In Breaking Walls episode 148 we spend February of 1944 with America’s top comedian, Bob Hope, as he whisks himself around the country, entertaining troops and broadcasting to the masses. —————————— Highlights: • Leslie Townes Hope’s Rise to Stardom • Broadway and Early Radio Shows • The Big Broadcast of 1938 • The Pepsodent Program • Early February 1944 World War II News • NBC Dominates Tuesday Nights in 1944 • Bob with Guest Ginger Rogers • The 4th War Bond Drive • Command Performance with Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland • Mid February World News Roundup • Bob with Guest Bing Crosby • Bob with Guest Carole Landis • News as we Leave February • Bob Gets Sick, Is Honored by The Academy • Looking Ahead to March with The Great GIldersleeve —————————— The WallBreakers: http://thewallbreakers.com Subscribe to Breaking Walls everywhere you get your podcasts. To support the show: http://patreon.com/TheWallBreakers —————————— The reading material used in today’s episode was: • On The Air — By John Dunning • Bob Hope: The Road Well-Traveled — By Lawrence J. Quirk • The Spirit of Bob Hope: One Hundred Years, One Million Laughs — By Richard Grudens • Network Radio Ratings — By Jim Ramsburg • Bob Hope: The Road from Eltham — By Charles Thompson As well as articles from: • Aces of World War II • Broadcasting Magazine • The Military Times • Radio Daily • The Seattle Times —————————— On the interview front: • Bob Hope was with both Dick Cavett in 1972 and Johnny Carson in 1974. • Ken Carpenter, Jim Jordan, Hariet Nelson, Wendell Niles, Hal Peary, and Lurene Tuttle spoke with Chuck Schaden. Hear these chats at Speakingofradio.com • Jim Jordan also spoke to Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Hear these interviews at Goldenage-WTIC.org • Red Skelton spoke with Merv Griffin in 1975 • Bing Crosby spoke with Same Time, Same Station —————————— Selected music featured in today’s episode was: • Thanks For the Memory — By Bob Hope and Shirley Ross • Ghost Bus Tours — By George Fenton —————————— A special thank you to Ted Davenport, Jerry Haendiges, and Gordon Skene. For Ted go to RadioMemories.com, for Jerry, visit OTRSite.com, and for Gordon, please go to PastDaily.com. An extra special thanks to Doug Hopkinson who provided the Bob Hope episode with Bing Crosby that aired February 15th, 1944. —————————— Thank you to: Tony Adams Steven Allmon Orson Orsen Chandler Phil Erickson Gerrit Lane Jessica Hanna Perri Harper Thomas M. Joyce Ryan Kramer Earl Millard Gary Mollica Barry Nadler Christian Neuhaus Ray Shaw Filipe A Silva John Williams Jim W. —————————— WallBreakers Links: Patreon - patreon.com/thewallbreakers Social Media - @TheWallBreakers
Well, that brings our look at Bob Hope’s career in February of 1944 to a close. We’ll be staying in 1944 the remainder of the year and next month we’ll spend March 1944 with a program considered to be the first spin-off in sitcom history. Next time on Breaking Walls we spotlight Hal Peary and The Great Gildersleeve, which between February and March of 1944 pulled a rating of nineteen points, making it the most-listened to show airing at 6:30PM in radio history. The reading material used in today’s episode was: • On The Air — By John Dunning • Bob Hope: The Road Well-Traveled — By Lawrence J. Quirk • The Spirit of Bob Hope: One Hundred Years, One Million Laughs — By Richard Grudens • Network Radio Ratings — By Jim Ramsburg • Bob Hope: The Road from Eltham — By Charles Thompson As well as articles from: • Aces of World War II • Broadcasting Magazine • The Military Times • Radio Daily • The Seattle Times —————————— On the interview front: • Bob Hope was with both Dick Cavett in 1972 and Johnny Carson in 1974. • Ken Carpenter, Jim Jordan, Hariet Nelson, Wendell Niles, Hal Peary, and Lurene Tuttle spoke with Chuck Schaden. Hear these chats at Speakingofradio.com • Jim Jordan also spoke to Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Hear these interviews at Goldenage-WTIC.org • Red Skelton spoke with Merv Griffin in 1975 • Bing Crosby spoke with Same Time, Same Station —————————— Selected music featured in today’s episode was: • Thanks For the Memory — By Bob Hope and Shirley Ross • Ghost Bus Tours — By George Fenton —————————— A special thank you to Ted Davenport, Jerry Haendiges, and Gordon Skene. For Ted go to RadioMemories.com, for Jerry, visit OTRSite.com, and for Gordon, please go to PastDaily.com. An extra special thanks to Doug Hopkinson who provided the Bob Hope episode with Bing Crosby that aired February 15th, 1944. —————————— Thank you to: Tony Adams Steven Allmon Orson Orsen Chandler Phil Erickson Gerrit Lane Jessica Hanna Perri Harper Thomas M. Joyce Ryan Kramer Earl Millard Gary Mollica Barry Nadler Christian Neuhaus Ray Shaw Filipe A Silva John Williams Jim W. —————————— WallBreakers Links: Patreon - patreon.com/thewallbreakers Social Media - @TheWallBreakers
On February 29th, 1944 Bob Hope was supposed to be in Mobile, Alabama for the first leg of a tour. He was unfortunately grounded by a cold. Instead, he broadcast his portion of the show from Hollywood, while the cast broadcast from Mobile. Once able to travel, Hope met his crew in transit, but not before being given a special award for his many services to the Academy at the March 2nd, 1944 Oscars. The Hope show’s itinerary included the Annual White House Correspondents dinner for President Roosevelt on March 4th. On March 7th, the cast would be in Miami; On March 14th in Jacksonville; On March 21st in Macon, Georgia; On March 25th a special from the Cleveland Canteen; and on March 28th, they’d be in Colorado Springs.
On Friday February 25th, 1944 "Big Week," the allies six-day strategic bombing campaign against the Third Reich ended with a successful bombing of German cities Rostock and Augsburg, as well as several Dutch cities near the German border. Unfortunately, many civilians were killed or left homeless. The Germans also lost more than three-hundred-fifty aircrafts, and most importantly, more than one-hundred pilots. Meanwhile two large Japanese ships were torpedoed, killing five-thousand Japanese soldiers, but also thirty-five hundred Japanese laborers and hundreds of allied POWs. On Saturday the 26th, more than six-hundred Soviet bombers raided Helsinki. That day at 1:45 PM, NBC’s War Telescope signed on at 1:45PM eastern time. With the U.S. congress squabbling, Europe looked on. On Sunday February 27th, The U.S. Office of Strategic Services began Operation Ginny I with the objective of blowing up railway tunnels in Italy to cut German lines of communication. The mission failed when the OSS team landed in the wrong place and couldn’t locate the tunnel. That same day, the Soviets massacred more than seven-hundred villagers in Chechnya they deemed non transportable. On Monday the 28th, the German 14th Army mounted new attacks against the U.S. VI Corps at Anzio, while also massacring roughly one thousand ethnic Poles in the village of Huta Pieniacka. Although the tide of war was slowly turning, there were atrocities and accidents on both sides, and neither the Allies or the Axis was fighting a pristine campaign. Regardless, Europe understood that in a post war world, if victory was achieved, the U.S. needed to be a main part of whatever League of Nations could be built after, while the U.S. didn’t yet fully grasp just how much responsibility the country would have in rebuilding Europe.
On Tuesday February 22nd, 1944 The Bob Hope Show took to the air with a special broadcast for the Coast Guard. The guest was Carole Landis. Hope’s radio cast from this era is his most famous. Along with Jerry Colona and songstress Frances Langford, the squeaky, man-crazed Vera Vague, voiced by Barbara Jo Allen was tremendous. Blanche Stewart and Elvia Allman played high-society nitwits Brenda and Cobina, modeled after real-life socialites Brenda Frazier and Cobina Wright Jr. Wright filed suit but settled, Hope remembered, when he invited her on the show as a guest. Wendell Niles was often Hope’s announcer for Pepsodent.
On February 15th, 1944 Bob Hope broadcast his program from Santa Ana’s Classification Center. His guest of honor was none other than good friend Bing Crosby. In February of 1944 Frances Langford was twenty-eight years old. She grew up in Florida, and originally trained as an opera singer. A tonsillectomy changed her range and she instead shifted her vocal approach to a more contemporary big band, popular music style. As a teenager, cigar manufacturer Eli Witt heard her sing at an American Legion party and hired her to sing on a local radio show he sponsored. In 1931 Langford moved to Hollywood, appearing on Louella Parsons' radio show. She was soon heard by Rudy Vallée, and in 1935 she made her film debut in Every Night at Eight. That year she became a regular performer on Dick Powell's radio show, which Bob Hope joined in 1937. When The Pepsodent Program launched in 1938 she began a long term engagement with Hope. In February of 1944 Hope, Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour were wrapping filming of Road To Utopia, the fourth in their series of Road To films. Written by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, the film is about two vaudeville performers at the turn of the twentieth century who go to Alaska to make their fortune. Along the way they find a map to a secret gold mine. While shooting wrapped in 1944, the film wasn’t released until February 27th, 1946. Its screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award the next year.
The week of February 13th, 1944 began with the Allies raiding Hong Kong and giving supplies to French resistance fighters. The next day a British submarine sank a German u-boat in a rare Pacific theater battle involving Germans. On Tuesday the 15th, the Soviets began their first offensive in the Battle of Narva while a Japanese cruiser was torpedoed by a U.S. submarine. By the middle of the week the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket ended in a Soviet victory with German forces fleeing for their lives, while American forces launched Operation Hailstone, a massive attack against a Japanese naval and air base in the Caroline Islands. As that was happening the U.S. scored an important victory against Japan in The Battle of Karavia Bay. Simultaneously, eight-hundred allied planes raided Berlin. The Germans would counter two days later by shelling London in the heaviest bombing of the British capital since 1941. This helped lead to NBC’s War Telescope news program on Saturday February 19th, entitled “Britain is a Fortress.” It took to the air at 1:45PM from WEAF in New York. The lieutenant Elmer Peterson interviewed was James Forrest Luma, born on August 27th, 1922 in Helena, Montana. At eighteen he was too young to enter flight training for the U.S., so he signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force and was sent to England. A month after this broadcast, Lieutenant Luma was involved with only one other pilot in an air raid that saw three German planes shot down and seventeen others retreat in flames. Overall, he shot down five enemy planes in combat and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. Later this year, he was transferred to a U.S. Army Air Forces Squadron, serving until July of 1945. James Luma lived to be ninety-six, passing away February 4th, 2019, just shy of seventy-five years to the date of giving this interview to Elmer Peterson. The day after this broadcast, The Allies launched "Big Week", a six-day strategic bombing campaign against the Third Reich, while Erwin Rommel completed a four-day inspection tour of Germany's Atlantic Wall which stretched from Southern France all the way to Northern Norway. He reported to Hitler that the German coastal defenses were up to all requirements, but the Germans knew that the day of a full scale western European invasion by the allied powers was coming.
On Saturday February 12th, 1944, Ken Carpenter was announcer for a Command Performance guest-starring Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland. Hope had just co-hosted, with Bing Crosby, a pro-amateur golf charity event. Bob Hope did his first remote broadcast from March Field on May 6th, 1941. Initially reluctant to leave the studio, the roar of laughter and applause from that first crowd was so loud, he would recall, that he “got goose pimples” during the broadcast. He was hooked. He spent most of the next seven years on the road, broadcasting from bases, camps, and hospitals. The cast was put on alert, ready to go at the drop of a hat. Frances Langford was given 24-hour notice to “hop a bomber” for Alaska in 1943. They hit one-hundred camps that year, in addition to their weekly radio show. They also went to Europe, doing a show at Messina just after the enemy had fled the town and was still bombarding the area with its artillery. This year, 1944, on a trip to the South Pacific, Hope’s plane had to make a crash landing in Australia. John Steinbeck wrote of Hope, “It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective.” Newsweek called it “the biggest entertainment giveaway in history.” Many times Hope appeared on Command Performance, broadcast over the Armed Forces Radio Service. Ken Carpenter recalled those shows.
After Bob Hope’s program signed off at 10:30PM eastern war time, The Red Skelton Show signed on. It debuted on Tuesday October 7th, 1941. By February of 1944 it was pulling a rating of 29.9. Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were heavily featured. Skelton was so supercharged that he couldn’t do a pre-show warm up. It left his audience exhausted and practically catatonic during the main show. So Skelton reversed the formula and gave his fans an after-show. Among his peers it was considered the hottest comedy act in town. Lurene Tuttle, who later appeared with Ozzie and Harriet on their own show, also starred on The Red Skelton Show. For three seasons Skelton’s popularity soared, but then he got divorced and lost his marriage deferment. The army drafted Skelton in 1944. MGM and radio sponsor Raleigh Cigarettes tried to help with no avail. The Draft Board also turned down his request to join the Special Services branch for entertainers. Skelton’s last radio program was on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. The next day he was formally inducted as a private. Without its star, the program was discontinued until he could come back from the war. Words at War was an anthology of war stories, “told by the men and women who have seen them happen.” It was produced in cooperation with the Council on Books in Wartime, promising “stories of the battlefronts, of behind-the scenes diplomacy, of underground warfare, of the home front, of action on the seas.” Each show was to be “a living record of this war and the things for which we fight.” First taking to the air on June 24th, 1943 from New York, it was praised by Variety as “one of the most outstanding programs in radio”; by the New York Times as the “boldest, hardest-hitting program of 1944”; and by Newsweek as “one of the best contributions to serious commercial radio in many a year.” Despite airing at 11:30PM on Tuesdays, Words at War stimulated conversation and controversy throughout its two-year run. On Tuesday, February 8th 1944 a story on George Washington Carver was broadcast. When Words At War signed off at midnight, NBC broadcast a ninety minute program for the fourth war bond drive. It was part of an extended effort to raise funds. The night prior at midnight, Ben Grauer hosted this show over NBC.
On Tuesday February 8th, 1944 at 10 PM eastern time over WEAF, and at 7PM pacific time over KFI, Bob Hope’s Pepsodent Program signed on live, coast-to-coast from Oceanside, California. The guest was Ginger Rogers, the program features a salute to her new film, Lady In The Dark. It was radio’s top show, pulling a rating that month of 36.2. Nearly twenty-eight million people heard this show, which is even more impressive when you consider how many were overseas fighting World War II. Hope’s top sidekick was Jerry Colonna, perhaps the wildest comic presence on 1940s radio. Colonna had once been a serious trombonist, playing with Goodman, Shaw, and the Dorseys: now he infused Hope’s program with verbal and vocal mayhem. He sported a four-inch walrus mustache and had a comedy style that blew away any attempt at logic. As soon as Colonna began walking to the microphone, the studio audience warned listeners with laughter.” Hope later wrote, there were two sides to Colonna’s persona: “One is the zany, silly moron, and the other is the deep thinking, serious moron.” His songstress was the immensely talented Frances Langford, equally adept at both comedy and drama. But, Hope was the star. As the late John Dunning once said, No one had ever told jokes quite like Bob Hope. His monologues were rapid-fire blasts of comedy, extremely topical and wildly appreciated by his live audience. Radio Life wrote, “Hope tells a gag in three lines. He’ll work for an hour on a one-word change. By the time he goes on the air, he knows his gags by heart.” He employed a team of twelve writers in three, two-man teams. Each were assigned to write the show’s three sections. First came the monologue; then a midshow routine with Colonna or another member of the regular cast; and finally, a sketch for the guest star. It was a true test of endurance. Hope demanded long rehearsals, including a sixty-minute runthrough with a live audience. He’d stand at the microphone, highlighting his script where the big laughs came. When you consider that Hope’s weekly audience was more than each of the first two Super Bowls, it’s easier to understand his point of view. The biggest problem with Hope, said producer Al Capstaff in 1945, was his inevitable tendency to pack the script. It was always thirty-seven minutes long and had to be whittled down joke by joke until only the surefire material remained. The result on the air was a breathless gush, with six laughs a minute guaranteed. But, that was Hope. Even in his 1972 Dick Cavett interview which has been featured throughout this episode of Breaking Walls, an off-the-cuff Hope can’t help but pack one-liner after one-liner in the midst of a genuine, serious, conversation. The Pepsodent Program was enhanced by Hope’s film career. By February of 1944 Hope had starred in seventeen films since the release of The Big Broadcast of 1938, including the first three Road To films with Bing Crosby.
If you’d have tuned your radio to NBC’s New York flagship, WEAF, at 7:30 PM on Tuesday February 8th, 1944 you’d have heard Ronald Coleman host the Autolite Sponsored, Everything For the Boys. The guest star was Greer Garson. NBC owned the ratings on Tuesdays with six of the top seven shows. Opposite of Everything For The Boys, CBS ran a concert, WOR-Mutual ran news, and WJZ of the Blue Network ran The Girl Back Home. “Barkley Square” is a fantasy play about a man who desires so much to go back in time that he somehow achieves it. At 8:00PM, The Ginny Simms Show took to the air. That month, the show’s rating was 14.6. Roughly eleven million people tuned in. Opposite, CBS aired Big Town, WOR aired The Black Castle, while WJZ aired news. At 8:30 NBC aired A Date With Judy, a female-driven situation comedy starring Louise Erickson. Opposite CBS ran The Judy Canova Show, while WJZ aired Duffy’s Tavern and WOR ran the quiz show, Battle of the Boroughs. This was the most competitive time slot as far as ratings went. In February A Date With Judy pulled a 9.6, while The Judy Canova Show pulled a 12.6, and Duffy’s Tavern had a 14.6. Louise Erickson was three weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday. She held the role until 1949. The series was popular enough that, in response, CBS developed Meet Corliss Archer. After The Molle Mystery Theater aired at 9 PM, the three top-rated shows on radio aired in succession, beginning with the just-heard Jim Jordan co-starring in Fibber McGee and Molly. The February 8th episode was called “Homemade Ice Cream” and had a rating of 35.7. More than twenty-seven million people tuned in. After Fibber McGee and Molly signed off, Bob Hope’s Pepsodent Program signed on at 10PM.
As February 1944 got underway the Soviet Leningrad Front was fighting a heavy ground war against the German eighteenth army in Estonia. The battle would last the entire month with the Soviet’s eventually winning. French Resistance unified under the French Forces of the Interior. The Germans won the Battle of Cisterna in Italy against the Allied army, but at that point, four months before the Normandy invasion, the Allies kept pushing into Italy. Meanwhile, the Battle of the Admin Box began in the Burma campaign with Japanese forces attempting to counter-attack an Allied offensive, trying to draw Allied reserves from the Central Front in Assam, where the Japanese were preparing their own major offense. On the morning of Saturday February 5th, 1944 at 7AM eastern war time, the NBC World News Roundup signed on from WEAF in New York. On the date of this broadcast, Allied powers were slowly inching into western Europe with the body count mounting, while Soviet forces captured cities in Ukraine. Overnight on February 6th into the 7th Soviet bombers attacked Helsinki, the heaviest bombing of the Finnish capital since the war began. Meanwhile, a growing border issue between Poland and Russia caused President Roosevelt to step in, Asking Stalin not to allow it to undermine future international co-operation. Roosevelt proposed that the Polish Prime Minister accept the desired territorial changes and then be allowed to alter the makeup of his government without any evidence of foreign pressure. Wartime needs stretched agricultural production. The U.S. not only had to feed its own civilian and military population, but many of the Allies relied on America’s bread basket. In addition, German U-boats sank hundreds of food-laden ships bound for Britain. Canned fruits and vegetables were rationed starting March 1st, 1943. Less canned goods meant less civilian tin use and less strain on the heavily taxed rail and road systems. Even as early as 1941, civilians were encouraged to grow their own produce to supplement their food. These were referred to as Victory Gardens. The Department of Agriculture produced pamphlets to guide urban and suburban gardeners. Magazines and newspapers published helpful articles, and patriotic posters urged participation. In the Pacific northwest state of Oregon, wartime farm labor shortages led to the creation of the U.S. Crop Corps in 1943. It umbrellaed labor services like the Women's Land Army and the Victory Farm Volunteers. The latter was a group that got parental consent to employ youths aged eleven to seventeen. Migrant workers from Mexico also helped, made possible thanks to the joint U.S./Mexican "Bracero Program." By 1944 farmers could request help from POW laborers held at Oregon Army camps. More than thirty-five-hundred prisoners, mostly Germans, worked in Oregon fields.
He was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29th, 1903 in Eltham, England. The fifth of seven sons, his parents were William Henry Hope, a stonemason from Somerset, and Welsh mother Avis, a light opera singer who later worked as a cleaner. The family eventually moved to Bristol for a time before emigrating to the U.S. aboard the SS Philadelphia, passing through Ellis Island on March 30th, 1908, before settling in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned pocket money by singing, dancing, and performing, winning a prize in 1915 for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. In December 1920, Hope and his brothers became U.S. citizens when their British parents became naturalized Americans. The next year, he was assisting his brother with the electric company when a horrific accident crushed his face. The reconstruction of which led to his distinctive appearance. In the 1920s Hope formed a dance act called the "Dancemedians" with George Byrne and the Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins who performed a tap-dancing routine on the vaudeville circuit. He acted in a double with Byrne, eventually making his way to New York. The act flopped, pushing Hope to strike out on his own, changing his first name to Bob in 1929. He spent five years on the Vaudeville circuit, failing an RKO screen test in 1930, but he broke out on Broadway, first in Ballyhoo of 1932, and then opposite Tamara Drasin and Fred MacMurray in Roberta, which played two-hundred ninety-four times between November of 1933 and July of 1934. Meanwhile in 1932, he appeared on Major Bowes’ Capitol Family Hour and later on Rudy Vallee’s Fleischmann Yeast Hour on June 3rd, 1933 alongside Jimmy Wallington. In 1933 he married his vaudeville partner Grace Troxell. They divorced the next year and Hope was soon with another performer, Dolores Reade. Though they spent the rest of their lives together, and Hope was notoriously unfaithful, a legal record of their marriage is vague at best. The couple would eventually adopt four children. In 1934 Hope signed a six-short contract with Educational Pictures. Radio soon followed. By then, he’d developed performing chops so strong, he could sing, dance, or act in any number of ways. On Friday January 4th, 1935 over NBC’s Blue Network, he debuted in The Intimate Review. This first series was short-lived: ratings were mediocre, but Hope found his first radio foil, comedienne Patricia Wilder, who, with her thick southern accent, went by Honey Chile. The Intimate Review went off the air in April, but on September 14th, 1935, Hope was back on radio over CBS with The Atlantic Family. While he was on for CBS in 1936, Hope starred on Broadway in Ziegfeld’s Follies with Fanny Brice; and in Cole Porter’s Red, Hot, and Blue, with Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante. The next May 9th, 1937, Hope was back on radio for NBC’s Blue Network on Sundays at 9PM with The Rippling Rhythm Revue. During this run Paramount beckoned: The Big Broadcast of 1938 was to begin filming, and Hope was offered a part. He moved to Hollywood, continuing his monologues by transcontinental wire. The Rippling Rhythm Revue was canceled in September, but three months later Hope joined The Dick Powell Variety Show on December 29th, 1937. The Big Broadcast of 1938 was released on February 11th, and suddenly, Hope was a huge star. On Tuesday, September 27th, 1938 at 10PM, The Pepsodent Show took to the air. That first season, Hope’s 15.4 rating was good enough for twelfth overall. In 1939 he was up to 23.1 and fifth. In 1941 his rating was 26.6 and fourth, and finally in 1942 his Crossley rating cracked thirty points, while his Hooper cracked forty. Hope soon began a five year run as radio’s top comedian.
In Breaking Walls episode 147 we go into the studio with Himan Brown for the CBS radio drama relaunch in 1974. —————————— Highlights: • First a January 1974 World News Roundup • Himan Brown’s Big Idea to Relaunch Radio Drama on CBS in 1974 • Tuning Into January 8, 1974’s Episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater • Mason Adams in I Warn You Three Times • January 13, 1974 World News Roundup — Nixon Still On Hot Seat • Producing The CBS Radio Mystery Theater With The New York Radio Crew • Dead For a Dollar • The CBS Radio Mystery Theater Beyond January 1974 • Looking Ahead to February by Looking Back to Bob Hope —————————— The WallBreakers: http://thewallbreakers.com Subscribe to Breaking Walls everywhere you get your podcasts. To support the show: http://patreon.com/TheWallBreakers —————————— The reading material used in today’s episode was: • On The Air — By John Dunning • The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting — By Gordon Payton and Martin Grams, Jr. As well as articles from: • The Cleveland Plain Dealer —————————— On the interview front: • Himan Brown, Larry Haines, Mary Jane Higby, Joseph Julian, and E.G. Marshall spoke with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Hear these interviews at Goldenage-WTIC.org • Joan Banks and George Petrie were with SPERDVAC. For more info, go to SPERDVAC.com • Mason Adams spoke with Chuck Schaden. Hear these chats at Speakingofradio.com —————————— Selected music featured in today’s episode was: • January Stars — By George Winston • Amid Flowers, Beside the River, Under a Spring Moon — By Elizabeth Hainen • Perfida — By Jimmy Dorsey And His Orchestra —————————— A special thank you to Ted Davenport, Jerry Haendiges, and Gordon Skene. For Ted go to RadioMemories.com, for Jerry, visit OTRSite.com, and for Gordon, please go to PastDaily.com. —————————— Thank you to: Tony Adams Steven Allmon Orson Orsen Chandler Phil Erickson Jessica Hanna Perri Harper Thomas M. Joyce Ryan Kramer Gerrit Lane Earl Millard Gary Mollica Barry Nadler Christian Neuhaus Ray Shaw Filipe A Silva John Williams Jim W. —————————— WallBreakers Links: Patreon - patreon.com/thewallbreakers Social Media - @TheWallBreakers
This is the fifth episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Entitled "No Hiding Place," it was written by longtime writer of The Shadow, Sidney Slon. It stars Larry Haines, Jackson Beck, Anne Meacham, Sidney Walker and Tom Keena. The Plot: Charles Powel, executive vice president of a large company and engaged to the boss’ daughter, seems to have everything going for him. But Clint Livets, who knows the secret of Charles’ past, shows up with a dirty hand and blackmail on his mind.
Well, that brings our look at the launch of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater to a close. We’ve spent the past five months making our way forward in time from 1957, to 1963, to 1973, and finally 1974. But, next month on Breaking Walls we’ll head back to the middle of radio’s golden age and focus on one of the most successful comedians of all-time. Next time on Breaking Walls, it’s February of 1944 and between entertaining troops, smashing box office numbers, and notoriously carousing, the man jokingly referred to by friend Bing Crosby as “ol trowel nose,” Bob Hope, is radio’s top comedian. For the first time in six years of Breaking Walls episodes, we’ll focus on the man who always reminded us to say, thanks for the memories. The reading material used in today’s episode was: • On The Air — By John Dunning • The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting — By Gordon Payton and Martin Grams, Jr. As well as articles from: • The Cleveland Plain Dealer —————————— On the interview front: • Himan Brown, Larry Haines, Mary Jane Higby, Joseph Julian, and E.G. Marshall spoke with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Hear these interviews at Goldenage-WTIC.org • Joan Banks and George Petrie were with SPERDVAC. For more info, go to SPERDVAC.com • Mason Adams spoke with Chuck Schaden. Hear these chats at Speakingofradio.com —————————— Selected music featured in today’s episode was: • January Stars — By George Winston • Amid Flowers, Beside the River, Under a Spring Moon — By Elizabeth Hainen • Perfida — By Jimmy Dorsey And His Orchestra —————————— A special thank you to Ted Davenport, Jerry Haendiges, and Gordon Skene. For Ted go to RadioMemories.com, for Jerry, visit OTRSite.com, and for Gordon, please go to PastDaily.com. —————————— Thank you to: Tony Adams Steven Allmon Orson Orsen Chandler Phil Erickson Jessica Hanna Perri Harper Thomas M. Joyce Ryan Kramer Earl Millard Gary Mollica Barry Nadler Christian Neuhaus Ray Shaw Filipe A Silva John Williams Jim W. ——————————
Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 28th, 1974 — CBS 'Theater's' Brown Burns about Serling "I'm proud of every minute we're on the air...and I'll stand up for every single show I do." Speaking of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater was Himan Brown, executive producer of the nationwide show that premiered January 6th and has garnered good ratings. His comments were the beginning of a rebuttal to negative remarks made about the show and The Zero Hour on these pages June 16th by Rod Serling, who narrated the latter program, which was dropped by Mutual last Friday. Brown burned. “My stories have complete relevancy to all that's going on now--exorcism, reincarnation--all stories of the moment. We're doing contemporary stories with the best writers and actors in the business. I think radio drama, contrary to what Serling says, is here forever and a day--and never will be off the networks again." Serling has written TV shows, movies, and books, but his only previous radio drama was written while he was a summer replacement at WLW in Cincinnati. "It’s all sour grapes. Serling's relationship to radio has been a total failure," Brown said. “His criticism of his own show is a complete slur of his own integrity, because in the past he lent his narrative name or talents to what he wrote. The implication is that he was much involved with the stories on The Zero Hour and that's a fake.” Brown believes in Mystery Theater with all his heart. “It took me fifteen years to sell it, but it's been a happy fulfillment." The show has gone so well that Brown has a verbal renewal to go into a second year. He wouldn't discuss it, but Brown admitted that he has packaged a two-hour weekly Sunday drama series for CBS Radio that would debut early next year. Getting back to Mystery Theater, Brown admitted that he can't bat one-thousand on the series. "But I'll bat eight-hundred." He produces, directs, edits scripts, casts the shows and signs the checks. “The show has gone far beyond anything I ever hoped for. People are listening seven nights a week. The minute we put on the first repeats, the stations' switchboards lit up.” The first year's contract calls for one-hundred ninety-five new shows and one-hundred seventy repeats. Usually produced in New York, the program will invade Hollywood for talent there for the recording of eight mysteries, beginning August 5th. Born in Manhattan and with degrees from City College of New York and Brooklyn Law School--although he has never practiced law--Brown moved into TV production when radio drama fell by the wayside some fifteen years ago. Now, with The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, he's back home. "It's the greatest homecoming a man could possibly want." — Raymond P. Hart Although Rod Serling was disappointed with Mutual broadcasting’s treatment of The Zero Hour, as covered in the previous episode of Breaking Walls, in 1974 Himan Brown’s Mystery Theater won a Peabody Award for helping to usher in a new era of radio entertainment. It would run for eight more years until finally going off the air on December 31st, 1982. More than fifteen hundred episodes were produced. Most survive in listening quality.
On Monday January 21st, 1974 the just-heard Joe Julian co-starred with Paul Hecht, Joan Banks, Mary Jane Higby, Tony Roberts, and George Petrie in Murray Burnett’s story “Dead for a Dollar” on The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Radio legend Joan Banks played secretary Kay Woodhouse. George Petrie played Jason Grant. He’d been appearing on radio since the early days of the Great Depression. Mary Jane Higby played Denise Grant. She’d come to New York City from Hollywood in 1937.
By the time The CBS Radio Mystery Theater debuted, the men and women associated with the show had been involved with each other for nearly forty years. Mary Jane Higby grew up in Los Angeles and remembered Hollywood before it was a radio hub. She was once called Queen of the soaps. Joan Banks, who later married Frank Lovejoy, remembered the New York hangouts. There she spent time with men and women like the oft-heavy Larry Haines. These men and women were usually overbooked. Joan Banks went to the west coast in 1948. It was about then that Television came into the picture. E.G. Marshall was a part of it from the start. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before radio began to decline, as Joe Julian remembered. But nearly twenty years later, thanks to Himan Brown, CBS was back in the radio drama business in 1974.
On Thursday, January 10th, 1974 the crew of Skylab 4, which had been orbiting the earth for more than fifty days, was granted a day off. The week prior, during a televised news conference Mission commander Gerald Carr said he missed cold beer and football. That same day the U.S. carried out three simultaneous nuclear explosions as part of Operation Arbor in Nevada. January 13th was Super Bowl VIII Sunday. The defending champion Miami Dolphins faced off against the Minnesota Vikings at Rice Stadium in Houston. More than seventy thousand were in attendance. That evening. Floyd Kalber signed on for NBC’s news with coverage of potential peace between Egypt and Israel, brokered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Looking for a solution to the ongoing Middle East crisis, Kissinger spent ten hours meeting with Israeli officials, hammering out a proposal for a peace settlement with Egypt. He next flew to Cairo to present the document to Anwar Sadat. After meeting Sadat, the plan was to return to Tel-Aviv with Sadat’s version of the proposal for Israel’s acceptance or rejection. This was good for President Nixon, who despite an eighteen day birthday vacation in California, and an insistence that he would leave the past behind and focus on 1974, couldn’t seem to shake Watergate, the energy crisis, and continued high inflation.
On Saturday, January 12th, 1974, the just heard Mason Adams starred alongside Joan Loring, Tom Keena, Sam Gray, and Alan Manson in the seventh episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. This aircheck comes from WOR and it's a mystery in the truest sense of the word. Joan Lorring, who voiced Hedy, was at the time of this broadcast forty-seven years old. She’d already been nominated for an Academy Award in The Corn Is Green in 1945, and won a Donaldson, the predecessor of the Tony, in 1950 for her portrayal of Marie Buckholder in Come Back, Little Sheba. On radio, her career spanned the gamut. She starred as Judy Foster in the second season of A Date With Judy, played on Suspense in the 1940s, in Theater Five in the 1960s, and finally on The CBS Radio Mystery Theater in the 1970s. Later this year she appeared in Burt Lancaster’s neo noir mystery film The Midnight Man.
The New York Daily News was unenthusiastic in its review of the first two episodes, however the third episode caught their attention. On the evening of Tuesday, January 8th, 1974 The CBS Radio Mystery Theater took to the air with their third installment, called “The Bullet,” guest-starring the just-heard radio, TV, and stage legend Larry Haines. Larry Haines had been involved with New York radio for decades. The same month he was starring in this episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater he spoke with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcordan for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Also featured in this cast was Evelyn Juster, Martin Newman, Danny Ocko, Leon Janney, and Ralph Bell. It was written by radio writing legend Sam Dann.
Tuesday, January 8th, 1974. It’s a cold night in Brooklyn, New York. There’s snow in the forecast. We’re driving north on Shore Road, towards the Belt Parkway in a 1973 Ford Maverick. Thanks to the oil crisis, smaller cars like the Maverick are becoming increasingly popular. On January 2nd, President Nixon signed a law lowering the maximum speed limit on U.S. highways to fifty-five miles per hour. It conserved gasoline during the embargo. Highway fatalities dropped twenty three percent over the next year. The limit remained in effect for thirteen years. Unfortunately for Nixon, the Watergate scandal wouldn’t go away. Citing executive privilege, on January 4th, Nixon refused to surrender over five hundred subpoenaed tapes to the Watergate Committee. On this night, Tuesday January 8th, John Chancellor signed on with news and updates from NBC. On this day, New York City instituted measures against gas shortage abuse. The day after this broadcast, Representatives from the twelve member nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries finished a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, voting for a three-month freeze on oil prices. But this isn’t why we’re here. As Mutual Broadcasting was getting back into radio drama with The Zero Hour, longtime director Himan Brown finally convinced CBS to give him a nightly hour of time to produce new eerie radio plays. Tonight, we’ll go back to January 1974 and study how this moment in time came to be. ____________ In January 1974 Himan Brown was sixty-three years old, having been on the air since the age of eighteen. Brown is noted for having created Bulldog Drummond, Grand Central Station, Dick Tracy, and Inner Sanctum Mysteries. He was itching for the chance to create new dramatic radio. CBS executive Sam Digges was fifty-seven, and close friends with Brown, but the CBS network board could perhaps have been a harder sell for a program that was to air every night of the week. CBS hadn’t produced any dramatic shows since September of 1962. Over the eleven years since, numerous technological advancements had been made. In order to produce a show that was to air every night of the week, a dedicated studio would be developed. They used Studio G on the sixth floor of the old CBS Radio Annex on East 52nd street. The writers would be paid three-hundred fifty dollars per script. That’s a little more than two thousand dollars today. As Himan Brown mentioned, in New York City CBS aired news, so Mutual Broadcasting’s flagship WOR picked up the series just one month after Mutual began airing The Zero Hour. Acting talent would work for SAG-AFTRA scale. Actor E.G. Marshall was tabbed to be the host. In 1973 Marshall was known for his prominent role in the 1957 Twelve Angry Men, and on TV’s The Defenders. As a host, he harkened back to the Golden Age of Radio when characters such as The Man In Black, The Whistler, The Mysterious Traveler, and Raymond hosted macabre programs. The CBS Radio Mystery Theater would debut on Sunday January 6th, 1974 with Agnes Moorehead starring in “The Old Ones Are Hard To Kill.” Two-hundred eighteen stations carried the series, including twenty-one which were not CBS affiliates.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2sZTlF006NpivktbnUVn-g Hey everyone, James Scully here. Happy holidays! For those that don't know, once I get to 500 Youtube subscribers I can begin to earn through Youtube's earning program. I'm less than 50 subscribers away and I'm trying to get there by the end of the year. If you like the show, please subscribe and tell a few friends! It's free to subscribe. The link is above. All episodes of Breaking Walls from January 2022 onward have been uploaded to the youtube page. I've also begun to add the archive of 2018-2021 episodes as well. And just so you know, the next episode of Breaking Walls, #147,which will debut next week, will feature the launch of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater in honor of the 50th anniversary of its launch in 1974. Please subscribe on Youtube if you don't. You'll get the same feed there, but I'll be able to being earning through the earning program and I'd appreciate that very much. So, my name is James Scully. Keep getting out there, keep breaking those walls, and I'll catch you on the flip side. Thank you very much.
In Breaking Walls episode 146 we spotlight the Jay Kholos, Elliott Lewis, and Rod Serling series The Zero Hour in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of its debut on the Mutual Broadcasting System in December of 1973. —————————— Highlights: • Radio Drama Coming Back in 1973 • Jay Kholos Conceives The Zero Hour — Rod Serling Will Host • The Zero Hour Is On the Air • WRVR and Selling Radio Shows In the 1970s • Nixon On The Hot Seat • AFTRA’s Moving Goal Posts — Kholos Must Sell The Zero Hour’s Rights • Selling The Zero Hour to Mutual • Elliott Lewis and Jay Kholos Leave The Zero Hour • Mutual Cancels The Zero Hour and Rod Serling is Disappointed • Life After Radio Drama • Looking Ahead to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater —————————— The WallBreakers: http://thewallbreakers.com Subscribe to Breaking Walls everywhere you get your podcasts. To support the show: http://patreon.com/TheWallBreakers —————————— The reading material used in today’s episode was: • On The Air — By John Dunning • A Pictorial History of Radio’s First 75 Years — By B. Eric Rhoads • The Radio Career of Rod Serling — By Martin Grams Jr’s The archive from Digital Deli’s Zero Hour page. As well as articles from: • The Arizona Republic • The Associated Press * The Cleveland Plain Dealer * Pacific Stars and Stripes • The San Mateo Times • The Van Wert Times Bulletin —————————— On the interview front: • Himan Brown and Howard Duff spoke with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. Hear these interviews at Goldenage-WTIC.org • Howard Duff, Elliott Lewis, Les Tremayne, Janet Waldo, and Paula Winslowe spoke with Chuck Schaden. Hear these chats at Speakingofradio.com • Mary Jane Croft, Byron Kane, and Elliott Lewis spoke with SPERDVAC. For more info, go to SPERDVAC.com • Jay M. Kholos was interviewed by Yours Truly, James Scully in January 2018 —————————— Selected music featured in today’s episode was: • Caravan — By Eighty Drums Around The World • What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve — By Nancy Wilson —————————— A special thank you to Ted Davenport, Jerry Haendiges, and Gordon Skene. For Ted go to RadioMemories.com, for Jerry, visit OTRSite.com, and for Gordon, please go to PastDaily.com. —————————— Thank you to: Tony Adams Steven Allmon Orson Orsen Chandler Phil Erickson Jessica Hanna Perri Harper Thomas M. Joyce Ryan Kramer Earl Millard Gary Mollica Barry Nadler Christian Neuhaus Ray Shaw Filipe A Silva John Williams Jim W. —————————— WallBreakers Links: Patreon - patreon.com/thewallbreakers Social Media - @TheWallBreakers
Although The Zero Hour went off the air in the spring of 1974, the people involved didn’t stop working. Rod Serling always kept a full schedule. His final radio performance was part of Fantasy Park. A fantasy rock concert aired by nearly two-hundred stations in 1974 and 1975. Always a heavy smoker, on May 3rd, 1975, Serling had a heart attack. A second heart attack two weeks later forced doctors to agree that a risky open-heart surgery was necessary. On June 26th, Serling had a third heart attack on the operating table and died two days later at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York. He was just fifty. His funeral and burial took place on July 2nd in Seneca, New York. Elliott Lewis would continue in Television, before again working with Mutual on radio dramas at the end of the decade. Jay Kholos continued innovating, eventually forming the theater company, Orchard Street Productions, in 2001. These days he lives in Nashville, where Kholos writes music and scripts for his own productions, while Orchard Street also licenses musicals and plays for local, regional and North American tours.
Once Mutual finished running the last of the Lewis-directed Jay Kholos episodes of The Zero Hour on March 14th, 1974, they went dark for six weeks. They were busy completely changing the format. Now, one star would be featured in five different anthologies during a week. The show returned on April 29th. The first week’s star was Mel Torme. “Bye Bye Narco” was the first new script produced under Mutual’s umbrella. Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 16th, 1974 “Rod Serling, master writer of the mysterious and macabre, is playing a game of suspense with the good earth. On the side, he serves as host of The Zero Hour, a weekday radio mystery series beamed by the Mutual Broadcasting System. “Serling's feelings about the recent upsurge in radio drama prompted a call to his rural home. It soon became apparent that he is disappointed with radio drama and TV. “Serling made it clear that he has nothing to do with the writing or producing of the twenty-five minute dramas. "I've caught the show about three times. One was passable and two I would have flunked off the air. What they're trying to do—and they may succeed—is a show that is contemporary. But it sounds campy.” “Serling said, "The same thing applies to The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. It has to be relevant stuff for 1974. Short of that, why not resurrect old Shadow recordings? So far, I have yet to see either show relate to our time, either in story or technique. if they're selling us nostalgia, they've succeeded. It's thoroughly reminiscent of radio thirty years ago.” “I'm not bad rapping it,” he said. “It's just not what I expected. I realize the economics of the situation. I wouldn’t want to spend my time writing a provocative radio drama and get a check that would buy me a carton of cigarettes. Radio drama currently has the value of an antique." “Won't it change for the better? “I don't know," Serling said. “I have no idea. I'm frequently wrong, anyhow. I thought Nixon would be out of office by now. And I thought Sonny Liston would be heavyweight boxing champion for 20 years.” “Summing up his feelings about radio and television, Serling said, “I feel the same way about radio as I do television as an art form. It doesn't rise to the occasion like it should...although television occasionally has.” “Radio today is more of a display case than an art form.” — Raymond P. Hart The Zero Hour in the new format ran thirteen additional weeks before being canceled after the July 26th, 1974, episode. In total, one-hundred-thirty episodes of The Zero Hour were produced. Most can be heard today.
Associated Press, December 21st, 1973, New York City. “The script appears strange at first. Its directions are for the ear, not the eye, and say things like: "DOORBELL ON. FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPENED. TRAFFIC IN BG." "That traffic noise is 25 years old," laughs Jimmy Dwan, a veteran CBS sound effects man. "You can hear a doorman shouting on it somewhere. That doorman, he's been dead twenty years." Dwan's recorded sound effects are old, but not his script. It's of 1973 vintage, written solely for radio. “Yes, radio. “It's part of a brave new effort by two networks to bring back, in limited form, the golden days of coast-to-coast radio drama that most everyone remembers, but hasn't heard in more than a decade. “The Mutual Broadcasting System fired the first shot Monday with The Zero Hour, a 30-minute five-nights-a-week thriller serial hosted by writer-narrator Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. “Mutual, which says it has six-hundred-thirty affiliates, bought the series after lengthy studies proved there existed a sufficient market for radio drama on a network basis. Advertisers liked the idea, too, according to Mutual's president C. Edward Little: "We got a tremendous amount of client interest after we announced it," adding that the show will be fed from Mutual's Washington D.C., headquarters each weeknight at 7PM. "We feel that we'll start off with one-hundred-fifty to two-hundred stations." “The series will be offered on a "first refusal" basis to Mutual affiliates. “They also said that if the show clicks, other radio projects such as new comedy or anthology series, may follow. But they emphasized that such shows are strictly in the talking stages.” — Jay Sharbutt Once Mutual purchased the rights to The Zero Hour, they removed Elliott Lewis as director and Jay Kholos no longer had anything to do with the production. Both had good things to say about each other, but not for Mutual.
Hey everyone, James Scully here. This Saturday, December 16th, is the 188th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1835. It burned the entire financial district in New York City to the ground. The fire was so big it could be seen from Philadelphia, 90 miles away. I’m doing two walking tours, one at 12PM and one at 4PM on the anniversary in conjunction with the audio fiction soap opera set in 1835 NYC I've developed called Burning Gotham — http://burninggotham.com/. Burning Gotham was a 2022 Tribeca Film Festival audio selection. Join us as we explore lower Manhattan and the notable sights and scandals of 1830s New York, with a close look at 1835 and how a single year forever changed New York City in big ways. Included here are links where you can buy tickets to both — https://linktr.ee/thewallbreakers I hope to see you there!
One of the radio veterans featured in this episode was Byron Kane. Another was Paula Winslowe. By October 1973, it was obvious that Jay Kholos couldn’t afford to keep funding new episodes of The Zero Hour thanks to AFTRA’s changing terms. He looked to make a deal with a network. The Mutual Broadcasting System and C. Edward Little were interested. A deal came together quickly. A press conference announcing the move was set for November 1st. We heard that presser at the beginning of this episode. The Zero Hour would be moving to Mutual on December 17th, 1973. Before new episodes could be broadcast, Mutual would air the thirteen five-part episodes already directed by Elliott Lewis.