Category Archives: fantasy

19 April: Groucho hits the Wednesday night top

The secret word is "patience" for Groucho's comic quiz's rise. (Photo: NBC.)

The secret word is “patience” for Groucho’s comic quiz’s rise. (Photo: NBC.)

Already reluctant to try his hand at a quiz show format, even if the quiz is designed more to showcase his virtuoso ad-libbing, Groucho Marx has taken a little doing to bring You Bet Your Life to top ratings.

Premiering on ABC in 1947-48, the show launched on Thursday nights and showed nowhere in the night’s top ten or the season’s top fifty. A year later, however, the show twas moved to Wednesday nights—and turned up in eighth place on the night and finished just inside the seasonal top fifty.

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5 April: Time marches to a strange second murder trial

Poster for the bowdlerised film version of David Lamson's Death Row memoir. (Photo: RKO.)

Poster for the bowdlerised film version of David Lamson’s Death Row memoir. (Photo: RKO.)

Harry Von Zell will become so entrenched a comic presence in his career—announcer/foil for Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Dinah Shore; radio comic actor (Joan Davis’s show, on which he plays Verna Felton’s love interest); comic actor in Columbia Pictures slapsticks of the 1940s; announcer/foil for George Burns and Gracie Allen on television—that it may become simple to forget he is just as familiar to radio listeners as the voice of Time itself on the popular domentary drama The March of Time.

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27 March: The misadventures around Sam Spade

Lurene Tuttle and Howard Duff. (Photo: CBS.)

Lurene Tuttle and Howard Duff. (Photo: CBS.)

Howard Duff “was a seasoned but insung veteran” of radio when he bumped into the radio role of a lifetime in 1946, and he had the wife of the show’s director to thank for getting the role in the first place.

William Spier (Suspense) wanted nothing less than the next best thing to Humphrey Bogart when he decided to bring Sam Spade, the hero of Dashiell Hammett’s stories The Maltese Falcon, to radio, and Duff was anything but. But Spier’s wife, Kay Thompson, was taken so powerfully by Duff’s audition that her husband relented.

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24 November: Deadpan, dead on

Nancy Sheridan plays Bernadine tonight. (Unknown publicity photo.)

Nancy Sheridan plays Bernadine tonight. (Unknown publicity photo.)

Wyllis Cooper has had two only annoyances since launching Quiet, Please earlier in 1947, according to John Dunning in due course: He isn’t fond of people comparing this show to his earlier radio creation, Lights Out, by those who remember only that Arch Oboler took it over and built a career upon that beginning. And, he can’t stand “acting.” “The (Quiet, Please) cast was told to play it straight . . . he wanted it related with a deadpan sense of ‘here’s how it happened’.”

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14 November: Shirley Mitchell, RIP—”Awww, Thrawwwk-mawwtinnnnn!”

Shirley Mitchell as Leila Ransom, bewitching and befuddling hapless Harold Peary as Gildersleeve. (Photo: NBC.)

Shirley Mitchell as Leila Ransom, bewitching and befuddling hapless Harold Peary as Gildersleeve. (Photo: NBC.)

Shirley Mitchell was thatclose to giving up on Hollywood entirely when she landed the old-time radio supporting role of a lifetime in the early 1940s.

Aawww, Thrawwwck-mawwtinnnnn!

The Toledo, Ohio native—who died of heart failure on Veteran’s Day, a week after she celebrated her 94th birthday—suddenly found herself a valuable supporting player as Southern widow Leila Ransom, who couldn’t seem to decide whether to marry or mangle The Great Gildersleeve. Indeed, Leila became (in John Dunning’s words) “such a strongly negative character that at one point a California women’s club picketed NBC, urging Gildersleeve with their signs not to marry her.”

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