Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lighthouses on Old Time Radio - The Sinister Lighthouse from This is Your FBI (1946)

Here is the second entry in my Lighthouses on Old Time Radio series.  This story is from a long-running radio program titled This is Your FBI, and is called "The Sinister Lighthouse."

This is Your FBI was a long running radio show on the ABC Radio Network (also known as the Blue Network before it spun off from NBC) that spanned from 1945 to 1953.  The show was endorsed by the FBI and they shared case files with the show's producers - making the stories all "from the files of the FBI." The stories are really well done and provide scenes showing not only the execution of the crime, but also the way that the FBI solved it.  Each story opened the same way -

"The official broadcast from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The incidents used in
tonight’s Equitable Life Assurance Society broadcast are adapted from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, all names used are fictitious, and any similarity to names of persons living or dead is accidental." 
- From Derral Cheatwood Images of Crime and Justice in Early Commercial Radio—1932 to 1958 Criminal Justice Review March 2010 35: 32-51,

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse (Presque Isle, Michigan) - October 10, 2014

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse (Presque Isle, Michigan) - October 2014 (I was hoping I had a picture of a Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse - this seemed close to me - at least one of the inland ones)!

The opening of this particular story was somewhat chilling...

"As we speak to you tonight, an unprecedented tidal wave of crime is sweeping our country from coast to coast. Through village, and hamlet, and town, and city, destroying lives and property and smashing savagely at the very pilings on which rests the whole structure of American society.  It is the biggest crime wave in the history of our country.  As to its magnitude, we need say no more than this - that major crimes alone, one of which we report tonight, are being committed at the rate of almost 5,000 every 24 hours."

This story involves a second honeymoon taken by a wounded war veteran and his bride on the very first day that he was in "civvies." When he was in the South Pacific, he wrote to his wife and said he wanted to get their honeymoon at an old abandoned lighthouse.  His wife looked over and over and found one on the Chesapeake Bay that they could stay in.  Everything was perfect as they drove down from Westchester County in New York.  The veteran even carried his wife across the threshold into the lighthouse.  Their wonderful day turned on a time - when they found themselves smack dab in the middle of a kidnapping.

As a teaser for the way the crime was solved - there are two different imprints that gave away the criminals.  The first was fingerprints.  The second was a tune - whistled so many times it wormed its way into the ears of the young couple who found more than a lighthouse on this trip.

What is also interesting is the integrated advertising for the Equitable Life Assurance Society's new home ownership program.  It essentially is mortgage insurance that pays off the loan should anything happen to the owner of the house.  It is called "America's Finest Plan for Home Ownership."  At the beginning of the broadcast, the announcer suggests that the wives pull their husbands into the room within 14 minutes to learn about this important new insurance product.

Please enjoy this great episode.  This is a real treat and a great way to continue my Lighthouse Old Time Radio series.  I will have another entry in about a week!

The Sinister Lighthouse (June 7, 1946)

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and This is Your FBI:
Lighthouses on Old Time Radio:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lighthouses on Old Time Radio - Seascape from The Whistler (1945)

For a long time, and I mean years, I have wanted to bring together my longtime interest in lighthouses with my relatively new found interest in Old Time Radio.  I have been carrying around a list of the relevant episodes for a few years in my folder of fun things to work on.  Well....time to start working.  I am going to use this blog to share these episodes, with links that go to freely available resources that are relevant to the topic.  The pictures will come from my large collection of lighthouse pictures on flickr!  This has been fun to pull together radio programs and I hope you have fun reading and listening.  I hope to pull it together for an article down the road.  But lets start out, shall we?

So to start my lighthouse adventure, I am choosing Seascape from The Whistler.  I am doing this for a few reasons.  First, The Whistler is just one of the best mystery programs on Old Time Radio.  If you have not heard these shows before - you are in for a treat.  Second, it is a great mystery story involving a lighthouse.  And third, this episode aired on January 22, 1945 (70 years ago today) - so for me, it is an anniversary that I actually hit!

Thacher Island Twin Lighthouses (Cape Ann, Massachusetts)

Thacher Island Twin Lighthouses (Cape Ann, Massachusetts) - August 2010 - I do not have any pictures of lighthouses in Maine...yet!

The Whistler is one of the greatest old time radio programs.  This mystery series aired from May 1942 to September 1955 on the West-coast network from CBS Radio.  The show was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company.  The lead in for the show was: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler."  The Signal Oil Company was one of the biggest west-coast oil companies.  They became part of AlliedSignal and then Honeywell.  The Signal Oil Company as an entity phased out in the 1960s, but in the years before, they were a leading gas supplier in the Western United States.

One of the best parts about The Whistler is that each episode was a self-contained story, using new characters and situations.  They were able to bring in many big names on radio and film into the studio to report the episodes.  These actors included Frank Lovejoy, Betty Lou Gerson, William Conrad, Jack Webb, Gerald Mohr, Doris Singleton, Lurene Tuttle, Joseph Kearns and Bill Forman (who played the title role of The Whistler more than any other actor).  The Whistler was the omniscient voice in the story, who started the episodes with the same refrain:

"I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak."  

These are wonderful 30 minute mysteries that do a great job of keeping the listener interested.  They are also one of my favorite mysteries.  The opening of this particular episode does a great job of giving Bill Forman (as The Whistler) the phrases to perfectly set the scene:

"The Atlantic Coastline, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Cape Hatteras and beyond is a treacherous one.  An ever present threat to the thousands of vessels which have for centuries moved in streams, in and out of American ports. And the keepers of the lighthouses there are men with an awful responsibility.  Men who most not only fight the perils of the storm, but must battle continually against the loneliness and despair of their vigilance.  Its not a very attractive life - NO - especially for a girl like Madeline Murray, who six months ago came to live with her new husband, Richard, at their lighthouse on a rocky island off the coast of Northern Maine."

Richard, a lighthouse keeper from Maine, learns that Madeline, his wife of six months, is no longer in love with him.  But that is the best news he would hear over the next 24 hours.  First, she never really loved him.  Second, she can't leave the lighthouse - because he committed a murder months before she met Richard.  The solitude at the lighthouse was what attracted her to Richard - she needed a place to be lost.  Third, a strong nor'easter rolled into the region the following day and a skiff shipwrecked near the light.  But piloting that skiff....more bad news.  It was Blake Adams, who just happened to be one of Madeline's old lovers.  In fact, he was with Madeline when she committed murder.  All in all, a great day on the Lighthouse.

When the story opens, Madeline reveals to Richard that she hates being at the lighthouse.  And even though it only has been six months, she can barely take it any longer.  She actually thinks that serving in jail will be better than one more day in the lighthouse.  When Madeline was reacquainting herself to Blake, he figures out why she left and ran away.  Her response seems to be what my family says when I bring them to lighthouses on trips.

"You don't think it's because I like lighthouses, do you?"

The actors who are featured in this piece are huge names from the Golden Age of Radio.  Joseph Kearns plays the Richard, the lighthouse keeper.  Kearns appeared in many productions on radio, most famously as the Man in Black on CBS' Suspense.  He would later appear on TV as Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace.  Cathy Lewis plays Richards wife of 6 months, Madeleine. She was married to Elliott, though he shared the same last name from birth.  She was a very prominent radio actress and was featured in My Friend Irma and The Adventures Of Michael Shayne just to name two.  Elliott Lewis plays Madeleine's long-lost lover Blake Adams.  He is possibly best known as Frankie Remley, Phil Harris' lead guitar player on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.  Besides being a radio voice actor, he also wrote and directed many shows, including many years with CBS' Suspense and the Sears Radio Theater in the late 1970s.  Bill Forman played the Whistler, the omniscient narrator or chorus of the story.

This is a real treat and a great way to kick off the Lighthouse Old Time Radio series.  I will have another entry every few days.

Seascape (January 22, 1945) - Mystery/Fiction

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and The Whistler:
Lighthouses on Old Time Radio:

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Old Time Radio Diet - Gildy Goes on a Diet - The Great Gildersleeve

This is the last one of my "Diet" theme for Old Time Radio shows.  I have some good ones - and all but the last one have been from comedies.  Well, I am back with one of the comedies - maybe one of the best known comedies of all time...The Great Gildersleeve.

The Great Gildersleeve is not only a great radio comedy, it has two aspects that really makes it a series way ahead of their time.  First, it was a spin-off program, having had its main character originally on a different series.  In this instance, the main character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve was originally on the Fibber McGee and Molly show. According to the Wikipedia entry (please see the link below), the character was introduced on October 3, 1939 (my birthday - not year!).  The Great Gildersleeve debuted on the NBC Network on August 31, 1941.  Second, the actor to play Gildersleeve (or Gildy) was replaced after a contract dispute.  Harold Peary originated the role and played Gildy until a contract dispute moved him off the show.  He was replaced by Willard Waterman.  Harold Peary would star in the The Harold Peary Show, often known as Honest Harold.

The Great Gildersleeve is the story of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve - played by Harold Peary.  Gildy is the self-important Water Commissioner in their town of Summerfield.  A bachelor who was constantly on the look for that someone special, he lived in a house with his niece, Marjorie (played by radio great Lurene Tuttle) and nephew, Leroy (played by child voice star Walter Tetley).  They are joined by Birdie (played by Lillian Randolph) as housekeeper and cook at the home.  She is one of the more prominent African-American voice actors from these days of radio programming.  One of Gildy's great nemeses is Judge Hooker, who plays a nearly constant foil for whatever they are trying to do.  I have gone hot and cold on Gildersleeve over the years, but the more I listen to these episodes, the more I like them.  I love hearing the Kraft ads (from the early years) and I am trying to listen to more of them.

143/365/2334 (November 1, 2014) -White Ibis at Orlando Wetlands Park (Christmas, Florida) - October 31 & November 1, 2014

Orlando Wetlands Park (Christmas, Florida) - November 1, 2014 - This is a wetlands for a water commission in Florida - so it makes sense for Gildy!

In the episode called Gildy Goes on a Diet (January 4, 1942), well....the title kinda says it all.  Gildy goes on a diet.  Gildersleeve decided that he wanted to take on a New Year's Resolution to lose wight.  He also gave up cigars, but that decision was driven by horrible cigars given to him for Christmas by Marjorie.  So he was all set to make a big start of the year for healthy living, when Judge Hooker finds out and bets that he cannot lose 10 lbs in a week.  The wager between Gildy and Judge Hooker was $100 (which would be around $1450 in 2014 dollars).  And things were going well, until it appeared that Gildy was GAINING weight - not losing it.  This episode was from the first season of The Great Gildersleeve on NBC radio.

This is a fun episode - especially for people who are struggling with a diet these days.  Coming next week - I am going to start working on my Old Time Radio Lighthouse Series!  It is going to be great!

Gildy Goes on a Diet (January 4, 1942)

Here are some links to programs relating to The Great Gildersleve:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

An Old Time Radio Diet - Dr. Carew's Wife (from Dr. Kildare)

To continue with my "Diet" theme for Old Time Radio recipes, I found a great episode from one of my favorite series - the Story of Dr. Kildare.  The Story of Dr. Kildare was a radio version of the popular movies of the 1930s that started Lew Ayres as Dr. Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as his mentor, Dr. Leonard Gillespie.  Ayres and Barrymore played the roles that they had in many of the early movies.  Dr. Kildare was the gifted, young doctor while Dr. Gillespie was the great diagnostician.  Together, they were able to solve many (though not all) the cases that came through the front doors of Blair General Hospital in New York City.  Joining those two great actors in the cast were Ted Osborne (as the Hospital Administrator Dr. Carew), Virginia Gregg (as Nurse Parker) and many, many guest stars.  Each radio program started with Lew Ayres setting the scene with this great opening:

"one of the great citadels of American medicine -- a clump of gray-white buildings planted deep in the heart of New York -- where life begins, where life ends, where life goes on." 

I have not seen the movies, but something tells me I should.  What was really interesting is that I did not realize that Lionel Barrymore was wheelchair bound since the early 1930s because of severe arthritis and muscular pain.  I though the wheelchair for his brilliant role as Mr. Potter in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) was part of the character.  But on radio, it does not matter if the actor is standing or sitting!

John Muir Medical Center (Walnut Creek, California)

John Muir Medical Center (Walnut Creek, California) - 2013

Running a hospital is hard work.  Poor Dr. Carew (voiced by Ted Osborne) is always flummoxed by the costs associated with their work at the hospital, appeasing board members, and raising money.  So when they are working on a big event to raise money for Blair Hospital's Polio Wing, he has an idea that his wife, Angela, can perform at the donor event.  She was a great dancer back in the day, but that was many years...and 20 pounds ago.  So Dr. Carew enlists Drs Kildare, Gillespie, and one Dr. Brownlee from England to help Angela shed that extra weight.  And while she was keeping to her diet during meal times, Angela had extra-curricular eating that was slowing her down and moving the scale in the other direction.  While Dr. Brownlee did not have much to add to the regiment that Angela was on, he did have a great suggestion for keeping her on it - an incentive!

If you are trying to lose weight (like me) - I hope you have a good incentive out there.  That is in addition to the benefit of being healthier!

Dr Carew's Fat Wife (February 1, 1950)

Here are some links to programs relating to The Story of Dr. Kildare:

Monday, January 5, 2015

An Old Time Radio Diet - Magnificent Montague's Diet

To continue with my "Diet" theme for Old Time Radio recipes, I found another good one from a NBC from the show, the Magnificent Montague.  While this show only ran one year, it was part of NBC's "All-Star Festival of Comedy, Music, Mystery and Drama" on Saturday nights in 1951.

The Magnificent Montague starred note actor Monty Woolley.  He might have been best known for his role as Sheldon Whiteside in the Man Who Came to Dinner (which I showcased as a Christmas special with Jack Benny).  In this series, Monty Wooley played Edwin Montague, a former stage actor who was a founding member of the "Proscenium Club of Shakespearean Thespians."  As a great actor, he is very proud of his work on the stage.  But as an aging actor, he found himself with fewer and fewer paying opportunities, he turned to a most scandalous occupation - one of a radio actor! Edwin plays in a local soap opera as 'Uncle Goodheart', He is very concerned that one of his fellow members of the Proscenium Club will discover his secret.  So his household is sworn to secrecy on Edwin's new job!  Anne Seymour played Edwin's wife Lily (also a stage actress), and Pert Kelton played Agnes, their housekeeper of 25 years.

Festival Theatre (Stratford, Ontario, Canada)

William Shakespeare Statue at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario in 2011

In this episode called "The Diet", Edwin is going to perform scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth at an event at the Proscenium Club.  In seeing how he looked when he first played Macbeth, Lily realized that he needed to go on a diet so he could look good in tights.  As Agnes says:

You're supposed to look like Macbeth, not a Mack Truck,

So he is forced to diet or exercise the get the weight off.  After being lured into a meal by the thought of spaghetti and meatballs, he ran to the gym.  But he and his acting partner are mistaken as professional wrestlers by the manager of the gym (played by Art Carney - who became famous on the Honeymooners).  Listen also for ads for RCA Victor and their 17" television set, Chesterfield Cigarettes, and Anicin.

The Diet (March 16, 1951)

Here are some links to programs relating to Magnificent Montague:
An Old Time Radio Diet - All Blog Entries

Sunday, January 4, 2015

An Old Time Radio Diet - "The Vegetarian" from It's Higgins, Sir!

To continue with my "Diet" theme for Old Time Radio recipes, I found a good one from a NBC Summer Replacement Series in 1951 called It's Higgins, Sir!  While the show only ran one summer (13 episodes), it really is one of those very funny series that I wish ran longer.  It is a favorite of Greg Bell on his Old time radio channel (#82) .

The premise is simple - and pretty unique.  The Roberts Family (of the United States) have a distant uncle from England, one Sir Reginald Robertson.  When Sir Reginald Robertson dies, he leaves his distant nephew their historic silver set...AND a 'Gentleman's gentleman' - one Higgins!  Higgins is played by Harry McNaughton.  The parents in the Roberts Family is played by Vinton Hayworth (the father - Philip Roberts) and Peggy Allenby (the mother - Liz).  While they only had 13 episodes, they only scratched the surface of what happens when a true Gentleman's gentleman comes and stays with an American family.

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

A Vegetarian Quiche I make (click here for the recipe)

In this episode, the family is awaiting the return of Liz from a public event so they can start dinner.  The smell of Roast Beef permeates the entire house and everyone is anxiously awaiting dinner.  But when Liz returns, but with a guest, the dinner plans are thrown a bit into flux! Accompanying Liz is one Robert St. Regis, who was actually her old flame.  She was listening to him lecture on health and proper eating and she invited him over.  While Higgins gets another setting for the guest, they are all surprised to learn that he will not be joining them with the wonderful roast beef - as Mr. St. Regis is a vegetarian!

At one point, Mr. St. Regis exclaims "I never eat meat."  

Higgins replies "How do you get it, by injection?"

Turns out that he only eats vegetables, including kelp, raw vegetables, yogurt, nuts among others.  When he finds out that Phillip Roberts gained 12 pounds over the summer, he insists that he gets on a diet to get into shape for winter.  As one might imagine, the diet does not go over very well.  But Higgins has a solution to set the family straight.  Sure, it might be dishonest, but once again, Higgins saves the day.

This is a fun episodes and one that definitely gets you in the dieting mood.

"The Vegetarian" - September 11, 1951

Here are some links to programs relating to It's Higgins, Sir!:
An Old Time Radio Diet - All Blog Entries

Friday, January 2, 2015

An Old Time Radio Diet - "A Piece of Pie" from the Damon Runyon Theater

Seriously, I am going to take some time off - I am NOT going to post an episode of Old Time Radio every can bank on it.  I am going to take some time off and do other things.  Starting tomorrow.

I am going to write about a few different things related to Old Time Radio this year.  I want to have a series on lighthouse-themed episodes.  A good suggestion from a former colleague was to work on baseball-themed episodes.  So that gives me a good deal to work on.  And while people do a great job of highlighting performers when their birth anniversaries roll around, I thought I would do something a bit different.  Maybe each month, I would pick a theme and see if I can get some entries to work with that.

So in thinking about what people are doing in January.  Besides being bundled up - especially for those in the north where it is COLD outside, most people are working on their New Year's Resolutions.  And that means, typically, weight loss and diet.  What fun would it be to listen to some of these episodes while avoiding treats to fulfill our own resolutions.  So my Old Time Radio Diet is not about only having Old Time Radio - but how diet and healthy eating was covered on these shows.  It will be interesting in the context that it reflects the culture and health habits in the 1940s and 1950s.  I will get new entries out every few days, so hopefully it will be fun for everyone.  As for me, I get a diet helper.  I have Wanda protecting me from the cookies.

268/365/1363 (March 5, 2012) – Wanda the Diet Buddy

Wanda - a diet's best friend!  No Cookies for YOU! Picture from 2012

For my first entry, I thought I would pull out a good one from the Damon Runyon Theater.  This entry from May 22, 1949 is called "A Piece Of Pie" based on the story of the same name.  The Damon Runyon Theater is a great series and takes you right into the world of Damon Runyon.  It was produced by the Mayfair Transcription Company and pretty much only ran in 1949.  It was broadcast over many different stations, but not as a network program.  The show starred John Brown as Broadway, who serves as the central figure and narrator of the stories.  If you like Guys and Dolls, you will love these great dramatizations for radio.  Watch for some entries soon about sports fans from this series.

Damon Runyon captures a romanticized version the charming lives of New York's gamblers and other rougher characters like Harry The Horse and Broadway.  In this episode, Harry and Broadway decide to enter one of their pays, Nicely-Nicely Jones into an eating contest.  When a person who they are holding a bet with wants them to produce Nicely-Nicely, they head off in search for him.  What they find shocks them both.  Nicely-Nicely....a man who can eat anyone, and we mean anyone, under the table is going to have no problem winning this bet from an eating champion.  So what is the

Turns out Nicely-Nicely is engaged to one Hilda Slocum, a writer who decided that having a fiance who stars in eating contests is not to her liking.  In fact, Nicely-Nicely was being forced to live on a crash diet - a requirement for Hilda's hand in marriage.  So she forbade her beloved Nicely-Nicely from participating.  Realizing that his friends Harry The Horse and Broadway needed a replacement, Hilda provided them with a replacement.  While they were picturing another very large man...they got instead one Miss Violette Shumberger.  Turns out that she is more of a ringer and an underdog!

A Piece of Pie (May 22, 1949)

Here are some links to programs relating to Damon Runyon Theater:
An Old Time Radio Diet - All Blog Entries

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year on Old Time Radio - The 32nd of December on Suspense (1958)

After working on highlighting Christmas Old Time Radio episodes for the month, I thought I would close out the year with a few focused on New Year's Eve.  In the new year, I will try to get one entry out a week - maybe two.  I am going to be working on some series with lighthouses and baseball as themes, probably something related to African-American History Month as well in February.  As you all know by now, I do love listening to Old Time Radio and enjoy that it is available on XM 82 and many resources via the Internet.

This is an appropriate recording for New Year's Day 2015.  Unless it really is the 32nd of December! To celebrate the new year, there is a great episode of Suspense that I would like to share.  Suspense is one of the most famous radio series that ran from 1942 to 1962.  It was one of the last regular series that was being broadcast in the early 1960s.  In many ways, Suspense was the 'gold standard' of radio mysteries.  It was self-described as "radio's outstanding theater of thrills, well calculated to keep you in SUSPENSE."  I will be writing about this great series throughout the year.

CBS Columbia Square (Hollywood, Los Angeles, California) - October 31, 2013

Columbia Square (Hollywood, California)
The Home of CBS Radio in the Golden Age (taken in October 2013)

The episode I want to share is  "The Thirty-Second Of December."  This was broadcast on Sunday December 28, 1958.  Interestingly, that was the same day that the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts played The 1958 National Football League Championship Game at Yankee Stadium.  It is long considered the "Greatest Game Ever Played" as Baltimore defeated New York in overtime, 23-17.  But we are not talking about football today.

Anyway, "The Thirty-Second Of December" is a great episode from Suspense, featuring Frank Lovejoy, Norman Alden, Joan Banks, Barney Phillips, with Morris Lee Green & William Walker (writers) and William N. Robson (producer, director).  Frank Lovejoy has been in a large number of episodes, including Suspense, Escape, many Norman Corwin productions, and his own series, Nightbeat (that I showcased here).

Frank Lovejoy plays Joe, a man in a tough situation with one day left to pay off a $1000 gambling debt to the mob. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Inflation Calculator - $1000 in 1958 would be $8,171 today - no small amount!)  But anyway...Joe takes his wife's ring to a pawn shop.  While getting money for it, he was distracted by a special watch.  This watch had special powers, the ability to bend time.  If you controlled time, then all of your problems would go away.  Or will they?  This is the lesson that Joe learns about the hard way.

Thirty-Second of December (originally aired December 28, 1958)

Here are some links to programs relating to Suspense: