Tag Archives: Texaco Star Theater

10 December: A bump for Fred Allen

Texaco not only moves Allen to a better timeslot around or after Pearl Harbour, but the oil giant will get mileage aplenty featuring him in wartime print advertising. (Photo: Texas Oil Company.)

Texaco not only moves Allen to a better timeslot around or after Pearl Harbour, but the oil giant will get mileage aplenty featuring him in wartime print advertising. (Photo: Texas Oil Company.)

Pearl Harbour will affect Fred Allen as it will all radio entertainers, but in Allen’s case it will provide an inadvertent ratings bump.

The satirist and his Texaco Star Theater hour have struggled against NBC’s Eddie Cantor and Mr. District Attorney on Wednesday nights. But then the Ford Motor Company drops the curtain permanently on its Sunday night CBS mainstay, The Sunday Evening Hour, which featured performances by the Detroit Symphony. “It was wartime,” Jim Harburg would review, in his splendid volume compiling the history of network radio ratings, “and the car maker had nothing to sell.”

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30 May: Celebrating a perfect 110

Mr. Allen, still at the height of his career. (Photo: NBC.)

Mr. Allen, still at the height of his career. (Photo: NBC.)

We’ll let the man’s own recollection, shortly before his death, speak for itself here:

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11 November: The perfect mug for television

Berle's first radio series was on CBS. (Photo: CBS.)

Berle’s first radio series was on CBS. (Photo: CBS.)

Anyone taking an objective look at Milton Berle’s career before television has to ask how he was able to forge any kind of radio life at all. Over some fourteen years’ effort, he’ll have only two top fifty seasonal ratings’ finishes to show for it. He’ll be known as either radio’s best-known failure (as John Dunning would phrase it) or “Tuesday’s Poor Relative” by Jim Ramsburg (in Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953), the latter a nod to Berle’s most frequent night of trying and falling too far short.

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If you can’t beat him: Old-time radio listening, 21 June

Town Hall Tonight with Fred Allen: Crisis on the Showboat (NBC, 1939)

Fred Allen's Town Hall Tonight, as Al Hirschfeld sketched it, in a cartoon used for the cover of the republished Treadmill to Oblivion.

Fred Allen’s Town Hall Tonight, as Al Hirschfeld sketched it, in a cartoon used for the cover of the republished Treadmill to Oblivion.

The last-surviving installment of Fred Allen’s seminal Town Hall Tonight will just so happen to be the next-to-last show of the 1938-39 radio season. And a good thing, sort of, because Allen is about to be divested of the title that has enabled him to a comfortable presentation of his realistic hybrid between the better of vintage vaudeville and his own forward-looking satire.

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Further Pearl aftermath: Old-time radio listening, 10 December

Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen: Death Valley Takes a Holiday (CBS, 1941)

Mr. Allen wasn’t averse to appearing in wartime hint ads from his Texaco Star Theater sponsor.

As proves so with just about all radio entertainers, Fred Allen yields to the impact of Pearl Harbour on his first show following the atrocity. The classic Texaco Star Theater introduction—the clanging bells and siren, punctuated by the cartoonish car horn, telegraphing a brief fanfare and announcer Jimmy Wallington’s hail (“It’s Texaco time with Fred Allen!”)—is muted for once.

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