2 March: The slings and arrows of Rocky Fortune

 

Sinatra. (Photo: NBC.)

Sinatra. (Photo: NBC.)

Depending upon whose analysis you heed, Frank Sinatra was either bored with or marking time with Rocky Fortune. The premise of starring Sinatra as a down on his luck temp worker stumbling his way into crime solving wasn’t necessarily a terrible one. As often as not Sinatra has seemed to go through the motions, to several critics and to many listeners.

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28 February: Politics as unusual

Well, why not? (Photo: CBS.)

Well, why not? (Photo: CBS.)

One of old-time radio’s greatest comic stunts might have been inspired by politics on the surface, but it also drew inspiration from its protagonists’ ratings drop . . . and proved only to be a short-term fix in the end. Which, come to think of it, is just about what most political fixes prove to be, no?

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27 February: The beat didn’t last long enough

Frank Lovejoy. (Photo: NBC.)

Frank Lovejoy. (Photo: NBC.)

Enough of the better radio crime dramas had short lives as it was. Night Beat—in which versatile veteran Frank Lovejoy played a newspaper reporter instead of one of the usual gang of overboiled private detectives or police officers—had a shorter life than most and deserved better than most.

Randy Stone wasn’t even a hard newsman, never mind crime reporter. As he himself says in Night Beat‘s audition episode, he’s what a later generation would call the soft news type, looking for the stories “that grab your heart and shake it until it hollers ‘uncle’.” His particular forte is uncovering stories about those who’ve suffered the hardest knocks of life and caring about every individual about whom he writes.

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26 February: Zing went the strings of her heartburn

Alice Faye and Phil Harris. (Photo: NBC.)

Alice Faye and Phil Harris. (Photo: NBC.)

Ever after Alice Faye walked off the 20th Century Fox lot never to return, over a perceived deliberate slight from studio chieftain Darryl F. Zanuck—whom she believes undermined her in favour of Linda Darnell—Faye and her husband Phil Harris could never resist an occasional zinger at Zanuck on their own hit radio show.

But at least once the congenial couple—who throve on radio because it enabled to spend their weeks raising their children quietly in Palm Springs while doing the show work on the weekends—dedicated an entire episode to a Zanuck zing. Sort of.

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25 February: Ugga-ugga-doom

The Man of a Thousand Voices (and probably half as many classic  support roles on radio) came up short at the head of his own show. (Photo: NBC/KGO)

The Man of a Thousand Voices (and probably half as many classic support roles on radio) came up short at the head of his own show. (Photo: NBC/KGO)

Maybe one of old-time radio’s great mysteries is how and why Mel Blanc—whose vocal genius was almost as prolific on the air as on Warner Brothers’ already-immortal cartoons—proved unable to cut muster when he landed his own comedy show for the 1946-47 season.

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