The war effort launches: Old-time radio listening, 9 December

Fibber McGee & Molly: Forty Percent Off (NBC, 1941)

The First Couple of 79 Wistful Vista and their sponsor wasted no time getting behind the World War II effort after Pearl Harbour was bombed . . . (Photo: NBC; S.C. Johnson.)

That’s what a post card offers at the Wistful Vista Wholesale Outlet, a natural lure for a sucker like our man McGee (Jim Jordan). But it’s the program beginning which makes this program particularly significant, especially in light of what this show and its performers will come to mean throughout the war.

NBC News announces it will deliver the latest war news before every program “day and night.” Tonight, that news includes the sultan “of one of the little melee states” ceding his homeland to the British on behalf of the war; the United States banning new American citizenships from Germans, Austrians, and Italians until the war ends; and, a British raid against a German stronghold in Calais; new fire stations opened in Manila (the Philippines) with civilians evacuated from areas near American military outposts.

And the McGees’ sponsor, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., will throw a gauntlet straight down toward all radio advertisers, courtesy of the message from its president that the floor wax company offers in lieu of its standard show-opening commercial:

In these serious days, there can be no division of opinion. The United States is at war, and we are all ready and eager to do our part. The makers of Johnson’s Wax and Glo-Coat believe it is in the public interest to continue programs as entertaining as Fibber McGee & Molly. They have a place in national morale. So you can continue to hear Fibber McGee & Molly and still be in touch with latest developments. We have asked the National Broadcasting Company to feel free at any time to cut into our programs with important news flashes and announcements.

Mickey Smith, in How Fibber McGee & Molly Won World War II, would write in due course, “One can only try to imagine the atmosphere in the studio only two days after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. The show had already been written! Indeed, the finishing touches would have been put on the script on the very day Pearl Harbour was bombed. Uncertainty and apprehension must have been rampant, but the show went on.”

And from tonight through the official celebration of V-J Day in 1945, Fibber McGee & Molly would deliver 139 broadcasts with at least 28 offering explicitly war-related story themes or war-related special material, not to mention perhaps countless remarks by the two stars—in character or as their own selves—addressing specific things their listeners could do to support the war effort. Tonight would be the first such, as the announcer will speak of buying Defense Bonds and Defense Stamps at show’s end; by the time the show delivers its first of the war-specific stories (McGee buying a horse in anticipation of automotive part rationing), they will be called War Bonds and War Stamps.

Molly: Marian Jordan. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, Martha Tilton, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.



World News Today: Situation Update (CBS, 1941)—John Daly anchors this report which covers further actual or feared further Japanese attacks, a possible Nazi German declaration of war against the United States when Hitler addresses the Reichstag, and other developments in the immediate wake of Pearl Harbour and the official U.S. entry into World War II.

Fireside Chat: The Climax of a Decade of International Immorality (All Networks, 1941)—So says President Roosevelt, about Pearl Harbour, in his first Fireside Chat since the Japanese attacks, as a nation and its old-time radio continues girding for way . . . and a Chat in which he warns against the networks and the newspapers “deal[ing] out unconfirmed reports” while awaiting “all the facts, as revealed by official sources.




The Great Gildersleeve: Opera Committee Chairman (NBC, 1945)—That would now be Gildersleeve (Harold Peary), after Hooker (Earle Ross) snookers him into taking the gig from him. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: John Lang. Music: Jack Meekin. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

My Favourite Husband: French Lessons (CBS, 1949)—Liz (Lucille Ball) and Iris (Bea Benaderet) take them, after they’re embarrassed trying to read a French restaurant menu. George: Richard Denning. Atterbury: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Probably Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh.

The Henry Morgan Show: Murder in the Club Copacabanish (NBC, 1949)—A cheerfully, unapologetically lacerating satire of radio crime dramas. Also: A couple of observations on the New York water shortage; toy advertising and the new children’s toys; wangling disinterested Gerard (Arnold Stang) into going to a house party; and, Old Uncle Henry (Morgan) reads the comics. Cast: Pert Kelton, Florence Halop, Fran Warren, Jack Albertson. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Music: Milt Tatum Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Joe Stein, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr.


Drama/Dramatic Anthology

The CBS Radio Workshop: I Was the Duke (CBS, 1956)—The reputed rise of juvenile delinquency provokes this coolly jarring entry, based on true stories, in which a young southern California gang leader with ten years in the system behind him—including a second term in San Quentin, this time for grand theft auto—tells his story to a veteran forger also in San Quentin, including the ways his abusive household and unsympthetic school drove him to a youth gang and street crime while in high school. Narrator: William Keneally. Announcer: Unidentified. Director: William N. Robson. Writer: Unidentified. (Warning: Some profane language—hardly deployed for lascivious or gutteral amusement, one hastens to note, but very daring for its time and place in conveying the life and mind of an imprisoned criminal.)

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