11 April: The Duke of Collingwood

 

The singular Charles Collingwood. (Photo: CBS.)

The singular Charles Collingwood. (Photo: CBS.)

Even under the supervision of Edward R. Murrow, who’s often been considered one of the best dressed Americans in Europe (when not wearing flight suits covering bombing missions, of course), Charles Collingwood is considered so splendorously turned out that becomes easy to forget in future years that “The Duke” (his nickname) is also a solid reporter.

Perhaps part of the problem is that Collingwood’s reporting style—which some call “spontaneous elegance”—is as low-keyed as the man himself. He’s urbane and thoughtful, even if his unassuming style on the air and in his reporting eventually costs him a plum or two in the swelling postwar CBS firmament.

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31 March: A centenary, if you must . . .

Happy hundredth, wherever you are, Morgan on the same corner in front of the cigar store . . . (Photo: NBC.)

Happy hundredth, wherever you are, Morgan on the same corner in front of the cigar store . . . (Photo: NBC.)

It may prove the last time old-time radio’s eventual most shameless iconoclast (“If Fred Allen bit the hand that fed him,” historian Gerald Nachman will recall in due course, [he] tried to bite off the whole arm”) gets any kind slap without even thinking about slapping back.

Neither, alas, is the newborn’s birthcry, “Good evening, anybody, here’s Morgan.”

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28 March: The climb of Suspense

If I ever do any more radio work, I want to do it on Suspense, where I get a good chance to act.

Cary Grant.

The play was the thing, and [the performers] knew that contributing to a superior product would enhance their reputations far more than reading some feeble film condensation. Suspense was one of radio’s glamour showcases, but it never seemed to be trading on celebrity. People like Henry Fonda, Frederic March, and Humphrey Bogart appeared each week, but in scripts fine-tuned to their talents. [Creator-director] William Spier became known as ‘the Hitchcock of the airlanes.’ With the stars he was flexible; he required little rehearsal, just a few hours before air time. He wanted them tense at the microphone. They rewarded him with performances that were almost uniformly fine, matching the levels achieved by their underpaid supporting players, the professional radio people.

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24 March: The bloody red harmonica blues

Shep Mencken. (Photo: CBS.)

Shep Mencken. (Photo: CBS.)

It has been almost as much a staple instrument of the blues as the guitar. The earliest records of such rock and roll legends as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones featured it frequently enough. A century earlier, and just a few years after a German clockmaker named Matthias Hohner made his first and began to mass produce it, the first such maker to do so, soldiers in both the Union and Confederate Armies are said to have taken comfort carrying and playing the instrument. So was President Abraham Lincoln.

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23 March: A Dope Diamond jubilee

Ralph Edwards (left), with prizes and (we presume) a willing victim. (Photo: NBC.)

Ralph Edwards (left), with prizes and (we presume) a willing victim. (Photo: NBC.)

Reality programming’s old-time radio great-great-great-grandfather, of which fans would speak in terms of plain old mad fun and critics would speak of plain old madness, premieres seventy-five years ago tonight on NBC, dedicated shamelessly to the proposition that, humans being as they are, they—or a significant number among them—will do absolutely anything, short of murder, for money, prizes, or both.

Created and hosted by jovial journeyman CBS announcer Ralph Edwards, Truth or Consequences –an idea he has derived from the forfeits game he played during his farmland childhood—becomes either a national habit or a national guilty pleasure, depending upon how you take the show.

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