Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #26-#25

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26) Eddie Cantor

Eddie CantorEddie Cantor was a mainstay over radio for two decades, although favorable reviews of his radio appearance go back to 1922. He hosted many radio programs for a variety of sponsors including Chase and Sanborn, Camel Cigarettes, and Texaco among others. Cantor was one of the premiere comics and singers of the age. His style of entertainment had a decided vaudevillian edge to it, and Cantor’s boisterous showman personality made him a top draw on his program and many others throughout the golden age of radio as he came known as the Apostle Pep and Banjo Eyes. Cantor was remembered for his great characterization of a New York Taxi driver called Maxie the Taxi.  He also helped to bring, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” into the cultural mainstream when he chose to sing the song on his radio program. On a more serious note, Cantor was one of Hollywood’s earliest and most outspoken opponents of Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany. Once the war started, he was tireless in entertaining allied troops and boosting the war effort.

25) Norman McDonnell

McDonnell produced and directed some of radio’s most outstanding productions.  He directed several episodes of Escape in 1948 before taking the helm of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe.  He continued to direct radio programs through the 1950s for episodes of Escape, Suspense, and Romance.  In comedy, he wasn’t quite as lucky as he direct the ill-fated Harold Peary show. However, it was in the Western genre that McDonnell would leave his greatest mark over radio. In 1952, he would co-create, produce and direct Gunsmoke over radio and it would become radio’s most enduring adult western. In addition to Gunsmoke, Macdonnell would also produce and direct Fort Laramie and the radio version of Have Gun Will Travel.  He would continue as a producer and occasional writer of Gunsmoke on Television and would also produce The Virginian. 

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