Month: September 2012

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #75-#71

Previous Posts: 76-8081-8586-9091-9596-100

75) Fanny Brice

Vaudevillian Fanny Brice was a talented comic singer, but her greatest contribution was the creation of Baby Snooks, a mischevious little girl who drove Daddy (played by Hanley Stanford) bananas with her comic antics and misbehavior with famous lines like, “Tell me a story, Daddy.” and constantly asking why.  The character began as an act on the Maxwell House Program in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, Snook would get her program. Radio was the perfect medium for Brice.  The act would simply not work on television as Brice played Snooks as about 7 and when she tried to adapt Snooks to television, she was 59 years old. However, in radio, everything was possible and Snooks is forever precociously young and hilarious and the work of Fanny Brice lives on.

Lionel Barrymore74) Lionel Barrymore

The legendary star of stage and screen starred in the 1940s Drama Mayor of the Town where he portrayed the real painful reality of war with uncommon humanity and then in the late 1940s and early 50s, he recreated his film role as Dr. Gillespie in MGM’s syndicated Dr. Kildare series. He also showcased his talents in numerous anthology shows. However, Barrymore’s position on this list is secured by being radio’s Ebenezer Scrooge. He was the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge, performing the role live all but two Christmases between 1934-53. Barrymore’s success as Scrooge made him a natural to play the villainous Old Man Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a pity that’s movie role’s all most people know of his great body of work,.

73) Gene Atury

Hollywood’s quintessential singing cowboy had a rich career over radio. Autry’s Melody Ranch program ran for sixteen years. (1940-56). Autry’s success included not only him, but his horse Champion got his own radio and TV series. Autry was admired by many who wanted to emulate him, so Autry created the cowboy code, ten rules for patriotic and moral living. By doing this, Autry showed the type of class that made him one of America’s most beloved entertainers.

William Johnstone72) William Johnstone

William Johnstone is best known as the second voice of the shadow in 1938 and those four seasons is what he’s best known for. However, Johnstone’s performances go far beyond that. Johnstone was also a solid and indispensable character actor appearing regularly on a wide variety of programs from Cavalcade of America to Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. In 1950, he got his second starring role for CBS in The Line Up playing Lieutenant Ben Guthrie for 3 seasons.

71) Anne and Frank Hummert

Their work has many detractors among modern fans, particularly their detective shows, but what Anne and Frank Hummert lacked in quality, they made up with the quantity of their productions. The Hummerts produced a dizzying array of shows. Many were in the soap opera genre such as the long-running Ma Perkins program (1937-60), Just Plain Bill, and Amanda of Honeymoon Hill. However, they also were the force behind many mystery programs such as Mr. Keen Tracer of Lost Persons (1937-55), Mr. Charmelon, and Inspector Thorne, comedies such as Easy Aces, and even the iconic juvenile series Little Orphan Annie (1930-42). Anne Hummert had dozens of shows running concurrently, kept track of them, and outlined all plot twists on the daytime serials and directed her army of writers to make the changes. While it’s easy to make fun of the melodrama on some of the Hummerts’ soaps, it’s hard to dismiss their amazing success.

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EP0765s: 50th Anniversary of the End of the Golden Age of Radio

Mandel Kramer

On September 30th 1962, the golden age of radio came to an end with episodes of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and Suspense.  In the “Tip-Off Matter,” an ex-con tells Johnny the location of his loot. In “Devilstone,” a rich young Irishman is having trouble renting a house that is rumored to be haunted.

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You Ought to be on DVD: Nero Wolfe

Previous: Vintage Detective Movie Serials, I Heard it on Radio

If one great fictional detective has been slighted in terms of DVD and Home video releases, it is Nero Wolfe. The fine A&E Television series is available on DVD, but everything else isn’t. The following are missing:

Two 1930s Movies
1959 TV Pilot with Kurt Kasner and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin
The 1979 TV movie with David Thayer
The 1981 TV Series with William Conrad

It has been a challenge to adapt Wolfe stories into popular visual media, so many of these efforts have not worked.

However, it won’t do to say that poor quality should keep these adaptations off of DVD. After all, some fans may be right when they think William Conrad’s Nero Wolfe is off-base. However, the rest of us should be able to decide the question for ourselves. Even Galactica 1980 has been given a DVD release.

Perhaps, the one film that looks dreadful based on clips and ratings is 1937’s League of Frightened Men with a miscast Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin and an equally poorly cast Walter Connolly as Nero Wolfe. The movie is only rated a 5.0 on IMDB which is the same as Henry Silva’s unthrilling 1965 thriller The Return of Mr. Moto. (Which by the way did it make its way to DVD.)

Beyond this, those fans that have seen 1936’s Meet Nero Wolfe (6.7), Thayer’s Nero Wolfe TV Movie based on The League of Frightened Men (7.0) and Conrad’s Nero Wolfe Series (7.3) have enjoyed them. And no doubt, a wider audience would enjoy them as well. They may not all perfectly match the tone of the books but even the A&E series doesn’t do that.

Another great opportunity would be to put the foreign Nero Wolfe programs on Region 1 DVD. Nero Wolfe movies have been made in Russian, Italian, and Germany. My particular interest would be in the 1960s Italian Series. A few clips have shown up on Youtube and the show looks very well done in classic black and white. Personally, I’d love to watch these films with subtitles to enjoy the cadence of the original actors while still knowing what’s going on. The best of that particular series is that of the ten stories they did, eight were not done by A&E, so it would make interesting viewing as would all of the unreleased Nero Wolfe material included the Kasner-Shatner pilot which hasn’t been seen in more than fifty years.

There’s a lot of Nero Wolfe that should be released and it’s about time for Hollywood to get started.

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EP0765: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Fairway Matter

John Lund

Johnny tries to assign responsibility in the case of bomb that blew up on an airplane, killing more than 13 people.

Original Air Date: January 5, 1954

Save more and combine hotel and airline fare at http://www.johnnydollarair.com

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EP0764: Sherlock Holmes: The Knife Of Vengence

A man selling a knife sharpening service is murdering his customers.

Original Air Date: January 10, 1949

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