Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Miss Brooks - January 31, 1954 - Four Fiancees

Miss Enright plays a dirty trick on Connie by using her name to conduct long-distance romances with four men in distant cities. When they all come to town at once, some fancy footwork is required.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dennis Day - January 29, 1949 - Father and Son Dinner

Dennis agrees to pose as Mr. Anderson's son for a college reunion. When Dennis shows up at the school, a professor mistakes him for a student and gives him a test. The professor sends Dennis to deliver an answer sheet to another professor, who mistakes Dennis for a genius.

It all gets sorted out in the end, and the two professors are played by Frank Nelson and Gale Gordon, two of the great pros of radio.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jack Benny - January 28, 1945 - Ann Sheridan

This wartime episode is performed at Mitchell Field Air Force Base. Larry Stevens is filling in for Dennis Day while he's away in the service. This is a straightforward variety-show episode with a lot of funny moments.

Ann Sheridan shows up as eye candy for the servicemen, and Minerva Pious (from the "rival" Fred Allen show) appears in a sketch as Mrs. Nussbaum, who balks when she sees that her blind date is Jack Benny.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Magnificent Montague - January 26, 1951 - The Screen Test

In this series, Monty Woolley played a washed-up New York stage actor who has debased himself to take a role on a radio soap opera. Woolley's bombastic delivery worked well here, and the writing was above average.

Agnes, the Montagues' maid, was played by Pert Kelton, who was also the first Alice Kramden on Jackie Gleason's DuMont series, Cavalcade of Stars. Her caustic delivery here is much like her take on Alice Kramden.

In this episode, Montague is lured to Hollywood to take a screen test for a movie role, something that he sees as yet another step down on the career ladder.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jack Benny - January 24, 1937 - Jack Practices the Bee

This is an interesting and funny episode from the earlier years of the show. Kenny Baker is still there, not having been replaced by Dennis Day yet. Phil Harris' wisecracking hep cat character hasn't been developed yet. The main sketch involves the cast going to a party at Phil's mother's house.

The middle Jell-O commercial has a nice touch, being presented as a song between Andy Devine and Mary. With today's concerns about commercial-skipping, this is the sort of thing the current shows need to work out how to do (in a modern way, of course.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fibber McGee & Molly - January 23, 1940 - Radio Quiz Show

When Gildy can't fill some radio time he purchased in order to advertise his girdle company, the McGees pitch in by mounting a quiz show.

Harold Peary's Gildersleeve character started out with no particular job, or even an identity, but by this time he had been somewhat better-established. The next year, he would be spun off into his own series, still as the owner of a girdle company, although that would change over the course of his own series.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Miss Brooks - January 22, 1950 - Walter's Radio

Conklin briefly leaves Connie in charge of the school; when she turns on Walter's radio and mistakes a distant hurricane warning for a local one, all hell breaks loose.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jack Benny - January 21, 1951 - Jack Goes to the Doctor for a Checkup

This episode kicks off with a despondent Phil, because Remley has quit the band. This leads into a visit from Mr. Kitzel, who was played by Artie Auerbach, and continued making appearances on Benny's show into the TV years.

If you listen to many episodes of the Benny series, you might notice that Kitzel is the only "come in and do some shtick" character that Benny is glad to see. Benny always greets him with a bright "Mr. Kitzel!", cueing a bit of extra applause from the audience. The other stock characters - Frank Nelson, Sheldon Leonard, Mel Blanc's "Cy" - are there to torment Benny, but not Mr. Kitzel.

The main sketch involves Benny going to see a doctor, who is played by Frank Nelson, of course. Frank's appearances were always a treat, and this is no exception.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Burns & Allen - January 20, 1941 - George Visits Art Gallery

This episode is from the last season before George Burns changed the format of the series to a sitcom. As such, it has a lot of variety show banter and music, and is very enjoyable. Most of the jokes revolve around George's visit to an art gallery with actress Cobina Wright.

Also, Gracie sings "Accidentally on Purpose". She didn't sing much, if at all, after the format change, so this would have been one of her final songs on the show.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fibber McGee & Molly - January 19, 1943 - Uppy Joins the WACs

The McGees' upper crust neighbor, Mrs. Uppington, is joining the WACs, setting off much discussion and many jokes about the wisdom of her choice.

The Women's Army Corps were a vital part of the U.S. fighting force in World War II, performing support jobs that freed more men to fight on the front lines. Today such a division of labor seems archaic, but seen through the lens of the time, the WACs performed an essential service.
This episode is basically a commercial for the WACs, as Molly shuts down the mockery of the men by rattling off a list of the important jobs WACs were doing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Great Gildersleeve - January 18, 1942 - A New Bed for Marjorie

In this episode from the first season, Gildy and Leroy shop for a new bed for Marjorie.

Harold Peary created the Gildersleeve character on Fibber McGee and Molly, and was popular enough that the show was spun off, with Gildy moving to a new town to be the guardian for his niece and nephew.

The show had a long run of over a decade, with a change in lead actors in 1950 (which is another story). The funiture dealer is played by Sam Hearn as "Schlepperman", a character with a Jewish accent who appeared often on Jack Benny's show.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jack Benny - January 17, 1943 - with Oscar Levant

This episode mostly revolves around Jack's upcoming appearance at Carnegie Hall with various other musical luminaries. Pianist and wiseacre Oscar Levant shows up to add to the musical pedigree, and the show then segues into a parody of Levant's regular radio gig, Information Please. Flamboyant man-child Joe Besser also makes one of his occasional appearances.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Halls of Ivy - January 2, 1952 - Hell Week

In this episode, a fraternity pledge is injured in a hazing during Hell Week, provoking Dr. Hall to call for an end to the hazing tradition.

The discussion in this 1952 episode is a far cry from what we would hear today, in our zero-tolerance society. All the characters agree that hazing is a bad thing, but some are inclined to chalk it up to "boys will be boys", and would like to see it continue so that the men at the college don't turn into "pantywaists".

Even with the serious subject of the story, lots of humor is in evidence, with a discussion of Indian tribes and an abrupt digression into the indignities of hospital gowns.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Burns & Allen - January 15, 1945 - Alan Ladd Making George Jealous

George and Gracie go to see an Alan Ladd movie, and Gracie is smitten. When this makes George jealous, Ladd shows up in person.

George makes a reference during the movie to Vox Pop, which was a popular radio show with man-in-the-street interviews and quizzes. The title comes from the latin phrase "vox populi". Mel Blanc's downcast mailman makes another appearance; the character was a takeoff on Bill Thompson's Wallace Whimple character from Fibber McGee and Molly.

This episode starts with a wartime plea from Gracie to conserve paper. Even toward the end of the war, there was a strong focus on conservation and the homefront war effort.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fibber McGee & Molly - January 13, 1948 - Fibber Invents the Cartable Radio

In this episode, McGee's latest get-rich quick scheme is inventing the "cartable radio". This was what portable radios were called before we all settled on calling them that.

At that time, a radio was still a big piece of furniture in your living room. In about ten years, however, transistors came along and made portable electronics practical.

In all, a fun episode with all the humor and wordplay that made Fibber McGee and Molly a classic.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jack Benny - January 12, 1947 - Guests Burns and Allen

George Burns and Gracie Allen are the guest stars on this show, and the opening uses a nice device in which George and Gracie are at home, as if on their own show, and they're listening to Benny's show.

Benny and Burns were close friends in real life, and George and Gracie's appearances on the Benny show were always entertaining. Gracie pretends to be Lauren Bacall in this one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Halls of Ivy - January 3, 1951 - Professor Barrett's Play

This is a typical Halls of Ivy episode, and that's a good thing. The series starred Ronald Colman and his wife Benita; they played a dean at Ivy College and his wife, who was a former actress.

The clever wordplay of writer Don Quinn is in evidence here, as it is in most episodes of the show, with discussion of palindromes and a play on the name of theater critic George Jean Nathan. The episode starts off as many do, with Dr. Hall and his wife having a discussion over a leisurely breakfast, and leads into the storyline, which involves the staging of a play written by a professor at the school.

You've found OTR Comedy!

In this blog, I'll be showcasing a different episode of a great Old Time Radio show with each post.

Some of the greatest comedy ever created was on radio, and the best of it is as funny today as (or funnier than) any of our current comedy shows. You'll hear shows by the all-time comedy greats - Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and lots more.

My plan at the start is to have the shows match up with the time of year, although this might take a few weeks to settle in.
So sit back, leave your dial where it is, and enjoy!