9 October: The high price of Oscar on the air

Blyth and Bracken with tomorrow's news today . . .

Blyth and Bracken with tomorrow’s news today . . .

Academy Award was only slightly deceptive as the title of this short-lived dramatic anthology. The hook was that at least one of each week’s players, or the film itself that was condensed for the radio performance, had either won or was nominated for an Oscar. Somehow, merely having been nominated didn’t seem quite enough for such a ballyhooing series name.

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8 October: Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Calabash . . . wherever you are . . .

The Old Schnozzola as legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld saw him, once . . .

The Old Schnozzola as legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld saw him, once . . .

Jimmy Durante experienced heartache enough in his otherwise charmed life. So much so that one of the great legends of his unusual career involved one of those heartaches.

The Old Schnozzola in 1943 was a man at extremely loose ends. It was bad enough that his career was in the proverbial tank—he’d taken over NBC’s Ed Wynn, the Fire Chief, now renamed Jumbo Fire Chief, in October 1935, but the extravagantly produced new version continued the Wynn ratings slide. Jumbo Fire Chief was cancelled in February 1936, and Durante went from there to make a series of films that drove him to rock bottom, in just about every sense of the term, by 1943.

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24 September: Birth of a news notion

Douglas Edwards, when he worked for WSB Atlanta prior to World War II . . .(Photo: WSB)

Douglas Edwards, when he worked for WSB Atlanta prior to World War II . . .(Photo: WSB)

CBS European News and CBS News of the World had a baby during World War II, and its name was World News Today.

Anchored customarily by George Bryan or Larry Elliott (European News) and Harry Mottle (News of the World), the original two news programs established what World News Today would solidify: smart pacing, smart spacing, perhaps the best such pace and space of any World War II regular newscasts. For a nation relying far more often upon radio for immediate war news, it was a game plan that worked.

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21 September: Radio ad absurdium

Karl Swenson, at the height of his renown as Lorenzo Jones. (Photo: CBS.)

Karl Swenson, at the height of his renown as Lorenzo Jones. (Photo: CBS.)

Of two charming programs airing tonight in 1948, one is a series premiere. Picking the leadoff between them here is something akin to choosing between lobster fra diavolo and chicken cordon bleu for dinner, so I decided to pick according to age.

There’s no question but that Frank and Anne Hummert are old-time radio’s king and queen of the soaps, with misery, disaster, melodrama, and heartbreak their quadruple specialties. But even they seem to have needed a little relief from the afternoon anxieties to which their usual audiences repaired. They forayed into musical programming now and then (the couple were passionate music lovers, though Anne Hummert won’t have time for further indulgence until she retires upon her husband’s death) and a prime-time crime drama here and there.

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20 September: The great howdunit

Bill Forman, who made a deceptively imposing Whistler. (Photo: CBS.)

Bill Forman, who made a deceptively imposing Whistler. (Photo: CBS.)

Twenty-first century old-time radio lovers may not realise The Whistler was never a truly national phenomenon. The CBS crime drama was almost strictly a western U.S. phenomenon thanks to its sponsor, Signal Oil, doing business in the west alone.

Only twice did The Whistler get a crack at a listenership beyond the west, when Campbell Soup sponsored it in the midwest and the east during the summer of 1946, as a replacement for its moderately successful Jack Carson Show; and, when Household Finance Company (HFC) picked it up from March 1947 through the end of September 1948.

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