Wistful vittles: Old-time radio listening, 23 October


Dining with disaster? (Photo: S.C. Johnson & Son/NBC)

There are those who believe the only thing better than one dinner date with the First Couple of 79 Wistful Vista is two such dinner dates—provided that you keep Fibber McGee as far from the kitchen as you keep a Dodger fan from a Giant fan, that is . . .

Fibber McGee & Molly: Cousin Ernest Comes to Dinner (NBC; AFRS rebroadcast, 1945)—Fibber (Jim Jordan) hasn’t seen Cousin Ernest since . . . never, but the day’s mail brings a letter from Ernest saying he’s coming for dinner and a few further days, provoking McGee to arrange a few activities for his unknown but well-to-do relative, a lodge dinner and a date or three with gold-digging Alice (Shirley Mitchell) prominent among those ideas. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. La Trivia: Gale Gordon. Cousin Ernest: . Itself: The Closet. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Cooks Dinner for Molly’s Birthday (NBC, 1951)—We’ll put it this way: it cannot possibly end well, when Molly’s (Marian Jordan) chef for her birthday evening is none other than the Snous Chef of 79 Wistful Vista himself (Jim Jordan), a man who probably thinks crepe Suzette is a teenage creep and that you press duck with an iron. Bon(er) appetit! The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. La Trivia: Gale Gordon. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Phil Leslie, Keith Fowler.




The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: “Algiers” (NBC, 1938)—Moving into NBC’s newly-minted radio facility in Hollywood (aren’t you glad the writers made sure to get that plug in at the outset), the company (Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker) plans to have a go at satirising the Charles Boyer classic in the usual Benny style–assuming they can find the right stand-in for Hedy Lamarr. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Mahlon Merrick, Phil Harris Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Ed Beloin, Bill Morrow.

Our Miss Brooks, “Exchanging Gifts for Mr. Boynton” (CBS, 1949)—After Boynton (Jeff Chandler) returns from a trip, welcome-home gifts from and for the diffident object of Connie’s (Eve Arden) affections travel strangely contorted paths around the Madison High contingent. Nobody else could get away with this premise this engagingly. Walter: Richard Crenna. Miss Enright: Mary Jane Croft. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Smith.

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: How to Repair a Living Room (NBC, 1953)—Lesson number one: You don’t learn from Phil (Harris) and Elliott (Lewis), who only think they can fix the basement ceiling beam whose breakage has part of the Harris house sinking. Willie: John Hubbard. Julius: Walter Tetley. Additional cast: Hy Averback. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat, Ed James.


Drama/Dramatic Anthology

Lux Radio Theater, “Invitation to Happiness” (CBS, 1939)—Fred MacMurray reprises his film role as a self-centered prizefighter whose long struggle to the top ranks threatens to cost him the society girl (Madeline Carroll in the Irene Dunne film role) he impressed and married in spite of himself . . . and perhaps herself. Buy the premise, buy the show? Customarily, yes. But MacMurray and Carroll are just too good to ignore entirely. Additonal cast: Unknown. Host/producer: Cecil B. DeMille. Adapted from the screenplay by Claude Binyon, based on the novel by Mark Jerome.

Words at War: Still Time to Die (NBC, 1944)—Opening with a jarring dedication to those who brought about or abetted the war, and those enslaved by it, Jack Belden (Walter Huan), himself wounded in Italy earlier in the war, brings his impressions of the human sidebars to the war—fighting men and civilians alike—in Sicily, Malta, Tunisia, and China to radio, five years before his coverage of the Chinese Revolution will warn that Mao’s “national revolution” carries despotic potential, a prediction borne out only too surely. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Jack Costello. Music: William Meader. Director: Anton M. Leader. Writer: Ben Kagan, based on the book by Jack Belden.



Gunsmoke: Ma Tennis (CBS, 1954)—Virginia Gregg shines as Ma Tennis, a take-no-prisoners ranch widow, embittered over her husband’s hanging, determined to keep her spoiled and temperamental son (Lee Millar) from the same fate, and just as determined to break him out of jail—with Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer) on the wrong end of her shotgun—after he kills a man (Harry Bartell) in Kitty’s (Georgia Ellis) saloon . . . even if it means running off her older, more mature son (Ben Edwards), the only witness who can verify her claim that the younger son is dead. Doc: Howard McNear. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Sound: Ray Kemper. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Meston.


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