The Chase & Sanborn Hour

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Starring your host Rudy Vallee, Featuring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Special guests: Maureen O’Hara and Arthur Treacher. Originally aired December 3, 1939.

From Wikipedia:
The series began in 1929 as The Chase and Sanborn Choral Orchestra, a half-hour musical variety show heard Sundays at 8:30pm on NBC. When Maurice Chevalier became the show’s star, he received a record-breaking salary of $5000 a week. Violinist David Rubinoff (September 13, 1897 – October 6, 1986) became a regular in January 1931, introduced as “Rubinoff and His Violin.”

When Chevalier returned to Paris, Eddie Cantor was chosen as his replacement and the new 60-minute program, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, was launched September 13, 1931, teaming Cantor with Rubinoff and announcer Jimmy Wallington. The show established Cantor as a leading comedian, and his scriptwriter David Freedman as “the Captain of Comedy.” When Jimmy Durante stepped in as a substitute for Cantor, making his first appearance on September 10, 1933, he was so successful that he was offered his own show. Then the world’s highest paid radio star, Cantor continued as The Chase and Sanborn Hour’s headliner until November 25, 1934.

With a new format, The Opera Guild, hosted by Deems Taylor, began December 2, 1934, Sundays at 8pm, on The Chase and Sanborn Hour, and that concert series continued until March 17, 1935. Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour had the slot from March 24, 1935 until September 11, 1936, followed by Do You Want to Be an Actor?, with Haven MacQuarrie, broadcast from January 3, 1937 until May 2, 1937, a series that continued Sundays at 10:30pm as a half-hour show from December 5, 1937 until February 20, 1938.

Meanwhile, Chase and Sanborn found a gold mine with a wooden dummy when Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy began an 11-year run, starting May 9, 1937. Initially this incarnation of the program also featured as regulars master of ceremonies Don Ameche, singers Dorothy Lamour and Nelson Eddy, and for the first few weeks, comedian W.C. Fields, accompanied by a different guest star each week. Perhaps the most infamous of the latter was Mae West, whose appearance on the December 12, 1937 program was highlighted with a sexually suggestive “Adam and Eve” sketch that caused a public outcry and resulted in West being banned from the radio airwaves for many years.

Beginning January 7, 1940, the regular cast, apart from Bergen and McCarthy, were dropped and the show was cut to a half-hour and retitled The Chase and Sanborn Program. Also beginning in 1940, the program went on hiatus for a number of weeks each summer. CBS filled its airtime with a different substitute show each year, including The Bishop and the Gargoyle (1940), What’s My Line? (1941), Star-Spangled Vaudeville (1942), Paul Whiteman Presents (1943), The Gracie Fields Show (1944), The Frances Langford Show [aka The Chase and Sanborn Program] (1945), and Alec Templeton Time (1946-47). In the fall of 1948, Chase and Sanborn announced it would terminate its contract with Edgar Bergen at the end of the year. The remaining Bergen/McCarthy programs eschewed guest stars in favor of regular sketches featuring Don Ameche and Marsha Hunt as The Bickersons. In 1949, Bergen moved to CBS, with a new weekly program (The Charlie McCarthy Show) sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Although the series ended December 26, 1948, it was followed by a compilation show on NBC, The Chase and Sanborn 100th Anniversary Show (November 15, 1964), assembled by writer Carroll Carroll and narrated by Bergen. This became an annual event with The Chase and Sanborn 101st Anniversary Show (November 14, 1965), a Fred Allen tribute, followed by The Chase and Sanborn 102nd Anniversary Show (November 13, 1966), which turned out to be the last of the series.

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The War of the Worlds

welles37The War of the Worlds is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 62-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a sustaining show (it ran without commercial breaks), adding to the program’s realism. Add to this the fact that many listeners tuned in late to the broadcast since they had been listening to Charlie McCarthy on another channel and missed the early disclaimers in the show. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated.

In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners, who had believed the events described in the program were real. The program’s news-bulletin format was described as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. Despite these complaints—or perhaps in part because of them—the episode secured Welles’ fame as a dramatist.

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Fibber McGee & Molly and Boston Blackie

Chester Morris as Boston Blackie
Fibber McGee and Molly was an American comedy series which maintained its popularity over decades. It premiered on NBC in 1935 and continued until its demise in 1959. Jim and Marian Jordan, real-life husband and wife, met when they were their teens, married in 1918 and stayed together until Marian’s death in 1961. For station WMAQ in Chicago, beginning in April 1931, the Jordans and their writer Donald Quinn created Smackout, a 15-minute daily program which centered on a general store and its proprietor, Luke Grey (Jim), a storekeeper with a penchant for tall tales and a perpetual dearth of whatever his customers wanted: He always seemed “smack out of it.” Marian Jordan portrayed both a lady named Marian and a little girl named Teeny, as well as playing musical accompaniment on piano. During the show’s run, Marian Jordan voiced a total of 69 different characters in it. Smackout was picked up by NBC in April 1933 and broadcast nationally until August 1935.
The Fibber McGee & Molly show made good use of running gags, probably the most well remembered being McGee’s junk-filled closet, the contents of which always crashed down on anyone that happened to open the door.
This show, Big Money for Old Books, centers around Fibber’s Horatio Alger collection and originally aired 2/17/1948.

Boston Blackie: Polly Morrison’s Gun Collection
After several months of shows, I thought it was time to “come home” and present home town-guy Boston Blackie on the Matinee. Boston Blackie is old, much older than even the radio and film series which many of us have seen and heard. The original tales of Blackie were written by Jack Boyle in the early 20th Century. “The Price of Principle” was a short story in the July 1914 issue of The American Magazine. Boyle’s character also turned up in Cosmopolitan. In 1917, Redbook published the novelette “Boston Blackie’s Mary,” and the magazine brought the character back with “The Heart of the Lily” (February, 1921). Boyle’s stories were collected in the book Boston Blackie (1919), which was reprinted in 1979 by Gregg Press. There were even early film adaptations of the stories done in the silent era. Columbia Films revived the Boston Blackie film series in 1941 with a 58 minute story starring Chester Morris, who plays Blackie in our show tonight. The radio series began in 1944 as a summer replacement for Amos & Andy on NBC. It was revived on Mutual (starring Richard Kollmar) in April of 1945 and ran until 1949. But even then, Blackie was not finished as the show was developed into a television series in 1951 which ran for 58 episodes. As late as 2009, Boston Blackie is still thrilling audiences, this time in Graphic novel format. Boston Blackie: Bloody Shame (Moonstone Noir) by Stefan Petrucha (Author), Kirk Van Wormer (Illustrator), Chris Burnham (Illustrator) is available today at many bookstores and online. This episode originally aired on July 28th, 1944.

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Katharine Hepburn in Little Women

This series originated on radio in the 1940s as Theatre Guild on the Air. Organized in 1919 to improve the quality of American theater, the Theatre Guild first experimented with radio productions in Theatre Guild Dramas, a CBS series which ran from December 6, 1943 to February 29, 1944.

Actress-playwright Armina Marshall, a co-administrator of the Theatre Guild, headed the Guild’s newly created Radio Department and in 1945, Theatre Guild on the Air embarked on its ambitious plan to bring Broadway theater to radio with leading actors in major productions. It premiered September 9, 1945, on ABC with Burgess Meredith, Henry Daniell and Cecil Humphreys in Wings Over Europe, a play by Robert Nichols and Maurice Browne which the Theatre Guild had staged on Broadway in 1928-29.

Within a year the series drew some 10 to 12 million listeners each week. Presenting both classic and contemporary plays, the program was broadcast for eight years before it became a television series.

In 1933, Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar in Morning Glory, as a young actress who rejects romance in favor of her career. That same year, Hepburn played Jo in the Big-screen adaptation of Little Women, which broke box-office records, and for which she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.

In 1950, Hepburn signed on to play Rose Sayer in The African Queen, a prim spinster missionary in Africa (around the time of World War I), who convinces Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-drinking riverboat captain, to use his boat to destroy a German ship. The African Queen was shot mostly on location in Africa, where almost all the cast and crew suffered from malaria and dysentery, except director John Huston and Bogart, neither of whom ever drank any water. Hepburn disapproved of the two men’s drinking and drank gallons of water each day to spite them. She wound up so sick with dysentery that, even months after she returned home, the actress was still ill. The film gave Hepburn her fifth Best Actress nomination, but she lost to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire.The trip and the movie made such an impact on Hepburn that later in life she wrote a book about filming the movie: The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, which made her a best-selling author at the age of 77.
In this version of Little Women, Hepburn plays the parts of both the Narrator and Jo.

Enjoy!

Next time: X minus One and Gunsmoke

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