12) Al Jolson
Jolson was one of America's premier entertainers beginning with his days in Vaudeville and his starring role in the first feature length talkie, The Jazz Singer. Jolson also brought his unique musical style to radio in 1932 for Chevrolet. He'd continued to be a ratings draw for many years with programs such as Shell Chateau and the Kraft Music Hall. Jolson's popularity in the early 1940s but picked up after the war with the release of The Jolson Story and then Jolson Sings Again. This made Jolson in demand both as a star and as a guest performer. Throughout his career, he remained one of his era's greatest entertainers, and also one of its most beloved radio stars.
11) Jack Webb
Jack Webb came to radio at the right time in 1946. He began in San Francisco on the historic KGO-AM. The station was trying to compete for national radio attention in a national radio market dominated by Hollywood and New York. He tried out several formats including a Comedy/Variety show and a news commentary program before with writer Richard Breen, he created the role of Pat Novak for Hire. The sardonic sometimes detective Novak spoke in a way that was unique to that time or any other.
His association with KGO ended as he went to Hollywood to find his fortune and the Novak series struggled on without him. He starred in a copycat series of Novak called Johnny Madero that went nowhere for Mutual, and then in 1948 landed the lead role in another detective series in CBS' Jeff Regan. In Hollywood, he played a lot of tough guys and hoods. On the CBS Series Escape he appeared in a variety of episodes that have become classics such as his legendary work on "A Shipment of Mute Fate" and "Operation Fer de Lys."
In 1949, he returned to his signature role as Pat Novak in a national series that added to his acclaim. However, the series was set to go on Summer hiatus and Webb needed money. Of this necessity was born Webb's greatest creation, Dragnet.
Influenced by a conversation he'd had with an LAPD officer and movie consultant who didn't particularly care for radio private eye shows and their portrayals of incompetent or brutal cops, Webb had been challenged to make a show that showed how policeman really worked.
So in June 1949, NBC premiered Dragnet which would last for more than six years over the radio. Webb as producer/director brought listeners the highest quality of sound effects and took them right to the scene of the crime on the side of the law. Unlike most crime shows, Dragnet didn't focus exclusively on homicides but covered nearly every area a detective might work in including missing persons, bunco, and robbery.
Dragnet's portrayal of the police as ordinary middle class heroes offered a fresh contrast from prior portrayals which portrayed police alternately as super cops or as bumbling fools. Dragnet changed the shape of the crime drama and it would have many imitators such as 21st Precinct, Tales of the Texas Ranger, and The Line Up.
Had it not been for television, Webb's entire career may have been defined over radio as the vanguard of a new generation of radio producers. His radio work waned and ended in 1955 as he focused on Dragnet over television and several film projects. Still, in his years on the radio, Webb raised the bar for excellence for everyone who would come after.
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5) The Big Meet
Original Air Date: October 26, 1950
This was perhaps the best of the classic Joe Friday undercover narcotics buy stories just because the risks were so outrageous. Going up to buy money from drug dealers and hoping to bluff your way through with a wad of cash mixed with newspapers and worth about 5% of what you're paying is a tense enough situation particularly when much of the "cash" is newspaper. However, when it appears that the drug dealers have managed to lose your fellow officers tail, you're looking a suspenseful classic.
Original Air Date: January 12, 1967
This episode is perhaps the most definitive episode of the 1960s Dragnet as it's known by people who weren't even into Dragnet. The show does a great job portraying how those who are charged with enforcing the law are often frustrated by the law when it failed to deal with an issue like LSD use. The episode is often known as the Blue Boy episode for the central suspect Benji Carver who first appears under influence of the drug with his face painted blue. The downbeat ending was beautifully done by Webb both from a directing and acting standpoint.
For some, this represented a hard hit back against the emerging counterculture. When Dragnet had left the air in 1959, it’d been a tired franchise worn out by nearly 600 radio and TV performance over the course of the decade. This episode began a new life with this episode as Friday re-emerged as the rock solid hero we needed in a time when everything was shifting including cherished values.
For many advocates of legalized drugs, this episode began a lifelong hate affair with Webb and Dragnet that continues to this day.
This story is quintessential Dragnet. A man holding a bomb is threatening to blow up city hall if the police don't release his brother from county lock up and time is running out. Friday and Romero opt to try and stop the scheme at the risk of their own lives. The episode manages to mix the best elements of Dragnet: humanity, professionalism, and realistic danger and excitement. The end scene is a classic and sets the tone for the series. Too often, fictional cops were portrayed as almost superhuman or buffoons.The Human Bomb gives us a portrait of brave but cautious men who can make mistakes like everyone else. The story was great over radio and it was the perfect selection to lead off Dragnet over television in 1951.
2) Dragnet 1966
Original Air Date: January 27, 1969
From pure quality of the production, this may be the greatest Dragnet production ever. Friday returns from vacation early to investigate the disappearance of three missing women. This was a made for TV movie and it took full advantage of its length to create a fully fleshed out thriller with amazing twists and turns, and one of Joe Friday's finest action moments ever.
The film provides the context through which Joe Friday is commonly understood It includes the dynamic, "Quirk in the Law" speech and Dragnet's earliest attempts at taking on race relations. The suspect in that speech identifies Friday as an iconic figure when he calls him "the immortal sergeant.."
In addition to these dramatic features, Dragnet 1966 includes some great comic relief, most notably Virginia Gregg has the head of a matrimonial bureau. In addition, the impending retirement of Bill Gannon is a source of great comedy.
Sadly, this film is less well-known than it should be as it was not replayed often, wasn't re syndicated with the 1960s Dragnet TV shows, and is only legally available as an extra on the Dragnet 1968/Season 2 DVD, so many Dragnet fans haven't seen it. This is a pity as it is was a true classic.
Original Air Date: March 7, 1968
Dragnet is often accused of being a forum where Jack Webb pushed his political views. However, Dragnet’s ideas were not seen as all that political at the time. What we know of Webb’s personal politics is really quite limited. What we can say safely of Webb’s political beliefs was that he was anti-Communist, supportive of the Civil Rights movement, and pro-law enforcement. However, this episode provides a good view of Webb on America.
The episode tells of Friday and Gannon encountering a young gang of thieves who look down on society and plan to flee to island to start a just, peaceful, and moral nation. To this end, they begin robbing stores to acquire needed supplies and injuring anyone who stood in their way. (Irony alert.)
“The Big Departure” really was born of its times. The 1960s radicals, many of whom in one form or another urged young people to tune out. There were all types of opportunities to destructively turn away from a society with its troubles. There was the drug culture, hippy communes, and terrorist organizations like the Weather Underground, all of which urged people to tune out of traditional American processes and in many cases, to violate the laws of the land.
In “The Big Departure,” Friday and Gannon don’t bother arguing that America is perfect, rather they argue that its worthwhile and that the boys need to engage in life, not run away from it.
Webb understood what it was to be angry about injustice. When he was 26, he made a radio series, “One Out of Seven” that dealt with racial prejudice and intolerance. By 1968, the situation had begun to improve. But, this only happened because people worked to make things better, not escaping to a fantasy land.
At the core of Dragnet was a belief in the rule of law. The police officers were the good guys because they enforced the laws and made America work, giving democracy a chance to work. As Friday said, "Don’t try to build a new country. Make this one work. It has for over four hundred years; and by the world’s standards, that’s hardly more than yesterday." That is the heart of the series.
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14) Burns and Allen:
Burns and Allen remain one of the most successful and memorable husband-wife comedy teams of all time. Their performances on radio began in the mid-30s with those that were variety radio programs . The programs featured an announcer, band leader, and various character actors and the whole act was doing the show with plot contrivances thrown in usually centered on a rivals as their characters remained single even after they'd been married.
These programs weren't bad and they did show aspects of their talent that were not apparent in later shows. For example, Gracie Allen sang, and George Burns sang before entering a decade of pretending to not be able to carry a tune.They showed Gracie's zaniness found plenty of outlets. Most famously, in 1940 on their Hormel program, she staged a run for President on the "Surprise Party" ticket while on the Hinds and Honey Almond show. However, the light banter and romantic rivalry plots just didn't work anymore. At 45, Burns realized the couple was simply too old for it, so for the 1941-42 season for their new show on Swan, Burns and Allen became a sitcom with musical interludes. Singer Jimmy Cash and Orchestra leader Paul Whiteman still did some acting in addition to their singing, but receded into the background after the first season as far as the plot went.
The show became a home to a variety of characters. Clarence Nash (who voiced Donald Duck) featured in the first couple of seasons as a talking pet duck named Herman, and during the Swan Years Mel Blanc would portray the happy postman whose happy words were contradicted by his dour voice tone. When the show was sponsored later by Maxwell Coffee, Gale Gordon would play a Texas Oil Millionaire, with Elliot Lewis as a manic depressive man who swung from euphoria to rage at every job he had, and Hans Conreid as a psychiatrist who was the Burns' next door neighbor. Bill Goodwin remained the commercial spokesman, extra comic, and absurdly successful lady's man.
The highlight of course was Gracie and George. With Gracie's unimitable style and delivery, she was to 1940s radio what Lucille Ball would be to 1950s television, relying on her zaniness and timing to create fantastic situations. George Burns was the perfect straight man for Gracie and guests with perfect pitch reactions.
The couple left radio for television in 1950, but they'd left an indellible mark in their nine seasons in the sitcom format.
13) Bob Bailey
Bob Bailey did some of his best work in relative obscurity. He performed from 1946 into the mid-1950s as detective George Valentine in Let George Do It in a series that was a West Coast only production of the Don Lee mutual network, helping to bring to life the stories of up and coming writers such as Jackson Gillis. Outside of this, his radio work up until 1955 was mostly a slew of character roles on such reliable sources of such work as Cavalcade of America and Lux Radio Theater. However, in October 1955, he made his most lasting mark on radio when he became the fourth on-air Johnny Dollar.
The radio detective series had been on the wane as a genre for years after its heyday in the late 40s and early 50s. Long time detective franchises such as Dragnet and Barrie Craig had packed it in at the end of their 1954-55 seasons. However, after more than a year off the air, CBS re-launched Yours Truly Johnny Dollar as a five day a week serial on October 3, 1955 with Bailey winning the title role.
There were many things that made the show a success, but Bailey was the key. He was the perfect Johnny Dollar. He could be tough as his Johnny Dollar predecessor Edmond O'Brien, he could be more tender than John Lund, and he could generate excitement as he told listeners what they could expect in tomorrow's installment. While the Yours Truly Johnny Dollar scripts were often reused and expanded stories from other golden age shows of the 1940s. However, the scripts were well-expanded, and Bailey made every episode a joy.
The serial format lasted for more than a year, but Bailey continued to appear in weekly 30 minute episodes for another four years before the show moved to New York with Bailey opting to stay close to his family. The series continued for 22 months, and successive Johnny Dollar actors were highly influenced by Bailey's performance.
For people who grew up in the mid-to-late 1950s, he was the radio detective as they never heard Philip Marlowe or Michael Shayne. The radio detective genre had run itself to the ground through over-saturating the market, while also competing with the rise of television. The amazing thing about Bailey's Johnny Dollar is that despite these factors, it became a success.
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Original Air Date: February 27, 1969 (Television)
With the focus on Dragnet's anti-drug shows, what gets lost in the shuffle is how Dragnet really shined a light on child abuse. DR-19 is one of the more poignant episodes. It begins with Friday meeting with the President of a woman's club (Cathleen Cordell) as she previewed information that would be used for a presentation at the woman's club. Dragnet couldn't show pictures of child abuse but Webb's narration of the pictures Cordell was looking at combined with her reactions gave the viewers the idea of what horrific things were going on. Then they were called to investigate a missing child. When they find the boy, they find he's been abused. The show is powerful and portrays Friday's heart and brings home the dramatic way in which the system often leaves abused children vulnerable. It's one of Dragnet's poignant and most moving stories.
Original Air Date: October 27, 1953 (Radio)
Original Air Date: September 2, 1954 (Television)
Two conmen pretending to be cops are taking traveling businessmen for thousands of dollars by setting up a phony arrest and offering to take a bribe to "clear everything up." A similar episode would air in the 1960s. I like this one better for a superior ending as well as the fact that it features one of Jack Webb's earliest speeches, "The Phony Badge."
Original Air Date: November 30, 1967 (Television)
Legendary Character Actress Virginia Gregg looms large in this comedic bunco case as she plays an over-the-top pyramid swindle marketer trying to sell people on her get-rich scam with a religious fervor. The episode provides a great performance from Gregg while also serving as a warning to the public making this a great fusion of education and entertainment.
7) The Big Red
The radio version of this story was perfect. It came right on the heels of the death of Barton Yarborough who played Friday's first partner Ben Romero, so a script that centered on Joe Friday working pretty much alone definitely was helpful. This was one of many episodes where Friday went undercover to bust narcotics. This was somewhat notable as in the first episode, he caught part of the drug ring, revealing himself as a cop. In the second episode, he has to have their boss somehow still believing that he's a drug dealer so he can get to the source. It's a tough job that Friday has to do. To do it, he has to break out a tough persona that's reminiscent of many of the hard boiled characters he played over radio prior to Dragnet. The Television version is not in circulation. It was the last 1950s episode of Dragnet, but probably wasn't as good as 1) it wasn't two parts and 2) those really late Dragnet episodes suffered in quality. That's a shame because the radio version's a pure classic.
6) The Grenade
Original Air Date: September 14, 1967
This is probably the most exciting episode of the 1960s Dragnet, with perhaps one of most tense and exciting moments in Dragnet history. It all begins with Friday and Gannon investigating a case where a troubled teenage boy threw acid on the back of another teenager at the movie theater. The boy is released to the custody of his parents, but he's not done. In a rage over attempts by his stepfather to impose discipline he storms into a party he wasn't invited to and holds a a group of teenagers hostage. This leads to an unforgettable showdown with a live grenade. This was a key episode for the 1960s Dragnet. Dragnet had returned to the air after eight years absence with a thirteen episode short season and they needed a strong season opener. This did it and with gusto.
Next week, we countdown the top five greatest Dragnet stories ever.
16) Amos 'n Andy:
This creation of radio pioneers Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll began on radio in 1928 as a daily serial and aired in one form or another over radio until 1960. While the show has been the subject of controversy in recent years due its stereotypical black characters, it was a cultural institution to an entire generation of Americans. During their early years, they eschewed the use of a studio audience, performing in a small studio by themselves. By doing, they avoided the pitfall of so many early radio performers who would find themselves playing to their studio audience rather than the people at home with some visual gag that the audience at home missed out on. By focusing on the listening audience, Amos 'n Andy were able to become comedy legends.
15) Lawrence Dobkin
Lawrence was an amazingly versatile actor. His starring roles included playing Ellery Queen and taking on the role of Archie Goodwin on The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe. However, Dobkin was able to play a stunning of variety of character roles as a true man of a thousand voices. On the Saint, he played sidekick and cab driver Louie, but when star Tom Conway was struggling with alcoholism, he had to take over the role of the debonair Simon Templar while Conway was indisposed. His ability to change voices and take on any characterization made him a true asset to producers of programs such as The Whistler, Lux Radio Theatre, Let George Do It, and Escape.
15) The Big Break
Original Air Date: November 14, 1950 (Radio)
Original Air Date: March 19, 1953 (Television)
For me, while this episode first aired on radio, the TV version was probably the best. When you see it, Friday and Smith are carrying Tommy Guns to go and get this suspect. You know right off that he's dangerous and as the episode shows, he never will be taken "the easy way" like most Dragnet criminals. And he's incredibly resourceful with a clever jailbreak, and then after another escape, he showed more nerve than probably any other Dragnet criminal. The show does include a scene of monotony as Friday and Smith wait in vain for the guy to come back to his room to provide some realism and balance to the program's action high points.
Original Air Date: February 9, 1967 (Television)
Friday and Gannon are working out of Internal Affairs and they bring in a rookie undercover cop (a young Kent McCord) who has been accused of armed robbery. The young cop is outraged at his treatment and gets to a point where regardless of the investigation's outcome, he's ready to leave the force. It's at this point that Joe Friday delivers perhaps his best speech ever-"To Be a Cop." It details the hardships a policeman faces in a way that's as moving today as when Webb delivered it in 1967. It's at times rhythmic in its cadences, "And the heartbreak-- underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids." The speech was a tribute to the sacrifices police officers made every day, and one of the most powerful of Webb's speech and a reminder for the young officer of what the job was all about.
Original Air Date: January 19, 1967 (Television)
This episode is a great thriller. It's scary enough when on a typical day working in burglary divisions, Friday and Gannon learn that high velocity gelatin dynamite has been stolen. However, it becomes even more scary when they find the perpetrator is a man whose house is dedicated with Nazi paraphernalia and a large amount of dynamite is gone. The stakes don't get much higher and the episode ends memorably.
12) The Big Knife
Original Air Date: May 11, 1950 (Radio)
21 girls have been injured in knifing at a local high school. It's obviously the work of a very disturbed person and that makes for a very chilling episode. The mood in the episode is perfect, and the scene where they finally discover who the criminal is also brilliantly executed.
11) The Big Thief
Original Air Date: December 17, 1953 (Television)
This episodes back to a time when doctors made housecalls for patients even ones they didn't know. It also shows one reason why that practice has gone the way of the dodo. A young couple pretending that they're pregnant lure doctors there in order to beat them and rob them of the drugs in their doctor's bags. In this episode, Friday and shoots and kills a young armed suspect in self defense, setting up a scene of uncharacteristic vulnerability as he struggles with what he had to do. His then-girlfriend does her best to offer comfort. In later years, Friday would become more of an iconic figure representing police everywhere. This story on a far more human note that makes you wonder how the show might have been different had Webb gone this direction with the series.
18) Jack Johnstone
Jack Johnstone was key to many of radio's most enjoyable programs. He was at the helm of "Buck Rogers" and "The Adventures of Superman" as it took on multi-part stories with a mix of science fiction and social commentary. He made his mark in strictly adult radio with his role as producer and director of Herbert Marshall's powerful spy mystery series, The Man Called X and the Jimmy Stewart vehicle The Six Shooter. However, it was at the end of radio's golden age that he made his most lasting mark. By 1955, radio was waning and no genre was suffering worse than radio detectives. While the mid-to-late 1950s would mark the odd growth of adult radio Westerns in the declining radio market, detective shows were played out. Dragnet and Barrie Craig, the two longest running radio detective shows had departed the air. Johnson took on the challenge of leading the revival of a canceled detective show as a five day a week serial, a format that hadn't worked for adult programs since World War II. However, Johnstone's experience on both juvenile serials and adult mysteries served him well as producer/director of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar which lasted more than a year in the daily serial format and then another six years as a weekly serial. Johnstone seemed to be holding radio together in those last year. In addition to producing and directing duties, he was also writing many episodes of Johnny Dollar and Suspense (often other an pseudonym of Jonathan Bundy.) Pound for pound, Johnstone was always vital to great radio but in its last years, he was clearly an indispensable man.
17) Dinah Shore
Dinah Shore came to stardom on Eddie Cantor's Time to Smile program in 1940. Soon, she had her own show for Bristol Myers in 1941 and would be a much sought out performer leading shows for Birds Eye frosted foods, Ford, Philip Morris, and Chevrolet. She was one of America's most popular singers throughout radio's golden age. Her popularity made her a guest star for programs from Lights Out to Burns and Allen. She was one of radio's most popular and talented personalities in an era filled with talented and popular personalities.
Continued from: 25-21.
20) Big Trio
Original Air Date: July 3, 1952 (Radio)
Original Air Date: November 20, 1952 (Television)
This was cited by Jack Webb in an interview in the mid-1950s as his favorite Dragnet episode and it was definitely classic Dragnet particularly as it appeared on the radio. "The Big Trio" followed the detectives on three separate traffic investigations. The first and last were gut-wrenching stories of tragedies that had occurred due to foolish and careless drivers, with the second being a lighter vignette which helped make the impact of the last story even greater. The last scene in particular was intense. The episode was also one of the few episodes that they were very intentional about the timing. Airing the day before the Independence Day holiday, the Big Trio served as a perfect cautionary tale for a holiday that far too often is accompanied by traffic fatalities.
19) The Big High
Original Air Date: November 2, 1967 (Television)
This episode begins with a father concerned about his grandchild because his daughter and son-in-law are drug users. It then leads to a dramatic discussion of the pros and cons of marijuana use between Friday and the yuppie couple. Unlike another similarly themed episode, "The Prophet," this episode packed a punch by wrapping up the debate with an actual plot that leads to a stunning and unforgettable dramatic moment that makes this a sobering episode that shows the power of Jack Webb as a director and producer.
18) Big Missus
Original Air Date: August 9, 1955 (Radio)
Original Air Date: October 11, 1956* (Television)
This episode begins with a woman coming to Friday and Smith to tell them that her husband is wanted for parole violations in Michigan. It's made him paranoid and he's on the verge falling back into crime, and she's finally realized that the only thing to do is for him to go back and serve his time, so that they can have a hope of having a normal life. However, she doesn't want him to find out that she had anything to do with the police finding him, for fear of what it'll do their marriage. The way Friday and Smith handle this case shows incredible humanity that goes beyond Dragnet's "by the book" stereotype as they could have just slapped him in jail and that would have been the end of it. What results is a truly compelling and interesting human story spurred on by a wife's tough love for her husband.
17) The Big Betty
Original Air Date: November 23, 1950 (Radio)
Original Air Date: September 24, 1953 (Television)
There are certain types of crimes, that is really easy to communicate to the public how pernicious their actions are. Robbers, Child Abusers, and murderers are among the easiest. The con man is a bit trickier. Some movies both in the golden age and today portray them as whimsical fellows who play tricks and don't harm anyone in any serious way. Against this backdrop, the Big Betty succeeds as all the best Dragnet bunco stories do by focusing on a case that connects with us on an emotional level. In this case, they deal with the obituary swindle in which confidence men visit the relatives of recently deceased people and tell them that their loved ones had ordered a gift for them but hadn't paid for it. The grief-stricken marks then buy cheaply made and overly priced gifts. This episode really hits the emotional notes flawlessly, and it delivers a memorable and satisfying conclusion on New Year's Eve.
Original Air Date: March 6, 1969 (Television)
DR-31 is one of those 1960s episode that simply can't be forgotten. It starts out as a case about a series of small time burglaries of movie memrobilia. Then, the perpetrator is caught, and he's dressed as one of the old time superheroes, the Crimson Crusader. The interview that follows is classic Dragnet. While other episodes such as the 1950s shows The Big Present, The Big Show, The Big Shoplift, and the Big Mother presented people who committed crime out deep pain, this may be the best of the lot. It strikes a chord as our view of the character changes as he reveals his story. Truly, a classic story.
20) Lum 'n Abner
"And now let's see what's going on down in Pine Ridge." With these words, millions of Americans were taken on a journey to the land of Pine Ridge and two leading storekeepers named Lum 'n Abner who couldn't quite keep to minding the store, starting gold mines, and even building a rocket ship to the moon.
Lum 'n Abner were really two genuine Arkansas Boys named Chester Lauck and Norris Goff. So actually were most of the rest of the town's regular citizens including Caleb Weehunt, Milton "Grandpappy" Spears, and Squire "M.K." Skimp. This guaranteed that the show's core cast would be together as long as Lauck and Goff both wanted to do the show. There were some guest actors infrequently. Perhaps the greatest recurring voice role was played by Clarence Hartzell who played Benjamin Withers from 1946-49.
Lum 'n Abner came to radio in 1931. In planning their audition, Lauck and Goff planned to do a black face act but ditched it for country storekeepers based on characters they knew back home in Arkansas. Lum 'n Abner became a huge hit nationally. The show, at its peak, was fifteen minutes long and aired between 3-5 times a week with a variety of sponsors and networks. They told serialized adventures including starting a mining company and a matrimonial bureau, or a counterfeiter operating out of the Jot 'em Down Store. The stories thrived on comic misunderstanding by Abner of everyday sayings and wordplay that rivaled Abbott and Costello. But Lum 'n Abner thrived on genuine loyalty, sentiment, and patriotism.
The show was a sensation. The unincorporated area of Waters, Arkansas was renamed to Pine Ridge in honor of the show. It's Christmas episode became such an American tradition that when the show was on hiatus to make the first of their seven movies, they returned to the air for one night just to do that special. They made history in July of 1938 when they returned to the air again in the middle of a Summer break. With Lauck in England and Goff in the United States, they did the first ever transatlantic simulcast with Lum and Abner doing a live show from thousands of miles apart.
When the War came, few programs did more to spur the national war effort than Lum and Abner who communicated government needs and messages with characteristic good humor. War also came to the town of Pine Ridge. In one poignant episode, Lum had decided to get together a drive to send birthday cards to all the local soldiers. He called the home of one soldier's family to ask and there was a stunned silence. Lum reported solemnly, "Robert Blevins won't have any more birthdays," and then rallied listeners to buy war bonds.
The two kept going strong until 1948 when CBS gave them a half hour weekly program to create an unbeatable night with Lum 'n Abner in the same line up as Jack Benny and Amos 'n Andy. The new show offered opportunities for characters that had only been talked about to be heard. However, the show's producer slowly began to jettison what made Lum 'n Abner legendary. The humor quickly lost its charm, heart, and rural roots. Soon, the additional characters Lauck and Goff had created were jettisoned and replaced by people playing themselves such as Zasu Pitts, Andy Devine, and Opie Cates. They were cancelled after two season.
Lauck and Goff would make another couple tries at radio. They recorded a pilot for an hour long country music DJ show in the early 50s and later they'd revive their serials as syndicated shows in the mid-50s, but radio was moving on but so did they. However Lum 'n Abner remain one of the few old radio shows in constant replays in Chicago and Mena. And there's still annual Lum 'n Abner festival in their honor as well as a museum at the site of the old Jot 'em Down Store.
19) Lurene Tuttle
Lurene Tuttle was best known for playing Sam Spade's brilliantly clueless secretary Effie. She played with both Spades (Howard Duff and Steven Dunne). Her radio acting career began in the 1930s and lasted into the 1960s with her appearances on the Salvation Army's Heartbeat Theater. She returned in the late 1970s to appear on The Sears Radio Theater. Tuttle's ability to play characters ranging from the serious to the silly and the sublime and at all ages made her an invaluable commodity. This illustrated by her radiography. In one example Radio Gold Index, she appeared in her regular role on Sam Spade in addition to making guest spots in a romantic story on Hallmark Playhouse, an appearance on Red Skelton's comedy show, and then an appearance on Mutual's suspenseful Let George Do It.
Tuttle's radio work did not go unnoticed. In 1960, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her radio work.
As I finish up my Old Time Dragnet podcast. I've seen and heard a lot of Dragnet: More than 300 radio episodes from which most of the 1950s TV version were created and I've seen a few of those TV episodes that weren't based on radio shows. In addition, I've seen the entire 1960s series, and both the 1954 Motion Picture and the 1966 TV Movie.
That's a lot of Dragnet and I've developed a strong opinion as to which episodes that constitute the best. Of course, there are dozens of 1950s TV shows which were never done on radio due to the general unavailability of those programs. In addition, there are 9 radio episodes which aren't in circulation nor are the television versions available At least one episode described by Michael Hayde seemed like it could make on the list. (The Television show, "The Big White Rat.") However, until they become available, this is my top 25 Dragnet stories from radio, television, and film.
25) 16 Jewel Thefts
Original Broadcast (radio): August 18, 1949
Dragnet sought to portray real policemen in the course of their duty and this very early script did a great job at it. Friday and Romero have their thief but to really make the charge stick, they have to find his cache of jewels. They've been able to narrow the neighborhood he was staying in, but now they actually have to find his apartment, and so they have to wander around from apartment house to apartment house in the heat, wearing these very hot suits, toting the suspect along, and trying to hide their discomfort. It's an amazing episode in showing the drudgery that real police work can become but managing to do it an entertaining way. It's also somewhat noteworthy for being the first appearance of future Dragnet co-star Harry Morgan in the Dragnet franchise.
Original Air Date (Television): March 27, 1969
A little girl is bitten by a dog and the dog can’t be found. Under the law, the girl must be given a rabies vaccination if it’s not known whether the dog was rabid. The problem? The girl is allergic to the rabies vaccine, so a rabies shot could kill her. If the dog has rabies, the rabies could kill her. Friday and Gannon have a limited amount of time to track down the dog and save a child from a potentially lethal injection.
23) Big Little Jesus
Original Air Date (Radio): December 22, 1953
Original Air Date (Television): December 24, 1953
Remake Air Date: December 21, 1967
The Dragnet Christmas episode was born out of writer Richard Breen's belief that the original Dragnet story, .22 Rifle for Christmas was really not appropriate to the festive holiday season. What Breen did was he took a story from San Francisco and transported to Los Angeles. It centers around a church which finds its statue of the Child Jesus is missing and the efforts made by Friday and his partner to recover it. The production became a holiday classic because it oozes Christmas Spirit, and the conclusion packs an emotional punch, making it a perfect fit for the Season and an all-time Christmas classic.
Original Air Date (Radio) : March 15, 1953
In this '53 radio episode, police are able to trace a series of robberies back to a suspect. The problem is that the suspect was confined to a sanatorium. This is one of the better mystery plots in Dragnet's very long history.
Original Air Date: April 2, 1970
One of the funnier Dragnet episodes features a parolee whose nagging ex-wife continually reports him as a suspect in every robbery. The role of the nagging wife would have probably been well-played by Virginia Gregg but Peggy Webber shows herself every bit as good in this great role. The plot has a pretty solid twist towards the end and one of the most ironic endings in Dragnet history.
Continued next week with 20-16.
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