Classic TV : OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Before everyone could afford a TV set of their own, most people in the 30s, 40s and even 50s used to listen to radio all day - and it wasn't the kind of radio we know today, it was just like TV without pictures: lots of regular comedy, thriller and mystery broadcasts, often featuring the biggest movie stars of the era, from WC. Fields, Bergen&McCarthy and Lucy Ball to Vincent Price, Bogart&Bacall and Orson Welles (who hasn't heard about his "War of the Worlds" scare?). Must have been a wonderful time back then! And many of those old gems are now available on CD - has anyone got some, to revive those magical Radio Days?


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I have a few OTR CDs: Norma Shearer dramas, Old Gold Comedies, a few old comedy shows.

I remember listening to radio, too, when I was a child. My grandmother was addicted to the daily soap operas like Stella Dallas, Backstage Wife, Lorenzo Jones.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Must have been a great feeling, just listening there to your favorite broadcasts of mystery or comedy, without just staring into that boob tube all the time, but using more of your own imagination instead!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Well, actually, you usually stared at the radio. No multitasking then - you concentrated on what you heard, although you could sew, iron, wash the dishes and listen, too. And, yes, you did use your imagination to set the scene, imagine what the characters looked like.

Today's multitaskers think they are efficient, but they would do a better job if they concentrated on one thing at a time.



Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

That's true!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I discovered classic radio a few years ago when I subscribed to satellite radio.
I like most of the comedies like Fibber Mcgee and Molly,Our Miss Brooks,My Favorite Husband,Phil Harris and Alice Faye,Duffy's Tavern,etc.
I'm even enjoying the detective shows which were never really favorites on tv.
I've gotten used to turning off the tv and turning on the radio instead.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Ah, so they're still airing the old broadcasts there, that's great! Much better than watching TV all the time, isn't it?


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I know that some of the old mysteries (radio plays) are on archive.org....

Hope that helps!

~~
Jim Hutton: talented gorgeous hot hunk; adorable as ElleryQueen; SEXIEST ACTOR EVER

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Yes, I know, thank you - I brought a whole lot of cassettes with me from my trip to L.A. years ago, with everything from Orson Welles, Vincent Price, Bogey&Bacall to W.C. Fields and Abbott&Costello - if you listen to those, the Radio Days REALLY come alive again!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I have a friend who has hours of downloads of Jack Benny's old radio shows, which are great. And he's also picked up some of Bob and Ray's shows; their stuff is frequently hilarious--it's easy to see how they were such a big influence on MAD Magazine in its early years.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

It's great to hear that all those good old shows are still 'alive' - and popular!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Did you ever listen to the old mysteries on radio?

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I grew up in the final days of OTR, the mid-50s and vaguely recall listening to it, though I can't remember what or details. My dad and mom introduced me to some of the comedians who moved on to TV (Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, Lum & Abner) as having been on OTR.

In 1979 a series of OTR tapes were made available, and I began collecting them then. I really like the sci-fi, mysteries and history programs the best. I have complete collections of The Green Hornet, Shadow, and Sherlock Holmes (various actors) and to be honest I enjoy listening to them more than watching TV.

It's easy to understand why the "Golden Age of TV" writers stood head and shoulders above anything that's come since. They understood how to draw verbal pictures and characters; they had to.

Included is a link to OTRCat, which has a huge library of OTR disks at a very reasonable price, plus episodes available for listening to or downloading. I have nothing to do with OTRCat other than being a very satisfied and repeat customer.

http://www.otrcat.com/

***
Don't aim for the towers. Aim for the trolls! KILL THE TROLLS!!!

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Thanks a lot for that link - I'm sure there are many people who would love to get a chance to listen to those old radio gems! I've got quite a nice collection myself, with the "Hitchhiker" series and other thrillers, comedies collections and so on (many big bookstores in the US and even in Europe sell them too); it's really an experience QUITE different from watching TV, it requires not only attention, but also imagination...


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OTRcat

He has a remarkable library and I've never had any problems with him.
here is another fine site to peruse

http://www.mediaoutlet.com/old-time-radio-nbsp-c-23.html

Best
Paladin

"Nothing but a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its dead"

Re: OTRcat

Hey,thanks, that's a great site too - I think we should all return once in a while to the good old radio 'feeling', it's a very good exercise for our brains; and, of course, brings us back all those voices of our favorite old movie stars!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I've always wanted to get into old time radio, but can never seem to find the time. Last night and the night before, however, I listened to a some old time programs for a novelty. I'm going through the "singles and doubles" page L-N on the Internet Archive.

Plan to listen to some more tonight. (well, technically early morning).

Among the things I listened to last night was a 15-minute program from 1940, called "Lives of Our Greatest Artists". Sponsored by a "kosher meat" company, the episode did a biography of Al Jolson, focusing on his religion. It is apparently the only episode to survive (I think it was a local series in New York City rather than a network series).

It's easy to find old time US radio series, but as an Australian I'd like to hear some old time Australian radio, with people like Jack Davey, Terry Dear and such, but such recordings are very hard to find. As was also the case with the US, the early Australian television series were often based on radio shows ("Australia's Amateur Hour", "The Pressure Pak Show", "Leave it to the Girls", "This I Believe", "Give it a Go", "Oxford Show", "Hillbilly Requests", "Any Questions?", "The Quiz Kids", "It Pays to be Funny", "Divine Service", "Swallow's Parade", etc).



We're not fighting! We're in complete agreement! We hate each other!

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

I see the 'old radio bug' has already got you! I hope you'll also find your old Australian favorites, which are definitely more different to find than the American shows... But maybe at a bookshop or even an antiques shop they can help you!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re:Aussie Radio Days

Here you go!
http://www.australianotr.com.au/

Best
Paladin

"Nothing but a silent mass of impenetrable vapour hiding its dead"

Re:Thank you, but...

Ugh, Australian websites are so difficult to navigate, all of them are difficult to navigate...I can't seem the find recordings of the shows which interest me on the site.




We're not fighting! We're in complete agreement! We hate each other!

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Speaking of Australian radio, it was enlivened by a Texan named Grace Gibson, who moved Down Under in the mid-'40s and produced Australian versions of American radio shows. Her company survived well into the 1980s, because the Aussies didn't throw radio drama under the bus to concentrate on television as the American networks did in the '50s and '60s.
In the Gibson version of "Gunsmoke," the marshal was named Matt Morgan, not Dillon (and the Aussie actors got to imitate the boss's Texas accent). I've also heard her versions of "Inner Sanctum," "The Clock," and "Dangerous Assignment."

Re: OT: Before the TV years - the Radio Days

Yeah, they're great, aren't they? I've got some Burns&Allen, too - and Mystery Theater, of course, they're my favorites!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Old-Time Radio Noir

I don't have any OTR on CD, binapiraeus, but I've listened to tons of it on-line, Not lately, but years ago, I must have listened to half the Suspense episodes ever broadcast. I love radio noir: The Whistler, Escape!, The Weird Circle, Dragnet, some more horror than suspense, but there was a lot of crossover back then (I guess because radio wasn't visual), so there are horrifying things on crime and suspense shows, horror shows that are character studies, and everything in-between. There's an an internet radio archive out there and many other places on the web where you can just listen for free to old-time radio. It takes some hunting and some sites specialize more than others. Most allow you to download, for free as often as not.

Re: Old-Time Radio Noir

Yes, I also love this kind of radio entertainment, it can often be a LOT scarier than a movie! (Because it lets you use more of your own imagination) But I didn't know there were so many radio shows on the Internet, thanks a lot for the tip!!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

INNER SANCTUM was great. Does *anyone remember Raymond(?) the host of this show? He'd make the goofiest puns. I still remember his comment about the guy who murdered his wife and put her body in the town bell. Problem was, next morning she tolled on him. ;-\

There was some really good scare stuff from LIGHTS OUT; Bill Cosby was a fan.
The MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER was a good thriller show also.

Loved the detective shows; Jeff Chandler did a marvelous first person "Mike Shayne". There was also Hammett's SAM SPADE and the FAT MAN (He's stepping on the scale...)
Vincent Price and Dick Powell did the radio bit too, it was easy money, no marks too hit, no script to memorize. Oh yeah, Wm. Conrad was "Matt Dillon".

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

Yeah, I love "Suspense" too, I've got a whole cassette collection of stories, with Vincent Price of course, Peter Lorre, Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Lucille Ball, Gregory Peck, a.s.o. - GREAT stuff!!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

Inner Sanctum disappointed me. It was too hokey. In theory, Raymond and the creaking door should work like a charm, but the stories were generic horror stuff, often featuring vampires, zombies and the like, as if channeling the Universal horrors, which it sort of was for radio. Other shows,--The Mysterious Traveller, which you already mentioned--struck me as as more creative and, especially, original.

The Jeff Chandler Michael Shayne series was surprisingly strong, and Chandler was an excellent radio actor. Also good (and ofren hilarious): the Jack Webb deadpan Raymond Chandler send-up, Pat Novak For Hire. It's laugh out loud funny and yet it's plots are often serious. Webb actually began as a radio comedian, got into police drama almost by accident. Dragnet was his meal ticket, on radio and television, and yet one can see humor here and there in may episodes, in those peripheral characters, the night clerks, the flophouse bums, the ladies who sell flowers on streetcorners.

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection: Jack Webb

I'm a BIG fan of "Pat Novak". His verbal battles with "Lt. Hellman" (Raymond Burr) were classic oral scenes. After Hellman searches a stiff's wallet for i.d. Patsy quips, "Better wash your hands Hellman, the green still shows."

In the curt Webb style of speaking, "I had as much chance as a pound of liver at a cat show." "Trying to get the license number off the get-away car was like trying to pluck a feather off an angels wing".

p.s. Webb had a similar, short run San Francisco waterfont p.i. character, "Johnny Madero Pier 23". There are few eps around, but never heard one.
30

The Banter With Hellman

The banter with Hellman is some of the funniest stuff on Pat Novak. I remember an episode when Lt. Hellman was warning Novak that he was going too far, if he continued working on a particular case things could turn against him and Novak would wind up in the gas chamber, to which Webb's Novak responded laconically "no worse than being locked in a phone booth with you".

The image of the equally deadpan Webb and Burr stuck together in a phone booth (remember those?) had me ROTLFing , with Webb gagging on Burr's er , gas fumes has stayed with me ever since. I guess I have a weird sense of humor sometimes.

Re: The Banter With Hellman and that priest, etc.

Once in a while the waterfront (Embarcadero) priest would come by seeking Novak's help to find someone (remember Joe *Feldman?) Novak says, "How do I find him, look for an ankle bracelet?"
Then there's Novak's friend "Jocko", who's always helping "Patsy". Jocko was a doc who started chasing a glass of whiskey with a jigger of beer.

So long, lover!

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

Interesting story about William Conrad. When Gunsmoke was moved to tv in '55 Mr. Conrad was first offered the role. I'm not sure if he was tired of the character or what, but he turned it down and suggested a young, fairly unknown actor by the name of James Arness. He's still has the longest running continuous role in television history.

Btw, and maybe not necessary, but the OTRCat CDs are all mp3. I listen to mine on either the computer or the dvd player.



***
Don't aim for the towers. Aim for the trolls! KILL THE TROLLS!!!

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

Conrad didn't get the Tv show for two reasons. First, there was a scene at the Long branch where he's sitting at a table and a guy yells a challenge and goes for his gun. Dillon starts to jump up and then *the chair rose with him. Scene got a big laugh.
Conrad wasn't offered much more than the radio folks paid, so why sweat "hitting
the mark" and memorizing scripts for not that much money. So, he stayed with the radio show. At least that was the Conrad version.

p.s. It was a movie cowpoke named *Wayne who suggested Arness.

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

You are right; I stand corrected. I'd never heard the chair story, but it's believable. I saw him during his "Cannon" years (he was huge) but I'm not sure I've ever seen a pic from the '50s. Thanks.


***
Don't aim for the towers. Aim for the trolls! KILL THE TROLLS!!!

Re: Old-Time Radio Crime and detection

I can remember as a kid, of about 8-10 years old, listening to The Inner Sanctum and Suspense.
My father worked from 6pm to 6am so it was just me and my mother.
My bedroom was off the kitchen and my mother would be in the kitchen listening to the radio. The creaking door of Inner Sanctum or the "Tales to keep you in suspense." Of course it was late at night and I was pulling the covers up over my head. To make matters worse the house was a six family tenement and the door to my room went out to the hallway, where anybody could be lurking!
Those shows could really scare the daylight out of you.

I have no cds or tapes of old shows. However I do have 33 1/3 vinyl. And the turntable to play them.

They include: War of the Worlds, The Story of The Lone Ranger, and a couple highlight albums with too many to list.

Have to go now, paper cup and string is ringing.

The Weird Circle

I'm just listening to A Terrible Night now. So far, it's very good. Thanks for recommending it on the other board! Nice to hear a radio play set in my country....and out in the woods as well! Very spooky!

After this one, I will hear more from The Weird Circle series.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Old-Time Suspense

Glad to hear it, MrsEQ. I found A Terrible Night literally haunting, even more so the second and third times around. The way the details pile up, piece by piece, and that ending! The Weird Circle was quite literary for the kind of show it was, and many of its better episodes take patience. I found some of their adaptations of well kknown literary works somewhat disappointing (just warnin' ya'), while some of the more obscure titles worked better for me.

Suspense is really one of the very best of all. Its ratio of good to excellent eps is outstanding. There are some dogs (Mortmain is just dreadful) and eps that make something out of nothing, such as the Cary Grant-Betsy Drake starrer, Country Road (I think I've got that right, from circa 1949-50). I've listened to it three or four times just for the charm (for want of a better word) of the "set up". Radio horror works less well for me. The closer it is to straight horror, the less well it works; and yet there are Suspense, Escape and even The Whistler eps that can send shivers down my spine. I've yet to listen to a Lights Out or Inner Sanctum that had the same effect.

Re: Old-Time Suspense

Oh yes. I've heard enough radio plays to know that there are some stinkers in the batch. Most are very well done, though.

So far, I've found the Whistler ones to be good, but somewhat predictable.

I listened to another one from The Weird Circle last night, one called The Man Without a Country, and although I liked the story, it wasn't mystery/horror.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: Old-Time Suspense

Suspense had its share of dogs, and it changed its style when a new producer came on board. The first three or four seasons used veteran radio actors or accomplished character players from films. Later on they relied more on well known guest stars. It was still good, but it lost a bit in emphasizing actors with already well known personas. Lloyd Nolan appeared in a couple, and I generally like him, but he svcked on ice on Suspense. If the story is a Cornell Woolrich or Lucille Fletcher one, you almost can't go wrong.

You might want to stick with The Whistler. I love it. One has to get into the spirit of the thing; and that the Whistler himself is so enigmatic and All Knowing the gimmick (and it is a gimmick) can be off putting. OTOH, the stories are often masterfully developed. The settings are at times highly evocative (I haven't listened to it for a few years); and I remember eps set on islands, in beach houses, during snowstorns; and creaking boards, chirping birds, wind, howling dogs, train whistles, etc. The sound effects weren't overdone, either; just there, and used well.

Re: Old-Time Suspense

Oh yes, I plan on sticking with those Whistler stories. They do seem to be more about atmosphere than anything. Have you seen the movies (starring Richard Dix)? Some were very good, but they were a bit on the slow side.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

speaking of 'A Terrible Night'...

Speaking of A Terrible Night, I recommended it to another IMDb user and she loved it! I agree that it's extremely haunting...and also very memorable.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

The Furnished Floor

I just finished listening to The Furnished Floor. It was well done, but I have to admit that it was extremely predictable. Also, Agnes Moorehead didn't do any of the voices here at all. I appreciate the recommendation.

This radio play reminded me a bit of a play which I read once, about tenants who eventually take over the house and lock the landlady in the attic. Obviously this radio play has a different ending.

Thank you again!

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: The Furnished Floor

You're right. There was absolutely no surprise in Furnished Floor. The presentation was all; and that's what I loved about it. How's you like Don DeFore's reniditon of (I think it was) Swing Low, Sweet Chariot? I think that's what he was singing at the end. It was a novel way to tell a story, and I always enjoy it when writers, directors and actors do some stretching on those shows.

Re: The Furnished Floor

Oh yes, he was excellent in the role, and his rendition of that song was spot on.

The movie really was more about the atmosphere than anything.

I remember reading a play in which the tenants eventually take over the house, locking the landlady in the attic. It starts out with one tenant only, and then he brings his girlfriend, then some friends, and suddenly the landlady has lost all control.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Escape...I gave it a chance.

I did look up The Three Skeleton Key (starring Vincent Price). It's part of the Escape series. A bit too gruesome for me. I only listened to about 2/3 of it before I had to give up on it. This is a Gentlemen's radio program, I think. All those rats...not for me! Still, I think that Vincent Price was excellent in the leading role. Normally I find his voice irritating, but he was perfect in this radio play.

If this radio play had been about snakes, I wouldn't have gotten past the first minute or so. I have a deadly fear of snakes.

In the other thread, you recommended an Escape radio play called Nightmare in Wax. I couldn't find such a title, but I did notice one called Study in Wax. Is that the one you were thinking of? I'd still like to hear it.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: Old-Time Radio Noir (Philo Vance)

Have you ever heard any of the Philo Vance radio plays? I had no idea that they existed until someone mentioned them to me. I'm listening to a couple of them now, and I recommend them to you.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

The shortest radio plays

So far, the shortest radio plays I've been able to find are the Ellery Queen minute mysteries. Basically Ellery solves the case just by pointing out a flaw in a brief statement presented to him.

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: The shortest radio plays

Hey, sounds good; I'll try and find some of them - it's such fun listening to radio plays - especially mysteries!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.

Re: The shortest radio plays

A few months ago, I found a lot of them on archive.org.

Enjoy!

~~
JimHutton (1934-79) & ElleryQueen

Re: The shortest radio plays

archive.org also has a classic TV section (I'm one of the uploaders on there, under the awful username "The Emperor of Television"):

Old time radio:
https://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio

Classic TV:
https://archive.org/details/classic_tv


Do any episodes survive of 1950s Australian version of "What's My Line"?

Re: The shortest radio plays

Thanks a lot for the links!


Let's be realists, let's demand the impossible.
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