A New Orleans legend of a tall tale that once inspired generations of black children, and possibly no few white children, is given an unforgettable radio treatment tonight.
Picking up where the legendary Columbia Workshop left off several years earlier, The CBS Radio Workshop may be destined for a single season. If it may have arrived too late to rescue network radio from its irrevocable fadeaway, its transcendent bicoastal efforts—the series alternates weeks between East Coast and West Coast productions—produce numerous highlights including and especially “The Legend of Annie Christmas.”
A striking mini-epic ballad suited almost too perfectly for radio, based as it is on a New Orleans legend often told to children of the Delta and beyond, “The Legend of Annie Christmas” addresses a Bunyanesque black woman, played boldly by former Beulah star Amanda Randolph, whose rise from slavery to legend includes her unrefuted claim to be the mother of twelve while standing up to—and for—anyone. William Conrad’s narration, veering between low-keyed finery and unapologetic ferocity, is the perfect complement to Randolph’s emphatic portrait.
Additional cast: Roy Glenn, Tony Barrett, Lou Merrill, Jack Moyles, Ken Christy. Announcer: Unidentified. Music: Leith Stevens. Songs: Bill Lee. Director: Sam Pierce. Writers: Edmund Brofe and Sam Pierce, based on Brofe’s original story-poem.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Great Gildersleeve: School Pranks (NBC, 1941)—In one of the no-questions-asked earliest classics of this series’s first season, Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) and Hooker (Earle Ross) learn to pick and choose their reminiscings carefully, after their memories of their prankish school days leave circus-hungering Leroy (Walter Tetley) with the wrong idea to get out of school to see the traveling big top. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Additional cast: Unidentified, but possibly including Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Jim Bannon. Music: William Randolph Orchestra. Director: Cecil Underwood. Writer: Leonard L. Levinson.
Duffy’s Tavern: The Missing Salami Sandwich Case (Blue Network, 1943)—Archie (Ed Gardner) has his hands full when he drags reluctant guest Peter Lorre into helping him find the culprit when a sandwich is missing from the counter case. Sounds like a lot of baloney, right? Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Florence Halop. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Paul Weston Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows.
It Pays to Be Ignorant: What is a Cowhide Used For (CBS; AFRS rebroadcast, 1945)—Among other things, it’s used to make a sucker out of guest panelists such as Machinist’s Mate Bucky Mead. Host: Tom Howard. Panel: Harry McNaughton, Lulu McConnell, George Shelton. Music: Don Novick. Director: Herb Polesie. Writer: Ruth Howell.
The Judy Canova Show: Judy at the Radio (NBC, 1946)—Judy (Canova) decides to try another radio audition after her first one bombed (“I had a frog in mah throat—they hired the frog!”), and tries a story based on her Cactus Junction family. Aunt Aggie: Ruth Perrott. Geranium: Ruby Dandridge. Pedro/Audition actor: Mel Blanc. Radio announcer/Host: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Verne Smith. Music: Charles Dant Orchestra, the Sports Men. Director: Joe Rines. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople.
The Fred Allen Show: The Perfect Crime (NBC, 1947)—James and Pamela Mason join Allen for a One Long Pan skit in which the less-than-intrepid sleuth hopes to solve the perfect crime whose perfection Mason the mastermind can’t remember. Also, the Alley demimonde commemorate the Better Business Bureau’s silver anniversary by discussing swindling; and, Allen and Portland Hoffa banter about colleges, a meat substitution invention, and Jack Paar. Sen. Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus Moody: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Announcer: Kenny Delmar. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, possibly Bob Weiskopf, possibly Robert Schiller.
Fibber McGee & Molly: A Ribbon on Your Finger to Remember—What? (NBC, 1953)—While bustling about catching up on bills and returning various bric-a-brac, McGee (Jim Jordan) can’t remember just what actually provoked him to tie on the ribbon in the first place. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: John Wald. Director: Max Hutto. Writer: Phil Leslie.
Dragnet: The Big Grandma (NBC, 1950)—Friday (Jack Webb) and Romero (Barton Yarborough) try to stop a prolific—and oddly seasonal—rubber check writer, a middle-aged woman (possibly Vivi Janiss) who uses frequent appearance changes to get away with it for nine years, $22,000, and a surprising motive. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Possibly Jack Robinson.