“Three, four, five, six, seven, eight . . .”: Old-time radio listening, 17 September

Edward R. Murrow: Counting the Parachutes (CBS, 1944)

Talk about going where the action was . . . (Photo: CBS)

In one of his classic broadcasts during World War II, Edward R. Murrow—whose habitual flying aboard bombing runs, married to his legendary rooftop reporting of the earlier London Blitz, prompts many at CBS to wonder if their champion news leader has a death wish—flies such a run during the Allied invasion to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazi grip.

Barely have the Allies triumphed in D-Day and its aftermath when the invasion begins in earnest. The much-remarked high point is Murrow’s count-off of every parachute opening as the crew jumps from the plane. But even through the engine noise you can hear a reporter allowing himself, humanly enough, to be caught entirely in the moment without losing his proper detachment entirely. The surviving recording will last a mere minute, but what he reported will last an eternity. Particularly for the Dutch, as things will turn out.


Special Report: Announcing the Invasion (BBC, 1944)—The BBC discloses the news of “strong forces” landing this afternoon, such as those Murrow will describe right aboard their aircraft, launching the invasion in earnest.

Special Report: “Let us say to each other this was the Lord’s doing”: Montgomery Addresses His Troops (BBC, 1944)—Gen. Bernard Montgomery speaks to his charges via radio, celebrating enemy losses in D-Day and its aftermath and bracing them for the Dutch invasion about to begin.



Vic & Sade: Uncle Fletcher Cleans House (NBC, 1941)Sade (Bernadine Flynn) has too much work to do to accompany Ruthie Stenbottom on a downtown jaunt, a load Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) is only too happy to lighten for her . . . and Sade is only too happy, likewise, to carry herself. Who could blame her? Announcer: Vincent Pelletier. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

The Great Gildersleeve: McGee’s Invention (NBC, 1944)Ousted as water commissioner by the mayor he once challenged, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) is surprised to hear from old nemesis-buddy Fibber McGee with a new proposition he thinks is going to make them both rich—only he has to wait for a letter to learn just what the invention happens to be, while promising elaborate gifts to his family. They could have flipped this around into a Fibber McGee & Molly episode and it would have been just as funny. Marjorie: Louise Erickson. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Hooker: Earle Ross. Music: Claude Sweeten. Director: Frank Pittman. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

The Mel Blanc Show: Mel Bakes a Prize-Winning Putty Cake (CBS, 1946)Mel (Blanc) and Betty (Mary Jane Croft) both look forward to the county fair, but Betty’s plan to enter and win the fair’s baking contest runs into an unlikely obstacle when Mel is being hired to fix the YWCA’s kitchen ovens. Buy the premise, buy the program, though Blanc manages to beat the weak material into near-submission. Colby: Joseph Kearns. Uncle Rupert: Earle Ross. Miss Stanhope: Bea Benaderet. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Director: Joe Rines. Writers: David Victor, Herb Little, Jr..

My Favourite Husband: Liz and the General (CBS; AFRS Rebroadcast, 1948)He’s an eccentric neighbour to Liz (Lucille Ball), a whack job to George (Richard Denning), and a retired Army general over whom Liz frets—because he hasn’t been out of his house for a week, which she thinks is very unlike him. You can just feel the writing team jelling in earnest with the heart of their star-in-waiting. Katie: Ruth Perrot. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.

Our Miss Brooks: Elopement with Walter (CBS, 1950)Frustrated by Boynton’s (Jeff Chandler) over-involvement with the volunteer fire department, which cuts down on her chances to land him, Connie (Eve Arden) thinks a clever togetherness idea might be to become his ladder practise rescue—from Conklin’s (Gale Gordon) house, assuming she can trick the principal into leaving the house. It tells you something of the neatly-knitted genius between the writer and his cast that Arden and company could get away with something as comparatively trite (compared, that is, to just about everything else they did with this series) as this scenario and make it seamlessly funny, even half a century plus following its emergence. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Martha Conklin: Paula Winslowe. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.


Crime Drama

The Whistler: Sing a Song of Murder (CBS, 1945)—Singer Bill Randall is both amazed and disturbed by his unexpected, overnight success, especially when he realises his manager is taking a higher percentage than is usual in the business and fears for his future . . . and his girl friend, who just so happens to be the manager’s daughter, brushes him off—stirring him to free himself from the deal when the stress threatens his singing voice. Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Robert Wright.

Richard Diamond, Private Detective: The Jerome J. Jerome Case (NBC, 1949)—While amusing himself reading the personals ads, Diamond (Dick Powell) is interrupted by a strange fellow (Sam Waxman)—who claims to be a millionaire federal agent songwriter and wants Diamond to hire him as a bodyguard for a week, which has Diamond a little too suspicious even if it has Helen (Virginia Gregg) slightly amused . . . until Lt. Levinson (Ed Begley) tells him the man has found a corpse. Based on episodes like this you wonder if this show should be classified a crime comedy. Otis: Wilms Herbert. Additional cast: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: John Storm. Music: Frank Worth. Director: Richard Stamfeld. Writer: Blake Edwards.



Suspense: Doctor of Poison (CBS, 1951)—Based on the true story of Thomas Neill Cream (Charles Laughton), the Scot-born physician said to have been remorseless over his poisonings, even after his bid at one too many framings for his crimes proved his downfall after leaving America for England. It’s how this script and cast tell the story effectively even having to water too many details down that makes it work, though the benign version of Cream’s story may be too grisly even for the strongest stomachs. Additional cast: Jeannette Nolan, Joseph Kearns, Betty Hartford, Georgia Ellis, Alma Lawton, Herbert Butterfield. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Director: Elliott Lewis. Writer: Antony Ellis.



Gunsmoke: Thoroughbreds (CBS, 1955)—Thoroughbred horse owner Jack Portis (John Dehner) who impresses Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer) with the horses and with his well turned-out, intelligent if wary manner, is targeted by a man (Lawrence Dobkin) who claims he stole the horses from their slain owner. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Harry Bartell. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Sound: Ray Kemper, Bill James. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Meston.


World War II, Continued . . .

Special Report: A Secret House of Commons Session (BBC, 1940)—At the height of the London Blitz’s destruction, Prime Minister Winston Churchill—acknowledging British troop fears that knowledge of government sessions might further endanger the British effort against the Third Reich, while refusing to give the enemy too many advantages by public gestures, particularly in light of daylight Luftwaffe attacks targeting even key British government and civilian buildings—announces three measures in the House on behalf of keeping the body’s sessions secret from enemy ears, and protecting House members under pending Nazi attacks on their building.

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