Old time radio blog.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Magnificent Montague

If you like Frasier or The Jeffersons, you'll probably like The Magnificent Montague . Like those two classic shows, the star is a pompous ass who regularly gets verbally bitch-slapped by his smartass housekeeper. In this case it's Pert Kelton as Agnes the maid versus Monty Woolley in the title role. Leavening out their catfights is Montague's wife, Lily Boheme (voiced gracefully by Anne Seymour), who like her husband is a former Shakespearean stage star. Montague gets a gig playing the unctious Uncle Goodheart on a popular afternoon soap opera -- his first serious paying job in many years -- and spends a lot of time trying to hide this fact from his fellow members of the Proscenium Club, a hangout for other theatrical fossils.
The series -- which not surprisingly (considering its often acid dialogue) only lasted a single season on NBC Radio -- proceeds from Montague's first audition through an ill-fated gig in Hollywood and beyond. There were a total of 53 known episodes produced
between 11/10/50 and 9/08/51, of which only 33 remain (at least on archive.org -- Jerry Haendige's log -- sez there's 43 in existence), some of those final shows as of yet lost to history. One -- 7/21/51's Edwin Montague Day -- is only available (in the archive) as an 11-minute snippet! The writing was uniformly fairly high quality; how you enjoy it depends mainly on how much you can stand Woolley essentially playing his title role from The Man Who Came To Dinner, his most famous movie, in half-hour chunks. I particularly like Kelton's character who reminded me of both old H-wood character player Una O'Connor, and Marla Gibbs on The Jeffersons. The script to one of the best episodes, 1/12/51's Lost in Hollywood, is available online as a document via this Chicago theater site; in it, Montague takes brill potshots at both radio and the movie industry with content that still rings true.

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