Regarding Henry: Old-time radio listening, 21 October

The Aldrich Family: Babysitting; or, Losing Nine-Year-Old Willie (NBC, 1948)

Ezra Stone (right, with co-star Jackie Kelk as Homer), the one-of-a-kind (thank God!) adolescent threshing machine known as Henry Aldrich. (Photo: NBC.)

In a script slightly modified from its original performance of 11 May 1944, the last thing Henry (Ezra Stone) wants is to babysit a nine-year-old boy in sister Mary’s (Barbara Robbins) stead, and he discovers only soon enough how right he was to be wary of the idea in the first place. Buy the premise, buy the show, as the late Marvin Kitman would come to say often enough in television synopses. Better still to go with John Dunning’s eventual summation:

Henry Aldrich was described in the press of the time as “typical,” “not at all typical,” and with all the daffy adjectives that those two opposites suggest. He was described as the Penrod of the ’40s, but his likeness to the hero of Booth Tarkington’s 1914 classic was more imagined than real. Henry found more ways to turn the ordinary into complete chaos and disaster than Mack Sennett ever devised for his old two-reel chase films. With Henry, ordinary objects became lethal weapons.

And in real life, in just about any era, a Henry Aldrich wouldn’t be getting laughs, he’d be getting murdered. Before and after his parents got in their licks.

And between his mother’s episode-opening squeal and his own adenoidal, puberty-pockmarked, Pavlovian-oops! reply, which should have calcified the spines of any ears within a ten nautical mile reach of any radio blasting it out, it should have seemed a miracle that this lot lasted through just one or two of the original skits Rudy Vallee and Kate Smith, inexplicably, wanted on their earlier shows, never mind becoming its own comedy half-hour for thirteen years.

Alice: Katherine Raht. Sam: House Jameson. Homer: Jackie Kelk. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Possibly Dan Seymour. Music: Jack Miller. Writer: Clifford Goldsmith.


Comedy The Fred Allen Show: Hillbilly Music (NBC, 1945)—Navy Day gets Fred (Allen) and Portland’s (Hoffa) attention, the Alley demimonde discuss suffocating traffic problems, a lawyer delivers a lawsuit threat from Charlie McCarthy, and Fred tries to convince a skeptical Frank Sinatra—who’s been sent to stand in for a singing city worker—to think of his musical future . . . as a hillbilly singer. Sen. Claghorn: Kenny Delmar: Titus Moody/Pappy: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum/Lulubelle: Minerva Pious. Announcer: Kenny Delmar. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, possibly Nat Hiken, possibly Larry Marks.


Drama/Dramatic Anthology

Lux Radio Theater: Lillian Russell (CBS, 1940)Alice Faye and Edward Arnold reprise their 1940 film roles as the Gay Nineties singing and stage star whose turbulent personal life climaxed in a long-term relationship with railroad magnate and philanthropist Diamond Jim Brady—both of whom, it turns out, were acquaintances of the series host, making the production somewhat personal for him as well—before retiring to a happy fourth marriage, a life as a philanthropist (she benefitted the original Chorus Equity Association) and women’s suffragette, and immigration reform advocate before her death at age 60. Alexander Moore: Victor Mature. Additional cast: Unknown. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Announcer: Melville Ruick. Music: Louis Silvers. Director: Frank Woofruff. Adapted from the screenplay by William Anthony McGuire.

Lux Radio Theater: Miss Susie Slagles (CBS, 1946)—Joan Caulfield reprises her film role and William Holden step into the Sonny Tufts film role: In 1910 Baltimore, a student nurse is torn between her brother’s feud with his fabled surgeon father and her love for a doomed intern. Ben Mead: Billy De Wolfe (reprising his film role). Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Milton Kennedy. Host/producer: William Keely. Music: Louis Silvers. Director: Fred MacKaye. Adapted from the screenplay by Hugo Butler and Anne Froelich.

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2 Responses to Regarding Henry: Old-time radio listening, 21 October

  1. Mike Hobart says:

    Didn’t Firesign Theater do a skit in one of their comedy albums in which the Mother’s call to Henry was answered with a fairly explicit “I’m… coming… Mother….auuuugh!”

    • Jeff Kallman says:

      Mike—I think they did, though I’m hard pressed to remember the name of the skit. Also, if you recall the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon “Hollywood Steps Out,” you see Henry Fonda ogling a young lady until a dead-on impression of that spine-calcifying “Hen-reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Henry Fonda!!” blasts in, and the hapless Fonda calls back the adenoidal “Coming, Mother!!”—Jeff