Category Archives: classic radio

5 December: The mean widdle man-kid

Red Skelton---discredit where credit was due? (Photo: CBS.)

Red Skelton—discredit where credit was due? (Photo: CBS.)

The Red Skelton Show: People Who Brag (CBS, 1951)

Tonight’s installment could be considered a kind of loaded weapon, considering one way in which the star could be called a shameless braggart, in contrast to his on-air persona as a nice guy with a lot of little boy in him.

Richard Bernard Skelton cannot bear to give anyone else credit for whatever success he’s having as one of radio’s least likely successes. Like Milton Berle and Lucille Ball, Skelton is a predominantly visual comedian. Unlike them, Skelton has a secret weapon, a collection of distinct and goofy voices.

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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.

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4 November: It’s Miller time

Joe Miller's Jests Future collectors of classic network radio will become very familiar with the name Joe Miller. Fred Allen wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to make Miller fodder for fresh jokes in the network radio era. The eighteenth-century British actor inspired a published collection of jokes that became synonymous on radio with old, time-worn, corny jokes.

The irony is that Miller himself wasn’t exactly a laugh-grabber. He’s said to have told extremely few of the jokes gathered in Joe Miller’s Jests. And the volume wasn’t even published in Miller’s lifetime. Dramatist/anthologist John Mottley (don’t tempt me!) collected the original edition in 1739; what does it tell you that he published it pseudonymously? (As Elijah Jenkins, Esq.)

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19 September: Nibbling the Gilberts . . .

Nimitz, one of three admirals who believed taking the Gilberts was critical for advancing the Pacific war against Japan. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Nimitz, one of three admirals who believe taking the Gilberts is critical for the forthcoming, important campaign in the Marshall Islands. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Today in 1943 the Allies have begun pecking away at targets throughout the Gilberts, including Tarawa, in advance of a full-scale operation in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, almost two years after Japan swept in to occupy the islands following the Pearl Harbour attacks.

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18 September: A razor sharp season premiere

Alice Faye, Anne Whitfield, Phil Harris, and Jeanine Roos at the mike. (Photo: NBC.)

Alice Faye, Anne Whitfield, Phil Harris, and Jeanine Roos at the mike. (Photo: NBC.)

“The writing,” John Dunning (in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio) wrote of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, “was razor sharp; the scripts by Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat were so raucous that four-to-five minute cuts were often necessary to allow for audience laughter. The principle of contagious laughter was maximised in the overhead placement of audience microphones, making it one of the loudest shows on the air. Some of the brilliance went out of the scripts when Singer and Chevillat departed . . .”

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