Friday, August 28, 2015

Old Time Radio Personalities in Pictures

I must have some reputation. At a recent film festival, a vendor approached me on Day One to inquire about my interest in old-time radio. "I have hundreds of photographs," he explained, "that I cannot get rid of because they focus on radio personalities. Movie and TV stars I can sell, but not radio. Are you interested?" Naturally, he peaked my interest and I spent that evening, during a routine sewing circle among friends and hobbyists, flipping through a box of obscure treasures. The press releases from ABC, CBS, Mutual and NBC were attached to the back of each photo, so these were definitely originals -- not duplicates.

The price? A dollar a photo. It doesn't get any better than that. I must have purchased over 300 photos because he cut me a deal and charged me a flat $300 bucks. (I think by the time he reached near the end and already surpassed 300, he was tired of counting them.) A large number of the photographs are of obscure radio singers, announcers, musicians, writers and actors who never made a name for themselves in Hollywood. None of these names are famous celebrities, but for radio buffs, the following photos might be of interest and amusement.

Bill Days, announcer for Groucho Marx
Bill Days was an announcer who also doubled for small bit parts on radio comedies. The Jack Benny Program (Jell-O and Lucky Strike) and This is My Best are a couple examples. His biggest claim to fame is being the announcer for Blue Ribbon Town, also known as "The Groucho Marx Show." The photographer remains unknown, probably a work-for-hire by the Allison-Lighthall Company, then located in Chicago.

Comedian Bob Burns
Bob Burns, comedian and famed Arkansas bazooka man, poses with his baby daughter, Barbara Ann. Circa May 1938, for her first present, Burns brought the little lady a baby bazooka, and though she was only four days old at the time, Burns figured she might as well begin to be accustomed to the torture-pipe. This publicity photo was taken by Don English, who worked at Paramount Studios. Bob Burns was presently filming Tropic Holiday at the time, and left the set at Paramount to bring his first daughter the bazooka. Obviously, the studio press photographer went with him. The nurse holding the infant is Edith Clark.

Donald Dickson
Donald Dickson, the young Metropolitan Opera baritone, replaced Nelson Eddy as the featured soloist of The Chase and Sanborn Hour, beginning with the broadcast of February 5, 1939. He remained the weekly singer through the remainder of 1939 and most of 1940 even when the series was re-titled The Chase and Sanborn Program when it became a 30-minute program instead of an hour. Dickson was an unknown in 1936, and was featured on several NBC programs and then signed by the "Met" for the Spring season of 1937. From there, his fame (and his career) grew. This publicity photo was taken on January 18, 1939. Dickson's last name has often been mis-spelled as Dixon in a number of periodicals and encyclopedias. Thanks to the press release attached to this photo, we can now verify the proper spelling.

Helen Menken of Second Husband
CBS Photo, dated July 9, 1938. Helen Menken (the hot woman on the right) and some of the cast of Second Husband have a chat backstage before one of their broadcasts, then heard weekly over CBS Radio on Tuesday evenings. It was sponsored by Bayer, a pharmaceutical company, at the time. 
Can anyone help identify the other cast members?

Frank Graham of Armchair Adventures
I know very little about the photo above, other than the fact that the press release states Frank Graham and the radio program, Armchair Adventures. John Dunning only documents the 1952 series of the same name, which featured Marvin Miller in "a one-man show, doing all voices and narration." We know there was a series titled Armchair Adventures from July 18, 1939 to September 7, 1939, broadcast over CBS five-times-a-week, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday as a late-night 15-minute mystery program. This photo is in reference to the 1939 series. (A couple reference guides cite the series starting on the evening of July 23, but the correct date is July 18.) I don't know which of the men is Frank Graham, but I would certainly like to know. The yellow blemish at the bottom is a result of the glue on the back of the photo, which held the press release to the back of the photo. The glue apparently seeped through over time. This is not uncommon and if you see this on a couple other photos, please accept my apologies. Be assured I have a friend using Adobe Photoshop to restore the photo and remove the yellow blemish.

John Lake
John Lake was the narrator for Dark Venture, a psychological thriller (a technical term for "horror"), which received a recent write-up by Karl Schadow. His two-part article appeared in Radio Recall, the monthly newsletter of the Metro Washington Old-Time Radio Club. Lake began his career as a radio actor, doubling for minor roles on The Lux Radio Theatre in 1936 and 1937. He later acted on the Irene Rich dramas, NBC Presents: Short Story (1951-1952) and Twelve Players (1945). Fans of Amos and Andy might remember Lake as the commercial spokesman during the Rinso/Lifebouy Soap broadcasts in the late forties. Regarding the photo above, Ernest A. Bachrach was the photographer.

John McIntire, Rosaline Green and Tommy Donnelly
Fans of the television program Wagon Train might enjoy a glimpse of John McIntire (on the left), almost 20 years before his television career rode the Western plains. Rosaline Green and Tommy Donnelly were among the supporting cast. This photo was taken in February of 1940, during rehearsals of Short, Short Story (not to be confused with the 1931-32 syndication or the NBC series of a similar name). The anthology program originated from the West Coast beginning the same month, although a number of reference guides claim it began January 22, 1940. McIntire was married to another radio actress, Jeanette Nolan, so I wouldn't be surprised if she played a supporting role on this series at one time. Notice the glue damage on the bottom of the photo. Again, a friend of mine is using Adobe Photoshop to restore the photo and remove the damage.


Gary Rafferty said...

Photo # 5 may be a composite publicity photo of Frank Graham whispering to himself, with Graham on the left in the wardrobe of Cosmo Jones, the amateur detective character he played in Monogram's COSMO JONES, CRIME SMASHER (1943). Do we know if Graham's early radio work included roles on the 1939 ARMCHAIR ADVENTURES?

Anonymous said...

Bill Days main claim to fame is NOT as an announcer but as the top tenor of The Sportsmen Quartet.

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