From Overlord to Mencken: Old-time radio listening, 7-8 June

The CBS Radio Workshop: Bring On the Angels (CBS, 8 June 1956)

H.L. Mencken himself before a radio microphone during the height of his career. (Photo: NBC.)

H.L. Mencken himself before a radio microphone during the height of his career. (Photo: NBC.)

In which H.L. Mencken’s “maddest, gladdest, damnedest existence ever enjoyed by a model youth”—his early professional life as a newspaper reporter having “a grand and gaudy time of it, with no call to envy any man”—is lent as effective a radio treatment as could be lent, even to the early days of the man once known as the Great Debunker.

This installment, which airs six months after Mencken’s death, is based largely on Mencken’s own memoir Newspaper Days. But it is told harrowingly through the memory of the stricken Mencken, whose 1948 stroke—not long after he covered that year’s Democratic National Convention, and fifteen days after he approved the final manuscript for his classic anthology, A Mencken Chrestomathy—ended his career tragically: the stroke robbed Mencken of his ability to read and write, for the rest of his life, though his ability to think and listen went unaffected.

Elder Mencken: Luis Van Rooten. Younger Mencken: Mason Adams. Max Ways: Ed Prentiss. Prosecutor: Jackson Beck. Additional cast: Ethel Owen, Daniel Locklow, Walter Kinsella, John Gibson, Joe Helgeson, Ian Martin. Announcer: Bob Hite. Music: Ben Ludlow; conducted by Alfredo Antonini. Director: Paul Roberts. Writer: Alan Sloane, adapted from the writings of H.L. Mencken.



7 June

Live News: Aboard the USS Ancon (Blue Network)—The unforgettable eyewitness report—by George Hicks, who will stay aboard the former NBC Blue as it becomes the new ABC—of a period during day two of Operation Overlord, Hicks describing vividly but modestly the continuing landings on the beaches and air sorties above the area in support of the landing troops, even as the Ancon itself appears to come under fire during the operation and fights back.

Mornings in Manhattan: “Few are the homes unaffected . . .” (NBC)—The morning program offers a little uplifting music and commentary between the commercials.

Lyle Van: “The first twenty-four history-making hours” (NBC)—A midnight summary of the first full day of the D-Day invasion into western Europe, and reviewing the early and major successes of the invasion, not to mention the early minimal Nazi reaction and responses to the invasion. The news report also includes FBI warnings against sabotage.

World News Roundup: Pre-empting a Soap: 38 Hours Into Overlord (CBS)—The network’s popular Young Doctor Malone is pre-empted for a news roundup that includes, especially, John Daly’s summary of incoming eyewitness reports on just what American and British troops did face as Operation Overlord kicked off and sank in in earnest; and, William L. Shirer’s report on Nazi propaganda patterns as Overlord entered its second day, including their futile attempts to convince listeners that the Allies were taking the bigger losses. Also: British paratroops capturing key bridges and countering a German tank counterattack late on D-Day; reinforcements for Allied troops; reported Nazi alarm over coming additional Allied landings across from the original Normandy landings; and, the Ninth Air Force sending mass sorties supporting D-Day and outnumbering Nazi aircraft 200-1. Anchor: Harry Marble.

Kaltenborn Edits the News: “Little Resistance in the Air, None at Sea” (NBC)—Pre-empting the soap opera The Right to Happiness, and anticipating a live broadcast from London, Kaltenborn analyses the first day and a half of Operation Overlord—before handing off to W.W. Chapman in London, who reports a sense of caution permeating the Allied high command despite the early and deep successes of the first day and a half of the operation.


8 June

Charles Collingwood: On the D-Day Landings (CBS, 1944)—The introduction may belong to Edward R. Murrow, but he actually hands the floor to one of “Murrow’s boys,” Charles Collingwood, in a report Collingwood recorded twelve hours after the D-Day landings began, including large fleets of aircraft swarming over the beaches early in the invasion, and impressions of and from naval personnel with whom he stood at that point of the invasion.




8 June

Amos ‘n’ Andy: They May Lose the Fresh Aire Taxi Company (NBC, 1929)—They might, that is, if Andy (Charles Correll) can’t make the next installment payment to the furniture company. Amos: Freeman Gosden. Writers: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll.

Clara, Lu, & Em: Undeclared Sugar & Honey (Series revival premiere; CBS, 1942)—Here’s a pretty pickle for a comic soap sponsored by a flour brand, and freshly-revived after a long hiatus following the death of one of its original performers (Isobel Crothers, the original Lu, who died in 1936): Clara (Louise Starkey) fears a suspicious character in the nearby alley when she isn’t puzzled by a ten-pound bag of sugar she didn’t realise she’d bought in the first place—which makes sense, because the purchase was Lu’s (Harriet Allyn). Radio’s first daytime soap serial (and, like the much-later, more sophisticated Lorenzo Jones, it’s as much if not more a comedy than a soap) returns with, unfortunately, the show’s original, whackily homespun wit dating sadly enough, without solid writing to balance the ladies’ little-changed improvisational inclinations. Em: Helen King. Announcer: Bret Morrison. Writers, such as they are: Louise Starkey, Harriet Allyn, Helen King.


Drama/Dramatic Anthology

8 June

Academy Award Theater: Ruggles of Red Gap (CBS, 1946)—In the third radio reprise of their 1935 roles, Charles Ruggles and Charlie Loughlin give one more turn as the overcorrect British butler (Loughlin) and his crude but earnest new employer (Ruggles), in whose employ he becomes an accidental local boomtown celebrity when mistaken for a filthy rich Englishman, adapting well enough to become his own man and enterpreneur in actuality. This isn’t quite as effective as their first such turn (Lux Radio Theater, 1939), but it’s still enjoyable—and classy, which is typical of this particular series, whose expense (including a reported $1,600 per week to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for the rights to the title, and $4,000 a week for the big stars it booked) ultimately ensures it a single-season life. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Hugh Grundy. Music: Leith Stevens. Director: Dee Engelbach. Writer: Frank Wilson, adapting the 1935 screenplay by Walter DeLeon, Humphrey Pearson, and Harlan Thompson; and, based on the novel by Harry Leon Wilson.



8 June

Quiet, Please: Nothing Behind the Door (Series Premiere; Mutual, 1947)—Three would-be bank robbers (Martin Lawrence, J. Pat O’Malley, Ernest Chappell—who narrates) think a house next to an elevated astronomical observatory would be the perfect place to hide the loot—at least until they discover what is or isn’t actually in the house; or, what might or might not actually disappear there. Auspicious premiere for one of radio’s most singular psychological fantasy dramas. Astronomer: James van Dyke. Music: Jean Perazo. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.



8 June

The Clock: Coming Events (ABC, 1947)—They prove rather intriguing in 1912, spinning forth from between a circus fortune teller and a winning sweepstakes ticket. Alvin Sweet: Don Crosby. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: Amanda Dodd, Sheila Sorou, Rip Becknell, Len Taylor. Announcer: Gene Kirby. Music: Bernard Green. Director: William Spier. Writer: Lawrence Klee.



7 June

Modern Romances: “There’s No Profit in Loving” (NBC)—Derived from stories published in the magazine of the same name: Escaping her widowed father’s abuse, Depression-era late teen Wanda Mellini falls in love with the trucker who gave her a lift out of town and boarded her with his family, marrying him, and raising a daughter who overcomes her infant deafness, while wrestling with up-and-down finances . . . and learning the hard way why merely following the tide isn’t the way to preserve love. Cast and crew: Unidentified.

The Road of Life: Positions (NBC)—Brent (Ken Griffin) has been asked to resign from City Hospital, even as he performs a critical surgical procedure, and visits Frazier to clarify his actual standing at the hospital since his return from illness; Frazier, for his part, wants Brent to clarify whether he’ll continue bringing general patients to City while Brent works on completing and staffing a new surgical hospital; and, Brent balks when Frazier—with whom he’s had a contentious relationship in the past—angles for a position at the new facility. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Gene Baker. Music: Charles Paul. Writers: Irna Phillips, John M. Young, Howard Teichmann.

Vic & Sade: Elk Skin Shoelaces (NBC)—Sneaking a little loafing on the sunny porch in the middle of her day’s housework, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) can’t quite understand why Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) has to go to the shoemaker across town to change his elk-skin shoelaces. Announcer: Ed Roberts. Music: Lou Webb. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

Brave Tomorrow: An Accident Affects the Ranch (NBC)—This is one of the shortest-lived soaps in old-time radio. Today: A bachelor rancher admits his bucolic life might be improved by marriage, thoughts that dovetail too neatly with the pending arrival of a comely reporter doing a feature on ranch life and of Louise (Jeanette Dowling), who’s following daughter Marty after a quarrel with Hal—until an automobile wreck involving the two women shakes him up. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Music: William Meeder. Writer: Ruth Adams Knight.

Kate Smith Speaks: “The people preferred to take D-Day seriously . . .” (CBS)—In a noontime program the day after D-Day, the corpulent songstress—who’s held this midday spot to wax on current events, women’s affairs, and down-home thought for almost as long as she’s held down her popular nighttime radio variety program—offers a commentary on America’s responses to D-Day and the continuing Operation Overlord, and pushes for ramped-up war bond buying, before handing off for a formal news roundup on the Allied advance from the original invasion landings, Nazi responses to the landings and advances, continuing Allied reinforcements, speculation on when currently low-laying Soviet forces will make a concurrent move against the Nazis from the east, and progress across Italy following the liberation of Rome. Announcer: Ted Collins.

Big Sister: Reasons (CBS)—This soap chronicles self-sacrificing Ruth Evans, who has long put everything aside to care for her crippled brother before his miracle cure freed her, so she thought, to marry his doctor, who was coming out of his own failing marriage. Today: Ruth (possibly Marjorie Anderson) talks by phone to her son, who’s staying with Dr. Carvell (Santos Ortega) while she and John are away on medical business, while one of Carvell’s patients reveals the real—and heartbreaking—reason he has tried to obstruct his daughter from marrying a man he respects otherwise. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Jim Ameche. Music: Richard Liebert. Director: Wilson Tuttle. Writer: Julian Funt.

The Romance of Helen Trent: It’s Now or Never, Continued (CBS)—Helen (Julie Stevens) continues to press wheelchair-bound Gil (David Gothard) to seize their chance for happiness together now; Gil continues to insist he has no right to put her through the burden of caring for a cripple when he doesn’t know how long he will remain that way. O’Toole: Ed Latimer. Announcer: Fielden Farrington. Music/director: Stanley Davis. Writers: Margo Brooks, Ruth Borden, Ronald Dawson. Following Big Sisteronthe CBS schedule, the broadcast opens with a news bulletin: the beaches on Normandy coast are finally cleared.

Portia Faces Life: Pawns (CBS)—Portia (Lucille Wall) anguishes with Col. Wakefield over Walter’s potential fate though vowing to return to Portia alive, and ponders whether to let son Dickie act as a pawn to lure evidence against a corrupt doctor. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ron Rawson. Music: Lewis White. Director: Possibly Hoyt Allen. Writer: Mona Kent.

Joyce Jordan, M.D.: Cleaning House (CBS)—Vic’s apparent romance with Carol Brewster seems a relief to newlywed Joyce (Betty Winkler), who’s been edgy thinking Vic still loved her; Mary notices Joyce seems far more relaxed and youthful since her marriage; and, Vic and Carol enjoy a moonlight walk despite a disturbing-sounding hint. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Director: Himan Brown. Writer: Julian Funt.

Lorenzo Jones: Lorenzo Reads a High School Yearbook (NBC)—Belle (Betty Garde) is troubled by Lorenzo’s (Karl Swenson) thought that she might have held him back from the bright, high-flying future predicted for him in their high school yearbook, which he found when she asked him to dispose of some old documents. This comic serial is perhaps the least-soiled jewel in the Hummert crown—until the classic Hummert formula of exaggerated disaster gets a firm grip on it by the 1950s, anyway. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Putnam. Music: Ann Leaf. Director: Possibly Stephen Goss. Writers: Theodore and Mathilde Ferro.

Young Widder Brown: Missing, Hiding Mark (NBC)—Still fearful that he’s actually committed a crime, Mark (Tommy Donnelly) remains missing while Anthony (Ned Wever) agrees to Ellen’s (Florence Freeman) request that he stop by the police station for information or leads on her son, while Janie (Marilyn Erskine) and a friend try to convince Mark to come out from hiding in the friends’ parents garage. The installment concludes with an entreaty from series star Florence Freeman urging women to sign up for wartime plant work: “Take a job, help shorten the war.” Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Ansbro. Music: John Winters. Director: Richard Leonard. Writers: Unknown.

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