Culture shock: Old-time radio listening, 3 April

The Jack Benny Program: Journey to the Surface of the Earth (CBS, 1955)

The look on Joseph Kearns's face in this publicity photo could have been the look of Ed the vault guard coming up to the surface world after several decades . . . (Photo: NBC)

The look on Joseph Kearns’s face in this publicity photo could have been the sum of Ed the vault guard’s brief experience coming up to the surface world after several decades . . . (Photo: NBC)

If you were to launch a discussion as to what might be the single-most heard episode in Jack Benny’s long and distinguished radio career, you might think about tossing this one into the evidence box. In the decades prior to the digital revolution, which passed several hundred Benny (and other) shows onto digital files as the original transcriptions passed to the public domain, this—in its entirety, or in generous excerpts—will be one of the most often-cited and often heard.

With justification, of course. For what seems an eternity Benny’s subterranean vault has been guarded by a sallow fellow who may or may not have seen daylight since the McKinley Administration. And it is to wonder why it took this long for Benny’s crack writers to think of bringing poor Ed (Joseph Kearns) up from the bottom, simply because when they finally do it proves a comic masterpiece.

But bring him up Jack (Benny) does tonight, after descending to the Vault for a little spending money (!) to use for a night on the town. And poor Ed discovers the earth above is a lot more than he can handle, which almost becomes more than Jack can handle, and on a day when America’s favourite skinflint is helping Rochester (Eddie Anderson) finish his income tax freturn and contending with Dennis’s (Day) latest suicide threat.

Himself: Don Wilson (announcer). Missing Persons Clerk: Frank Nelson. Music: The Sports Men. Director: Hilliard Marks. Writers: George Balzer, Milt Josefsberg, Nat Perrin, John Tackaberry.

 

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

Amos ‘n’ Andy: The Marriage of Andrew H. Brown (CBS, 1939)—Perennial bachelor Andy (Charles Correll), whose talent for eluding the altar has gotten him into a previous legal scrape or three, isn’t looking for any escape hatch when Walida Green (possibly Madaline Lee) has him ready to say he do at last . . . but a full rehearsal, an elaborate canopy, the ushers, best man Amos (Freeman Gosden), the Kingfish (also Gosden) agreeing to give the bride away, and a curious pre-nuptial disclosure have nothing on the bang Andy’s about to get out of marrying Walida. Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. Announcer: Bill Hay. (Note: This is one of the extremely few surviving editions of the original fifteen-minute serial comedy-drama to remain completely intact, including opening and closing theme music and Campbell’s Soup commercials, and with above-average sound quality.)

The Hinds Honey and Almond Cream Program with George Burns and Gracie Allen: Till the Cows Come Home (CBS, 1940)—Gracie (Allen) is full swing into her presidential racie . . . kvetching about Congress’s rules on campaign spending limits (“Three million dollars for a campaign fund—why, they spend more than that to run the government!”) . . . and this is the woman who once dropped ten thousand dollars on tips at a convention (“It was a Shriner’s convention and I thought they were redcaps”) and thinks the cows will tell her everything. Additional cast: Frank Parker, Truman Bradley. Music: Ray Noble Orchestra. Writers: Keith Fowler, Frank Galen, Paul Henning, George Burns.

mr. ace and JANE: The Cigarette Slogan (CBS, 1948)Inmy office, I’m known as the idea man. Every time Mr. Norris catches me lounging around, he says, “What’s the idea?” He doesn’t know I do my important thinking when I’m lounging. And (Goodman) Ace finds out the hard way that his clever idea for a cigarette ad campaign—on NO SMOKING signs, no less—was smoked right out from under him by brother-in-law Paul (Leon Janney), who lives by his wits, which Ace knows well enough is living by half. Herself: Jane Ace. Norris: Eric Dressler. Sally: Florence Robinson. Himself: Ken Roberts (announcer). Writer/director: Goodman Ace.

Our Miss Brooks: April Fool’s Day (CBS, 1949)—Connie (Eve Arden) is wary of April Fool’s Day prankishness when Walter (Richard Crenna) reads an advice-to-the-lovelorn letter sounding suspiciously as though someone were pranking her unrequited love for Boynton (Jeff Chandler)—and the culprits just so happen to be a pair of established Madison lovebirds. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: The Sponsor’s Daughter (NBC, 1949)—Phil (Harris) has reason to be nervous about a visit from sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon)—until Scott reveals his daughter Marjorie wants the Harris band to play at her school prom . . . and Marjorie has a major crush on the bandleader. Herself: Alice Faye. Willie: Robert North. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Remley: Elliott Lewis. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

 

Crime Drama

Dragnet: The Big Streetcar (NBC, 1952)—A domestic quarrel leaves a man with multiple gunshots, and Friday (Jack Webb) and Jacobs (Barney Phillips) hear neighbours describe a day long argument . . . and a possibly philandering wife (Helen Klieb) threatening to shoot anyone coming near her. Additional cast: Herb Ellis, Jack Kruschen. Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Jim Moser.

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One Response to Culture shock: Old-time radio listening, 3 April

  1. Joseph Kearns was in radio a long time before he was Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. He was in 1,140 old time and new time radio programs from 1937-1972.