Friday, October 25, 2013

Boris Karloff on "DUFFY'S TAVERN"

Hollywood actor Boris Karloff made a total of three guest appearances on the radio comedy, Duffy's Tavern. His first was on the evening of January 12, 1945. When Clancy the cop says there is a competition among the taverns in New York to sell more bonds than the others, with a major prize in the wings, Archie writes a horror play in the hopes Boris Karloff will star and encourage tavern members to buy war bonds. “Young Monster Malone” tells the story of two mad scientists, Dr. Frank and Dr. Stein, creating a monster (played by Finnegan) known as inflation. (Remember, this was during the Second World War.) A small bit of trivia: The original title of Archie’s play was “A Monster Was Born,” changed during rehearsals. The spoof on radio’s Young Doctor Malone was a better joke, as evident on the original scripts, marked in pencil by Ed Gardner himself.

His second appearance was on the evening of May 21, 1947. Duffy is planning to sell the tavern and sends a real estate man to assess the value of the property. To deter any chance of having the tavern sold to a private investor, Archie, with bats in his belfry, hires actor Boris Karloff to give the impression that the place is haunted. (In payment, Archie offers a zombie drink... a similar joke that concluded a 1941 Information, Please film short.) Archive, however, momentarily suffers from a grave problem when Karloff's theatrics fail to scare the real estate man. Thankfully, Clifton Finnegan enters the room and does the job without any effort.

In the summer of 1951, Boris Karloff accepted an expense-paid holiday to Puerto Rico where Ed Gardner had since made permanent residence. In an effort to evade paying Federal taxes on income, courtesy of a tax loophole, Gardner was by then producing the series in a make-shift radio station on the island. Celebrities were flown down to the island for a combination vacation and radio guest appearance. Gardner, minimizing all costs, recycled the radio script from 1947.

The premiere of the 1951-52 season, which would ultimately be the twelfth and final year for Duffy's Tavern, featured the Karloff broadcast. There were a number of differences between the 1951 and 1947 version: most notably the solicitation and reference of Ed Gardner's recent motion-picture, The Man With My Face, which was presently in theaters courtesy of United Artists. While NBC executives were fully aware that Gardner was recycling radio scripts from past years, and requested new material be used, Gardner temporarily fooled them by providing false information for NBC's publicity department. As a result, the press release from NBC quoted: “Duffy’s Tavern becomes even more ghastly than usual when Ed (Archie) Gardner plays host to Boris Karloff, and attempts to arrange a blind date for Miss Duffy.”

The second episode broadcast for the new 1951-52 season featured Archie exhibiting a swelled head as a result of producing his first motion-picture, The Man With My Face. However, the lineup of celebrities he had invited failed to show for the premiere screening. That cued some amusing banter and supposed phone calls to Dorothy Kilgallen, Leonard Lyons, Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, etc., with the realization finally dawning on Archie that he “could not get a line in Louella’s column even if he shot Hedda Hopper.” The cast also talked about what they did during their vacation. Obviously, this episode was intended as the season premiere but NBC, with no financial gain for the motion picture, chose the funnier of the two as the season premiere.

For fans of Boris Karloff, enclosed is the radio script for the 1947 broadcast, with Ed Gardner's original notations on the pages. I didn't want to break the spine as Gardner's original scripts were bound in volumes, so please forgive the crease on the left hand side. Comparing this version to the 1951 is a lot of fun. Enjoy!

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