Saturday, May 28, 2011

Boris Karloff: The "Lost" Radio Broadcasts

In 1985, while majoring in film studies at the University of Iowa, Scott Allen Nollen befriended Dr. Edward Lowry, a visiting professor from Texas Christian University, who taught a course on horror films. Both fans of Boris Karloff, the two agreed to co-author a book about the legend who became a household word with his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster, and for a number of big-screen productions was billed on the screen simply as “Karloff.” Unfortunately, Lowry passed away before most of the work was accomplished. Nollen wrote his book, a solo effort, which has since been considered a scholarly look at the boogeyman whose voice was perfectly suited for radio horrors. Today, his appearances on Lights Out! and Inner Sanctum Mystery (note: the proper title is not Inner Sanctum Mysteries) are regarded as highlights in the collecting field. Yet very little is known about his radio work, regardless of what has been put to print.

Scott Allen Nollen's Book
Dedicated in part to the late Dr. Lowry, Nollen’s 1991 book, Boris Karloff: A Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television and Recording Work, was the first major effort to catalog all of Karloff’s known performances behind the radio microphone. Historians have since quoted brief passages from the book. Evelyn Karloff, the actor’s widow, praised the tome. Ray Bradbury admitted he was “impressed.” But the story continued in 1999 when Nollen, with the participation of Sara Jane Karloff (Boris’ daughter), offered a second volume of Karloff’s work -- this time centered on the actor’s personal life. Boris Karloff: A Gentleman’s Life was published through Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. in 1999, offering a revised and expanded list of Karloff’s radio credits. To date, this list is the most comprehensive and the highest compliment I can afford to give is that Nollen’s credits have been frequently consulted when a possible new discovery is made.

Gregory William Mank's Book
These two books, combined with Gregory William Mank’s superb volume, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration (2009, McFarland Publishing), provide more information about Boris Karloff than you could ever remember in your lifetime. Gord Shriver’s Boris Karloff: The Man Remembered (2004) by Gord Shriver and Stephen Jacobs’ Boris Karloff: More Than A Monster (2011) also offer superb biographies about the actor’s super stardom. But after reading all these impressive reference works, and Don Glut’s essay, “When The Airwaves Trembled,” in Forrest J. Ackerman’s 1969 tribute to Karloff, could there be more information about Karloff’s radio work that hasn’t been written about? 
Turns out, there is.

It’s a known fact in the old time radio community that no one can possibly create a “definitive” list of radio credits for any particular Hollywood actor. Numerous factors come into play. The main (and most obvious) is because no one sat at a desk for three decades and took notes as to which Hollywood celebrity appeared before the microphone. While on tour to promote their motion pictures, or performing on stage in road companies, celebrities agreed to appear on local radio stations that were independent from the national chains, and most of that programming has been relatively unexplored. For all we know, Karloff took a one week vacation to Canada and while acting as a tourist in Toronto, agreed to a five minute interview on a local morning radio program. In short, we’ll be adding radio credits to such lists year after year after year.

Major Hollywood celebrities such as Clark Gable and Jean Harlow have yet to receive the kind of treatment Nollen gave for Karloff. Even Orson Welles scholars avoid one that exists in circulation: How many people know that Orson Welles makes a brief cameo (in the form of an in-joke reference about him) in the October 3, 1946 broadcast of Suspense, “Three Times Murder,” which featured Rita Hayworth as a femme fatale? He does.

As a fan of old horror films, documenting radio credits of such luminaries as Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. have become an obsession. Every possible lead to track down another program title and airdate opens the door to a new discovery. I have yet to see a list of Bela Lugosi’s radio credits published that is impressive, or accurate. Stephen D. Youngkin, author of The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre (2005, University Press of Kentucky), featured an extensive list of Peter Lorre’s radio credits, courtesy of Cheryl Morris, who tracked down such minute details as Lorre’s German radio credentials! Just last month, I handed Cheryl two more entries to add to the list, recently unearthed at an archive. These are examples of such continued documentation.
And there is some good news to come out of all this. Three of us have recently made a giant leap in radio research. Up until now, people went through newspaper listings on microfilm and that process has been extremely slow. After four years of scanning what must be tens of thousands of pages into “searchable PDF files,” and with the assistance of two good friends, a massive, customized database has been finally been compiled on a terabyte hard drive. With a little patience and some clever maneuvering, we can now explore documents that open the gateway to trekking further than ever in the field of old-time radio research. Gerry Hamlin customized and created the software that now allows us to search all of our customized files. The three of us can now utilize this system and document radio credits for Hollywood actors that might otherwise have continued to go unnoticed and undocumented in the coming centuries.

In an effort to test the system after the entire project was completed, our first choice was simple: Boris Karloff. What follows is a list of previously undocumented radio credits, or what some might refer to as Boris Karloff’s “lost” radio credits. But before you scroll down the list and start jotting down titles and broadcast dates, I would like to add a few notes of importance.

Archival studio records on microfilm captured on camera for our project.
1. This is probably the first time knowledge of this database has gone public. Close friends in the past six months have been aware of the project and been kind enough to keep it under wraps. As much as we would love to make this database available to the public (and more importantly, to scholars and authors who want to start documenting extensive lists of their own), we do not have the capability of putting this database online. For this, I apologize in advance and can assure you honestly and sincerely, when the opportunity rises, we will do so.

2. The database was not compiled from newspaper listings or trade periodicals that “predict” what was scheduled for nation-wide, network broadcasts. I know of no serious historian or college/university professor who relies on those sources (Radio Daily included). Why? Because they act in the same manner as TV Guide. Newspaper listing offer what was “planned” or “scheduled,” and last minute changes were quite common. (Heck, if you consulted the New York Times for 20 years of Suspense radio broadcasts, you’ll find that almost one out of every four entries cites an incorrect title or actor. So why on Earth would anyone want to consult newspaper listings?) And I cannot stress this enough: I know of no true researcher in the field who relies on newspapers for reference and anyone who claims to use newspapers as a source of information needs to reevaluate their past findings. I proved this multiple times with a slide show presentation at the 2010 Friends of Old Time Radio Convention in Newark, New Jersey, and everyone seemed to agree with me. Newspapers cannot be trusted.

3. The source for our database comes from periodicals and archival network files which printed cast names after-the-fact. These include radio reviews and broadcast logs that were recorded at the networks. Yes, a critic’s review of last night’s broadcast in a periodical such as Variety or Broadcasting is far more accurate than a newspaper listing.

Personal note: In March of 2011, I made the trek up to Syracuse, New York, to attend the annual Cinefest Convention. For four days, cinephiles were treated to some rare gems screened from archival 16 and 35mm masters. They screened silent films I never heard of, pre-code classics and a version of Alice in Wonderland (1931) that I never heard before. For me, the highlight of the weekend was on the morning of March 18, when a 1941 film short, Information, Please, based on the popular radio quiz program, featured guest Boris Karloff. One can easily see that Karloff got along very well with the witty panelists, which explains his numerous appearances on the radio program. Oscar Levant made a great comment about the boys growing up, comparing himself to Karloff. The short closed with a question from Clifton Fadiman asking for the name of drinks, after describing the ingredients. Karloff, at the last second, figured out one of the drinks was a “zombie.”

This is not meant to be a complete list of all known radio appearances of Boris Karloff. If you found this web-page in the hopes of finding a complete list of Karloff’s radio career, my advanced apologies. The focus of the list is to document what has not yet been preserved in published reference guides. Obviously, broadcasts not listed below can be found in Scott Allen Nollen’s book, including the obvious Karloff appearance on Lights Out! such as the widely-circulating “Cat Wife.” I have no intention of posting the information found within the pages of his book. To do so would not only be a disservice to Mr. Nollen, but disrespectful. There is already enough people “lifting” material from successfully published books, for various reasons, for inclusion on their own web-sites. This author will have nothing to do with that. Nollen’s book (along with all the others mentioned above) come with my highest recommendation and deserve space on your book shelf.

NBC publicity photo.
 Among the previously-undocumented episodes is Listen, America (1941-42), which was meant to dramatize the stirring and significant story of America’s mighty new quest for health. Presented by NBC in cooperation with the Women’s National Emergency Committee, each episode featured an epochal story in the progress of man’s war against hunger and malnutrition; a real-life case-history dramatization. The People’s Nutritional Forum serve as a clearing house for questions from radio listeners who wrote in each week asking questions about health and nutrition. Distinguished figures in the field of public health serve as forum chairmen. Merle Kendrick and his orchestra provided musical bridges and background. For one particular episode, Boris Karloff appeared in a special drama written for the program, which showed (as explained by the announcer) that he was no longer the world’s greatest menace. “Malnutrition” had taken place.

The latest research also unearthed some mysterious questions. For the December 12, 1954, broadcast of The Nutrilite Show, we know that Virginia O’Brien, a song-vocalist noted for her way of singing “deadpan,” was also a guest. And this particular broadcast happened to be the last episode for Robert Armbruster conducting the orchestra. But what Karloff did or said on the program remains unknown. It seems we know more about the broadcast and nothing about Karloff’s contribution.

For the November 2, 1949, broadcast of This Is Your Life, we discovered he was not the guest recipient, as one would normally expect. Mrs. Erna Rex, real estate agent of Los Angeles, is the guest of honor. Broadcast by transcription, transcribed in an abandoned house, 7060 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood. The house was referred to in Hollywood as “Boris Karloff’s house.” (The commercial was delivered from Hollywood studios.) In keeping with the Halloween theme, Mrs. Rex was ushered into a house “haunted” by her relatives and friends. Ralph Edwards was disguised as a “doctor” and Mrs. Rex was taken to the house by her daughter who led her mother to believe that the doctor wanted to sell his house. Mrs. Rex was chosen as guest because she represented a profession that rendered service to many, especially in the post-war days with housing situations as tight as they were. To make her work easier, Mrs. Rex received a Buick coupe for use in her contact work as a real estate agent. The Buick, plus a radio-phonograph-television set, comprised Mrs. Rex’s “Philip Morris Future.” The special guest who appeared during the final two minutes of the broadcast to tell everybody to get out of his house is Boris Karloff.

Edna Wallace Hopper Variety Show  (January 3, 1932)

Format: musical/comedy variety; Network: CBS; Performers: Edna Wallace Hopper; Broadcast Time: 10 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Hollywood on the Air  (November 24, 1932)

Format: interviews; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Tangee Natural Lipstick; Performers: Jimmy Fidler; Other Guests: Joel McCrea and Katherine Hepburn; Broadcast Time: 12:30 a.m. (technically Nov. 25); Running Time: 60 minutes.

45 Minutes in Hollywood  (August 2, 1934)

Format: variety and interviews; Network: CBS; Sponsor: Bordens; Performers: Cal York with Mark Warnow’s Orchestra; Broadcast Time: 10 p.m.; Running Time: 45 minutes.

Kraft Music Hall  (September 2, 1937)

Format: comedy/variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Kraft Phoenix Cheese Corp.; Performers: Bob Burns; Other Guests: Dolores Del Rio and Mario Chamlee; Broadcast Time: 10 p.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes.

For Men Only  (April 10, 1938)

Format: drama/variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Bristol-Myers; Performers: George Jessel; Broadcast Time: 8:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Amidst a number of talk and drama subjects, Boris Karloff appears in person for five minutes to talk about his movie work.

The Fleischmann Hour  (January 5, 1939)

Format: comedy/variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Standard Brands, Inc.; Performers: Rudy Vallee; Other Guests: Marek Windheim, singer, and Barney Grant, comedian; Broadcast Time: 8:00 p.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes. Material: Boris Karloff and Walter Tetley stars in a skit titled, “There’s Always Joe Winters.” Claude Rains was originally slated for the role, but he was unable to attend due to an illness so Boris Karloff filled in as the guest.

The Circle (April 16, 1939)

Format: Variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Kellogg’s; Performers: Basil Rathbone and Madeline Carroll; Other Guests: Jose Iturbi; Broadcast Time: 10 p.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes.

The Kate Smith Show  (March 7, 1941)

Format: musical/comedy variety; Network: CBS; Sponsor: General Foods; Performers: Kate Smith; Broadcast Time: 8 p.m.; Running Time: 55 minutes.

Bundles for Britain  (April 14, 1941)

Format: patriotic fund raiser; Network: WMCA in New York; Other Guests: Mrs. Arthur Woods and Nancy Walker; Broadcast Time: 4:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Special war-time broadcast to help raise money for British relief, sponsored by the Bundles For Britain Fund Appeal.

Friendship Bridge  (July 3, 1941)
Format: Variety; Network: WMCA in New York; Broadcast Time: 4 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Karloff performs “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

The Gloria Whitney Show  (August 13, 1941)

Format: musical variety; Network: WHN in New York; Sponsor: unknown; Performers: Gloria Whitney, singer; Broadcast Time: 7 p.m.; Running Time: 15 minutes. Material: Karloff appears on the show for an interview.

Special U.S.O. Program  (November 23, 1941)

Format: patriotic fund raiser; Network: WMCA in New York; Other Guests: Paul Lukas; Broadcast Time: 9 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Listen, America  (March 22, 1942)

Format: news and music; Network: NBC Red; Performers: John B. Kennedy; Other Guests: Dr. W.H. Sebrell; Broadcast Time: 3:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

War Bond Show  (April 9, 1942)

Format: patriotic fund raiser; Network: WMCA in New York; Other Guests: Helen Twelvetrees and Carol Bruce; Broadcast Time: 8:03 p.m.; Running Time: 27 minutes. Material: This was the first of two war bond rally specials (the other was broadcast April 16). Karloff only participated with this broadcast.

Information, Please  (May 17, 1943)

Format: quiz; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Heinz; Performers: Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran; Other Guests: Jan Struther; Broadcast Time: 10:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Information, Please  (November 20, 1944)

Format: quiz; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Heinz; Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran; Other Guests: Reginald Gardiner; Broadcast Time: 9:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Information, Please  (November 5, 1945)

Format: quiz; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Mobil Oil; Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran; Other Guests: Corp. Arthur Schesinger, Jr.; Broadcast Time: 9:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Kate Smith Show  (January 4, 1946)
Format: musical variety; Network: CBS; Sponsor: General Foods; Performers: Kate Smith; Broadcast Time: 8:30 p.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes.

CBS Publicity Photo of Kate Smith.
The Chesterfield Supper Club  
(January 16, 1946)
Format: music and drama; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Liggett & Myers; Performers: Perry Como and Jo Stafford; Broadcast Time: 7:00 p.m.; Running Time: 15 minutes. Material: Karloff does a scene from David Stanhope’s last great act (“The State demands the life of David Stanhope for the murder of his wife…”) Bernard Lenrow, radio actor, supported Boris Karloff in the scene brief drama.

The Sealtest Village Store  (February 14, 1946)

Format: comedy/variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Sealtest Dairy Company (product: Armour); Performers: Jack Haley and Eve Arden; Broadcast Time: 9:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Fitch Bandwagon  (March 24, 1946)

Format: music and interviews; Network: NBC; Sponsor: F.W. Fitch; Performers: Cass Daley; Broadcast Time: 7:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Karloff appeared courtesy of RKO, and the announcer closed the episode with a mention that the screen boogeyman could currently be seen in Bedlam. This program was a popular, long-running program with a guest orchestra and a comedy routine, every week. Larry Keating was the emcee.

The Ginny Simms Show  (April 5, 1946)

Format: musical variety; Network: WABC; Sponsor: Bordens; Performers: Ginny Simms, singer; Broadcast Time: 7:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Truth of Consequences  (October 26, 1946)

Format: quiz show; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Proctor and Gamble; Performers: Ralph Edwards; Broadcast Time: 8:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. From Hollywood studios. Material: Karloff takes part in one of the stunts.

Kay Kyser’s College of Musical Knowledge  (March 12, 1947)

Format: musical variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company; Performers: Kay Kyser; Broadcast Time: 10:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Duffy’s Tavern  (May 21, 1947)

Format: comedy; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Bristol-Myers; Performers: Ed Gardner and Charlie Cantor; Broadcast Time: 9:00 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: A real estate man named S. Crow comes down to the tavern to purchase the building from Archie, who doesn’t want to sell. Archie gets Boris Karloff to “haunt” the place and scare the guy away.
Information, Please  (January 16, 1948)

Format: quiz; Network: Mutual; Sponsor: sustained/none; Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran; Other Guests: George S. Kaufman; Broadcast Time: 9:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

We, The People  (January 27, 1948)

Format: human interest; Network: CBS; Sponsor: Gulf Oil and Gas; Other Guests: Connie Boswell; Broadcast Time: 9 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Skippy Hollywood Theater  (February 24, 1948)

Format: dramatic anthology; Network: CBS; Sponsor: Rosefield Packing Company; Broadcast Time: 7:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Karloff appears in a drama titled, “Mr. Bittereau’s Mission.”

We, The People  (July 27, 1948)

Format: human interest; Network: CBS; Sponsor: Gulf Oil and Gas; Other Guests: James Melton; Broadcast Time: 9 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Hi! Jinx  (August 13, 1948)

Format: interviews; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Schenbrunn and Sus.; Performers: Jinx Falkenburg; Broadcast Time: 8:30 a.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Jinx Falkenburg, the host of the program, was unable to attend this broadcast because she was at the Polyclinic Hospital in New York City, giving birth to her son, Kevin, born on this date. An unknown substitute host interviewed Boris Karloff in honor of Friday the 13th. The subject of superstition was the main topic of the day.

Stars Over Hollywood  (November 6, 1948)

Format: drama; Network: CBS; Sponsor: Armour; Broadcast Time: 2 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Karloff stars in a drama titled “Ghost of a Chance.”

This Is Your Life  (November 2, 1949)

Format: interview; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Philip Morris; Performers: Ralph Edwards; Broadcast Time: 8 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Barbara Welles Show  (August 18, 1950)

Format: interview; Network: Mutual; Sponsor: unknown; Performers: Barbara Welles; Broadcast Time: 4 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Wayne Howell Show  (October 7, 1950)

Format: news and interviews; Network: NBC; Sponsor: unknown; Performers: Wayne Howell; Broadcast Time: varies; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Howell usually interviewed two guests on each of his broadcasts. Boris Karloff was one of the guests for this broadcast.

Peter Pan  (December 27, 1950)

Format: musical/drama; Network: WNYC in New York; Other Guests: Jean Arthur and Nehemiah Persoff; Broadcast Time: 5:50 p.m.; Running Time: 55 minutes. Material: Beginning April 24, 1950, Boris Karloff played the role of Captain Hook on stage for a total of 321 performances. Jean Arthur played the title role and Nehemiah Persoff played the role of Cecco. The company later recorded a Columbia LP featuring an abridged version of the play. That recording aired over WNYC in New York City, as a special holiday offering for the benefit of the juvenile listeners. The same recording would later be aired on other programs.

Ralph Edwards Show
  (January 4, 1952)

Format: variety/interviews; Network: NBC; Sponsor: unknown; Performers: Ralph Edwards; Broadcast Time: 2:00 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Paula Stone Show  (February 11, 1952)

Format: interview; Network: WMGM in New York City; Sponsor: unknown; Performers: Paula Stone; Broadcast Time: 12 noon; Running Time: 15 minutes.

The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Show  (April 18, 1952)

Format: comedy/variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Chesterfield, Anacin and Dentyne; Performers: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; Broadcast Time: 8 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. A recording of this broadcast exists.

What’s My Line?  (May 27, 1952)

Format: quiz show; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Philip Morris; Performers: John Daly, moderator; Broadcast Time: 10:00 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes. Material: Karloff is the “mystery guest.”

Sunday With Garroway  (July 18, 1954)

Format: variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: multiple sponsors; Performers: Dave Garroway; Broadcast Time: 8:00 p.m.; Running Time: two hours. Material: Karloff performs a reading of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” from the Caedmon LP titled, The Pony Engine and Other Stories for Children.

The Nutrilite Show  (December 12, 1954)

Format: musical variety; Network: NBC; Sponsor: Mytinger & Casselberry, Inc.; Performers: Dennis Day; Broadcast Time: 5:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Spoken Word  (March 29, 1956)

Format: variety; Network: WQXR in New York; Sponsor: unknown; Broadcast Time: 9:05 p.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Material: Karloff reads three of Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” stories: “The Cat That Walked by Himself,” “The Butterfly That Stamped” and “How the First Letter Was Written.” These recordings originate from the Caedmon LP. Karloff received a “Best Children’s Album” Grammy Award nomination for this recording. The same recordings would later be aired on other programs.

Monitor (May 20, 1956)

Format: variety; Network: WRCA in New York; Performers: Dave Garroway; Broadcast Time: 7 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

The Spoken Word  (June 14, 1956)

Format: variety; Network: WQXR in New York; Broadcast Time: 9:05 p.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Material: Karloff reads Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli” stories, including “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Brothers” (abridged), from the Caedmon LP titled, Rudyard Kipling: Just So Stories and Other Tales.

Let’s Listen to a Story  (October 13, 1956)

Format: variety; Network: WNYC in New York; Broadcast Time: 11 a.m.; Running Time: 15 minutes. Material: Karloff reads one of Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” stories, from a Caedmon LP.

Monitor (February 17, 1957)

Format: variety; Network: WRCA in New York; Performers: Dave Garroway; Broadcast Time: 8:30 p.m.; Running Time: 30 minutes.

Monitor (February 22, 1958)

Format: variety; Network: WRCA in New York; Performers: Dave Garroway; Broadcast Time: 8 p.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes.

Let’s Listen to a Story  (May 31, 1958)

Format: variety; Network: WMCA in New York; Broadcast Time: 9:05 p.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Material: Excerpts from a Caedmon LP are played, featuring Karloff reading Kipling’s “Just So” stories.

Let’s Listen to a Story  (June 7, 1958)

Format: musical/drama; Network: WMCA in New York; Other Guests: Jean Arthur and Nehemiah Persoff; Broadcast Time: 9:05 a.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Material: Features a recording of the first half of the 1950 Columbia LP, Peter Pan.

Let’s Listen to a Story  (June 14, 1958)
Format: musical/drama; Network: WMCA in New York; Other Guests: Jean Arthur and Nehemiah Persoff; Broadcast Time: 9:05 a.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Features a recording of the second half of the 1950 Columbia LP, Peter Pan.

Monitor  (September 6, 1958)
Format: variety; Network: WRCA in New York; Performers: Dave Garroway; Broadcast Time: 3 p.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes.

Let’s Listen to a Story  (May 31, 1959)
Format: variety; Network: WMCA in New York; Broadcast Time: 8:05 p.m.; Running Time: 25 minutes. Material: Karloff reads Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So” stories, played back from a Caedmon LP.

The Spoken Word  (August 24, 1959)
Format: variety; Network: WYNC in New York; Broadcast Time: 11 a.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes. Material: Karloff reads from Kenneth Grahame’s “The Reluctant Dragon.” The recording originates from a Caedmon LP titled, Kenneth Grahame: The Reluctant Dragon.

The Spoken Word  (December 25, 1959)

Format: variety; Network: WNYC in New York; Broadcast Time: 11 a.m.; Running Time: 60 minutes. Material: Karloff reads “The Fir Tree.” The recording originates from the 1959 Caedmon LP titled, Hans Christian Andersen: The Ugly Duckling and Other Tales.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cincinatti Old Time Radio Convention

Every spring, I, along with a dozen good friends, make the annual migration to Cincinnati to attend the Cincinnati Old Time Radio Convention. This year was a monumental occasion because the convention celebrated its 25th year. Attendees come from St. Louis, Buffalo (NY), England and this year one from Finland!

If you love old time radio programs, this is a convention worth checking out. Dan Hughes hosts a superb trivia contest. Winners get to select a prize from a donation table. There's an hour-long film screening of vintage film shorts with a connection to old time radio. There's a presentation on researching old time radio. And recreations on stage are certainly a highlight. And we can all thanks Bob Burchett for all his hard work and effort to make this year's convention worth paying the ransom at the gas pump. 

(Top) The Trivia Contest and (Bottom) Recreation on Stage

(Left to Right) Rich Opp and Bob Burchett
"I would go the Friends of Old Time Radio convention every year, and come back to give a report to our local radio club," Bob Burchett explained. "The question would always come up, why don’t we have a convention in Cincinnati? Nothing ever happened until one year we had a new member join named Jim Skyrm. Jim had some experience with conventions, so he found a small motel in Kentucky where we had our first convention. We had 17 dealers tables. There were no guest or re-creations."

"I had been going to the Friends of Old Radio for eleven years, so I had made friends with a lot of the dealers," continued Bob. "When I asked three of them if they would come to Cincinnati if we held a convention, they said 'sure.' Terry Salomonson, Bob Burnham, and Gary Kramer were the established dealers who came. Terry set a pattern of coming late that he has kept up over the years. Gary’s daughter got married one time, and he almost didn’t go to the wedding. Bob has missed a few, but for the most part all three of them have supported the convention all 25 years."

"The Cincinnati club had a member by the name of Don Clayton who was a big fan of Lum & Abner," recalled Robert Newman. "He built a working replica of the Jot 'Em Down Store, with furnishings, supplies, lights, in short the works.  That first year when you walked into the dealers room and looked to the left, that display grabbed your eye immediately. After the first year the convention moved to Chester Road, underneath the Windjammer Restaurant." For many years, Robert Newman and Bob Burchett were the two men responsible for the entire operation. "As you know, getting setup for the dealers and recreations is a demanding and at times, trying procedure.  Our most trying one was when a tornado came right at us.  While I was trying to get everything set up that year, the hotel evacuated everyone to our area, with some carrying plates of food.  Needless to say, I ran a little late that year.  Fortunately, the tornado went right over our heads without touching down until it was past us.  It was worse than the year before when the dealers and recreation rooms were not yet completely set up and the crew that was doing it, without saying a word to anyone, decided to go home and finish it the next day. I will not repeat what I said to management or how I got the job done."

Actress Rosemary Rice
One of the highlights, for myself, is meeting up with Rosemary Rice. A dear friend who sent Michelle and I a wedding gift when we got married. Rosemary has attended the convention for years and I hope she will continue every year. Rosemary played the role of Katryn on television's I Remember Mama.

Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger of Radio Once More chose to broadcast from the event again. Their radio network has grown in popularity and you could tell a difference between last year's convention appearance and this year's. People not only knew who they were, but recalled numerous broadcasts of the past year. Radio Once More has become a rising force in the hobby.

Rick Payne brought a number of high-value items for sale. From sheet music, movie posters and magazines (some of which had white pages!), Rick had them all available for sale and he was perhaps one of the most popular vendors in the room. 

Neal Ellis, Gary Lowe and Ken Stockinger
Awards are given out every year, at the close of the convention. This year's award winners include Penny Swanberg, who received the Dave Warren Award. Randy Larson received the same award. Way to go Penny and Randy! Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger won the Stone/Waterman Award. Roy Bright won the Parley Baer Award. 

Recreations this year included The Whistler, Gunsmoke and Dragnet

"You can imagine my surprise the first year I met Hal Stone (Jughead on Archie Andrews)," recalled Newman. "After we were introduced he told me that he had an Uncle Bob and insisted that I sit down, then immediately jumped in my lap, threw his arms about me, and said, now your my Uncle Bob, and usually that was how he addressed me."

Rick Payne
This year I was treated to a tour of a private archive that made the jaws drop. It was an invitation I accepted and made the entire trip worth it. With luck, I'll be returning to that same archive for a research project in July or August. The late-night sessions with friends, talking about the hobby in general, is also a highlight. After focusing on the highlights, I'd like to offer a small observation (if I may). The attendance was down in size this year. And noticeably. Could it have been the rising gas prices? I doubt it.

Let's be honest, the hobby of old time radio is a dying breed. Very little (if any) effort has been applied to attract a younger audience. Old Time Radio suffers from an aging fan base and a declined economy has not helped recent years. But this is no fault to the convention promoter. Why? Because it's been happening all over. In fact, I've only seen two conventions (of the 20 plus that I attend every year) that has grown in size. What we really need are more young people in the hobby. Heck, a convention promoter from the West Coast told me from his mouth to my ears, "Old Time Radio has pretty much run its course."

Transcription discs for sale. Dollar bill in picture for size comparison.

The free download thing hasn't helped much, either. Allow me to explain. A percentage of the attendance comes to spend money from the vendor tables. A percentage come to watch the radio creations on stage. A percentage come for the seminars and movie screening. A percentage come repeatedly, hell or high water, because it's a family reunion where no one is related. And a percentage come for more than one of these reasons. But when the vendors slowly bail out and stop attending, that's one less venue promoting the convention. After all, vendors distribute flyers at other events (and insert flyers in their mail orders) but why would they promote an event they are not setting up at? Vendors bail out because sales are down. And why would people buy old time radio shows when they can download them off the internet for free? Yeah, free is free, but someone paid for the transcription discs and took the time to transfer them to audio files. One vendor in Arkansas, who used to show up at all of the old time radio conventions, told me that when he spent $1,000 for 40 plus transcription discs, and transferred them to audio CDs and then sold them, three days later the same recordings were up on a web-site for free downloads. Since then, he ceased buying transcription discs when they were offered to him. "Why would I want to spend that kind of an investment when my returns are diminished to zero overnight?" I don't blame him. And neither do the other vendors who decided to follow his lead. So in part, free downloading of radio shows have hurt the hobby. Vendors don't make sales, they stop attending, and attendees who came to wander a glorified vendor room get disappointed and stop coming. It's a cycle that keeps revolving.

"It breaks my heart to see what is happening to OTR," concluded Newman. "Most, if not all of the clubs are having trouble attracting new members and use of the libraries continues to spiral down.  So many of the conventions have stopped.  I have been told that this is the last year for Newark. I pray that some how we can come up with a way to bring about a revival so that future generations will have the opportunity and pleasure to know how great it was and still can be."
Now that I'm off my soap box, I'd like to add that Bob puts on a good show and deserves more. If you live within driving distance of Cincinnati, Ohio, consider coming to the 2012 event. If you want to learn more about the 2012 event, visit:

It's all about the friends. Back row, left to right: Chris Holm, Rick Payne, Janie Bright, Mary Lowe, myself, Rodney Bowcock, Gary Lowe and Grant Gardner. Front row, left to right: Neal Ellis, Roy Bright, Ken Stockinger and Robert Ellis.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Batman: The TV Series

Holy Boob Tube, Batman! The 1966-68 television series featured actor Adam West as the Caped Crusader, and Burt Ward who donned nylon stockings and fairy boots for his portrayal of the erstwhile sidekick, Robin. The show was noteworthy for its memorable use of onomatopoeia during climactic fight scenes, and while it proved popular to many fans, and transformed Adam West and the rest of the television cast into modern pop culture icons, I still can't wonder what the heck goes on here. Personally, I watched over a dozen episodes (giving it a fair chance to appreciate what everyone else seems to see) and to this day I still think the show is stupid. Stupid might be too harsh of a word. Ridiculous and silly are perhaps a bit more accurate.

Cesar Romero as "The Joker"
However, Batman is perhaps one of the top five most-often bootlegged television programs on DVD. We all know why Fox and Greenway have not put the series out on DVD by this time and frankly, it's their financial loss. Two fantastic movies from Christopher Nolan opened the door to a possibility of cross-promoting. Are the studios listening? Apparently not. And with illegal downloading on the internet, a commercial release today might be hampered by Rapid Share, You Tube and other venues people are using to download the television programs.

Like a lot of motion pictures, radio programs and television programs, the history behind Batman is more fascinating than watching another two-parter with Art Carney as The Archer or Cliff Robertson as Shame. Regardless of what the history books tell us, Batman was not the brain child of William Dozier. The network, ABC, approached William Dozier with the idea. "When they first proposed the series to me, I reacted with complete horror," recalled Dozier. "They somehow had the instinctive feeling at the network that a series based on a comic book character might somehow be a success. I could understand why they wanted to do a program for children, but I couldn't see anything in it to interest me."

The American Broadcasting Company had carefully chosen their property long before they came to veteran TV producer Dozier. They sent a public relations firm all over the country with the names of about 15 comic book heroes. The number one choice was Dick Tracy. Number two was Batman. Superman, naturally, was number three.ABC tried to buy the rights to Dick Tracy, but the rights were not immediately available. So they then turned to the number two choice.

Talent fees for the episode, "A Piece of the Action."
For the first few days after agreeing to do the show, Dozier was baffled by the whole thing. "Then, suddenly," he recalled, "I hit upon this tongue-in-cheek idea -- the so-called 'camp' approach. This seems obvious now, and when I began to see the show in these terms, it began to amuse me. In fact, it began to interest me so much that I found I could enjoy it. Then I felt that older adults could enjoy it, and I found it easy to work on. This was the concept from the beginning and we never shot a foot of film with any other style."

Dozier made arrangements with Lorenzo Semple, a writer he had worked with before. He was at that time living in Torremolinos on the south coast of Spain. After reading a few issues of the comic books, Semple met Dozier at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. Semple and Dozier composed of the basics and the premise, and by the time Semple moved to the U.S., he had the entire draft completed. The rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The popularity of the colorful villains, and the actors who portrayed them, is perhaps the only endearing charm of the program. As evident in the poll (photo enclosed on the left), Catwoman was the most popular, followed by The Riddler and The Penguin. Oddly, Mr. Freeze and The Minstrel were more popular than The Joker! (Ever notice how Cesar Romero never shaved his mustache off to play the role? White face paint was put right over his upper lip and mustache!)

Production Sheet for The Clock King episode.
One question that continues to plague fans today: why did John Astin play the role of The Riddler, instead of Frank Gorshin, for the episodes "A Riddling Controversy" and "Batman's Anniversary"? According to a letter dated May 9, 1966, from William Dozier to Frank Gorshin, the Hollywood impressionist had acquired new agents, the William Morris office, who insisted that he be paid $5,000 for his role as The Riddler. Dozier would not pay the fee, and turned down the new salary demand. "I had hoped you would be satisfied to reap your financial harvest from the multiplicity of opportunities playing The Riddler has opened up for you, rather than attempt to exact a fatter stipend from Batman," Dozier wrote. "Our budget just can't stand it, as much as we shall dislike having to recruit another Riddler." (Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy for his role as The Riddler at the time, so this may have generated the William Morris insistence that Gorshin be paid more for his services.)

Among the proposed villains for the series was The Ghost, Rita the Ripper, The Corkscrew,The Calendar Man, The Dancer, The Eel (described as a slippery fellow), Lady Macbeth, and Two Face. Believe it or not, there was a teleplay written with Two Face as well as a number of plot proposals. None of them ever faced the camera. Had the series been renewed for a fourth season, Two Face would have almost become a certainty and consulting the production paperwork, it appears Clint Eastwood was slated for the role!

Frank Gorshin as The Riddler
By today's standards, the cost of television production was relatively cheap. The first two episodes of the series, considered the pilot, cost $572,000. Beginning with the second episode, each two-part episode averaged $205,000 each, and the total cost of the first season (all 17 hour shows) was $3,327,000. Situation comedies, reusing the same living room and office sets, cost much more in salary per half-hour episode!

The episode that intrigued me the most was one written by mystery writer Henry Slesar, "The Greatest Mother of Them All," with the beautiful Shelley Winters in the role. Dozier originally wanted Bette Davis to play the role, but she turned him down. The original draft was scripted late March 1966, titled "Mother's Day Madness." Dozier and Howie Horwitz loved the premise, offered suggestions, and Slesar submitted a revised synopsis in mid-April, titled "Mother of Them All." Obviously, it was re-titled before they went into production.

On August 19, 1966, Shelley Winters was disappointed with the production. She was not apparently aware of the format and felt, like Otto Preminger and George Sanders, the program was beneath her. Walking out the door on her way to the Ladies' Room, she slipped in a pool of water. The faucet, it was later determined, was leaking very badly and never repaired. She refused first aid treatment on the set, and was very boisterous in her opinion about the company, the production office and Fox studios. The television production was delayed approximately one half-hour. After Howie Horwitz talked to Shelley Winters, she settled down and decided to return to the set and shoot the remaining three shots she had on the picture. (According to an inter-office memo dated August 12, a week before the "accident," Shelley Winters disapproved of the wardrobe, holding the company up for 40 minutes.) It's no wonder Winters never made a return visit to the set.

Art Linkletter's possible appearance?
The program was extremely popular with children. Not so popular for adults. By the third and final season, Dozier pushed ABC to consider broadcasting the program in a once-a-week, hour-long time slot. ABC executives, proud of the successful format, avoided any consideration to change the program's format. Dozier presented polls and statistics that proved more than 50 percent of the audience preferred the show as an hour-long format. Dozier even referenced Lost in Space as an example. But ABC had statistics of their own: the ratings were slipping and the juvenile audience was now considering programs of a serious nature. Ironically, while the program's ratings were at an all-time low, Hollywood actors begging to be on the program, was at an all-time high. Some of the actors were motivated by their children, who asked their father or mother to try for a part. Joan Bennett and Greer Garson wanted to play a role (neither of them got the chance). Edward G. Robinson and Dick Clark accepted invitations. Celeste Holm called the studio and personally asked to play a role, having recently seen Anne Baxter as a Olga, Queen of the Cossacks/Zelda. Joan Crawford would have made an appearance, had she not been scheduled for Pepsi through the entire month of shooting an episode that Dozier felt she would have been perfect. Agnes Moorehead, Shirley Jones, Nanette Fabray, James Mason, Robert Morley, Rod Steiger and Raymond Massey were also among the list of celebrities who expressed an eagerness to play a special guest villain. Kirk Douglas would have, but had to reject the prospect  because he was venturing to Mexico for a film shoot at the time (and Douglas asked Dozier not to tell his kids because not appearing on the program would have disappointed them).

Like NBC and CBS, ABC had their own Department of Broadcast Standards and Practices. The department reviewed each and every shooting script before filming and submitted a list of suggested modifications. This was to limit any possibility of a lawsuit from viewers (or concerned parents). After reviewing a ton of these "reports," some requests are obvious while others are definitely a charmer. In "Hizzonner, The Penguin," the network requested that none of the campaign buttons were identifiable as belonging to any actual organization or party. "Please modify Commissioner Gordon's second line [on page 40] so as not to completely disillusion the youth of this great country of ours," the network requested.

For "The Penguin's Nest," the network requested Bruce Wayne's line, "Good Lord," be replaced with something different. An added caution was to ensure the gun was not actually touching Aunt Harriet's head.

In "Come Back, Shame," ABC requested Shame's "dang" be replaced, theorizing that if he's speaking with a southern drawl, it might be mistaken as "damn." The network also requested that they eliminate the business of dropping the hot rivet down Rip's trousers. At the conclusion of part one, Batman and Robin were to be hung by the neck. The network objected, bold facing the word "UNACCEPTABLE," asking that the death threat come from another source, fearing young children pretending to be Batman and Robin might try to hang themselves in the same manner.

Archival Materials
For fans of the Batman television program, the archival letters, inter-office memos and production sheets from my collection were chosen at random. From time to time I have made copies of certain pages for serious researchers and authors, but my schedule is too hectic to answer every request. Rejects are almost certain. I understand that generating a blog post of this nature will more than likely generate a number of requests for scanned copies of the Batman collection, especially from obsessed fan boys, so please remember that the entire collection spans over 3,000 plus sheets of paper and I have not yet cataloged or filed every sheet of paper under categories so finding anything specific is a needle in a haystack. With this explanation, it is impossible to answer most requests.

Batman Meets Godzilla
After the success of the 1966 motion picture, in 1968, Dozier considered doing a sequel, Batman Meets Godzilla. A multi-page plot summary was composed for a feasible screenplay, with Commissioner Gordon and Barbara taking a well-deserved vacation in Tokyo. When the monster rises out of the water, Batman comes to the rescue. It's not known if a screenplay was ever developed, but it seems unlikely that the rights to using Godzilla for the Batman sequel was ever acquired.

According to a June 1966 issue of Hollywood Reporter, William Dozier was contemplating using the title Batman Encounters King Kong for the sequel. Gordon E. Youngman of Youngman, Hungate & Leopold (a law firm representing RKO General, Inc.) notified 20th Century Fox, and William Dozier, that permission would never be granted. According to the letter, the studio was currently negotiating the licensing of King Kong for a motion picture, and informed Fox that any use of the name or character would be an infringement. Dozier responded on June 28, stating "nothing could be further from the truth."

Conception sketch for Batgirl's costume.
For the third season of the program, Yvonne Craig was hired to play the role of Batgirl. Like the 1997 motion-picture, Batman and Robin, the addition of a female crime fighter was eye candy to a fan boy's fantasy. But the series was already doomed -- and perhaps three crime fighters are a bit too much. Dozier admitted in an inter-office memo that while nothing obvious was to be displayed on the screen, romance between Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon was going to be shadowed with Batman's concern for Batgirl's safety in the role of a female in peril. To introduce Batgirl to ABC and convince network executives that a female element was needed, a short pilot film was made in 1967. In 1974, a few years after the television program ended, Craig appeared as Batgirl in a film short, a Department of Labor public service announcement, advocating equal pay for women.

Yvonne Craig as Batgirl
January 1968: The Batmobile from the television series briefly became the official Batmobile of the comics (beginning with Detective Comics, issue #371). Twenty-three issues later, Batman abandons the Batmobile for something more modern and faster.

Tim Burton paid homage to the television program in the two Batman movies he directed. In Batman (1989), the Joker destroyed Gotham's art exhibit at the museum, and in Batman Returns (1992), the Penguin ran for mayor -- both of which were plots from the television program.

One positive side to come from the television program: the comic books underwent a drastic change from campy to a more darker, serious tone. In 1969, Dick Grayson (Robin) attended college. Batman moved from Wayne Manor into a penthouse apartment atop the Wayne Foundation building in downtown Gotham City, in order to be closer to Gotham City's crime. Batman spent the 1970s and early 1980s mainly working solo, with occasional team-ups with Robin and/or Batgirl. Batman's adventures also become somewhat darker and more grim during this period, depicting increasingly violent crimes, including the first appearance (since the early Golden Age) of an insane, murderous Joker, and the arrival of Ra's Al Ghul, who made an appearance in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005).

Cavalcade of America, A History In Pictures

I often consider network radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 1940s as "The Lost Hollywood." regardless of the numerous books written about old time radio broadcasts, very few books centering on Hollywood celebrities have received any kind of similar treatment. I rarely see biographies exploring a celebrity's radio career, which has either gone unnoticed or unexplored. With but few exceptions like Scott Allan Nolan's Boris Karloff book and Stephen Youngkin's Peter Lorre book, which truly documented a superb job of their radio acting credits, it's still disappointing to know that very few authors writing biographies about Hollywood stars are exploring this relatively important aspect of their Hollywood career.

A few books like Art Pierce's superb Lux Radio Theatre have documented programs that are strictly considered a Hollywood production. Stars appeared before the microphone to promote their latest motion pictures, and to reprise their movie roles, by request of the movie studios. My favorite happens to be The Cavalcade of America, which was among the more polished weekly productions -- and what I often use as an example when referring to the "unexplored Hollywood." 

Cavalcade began in 1935 when the Dupont Company began sponsoring the radio program by means of enhancing the company's image and bringing great events of American History to an audience of millions. This weekly program ultimately gained enough prestige to hire Hollywood and Broadway actors to play leading and supporting roles. Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Agnes Moorehead, Errol Flynn, Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, John McIntire, Richard Widmark, John Lund and Bette Davis were just a few.

In what could be considered a high school project, I wrote a book about the program many years ago. Obviously, since then, I have acquired a wealth of additional material -- including photographs. I am including a number of them for your review.

Agnes Moorehead and Frank Readick
The earliest years (1935 to 1939) were broadcast over CBS. Any photograph with the CBS microphone, such as this one with Agnes Moorehead and Frank Readick, verify this to have originated from the first four seasons.

The program originated from a theater, allowing a live studio audience to watch the performance. Notice the curtain in the background, promoting the sponsor, Dupont. Notice Agnes Moorehead wearing a hat on stage. When I interviewed Raymond Edward Johnson many years ago, he told me that the program had such a prestige that it was a requirement that the cast and crew dress appropriately. Any radio broadcast with a live studio audience followed this rule.

The program went under a number of formats over the years. The first 39 often featured two separate dramas, portraying past and present events that lived up to the program's title. The cavalcade and pioneering of such motifs as bridge building, exploration of medical science, the humanitarian urge, railroad builders, and many others. One has to question the historical accuracy on many of these stories. No evidence has been found that most of them were based on actual news events of the past. More like dramas set in the time period we are familiar with. (The December 25, 1935 broadcast centered on child abuse, a little graphic for a holiday offering.)

Orson Welles
The photo above is Orson Welles. The exact date is unknown, but finding this among the 300 plus Cavalcade of America photos was an important find. When I was a guest on Radio Once More, discussing the Cavalcade program, I theorized that Orson Welles was among the supporting cast during the early years. There's a voice that sounds a lot like him, and Welles had not yet established himself as a name important enough to carry top billing. (The original scripts from 1935 to 1937 did not feature a cast list. However, I hope to check Variety in a couple weeks since they listed, weekly in their paper, the cast for radio programs, but only during the early thirties. Cross your fingers!)

During the summer of 1936 and 1937, the series centered on musical offerings. This allowed Dupont to spend less money during the months people were often on summer vacations. An orchestra or band was the major expense, with little or no actors needed for performances.

The photo above is one of many lobby displays Dupont created at their various plants and facilities. This one was from December or January 1940. After an 18 month hiatus, the program returned to the air on a new network, NBC. Here, the program would remain until it went off the air in 1953. Dupont began spending truck loads of cash to promote the series, and when the program gained prestige and momentum, the Hollywood stars flocked in.

For the majority that keep thinking Cavalcade of America was a program about American History, think again. During World War II, patriotic broadcasts dominated the weekly offerings. Carl Sandburg offered a poetic classic, one episode centered on modern-day songs that motivated troops and folks on the homefront, and Bob Hope dramatized a take on the USO tours.

Errol Flynn reprised his screen role for an adaptation of They Died With Their Boots On, three days before the New York City premiere. Fredric March starred in an adaptation of the stage play, Dear Brutus. Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin each contributed an episode, often dealing with fantasy.

June Havoc and Jeffrey Lynn

"The Reluctant Pioneer" (broadcast April 3, 1951), featured the story of the invention of the typewriter, and the development of the famous Remington Model #1. An explanation about photographs from radio broadcasts of the past: The photo above was taken for publicity. It was not uncommon for the sponsor or network to pay a photographer to take multiple photos during rehearsals, for inclusion in newspapers and magazines.
Carl Sandburg and Burgess Meredith

Even photos like the one above with Carl Sandburg and Burgess Meredith (for the episode "Native Land") was not taken during the actual broadcast. It was taken during the rehearsals. In fact, almost every photo you ever see for a radio program was taken during rehearsals. After all, the photographer would have been considered a distraction, and the sponsor would never have risked the exposure of the sound of the camera being picked up over the microphone. The text you see above was taped to the back of the June Havoc photograph. This is referred to as a press release, and often accompanied every photograph. It's also a clear indication that the photo you find is an original and not a "copy." Even the photo of Joel McCrea walking up to the microphone was taken during rehearsals.

Joel McCrea
After 1945, the program slowly reverted back to a weekly biography, highlighting some inventor, pioneer or inspiration for today's luxuries. Many times there was a tie-in to a product manufactured by Dupont.

The highlight of the program by this time was the Hollywood celebrities who flocked to the microphone. Ida Lupino, Robert Young, Henry Fonda, Loretta Young, James Stewart, Basil Rathbone, Thomas Mitchell, Bill Stern, Walter Hampden, Franchot Tone, Claire Trevor and many others. The broadcasts were often timed to the second and when the celebrities "relaxed" for an informal discussion about their personal life or Hollywood career at the conclusion of the broadcasts, these discussions were scripted in advance. For the Joel McCrea photo above, notice the floor mat to soften or cushion the sound as they approach the microphone. 

John Payne
The photo above was taken three days before the January 17, 1949 broadcast, titled "Secret Operation". It told the story of the mysterious operation performed by Dr. John Erdmann on President Grover Cleveland. The story of how this procedure to treat his cancer, prevented a panic. The real 85-year-old Dr. Erdmann appeared on the program after the drama, and this photo has John Payne shaking hands with the real Dr. John Erdmann. 

The photo above is during the rehearsals of "Children of Ol' Man River," broadcast from February 4, 1946. A biograph of the life of Billy Bryant on a Mississippi showboat at the end of an era. Janet Blair and John Hodiak are at the microphone. The old man sitting in the chair at the far right is Francis X. Bushman.

The photo below is a bit unique. John Lund is admiring a leather case holding two transcription discs, a copy of "Break the News" from July 12, 1948. The drama centered on the history of the Associated Press, told on its one hundredth anniversary. Dupont went to the added expense of having a transcription disc produced and presented to every Hollywood actor who made a guest appearance on the program. Dupont themselves retained a set of discs for their own collection.
John Lund

Thanks to the efforts of Neal Ellis of Radio Once More, those Dupont archival discs have been transferred digitally and are being cleaned up for collectors. Considering the fact that these are from the archival masters, Neal, once again, goes to the effort to consult the first-generation source and offer the best quality you can possibly get.

As a fan of Cavalcade, I cannot express in words the enjoyment I am getting from hearing crisp, sharp and superb sound quality. They are definitely the best quality on the market and upgrades from all the copies I have bought from collectors over the past decade. Another plus side I should point out from Neal's efforts: three "lost" episodes were among the collection (now available) and four of the five existing recordings that are not in circulation (stored in an archive) are also available. For an updated list of the lost episodes not known to exist, check out this link

The photograph on the left offers you a glimpse of what a transcription disc looks like. I cannot express the importance of collectors finding the "lost" episodes. More importantly, if you find a transcription disc, don't try to play it on your record player. It won't work on a standard LP record player. You need to send it to someone who has a transcription disc player who can make the proper transfer. Also to be taken into consideration is the necessity to have the recording cleaned up properly using a Cedar system, which eliminates most of the static and surface noise from the recording. For more information about the Cedar system, click this link.

With luck, I'll be able to feature the 300 plus photographs in an updated (revised) book about The Cavalcade of America, due for publishing in 2012. The original 500 page book was published in 1999, so it seems fitting that an updated and more definitive edition be available. If you have any photographs from the series that you think I don't have, feel free to contact me. I'm always on the lookout for high res scans (tif format) related to The Cavalcade of America.

I want to apologize to anyone who finds the watermarks on the photos a distraction. I agree that the use of a watermark degrades the experience. If I had my choice, I would not have done so. But the reason I chose to do it is because I spent a great deal of time and money getting copies of these photos scanned for my up-coming book and two web sites in particular have already established a track record of "lifting" such things off other people's web-sites and worse, claiming they were responsible for originating the photos. Since the photos are presented here for you to look at, you can be assured that preservation methods have been taken to ensure the untouched and unaltered photos remain intact. The watermark is applied only for this blog.