When Radio Ruled
There was a time before TV. A time when life was simpler, more innocent and, some would say, more boring. Small children were told by their parents that if they should ever become lost to go to the nearest grownup and ask for help or ask to be taken to a policeman. A famous Swedish movie star almost had her career shattered by dating a married man. Another sleepy-eyed movie star went without work for years after being arrested for smoking pot. Women who were divorced were regularly shunned by others and God forbid a woman should have a child out of wedlock. You could look down the road a half mile and identify a Ford, Chevy, Caddy, Nash, Studebaker, LaSalle, DeSoto, Kaiser, etc.
Besides the obvious differences between radio and TV there was one core difference that made radio more like the ancient tradition of passing down stories by word of mouth than like a forerunner of TV. Indeed the two have little in common save that they both reside in our living rooms. Radio was not restricted by the pocketbook of a production company, the skill of a cinematographer, the vision of a director, or the talents of the actors. It was restricted only by the imagination of the listener.
In the very early days of the invention of radio it was intended as a way for communication between point A and point B. Soon a security problem arose: How to keep unauthorized persons from listening in. At some point it evolved into a medium of mass communication and it was off and running.
To those who do not remember the days when radio ruled, this exercise will seem like the crazed rantings of a madman in a foreign language and not particularly funny, but to those few who were around at the time I hope it stirs up some pleasant memories.
Some of the following bloopers that occurred even before my time are from an old record I once had and are, to my best recollection, fairly accurate.
Return with us now to those days of yesteryear when radio ruled and things were simpler, more innocent. Do you remember...
"Magee, don't open that door..."
CRASH, SLAM, CLATTER, KABOOM.
"By golly I'll have to clean out that closet some day."
Whenever Fibber Magee opened the closet door everything came tumbling out since he never got around to organizing it, much to Molly's chagrin.
"Who was that masked man?"
"I don't know."
"What was that he put in your hand, Sally?
"Why it looks like a silver bullet."
"Hi Yo Silver, away."
The Green Hornet--"Kato, get the car."
Actually Kato belongs in the Book of World Records as the only person to instantly change from Japanese to Filipino in a split second on Dec. 8th, 1941.
"Halo everybody, Halo. Halo is the shampoo that glorifies your hair."
Baby Snooks: The title character was played by Fanny Brice. All I can say is if I were Daddy I would have taken little brother Robespierre and Snooks and slapped their little heads together until they made sparks.
A soft drink commercial became ambiguous among certain groups in the shadows of society:
"Things go better with coke."
A classic case of continuity gone awry is this news item followed immediately by an unfortunate commercial:
"Sheriff's deputies in Griffin Co. Virginia had their hands full for several hours today when a pack of wild dogs ran through a tobacco field."
"Friends, does your cigarette taste different lately?"
"You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent."
But I never wondered, I knew.
"LS MFT. LS MFT. Lucky Strike means fine tobacco. And they are mild."
"I'd walk a mile for a Camel."
"C-R-E-S-T-A. B-L-A-N-C-A. CRESTA...BLANCA...Cresta Blanca Wine."
"My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer, ask for Rheingold whenever you buy beer. It's not bitter not sweet, it's a dry flavor treat..."
"This is Jimmy Fidler with the news from Hollywood."
"Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. This is Walter Winchell with the news."
The eerie sound of a heavy, squeaking door, then
"Good evening. This is Raymond, your host for Inner Sanctum."
"It is later than you think. Lights out, everybody."
Henry Morgan was the angry guy who was always out of step and in trouble for poking fun at his sponsors:
"Hello anybody, here's Morgan, brought to you by Adler Elevator Shoes and Old Man Adler stands behind every pair he sells. He stands behind them because he wouldn't dare stand in them."
"Call for Philip Morris."
The sound of breaking glass then
"That was Johnny stepping out of thousands of store windows all across America."
Note: The midget who was Johnny kept his cabin cruiser in Gerritsen Creek.
"Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Dick Tracy is on the air."
The Great Gildersleeve, a spinoff of Fibber Magee and Molly, was Throckmorten P. Gildersleeve, small town Water Commissioner. He had a bratty nephew Leroy who always called him "Unk."
Red Barber announcing a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game. Dixie Walker (or any Dodger) at bat:
"Walker swings, there it goes. It's a long one, going...going...gone, an Old Goldie. And a carton of Old Golds will go to our servicemen in a VA Hospital."
Really doing the boys a favor, right!
Who can forget the sublimely obnoxious
"Charlie says: Love my Good-N-Plenty. Charlie says: Really hits the spot."
Supposedly that loveable old storyteller Uncle Don pulled the following boner when he thought the mike was dead right at the end of his broadcast:
"I guess that'll hold the little bastards for another day."
Unfortunately, it never happened.
During "Abe Lincoln In Illinois," Abe, played by Raymond Massey, is leaving and standing at the back of a railroad car while the "crowd" yells good-bye. One young actor, obviously overcome by being in the same room with the great thespian, can clearly be heard above the others:
"Good-bye, Mr. Massey."
One of my favorites was the Bickersons, John and Blanche, played to perfection by Don Ameche and Frances Langford. Blanche was always on John for his bourbon drinking and for paying too much attention to Gloria Gooseby:
"You're not fooling me for one minute, John. I saw you with Gloria Gooseby."
"Oh, Blanche, go to sleep."
"How can I sleep thinking about you and that house wrecker?"
"Home wrecker, Blanche. A house wrecker is a big, fat, heavy ball."
"That's what I said, house wrecker."
"Good night, Blanche."
"Good night, John."
The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show was always good for a laugh in those innocent days:
Bergen: "Mortimer, how can you be so stupid?"
Mortimer Snerd: "Duh, practice?"
W C Fields: "Why, you overdressed pile of fire wood."
Charlie: "I'll massacree ya, I'll moiderize ya. I'll mow ya down."
Charlie: "Bergen, you're doing it again."
Bergen: "What, Charlie?"
Charlie: "Your lips are moving."
The popular Fred Allen Show with the denizens of "Allen's Alley":
Senator Claghorn the southern politician: "Somebody, Ah say, somebody's knockin' at mah door."
The Jewish housewife Mrs. Nussbaum: You were expecting maybe Dinah Snore?"
The Irish Ajax Cassidy: "Weeellllll now, how do ya do, how do ya do?"
The sober New Englander Titus Moody: "Howdy bub."
Jack Benny was so well known that all he had to do was show up; however he did much more:
Robber, holding a gun: "OK, buddy, your money or your life."
Robber: "Did you hear me? Your money or your life."
Benny: "I'm thinking it over. I'm thinking it over."
Benny's band leader was Phil Harris, who was also a constant source of irritation to him. He always called Benny "Jackson":
"I like black-eyed peas and baked hammy, served up by my dear old mammy, and that's what I like about the South."
Sheldon Leonard: "Pssst, hey, buddy, wanna buy a watch?"
Andy Devine: "Hi ya, Buck."
The ongoing feud between Jack Benny and Fred Allen (actually close friends) was a radio staple. It started when Fred made fun of Jack's violin playing. Benny shot back with jokes about the bags under Fred's eyes. Fred retorted about Jack's penny pinching, eternal age of 39, the vault in his basement where he stored his money, and the poor watchman who had not seen the outside world since the Battle of Gettysburg. "Oh, the North won?"
Even Rochester got in on the act:
"Oh, Rochester, Rochester, have you seen my glasses?"
"Yeah, boss, they're on the night table right next to your hair and teeth."
Gravely voiced Rochester always had the last word dealing with his boss. Here he rags Benny about his ancient automobile:
"Hey, boss, the Maxwell is getting low on coal."
An overworked announcer has trouble with the name of the president:
"And now the president of the United States Hoover Heever, er, Hover Hoover. I mean Hervert Hover, oh damn."
Another emotional announcer right after the Pearl Harbor attack:
"Right now everyone would like to take a crap at the Japs."
Bob Hope, always ahead of the curve, was famous for getting in trouble in the days of radio. While "dancing" with a young starlet, old Ski Nose, commenting on the fact that she seemed to be kidding him, made reference to a song popular at the time:
"You can pull on my left leg and you can pull on my right leg but don't mess with Mister in Between." This caused an immediate suspension.
Amos N Andy had what was its own language:
"Holy mackel there, Andy."
And, of course, the great, unforgettable Jimmy Durante, who started out as a singing waiter on the boardwalk in Coney Island:
"Ink-a-dink-a-dink-a dink-a dink-a dink-a dooo."
"Stop da music. Stop da music."
"Everybody want's ta get inta de act."
"These are da conditions dat prevail."
"Ya gotta start off each day wit a song, now even when things go wrong."
"You'll feel better. You'll even look better."
Seems like good advice and a good place to end.
"Good night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are."
Time: Various to c.1950
Last changed: July 27, 2003