Arthur’s Alley: Old-time radio listening, 18 October

Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen: Les Miserables (CBS; War Department Special Services rebroadcast, 1942)

Not quite ready for prime time? (Photo: CBS)

Unusually, Fred Allen acts as his own announcer to open the show, from a nod to the increasingly swift movements of Allied forces across Europe to the introduction of the first orchestral number—before he brings forth actual announcer, Arthur Godfrey.

Godfrey is something of a rising radio star thanks to his morning exercises out of Washington and, as John Dunning (in On the Air) would describe it, there is sufficient buzz in the press over the folksy-sounding capital ad-libber teaming up with network radio’s long-established master ad-libber and satirist.

As Jimmy Wallington’s planned successor, Godfrey isn’t necessarily incompatible with Allen. But it soon becomes evident that Godfrey and Allen feel something less than an ideal partnership, and that Godfrey feels far more at home during his own morning time exercises—to say nothing of far more in control, though just how much of a control freak Godfrey really is will not become known widely and, especially, publicly, for several years to come.

Godfrey will remain in Allen’s announcing slot for three more weeks (he has debuted two weeks earlier, on a show featuring Charles Laughton and the Andrews Sisters), after which Wallington will return to stay with Allen for the remainder of his tenure under Texaco sponsorship.

Tonight’s main attraction, however, is Orson Welles, who comes to rope Allen into joining him for a radio version of Les Miserables—with several classic catches, of course, several hooking around Welles’s actual or alleged ego.

Meanwhile, the March of Trivia—the news satire segment held over still from the Town Hall Tonight days (where it was known as the “Town Hall News”) but streamlined now, and shaping subtly into the segment soon to become known and famous as Allen’s Alley—addresses the highest contributors to a nationwide scrap metal drive.

With Portland Hoffa. The Texaco Workshop Players (though Allen, perhaps accidentally on purpose, refers to them by their original name, the Mighty Allen Art Players): Charles Cantor, Minerva Pious, John Brown, Alan Reed. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Benay Venuta. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach.

 

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

Lum & Abner: A Player Piano (Blue Network , 1943)It’s what our heroes (Chester Lauck, Norris Goff) hope to rent from Grandpappy Spears (also Lauck) after they’d landed the projector they need for their movie theater in waiting, and Lum vows to make Grandpappy rent the piano for next to nothing with a little genteel psychology. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Roz Rogers, Betty Boyle.

My Friend Irma:Thanksgiving Dinner (CBS, 1948)—Jane (Joan Banks, standing in for an ailing Cathy Lewis) and Irma (Marie Wilson) plan a Thanksgiving Dinner for their beaus Richard (Leif Erickson) and Al (John Brown), insisting on keeping it from crotchety landlady Mrs. O’Reilly (Gloria Gordon), at least until guess who nearly blows it with the turkey—live, that is. Professor Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music: Lud Gluskin. Director: Al Lewis. Writers: Parke Levy, Sam Adams, Roland MacLane.

The Halls of Ivy: Scandal (NBC, 1950)—Lonely freshman Linda Matthews’s (Gloria McMillan) quiet crush on her literature professor (Charles Davis) spirals into a scandal in the making, when another student (Barbara Whiting) spreads a story that the professor and the freshman are involved personally, prompting threats from Wellman (Herb Butterfield). Hall: Ronald Colman. Vicki: Benita Hume Colman. Merriweather: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolfe. Writers: Don Quinn, Milton Merlin, Barbara Merlin.

Our Miss Brooks: Boynton’s Barbecue (CBS, 1953)Back on her feet after fighting a nasty cold that kept her bedridden several days, Connie (Eve Arden) fumes over Miss Enright’s (Mary Jane Croft) aggressive interim pursuit of late dates with Boynton (Robert Rockwell), so she treats his backyard barbeque invitation as the equivalent of a cotillion ball—until she learns the hard way that they’re going to have unwanted company. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Walter: Richard Crenna. Announcer: Unknown. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

 

Crime Drama

The Whistler: Death Comes at Midnight (CBS, 1942)—Manufacturer John Prentiss, whose reputation is that of a spotless family man who has never harmed a soul in business or in his personal life, is haunted by the recurring dream that he’s to be murdered at midnight, which unnerves his wife, though his daughter, and future son-in-law aren’t convinced he’s really in danger until they receive an odd phone call from a shady-sounding character claiming to have been hired to kill him. Cast: Unknown. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: J. Donald Wilson. Writer: Herbert Connor.

 

Mystery/Thriller

Suspense: Summer Storm (CBS, 1945)—Henry Fonda delivers a solid performance in a curiously unresolved story: An ordinary fellow (Fonda) is anxious to leave his unkempt boarding house, unusually sensitive to weather changes, and escapes hastily, after striking back at the landlord (Wally Maher) who tries—literally—to beat him out of an extra week’s rent. Whether it’s a dubious premise given too much credibility by strong acting we’ll leave entirely up to you. Additional cast: Verna Felton, Elliott Lewis, Lou Merrill. Announcers: Ted Osborne (The Man in Black), Truman Bradley. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Sound: Berne Surrey. Writer/director: William Spier.

Suspense: Life Ends at Midnight (CBS, 1955)—In the series’ third crack at a script first performed in 1944, a prodigal son (Stacy Harris) visits his mother (Paula Winslowe) with murder only too much on his mind. Additional cast: Victor Rodman, Jim Nestor, Bob Easton, Dick Ryan. Announcer: Music: Rennie Garrigan, Wilbur Hatch. Sound: Ray Kemper. Director: Antony Ellis. Writer: Robert Tallman.

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