Friday, August 21, 2015

Duffy's Tavern: The Premiere Episode

Colonel Stoopnagle
Since the July 1940 broadcast of Forecast exists in collector hands, the pilot for Duffy's Tavern, I thought it would be fun to explore the premiere episode of the series, from March 1941, which does not exist in recorded form. For the premiere episode of the series, there was an obvious effort to introduce the weekly regulars to the radio audience, assuming the listeners did not hear (or remember) the Forecast broadcast. The characters of Miss Duffy and Eddie the waiter are established, with Duffy wanting Archie to hire Irish Tenors for musical accompaniment in the tavern, and visitor Colonel Stoopnagle, having heard the news, tries to get hired for the job. (Similar plot a featured on Forecast? You betchum' Red Ryder.)

To prove his worth, Stoopnagle, with the assistance of the John Kirby orchestra, sings “Come Back to Ernie.” Stoopnagle fails to get the job, but his position on Duffy’s Tavern would, ten years later, become more influential than anyone predicted in 1941. He would ultimately become a weekly tavern regular in 1951. 

Billboard magazine reviewed the series premiere: “Duffy’s Tavern, one of the better program ideas showcased in Columbia’s Forecast series last summer, comes back with Ed Gardner and a sponsor. Gardner, a director of note on other radio programs, plays Archie, a harried bartender in Duffy’s Tavern. Archie is Duffy’s languid man-of-all work and is afflicted with a remarkable Hell’s Kitchen dialect completely devoid of grammar and full of engaging malapropisms. Duffy is a mythical figure, his influence being indirect but very substantial. His presence becomes known when he telephones Archie to squawk about the music and demand an Irish Tenor. These conversations are one-way affairs. Archie answers to Duffy explaining everything. Program did not score as well as the original Forecast show, but was plenty good. Everything will depend upon script and how consistently Gardner can perform. Session as it stands is certainly a novel comedy set-up. Band is John Kirby’s, a restrained tho swingy orchestra. Series’ first guest was Colonel Stoopnagle, strictly terrific in a lunatic impersonation of an Irish Tenor. Some of the plugs for Schick Razor were cleverly worked into the script.”
The March 5, 1941 issue of Variety reviewed the series premiere: “J.M. Mathes, which had good luck buying another network-built program, Information, Please, for Canada Dry, had now contracted on behalf of Schick for this program that was unveiled last summer as on…. Is a whacky idea, not easily classified. Its response, as with all comedy on the ga-ga side, either strikes the funny bone or depends the so-what crevice between arched eyebrows. One the whole, it seems a promising entertainment, adapted to Saturday night and disarmingly hokey… The program may develop material trouble fast and seriously. But its starting premise of effortless somewhat meandering, whopper-telling double talk is painless diversion if the listener isn’t thinking comparatively, and if Saturday dinner has been a success. Gardner’s ‘Archie’ has not gotten a unanimous press. On the other hand, it has gotten this far -- a CBS network.”

For fans of the radio program, I present the following, a copy of the radio script for the premiere episode (not known to exist in recorded form). Enjoy!