Radio’s Most Essential People Countdown: #33-#31

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33) Jimmy Durante

Jimmy Durante’s first radio program was 1935. In Texaco’s Jumbo Fire Chief program, Durante brought his broadway show, Jumbo to radio. However, the 1940s would be the zenith of Durante’s radio career. It began in 1943, when at age 50 he teamed with a comedian nearly half his age named in Garry Moore for the Camel Comedy Caravan. Their partnership lasted for 4 years for Camel and Rexall during which he coined his sign off phrase, “Good night, Mrs. Calabash.” The two made a wonderful team, playing off each other brilliantly with classic skits that were hits with audience across America, including their hilarious tongue twister performances. Durante then continued on for three years with his own show and then became a regular on radio’s The Big Show. Durante was a much sought after guest on other programs from Bob Hope to Eddie Cantor. His charisma, personality, and trademark mannerisms made him a perfect match for anyone from Bing Crosby to Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, and Al Jolson. Durante’s appearances with these and other stars always produced memorable moments.

32) Carlton Morse

Carlton Morse was a pioner in the creation of the Soap Opera for radio. He produced the series One Man’s Family  in 1932 and it continued for twenty-seven years and 3,256 episodes under his guidance , the longest uninterrupted run in radio history. His ability to create continuity within the trials and tribulations of this Barbour family made the show a success. Morse branched out into mystery. He also created the series, “I Love a Mystery” which followed the serialized adventures of three detectives. The series ran from 1939-44 and again from 1949-52. Morse’s radio work also included the series I Love Adventure and Adventure by Morse. Decades after the end of the golden age of radio, Morse continues to have a solid following.

31) Dick Powell

Dick PowellDick Powell’s career had two phases. He was a song and dance man before taking on a series fo tough dramatic parts beginning with Murder My Sweet and continuing through gritty films such as Johnny O’Clock and Pitfall .Radio captured both of these stages due not only to Powell’s many performances on the Lux Radio Theater but through the radio programs he appeared in. Dick Powell through the 1930s and 40s sang on programs such as Hollywood Hotel.

Murder, My Sweet combined with 1941’s Maltese Falcon and other films established Film Noir and gave a place to the Hard Boiled Detective. Radio was a different matter. Radio mysteries prior to the Summer of 1945 were dominated by mastermind detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe and Charlie Chan as well as romantic couples such as the Thin Man and Mr. and Mrs. North (Powell himself had appeared in a romantic mystery series called Miss Pinkerton Icc.)

In early 1945, Powell hosted a music program for Fitch called the Fitch Bandwagon. As if to illustrate the movement in his career, Fitch sponsored a Summer show this time starring Powell as Private Detective Richard Rogue, the first of radio’s hard boiled private eyes. Many more would follow over the next six years and Powell and Richard Rogue began it. He left the Rogue role in the Summer of 1946 and would focus on films and go 2 1/2 years until he had another regular radio series.

In April 1949, he took on his most famous radio roll as Richard Diamond Private Detective. The program was his most memorable vehicle and allowed him to showcase his full range of talent. The program called for lots of tough guy acting and could be one of the more violent private eye shows, but also had a lot of comedy, and even gave Powell a chance to sing nearly every week. It’s hard to think of the golden age of radio without Richard Diamond and even harder to think of it without the great work of Dick Powell.

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