Sunday, January 29, 2012

The OTR Revival Of The 1970s



Photo Credit - Wikipedia


Although I grew up hearing tales of old-time radio from my parents, for this child born in the mid-1950s, the golden age of radio had already passed by the time I could care.


I knew who Fibber McGee and Molly were, and The Shadow, and had heard the story from my folks about Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Broadcast, but I hadn’t actually heard them.


Well, not until my early teens when I managed to get my hands on a couple of LPs with old radio shows on them. But in the mid-1970s CBS radio began a highly successful revival of the radio drama, called CBS Radio Mystery Theatre.


Created, directed, and  produced by Himan Brown, and hosted by E. G. Marshall, starting in 1974 (and running until 1982) CBSRMT produced 1399 45-minute episodes.

For this child born of the TV age, suddenly having an ongoing source of quality radio drama was an unexpected delight.


Not only did it awaken an interest in old radio for for me, when I began collecting OTR (old time radio) shows in earnest in the early 1990s, getting the full collection of CBSRMT shows was high on my list.


The series featured original stories along with retellings of classic works.  You’ll find murder, horror, science fiction, and even historical dramas in the mix.


While many performers graced the sound stage over the years, a number of `regulars’ could be heard including Fred Gwynne, Kevin McCarthy, Celeste Holm, Keir Dullea, Mason Adams, Mercedes McCambridge, John Lithgow, and Tony Roberts.


Himan Brown, a genuine legend due to his 65 year career in radio, is reputed to have produced more than 30,000 episodes of radio shows, including: Barrie Craig, Bulldog Drummond, The Inner Sanctum, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, along with numerous daytime soap operas.


I’ve recently had the opportunity to check out a website that offers the entire production run of the CBSRMT series along with plot descriptions of each episode. 


Click on the image below to visit this fan supported site:




Shotgun Slade: A `Crossover’ Western





Although you wouldn’t know it by today’s cop – forensic investigation - medical drama cornering of the market in television drama, in 1959 westerns were the number one genre for prime time TV.


There were a record 26 different westerns playing each week on the tube at the end the 1950s, and that year three of them made the top 10 list (Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun, Will Travel).


A pretty good showing, but actually a decline from the previous year, when 7 of the top 10 shows were westerns.  While still going strong, westerns were beginning to lose out to more modern and `hip’ dramas like Johnny Staccato, 77 Sunset Strip, and Hawaiian Eye.


With such a large field of similar shows, producers went out of their way to give their production a `signature’,  something to set it apart from the crowd.


In The Rifleman, Chuck Connors carried a modified Winchester Model 1892 rifle, tricked out to rapid fire. Don Durant as Johnny Ringo, carried French designed LeMat twin barreled revolver, that could fire a single 16 gauge shotgun shell in addition to .40 ammo.


Perhaps most famous (and certainly the most coveted by my 6-year-old playmates) was the Mare’s leg sawed off rifle carried by Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive.


It was nicknamed the `mare’s leg’ because of its substantial kick.  But it was the ultimate in cowboy cool.


In 1959, Scott Brady (brother of actors Lawrence Tierney and Edward Tierney) took on the role of Shotgun Slade, which ran for 2 years and 78 episodes.


After starting out in poverty row movies, Brady had managed to carve a respectable career as a leading man in movie westerns and assorted TV dramas, appearing in many anthology series of the 1950s.


Like many of the other westerns that year, Shotgun Slade had a gimmick . . . well . . . actually three gimmicks.


First, instead of being a rancher, or a sheriff, a bounty hunter, or a gambler  -  Slade was a private detective in the old west. With shows like Richard Diamond and Peter Gunn drawing good ratings, making your cowboy hero a detective seemed like a good ploy.

Next came the signature gun, which this time was a over/under shotgun with a .32 caliber single shot rifle paired with a 12 gauge shotgun. 


And lastly, instead of incorporating a typical western movie score, the series featured a modern jazz beat, another homage to the increasing popularity of shows like 77 Sunset Strip and Peter Gunn.


The jazz score, admittedly, takes some getting used to.  But the end result is an atypical, albeit enjoyable western.


Think Peter Gunn on a horse.



We’ve several places for you to view episodes of this unique old western.   The Internet Archive has 5 complete episodes HERE.


Shotgun Slade – Backtrack
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 33 | Originally Aired - May 28th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Crossed Guns
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 30 | Originally Aired - May 13th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Flower on Boot Hill
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 36 | Originally Aired - August 9th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - The Spanish Box
Shogun Slade | Season 1, Episode 32 | Originally Aired - May 27th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Ring of Death



For even more shows (including the ones listed above) you can try this link on Youtube.


Scott Brady worked steadily through the 1960s and well into the 1970s playing tough cops, or cowboys, and the occasional heavy. 


His last role was in the movie Gremlins (1984).


Brady died in 1985, at the age of 60, from pulmonary disease.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Terrific Repository Of Classic TV, Radio, And Movies





While several family matters have distracted me from my regular posting on this site (soon to resume), I have found an absolutely terrific (and growing) repository of public-domain radio, TV, music, and movies where you can download or watch online some of the best entertainment the golden age ever produced.

Run by Jimbo Berkey, files are fast to download, and the layout a pleasure to navigate.  You’ll also a good deal of background information about the movies and shows he presents.

So check out:

And if all that weren’t enough, Jimbo also has a terrific selection of free classic games you can play as well.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hollywood’s Christmas Gift To The Troops





In 1958, although the United States was technically at peace, the cold war raged on. Hundreds of thousands of military personnel (and their families) were stationed around the globe, often in remote places like Adak, Alaska and Diego Garcia.


In order to bring our troops a slice of home, and some holiday cheer, for the better part of two decades Hollywood had been providing free, exclusive entertainment to the troops, via AFRS radio shows, records, and USO road shows.


While USO road shows were still being mounted, getting top-notch entertainment to the hundreds of military bases and outposts was obviously a challenge.


So the idea of putting together a filmed holiday special for the troops – produced by the USO (with assistance from the ABC, NBC, and CBS television networks and contributions from just about every actor’s guild in Hollywood) was born.

Reportedly more than 700 copies of the film were distributed to the armed forces.


Although considered a`Christmas gift’ for the troops, this 90 minute variety show only features a couple of Christmas songs. In recent years this 90 minute show has been repackaged and sold on DVD as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas All-Star Show – which quite honestly is a bit of a stretch.


Crosby appears, about mid-way through the show to sing White Christmas, but is hardly the host.


Most of the entertainment was the sort of fare that the folks back home were enjoying year-round.  


  • Milton Berle, Bob Hope, and Danny Thomas doing comedy monologues
  • Frankie Laine, Jimmy Rogers, and Tony Martin singing their signature songs
  • Songs from Lena Horne & Gale Storm
  • Benny Goodman
  • Ray Bolger in a comedic dance
  • Marge & Gower Champion Dancing
  • Van Cliburn in a short piano performance
  • Jack Benny, George Burns, and Jimmy Stewart in a Vaudeville skit


With holiday greetings from the stars to the troops interspersed. You’ll also find appearances by Dinah Shore, Dick Shawn, Jane Russell, Gregory Peck, Kim Novak, Shirley Maclaine and many, many more.


The highlight (for me at least) comes near the end, when Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong do a duet of `When The Saints Go Marching In’.


Movie buffs will recognize this number (and arrangement) from the movie `The Five Pennies’, which starred Kaye and featured Armstrong.

This rendition, which was done before the movie was filmed, was apparently a very successful rehearsal for one of the most memorable moments of that film.


Follow the link to watch this show on YouTube.


Bing Crosbys White Christmas - All Star Show [Full DVD]


As an added bonus, Danny Kaye and Satchmo teamed up several times over the years to perform `The Saints’, including this version from Danny’s TV show (1963-1967).





Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another Christmas Potpourri




Your Hit Parade - 1955

Digging through Youtube for old Christmas shows can yield a lot of treasures. While I can’t vouch for their public domain status, they are available to watch (or download) until someone objects, or claims copyright infringement.


During the 1950s and 1960s practically every TV series had a `Christmas’ episode. Some did a new one every year, while others simply reran a `classic’ episode during the holidays.


Some were overtly religious, some took a more commercialized (Santa Claus) perspective, and others . . . well, they were designed to be heartwarming and life affirming.


Today we’ll highlight some of these holiday treasures.


Since my first major post here at MOMPD, back in September of 2008 was 'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade, it is only appropriate that our first stop today is a Christmas Eve 1955 episode of Your Hit Parade. 


Your Hit Parade: Christmas Eve Show (1955)


The next stop is a pair of unusual Christmas offerings that includes one I profiled two years ago, but was subsequently removed from the Internet Archive; a half hour Four Star Playhouse production called `The Answer' (1954), starring David Niven, Carolyn Jones, and Anthony Caruso.


`The Answer' was nominated for 4 Emmy's & won the 1955 DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for Television.


The story is by Leonard Freeman, a name that many will recognize as the producer of such critically acclaimed shows as Hawaii Five-0 and Route 66



Holiday Classics: A Tale of Two Christmases / The Answer



Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a Bob Hope overseas special for the troops, and this time we have his 1967 USO tour of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, featuring Raquel Welch, Elaine Dunn, Phil Crosby, Barbara McNair, and Miss World, Madeleine Hartog Bell.




And since you can’t have too much hope for the Holidays, his 1978 NBC Christmas Special with Red Skelton, Andy Gibb, and Dionne Warwick.


1978 "Bob Hope's All-Star Merry Christmas"



I’ll have more Christmas-related shows between now and the end of the year.