Friday, July 31, 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.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Dorothy Lowell
The epigraph for each radio broadcast described the series perfectly. "Once again, we present Our Gal Sunday, the story of an orphan girl named Sunday from the little mining town of Silver Creek, Colorado, who in young womanhood married England's richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope. The story that asks the question: Can this girl from the little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?" An invention of Frank and Anne Hummert, the series premiered on the afternoon of March 29, 1937, with Dorothy Lowell in the lead of Sunday Brinthrope. Lowell originated the role from Chicago and the part of Sunday was temporarily transferred in 1946 to Vivian Smolen while Lowell was on maternity leave. When Lowell died at childbirth, Smolen assumed the part on a permanent basis and carried it to the end of the run in 1959. My good friend and author Jim Cox wrote a fantastic piece about the radio soap opera for his book, The Great Radio Soap Operas (McFarland Publishers, 1999) and for more info about this radio program, I recommend the book.

Harry Flannery
Harry W. Flannery was editor of the Hoosier Observer (Fort Wayne, Indiana) from 1931-32, before changing to a career in radio broadcasting, serving as radio news editor for station WOWO (Fort Wayne, Indiana) from 1932-33, news editor and analyst for KMOX (St. Louis, Missouri) from 1935-40, and more importantly, served as the Berlin correspondent for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from 1940-41 and news analyst for CBS, West Coast from 1942-48. It was his career on CBS that brought Flannery into public homes from coast-to-coast. He was regularly heard on We, The People, The World Today and World News Tonight. He had his own radio program, As We See It, which premiered in 1949 and ran for a few years over ABC-Radio. He was also the author of the best seller Assignment to Berlin (1942) and co-author of Off Mike (1944).

Lou Forbes
Lou Forbes had a lengthy career on NBC, writing original music scores for the I Want a Divorce series, for which this publicity photo was taken in 1939. He also made contributions for Command Performance.

The Music Maids of KMH
These were the five lovely laddies who were known as the Music Maids on NBC's Kraft Music Hall. Dozens of radio broadcasts exist with their music. Their vocal interpretations of the season's hit tunes was a musical highlight on the Kraft-sponsored program, which starred Bob Burns with his rural comedy tales of the Van Buren hills, Pat Friday, collegiate singing star and protege of Bing Crosby, John Scott Trotter and his orchestra, and announcer Ken Carpenter. Pictured from left to right: Dottie Messmer, Alice Sizer, Bobbie Canvin, Denny Wilson and Virginia Lee Erwin. The Music Maids also contributed some of their vocals, and their time, for radio broadcasts of Command Performance. Photo taken by Ernest A. Bachrach.
The Four Clubmen
The Four Clubmen were heard on a number of CBS Radio musical programs. From 1938 to 1939, they supplied vocals on Melody and Madness, with host Robert Benchley and Warren Hull. Lorillard Tobacco Company was the sponsor, hocking Old Gold Cigarettes between musical performances and witty comedy sketches. For a short while, they also appeared as musical regulars on the Colonel Stoopnagle program circa 1944. The publicity photo above was for another CBS radio program, Gay Nineties, also known as The Gay Nineties Revue (1939-1944).

Pat Friday
This was Bing's girl Friday. I made a brief mention of her being on the Kraft program I described above. While crooner Crosby was away vacationing, the season's hit tunes were contributed by Pat Friday, on the NBC Kraft Music Hall every Thursday night. (Yes, after Bob Burns, Kraft sponsored the series with Bing Crosby as the star.) Pat Friday, a University of California at Los Angeles coed, was discovered by Crosby and made numerous guest appearances on his program. Although she was majoring in dietetics and home economics, Crosby believed the UCLA sophomore was a potential radio star for her unique interpretation of popular songs. If you have listened to a number of Kraft programs, you've heard the voice.

Poni Adams
The original photo was cut in half. I don't know who was pictured on the right. I suspect this was a publicity photo from the radio program, Darts for Dough, which began on a local Texas radio station (WFAA in Dallas) and became so popular that it won the summertime network slot replacing Al Pearce. When Pearce did not return, the sponsor, Dr. Pepper, carried the program on the regular coast-to-coast ABC network. On Darts for Dough, contestants were selected from the studio audience and by answering questions, won a number of darts which they could throw at the dart board and win money. Poni Adams was the contestant escort and rarely heard on the program since her job was to ensure the contestants did not fall while walking up to the stage, and handled the darts carefully so no one was injured. She also served as the female element of the program. I doubt there are many pictures of Poni Adams out there, so feast your eyes on this one.