29 January: Canned feud

(l to r) Portland Hoffa, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

(l to r) Portland Hoffa (Mrs. Fred Allen), Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

Classic network radio has no better aural running gag than Fibber McGee’s closet, though you could argue that Jack Benny’s subterranean vault alarm might prove a close enough second. For a better verbal running gag, it’s hard to deny the Benny-Fred Allen mock feud. It’s even harder to believe that Fred Allen may actually feared it couldn’t be done in the first place.

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28 January: War, peace, and Benny

Jack Benny entertaining troops in World War II, as he often did during summer hiatuses. (Photo: NBC.)

Jack Benny entertaining troops in World War II, as he often did during summer hiatuses. (Photo: NBC.)

Jack Benny doesn’t mind bringing his radio show to benefit stages, but he has a different view of making too many broadcasts live before audiences of American GIs, after doing several in the wake of friend Carole Lombard’s death. His wife and reluctant air partner Mary Livingstone (who never really will overcome her ferocious stage and mike fright) reveals in due course that Benny fears his show format, by now well enough structured, will be appreciated less by a military audience than looser formats such as Bob Hope’s.

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27 January: One new, one old brave world

Aldous Huxley in the 1950s. (National Portrait Gallery.)

Aldous Huxley in the 1950s. (National Portrait Gallery.)

Old-time network radio in 1956 may be rounding third and heading for home, in the phrase of baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday. But it hardly lacks for grand ideas even entering its terminal period—including resurrecting one of its finest hours of the past, launching tonight, and picking up for the most part where that distinguished predecessor program (Columbia Workshop) left off, even raising it a few by way of one of the most challenging adaptations in the history of the art.

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26 January: The individualistic fantasist

Quiet, Please,” writes an unnamed author at Digital Deli,was promoted by both the Mutual Broadcasting System and Wyllis Cooper as a ‘new-type psychological drama with the listening audience slated to become part of the program’.”

Wyllis Cooper.

Wyllis Cooper.

That description sums up virtually all of the scripts that Wyllis Cooper ever wrote for radio during the Golden Age. Wyllis Cooper, arguably more than many of his contemporaries, viewed his radio audience as individuals. He wrote to individuals. He crafted most of his scripts from an individual point of view. Personal dilemmas, personal foibles, personal obsessions, and personal terrors formed the basis for the overwhelming body of his work.

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25 January: A critic’s choices

Taylor, the serious musician and serious critic who feared the serious music world took it too seriously. (Photo: Blue Network.)

Taylor, the serious musician and serious critic who feared the serious music world took it too seriously. (Photo: Blue Network.)

He may be almost entirely forgotten in America by the 21st Century, but in his own time Deems Taylor is something of a personality in the classical music world above and beyond his own chosen work as a composer whose post-Romantic style proves engaging in the moment but (to too many critics) forgettable beyond it.

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