Old time radio blog.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Playlist 2/14/09

When TV is boring and there's nothing else to do, I drag several episodes of old time radio into my media player and spend the evening enjoying them. Sometimes my lists have a theme, sometimes they're random like this one. Links are to the archive.org page sources, not the actual shows.

Wind Chill is one of the creepier episodes of the 1980 Nightfall series. Emotional young woman gets lost in the snow on a trip to a friend's cabin and meets fey young man who takes her to his own cottage. A combination of eerie moog music and a child's voice add to the tension, despite fairly predictable ending.

Burns & Allen: Gracie Hires Harpo leavens this playlist with trademark silliness from May 1946. Gracie Allen's voice is hoarser than usual and the political references need a peek in a history book; she gets Harpo Marx to snoop on Hollywood celebs for her gossip column. Interesting how a largely visual comic can still communicate (via a series of whistles & sound fx) on radio. Marx harps a sweet Stardust Memory (title?); Mel Blanc shows up as weaselly Mr Postman and Bill Goodwin mocks him while promoting sponsor Maxwell House Coffee. As usual, George Burns is the only sane man in the room. Oh man, I'd love to see what they're doing near show end to make the audience howl! OMG, tons of stuff must be pouring out of Harpo's trademark trenchcoat, LOL!!

Lux Theater's 2/8/55 version of War of the Worlds follows starring Dana Andrews and Pat Crowley. The play begins with Paul Frees, who played a newsman in the movie and was the voice of a thousand Disney ride characters & featurettes, not to mention Josephine's voice in Some Like It Hot. A meteor hits the hills above a small California town, a telephone lever is rattled to get through a party line (remember those?), and on comes Andrews' Gene Barryish voice at a campfire. Crowley is girlier here than her later role on Please Don't Eat The Daisies. Later, good ol' Bill Conrad shows up as a pompous general. Doesn't quite have the same campy resonance as the George Pal film production; more realistically similar to the 1959 BBC production of The Kraken Wakes but without the mordant satire that gave that one its bite.

Halloween 1949 episode of Our Miss Brooks features a party at ever-fussy Principal Conklin's house. Unfortunately Mr Conklin is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the sight of his least favorite student Walter in spectral drag just about puts him over.

Debut episode of The Magnificent Montague (11/10/50) introduces the spiteful title character, long-suffering wife Lily, and sassy maid Agnes. Edwin has finally gotten an acting job after eight years of old fartitude. I love the silly statement he makes about radio killing the stage; if it wasn't for radio, most people never would have heard or learn to enjoy live theater. Seriously, the nauseating Uncle Goodheart character Montague has to play would drive most people back to Broadway for the realities of Miller and Williams! Still, the zingers flying during the Goodheart audition make this a classic episode.

10/8/49 episode -- The Open Window -- of Adventures of Philip Marlowe. The gumshoe calms a soft-spoken dame with amnesia who has shown up at his apartment, claiming she's being followed by some strange man. Marlowe leaves her in the flat so she can get some sleep and goes off to investigate with an 'enigmatic key' she's given him, including a visit to a badly-acted drunk named Jake and a run-in with three more shady characters.

9/27/45 Arch Oboler play The Family Nagachi looks at a post-war Nisei clan. More famous for his frightening Lights Out episodes, Oboler actually preferred writing thoughtful social dramas like these. Decorated war hero comes home to find that his family had been interned in the Manzanar concentration camp in the California desert for the duration and continue to be harrassed for being of Japanese descent. Ironically, none of the named lead players are Asian. Still it's bold for its day, and holds up pretty well, especially considering that it wasn't until 1976 that TV bothered to do a movie about Manzanar.

3/11/60 Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney show runs about 19 minutes sans commercials. The tunes are tame and the show is relatively free of lots of inane patter -- ads aside -- but I'm not big on post-40's Crosby. Gak: der Bingle attempting to "rock" up It Happened in Monterey! Way too much organ throughout the show. Clooney comes off best -- this was still her era, at least until the Beatles landed.

X Minus One's Sea Legs from May 1956 Veteran spaceman opts to retire to his parents' home planet -- Earth -- after sixteen years in a low-gravity situation. Unfortunately the old terra firma ain't what it used to be; actually it's become like then-contemporary USSR, a dystopian future of paranoia, tight rationing, and hostile class-consciousness.

A 4/17/52 Father Knows Best episode focuses on something safely Western: a new washing machine and Kitten's weird fascination with using it. Great to hear kids say things like "turn blue" and "okay, Tallulah" instead of "bite me" and worse, or as much as they can get past the FCC on commercial television. On the other hand, I remember the prudes getting pissy ten-fifteen years ago about a Mad About You episode that had Jamie (Helen Hunt) having an orgasm as she sat atop her new washer.

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