I often think that writing for a mystery show on radio would have been my calling had I lived back in the 40’s. A few years ago, I happened upon some cassette tapes of old radio programs and began listening, surprised by how much I was enjoying them.
My favorites were those that offered mystery and suspense such as The Whistler and The Shadow. I was amazed by the talent that was showcased. Actors such as Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, and Peter Lorre appeared regularly in tight, well written stories. I became addicted to the thriller, I Was a Spy for the F.B.I. Produced in the mid fifties, during the height of the cold war, it starred Dana Andrews as double agent Matt Cvetic.
Having been brought up in the television generation, I always wondered what satisfaction radio audiences derived from only listening to a story rather than actually seeing it. Now I know. There is a certain intimacy that occurs between narrator and listener that draws the listener in. Hearing the sound effects of a doorbell, a train whistle, a body being dragged across the room, forces one’s imagination to stretch beyond its greatest limits. A side bonus these days is being able to hear sound effects for things that no longer exist such as a phone being dialed or the keys of a typewriter being tapped.
And, of course, there’s something to be said about listening to a story that was written and performed in an America that existed sixty some odd years ago and picking up the social and cultural insights from an era gone by. I got so caught up in one particular promotion, that I was prepared to send a Lipton Tea Bag label and a quarter for the chance to own a sterling silver necklace. You’d think the price of a quarter would have been a tip off and might have brought me back to the present faster than it did.
Who will admit to being old enough to know who sponsored the following shows?
Scroll down for the answers.
2. OUR MISS BROOKS
3. GUIDING LIGHT
4. THE LONE RANGER
5. INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES
6. THE BURNS & ALLEN SHOW
7. THE BERGEN & MCCARTHY SHOW
8. THE JACK BENNY SHOW
9. THE GREEN HORNET
10. QUEEN FOR A DAY
1. SUSPENSE: (1942-1962) Showcased top stars of the day (Orson Welles, Cary Grant) in original and classic stories, the most famous of which was probably Sorry, Wrong Number, starring Agnes Moorehead. SPONSOR: ROMA WINES.
2. OUR MISS BROOKS: (1948-1957); Seen concurrently on CBS-TV, it starred the ever wise-cracking, Eve Arden as high school teacher, Connie Brooks. Supporting cast included Gale Gordon and Richard Crenna (who went on to become a well respected TV director) SPONSORS: COLGATE & TONI HOME PERMANENT
3. GUIDING LIGHT: (1937-1956) The longest running ‘soap opera’, continued on CBS-TV until it was canceled in 2009. A personal note here, my late husband, Rick Rhodes and his partner, Danny Pelfry, wrote the Guiding Light theme, which played in the early 2000’s. SPONSORS: GENERAL MILLS, DUZ SOAP (On TV, this became one of Proctor and Gamble’s many sponsored shows. Another personal note: I wrote for a P & G soap in the eighties: As The World Turns, also recently canceled).
4. THE LONE RANGER: (1933-1954) The Lone Ranger and his faithful friend, Tonto roamed the county with their respective horses, Silver and Scout, helping people in need. The theme song, Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” became forever identifiable with the show. SPONSORS: SILVERCUP BREAD, GENERAL MILLS.
5. INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES: (1941-1952) Accompanied by the sound of a squeaking door, listeners were invited by Raymond, a creepy sounding host, to hear horror stories guaranteed to “scare the yell” out of them. SPONSOR: LIPTON TEA AND SOUP.
6. THE BURNS & ALLEN SHOW: (1932-1950) Married in real life, Burns and Allen were one of the most popular comedy teams around. Cigar chomping, George was always baffled by his ditzy wife, Gracie. They moved to television, along with their announcer, Harry Von Zell. SPONSORS: GRAPE NUTS, MAXWELL HOUSE COFFEE
7. THE BERGEN & MCCARTHY SHOW: (1937-1956) Edgar Bergen and his famous dummies, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd were huge favorites with radio listeners. Although, as Woody Allen once pointed out in the movie, Radio Days, how could listeners tell if Bergen’s lips were moving? This was, after all, radio.
8. THE JACK BENNY SHOW: (1933-1950) With his renown comic timing and his signature, “Well!” Benny was the only performer to have a number 1 rated show on both NBC and CBS. His supporting cast included his wife, Mary Livingstone, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and Phil Harris. SPONSORS: JELLO, LUCKY-STRIKE.
9. THE GREEN HORNET: (1936-1952) Before Seth Rogen took up the role in today’s 2011 film adaptation, The Green Hornet first made his debut in radio. Britt Reid, newspaper publisher by day and masked crime fighter by night, fought criminals with his faithful sidekick, Kato. SPONSORS: GENERAL MILLS, ORANGE CRUSH.
(Interesting bit of trivia: Reid was originally introduced as the Lone Ranger’s nephew).
10. QUEEN FOR A DAY: (1945-1957) A precursor to reality television shows such as Extreme Makeover, each episode set out to grant the wish of a deserving woman with a sad tale to relay. It transitioned successfully to television (I vividly recall watching this, as a little girl, with my grandmother, who was always overcome with emotion by the stories told). SPONSORS: ALKA-SELTZER, PHILIP MORRIS CIGARETTES.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey down memory lane on Rhodes Less Traveled.
Have a nice weekend, Vivian