20 November: A twin triumph for Lurene Tuttle

Tuttle as twins, somehow. (Photo: CBS)

Tuttle as twins, somehow. (Photo: CBS)

The Whistler: Death Sees Double (CBS, 1944)

Yes, this is the same as the 6 November 1944 episode known first as “The Twins.” The  original performance was pre-empted, allowing CBS’s national network to carry a speech by Republican presidential aspirant Thomas E. Dewey, the former New York governor challenging Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the first of Dewey’s two failed White House bids.

Thus it airs tonight . . . under the title by which it becomes far better known. And it’s a tour de force for Lurene Tuttle, who has the singular opportunity to portray both Mona and Martha Spencer in a yarn that seems at first to be just shy of boilerplate but begins to shake that away within the first, say, six minutes of the performance.

The beauteous Spencer  twins were heretofore as well matched in their devotion to each other as in their surface physiology, we gather. Martha is the more retiring of the two, which shouldn’t of itself prove troublesome except that she falls in love with her outgoing twin’s husband-to-be, Bill, played with a kind of halting sobriety by Joseph Kearns.

And, unfortunately for herself, Martha’s love provokes her to a grave act that may backfire upon her yet, particularly given that Bill has his own dangerous enough secret, a secret Martha barely discovers.

It’s the understated writing taking Lurene Tuttle’s hand that saves this episode from the aforesaid boilerplate fate. Could another radio actress have taken six pages of unbroken dialogue between the sisters at one point and performed so impeccably?

Many would have tried, of course, but I don’t know that most would have gotten to where Tuttle delivered the characters. Cathy Lewis, maybe. Maybe. “I don’t think I can manage,” Tuttle is said to have protested at first, “to choke myself and turn the page at the same time.” Thus did someone, herself or a company hand, staple all six pages together, enabling Tuttle to more or less scroll her way through.

She also felt compelled to use two microphones and their appropriate distances, the better to wield her own sense of pitch and timing, and she makes it work so smoothly you may not dare allow yourself to imagine her inner contortions. Though you might allow yourself to ponder how much effort the remaining cast, Kearns and the unidentified Radio Rowers, needed to keep their jaws from smashing the floor.

The effort and contortions alike were worth it.

The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Bob Anderson. Music: Wilbur Hatch; whistling theme by Dorothy Roberts. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Ralph Rose.

 

Additional Feature: The Perils of Mr. Rush Gook

Vic & Sade: A Miserable Object of Public Ridicule; or, Rush is Humiliated on Thanksgiving (NBC, 1941)—Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Sade (Bernadine Flynn), enjoying a quiet evening of dreamy gazing and reading, are alarmed when Rush (Bill Idelson) is ready to paste one on Blazer Scott’s nose over revealing . . . the dinner utensils Sade leaves for him at each meal. You and I both know that few could get away with this kind of patent absurdity. Sometimes it seems a shame, too. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

Vic & Sade: Smelly Clark, The Barber (NBC, 1942)—Rush (Bill Idelson) may be taking a big risk letting his buddy give him a haircut—which he learns retrospectively, when he’s in no hurry to take his cap off or let Vic (Art Van Harvey) help him. Some fifteen years later, they would try a comparable story on Leave It to Beaver. Now you know why the Beaver interpretation of curious boys with horrible haircuts was just so much claptrap. Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

 

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Too Hot to Handle (NBC, 1938)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Architect McGee, Construction Supervisor (NBC, 1945)
Vic & Sade: Miss Korkell Borrows a Cup of Sugar (CBS, 1945)
The Great Gildersleeve: Improving Leroy’s Studies (NBC, 1946)
The Jack Carson Show: Building Materials (NBC, 1946)
The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny: Jack Goes to Rehearsal (CBS, 1949)
Our Miss Brooks: The Party Line (CBS, 1949)
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: The Talented Children’s Screen Test (NBC, 1949)

Crime Drama
The Clock: Lover Boy (ABC, 1947)
The Whistler: Letters of Aaron Burr (CBS, 1949)
 
Dramatic Anthology
Romance: No Time for Comedy (CBS, 1945)
 
Mystery/Thriller
The Mysterious Traveler: The Most Famous Man in the World (Mutual, 1951)
Suspense: Night on Red Mountain (CBS, 1960)
 
Western
Gunsmoke: Dutch George (CBS, 1955)

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