Tag Archives: Phil Harris

A crime against a crime-solver: Old-time radio listening, 19 December

Candy Matson, Yukon 2-8209: Jack Frost (NBC, 1949)

Shown here in later days as a television character actress, Natalie Masters made a sultry but sober Candy Matson . . . (Photo: CBS.)

Old-time radio’s first female sleuth to feature in a series of her own has everything it takes to become a hit, except that its network inexplicably does enough in its own power to thwart it.

Natalie Masters is hardly an old-time radio stranger; with her husband, Monty, she has already appeared in a comedy, Mad Masters, whose wounding flaw may well have been a weak enough array of supporting characters undermining the promising, engaging characters the Masters fashioned themselves to be.

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A Depression farce: Old-time radio listening, 30 November-1 December

Lux Radio Theater: A Man’s Castle (CBS, 1 December 1941)

Early and elemental Tracy . . . (Photo: Unknown publicity photo)

Spencer Tracy reprises one of his earliest—and most arresting—film roles in a performance that’s just about as arresting even with the requisite radio adaptation and editing.

As millions are jobless in the Great Depression, a squatter’s camper (Tracy) takes in a homeless young lady (Ingrid Bergman, in the Loretta Young film role). He feeds her as she makes him a castle inside a shack and falls in love with him despite his restless nature. There’s just one little hitch: when he discovers she’s pregnant, he wants nothing more than to hop the first freight train out of town.

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I know a guy who didn’t like acting: Old-time radio listening, 25 September

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Keeping Regular Office Hours (NBC, 1949)

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: The Courtship of Elliott Lewis (NBC, 1953)

Elliott Lewis, in 1948, as his Remley is becoming a comic icon despite his discomfort with acting . . . (Photo: NBC)

Nicknamed “Mr. Radio” because of his versatility and practically daily employment as an actor, director, producer, and writer, Elliott Lewis’s heart is deeper in directing, writing, and producing, than it’s ever been in acting. “I never enjoyed acting,” he’ll say many years later. “I was able to do it, because it’s a trick, and it’s a trick that somehow I knew how to do, without any training.”

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Loud, proud, and liberated: Old-time radio listening, 18 September

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Phil Returns from Vacation (Season premiere; NBC, 1949)

Keeping hands off their writers until rehearsal run-through and air time worked wonders with Phil Harris and Alice Faye . . .

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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