Thursday, September 28, 2023

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on BOLD VENTURE

Bold Venture, the weekly radio program starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, will soon be available to the masses... provided enough pledges are made to make it happen. You can click the link below to learn more. What follows is a brief summary of the radio program.

The radio program ran a total of 78 half-hour episodes and today has become highly sought after by fans of old-time radio because (at best) only half of the episodes exist in collector hands. Until recently, the archival transcription discs sat in an archive and were destined to gather dust until an entrepreneur named Carl Amari made the arranges to license the program. After all these decades, all 78 half-hour episodes were transferred from the masters and will soon be available to listen to in gorgeous sound quality. But there is a catch… crowdfunding is being used to cover the expenses and collectors need to provide financial support to make it happen. All of the recordings have been transferred, so fans will not have to wait long for the recordings… but the crowdfunding effort needs to reach a goal to meet fruition.


For those who are not aware, Bold Venture was the story of a man, Slate Shannon, and a girl, Gail “Sailor” Duval. Slate was an adventuresome, rugged individualist. Having traveled all over the world and was confidant of people of all nationalities and all classes, his likes and dislikes was judgment and decisions made without hesitation. Life to Slate was a gamble and like the true gambler, he took his wins and losses with philosophical calm. In Havana, Cuba, where he elected to live, he owned and operated a small inn on the harborside waterfront. His clientele was international; millionaires and socially elite who came South to fish Cuban waters. Upon occasion a much-wanted international crook took refuge behind his hospitality. 


Lauren Bacall played the role of Gail Duval, a young and attractive girl, the only child of a widowed American father of French descent. Years before, business interests took her father and infant daughter to an obscure European country where, recently, corrupt officials stole her father’s passports and visa, leaving them stranded without recourse to the protection due United States citizens. With her father’s health failing rapidly, he wrote a letter on his deathbed instructing her to find his longtime friend, Slate Shannon. The money her father gave her, along with the letter, enabled Gail to “buy” her way out of the country and into Havana, melting pot of stranded refugees. There, Slate Shannon read the letter and discovered the young, well-educated and attractive girl was committed to his care by an old and trusting friend. 


For a few months Slate attempted to get Gail into the United States, but her citizenship could not be established. Gail was literally a girl without a country. And further, as the months went by, Gail became less and less anxious to leave Havana and Slate Shannon. She came to like the waterfront life and the interesting people she met. One thing became clear early in their relationship. Gail knew boats and how to handle them. She had been practically raised on the waters of the Mediterranean and literally cut her teeth on a tiller. She quickly proved she was more than capable of handling his big Sport Fisherman, “Bold Venture.”


“Bold Venture” was a charter boatman’s dream. Forty-two feet overall, twelve-foot, six beam, trunk cabin forward, broad transom and low freeboard aft, a big Brooks-Wilson fighting chair in the after cockpit, topside and under-water outriggers, flying bridge controls on the deckhouse top and a pair of husky Hall-Scott Invaders under flush hatches in the cockpit floor.  (The fictional Bold Venture was patterned after the fishing yacht owned by the Bogarts named “Santana.”) So, Gail cooked up a deal with Slate. She would skipper the Bold Venture on shares. On her persuasive charm, he agreed. This is how she came to be known along the waterfront of Havana harbor and in Slate’s hotel as “Sailor.”


Also heard on the radio program was King Moses, a coal-black Negro with a touch of Voodoo about him. A Haitian, now attached to Slate, his nimble brain, facile tongue and flashing fingers on the strings of his guitar, gave voice to the Calypso songs he creates to interpret the feeling of Slate and Gail, or give subtle warning to Slate when danger impends. By comparison, some of the radio listeners might have equated King Moses to Sam of Casablanca, and the entire radio program in general a merge of both Casablanca and Key Largo. But movie goers who could not get enough of those movies could find continuation on Bold Venture.


The rough and tumble setting of a tropical waterfront was novel appeal for those who recall Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in roles remnant to that of Warner Brothers’ Key Largo, a web of swift dramatic adventure that gripped the viewers. Besides the music unique from that of other radio programs on the networks, and the talented cast, credit for the success of this series went to Morton Fine and David Friedkin, who wrote all 78 radio scripts. (Their initial contract was for 52 episodes.)


The combined efforts of Fine and Friedkin were known among radio circles as one of the best script writing duo in Hollywood, most notably a clause in the initial draft of their employment contract stipulating what story material could and could not be recycled for use on other radio programs, Suspense listed in particular. 


Bogart once told a reporter that he chose Bold Venture because he refused one radio offer after another, and when the writers, Morton Fine and David Friedkin, came to him with the idea of a radio script for him and his wife, he told them what he did not want in a script. “I don’t want the usual detective story, with the typical detective and his husky-voiced blonde. You know the type. There are at least ten or twelve on the air nightly every week. After telling these two writers what I didn’t want, they came up with Bold Venture. It’s the sort of thing the kids will love. It’s a quick-paced adventure story for the entire family. We’ve got some Calypso music in it – that’s because we don’t use any of the usual narrative stuff – and plenty of snappy dialogue, and we usually kill off someone every night.”


What really sold the Bogarts, publicity quotes aside, was the fact that his production company would take a share of the profits, sponsors in small towns would be able to buy a big-name program, and the advantage of continued airings meant Bogart would be drawing an income from the transcriptions long after he finished making them. More importantly, this afforded the Bogarts a healthy, steadily increasing fund to be sacked away under the name of their youngster, Stephen, to ensure his future security. 


Then, too, the taping of the radio program allowed the Bogarts time for movie-making commitments at film studios, as well as free time for after-film vacations. After finishing Sirocco for Columbia Pictures, Humphrey Bogart reported to the recording studio where the couple whizzed through 38 shows at a three-a-week rate, before flying out to Africa to film African Queen with Katharine Hepburn. Lauren Bacall normally remained home to play housewife and mother, but she chose to travel to Africa with her husband to combo the trip as a vacation. She was under contract to star or co-star in one film a year for the 20th Century-Fox Film Corp., and would occasionally appear in a movie from time to time. For a spell, Bold Venture afforded her the luxury to reject script proposals and instead chose the movies at her discretion. (By the time the series too to the air, March 26, the Bogarts were in Africa filming the movie.)

Reportedly (if trade columns are to be believed) the budget was set at $650,000 for the first 52 programs. Advance publicity was, for the most part, the same as other programs syndicated by Ziv. Amusingly, promotion for Bold Venture came with a stipulation not found with other programs: “Wherever the names Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are used, they must be of equal size and side by side. This art is for your use in producing advertising and promotional pieces in conjunction with Bold Venture.”


From a business standpoint, Bogart and Bacall formed Santana Pictures, a production company that would be responsible for multiple motion-pictures to be released through Columbia Pictures, and the Bold Venture radio program. Ziv’s financial contribution for the radio program meant checks made payable to Santana Corporation, to cover actors, musicians, sound effects men, and everyone except the script writers. The script writers were paid through the payroll count and social security deductions were applied.


Bogart’s salary for co-starring on Bold Venture was $1,000 per episode; Lauren Bacall’s salary was $500 per episode. While the Bogarts were responsible for the production, including music costs, salaries for other members of the cast, direction and sound effects, it was Ziv who was responsible for furnishing the radio scripts. Ziv’s actual script costs would be recoupable out of Santana’s share of gross revenue.


Following distribution and sponsorship contracts, Ziv was required to pay Santana Pictures a sum of forty percent of the gross revenue up to the first $10,000, and then fifty percent of gross revenue beyond the first $10,000. With an estimated cost of $2,450 per radio program, Ziv advanced Santana Pictures $127,400 to cover production costs for the first 52 episodes produced. In most cases, the cost of production was kept below the estimated costs, but not considerable. Cost of production for episode #32, as an example, came to $2,334.60.


Ziv, meanwhile, had already signed up sponsors for purchasing deals by this time including the Imperial Tobacco Company (entire Dominion of Canada), Pfeiffer Brewing Company of Detroit, Michigan (35 markets), Genesee Brewing of Rochester, New York (for the upper half of New York State), the Stagmaier Brewing Company of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (for Eastern Pennsylvania and lower New York State), the Hand Brewery of Minneapolis, Minnesota (for ten markets including Honolulu, Hawaii), Kaiser Frazer (13 markets), the Bardahl Oil Company (six markets) and Interstate Bakeries in Los Angeles, California.


The radio program was syndicated. This meant local stations could rent the transcription discs and then sell the airtime at a profit with a local sponsor. As a few examples:


WOW (NBC) Omaha, Nebraska, for the Electrical Fixtures & Supply Company

WDSU (ABC) New Orleans, for the McKenzie Baking Company

WSJS (NBC) Winston-Salem, North Carolina, co-op to 4 Savings and Loan Associations

WFCI (ABC) Providence, Rhode Island, for the James Hanley Brewing Company

KTBS (NBC) Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Jordan & Booth Men’s Store

WRHI (MBS) Rock Hill, South Carolina, for the Walker Electric Company 

KVOL (NBC) Lafayette, Louisiana, for the Trappey Beverage Company

WBCK (MBS) Battle Creek, Michigan, for Pfeiffers Beer

WERC (NBC) Erie, Pennsylvania, for Mintglo Products

WAFB (MBS) Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Regal Beer

WJHL (ABC) Johnson City, Tennessee, for the City Oil Company

KNEA (IND) Jonesboro, Arkansas, for Heineman’s Department Store

KWHK (IND) Hutchinson, Kansas, for the Phillips Furniture Store


By the end of March 1951, Bold Venture was sold in 76 percent of all the television markets in the United States. As for the radio program, over 250 markets (consisting of more than 400 radio stations) bought the radio program in the first 30 days. The earliest broadcast date to start airing the program, under contracts, was March 25, 1951. The program was heard over the air in certain parts of the country as late as 1955.


The April 9, 1951, issue of Newsweek featured an article about the Bogart’s venture, citing 423 radio stations was earning the couple $4,000 a week, and would more than likely net them $250,000 in the next two years. The August 1951 issue of Life magazine featured a publicity spread with Bogart and Bacall, citing under one caption, “Calypso score often sets Lauren dancing.”


In 1955, the Bogarts sold Santana Pictures to the Columbia Pictures Corporation, which included all seven motion-pictures and the radio program, Bold Venture. Under the terms of the contract, 100 percent ownership of the radio program was Santana, not Ziv. Frederick Ziv’s company was merely the syndicator. (By comparison, Bogart and Bacall were the authors and the publishing company collected a percentage for printing and distribution.) Santana Pictures would be dissolved and all of its assets were assigned to Columbia Pictures Corp. as of midnight, August 31, 1955. 


The script writers, who could have attained some status of ownership, were merely work for hire, surrendering any chance of ownership. In the summer of 1956, when Frederick W. Ziv explored the possibility of producing a Bold Venture television program (with different actors, of course), he approached a representative at Columbia Pictures, now the owner of the property. Columbia offered to sell the program for $5,000. This was necessary for Ziv to produce a television series. Ownership of the program also included complete rights to the music contained within the radio platters. The bill of sale (dated October 2, 1956) assigned and transferred to Ziv all rights, titles and interests to the Bold Venture property, including the literary, dramatic and musical material. 


The television program was less of a success as the radio counterpart, even though it was reportedly sold in 76 percent of all television markets in the United States. Partly because Dane Clark and Joan Marshall did not have the draw appeal of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and partly because television syndication was starting to take an uppercut from the major networks that, as part owner of filmed television programs, began syndicating initial runs in syndication package deals of their own thus referred to as “re-runs.” The Havana location was replaced with Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, supposedly due to U.S.-Cuban relations at the time.



Plus a special audition disc

There is a Christmas teaser tag disc.

There are discs with Genesee Beer Spots #1 to 7.

There is a disc with Stegmaier Beer commercials from WOR.



Humphrey Bogart as Slate Shannon

Lauren Bacall as Sailor Duval

Supporting cast: Shirley Mitchell, Tyler McVey, Stan Waxman, Tony Barret, Jay Novello, Joe DuVal, and Junius Mathews.

Music under the direction of David Rose.

Directed by Henry Hayward.


This is one of those occasions that happen two or three times a year where your financial contribution can help preserve and make these recordings available for generations. And… on top… something to enjoy listening to when you drive to and from work. So consider lending a hand and making a donation at the link below. 


Thursday, September 21, 2023


George Pal: Man of Tomorrow chronicles the life and films of the trailblazing producer/director/ animator who fathered modern science fiction cinema. George Pal’s classics like Destination MoonWhen Worlds CollideThe War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine were a quantum leap forward for the genre’s quality, intelligence, and special effects wizardry. When few people in Hollywood—or elsewhere-- took science fiction seriously, Pal steadfastly stood by it, paving the way for SF’s enormous future popularity and inspiring generations of filmmakers. Pal’s beloved The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao elevated cinematic fantasy to new heights. 

Written and researched with the full cooperation of the George Pal Estate, Justin Humphreys’ George Pal: Man of Tomorrow involved twenty years of exhaustive research in international archives and private collections, including unprecedented access to the Pal family’s archive. This definitive, profusely illustrated biography of this visionary movie futurist includes new interviews with over sixty of Pal’s coworkers, family members, and admirers in the film industry, dozens of rare photographs, and gorgeous cover art by renowned science fiction illustrator/historian Vincent Di Fate.


I have often said that the best biographies are those that the author went to the family relatives. Sadly, that is not often the case and many biographies written today are padded with lengthy plot summaries of movies and come off like a compilation of magazine articles and movie reviews in chronological order. This is not one of those cases. I would go as far as saying this is the best biography I have read in years. Tons of interviews, quotes, trivia about the making of the movies but also the details behind the man responsible for them. 

This is as good as it gets.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Kevin Flynn and his Impressive Autograph Collection

My friend Kevin Flynn probably holds the record for being a member of volunteer staff for pop culture conventions and Comic Cons than anyone else. Most people might find this a surprise but at film festivals and fan gatherings, the staff is rarely paid. No matter how large the venue, anyone wearing a staff shirt is probably an unpaid volunteer. And for more than thirty years, Kevin devoted all of his vacation time from work to volunteer at numerous events including Fanex, Chiller Theater, Monster Mania, Horror Find, Monster Bash, Monster Rally, toy and collectible shows and, yes, even the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Being a volunteer staffer is fun, despite the fact that the job is defined as work. Some people have said it is never work if you are having fun with it. (I always say it is only "work" if you feel you have something more important to do.) And for Kevin, his devotion was important -- it was never work for him. 

Whether he was driving celebrities to and from the airport to the convention hotel, fetching bottles of ice cold water for the celebrities, navigating the autograph lines or simply sitting with the celebrity to assist them, Kevin loved what he was doing. When fans wanted their photo taken with a celebrity, it was Kevin who took their picture. 

One of the fringe benefits to being a volunteer staff member at a convention is not only the free lunch, but the free autographs. Most celebrities give volunteer staff members (identified with their staff shirts) a free autograph (or two) and for Kevin, after thirty years of conventions, he amassed what is probably one of the largest -- and most impressive -- collection of autographs I have ever seen.

Sadly, Kevin's days of volunteering are at an end. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2018, and the fact that the disease is getting worse, Kevin was forced to go into assisted living. His entire collection is now up for sale on the website listed below, and being sold off piece meal at the very same conventions he was a volunteer. All sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, Kevin's collection can be found by going to the autograph page on the website, then adjusting the search settings to "Date, New to Old." 

Among his collection we also found albums of photographs where Kevin took a moment and had his photo taken with the very celebrities he helped on those weekends. I spent the past few hours scanning many of those photos, some of which I am reprinting below. Thank you, Kevin, for all that you have done over the years.

George Romero

Sybil Danning

Nichelle Nichols

Forrest J. Ackerman

Hazel Court

Yvette Vickers

Wes Craven

Van Williams

Beverly Garland

Lindsay Wagner

Ernest Borgnine

Anne Francis

Leslie Nielsen

James Doohan

Pamela Sue Martin

Yvonne Monlaur

George Kennedy

John Schneider

Linda Hamilton

Billy Dee Williams

Alan Young