Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kay Kyser - big band leader

Kyser was not strikingly handsome, and certainly was not a great actor. But he was a popular band leader during that era and built that fame into a small movie career, making eight movies, at least. We know him from My Favorite Spy, in which he is drafted on his wedding day. Here is a LINK showing his band in a spot from one of his movies.

Axford's middle name?

Michael Aloysius Axford. He was, of course, the Irish-accent buddy of the Green Hornet, and reporter for the Daily Sentinel.

Public executions

There are pros and cons, of course, but there is merit to the idea of public executions. They were handled that way at times past in the United States. And I can imagine that seeing a man die would be somewhat of a deterrent to future crime - more so than the way we do it now.

Ironic statement on Gildersleeve

On the episode from 1942 entitled "Selling the Drug Store," a prospector buyer says to Leroy, played by Walter Tetley, "You have a head for figures, young man. You will probably be an accountant when you grow up." Gildersleeve, exasperated with Leroy, replies, "Yes, IF he grows up."

Given the fact that Tetley was at that time 30 years old, and would never mature physically (LINK), that is a very ironic statement, at least. I am surprised they would actually put it on the program.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How many Hopalong Cassidy movies did William Boyd make?

66 of them. A real American treasure.

HERE is more on Hopalong Cassidy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Craig Kennedy, Criminologist - "File 1313"

This is a very early TV detective series. Donald Woods starred in the title role.

Woods is slugged in his office as he interrupts a couple of thieves going through his files, one of which is missing. It pertains to a secret project involving a new type of switch. Someone in the factory is making money on the side. Joe Rocca calls him, wanting to meet him with information about the case, but the thieves interrupt him. They wait in Rocca's apartment for Woods to arrive and knock him out, then flee. Later Valerie Vernon, the wife of the factory owner, calls Woods because there is a dead man in her apartment. Through ballistics, Woods nabs the killer.


Misha Auer, the bug-eyed Russian

He played foreign parts, usually Russians, because he was Russian. His face is very familiar in old movies, as is his accent.

Old Gold Comedy Theater

This was a fairly well done radio program that presented movies in a 30-minute format with big-name stars. Compressing the plots into this brief time forced the plot to become simplistic, but it was done skillfully enough that the programs were still enjoyable. Well worth listening to.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tornado season

Arkansas' least favorite sport, I fear. It is heart-rending to hear of the damage of life, limb and property. May God have mercy on those affected!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Joe Wirges on The Big Story

One of the first old radio programs we bought was an episode of The Big Story (old radio program) about reporter Joe Wirges of the Arkansas Gazette. This was intriguing, of course, since he was a home-state figure. For years I tried to learn more about him, but could find nothing because the spelling of his name on the cassette tape we bought was Wordest. Wirges was the police reporter for the Gazette for 49 years. You can find information about Wirges on this LINK about the history of the Gazette. In the story, Joe's son, Gene, is a cub reporter for the paper and works with his dad on the case. Gene became a well-known and controversial reporter in his own right. Here is a LINK about him.

Dorothy Kilgallen on The Big Story

The Big Story was a radio program that featured real-life reporters investigating various situations, usually crimes. Kilgallen was featured on the broadcast of 15 October 1947 about "The Bobby-Sox Kid from Bayonne." Fans of old television will remember her as a regular panelist on the program What's My Line.

Panelists on What's My Line. Kilgallen is on the right.

Charles McGraw's voice

McGraw was a ruggedly handsome actor who played a lot of cops and villians roles because of his lantern jaw and gravelly voice. His voice was strange. It sounds, not like a naturally low voice, but a voice that should have been higher, but has been forced to be low until it has been ruined.

Charlie Chan is not impressed by the sizzle

"Glamour boy who jump to conclusion sometimes get hair mussed." (from Castle in the Desert)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gustav Mahler's symphonies are WAY too long, BUT

The man knew how to finish a piece of music. Click on this LINK of the finale of his First Symphony and move the knob over to about the 17:00 minute mark and sit back and enjoy. It will make you want to go out and fight the Russians, or someone. (The conductor is really goofy looking, so just shut your eyes.)

Gustav Mahler

Now here is a really unique name

Anniversary. Pronounced AnniverSAHRy. Nickname Annie. She was a contestant on You Bet Your Life, starring Groucho Marx.

Cuthbert's Correspondence Detective Course

In Four Easy Lessons. This is what Nero Wolfe (Sydney Greenstreet) urged Archie Goodwin, his assistant, to take in the episode, Vanishing Shells, on the old radio program.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Murder in Greenwich Village (1937)

Richard Arlen is a struggling photographer. Faye Wray is a society daughter (Thurston Howell is the father) who gets involved with him and his model partners in the business, one of whom is Raymond Walburn, the Senator, a pompous but lovable blowhard. In order to avoid a scandal, Wray tells Howell that she is engaged to Arlen, and the fun begins. Naturally, they do end up sweethearts, but there are all sorts of action and complications in the meantime. Arlen and Wray team up very well, and their fusses are convincing and funny.

The photography studio has an old car horn doorbell that goes off every time it opens, and gets pretty old by the time the movie is over.

Raymond Walburn


Link HERE for more on Faye Wray.

The Adventures of Sally, by P. G. Wodehouse

In my humble opinion, this is one of the best of the Wodehousean novels. While it is humorous, it is not so in the usual, patented overt manner of most of his other works. It is an honest-to-goodness love story, and supremely well done. Furthermore, the principals of the story are not of the British nobility, but Americans of less-than-opulent means. And what is most pleasing, it has the clumsy-but-goodhearted suitor who logically has no chance to win the girl - but does. It is an enjoyable story in every respect.

When cows laugh

does milk come out their noses, too?

Bert "The Mad Russian" Gordon

Gordon was a regular cast member on the Duffy's Tavern radio show. He portrayed the Mad Russian, who was famous for his greeting, "How do you doooooo?"

Here is a LINK to a nice spot about Gordon.

LINK to the trailer to the Mad Russian movie


What if we went back to Henry Ford's approach to cars?

He reportedly said that people could have any color of car they wanted, as long as it was black. What if a company came out with a car - one car - every model that rolls off the assembly line is exactly the same. Inexpensive. Budget. How much less expensively could they make cars if they made only one? Would it work? They could not sell everyone, but if they were able to cut production costs enough, they might sell a lot.

What is milk?

“The nutritious lactic extract of Guernsey.” (Fred Allen, from the Texaco Star Theater 19 Feb 41)

Recipe for mock hot dogs

When meat is high-priced and scarce (as it was during World War II), citizens came up with creative ways to get around the problem, such as “mock” meats. On the Texas Star Theater with Fred Allen, one woman on the street (later Mrs. Nussbaum on Allen’s Alley) had a recipe for mock hot dogs.

Take one old rubber glove. Butter well inside. Stuff fingers with chopped eggplant, wild rice and bread crumbs. Add pinch of flower and yeast. Put glove in slow oven and bake for two hours. Cut the fingers off the rubber gloves and you have four mock hot dogs.

Fred asked her what she did with the thumbs. “Don’t ask me. I’ve got two closets full of them.”

I do not pick my teeth

I use the ones I was given.

Her husband was quite fat

It is a day's journey to dodge poor dear Fillmore now. I blushed for him, Ginger! Right there in the Strand I blushed for him. In my worst dreams I had never pictured him so enormous. Upon what meat doth this our Fillmore feed that he is grown so great? Poor Gladys! When she looks at him she must feel like a bigamist!

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

More HERE about fat men.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jack Benny kept Maxwell in mind, if not in business

Comedian Jack Benny (shown here shaking hands with Harry S. Truman from the seat of a c. 1908 Maxwell Roadster) kept the Maxwell familiar in U.S. popular culture for half a century after the brand went out of business.

The tragedy of Walter Tetley

You know Walter Tetley as Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve radio show and as Julius on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye program. The tragedy is that Tetley was born in 1914, but the Gildersleeve program ran from 1941 to 1957, and the Harris/Faye program started in 1948. You can do the math, but Tetley was a grown man throughout all that period. His voice never changed. The official reason for this is that he suffered from a medical condition that prevented it. However, Bill Scott, one of Tetley's employers, said that his mother had been reluctant to give up the revenue from her child star, so she had had him castrated. Whichever is the real reason, he remained a child physically all his life. In 1971, he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and was in a wheelchair until his death in 1975.

How will you ever excel?

if you play to "just barely get by?" This is a question that a lot of companies cannot answer (or hope never gets asked them).

The Golden Arrow Discussion Club

This was the social group whose stated aim was to bring "a higher type of ignorance" to Pine Ridge by discussing a wide range of "high class culture subjects." The members were Lum, Abner, Grandpappy Spears, Cedric Wehunt, Grandpa Masters (who slept through the meetings) and Ulysses S. Quincy, who was much prized for his "brainy comments," which were usually confined to "OK," and trying to find someone to paint his barn.

How slow was Cedric Wehunt?

He said he learned to talk at the age of seven, and could wave "bye-bye" by the time he was four.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The place of drug stores in radio comedy history

Drug store owner Mr. Peavy was, of course, a hilarious fixture on The Great Gildersleeve, and almost every episode would have a scene in that famous establishment. Fibber McGee would occasionally frequent Kramer's drug store, and once in a while the character of Kramer would have a brief spot. In one episode from 1936 (before Kramer became the proprietor), Fibber was left in charge for the store for a while, with predictable results. In A Day in the Life of Dennis Day, "our hero" worked in a drug store (not very successfully, it appears). In one excellent episode of Meet Mr. McNutley, he treats his wife and Dean  Bradley to ice cream at the store, but forgets his money and has to leave his jewelry for collateral.

When did the Teeny character start on Fibber McGee and Molly?

I don't know for sure, but she was on the episode from 25 November 1935, entitled "Buying Vegetables at a Roadside Stand."

Herbert Marshall's accent

Marshall was an English actor, but his accent almost sounds more like blue-blood American than English. It is really hard to place.

"Ya'll do the best you can."

It is really distressing how accurately this sums up the management philosophy of many companies.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chumps as husbands

Chumps always make the best husbands. When you marry, Sally, grab a chump. Tap his forehead first, and if it rings solid, don't hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from the husband having brains. What good are brains to a man? They only unsettle him.

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Verbs used with collective nouns

"The Family have washed their hands of him." This is a sentence from a P. G. Wodehouse novel, and it demonstrates the formal British usage of plural verbs with collective nouns, something that is hardly ever done in American English today. We view the collective nouns as singular entities, and thus would say, "The Family has,", not, "The Family have."

Just marry a smart girl

           "However did you have the sense to fall in love with her, Fill?"
         "Do you like her?" asked Fillmore, brightening.
         "I love her."
         "I knew your would. She's just the right girl for me, isn't she?"
         "She certainly is."
         "So sympathetic."
         "So kind."
         "Yes. And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need."

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When the advertising man hits a home run

I was just listening to an episode of Father Knows Best in which they mentioned the sponsor, Maxwell House Coffee, which, of course, is "good to the last drop." Who knows how long that slogan has been applied to that product, but the advertising executive (or whoever) who first dreamed it up had the satisfaction of knowing that a classic had been created.

Resigned to things that will not happen

Do you have a "Someday I want to" list? Most folks do. As we get older, that list gets shorter. One by one, we resign ourselves to the fact that we will never be able to do those things, and move on - hopefully without resentment or frustration. For years I have wanted to go to Wales, since my lineage is mainly Welsh. But I am now 60 years old and retirement is nowhere in sight, and air travel is difficult for me to the point that I probably should not try it, so I suppose that will never happen. But that is all right. There will be a long of things I will not have done. What I need to be more concerned about is the fact that there are many things I ought to have done that I have not done.

Welsh countryside

A serious thought from Wodehouse?!

Nothing grows more quickly than a mood of rebellion. Rebellion is a forest fire that flames across the soul.

(from The Adventures of Sally)

A dreary dinner

          "He wants you do dine with him tonight at Bleke's."
          Ginger's depression deepened. A dinner with Uncle Donald would hardly have been a cheerful function, even in the surroundings of a banquet in the Arabian Nights. There was that about Uncle Donald's personality which would have cast a sobering influence over the orgies of the Emperor Tiberius at Capri. To dine with him at a morgue like that relic of Old London, Bleke's Coffee House, which confined its custom principally to regular patrons who had not missed an evening there for half a century, was to touch something very hear bed-rock. Ginger was extremely doubtful whether flesh and blood were equal to it.

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thunder Birds (1942)

This is about the training of a multi-national group of pilots during World War II. Preston Foster is a crack pilot who is getting too old for active service, but wants to train pilots at a site in Arizona. He is sweet on Gene Tierney, but she does not seen to return the affection at first. John Sutton is one of Foster's British student pilots. His father had been a pilot in World War I, and Foster had known him well. Sutton had been a medical student, but when his brother is killed, he resolves to go into the flying service against the objections of his grandmother (Dame May Whitty), who knows about his fear of heights. He gets interested in Tierney, which she encourages. She finally falls for him, and Foster is left out in the cold, but he accepts it and goes on training pilots.

Walter Tetley (Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve radio show) has a brief part as a messenger boy.

Scrymgeour - an odd, but old and honoured name

We meet the name Scrymgeour in the Wodehouse novel, The Adventures of Sally. At first glance, we are tempted to think that it is merely a name that the author invented for his humorous purposes. However, on further investigation, we find Alexander Henry Scrymgeour of Dundee, 12th Earl of Dundee. He is the current head of Clan Scrymgeour. His line goes back at least to Sir Alexander Scrymgeour of Dudhope, who died in 1306. (He was hung, drawn and quartered by the English for fighting on the side of Robert the Bruce.)

Lord Dundee

She picked right up on the fact

          "I asked you why Mr. Scrymgeour dismissed you."
          "I'm telling you."
          "I'm glad of that. I didn't know."
          "The old brute," said Ginger, frowning again, "has a dog. A very jolly little spaniel. Great pal of mine. And Scrymgeour is the sort of fool who oughtn't be allowed to own a dog. He's one of those asses who isn't fit to own a dog. As a matter of fact, of all the blighted, pompous, bullying shrivelled-souled old devils . . ."
          "One moment," said Sally. "I'm getting an impression that you don't like Mr. Scrymeour. Am I right?"
          "I thought so. Womanly intuition! Go on."

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Dogs are the same - even in France

One of the dogs, a poodle of military aspect, wandered up to Sally: and discovering that she was in possession of a box of sweets, decided to remain and await developments.

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The weight of death

There is something about dead fat people that makes them look deader than any other variety.

(from The Voyage of the Scarlet Queen radio show)

Each of us has his small talents

"Who asked you?" It was the smaller of the Marvellous Murphys who spoke. He was an unpleasant youth, snub-nosed and spotty. Still, he could balance himself with one hand on an inverted ginger-ale bottle while revolving a barrel on the soles of his feet. There is good in all of us.

(from The Adventures of Sally, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two of Fibber McGee's favorite songs

Link to Pretty Redwing

Link to Dear Old Girl

Pretty Redwing popped up from time to time. One memorable time was when a company hired Fibber to sing Pretty Redwing with a quartet, because he had such a strong voice. He starts out with the initial "Oh . . .," but does not get to go any farther, because they cut it. He learns that they were recording a dog food commercial, and wanted him to play the part of the dog.

Dear Old Girl shows up in the episode where Doc Gamble has been selected to be in the Elks Club barbershop quartet instead of Fibber, so Fibber cons Doc into practicing the tune until he supposedly loses his voice. In reality, he did not want to go where the contest was, because there was a woman there who wanted to marry him.

"I would have to put a new set of tires on that."

What the car salesman - EVERY car salesman - will say when you show him your trade-in, even if you just drove it off the lot.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hate crimes - one of the stupid ideas of our day

This is a "politically correct" law. Aside from perhaps mercy killings or other unusual situations, are not all murders crimes of hate in some sense and to some degree? And why does hatred for a class of people as opposed to an individual make the crime any more heinous? It just makes no sense at all to make this an especially grievous crime. We just had a man who killed two people, and they are prosecuting it as a hate crime. Does that mean that they will execute him twice?

Candy Matson radio show - not quite there

There are a few examples of this program available today, and it is very interesting - but it never quite lives up to its potential. The idea of a beautiful, glamorous private eye is intriguing, especially when she has a policeman sweetheart. The plots are OK, but not spectacular. However, it is the acting by Natalie Masters that does not fit. She does not sound like what she is supposed to be. Sometimes voices just do not fit the perceived personna. She might have looked the part, but she did not sound like it. Not a bad program, and definitely worth listening to; but it falls short of what it could have been.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Slow-moving detectives

Nero Wolfe was, of course, famously fat. "Inclined toward corpulence," one might have put it. Needless to say, he did not generally move very quickly. In fact, if he could keep from it, he did not move much at all. We also learn from the Sherlock Holmes stories that his brother, Mycroft, was not an energetic person. In fact, he makes several pointedly negative remarks about Sherlock's often-frenetic pursuit of criminals.

You have to dig deeper

"Front seldom tell truth. To know occupants of house, always look in back yard."
(from Charlie Chan in London)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ferry Command and old radio history

If you listen to the old Bob Hope radio shows, you will hear at least one in which he and his group perform life for what was called Long Beach Ferry Command. The actual name of this military function was Air Transport Command. Their mission was the delivery of supplies and equipment between the United States and the overseas combat theaters and the ferrying of aircraft from the manufacturing plants in the United States to where they were needed for training or for operational use in combat.

Here is a LINK to the broadcast.

A profession built upon falsehoods

She had spoken vaguely of past theatrical successes, but he knw they were the sort of lie the theatre breeds. What actor or actress was ever strictly honest about past successes or failures? - Louis Lamour

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The emptiness of war

"War is unlike life. It's a denial of everything you learn life is. And that's why when you get finished with it, you see that it offers no lessons that can't be better learned in civilian life. You are exposed to horrors you would sooner forget. A disconnect needs to be made to get yourself cleansed." (Robert Graff, as quoted in Neptune Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer)

This is a profound statement. War is a complete negative. It is in its nature completely destructive. Though sometimes necessary to protect our homes, there is no glory in it - at all.

You can't love a ship

I now see that I had a love for the Atlanta like that you afford a human being and that ships are after all just floating offices and as warm as a dead fish. I will never forget the Atlanta. She taught me a lesson. I won't ever try to love another ship. I'll take them for what they are worth which is nothing.

(Bettsy Perkins, widow of one of the officers of the Atlanta, sunk at Guadalcanal. As quoted in Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfisher)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Detectives sometimes go overboard

In the episode of Richard Diamond entitled "Joyce Wallace," he is hired by a performer to protect her because attempts have been made on her life. During the show, while Diamond is in her apartment, a bouquet of roses arrives from her estranged husband, as happens every week. This time, however, there is a snake in the bouquet. She becomes hysterical, and Diamond pulls out his gun and fires three bullets at the snake. This probably was a very expensive apartment, and the snake (which was not poisonous) could have been disposed of by stepping on it, dropping some object on it, etc. But no! Diamond has to haul out his .38 and blast away. No mention is ever made of the damage done to the apartment, who will pay for it, not any complaints from other apartment dwellers in adjoining units where the bullets presumably penetrated. It is all just accepted matter-of-factly as what anyone would have done.

Even Earl Derr Biggers told terrible puns

          After breakfast in the morning he recalled that and old college friend named Spike Bristol was reported in the class histories as living now in Pasadena. The telephone directory furnished Bristol's address, and Eden set out to find him. His friend turned out to be one of the more decorative features of a bond office.
          "Bond salesman, eh?" said Eden, when the greetings were over.
          "Yes - it was either that or real estate," replied Bristol. "I was undecided for some time. Finally I picked this."
          "Of course," laughed Eden. "As any class history proves, gentlemen prefer bonds."

(from The Chinese Parrot)

Oriental calm

"All time in San Fransisco I behold white men hot and excited. Life like a fever, always getting worse. What for? Where does it end? Same place as Chinese life, I think."

Charlie Chan, from The Chinese Parrot, by Earl Derr Biggers

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A painful honor

On board the San Francisco, Halsey decorated many of the crew who had distinguished themselves, Jack Bennett among them. As the lieutenant junior grade's name was called, Halsey said into the standing mike, "Step closer, son." The words reverberated through the public address system. When Halsey fixed the Navy Cross onto his shirt, its sharp pin stuck into Bennett's flesh, and Bennett was keenly aware of the microphone inches from his mouth. "I knew that any sound of pain I uttered would also boom out over the speakers," Bennett wrote. "I was already scared and now I had to grit my teeth and remain silent as the admiral continued trying to close the clasp, finally giving up when he saw the blood seeping through my shirt."

(from Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer)

The best radio detective?

Barry Craig was "America's #1 detective." Sam Spade was "the greatest private detective of them all."  But in terms of money, it was Richard Diamond. He got paid $100 a day, plus expenses. (His clients frequently complained.)

Dick Powell (radio's Richard Diamond)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

          If you want to see a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie with all the trimmings, get this one. Some of staging is really outstanding, particularly the windmill scenes and the final crash and rescue of the plane floating in the frigid Atlantic, which are epic.
          Joel McCrea is the correspondent - actually a reporter who is sent to Europe when the Editor gets fed up by a lack of gutsy reporting. Laraine Day is the romantic interest, whose father (Herbert Marshall) just happens to be a German spy.
          The best acting in the movie is done by Albert Basserman, who is an elderly man being pursued by the Nazi spies. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the performance. Also doing a great job is our old favorite, George Sanders. In fact, I think this was one of this better roles.
          If you like Hitchcock, this is a MUST for your collection.

Day and McCrea


Bumble Boogie

This popular composition, based upon Rimsky-Korsakov's famous classical piece, has been done by many pianists. Here is a LINK to an extended and impressive version by Hannes Otahal. Your kids will love this one!


Jay Novello as Capt. Sam Sabaaya

Occasionally we will come across and actor who handles a role so well and it just seems to fit naturally. Such was the case with Jay Novello in the Rocky Jordan radio series. He was a natural for the role. His usually-calm but occasionally-irritated relationship with Jordan helped to make the show. One gets the opinion that he was a top-notch cop.

Jay Novello

James Gleason - a wonderful character actor

One of our favorite actors is James Gleason (1882-1959). He typically portrayed hard-boiled but lovable types, frequently being police officers. One of his most memorable roles was as Inspector Oscar Piper in the Hildegarde Withers series of movies. He and Edna Mae Oliver made a wonderful team, playing off one another with consumate skill. If you are an old movie fan, but have never seen Gleason, I strongly recommend that you get one of his films. Lots of fun.

Why don't we sing Happy Birthday?

when someone is born?

"Friends, like fiddle strings, should not be stretched too tight."

from Charlie Chan's Chance

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The wives of the Benny-Allen feud.

The on-air feud between Fred Allen and Jack Benny is a part of the history of American entertainment, and there actually were several similarities between their personnas. Furthermore, the wives of both comedians were integral parts of their programs, and who frequently quoted their mothers – but there the similarity ends. Mary Livingston (Mrs. Benny) was sarcastic and was always letting the air out of Benny’s pomposity. Portland Hoffa (Mrs. Allen) came across as an air-head who would come on stage calling, “Mr. Allen, Mr. Allen.” The shows would not have been the same without the ladies.

The King's Men quartet

For several years the musical group on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show was The King's Men. They were an interesting ensemble. They performed very smoothly some difficult pieces, but when the individual members would sing solo, their voices do not sound very outstanding. Evidently they know to blend well, because the final effect was good. The first tenor was a little irritating, though. He sang all the high notes in falsetto, and it did not come off very well. It was all in tune and seamless, but it sounded like falsetto, and thus had a little bit of a "tinny" quality.

By the way, if you want to see the quartet in action, they appear early in the movie Heavenly Days as soldiers on the train on which Fibber and Molly are traveling.

More HERE on The King's Men.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Sandhogs on old radio

Sandhogs are urban miners who work on a variety of construction projects in New York City, particularly tunneling. There was one episode of the Box 13 radio show in which Dan Holiday  is called in by the owner of a construction company to locate the source of the acts of sabotage that are threatening to ruin the project and company. On the Texaco Star Theater episode of 22 January 1941, Fred Allen interviewed an actual sandhog who had worked on the Holland Tunnel in New York. Needless to say, this particular occupation was fraught with many opportunities for accidents.

Sandhogs at work

Sunday, April 06, 2014

There's a Girl In My Heart (1949)

This is a cute movie, but it is for very specialized tastes. It is a musical based on the Roaring 90's period and the turn of the 20th century. There is a lot of music from that era, a good deal of dancing, and the typically thin plot. But it is well done. The big plus for the movie is Lon Chaney, Jr., who is the comic feature of the story. Chaney was very good at this particular type of role, and is at his best here. Some of the others of note in the cast are Elyse Knox and Irene Ryan. Knox was the daughter of Secretary of the Navy Franklin Knox and the wife of sportscaster Tom Harmon. If you like music from 120 years ago, you will like this movie.



Radio's "ding dong" doorbells

My in-laws had a manual doorbell on their front door. It was a simple little lever that would make a "ding dong" sound on "mi-do" pitches. I hear the same sound often as I listen to old radio shows, so evidently bells of that type were in vogue during that time period.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Dawn Addams - another actress who landed a blue blood

She married Don Vittorio Emanuele Massimo, Prince of Roccasecca. His family was connected to several of the royal houses of Europe, going at least back to Robert, Duke of Neustria, who died in 866.

Grizzly chores after the battle

All around the ship, the growling of handy-billy pumps swelled. Hoses were dropped overboard and streams of water set flowing against all surfaces. Slowly the stubborn knots of flesh clotting the ship's thousands of crooks and crevices, the drying splashes of blood, were washed away. All hands received a "ditty bag" and were ordered to identify the dead, remove their dog tags and personal effects, place a five-inch dummy shell down the front of their dungarees, cinch their belt tight, and ease the body over the side. The San Fransisco had no chaplain aboard, so there was no ceremony to any of this.

(from Neptune's Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer)

In praise of patience

"Patience," said Chan, "are a very lovely virtue. Through long centuries Chinese cultivate patience like kind gardener tending flowers. White men leap about similar to bug in bottle. Which are better method, I inquire?"

(from The Chinese Parrot, by Earl Derr Biggers)

If you have to defend the Constitution by ignoring the Constitution

then in reality you have no Constitution.

Jack Benny, Lucky Strike and tobacco auctioneers

One of the most memorable features of the Jack Benny program was during the sponsorship of Lucky Strike and the American Tobacco Company. The show would start with the chant of a tobacco auctioneer, who would conclude, "Sold to American!" The links below are to a Lucky Strike television commercial showing a tobacco auctioneer at work, and then another of a more recent auction.

1953 Lucky Strike commercial LINK

1987 World Champion auctioneer LINK

The healthcare option no one talks about

What did people do before our modern healthcare system was in place? Perhaps they went to the local doctor to see what he could do, and if he could not help them, then they got sick, and died. We are all going to die sooner or later. The reason, of course, that the medical system gets by charging such ridiculous prices is that they have no competition. No one is willing to take the other option. But we are all going to take it -sooner or later.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Fosdick Feinschreiber

You may not have heard of this notable orchestra leader, but on one episode of the Texaco Star Theater, starring Fred Allen, he was the substitute for Al Goodman. (Actually, Goodman was playing the role.)

I used to be able to blow a horn fairly well.

Now I do well to blow my nose.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Dusty's Trail TV Series

This ran in the 1973-74 season, and starred Bob Denver (of Gilligan's Island fame) and Forrest Tucker (from F Troop). It is the story of a (very small) wagon train. Also among the regulars were two of the three sisters from Petticoat Junction. It was pretty much slapstick, as one might expect with Denver involved. But fun, nonetheless.

Frank Fontaine: AKA John L. C. Sivoney and Crazy Guggenheim

On the Jack Benny radio program, there was for a while a character named John L. C. Sivoney. He was hilarious, to the point that Jack would get tickled just looking at him. Those of my generation will remember him on the Jackie Gleason program as Crazy Guggenheim. He would sometimes sing on the program, and had a very nice voice. One of my classmates in high school did a wonderful imitation of Fontaine/Guggenheim. We loved it.

Crazy  Guggenheim

Sponsors on the wrong radio shows

One of the curious features of old radio shows is how sponsors would get mentioned on programs that they (presumably) did not sponsor. For example, on the Jack Benny show you would sometimes hear mentions of Rexall, which footed the bill for the Phil Harris and Alice Faye program. It would be woven into the script of the program, not really an ad, just a gag. What one wonders is whether or not the show had to get permission from the other sponsor to mention their name, and whether or not the other sponsor had to pay for the mention.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Alan Hale, Sr. and Jr.

We know Alan Senior in many roles, including Little John in Robin Hood. Junior was famous as the Captain in Gilligan's Island.

Sarge Goes To College (1947)

This is another short musical to display the high tenor crooning of Freddie Stewart and the cuteness of June Preisser. "Sarge" is Alan Hale, who is sent to college from the military to help his medical recovery. Hale is pretty well cast in this role, in contrast to the many where he was totally out of place. One of the interesting scenes is early on, when orchestra leader Russ Morgan fronts his band. He plays the piano, the trombone, and displays a very nice crooner's voice. An all-star cast of musicians are woven into the story, including famous guitarist Les Paul.