Month: November 2012

Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #45-#43

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45)  Agnes Moorhead

If you say Agnes Moorhead and old timer radio, the most natural association may be with, “Sorry, Wrong Number” the most famous Suspense play ever broadcast back on May 25, 1943. Moorhead’s performance as Mrs. Elbert Stevenson was so brilliant that she was called to deliver a stunning seven encore performances on Suspense  the last in 1960. That alone doesn’t put Moorhead on the list. However, her radio career was filled with memorable performances. She was the first Margo Lane (opposite Orson Welles on The Shadow, she was cast as Lionel Barrymore’s long-suffering housekeeper in Mayor of the Town and she played Lara, Superman’s Kryptonian mother in the first episode of Superman. These highlights were only explanation points on a career of solid performance that defined radio.

44) Jackson Beck

Jackson Beck had many roles in radio. He starred for Ziv as that once-popular private detective Philo Vance. However, where he really distinguished himself was on Superman. He’s best known as the announcer of that program who delivered the show’s memorably opening. However, Beck showed flexibility by not only announcing, but also acting in the show. As the Jimmy Olsen character grew up on the radio, he took on the role of Beany Martin, a copyboy. He also had the distinction of being the first actor to portray Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth.  His contributions to radio drama continued long after Superman left the air in 1951. He was probably the biggest to appear on the radio in the September 30, 1962 golden age of radio finale as he appeared in “The Tip Off Matter” on Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. He continued to make radio appearances frequently with numerous appearance on radio revival shows such as Theater Five, the General Mills Adventure Theater, and The CBS Mystery Theater. 

43)  Jack Moyles

For starring roles, Moyles was best known as Rocky Jordan.  He began the role in 1945 in A Man Called Jordan set in the city of Istanbul towards the end of the 2nd World War. The series continued for two years as a fifteen minute daily serial and then was revived in 1948 as Rocky Jordan with Rocky now living in Cairo setting up his Cafe Tambourine not far from the Mosque Sultan Hassan. The show beared a not too coincidental similarity to Casablanca which featured Humphrey Bogart playing an America cafe owner hiding from trouble in his past, ditto Rocky Jordan, whose trouble is never named.  Rocky Jordan may have been the finest illustrations of radio’s ability to take listeners to an entirely different time and place through the use of sound and music.

Starring in one of radio’s most original adventure dramas might be worth consideration for this list, but what earns Moyles such a high spot is that before, after, and during the Rocky Jordan run he remained a consummate radio character actor.  His veteran leadership helped keep radio alive as he frequently appeared as a cop, an insurance agent, or a crook on Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, he was the by the book Major Daggett who clashed with Raymond Burr on Fort Laramie.  He also regularly appeared on Gunsmoke and Fort Laramie. So, in addition to his major starring role on Rocky Jordan, throughout this long radio career, Moyles was one of those actors who held radio together.

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You Ought to be on DVD: Beloved Radio Comedy Characters

Unreleased TV DetectivesThe Ziv Properties, Vintage Detective Movie SerialsI Heard it on RadioNero Wolfe, and Mark VII Limited Productions

For 24 1/2 years, Husband and Wife Jim and Marion Jordan played Fibber McGee and Molly over the radio as it became one of the most recognizable and iconic shows of radio’s golden age. From that show, span off Harold Peary as the Great Gildersleeve, a role he held down for eleven years, two as a supporting character on Fibber McGee and Molly.

However, what many people don’t is that these radio legends made a series of movies. In 1937, Fibber McGee and Molly had bit parts in This Way Please and followed up with three more movies in prominent roles in Look Who’s Laughing, Here We Go Again, and Heavenly Days. Only Look Who’s Laughing  has been released and that as part of a Lucille Ball RKO pictures collections.

Peary appeared in two of these films as Gildersleeve.  Gildersleeve also had parts in three other films in the late 1930s and early 40s before four Gildersleeve were made between 1942-44.

Of course, they weren’t the only beloved radio comics to get shorted in DVD released. Lum and Abner had a career on radio running from 1931-54, with a few breaks here and there. They made seven films in the process. Four of the Lum and Abner films have lapsed into the public domain.  However, the last three, Goin’ to Town, Partners in Time, and Lum ‘n Abner Abroad remain far more difficult to obtain.

Finally William Bendix made a name playing Chester Riley on The Life of Riley. The radio series is widely available, however television show availability is far more spotty without an official release. In addition, The Life of Riley movie hit theaters in 1949 towards the tale end of the radio run.  One show writer/producer who lived into the 21st had made a big deal about radio fans sharing episodes of the radio series, yet seemingly took no steps to get an official release of either TV shows or Movies on to DVD. What a revoltin’ development.

Then we have Our Miss Brooks. The movie version starring Eve Arden has finally been released as an archive DVD. Great! Will we soon see the four seasons released for fans to enjoy on an official release with great video quality?

Perhaps, most neglected radio show that moved to television is the Burns and Allen program. No official DVD release of the show’s mostly copyrighted filmed run has occurred. Mostly what is available are somewhat badly restored episodes from the kinescope runs.

Here’s hoping for better care and availability of our comedy heritage in years to come.

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How the Golden Age Shined Released for Kindle

I’ve released my new ebook on the topic of the Golden Age of entertainment called, What Made the Golden Age Shine.

Over the years, I’ve been quizzed on why on what got me interested in golden age of entertainment and why I enjoy so much given that much of the material I listen to and watch is before my time. In What Made the Golden Age Shine I attempt to answer these questions as well as provide an understanding of what the lasting appeal of the Golden Age of entertainment is.

It’s 8,000 word essay/manifesto. (I’ll post some excerpts this weekend.) and I think listeners will enjoy it. It’s available at the link above. It’s available for the Kindle for $2.99. It’s available free with the Kindle Lending Library for Amazon Prime members as are all other titles in this post except All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo.

Also now available:

Rise of the Robolawyers:   The latest in my superhero comedy series in which Powerhouse has to deal with the threats of lawsuits and the Alien Zolgron’s attempt to eliminate lawyers. Of all the stories I’ve written in this series, this novella has been the best yet.

Digital Stocking Stuffers (99 Cents):

Tales of the Dim Knight:  (Through 12/26) You get a full length Superhero Comedy novel (90,000 plus words) for only 99 cents.  We pay homage and have fun with some great superhero stories and conventions.

Rise of the Robolawyers: (Through 12/26): This is the first novella of the series in which Powerhouse tries to make a comeback after being attacked by a cynical CEO.

The Perfect Church: A man is in search of the Perfect Church, but what will happen when he finds it.  The story has got a Twilight Zone twist.

Your Average Ordinary Alien: In this send-up of extreme sci-fi fandom Kirk Picard Skywalker dreams of being abducted by aliens. But what will he think when he finds out that his abductors are all too ordinary.

Good Values all The Time:

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo: Life lessons from seven great detectives including Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Father Brown, Dan Holiday, Boston Blackie, Columbo, and Monk. (Also available for Nook, Ipad, and other e-readers.)

Laser and Sword Annual: Eleven great superhero and action/adventure stories featuring The Order of the Sword, Powerhouse, and A.L. Snyder.

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EP0805: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Terrified Tuan Matter

John Lund

Johnny heads to Asia where a wealthy insured man fears he or his wife will be murdered.

Original Air Date: March 9, 1954

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EP0804: Sherlock Holmes: Murder on a Wager

Two notorious international criminals gamble in Monte Carlo on the ability of one of them to commit a crime Sherlock Holmes can’t solve-a murder.

Original Air Date: March 7, 1949

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