The Martin and Lewis Show

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Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis

During the 1940s and early 1950s, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis created some of the most memorable hilarity in the history of entertainment.  The Martin and Lewis Radio Show aired on NBC Radio from 1949 through 1953.

The comedy team was comprised of singer Dean Martin (as the “straight man”) and comedian Jerry Lewis as the comedic “foil”. The pair first met in 1945; their debut as a duo occurred at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 24/25, 1946.

Before they teamed up Martin was a nightclub singer, while Lewis did a comedy act in which he lip-synched to records. As a team, they worked in nightclubs, on radio and in television and films. In the team’s later years, it was no longer billed by the two men’s surnames alone, as in their early radio work, but by their full names: “Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.” These separate identities helped them launch successful solo careers after the team’s dissolution.

Inset “Skinny” D’Amato, owner of the 500 Club

In 1945, Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio) met a young comic named Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch, though some sources say Jerome Levitch; from Newark, N.J.) at the Glass Hat Club in New York, where both men were performing. Martin and Lewis’ official debut together occurred at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 24, 1946, and they were not a hit. The owner, Skinny D’Amato, warned them that if they didn’t come up with a better act for their second show later that same night, they would be fired.

  The Martin & Lewis Show from 7th July 1953, guest Marlene Dietrich
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Huddling together out in the alley behind the club, Lewis and Martin agreed to go for broke, to throw out the pre-scripted gags that hadn’t worked and to basically just improvise their way through the act. Dean sang some songs, and Jerry came out dressed as a busboy, dropping plates and more or less making a shambles of both Martin’s performance and the club’s sense of decorum. They did slapstick, reeled off old vaudeville jokes, and did whatever else popped into their heads at the moment. This time, the audience doubled over in laughter.

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Copacabana Club

Their success at the 500 led to a series of well-paying engagements up and down the Eastern seaboard, culminating with a triumphant run at New York’s Copacabana.

Club patrons were convulsed by the act, which consisted primarily of Lewis interrupting and heckling Martin while he was trying to sing, and ultimately the two of them chasing each other around the stage and having as much fun as possible. The secret, they have both said, is that they essentially ignored the audience and played to one another.

The Martin & Lewis Radio Show went on the air on April 3, 1949, initially without a sponsor. NBC was widely reported to be almost immediately uncomfortable with their contract, which obliged them to pay for the team’s services whether they performed on-air, or not. As things developed, the team didn’t premiere their NBC sustainer until April 3, 1949, essentially getting a free ride from NBC for the first quarter of 1949. The network spent $10,000 per show, paying each star $1,000 a week.

Movie Poster from My Friend Irma

The popular My Friend, Irma film, released in 1949, only added to the buzz over the, by then, well established comics, irrespective of how well they’d been doing their over Radio appearances. Their relatively minor roles in the Irma film, made it even more difficult for NBC to negotiate for lower compensation for the team when their contract came up for renewal for 1950. After further difficulty finding a radio sponsor for their show, The Martin & Lewis Show went off the air after broadcasting what they thought was their last show on January 30, 1950. Though the first series of Martin and Lewis Show programs ended in January of 1950, by the fall of 1950, NBC had re-signed the pair for their Colgate Comedy Hour over Television. The comedy-variety format called for rotating hosts. Beginning that fall, Martin and Lewis began a series of rotating hosting appearances that eventually spanned five years–and 35 appearances.

In an attempt to capitalize on their renewed investment in the comics, NBC reintroduced The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Show radio program in the fall of 1951. The revised format returned to its roots, with the team performing sketches and Dean Martin performing one or two musical numbers before introducing their guest star for the remainder of the night’s program. CBS was the first to begin airing both Television and Radio versions of their most popular programming. NBC and ABC soon followed suit and by 1952, American and Canadian audiences were enjoying both Radio and Television versions of many of their favourite programs.

The Martin and Lewis Show eventually ran for seventy-three of a contracted seventy-eight instalments before being finally cancelled in July of 1953.

Martin & Lewis Show from the 19th October, 1951, guest Bing Crosby
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Martin and Lewis were the hottest act in America during the early ’50s, but the pace and the pressure took their toll. Dean usually had the thankless job of the straight man, and his singing had yet to develop into his unique style of his later years. The critics praised Lewis, and while they admitted that Martin was the best partner he could have, most of them claimed that Lewis was the real talent of the team and could succeed with anyone. It is worth noting that Lewis always praised his partner, and while he appreciated the attention he was getting, he has always said with complete conviction that the act would never have worked without Martin. In the book Dean & Me Lewis calls Martin one of the great comic geniuses of all time.

Dean Martin was becoming tired of scripts limiting him to colourless romantic leads while the stories centered on the antics of Jerry Lewis. Martin also noticed that Lewis was playing comedy scenes for pathos and greed and staging more of the action himself, having lost vision of what their comedy team-up was all about in the first place.

The last straw came when Look gave Martin and Lewis a cover photo—and cropped Martin out of the picture, humiliating Martin. Martin dutifully fulfilled the rest of his movie contract, but put less and less enthusiasm into his work and becoming increasingly disillusioned about his partnership with Lewis, leading to escalating arguments with Lewis. The two finally could not possibly work together, especially when Martin angrily told his partner that he was “nothing to me but a fucking dollar sign.

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Jerry Lewis on his split from Dean Martin

Martin left the act at his first opportunity, on July 25, 1956, ten years to the day after their first official teaming.

While both Martin and Lewis went on to successful solo careers for years neither would comment on the split nor consider a reunion. They made occasional public appearances together between their breakup and 1961 but were not seen together until a surprise appearance by Martin on Lewis’s Labour Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976 arranged by Frank Sinatra.

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Frank bringing Dean and Jerry together again in 1976

The pair eventually reconciled in the late 1980s after the death of Martin’s son, Dean Paul Martin. The two men were seen together on stage in Las Vegas when Lewis pushed out Dean’s birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday” to him. In Lewis’s 2005 book Dean and Me (A Love Story), Lewis wrote of his kinship with Martin, who died in 1995.

The Martin and Lewis Show can be heard on the American Comedy Channel at the following times: Mon – Fri at 06:00 GMT, Saturdays at 18:00 GMT and Sundays at 10:00 GMT

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Duffy’s Tavern

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Ed Garner’s Duffy’s Tavern

Duffy’s Tavern was a popular American radio situation comedy which ran for a decade on several networks (CBS, 1941–1942; NBC-Blue Network, 1942–1944; NBC, 1944–1951), concluding with the December 28, 1951 broadcast.

The program often featured celebrity guest stars but always hooked them around the misadventures, get-rich-quick schemes and romantic missteps of the title establishment’s malaprop-prone, metaphor-mixing manager, Archie, portrayed by Ed Gardner, the writer/actor who co-created the series.

In the familiar opening, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” performed either solo on an old-sounding piano or by a larger orchestra, was interrupted by the ring of a telephone and Gardner’s New York  accent as he answered, “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin’. Duffy ain’t here—oh, hello, Duffy.”

Writer, Actor and Co-creator Ed Gardner

Owner Duffy was never heard over the telephone or seen (in the 1945 film adaptation or the short-lived 1954 TV series). Archie constantly bantered with Duffy’s man-crazy daughter, Miss Duffy (played by several actresses, beginning with Gardner’s real-life first wife, Shirley Booth), and especially with Clifton Finnegan (Charlie Cantor, later Sid Raymond), a likeable soul with several screws loose and a knack for falling for every other salesman’s scam. Eddie the Waiter was played by Eddie Green; the pianist Fats Pichon took over the role after Green’s death in 1950. Hoping to take advantage of the income tax free status of Puerto Rico for future projects, Gardner moved the radio show there in 1949.

The series featured many high-profile guest stars, including Fred Allen, Mel Allen, Nigel Bruce, Billie Burke, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Boris Karloff, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Peter Lorre, Tony Martin, Marie McDonald, Gene Tierney, Arthur Treacher and Shelley Winters. As the series progressed, Archie slipped in and out of a variety of quixotic, self-imploding plotlines—from writing an opera to faking a fortune to marry an heiress. Such situations mattered less than did the clever depiction of earthbound-but-dreaming New York life and its individualistic, often bizarre characters.

Duffy’s Tavern was Gardner’s creation, and he oversaw its writing intently enough, drawing also on his earlier experience as a successful radio director. His directing credits included stints for George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and The Rudy Vallee Hour. Gardner also brought aboard several keen writing talents, including theatric humorist Abe Burrows (the show’s co-creator and head writer for its first five years), future M*A*S*H writer Larry Gelbart and Dick Martin, who later was the co-host of television’s groundbreaking Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

Early in the show’s life, however, its name, Duffy’s Tavern, was changed—first to Duffy’s and, for four episodes, Duffy’s Variety. A staffer for Bristol-Myers — whose Ipana toothpaste was the show’s early sponsor—persuaded the company’s publicity director to demand the name change because the original title promoted “the hobby of drinking” too much for certain sensibilities.

DuffysTavern the Movie

Bristol-Myers eventually admitted the staffer had little to go on other than a handful of protesting letters, and—to the delight of fans who never stopped using the original name, anyway—the original title was restored permanently. The name change was often subverted by the Armed Forces Radio Network. When the AFRN rebroadcast those episodes for U.S. servicemen during World War II, the announcer referred to Duffy’s Tavern.

Listen to Duffy’s Tavern on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

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Duffy’s Tavern -Bond Drive with Boris Karloff (1943)

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Syndicated in January 1955. The TV edition wasn’t as successful as the long-running radio show.  It lasted just one season!

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Bob Hope KBE, KCSG, KSS

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Leslie Townes Hope

The facts surrounding the multi-decade, multi-generational success of Bob Hope are irrefutable. He was a resounding success — a true star — on the Broadway stage, in movies, on radio, and television, staying with NBC in the latter two ventures for over half-a-century. He appeared in over 70 movies in a film career that spanned four decades. He logged over six million miles entertaining troops in both war and peace time, becoming a goodwill ambassador to every country he traveled to. He became an American show business icon and perhaps one of the richest entertainers this country ever produced, the cable and video age notwithstanding.

Bob Hope, KBE, KCSG, KSS (born Leslie Townes Hope; May 29, 1903  – July 27, 2003) was a British-born American comedian and actor who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies. He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel. Throughout his long career, he was honored for his humanitarian work. In 1996, the U.S. Congress honored Bob Hope by declaring him the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.”

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Hope was born in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons. His English father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light opera singer from Barry, a small town outside Cardiff, Wales. The family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908. Hope became a U.S. citizen in 1920 at the age of 17.

A Young Bob Hope

From the age of 12, Hope worked at a variety of odd jobs at a local boardwalk. He would busk, doing dance and comedy patter to make extra money (frequently on the trolley to Luna Park). He entered many dancing and amateur talent contests (as Lester Hope), and won prizes for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Hope also boxed briefly and unsuccessfully under the name Packy East (after the popular Packey McFarland), once making it to the semifinals of the Ohio novice championship.

Silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle saw one of Hope’s performances with his first partner, Lloyd “Lefty” Durbin, and in 1925 got the pair steady work with Hurley’s Jolly Follies. Within a year, Hope had formed an act called the Dancemedians with George Byrne and the Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins who had a tap dancing routine. Hope and his partner, George Byrne, had an act as a pair of Siamese twins as well, and both danced and sang while wearing blackface, before friends advised Hope that he was funnier as himself. In 1929, he changed his first name to “Bob”. In one version of the story, he named himself after racecar driver Bob Burman. In another, he said he chose Bob because he wanted a name with a friendly “Hiya, Fellas!” sound to it.

The Big Broadcast 1938

Hope, like other stage performers, made his first films in New York. Educational Pictures employed him in 1934 for a short-subject comedy, Going Spanish. Hope sealed his fate with Educational when Walter Winchell asked him about the film. Hope cracked, “When they catch John Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice.” Educational fired him, but he was soon before the cameras at New York’s Vitaphone studio starring in 20-minute comedies and musicals from 1934 through 1936, beginning with Paree, Paree (1934).

Paramount Pictures signed Hope for the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938, also starring W. C. Fields. During a duet with Shirley Ross as accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra, Hope introduced the song later to become his trademark, “Thanks for the Memory”, which became a major hit and was praised by critics.

Hope became one of Paramount’s biggest stars, and would remain with the studio through the 1950s. Hope’s regular appearances in Hollywood films and radio made him one of the best known entertainers in North America, and at the height of his career he was also making a large income from live concert performances. He was both a world-class singer and dancer, introducing many major songs during the course of his career, including the Oscar-winning “Buttons and Bows” in The Paleface (1948), his biggest hit song by far, and he matched James Cagney’s bravura dancing during the tabletop showdown sequence in The Seven Little Foys (1955).


Bob Hope and the Clark Sisters – Button & Bows (October 14, 1948)

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The Glamorous Dorothy Lamour

As a movie star, he was best known for comedies like My Favorite Brunette and the highly successful “Road” movies in which he starred with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Hope had seen Lamour as a nightclub singer in New York, and invited her to work on his USO tours. Lamour is said to have arrived for filming prepared with her lines, only to be baffled by completely re-written scripts from Hope’s writers without studio permission. Hope and Lamour were lifelong friends, and she remains the actress most associated with his film career. The series consists of Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946), Road to Rio (1947), Road to Bali (1952), and The Road to Hong Kong (1962). Hope’s other leading ladies included Paulette Goddard, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Lucille Ball, Jane Russell, Betty Grable, Betty Hutton, Arlene Dahl, Rosemary Clooney, Eva Marie Saint, Rhonda Fleming, Lana Turner, Anita Ekberg, and Elke Sommer.

** Click on the Poster to Watch the Film **

Hope’s informal teaming with Bing Crosby for the seven “Road” pictures from 1940 to 1962 and countless stage, radio, and television appearances together over the decades were critically important to Hope’s career. At the beginning of the “Road” series, Broadway star Hope was relatively little known nationally compared to Crosby, and was actually billed under Dorothy Lamour in the first film, while Crosby had already been a hugely popular singer and movie star for years. After the release of Road to Singapore (1940), Hope’s screen career immediately became white hot and stayed that way for over two decades, actually continuing until Cancel My Reservation (1972), his last theatrical starring role. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope became linked in public perception to the extent that it became difficult to think of one without the other even though they actually conducted predominately separate careers. They had planned one more movie together, The Road to the Fountain of Youth, until Crosby’s demise abruptly intervened.


Great Dance Routine: James Cagney and Bob Hope – Movie: The Seven Little Foys (1955)

Hope starred in fifty-two theatrical features altogether between 1938 and 1972, not to mention cameos and short films, and frequently stated that his movies were the most important part of his career. Some notable examples include College Swing (1938; with George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Betty Grable), Some Like It Hot (1939; with Shirley Ross and Gene Krupa), The Ghost Breakers (1940, with Paulette Goddard), The Paleface (1948; with Jane Russell), Sorrowful Jones (1949; with Lucille Ball), The Seven Little Foys (1955; with James Cagney as George M. Cohan), The Iron Petticoat (1956; with Katharine Hepburn), and Beau James (1957; with Hope as James J. Walker).

Bob Hope on NBC

Hope first appeared on television in 1932 during a test transmission from an experimental CBS studio in New York. In January 1947, Hope was master of ceremonies for the first telecast by California’s first television station, KTLA. His career in broadcasting spanned 64 years and included a long association with NBC.

Hope made his network radio debut in 1937 on NBC. His first regular series for NBC Radio was the Woodbury Soap Hour. A year later, The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope began, continuing as The New Swan Show in 1948 (for the same sponsor, Lever Brothers). After 1950, the series was known simply as The Bob Hope Show, with Liggett & Myers (1950–52), General Foods (1953) and American Dairy Association (1953–55) as his sponsors, until it finally went off the air in April 1955.

 


The Bob Hope Show (Pepsodent) with guest Frank Sinatra (1945)

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In October 1996, Hope announced, via a press release, that he was ending his 60-year contract with NBC, joking that he “decided to become a free agent”. His final television special, Laughing with the Presidents, was broadcast in November 1996, with Tony Danza helping Hope present a personal retrospective of presidents of the United States known to the comedian. The special received mixed reviews, mostly due to the weakening appearance and speech of the 93-year old Hope.  Bob Hope’s last TV appearance was in a 1997 K-Mart commercial directed by Penny Marshall.

RMS Queen Mary

Hope’s first wartime performance occurred at sea. Aboard the RMS Queen Mary when World War II began in September 1939, he went to the captain to volunteer to perform a special show for the panicked passengers, during which he sang “Thanks for the Memory” with rewritten lyrics.  Hope performed his first United Service Organizations (USO) show on May 6, 1941, at March Field, California. He continued to travel and entertain troops for the rest of World War II and later during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the third phase of the Lebanon Civil War, the latter years of the Iran–Iraq War, and the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War. When overseas he almost always performed in Army fatigues as a show of support for his audience. Hope’s USO career lasted half a century, during which he headlined approximately 60 tours. For his service to his country through the USO, he was awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1968.

Honorary Veteran Bob Hope

A 1997 act of Congress signed by President Clinton named Hope an “Honorary Veteran.” He remarked, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received.”

Hope appeared in so many theaters of war over the decades that it was often cracked (in Bob Hope style) that “Where there’s death, there’s Hope”.

As Hope entered his ninth decade, he showed no signs of slowing down and continued appearing in numerous television specials. He was given an 80th birthday party in 1983 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. which was attended by President Ronald Reagan. In 1985, he was presented with the Life Achievement Award at the Kennedy Center Honors. He was presented with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in 1997 by Nancy Reagan. The following year, Hope was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Upon accepting the appointment, Hope quipped, “I’m speechless. 70 years of ad lib material and I’m speechless.”

Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment at the Library of Congress

At the age of 95, Hope made an appearance at the 50th anniversary of the Primetime Emmy Awards with Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. Two years later, Hope was present at the opening of the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress has immortalized Bob Hope’s life with two major exhibitions – “Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture” and “Bob Hope and American Variety.” Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003. He is among a small group of notable centenarians in the field of entertainment. To mark this event, the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, California was named Bob Hope Square and his centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 states. Even at 100, Hope was said to have maintained his self-deprecating sense of humor, quipping, “I’m so old, they’ve canceled my blood type.” He converted to Roman Catholicism.

Hope had premature obituaries on two separate occasions. In 1998, a prepared obituary by The Associated Press was inadvertently released on the Internet, prompting Hope’s death to be announced in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2003 he was among several famous figures whose pre-written obituaries were published on CNN’s website because of a lapse in password protection.

Beginning in 2000, Hope’s health steadily declined and he was hospitalized several times before his death. In June 2000, he spent nearly a week in a California hospital after being hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding. In August 2001, he spent close to two weeks in the hospital recovering from pneumonia.

Bob Hopes Grave

On July 27, 2003, Bob Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake at 9:28 p.m. According to the Soledad O’Brien interview with Hope’s grandson Zach Hope, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope told his wife, “Surprise me.” He was interred in the Bob Hope Memorial Garden at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles, where his mother is also buried.

 

 

Your can hear the Bob Hope Show every Sunday at 09:30 GMT on the American Comedy Channel

 

 

 

 

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Classic Comedy Films for Easter – Happy Holidays :)

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Sit back this Easter and have a little rest and a big laugh with our collection of Comedy Classics.

Watch them in the comfort of the Pumpkin Palace Cinema, your very own movie theater! I would like to wish all our listeners a happy, peaceful, and fun filled family Easter with plenty of the finer things in life, not excluding marshmallows, chocolate, and jelly beans!

Best wishes: John
ROK Classic Radio

** Click on a movie poster to watch that particular  film! **

Band Wagon

The film version of the radio series Bandwaggon released in 1939 by Gainsborough. The plot involved Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch running a pirate TV station in a ghostly castle and rounding up a gang of spies.

Cast:-Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Jack Hylton and his band, Pat Kirkwood, Moore Marriott, Peter Gawthorne, Wally Patch, Donald Calthrop.

You may be interested to know that Richard Murdoch plays ‘2’ in the Men from the Ministry!

Africa Screams

Though many of the gags go splat (they’re either feebly timed or missing the requisite punch line), the chemistry between the preeminent straight-man Abbott and his tubby, scatter-brained sidekick Costello is as raucously abrasive as ever.

Yes, the range of their shtick is admittedly narrow (the Marx Brothers would’ve had these guys for lunch), but after whiling away numberless Saturday afternoons during my formative years with revivals of their movies on television, the very thought of Abbott and Costello fills me with a nostalgic warmth.

Ask a Policeman

Another comedic masterpiece from Will Hay and his associates Moffatt and Marriott from 1939.

Here we have all three as village policemen trying to save their jobs whilst fighting headless horsemen, smugglers and a disgruntled police commissioner! … definitely not to be missed if you love classic British comedy.

I Thank You

In desperate need of money to put on a show, the pair dress up as house servants {Murdoch a servant and Askey in drag as a cook} and bluff their way into the home of Lady Randall (Lily Morris), an ex-music hall star known to give financial aid to performers in the arts close to her heart.However, chaos reigns.

Cast:

Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Lily Morris, Moore Marriott, Graham Moffatt, Peter Gawthorne, Kathleen Harrison, Felix Aylmer

Oh, Mr. Porter!

William Porter is working as a lowly wheel tapper on the English Railways until, through the influence of his downtrodden brother-in-law (who happens to be managing director of the railway company), he is offered the position of station master at the isolated station at Buggleskelly in Northern Ireland.

The greatest and funniest of all Will Hay’s comedies, Oh, Mr. Porter! still stands as one of the all-time classics of British cinema, a joyous anarchic romp that can never fail to send an audience into hysterics of unbridled laughter.

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Gracie Allen

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Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen

Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen (July 26, 1895 – August 27, 1964), known as Gracie Allen, was an American comedian who became internationally famous as the zany partner and comic foil of husband George Burns.

Gracie Allen was born in San Francisco, California, to George Allen and Molly Darragh, who were of Irish Catholic extraction. She made her first appearance on stage at age three and was given her first chance On Air by Eddie Cantor. She was educated at the Star of the Sea Convent School and during that time became a talented dancer. She soon began performing Irish folk dances with her three sisters, who were billed as “The Four Colleens.” In 1909 Allen joined her sister, Bessie, as a vaudeville performer. At a performance in 1922 Allen met George Burns and the two formed a comedy act. The two were married on January 7, 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Burns & Allen

The Burns and Allen act began with Allen as the straight man, setting up Burns to deliver the punchlines — and get the laughs. In his book Gracie: A Love Story Burns later explained that he noticed Allen’s straight lines were getting more laughs than his punchlines, so he cannily flipped the act over —- he made himself the straight man and let her get the laughs. Audiences immediately fell in love with Allen’s character, who combined the traits of stupidity, zaniness, and total innocence.

In the early 1930s, like many stars of their era, Burns and Allen graduated to radio. The show was originally a continuation of their original “flirtation act” (as their vaudeville and short film routines had been). Burns realized that they were simply too old for that material (“Our jokes were too young for us”, he later remarked) and changed the show’s format in the fall of 1941 into the situation comedy vehicle for which they are best remembered: a working show business married couple negotiating ordinary problems caused by Gracie’s “illogical logic,” usually with the help of neighbors Harry and Blanche Morton, and their announcer, Bill Goodwin.

Jack Benny - Good friend and frequent guest star on the Burns & Allen Show

Around 1948 Burns and Allen became part of the CBS talent raid. Their good friend (and frequent guest star) Jack Benny had decided to jump from NBC over to CBS. William S. Paley, the mastermind of CBS, had recently made it openly clear that he believed talent and not the network made the difference, which was not the case at NBC. Benny convinced Burns and Allen (among others) to join him in the move to CBS. The Burns and Allen radio show became part of the CBS lineup and a year later they also brought their show to television. They continued to use the formula which had kept them longtime radio stars, playing themselves only now as television stars, still living next door to Harry and Blanche Morton. They concluded each show with a brief dialogue performance in the style of their classic vaudeville and earlier radio routines.

Allen retired in 1958, and Burns tried to soldier on without her. The show was re-named The George Burns Show with the cast intact except for Allen. The locale of the show was changed from the Burns home to George Burns’ office, with Blanche Morton working as Burns’ secretary so she could help Allen keep an eye on him. Allen’s absence was only too obvious and impossible to overcome. The renamed show barely lasted a year.

Gracie Allen and George Burns—Together Again

Gracie Allen fought a long battle with heart disease, ultimately dying of a heart attack in Hollywood in 1964. She was interred in a crypt at the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Burns was interred at her side when he died 32 years later. (“Gracie Allen and George Burns—Together Again,” reads the engraving on the marker.

 

Burns & Allen – Gracie treats George like a King (15th May, 1947)
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Burns & Allen – Francis Langford – Vacation Plans (29th May, 1947)
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Listen to Gracie Allen in the Burns & Allen Show on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

Happy Listening 🙂

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The Adventures of Maisie – Ann Sothern

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Ann Sothern as Maisie

The Adventures of Maisie was a radio comedy series starring Ann Sothern as underemployed entertainer Maisie Ravier. The radio series was actually a spin-off of Sothern’s successful Maisie movie series (1939-1947). The series was broadcast on CBS Radio, NBC Radio, the Mutual Radio Network, and on Mutual flagship radio station WHN in NYC.

Sponsored by Eversharp, series one ran on CBS Radio from July 5, 1945 to March 28, 1947, airing on Thursdays at 8:30pm during the first two months, then moving to Wednesdays at 9:30pm (1945-46), then Fridays at 10:30pm (1946-47). The supporting cast included Hy Averback, Arthur Q. Bryan, Hans Conried, Virginia Gregg, Peter Leeds, Johnny McGovern and Sidney Miller. John Easton was the announcer, Harry Zimmerman and Albert Sack supplied the music, and John L. Greene was the producer. Tony Sanford directed scripts by Samuel Taylor and others.

The series was heard on the Mutual Radio Network from January 11 to December 26, 1952 and it was syndicated from 1949 to 1952 with Pat McGeehan as Eddie Jordan. Bea Benaderet and Elvira Allman portrayed Mrs. Kennedy. The supporting cast included Averback, Conreid, Leeds, McGovern, Lurene Tuttle, Ben Wright, Sandra Gould and Jeffrey Silver. Harry Zimmerman led the orchestra with John Easton and Jack McCoy announcing.

The show popularized the 1940s catch phrase, “Likewise, I’m sure.”


The Adventures of Maisie – The Department Store Clerk (24th November 1949)
The Department Store Clerk
Previously a beauty, Sothern had a bout of hepatitis which left her with a bloated, overweight appearance from

The Beautiful Ann Sothern

the waist down. From this point on, she wore black, high-waisted flaring dresses to hide her appearance. In addition, she suffered an injury to her back after a fall during a stage production which left her disabled.

In 1965, she was heard as the voice of Gladys Crabtree (the car) in the short-lived series My Mother the Car, which co-starred Jerry Van Dyke. That year she appeared in the title role of “The Widow Fay” episode of ABC’s western series The Legend of Jesse James, starring Christopher Jones in the title role of the outlaw Jesse James. Sothern was married to actor Roger Pryor from 1936 until May 17, 1943. Less than a week after her divorce, she married actor Robert Sterling. The couple had one daughter, actress Tisha Sterling, before divorcing six years later. In 1987, Sothern retired from acting and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where she spent her remaining years.

On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at 92. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures.


The Adventures of Maisie – The Phony Doctor  (22nd December 1949)
The Phony Doctor

Listen to Ann Sothern and the Adventures of Maisie on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

Happy Listening 🙂

The Grave of Ann Sothern (1909 - 2001)
Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern

 

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Mel Blanc – Man of a Thousand Voices!

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Man of a Thousand Voices - Mel Blanc

Born on May 30th 1908, Mel Blanc was an American voice actor and comedian. He began his six-decade-long career performing in radio commercials, but Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. during the “Golden Age of American animation” (and later for Hanna-Barbera television productions) as the voice of such well-known characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman, Heathcliff, Speedy Gonzales, Elmer Fudd and hundreds of others. Having earned the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice-acting industry.

Blanc was born Melvin Jerome Blank in San Francisco, California, to Frederick and Eva Blank. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, attending Lincoln High School. He claimed that when he was 16, he changed the spelling from “Blank” to “Blanc” because a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing and be, like his name, a “blank”. Blanc joined The Order of DeMolay as a young man, and was eventually inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Radio Career

Melvin Jerome Blank aka Mel Blanc

Blanc began his radio career in 1927 as a voice actor on the KGW program The Hoot Owls, where his ability to provide voices for multiple characters first attracted attention. He moved to KEX in 1933 to produce and host his Cobweb And Nuts show which lasted for two-years.

Blanc then moved to KFWB in Hollywood, California, in 1935. He joined The Johnny Murray Show, but the following

year switched to CBS Radio and The Joe Penner Show. Blanc was a regular on the The Jack Benny Program in various roles, including voicing Benny’s Maxwell automobile (in desperate need of a tune-up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, Benny’s pet polar bear Carmichael, the tormented department store clerk, and the train announcer .

One of Blanc’s most memorable characters from Benny’s radio (and later TV) programs was “Sy, the Little Mexican”, who spoke one word at a time. The famous “Sí…Sy…sew…Sue” routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny.

Benny’s writers would regularly try to “stump” Blanc by asking him to perform supposedly impossible vocal effects and characterizations, such as an “English horse whinny” and a goldfish. For the latter, Mel walked up to the microphone and pursed his lips several times, making no noise.

The Mel Blanc Show

Jack Benny

Blanc’s success on The Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS Radio Network, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner of a fix-it shop, as well as his young cousin Zookie (who sounded quite a bit like Porky Pig).

Many episodes required Mel to impersonate an exotic foreigner or other stranger in town, ostensibly for carrying out a minor deception on his girlfriend’s father, but of course simply as a vehicle for him to show off his talents. Other regular characters were played by Mary Jane Croft, Joseph Kearns, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus, Bea Benaderet and The Sportsmen Quartet, who would supply a song and sing the Colgate Tooth Powder commercials. (Blanc would later work with Reed and Benaderet on The Flintstones.) Shows usually adhered to a predictable formula, involving a date with his girl Betty Colby (Mary Jane Croft) and trying to either impress her father or at least avoid angering him. However, Mr. Colby (Earle Ross) usually had occasion to deliver his trademark line, “Mel Blanc, I’m going to break every bone in your body!”

Mel's Girlfriend played by Mary Jane Croft

Blanc also appeared frequently on The Great Gildersleeve, the Abbott and Costello Show, Burns and Allen, and as August Moon on Point Sublime.

For his contribution to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard.

Blanc died on July 10, 1989 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California of heart disease and emphysema. He was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Blanc’s will stated his desire to have the inscription on his gravestone read, “THAT’S ALL FOLKS.”

Blanc’s death was considered a significant loss to the cartoon industry because of his skill, expressive range, and sheer volume of continuing characters he portrayed, which are currently taken up by several other voice talents.

Indeed, as movie critic Leonard Maltin once pointed out, “It is astounding to realize that Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam are the same man!”

Listen to the amazing voices of Mel Blanc on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network.

Episode

The Thanksgiving Party from the 26th November 1946

The Mel Blanc Show 1946-11-26 Epidose 13 The Thanksgiving Party

 

Mel Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989)
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Honest Harold aka Harold Peary

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Harold Peary created Honest Harold after his departure from The Great Gildersleeve in the 1950’s, the role of Gildersleeve being filled by Willard Waterman, and The Great Gildersleeve show’s fans seemed satisfied with the change even though Peary had let it be known that he was bored with the role. He had said his goodbyes, and his fans took him at his word.

Harold Peary as the Great Gildersleeve

Born as José Pereira de Faria in San Leandro, California to Portuguese parents, Peary (pronounced Perry) began working in local radio as early as 1923, according to his own memory, and had his own show as a singer, The Spanish Serenader, in San Francisco, but moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1937.

 

A Newspaper Promo for the Great Gildersleeve

In Chicago his radio work came to a peak when he became a regular on Fibber McGee and Molly, where he originated the Gildersleeve character as a McGee neighbor and nemesis in 1938.

 

Fibber McGee and Molly

After his demise as Gildersleeve the show struggled on a few more radio years (by its final season, listeners heard only repeat broadcasts of earlier episodes) and bombed on television.

At CBS, Peary began his new situation comedy, The Harold Peary Show, sometimes known as Honest Harold, a title that was actually the name of the fictitious radio show the new character hosted. Radio veteran Joseph Kearns (later familiar as Mr. Wilson on television’s Dennis the Menace, played veterinarian Dr. Yancey, known better as Doc Yak-Yak and resembling former foil Judge Hooker.

 

Joseph Kearns

The new show also borrowed a few Gildersleeve plot devices, such as running for mayor and engagements to two women. In what was possibly a desperate attempt to recreate the Gildersleeve magic, it even brought in actress Shirley Mitchell, virtually recreating her Gildersleeve role of Leila Ransom, under the name of Florabelle Breckenridge.

Additionally, Honest Harold’s secretary at the radio station, Glory, bears a more than passing resemblance to Gildersleeve’s Water Department secretary, Bessie: both are stereotypical giggly blondes. Despite these efforts to recreate the power and ratings of “The Great Gildersleeve”, The Harold Peary Show lasted only one season of 38 episodes.

Peary spent most of the rest of his life voice-acting in animated work by Rankin-Bass and Hanna-Barbera and others, before his death of a heart attack at the age of 76.

 

Harold Peary aka José Pereira de Faria

You can hear episodes of both the Great Gildersleeve and Honest Harold on the American Comedy Channel from the ROK Classic Radio Old Time Radio Network!

Happy Listening 🙂

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The Abbott & Costello Show

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William (Bud) Abbott and Lou Costello (born Louis Francis Cristillo)

William (Bud) Abbott and Lou Costello  performed together as Abbott and Costello, an American comedy duo whose work on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s, as well as a top ten box office draw for a full decade (1942—1952).

The team’s first known radio appearance was on The Kate Smith Hour in February, 1938. Initially, the similarities between their voices made it difficult for listeners (as opposed to stage audiences) to tell them apart due to their rapid-fire repartee.

The problem was solved by having Costello affect a high-pitched childish voice. “Who’s on First?” was first performed for a national radio audience the following month.

They stayed on the program as regulars for two years, while landing roles in a Broadway revue, “The Streets of Paris”, in 1939.

Streets of Paris 1939

In 1940 they were signed by Universal Studios for the film One Night in the Tropics. Cast in supporting roles, they stole the show with several classic routines, including “Who’s on First?” The same year they were a summer replacement on radio for Fred Allen. Two years later, they had their own NBC show.

After working as Allen’s summer replacement, Abbott and Costello joined Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1941, while two of their films (Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost) were adapted for Lux Radio Theater. They launched their own weekly show October 8, 1942, sponsored by Camel cigarettes.

The Abbott and Costello Show mixed comedy with musical interludes (by vocalists such as Connie Haines, Ashley Eustis, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Skinnay Ennis, and the Les Baxter Singers). Regulars and semi-regulars on the show included Artie Auerbach (“Mr. Kitzel”), Elvia Allman, Iris Adrian, Mel Blanc, Wally Brown, Sharon Douglas, Verna Felton, Sidney Fields, Frank Nelson, Martha Wentworth, and Benay Venuta. Ken Niles was the show’s longtime announcer, doubling as an exasperated foil to Abbott and Costello’s mishaps (and often fuming in character as Costello routinely insulted his on-air wife).

Ken Niles

Niles was succeeded by Michael Roy, with announcing chores also handled over the years by Frank Bingman and Jim Doyle. The show went through several orchestras during its radio life, including those of Ennis, Charles Hoff, Matty Matlock, Matty Malneck, Jack Meakin, Will Osborne, Fred Rich, Leith Stevens, and Peter van Steeden. The show’s writers included Howard Harris, Hal Fimberg, Parke Levy, Don Prindle, Eddie Cherkose (later known as Eddie Maxwell), Leonard B. Stern, Martin Ragaway, Paul Conlan, and Eddie Forman, as well as producer Martin Gosch. Sound effects were handled primarily by Floyd Caton.

In 1947 Abbott and Costello moved the show to ABC (the former NBC Blue Network). During their time on ABC, the duo also hosted a 30-minute children’s radio program (The Abbott and Costello Children’s Show), which aired Saturday mornings, featuring child vocalist Anna Mae Slaughter and child announcer Johnny McGovern.

Lou and wife Anne Battler

Both Abbott and Costello met and married women they knew in burlesque. Bud Abbott married Betty Smith in 1918, and Lou Costello married Anne Battler in 1934. The Costellos had four children; the Abbotts adopted two.

Abbott and Costello faced personal demons at times. Both were inveterate gamblers and had serious health problems. Abbott suffered from epilepsy and turned to alcohol for pain management. Costello had occasional, near-fatal bouts with rheumatic fever. On November 4, 1943, the same day that Costello returned to radio after a one year layoff due to his illness with rheumatic fever, his infant son “Butch” (born November 6, 1942) died in an accidental drowning in the family’s swimming pool.

During 1945, a rift developed when Abbott hired a domestic servant who had been fired by Costello. Angered by Abbott’s decision, Costello refused to speak to his partner except when performing. The team’s films of 1946 reflect the split, with the comedians appearing separately in character roles. Abbott resolved the rift in 1947 when he volunteered to help with Costello’s pet charity, a foundation for underprivileged children.

The Legendary Fred Allen

In the 1950s Abbott and Costello’s popularity waned as their place as filmdom’s hottest comedy team was taken by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  Universal dropped the comedy team in 1955, and after one more independent film, Bud Abbott retired from performing.

In 1956, the Internal Revenue Service charged them for back taxes, forcing them to sell their homes and most of their assets, including their film rights. In 1957 they formally dissolved their partnership.

Lou Costello made about ten solo appearances on The Steve Allen Show and headlined in Las Vegas. He appeared in episodes of GE Theater and Wagon Train. On March 3, 1959, shortly after making his lone solo film, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock, Lou Costello died of a heart attack just short of his 53rd birthday.

Grave of Louis Frances Cristillo

A depressed Bud Abbott attempted a comeback in 1960, teaming with Candy Candido. Although the new act received good reviews, Bud quit, saying, “No one could ever live up to Lou.”

Abbott made a solo appearance on an episode of GE Theater in 1961. In 1966 Bud voiced his character in a series of 156 five-minute Abbott and Costello cartoons made by Hanna-Barbera. Lou’s character was voiced by Stan Irwin. Bud Abbott died of cancer on April 24, 1974.

 

The Abbott & Costello Show, The Baseball Player including the iconic ‘Who’s on First’ from the 17th April 1947
470417_-_Baseball_Player

The Abbott and Costello Show can be heard on the American Comedy Channel at the following times:

Every weekday at 04:00 GMT
Saturday at 16:00 GMT
Sunday at 08:00 GMT

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