Saturday, December 16, 2017

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 14: Christmas Card Pictures with Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband (1950)

Over the past few days, my email inbox has been filled with offers on how to get custom Christmas and holiday cards delivered on the same day for those who have not fully planned ahead.  There is alot going on at the end of the year - I fully get it. I know that finding the perfect card for friends and family can be difficult.  And what picture should you use?  Maybe even a family picture!  While it is very common today, it was very uncommon back during the Golden Age of Radio.  But that just happens to be the scenario that Liz and George find themselves in during the holidays.  Who are George and Liz?  George is Richard Denning...and Liz is Lucille Ball (before her fame really blossomed on TV).  This is the second time I am featuring My Favorite Husband in my series of Christmas on Old Time Radio.  I featured the program last year from 1949 when Lucille Ball is desperately trying to knit a sweater for George.  This year, I return to this classic American comedy to e Shadow a few years later to showcase an episode with a gift that I hope none of you get.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).


Squirrels in Ann Arbor on a Snowy Autumn Day at the University of Michigan (December 15th, 2017)

Squirrels always make good Christmas Card Subjects - 
Here is one on a snowy day in Ann Arbor - December 15, 2017

My Favorite Husband is the first staring vehicle for Lucille Ball, the great comedienne who was best know on TV for I Love Lucy.  The series was loosely based on Isabel Scott Rorick's humorous books, most notably Mr. and Mrs. Cugat.  For the series, the names would be changed to Cooper.  Broadcast over the CBS Network, the radio show starred Lucille Ball as Liz Cooper and Richard Denning as her husband George Cooper.  They were, as their billing would indicate, "two people who live together and like it." The show was sponsored by Jell-O, though I doubt you would have trouble figuring that out if you listen to the program. Running on the air from 1948 through 1951, the year that  I Love Lucy was first broadcast over television.  This is a fun show and definitely catches Lucille Ball in fine form as one of the greatest comediennes that the United States have produced!

67 years ago TODAY, My Favorite Husband broadcast the episode called Christmas Card Pictures.  Liz started selling personalized Christmas cards and was planning on going from house to house to make some extra money at the holiday.  But she seems to have only made one sale - to herself and George!  In fact - it is not that there are a shortage of potential customers for the cards - but there are a plethora of people trying to sell cards!  But when they decide to get pictures and make the cards themselves....well, you get the idea...comedy ensues!  And when she tries her hand at block printing - or forgets to invert the lettering - there is a nice comedy bit that reminds me of Harry Carey!  But then, she gets the idea about a Christmas card with their picture on it.  So Liz and George decide to go in this direction - only they cannot decide on what picture to choose.

This is a great series and a fun program as we get ready for the holidays.  I hope your cards are ready and if not - you can get them done pretty quickly - from what I am told.

Christmas Card Pictures (December 16, 1950)



Here are some links to programs relating to My Favorite Husband:
      Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

      25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

      25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

      25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

      Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 13: The Shadow's Gift of Murder (1947)

      Few programs old Old Time Radio have as much recognition as the Mutual Network's The Shadow and their famous opening:
      "Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men....the Shadow knows!"
      Evil...at the holidays?  I guess evil never takes a holiday.  This is the second time I am featuring the Shadow in my series of Christmas on Old Time Radio.  I featured the program previously from 1939 called "The Stockings Were Hung."  This year, I return to the Shadow a few years later to showcase an episode with a gift that I hope none of you get.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).


      Frolicking on the Manistee Pier

      Frolicking on the Manistee (Michigan) Pier - July 2010 - see what I did here???

      The Shadow tells the story of Lamont Cranston, a 'man about town' who learned the powers of clouding men's minds while in Asia.  Lamont turns into The Shadow when he needs to solve a crime and correct wrongs done by others in the name of greed and evil.  The only one who knows that Lamont is also The Shadow is his companion, Margo Lane.  The Shadow was the creation of writer Walter B. Gibson in 1931 and was serialized in magazines and pulp novels in the 1930s.  It was adapted to radio early in the Golden Age of Radio and counted among those who voiced the lead character were Orson Welles, Bill Johnstone,  Bret Morrison, John Archer, and Steve Courtleigh.  It seems that the characters and plot lines from both pulp and radio helped change both formats as The Shadow remained a prominent element of popular culture into the 1950s.

      On December 21st, 1947, The Shadow featured a program called A Gift of Murder and started Bret Morrison in the role of Lamont Cranston (and the Shadow - because that is how that works) with Grace Matthews as Margo Lane.  The story begins with family members acting very strange and interested about some recent news of their less than beloved Aunt Frances.  It is not that Florence is a bad person - hardly.  It is really that her nephews and nieces are quite awful.  So when their elderly aunt inherits a million dollars (which is a lot today - so it would be crazy lots back in 1947), everyone is posturing to make her last years, and maybe her last Christmas, very special.  Complicating matters is that she has a special friend who is invited also for the holidays - and that person has the ultimate "plus one" - The Shadow!  Hopefully your family events this year at the holidays are less...well...filled with murder.

      A Gift of Murder (December 21, 1947)



      The Shadow (Old Time Radio Links)
        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

        Thursday, December 14, 2017

        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 12: Palm Beach Santa Claus on the Damon Runyon Theater (1949)

        I have always had the good fortune to live in places where we get all four seasons.  So for me, snow at Christmas time has been the norm.  But there are people who celebrate Christmas in warm weather - but they find a way to make it work.  This must how they celebrate in Florida and other warm locations across the States and elsewhere.  But even Palm Beach needs Christmas - and Santa Claus.  And thanks to Damon Runyon - we have a great story about Christmas in the most elegant of Florida cities.  So today's entry for Christmas on Old Time Radio we are going to where Santa might be able to get by with shorts.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).

        TV Set for NCSI: Los Angeles - Long Beach, California - October 22, 2015
        TV Set for NCSI: Los Angeles - Long Beach, California - October 22, 2015
        The Damon Runyon Theater is a great series and takes you right into the world of Damon Runyon. Damon Runyon captures a romanticized version the charming lives of New York's gamblers and other rougher characters like Harry The Horse and Broadway. 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. Since this series did not have a standard schedule of broadcasts, the Christmas episodes were recorded at different times of the year.  I previously highlighted the story called Dancing Dan's Christmas - which appears to have been first broadcast on March 13, 1949 (as far as I can tell).   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.   Mayfair Transcription Company was run by movie star Alan Ladd, who's Box 13 is one of my favorite series.

        Today's featured story is called Palm Beach Santa Claus and once again brings us a Christmas story from the world of Damon Runyon.  We meet Fatso Zimpf, a gambler and horse aficionado who finds himself in sunny Florida on December.  And as his name would indicate, he is not a small person.  So when he is by chance waiting around in between races at Hialeah and other tracks on a sunny Winter's day, he is spotted as the perfect candidate to be...well...Santa Claus.  The person with the immediate Santa-need is Mrs. Mimm of Palm Beach.  She is interested in having a Santa at her big Christmas party to hand out the gifts for all the guests at the party.  While Fatso is happy for the paying gig as Santa, he decides that what the guests really need is a bit of enhanced match-making and plays Cupid as well.  You know - sometimes it is hard to read the names of the packages for someone wearing a Santa suit!  But what might be the best part of the story is how Fatso has to translate the beautiful phraseology of the New York gambler with that of Palm Beach society.

        The original story appears in Colliers Magazine on Christmas Eve, 1938 (link below).  This episode was directed by Richard Sanville and stars John Brown and Jeff Chandler.  I hope you enjoy this great story from the holidays.

        Palm Beach Santa Claus (July 24, 1949)



        Original story from Colliers Magazine (December 24, 1938)
        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

        Wednesday, December 13, 2017

        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 11: Missing Christmas Money from Life With Luigi (1949)

        As a kid growing up - I was fascinated with banks. Not sure why I felt this way - but there it is. I loved the idea of savings accounts (more than the reality of saving money) and thought that a passbook was a magical passport. I also was very interested in the concept of the Christmas Clubs that banks offered. You would save a certain amount every week, starting in October, that would be the money you could spend on Christmas gifts the following year. What probably did in the Christmas Clubs is the relatively easy way with which we can get credit now. But this was a great way for many of us to save money for Christmas gifts.

        AND...it is a great way to introduce this next program in my blog of Christmas during the Golden Age of Radio. It is a program I have heard often enough, but have not featured on my blog until today. The program is Life With Luigi, a comedy series staring J. Carrol Naish in the title role. I expect to have some repeats, but also some new shows featured as well. If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).


        Farmers & Merchants Bank - Downtown Long Beach, California - October 21, 2015
        Farmers & Merchants Bank - Downtown Long Beach, California - October 21, 2015 

        From 1948 to 1953, CBS Radio featured a weekly half-hour situation comedy telling the story of a recent immigrant to the United States in the times after World War II.  It was the brain-child of Cy Howard and starred J. Carrol Naish plays the title character, Luigi Basco, who was spending his new life in Chicago.  Character actor Alan Reed (maybe best known as the voice of Fred Flinstone) plays Pasquale, Luigi's sponsor and best friend.  Each of the episodes starts off this the same opening - as announcer Bob Stevenson would say:
        We invite you to enjoy life – Life with Luigi – a new comedy show created by Cy Howard and starring that celebrated actor, Mr. J. Carroll Nash with Alan Reed as Pasquale. 
        A year ago, when Luigi Basco left Italy to start his new life in America, he promised his mother that he would write and tell her about his adventures. So now let’s read Luigi’s letter as he writes to Momma Basco in Italy. 
        The episode we are featuring first aired on December 20th, 1949. It was repeated again on December 19, 1950 and December 25th, 1951. Luigi starts off (as he does each week) with his letter to Momma Basco and was talking about Christmas shopping. He even talked about buying a washer for his kitchen sink at Sears and still had it gift wrapped! Luigi was describing the toaster that he was sending to his mother - along with instructions on how to use it.

        Luigi was most proud about his gift for his good friend Pasquale. To pay for it, he saved a $1 a week in his bank and had just collected the $50 for his big gift. He was so excited that he did not even need to include Pasquale on his Christmas gift list. He was very excited telling his fellow classmates in his citizenship and English class with other immigrants. But at the class, he makes a horrible realization. He has misplaced the list...and the money... Luigi panics that he has lost all that money and his ability to buy his good friend a present. His good friend, is thinking about something completely different. While Pasquale found the envelope and the list - he was furious that he was not on it. In typical situation comedy fashion - the mix up leads to lots of comic moments - and a very happy ending. The cast also includes Mary Shipp, Joe Forte, Ken Peters, Hans Conried, Jody Gilbert and was written by Mac Benoff and Lou Derman.

        I hope you enjoy this great Christmas episode.



        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

        Tuesday, December 12, 2017

        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 10: The Plot To Murder Santa Claus with Frank Sinatra (1953)

        One hundred and two years ago - something pretty remarkable happened in Hoboken, New Jersey - but no one really knew it for years to come.  On December 12, 1915, Italian immigrants Antonino Martino "Marty" Sinatra and Natalina "Dolly" Garaventa celebrated the birth of their only child, Francis Albert Sinatra.  We know him better just as Frank!

        Frank Sinatra has so many great Christmas programs during his years as one of the major forces on radio.  Today, I am going to revisit one of my favorite series that starred Sinatra as a young man named Rocky Fortune, though it might not have been one of his favorites.  In this episode, Frank continues the theme of yesterday's featured program and was putting on the Santa suit!  Between now and Christmas, I will be showcasing different programs that brought the holidays across the airwaves during the Golden Age of Radio. I expect to have some repeats, but also some new shows featured as well.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).



        Antique Postcard of the NBC Radio Studios in Hollywood, California 

        The first time I heard Rocky Fortune...I was not hooked.  The series was created in 1953 to showcase the great American singer, Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra was showcased in a large number of musical specials in the 1940s and 1950s - some of which I have shared during this series already and yet to come.  While he was all over radio, the truth was that his career was mired in a terrible slump.  It was during this time where he took on a series that would feature his speaking voice - not his singing.  Rocky Fortune was on NBC from October 6, 1953 through March 30, 1954.  The timing for the end of the series was not a fluke.  A few days before the last episode aired, Frank Sinatra won the 1954 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the 1953 From Here to Eternity.  With that award in his pocket - he did not need to do anything less than the best....  So with that, Sinatra's career portraying Rocky Fortune (Rocko Fortunato if you are not into the brevity thing) came to an end.

        Rocky Fortune  was a "footloose and fancy-free young man" who was always searching for the next job - since he started most episodes without one.  In the series, he was a social director at a Catskills Resort, a truck driver, an oyster shucker, and just about anything else.  There is, however, a real charm in Sinatra's hard-luck Rocky as he fumbles through missed opportunities and problems with both the police and bad guys.  While many called this a "B grade series," I enjoyed it a great deal and sometimes wish there were more than 25 episodes.  But such was Frank's career in the early 1950s as he was

        On December 22, 1953, The Plot to Murder Santa Claus was aired over the NBC Network. In this episode, Rocky is employed as an assistant store detective for the Krackenbaum Department Store in New York City.  They had just had a theft at the store of $8,000 in pearls and they were still missing.  Rocky finds himself in the middle of the entire situation when he discovers that in addition to be the assistant store detective, he also needs to play Santa when the main one had lunch.  That leads to him meeting a young girl and his older sister as they tried to tell Santa about the Elf doll she wanted.  Turns out, the little girl had expensive taste!  Here is a link to the episodes along with a few of the many Sinatra appearances on old time area:

        The Plot to Murder Santa Claus (December 22, 1953)
        Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)