It may prove the last time old-time radio’s eventual most shameless iconoclast (“If Fred Allen bit the hand that fed him,” historian Gerald Nachman will recall in due course, [he] tried to bite off the whole arm”) gets any kind slap without even thinking about slapping back.
Neither, alas, is the newborn’s birthcry, “Good evening, anybody, here’s Morgan.” (OK, so I made the headline a lie.)
For one thing, he is born Henry Lerner van Ost, Jr. For another, he will require a quarter century at least before Kate Smith annoys him enough to hit her “Hello, everybody!” back with that tagline, after having a snippet of her theme song played on something made to sound like a circus calliope.
Regardless, it seems only appropriate to acknowledge his 98th birthday. If only because you get the feeling that, if you went full out for his centenary, he’d be liable to spike his own birthday cake and blame it on old man Adler.
SPECIAL CHANNEL SURFING: SOME OF THE BEST OF THE WORST OF THE MORGAN . . .
Here’s Morgan: Quoted in the Reader’s Digest (Mutual, 1941)—The possible earliest known surviving installment of the show that first made Morgan a cult hit in the northeast: Morgan takes several gleeful pokes at his critics—particularly those who’ve been praising him—without getting particularly nasty about it . . . at least, until he comes to a Reader’s Digest item quoting one of his nutzoid weather reports—and crediting a newspaper who quoted it earlier. Also: the minutes of the last meeting of the Morgan Clan, and one of the things people do in radio that annoys him the most. Uh, huh . . . Writer/director: Henry Morgan.
The Henry Morgan Show: Great Sayings of Unfamiliar Men (Series Premiere: ABC, 1946)—Our hero examines “Great Sayings of Unimportant Men,” a substitute for the Ink Spots (who were “too worried” to come out tonight), the final inning of a baseball game between two British teams, and the first installment of a recurring Morgan feature, “The Question Man.” Among other manifestations of madness. It will be great fun for long enough and perhaps too little in the big picture, not that it seems to matter to our hero . . . Cast: Susie Dusso, Charles Irving (also announcer). Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Director: Charles Powers. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein.
The Henry Morgan Show: Broadcasting Radio Shows Back to the Russians (ABC, 5 March 1947)—Morgan wonders what the Russians would think if the State Department broadcast to them what Americans really listen to on the radio. Uh-ohhhhhh . . . Cast: Arnold Stang, Art Carney, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee. Announcer: Charles Irving. Music: Bernie Green Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Carroll Moore, Jr., Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein.
The Henry Morgan Show: Morgan’s Summer Resort Hotel (ABC, 1947)—Answering the question of where you can be sent for two weeks worth of sunstroke, the title institution has less to do with a hotel and an awful lot to do with a customer looking to book his wife a one-way cruise. Cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Madaline Lee, Art Carney. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Music: Bernie Green and His Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Joseph Stein.
The Henry Morgan Show: New Year’s Eve Show (NBC, 30 December 1949)—Legendary Washington columnist and broadcaster Drew Pearson steps in for a guest shot, after (Henry) Morgan parodies a typical Pearson predictions broadcast, right down to the Adam’s Hats spots. Also: Morgan cleans out his joke file, Gerard (Arnold Stang) kvetches about New Year’s shows, and a lady cab driver (Pert Kelton) goes toe to toe with Morgan. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Music: Milton Tatum Orchestra. Director: Kenneth MacGregor. Writers: Henry Morgan,Joe Stein, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr.
The Henry Morgan Show: J.J. Morgan’s Court of Inhuman Relations Clinic (NBC; Canada Broadcasting Company rebroadcast, 1950)—The disorder in the court addresses marital problems, more or less. Also: Helpful hints on treating colds as spring arrives; Gerard (Arnold Stang) takes up painting; rising boxer Sailor (Art) Carney as Man of the Week; Morgan’s Movie News covers an ironworker strike negotiation and other tidbits. Morgan’s customary semi-sanity. Additional cast: Pert Kelton, Ed Herlihy. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Music: Milton Tatum Orchestra, Norman Cottier, Billy Williams Quartet. Writers: Henry Morgan, Joe Stein, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr.