A Depression farce: Old-time radio listening, 30 November-1 December

Lux Radio Theater: A Man’s Castle (CBS, 1 December 1941)

Early and elemental Tracy . . . (Photo: Unknown publicity photo)

Spencer Tracy reprises one of his earliest—and most arresting—film roles in a performance that’s just about as arresting even with the requisite radio adaptation and editing.

As millions are jobless in the Great Depression, a squatter’s camper (Tracy) takes in a homeless young lady (Ingrid Bergman, in the Loretta Young film role). He feeds her as she makes him a castle inside a shack and falls in love with him despite his restless nature. There’s just one little hitch: when he discovers she’s pregnant, he wants nothing more than to hop the first freight train out of town.

He does, that is, until he plots a toy store robbery to leave her with something. Which leaves him shot and scrambling for options as the police close in—and the camp wastrel (Arthur Hill) just so happens to have eyes for the young lady.

Imagining a Depression farce is not always the simplest imagining. But if you can’t laugh your way through a Depression (Will Rogers, in the same years: We hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poorhouse in an automobile), you can’t see your way out of one, either. (You also may be unable to explain the popularity of the classic radio comedies, for that matter, in such a state.)

Ira: Edgar Barriot. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Music: Louis Silvers. Adapted from the story and screenplay by Lawrence Hazard and Jo Swerling.

 

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

30 November

Fibber McGee & Molly: Teeny’s Missing Dog (NBC, 1943)—For once in his life, McGee (Jim Jordan) doesn’t want to brain the little pest (Marian Jordan, who also plays Molly), when she practically begs him to help find her dog. Mr. Meyerhoff: Possibly Bill Thompson. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Mr. Wellington: Lansing Sherman. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills and his Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.

The Fitch Bandwagon: Phil’s Hobby (NBC, 1947)—Phil (Harris) thinks twice about his doctor’s advice to slow down, even harder about hobby suggestions from Willie (Robert North) and Alice (Faye), then makes a grave mistake—asking Remley (Elliott Lewis) for hobby ideas, which sends Phil only slightly off the rails. Hobby shop clerk: Frank Nelson. Additional cast: Walter Hall, Wally Maher. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

Duffy’s Tavern: Archie Inherits Half a Racehorse (NBC, 1951)—Actually, Archie (Ed Gardner) buys in on a hot tip . . . from a weighing machine. Which figures. Eddie: Eddie Green. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Miss Duffy: Gloria Erlanger. Additional cast: Unidentified. Music: Matty Malneck. Writers: Ed Gardner, unknown.

The Aldrich Family: Sam is Sick (NBC, 1952)—And the household may come apart bending over to keep him comfortable, while Sam himself (House Jameson) chafes over Alice’s (Katherine Raht) overdone protectiveness. Henry: Bobby Ellis. Homer: Jack Ryan. Mary: Mary Rolfe. Announcer: Dick Dudley. Writer: Clifford Goldsmith.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Eight Broken Mirrors (NBC, 1953)—Seven years after he broke a mirror, McGee (Jim Jordan) celebrates his liberation from bad luck, actual or alleged . . . only to quake when Molly (Marian Jordan) asks him to take the hall mirror downtown to be re-silvered. The Old-Timer/Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Shopkeeper: Mary Ann Richman. Announcer: John Wald. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.

1 December

Vic & Sade: Winnie and Her Man; Vic’s Trip to the Plant (NBC, 1941)—Vic (Art Van Harvey) is too anxious about having to pack for and make a trip to his company’s Dubuque plant to bother about Sade’s (Bernadine Flynn) longtime and freshly married cousin. Rush: Bill Idelson. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Gas Rationing (NBC, 1942)—The Rage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) fuming over it, naturally enough, and it’s enough to make him want to follow Mayor La Trivia (Gale Gordon, who receives an on-air send-off from the Jordans) into the Coast Guard—almost—even as it’s enough to get him little sympathy from the townfolk. Molly/Teeny: Marian Jordan. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Simpson: Possibly Bea Benaderet. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.

The Fitch Bandwagon: Self-Improvement (NBC, 1946)—Phil (Harris) plunges into an adult extension college course in spite of a psychological profile suggesting he’s nuts, his limited vocabulary, his skeptical kids (Jeanine Roos, Anne Whitfield), his belief that intellectual pursuits involve chasing dames . . . and his eager acceptance when Remley (Elliott Lewis) agrees to help him with one class essay. Herself: Alice Faye. Professor: Frank Nelson. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Joe Connelly, Bob Mosher.

My Friend Irma: The Reward (CBS, 1947)—One year after scrambled Irma (Marie Wilson) and sensible Jane (Cathy Lewis) became housemates (“So many people wonder how I can keep living with a girl who thinks President Hoover invented the vacuum cleaner”), and while Jane’s out at the drug store, an envelope of petty cash Richard (Leif Erickson) brings for Jane to hold proves only too tempting to scheming Al (John Brown), when it turns up in a purse radio’s favourite dingbat finds. Which figures. Prof. Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Mrs. O’Reilly: Gloria Gordon. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Lud Gluskin. Director: Cy Howard. Writers: Parke Levy, Stanley Adams.

The Great Gildersleeve: Leroy Sells Papers (NBC, 1948)—Leroy (Walter Tetley) takes it up when Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) wants him to learn the value of earning his Christmas money. Marjorie: Mary Lee Robb. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Announcer: John Wald. Music: Possibly Jack Meakin. Director: Fran Van Hartesfeldt. Writers: Gene Stone, Jack Robinson.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Enters a Photo Contest (NBC, 1953)—Still bent on increasing the profit he’s turned for the ladies’ club even further, the Shutterbug of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) finds a perfect new investment—get the picture? Molly: Marian Jordan. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Announcer: John Wald. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.

 

Crime Drama

30 November

Dragnet: The Big Car (NBC, 1950)—Fifteen food markets in four months have been robbed by well-dressed, armed thieves who strike once a week, but a man who confesses to the crimes is tripped when his confession includes a night no such crime occurred, further hobbling Friday (Jack Webb) and Romero (Barton Yarborough) until the thieves strikes while driving a new, flashy looking car. Additional cast: . Announcer: Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Possibly John Robinson.

Dragnet: The Big Shirt (NBC, 1952)—While Smith (Ben Alexander) nurses a severe sunburn, he and Friday (Jack Webb) go on the trail of a killer who beats shopkeeper or their staffers to death while robbing and destroying their establishments. Moving from Thursday to Sunday seems no big deal for Friday, whose exercise remains a top night’s listening draw even if it will finish with a lower rating than the night’s already faltering average. Additional cast: Vic Rodman, Olan Soule. Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: John Robinson.

1 December

The Clock: One-Eyed Cat (ABC, 1946)—An elderly paraplegic attached to his gentle, one-eyed cat, is victimised by a ruthless new private nurse. Passable, though you know this series has done better. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Lawrence Klee.

Broadway is My Beat: The Kenneth Mitchell Murder (CBS, 1950)—A terminally ill man is found stabbed to death near an apartment he rented only three days earlier, and Clover (Larry Thor) is jarred by the young woman (Lillian Byeth) who discovered him dead and professes her love for him; the dead man’s wife (Mary Lansing), who reveals he walked out of a sanitarium despite his illness before his murder; and, the revelation that the young woman was also terminally ill and walked out with him. Additional cast: Lou Merrill, Paul McVey, Byron Kane. Muggavan: Jack Kruschen. Tartaglia: Charles Calvert. Announcer: Bill Anders. Music: Alexander Courage. Director: Elliott Lewis. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.

Dragnet: The Big Odd (NBC; AFRTS Rebroadcast, 1953)—Friday (Jack Webb) and Smith (Ben Alexander) have their hands full trying to smash a hijacking ring, a quest beginning with a hijacked driver who was left tied up in the back of his truck before his hijackers unloaded the stolen load and beat him senseless. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Fenneman. Director: Jack Webb. Writers: Frank Burt, John Robinson.

Rocky Fortune: Murder Among the Statues (NBC, 1953)—It’s one thing for Rocky (Frank Sinatra) to take a handyman’s gig tending statuary in a tony art parlour, but it’s something else again when he stands to join the stiffs. Lucky for him his supporting players aren’t too stiff about it. Additional cast: Jan Minor, Ted Osborne, Leon Janney, Joseph Julian, Ed Begley, Mandel Kramer. Announcer: Eddie King. Director: Andrew C. Love. Writer: Ernest Kinoy.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Henderson Matter, Part Four (CBS, 1955)—Under pressure to wrap it up fast, Dollar (Bob Bailey) finally gets Henderson’s reluctant widow (Lillian Byeth) to talk following the inquest—after meeting a woman at Henderson’s grave, a woman said to have been his beneficiary until he changed his mind just before his death—and learns the estranged couple argued bitterly after agreeing to an amicable settlement but made up the day of his death, while beginning to believe the widow wasn’t exactly candid on the inquest stand. Sheriff Holden: Herb Ellis. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: John Dawson.

 

Drama/Dramatic Anthology

30 November

Columbia Workshop: The Wonderful Day (CBS, 1939)—For a series that will be remembered as a dramatic milestone, it isn’t necessarily immune to comic work, as in tonight’s installment, a deceptively clever yarn involving the facts and fancies of a twelve-year-old schoolboy (Kingsley Colton). Henry: Jackie Grimes. Rosemary: Betty Jane Tyler. Mother: Gladys Thornton. Father: Neil O’Malley. Teacher: Sylvia Field. Announcer: John Reed King. Music: Alexander Semmler. Director: Earl McGill. Writer: Frank Gould.

 

Fantasy

1 December

Quiet, Please: Come In, Eddie (Mutual, 1947)—A murderer (Ernest Chappell, who narrates) and his accomplice have enough trouble trusting each other when the latter visits the former in the victim’s old house, without the victim himself seeming to be in the house as well. Jim: Les Tremayne. Policeman: Roger Corwin. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

 

Mystery/Thriller

1 December

Suspense: The Bride Vanishes (CBS, 1942)—A newlywed couple (Hanley Stafford, Lesley Woods) sailing toward a honeymoon in an oceanside villa are startled to discover their fellow passengers stare and mutter about her, until they’re told she resembles a young bride who disappeared mysteriously on her own wedding day—from the same villa the couple has rented. Additional cast: Unknown. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Director: John Dietz. Writer: John Dickson Carr.

 

Western

1 December

Gunsmoke: Jud’s Woman (CBS; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, 1957)—She’s a frightened woman, who turns shelter-seeking Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer) away during a violent storm, only to ask Matt later to hider her from her violent man who threatenes Matt after he shelters her with Kitty . . . and hijacks the stage on which Matt books her out of town. It’s as effective as you’d expect. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcers: George Fenneman, George Walsh. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: Marian Clark.

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