Category Archives: drama/dramatic anthology

1 January: Mr. and Mrs. Radio start a year with a bang

Cathy Lewis . . . (Photo: CBS.)

Cathy Lewis . . . (Photo: CBS.)

Network radio still has a decade to go before its corpse is laid to rest at last. Arguably, the patient is clinically dead somewhere between 1951 and 1953, when the big advertising budgets fall almost entirely toward television, but it will take the better part of a decade before the last of its life support is removed.

The irony is that some of the best old-time radio will be created, produced, and performed between 1953 and 1962, mostly because many of the medium’s best such creators stay aboard because they love it deeply enough. Two of those—husband and wife since 1943, occasional co-workers over the same period—work up one of the best, and shortest-lived, dramatic anthologies.

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25 December: Merry Christmas to all; and, to all, classic radio

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa: Allen's oldest surviving radio episode  aired originally on Christmas Day. (Photo: CBS.)

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa: Allen’s oldest surviving radio episode aired originally on Christmas Day. (Photo: CBS.)

Our annual Christmas Day radio listening merely begins with two jewels from a master satirist:

The Linit Bath Club Revue: The Mammoth Department Store (CBS, 1932)

Here’s a treat for any old-time radio fan—the oldest known surviving program hosted by the singular Fred Allen, in whose spotlight sketch he plays a man with a sometimes unenviable profession: managing a department store . . . on the day after Christmas. Hopefully, without driving himself crazy.

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20 December: The little miracle that could . . .

Edmund Gwenn, singular Santa. (Photo: 20th Century Fox.)

Edmund Gwenn, singular Santa. (Photo: 20th Century Fox.)

To a 21st Century viewer (of the original film) or listener (to any of several radio adaptatios), the very idea of the overcommercialised Christmas being satirised gently but firmly, in a time often misinterpreted to be less than mere bottom-lined, reeks of the Hallmark Channel.

What would you think, to put it plainly, if you ran across an old man who not only looked like Kris Kringle but confidently claimed that he was?” asked the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther upon Miracle on 34th Street’s June 1947 premiere.

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15 December: The Bill of Rights provides a Corwin triumph

Norman Corwin, while still in CBS's good graces. (Photo: CBS.)

Norman Corwin, while still in CBS’s good graces. (Photo: CBS.)

Norman Corwin’s biographer R. LeRoy Bannermann will recall how Corwin, planning a special commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, was completing the script when the news of Pearl Harbour reached him. And from the moment it airs tonight, it may become Corwin’s signature composition and presentation.

The timing of We Hold These Truths will give it historic significance enough, airing eight days after Pearl Harbour, its nationalistic but hardly jingoistic theme kindling within its listeners both an indignant patriotism and a renewed dedication. Which is, when all is said and done, a remarkable achievement for a man who’s just been cashiered by CBS—because his work, much heard, heeded, and honoured, has become too “speculative [and] experimental” for a network in need of becoming more “competitive.”

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11 December: The show Henry Luce didn’t really like

Westbrook Van Voorhis, the unforgettable Voice of Time. (Photo: CBS.)

Westbrook Van Voorhis, the unforgettable Voice of Time. (Photo: CBS.)

On the same day as Congress declares war against the Third Reich, in Pearl Harbour’s immediate aftermath and countering the Reich’s and Fascist Italy’s declarations against the United States, one of old-time radio’s most eloquent radio exercises in the aftermath comes from a series launched in Cincinnati more than a decade earlier. A series that became a radio legend despite the apparent disdain of the publishing titan whose signature creation inseminated it.

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