Quick! I know it’s late but if you’re not too sleepy, too full of candy or too drunk, take a listen to these classic radio episodes of horror tales from the old-time radio series Suspense and Quiet, Please.
I love old-time radio but I mostly stick with comedy. Some of the suspense and horror series are just too creepy. Even The Shadow creeps me out, but since it’s Halloween, it’s good to get creeped out… right?
Suspense – “Fugue In C Minor”
June 1, 1944
Suspense – “The House In Cypress Canyon”
December 6, 1946
Quiet, Please – “The Thing on the Fourble Board”
August 9, 1948
Bob Hope was born 108 years ago on this day! He lived to be 100 years old passing away on July 27, 2003. He left behind a legacy of being one of the greatest entertainers in radio, movies and television and also toured tirelessly to entertain American troops during WWII and for decades after. I plan on doing a Bob Hope retrospective on this blog later this summer. Thanks for the memories, Bob!
I’ve touched upon it before and now I’ll say it again — I LOVE old time radio. Though I’ve been a fan for 17 years or so now, for awhile I was not an active listener. In the last year and a half or so, I’ve refocused my attentions on OTR and it has become a great passion in my life yet again. I thought it would be fun to post this ad celebrating Jack Benny’s 15th anniversary on radio, which I found while looking up pictures of him online.
Jack Benny is by far my favorite comedian (I think Bob Hope would probably come second) and his radio show easily trumps anything else that was ever on the air. The writing was incredibly brilliant while also being silly, the characters were developed over decades and there’s a great sense of continuity and huge payoffs to jokes throughout the series. The radio show itself would go on to have a fantastic 23 year run (1932-1955), while Benny’s TV show would last 15 years (1950-1965) and Benny himself would stay active in show business up until his death in 1974 by performing in theaters & night clubs across the world while also performing charity shows with every major orchestra in the United States (and some in Canada) where he would play the violin.
Anyway, this ad is from 1946 (during which I think the show was at a very strong point in its run). The call sign of WEAF is from what at the time was NBC’s flagship station and was based in New York.
While I’m on the subject of Jack Benny, here’s a picture of the biography I just finished reading (the second Benny bio I’ve read!):
It was written by Irving Fein, who was Benny’s longtime producer/business manager/friend. It’s a very good book written by someone who obviously had a great deal of affection towards Jack. This is not a “tell all” and there is no dirty laundry being aired here but I did find it refreshing that Fein painted a honest portrait of Jack — someone who was very kind, considerate and funny but also someone who was human and was prone to becoming angry, sad, worrisome or insecure just like we all are. An excellent read for Benny fans and I got it for only a few bucks off Amazon.
So last year the OTR bug bit me again (as you can tell by looking here). Being that this is the age of iTunes, I wondered to myself if there were any old time radio podcasts and sure enough there are a number of them. The very best of which is the Jack Benny Show – OTR Podcast! hosted by “Buck Benny”.
It’s a great podcast where Buck often gives great behind the scenes information and speaks about the history of the show, characters, actors and crew before getting on with the actual broadcasts. This is why I really love it. If you’re an OTR buff, this is a fun way to learn a bit more history and I find these stories fascinating. I wouldn’t mind if Buck devoted an entire podcast to just TALKING about OTR.
Other than that, the main selling point for me is Jack Benny’s show but don’t let the name of the podcast fool you (as it did me originally)– there’s a variety of shows posted by Buck. Gunsmoke, Phil Harris & Alice Faye, Fibber McGee & Molly, Suspense, Bob Hope, Command Performance, Bing Crosby, Burns & Allen and Fred Allen are shows that are always in rotation.
If you have even a passing interest in the golden age of radio, this is a must-listen podcast!
BTW – I hope everyone had a great Halloween. I had planned on dressing up but ended up with a terrible headache all day and just chilled watching some horror movies all night and the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. I loved the comic book, so I expected the show to decent… it was spectacular. Great production values, surprising amount of gore for cable. It looked and felt like a movie. Can’t wait for next week’s episode! I wonder how closely they’re gonna follow the book.
I’ve had Benny on the brain lately (more on Jack Benny and his old time radio program at another date) and came across this swell little ad. Jell-O ice cream, huh? Okay, doesn’t sound so bad at first if they just slapped their name on some fruit-based ice cream or sherbet but maple walnut “freezing mix”? I don’t know about that…
Ad is from sometime between the mid 1930s and early 1940s back when Jell-O was Benny’s sponsor.
Last month I discussed The Adventures of Superman now it’s time to tackle yet another old time radio show that featured a hero…
The Shadow featured a superhero of a different breed. The character wasn’t all smiles and handshakes like Superman and his show wasn’t really for young listeners either. It was detective/mystery, thriller and horror all rolled into one. My first introduction to the Shadow was with 1994’s live action film starring Alec Baldwin and Penelope Anne Miller. I wasn’t sure who this Shadow guy was, but he appeared to be a superhero so that was enough to hook me to watch the movie. Well, the movie sucks. Looking back, having become familiar with the original incarnation of the Shadow, they really screwed things up. The Shadow just doesn’t fit into the summer blockbuster mold.
Since I’m in the mood to talk old time radio, let’s move on to what some of my favorite shows are. I was mostly a fan of comedies (and don’t kid yourself, OTR was a great era for comedy) but I strayed into action/adventure and mystery shows now and again.
This will be a short running feature on my blog because my list isn’t too long (Any bets on how long it will take me to finish this series?) so let’s start things off with the first show I ever heard…
The Adventures of Superman
One of the first shows to hook me on OTR, thanks to picking up a cassette at Cracker Barrel. The show was done initially in a 15 minute serial format (with stories running for as long as a month or two) and then switched over to 30 minutes in its final days. The show ran two, three or five days a week during its run.
I had a lot of love for this show just because it was Superman, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t initially a bit disappointed that Superman didn’t really make many appearances. There’s not a lot of action in this show, it was really built around Clark Kent as more of a mystery/adventure show (as ABC’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was). While it still doesn’t make much sense to me to have a TELEVISION show where Superman isn’t in action all that much, having grown older & wiser, I can totally see how an investigative reporter radio show works a lot better than an indestructible superhero radio show.