, but it’s been long enough ago that I figured you all wouldn’t mind an expanded revisit.

Long time readers will know that I have a special love for Old Time Radio shows. As a matter of fact, I used to run a regular weekly feature here that focused on these shows. During that run I wrote a couple of posts that focused on or featured episodes of the Adventures of Superman radio show which ran roughly and in various formats from 1940 to 1952.

In 1946, the show was running in the afternoon as daily 15 minute broadcasts, and was sponsored by Kellogg’s cereal, specifically Kellogg’s Pep. Of course, running so many episodes, the show was continuously looking for new antagonists to pit its titular hero against. It was during this period that the producers were approached by journalist and human rights activist Stetson Kennedy to help expose the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.

aos1Though many of his claims of infiltrating the KKK have since fallen into dispute, at the time, Kennedy was known for his biting expose’s of that organization and of the Jim Crow laws of the south. Kennedy’s idea was that with him providing information that he had gleaned by investigating the organization, including details of their secret rituals and codewords, the show could use this information to help demystify the organization and make it less appealing through ridicule, an idea which the producers were quick to embrace.

Thus, in June of 1946, The Adventures of Superman began a sixteen part serial (the show at that time basically consisted of various arcs which would run for roughly two to four weeks and then would move on to a different story) which became known as “The Clan of the Fiery Cross”. Here’s a description of the beginning of the series from a review on the Superman Homepage, written by James Lantz:

Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are taking a cab on a sunny afternoon in Metropolis. Clark is covering a story for the Daily Planet, and Jimmy is going to baseball practice for the Unity House team in which he manages. Two boys, Tommy Lee and Chuck Riggs, are fighting when Jimmy arrives. Chuck has been acting like a sore loser since Tommy, who just moved into the neighborhood, replaced him as number one pitcher on the squad. During practice, Chuck crowds the home plate and gets hit in the head by a ball thrown by Tommy. Chuck believes Tommy did it on purpose, and Jimmy is forced to remove the former from the team because of his attitude toward Tommy.

Chuck has just returned home to find his Uncle Matt waiting for him. The boy tells him of the incident with Tommy. Knowing Tommy’s father Doctor Wan Lee, an Asian American, was promoted to the Metropolis Health Department as a bacteriologist, Matt gets an idea. He makes his nephew believe that Tommy beaned him on purpose and invites the boy to a secret meeting of what he calls “true Americans.” Matt Riggs has every intention of making Tommy Lee and Jimmy Olsen pay for humiliating Chuck.

Matt is now donning a white robe with a blue scorpion design and hood. He then takes Chuck to a secluded place where a wooden cross burns. Other similarly dressed men are in the area. Uncle Mack reveals that he’s the leader of The Clan of the Fiery Cross. Chuck is coached into saying that Tommy Lee was trying to kill him in order to keep his position on the Unity House baseball team. Chuck says that this will help Lee’s people take over America. The first phase of the Grand Scorpion Uncle Matt’s plan is now in place. Now, The Clan of the Fiery Cross can cleanse the country of those that are not “True Americans.”

Obviously, once Clark learns of the Clan’s activities from Jimmy, it’s not long before he (and thereby Superman, too) is actively investigating the goings on of the group. What happens after that? Well, I’ll just let you listen and find out for yourselves. Here’s a YouTube playlist that should let you listen to all sixteen parts of the serial one after the other.

So how was this series-within-the-series received? Well, according to Wikipedia, “Reportedly, Klan leaders denounced the show and called for a boycott of Kellogg’s products. However, the story arc earned spectacular ratings and the food company stood by its support of the show.” Also, reports are that it did, to some extent, have the desired effect, and according to a story in a then-current issue of The New Republic, the trivialization of the Klan’s rituals and codewords was perceived to have had a negative impact on Klan recruiting and membership.

So what do you think? How much should characters like Superman be taking on real-world problems like the KKK? Do you think they have the potential to help the situation. or do they instead trivialize them? Of course, in a way the question is somewhat moot since there really are no shows like the Adventures of Superman on the airwaves today, even considering the rising number of comic-book based shows and movies, but still I think the topic is worthy of consideration and would love to see some debate of it either in the comments below or on the DMM Facebook page, so let me know what you think.