Friday, November 27, 2015

Betty Grable's Hollywood Fan Club Newsletter

From time to time I come across an oddity that I never knew existed. While attending a local antique flea market, one of the vendors was offering a stack of fanzines titled Betty Grable's Hollywood. Further inspection provided me with the answers to the questions rummaging through my head. The club originated from the United Kingdom and for an annual subscription, four times a year, this 32 to 36 page fanzine would be mailed to the subscriber. Everything related to Betty Grable movies can be found within the pages: book reviews, biographical articles, excerpts from movie studio press books, notices of the latest VHS releases, even exclusive interviews with the actress not available elsewhere. 

I do not know many of these were printed over the years. The latest issue I have is number 33, Winter 1996/1997. The first issue was dated September 1988. Over the years there was a Betty Grable tee-shirt for sale, retrospectives on Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Carmen Miranda (all of whom worked with Grable), reprints of publicity photos with their press release, and it turns out there was also a Betty Grable convention.

Reprinted below are assorted pages from the 33 issues I have. Some of these are fascinating to read (such as a convention review). Enjoy!

Cover of the first issue of Betty Grable's Hollywood.
After half a dozen issues, the covers went to color.
Reprint of vintage advertising of Betty Grable movies.
Reprints of newspaper articles about Betty Grable.
Fan letters were reprinted in the issues.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Shadow: The "Lost" 1953 Episodes

Among the holy grails of old time radio broadcasts are the “lost” episodes of The Shadow. Despite the broadcast of more than 200 episodes by Mutual from 1950 to 1954, less than half-a-dozen exist in recorded form from this time period. The fact that many of The Shadow programs were taped for later playback and Mutual’s concern for reusing tape to save money, it remains unlikely that most of those episodes are going to be found. On October 22, 1951, Street & Smith granted permission to the Armed Forces Information and Education Division, through the Armed Forces Radio Service, for overseas broadcast of The Shadow recordings from 1951 through 1952, with the stipulation: “It is further understood that these tapes will ultimately be destroyed and the permission herewith granted is contingent upon that requirement.” Collectors today can only hope the Armed Forces did not destroy the recordings.

Charles Michelson ceased offering The Shadow to regional networks by 1948. It was Michelson who recorded every episode from September of 1937 to April 1944 for transcription, for the purpose of syndication across the country. This is the reason collectors today have many existing Shadow recordings to enjoy. Beginning with the 1944-45 season, Shadow transcriptions were not made; the network show covered so much of the nation that it was not economical to continue transcribing it for the few territories that had not yet broadcast The Shadow and could begin with the 1939-1944 transcriptions. In other words, it was a business decision on Michelson's part to stop transcribing the radio shows, believing he had plenty in quantity to serve his purpose. 

Disc label from a Michelson syndication.
By 1946 and 1947, many territories that had not heard the early episodes were being offered them, so those areas would still be introduced to new adventures — even if they were not The Shadow of 1947. These were Michelson’s final attempts to cash in on the elusive crime fighter. He would continue to market The Avenger, a syndicated transcription series that he produced and many consider a bland rip-off of The Shadow, until 1953.

For your amusement, enclosed are a number of "lost" Shadow adventures that do not exist in recorded form. The plots originate from reading the scripts housed at Syracuse University and the Library of Congress.

Recorded June 2, 1953. Broadcast June 7, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU35505, November 13, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-126, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Peter Barry.
Plot: Having finished a business transaction in the Caribbean, Lamont and Margot broke the long return trip with a sightseeing stopover at the tiny palm-studded island of Opago. Madame Curlew, owner of a local hotel, plots with Timkins, the beachcomber, to skillfully murder a smuggler in possession of half a million dollars in jewels and diamonds. To cover their crime, they trick a young native named Pamka to dispose of the body and pay him in the form of a ring that supposedly summons Zanlaghora, a dwarf god who seeks murderous revenge against those who use the ring to make a death wish. Lamont quickly discovers the plot after Timkins becomes the latest victim and proves Madame Curlew hired a maniac dwarf to commit the deeds so she could have the loot for herself instead of splitting it three ways. 

Trivia, etc. This episode was a re-write of a former Shadow broadcast titled “The Ring of Mahlalaylee” (March 13, 1949). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Episode #624 “THE HOWLING BEAST”
Recorded June 9, 1953. Broadcast June 14, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34627, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-135, July 27, 1981.
Script written by J.G. Leighton (a pseudonym of John Cole).
Plot: The country estate of David Wakefield is as forbidding a piece of architecture as a death house. Katy, the family servant, calls on Lamont and Margot to solve a mystery that may or may not involve a bloodthirsty werewolf. When Katy is savagely murdered by what appears to be a wild animal and there are wolf tracks that appear to become human, Lamont starts to question the sanity of David Wakefield. Having recently suffered a nervous breakdown, Wakefield is going mad and suspects he has a severe case of lycanthropy. Following wolf tracks through the countryside leading to a cave, Lamont, Margot and groundskeeper Steven venture through the tunnels to find Wakefield hunched in fear. Realizing the game is up when Margot comes upon a chained wolf, Steven attempts to make her the next victim — until The Shadow arrives. Using Lamont’s revolver, Wakefield shoots Steven in anger. It seems the groundskeeper was substituting Wakefield’s sedatives with a mild narcotic that induced the mental exhaustion and wild nightmares that made Wakefield believe he was a werewolf. Between the planted bloodstains and the actual wolf under the window, Wakefield went berserk and escaped to the cave. Steven had married Edna and was hoping that he could get hold of the family fortune after Wakefield suffered a nervous breakdown.

Trivia, etc. The Street & Smith Archives in Syracuse, New York has research notes for this episode, referring to this episode under the title “Terror of the Howling Beast,” with the proposed airdate of July 19, 1953. Numerous sources verify the Archives are incorrect.

Recorded June 3, 1953. Broadcast June 21, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34628, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-134, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: Dr. Brenner, a power-mad scientist, is holding Valerie Hastings prisoner in order to force her father to permit the use of his sanitarium and patients for dangerous anti-radiation experiments. On the trail of the missing girl, Lamont and Margot meet Dr. Hastings, unaware that the good doctor is really Brenner in disguise. Suspecting foul play, Lamont sends Margot back to the clinic pretending she forgot her purse. When Margot discovers the real Dr. Hastings is being held prisoner, she becomes the next victim of Brenner’s experiments. His first experiment resulted in success — sort of — but the patient died. Now, he plans to succeed with Margot. The Shadow arrives, saves Margot and locks Brenner behind the iron door so Weston and his men can take charge when they arrive. Later, Lamont reveals to Margot the number of tips that led him to conclude the foul play — including Brenner’s blue eyes. Since Valerie’s mother had blue eyes and the girl was described in the police bulletin had brown eyes, he remembered that two blue-eyed parents couldn’t produce a brown-eyed child. Thus, Brenner was discovered as an imposter.

Photo and press release. (Courtesy of Rick Payne.)
Episode #626 “POLICY OF DEATH”
Broadcast June 28, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34629, July 2, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-133, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Max Ehrlich.
Plot: Jonathan Drexel knows all the tricks for collecting insurance claims and death benefits. He operates a shady business in which he loans out large sums of money to clients in need on the condition that, as beneficiary of their life insurance policy, he receives a larger payoff one year from the day of advance. Using strong-arms named Brady and Keeler, he succeeds by creating “accidents” that result in his success. Ellen Wilson needs money to fund her husband’s recovery in a sanitarium, but she deliberately avoids her good friend, Margot. Lamont investigates and discovers the plot. Discovering that today is the one-year anniversary of the loan and Ellen is about to become a victim of the scheme by having poison forced down her throat, The Shadow interferes. Drexel fires his gun at the voice of The Shadow and misses, discovering that he cannot hide from the long arm of justice. 

Blooper! Assuming the actors delivered their lines verbatim, Mrs. Collins, the secretary working for Drexel, refers to Edward Malloy as Fred Malloy.

Trivia, etc. This episode was a rewrite of a former Shadow broadcast titled “Death Pays the Premiums” (October 8, 1944). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Broadcast July 5, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34800, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-132, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: The body of a redheaded girl, Cora Denby, is found in the car of Roger Fleming, a victim of an artificially induced amnesia. When Lamont and the police leave Alfred Miller, the half-crazed chemist who identifies Fleming by name, alone with Fleming for a few moments, Miller seizes the opportunity to give the suspect another shot of the amnesia serum he has developed. Discovering a red welt on Fleming’s arm, Lamont suspects foul play and, with the assistance of Margot, sets a trap for Miller. Caught red-handed with the needle and serum, Miller attempts to evade the law and The Shadow by using the hypodermic needle as a weapon to kill the sleeping Fleming. 

Trivia, etc. The announcer opens the episode referring to the title as “One Shoe Off” but the title on the script cover is “One Shoe Off or The Case of the Red-Headed Corpse.” Nick Carter usually opened with two separate titles in the same manner, and further research verifies this episode was a re-write of the former Nick Carter broadcast of January 15, 1950 titled, “The Case of the Forgotten Murder.” 

Sylvania was one of the last sponsors.
Recorded July 7, 1953. Broadcast July 12, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34801, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-131, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Max Ehrlich.
Plot: A notorious gangster known as the Ace of Spades has recruited a number of thieves named after playing cards to commit daring acts of robberies across town. The Ace of Spades has a macabre sense of humor, leaving a playing card at each scene and on each victim — including dead police officers. While Margot spends time with an old college friend named Rita Curtis, Lamont uses his deduction skills to discover the identity of The Ace — Frank Wakefield of the Equity Underwriters. While Wakefield’s insurance company is being depleted of funds and offers a reward for the apprehension of the killers dead or alive, he has been using his access to the files to gain intimate knowledge of every job planned. The Shadow tricks Wakefield into revealing his scheme and emptying his gun — making it convenient for the arriving police to make an arrest. Rita is arrested too, for helping Wakefield as the Queen of Hearts.

Trivia, etc. This episode was a rewrite of a former Shadow broadcast titled “The Red Domino” (January 23, 1944). The plot and dialogue remained the same but the names of the fictional characters were changed.

Recorded July 14, 1953. Broadcast July 19, 1953
Trivia, etc. Oddly, notes found in the Street & Smith archives state this episode was recorded but never broadcast. Yet, half of this episode is known to exist in recorded form. Obviously, it was recorded on July 14. It is still questionable whether this episode aired on July 19. Perhaps a last-minute, unscheduled pre-emption?
(I am not featuring the plot since half the recording is available in collector hands.)

Episode #630 “THREE MUST DIE”
Recorded July 21, 1953. Broadcast July 26, 1953
Copyright Registered in U.S. Copyright Office, #DU34803, August 24, 1953.
Renewal Copyright Registration #RE97-129, July 27, 1981.
Script written by Judith and David Bublick.
Plot: On a hot, sultry night in August, while taking a drive in the countryside, Lamont and Margot witness someone trapped in a locked car that has caught on fire. A piece of paper found at the scene of the crime reads, “Three must die slowly, in pain and agony, each by his own hand.” Stranded with no gasoline for their car, the two detectives find themselves taking refuge in a rooming house on the edge of Lookout Cliff. In the morning, Commissioner Weston rules the death as an auto accident but Lamont suspects murder and hangs around long enough to witness another murder. The dead man’s daughter, Rosemary, dies in another auto accident. To prevent a third murder, The Shadow questions Jeff Davenport, the proprietor of the rooming house. It doesn’t take long for Lamont to figure out the motive and method behind the crimes, and Jeff faces justice at the hand of his own weapon.

Information provided in this blog post originates from The Shadow: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954, by Martin Grams. Reprinted with permission from the author and the publisher. For more information, visit

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beware of Wally the Spook

Wally the Spook, often mistaken as The Shadow.
Wally the Spook, sometimes referred to simply as "The Spook," or "Sneaky Pete," was an official logo of the Army Security Agency personnel in Korea during the fifties and sixties. The logo, a cloaked figure holding a small dagger in hand, was featured on Army patches, lighters and pins. Now a collectible item, fully documented on numerous websites including, continues to be mass produced and sold for as little as $8.00 a pair. 

During the 1990s, this same crime-fighter pin was mistaken as "The Shadow," a fictional crime fighter best remembered in comic books, pulp magazines, dime novels and radio programs. The story floating about is that the pin was produced and distributed to members of the production crew of The Shadow radio program, either during the Orson Welles run or the first year of Bill Johnstone (circa 1937 to 1940). I know of at least one collector who purchased such a pin over a decade ago, under the auspice of what he was told. He bought the back story believing it was legit. It was not until a decade later that he discovered the pin was in no way resembling the image of The Shadow... nor did it have anything to do with the radio program. Regrettably, in need of extra cash, he sold the pin to an auction house, who in turn agreed the item was in fact a rare radio premium.

This past week a friend of mine in New York City phoned and asked me if I knew anything about The Shadow pin presently being offered on Hake's Auctions. (This particular auction can be found here: He placed the minimum bid of $200 and was hoping for the best. My friend explained that he read my book on The Shadow from cover to cover and could not recall any mention of a Shadow pin. I confessed this was new to me and quickly sent an e-mail to another friend to see if they knew anything about the mysterious auction item. Lo and behold, they told me about their purchase experience and sale to an auction house (as described above). 

The real Shadow from the pulp magazines.
"This pin is just another fiasco I've had to deal with The Shadow," he explained to me. "I'm not blaming you, but am glad that you brought this to my attention. I'm just thoroughly disgusted. I bought that pin and then resold it in earnest that is was the real thing. But now, it's a moot point for me. However, [as researchers] it is our job to alert others of possible deception."

Hake's was offering a Wally the Spook pin with an item description providing the legend and lore of an old-time radio premium. In defense of the auction house, the staff tries their best to be as accurate and honest as possible when describing the items for sale through their website. No one is an authority on every facet of pop culture and sometimes the auction house has to go by the information provided to them by the consigner. As for my friend in New York who placed the bid of $200, he wasn't happy when I reported back with the news that the item had nothing to do with The Shadow. In fact, I suggested he visit google and type "Wally the Spook" and he would find all the evidence he needed. Regrettably, he was unable to find any option on the computer screen for canceling a bid on the website but a phone call to Hake's prompted the operator -- without any hesitation -- to cancel the bid for him.

Not The Shadow.
Sadly, that same friend in New York City had spent more than $300 for a figurine described on a past auction as The Shadow and this too, was not accurate. offers the serious collector an opportunity to know the facts, as evident here:  But this is only one case where the old adage applies: "Buyer beware." Do your research before bidding and buying on an item. 

The words "prototype," "file copy" and "concept art" are terms that should trigger high skepticism. Silly tales of cast gifts are embraced without any logic -- just imagine how expensive it would have been to design and produce a figural enameled pin for something like 20 people.The problem is in the willingness of collectors to embrace the most egregious tales of provenance and authenticity. Most auction houses are ignorant of radio history and with good reason. The internet is swamped with loads of these stories, "assumptions" based on a review of the item, and very few published reference guides to consult. This forces the auction house to accept what information is provided to them from the consignors. Auction houses would be out of business if they built a reputation for mis-representing collectible merchandise, time and time again. As my friend in New York likes to joke, when questioning why an auction house misrepresents an item description, "They like to sell stuff." This is a catch phrase used to describe two particular auction houses that have, from time to time, avoided making the necessary corrections or revisions to an item description once the corrected info is provided. An auction house is not at fault when they apply their best efforts to be accurate in the item description -- their honesty and integrity is verified based on the adjustment they make following a notification that the information is inaccurate. Failure to make such changes gives cause for the serious collector to seek out other auction houses for rare collectibles. 

Remember that when you buy an item off the internet, you are buying blind. Make sure to use a credit card or Paypal to make your purchase so if you are forced to return the item, you get your money back. The worst an auction house can do is kick you off their site and all things considered -- that is the last thing they want to do. But also remember it is the same as buying an item at a flea market -- many terms as "all sales final." For on-line auction houses, including eBay, be sure to review their terms and conditions.

Heritage Auctions, among their Terms and Conditions, indicates clearly that employees of the auction house can place bids on an item they are selling to force the final selling price to go higher. A number of collectors avoid this website -- regardless of the items they offer for sale -- because of this stipulation. See clause 21 here in their Terms and Conditions:

Recent eBay item for radio's The Big Show.

Funny closing story: Two months ago I noticed an item on eBay advertised as "TALLULAH BANKHEAD 1950 SIGNED CONTRACT AUTOGRAPH 'BATMAN' BLACK WIDOW." I took a close look at the photo image and it was clearly signed in 1950 by Charles Barry, a veepee at NBC. I suspected it was a contract for Bankhead's radio career on The Big Show, which ran from 1950 to 1952. Batman ran on ABC and her appearance was not until the mid-sixties. I e-mailed the seller asking for verification and he assured me she was Black Widow on Batman. (He didn't answer my question but instead was being vague and trying to tell me what he thought I wanted to hear.) I sent a second question, asking point blank if it was for The Big Show or for something else Batman related. Again, his response was generic: "The autograph is authentic and original." I leaned my head back for a moment, closed my eyes, and then sent him the following response. "Okay, bud, Charles Barry was NBC, not ABC. Batman began in 1966, not 1950. If the signed document is complete, with all 14 pages, and is indeed for The Big Show stated clearly in the contract, I will not hassle over the $149 asking price and I will buy it. But I don't give a hill of beans about Batman and have no interest in buying anything related to Batman." This time he confessed he had all 14 pages and yes, it was for The Big Show. I bought the contract and paid his price. (For anyone wanting to know how they can read all 14 pages of the contract, every page has since been scanned digital and will be reprinted, all 14 pages, in the back of my soon-to-be-published book about The Big Show.) Moral to the story? The seller could not sell the contract when misrepresenting the item but he did make a fantastic sale when he was honest.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Paley Center Needs Your Help

Ernie Kovacs, television comedian
The Paley Center for Media in New York City, formerly known as The Museum of Television and Radio, has published a "want list" of films for their archive. And they are asking for your help. Founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, president of CBS, the museum was renamed The Paley Center for Media on June 5, 2007, to encompass emerging broadcasting technologies such as the internet, mobile video and podcasting, as well as to expand its role as a neutral setting where media professionals can engage in discussion and debate about the evolving media landscape. Instead of collecting memorabilia for display in glass cases, the Paley Center comprises mostly of screening rooms, including two full-sized theaters. Nearly 160,000 television shows, commercials and radio programs are available in the Paley Center's library, and during each visit, viewers can select and watch shows at individual consoles (and radio programs are accessed through these same consoles). This includes television films you cannot find on commercial video including numerous Playhouse 90 television episodes.

For many years researchers, historians and authors were disappointed in the service provided by the museum -- the staff forgetting that they did not provide a product, but a service. A historian placing a phone call to the museum to ask for information regarding a particular television program, such as "How many episodes of [title of show] do you have in your collection?" would get a terse response: "Sorry, but we do not provide that service over the phone. If you want to know what episodes we have available for viewing, you need to visit the museum personally and look them up on our computer database." Naturally, historians went in spending hundreds of dollars for travel and hotel expenses, only to discover the museum had little -- if anything -- of the type of shows they were looking for. And the staff could have saved the historian both time and money had they been cooperative over the phone and taken 60 seconds to look up the titles on the computer in front of them.

One horror story, provided by a historian, was a phone call he received by a member of the staff, asking if he could donate two rare recordings they have been seeking. He agreed to send them to the museum if they would return the favor -- they had two radio recordings he had always wanted to listen to and was unable to travel to New York City to listen to the dramas. The museum said they could not honor a trade. When he told them "Sorry, no deal," the museum staff member made threats over the phone and how they could legally have the recordings confiscated and turned over to the museum. The historian wisely hung up the phone and then wrote of his experience in an article for a national film magazine. That article generated a number of letters to the editor from other people sharing their terrible experience with the same museum, some harshly critical, citing evidence and details of the careless disregard for preservation and destruction of original archival materials after a transfer to a newer -- and later proven -- unstable format.

Thankfully, the museum has undergone a change for the better in the past few years. Such horror stories seem to be obsolete now. If you had a bitter taste for the museum, I recommend you give them a second chance. A complete list of their holdings is now available on their website, providing scholars and historians the necessary information needed before making plans to visit the museum. At least one of their staff is now willing to make corrections to incorrect titles and/or broadcast dates. (I myself have sent them a list of corrections and they made the adjustments... later this year I plan to send them another list.)

With video streaming and YouTube, the museum suffers stiff competition. Counteracting this difficulty, the museum offers a large number of programs throughout the years for members who sign up for an annual membership. Most notably is the inclusion of today's television pilots for screening before the programs are televised, cast reunions for present-day programs, and whether you are a member or not they offer a free e-mail newsletter if you visit the following page:

Now it seems the museum has a "want list" of television programs and the list is reprinted below. If you happen to have any of these recordings in your private collection, drop them a line. I feel certain they will be pleased to hear from you and willing to work out a deal. For me, personally, I did not know some of these titles existed. And so I myself begin a hunt for some of these for my own curiosity.

The Opening of the World's Fair with David Sarnoff and Franklin D. Roosevelt

(April 20, 1939)
This event marked the beginning of regularly scheduled telecasting, yet little visual record remains of these experimental years through World War II, including the first network program (October 17, 1941), in which a Philadelphia station carried a program originating from New York.

News: 1946–55
Esso Newsreel (NBC); CBS Evening News (CBS); All-Star News (ABC); Camera Headlines(DuMont); Camel News Caravan (NBC)

Texaco Star Theatre
(June–December 1948)
The first six months of this series have been lost, including a competition for the host's spot—which, incidentally, went to a man soon to be known to millions as "Mr. Television," Milton Berle.

Actor's Studio
We are searching for examples of this live anthology series that featured such students of the legendary acting school as Kim Hunter, Julie Harris, Jessica Tandy, Martin Balsam, and Marlon Brando.

Three to Get Ready (WPTZ, Philadelphia)
Ernie Kovacs's first television series

NFL Championship Game: Los Angeles Rams vs. Cleveland Browns
(December 23, 1951)
The first network coverage of a National Football League championship game is missing. In fact, many of the most famous televised sporting events are lost, including Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the classic 1958 NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

CBS Evening News
(November 30, 1956)
This broadcast marked a technological breakthrough: the first network news program recorded on videotape for rebroadcast on the West Coast. We are also looking for other technical milestones, such as the first use of instant replay. 

Open End
Few episodes of this David Susskind series remain. We are particularly interested in: "The Young Giants" (February 1, 1959) with directors Fred Coe, John Frankenheimer, and Sidney Lumet; "Always Leave Them Laughing" (February 14, 1960) with writers Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, and Mel Brooks; and "Television Tempest" (September 25, 1960) with Ernie Kovacs, Rod Serling, and Sheldon Leonard.

The Tonight Show
(October 1, 1962)
Wheeeere's Johnny? The Center has the audio track of this program, on which Groucho Marx can be heard introducing the show's new host, Johnny Carson. No visual record has been found.