Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tales Of Tomorrow



There are actually two distinct series with this title,  the TV series which aired live on ABC Television from 1951 to 1953, and the radio series, which ran on the ABC radio network in 1953.  


Both were anthology series, and both are remembered for their literate scripts.


Science fiction, once pretty much limited to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon juvenile serials, had started to grow up in the late 1940s.


New authors like Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, Murray Leinster, an Poul Anderson - writing for anthology magazines like Galaxy and Astounding - were elevating the genre beyond the hackneyed `Space Opera' format. 


Once pretty much a genre enjoyed by youngsters, Sci-Fi suddenly gained respectability, and became a staple of Hollywood producers.   The Day The Earth Stood Still,   Destination Moon,  and This Island Earth were all fairly big budget films of the early 1950s.



Radio produced several quality `adult' science-fiction anthology series, including NBC's Dimension-X  and Mutual's 2000 Plus.     One, relatively short-lived radio show was  Tales of Tomorrow.


(Note some of the audio on these episodes is a little `thin'. )





Jan 15, 1953  Thu    3  "Betelgeuse Bridge" 

                         author: William Tenn
from: Galaxy, 1951-02
script: Don Witty


Mar 12, 1953  Thu   11  "Martians Never Die"   

                         author: Lucius Daniel 
from: Galaxy, 1952-04
script: Don Witty

Mar 19, 1953  Thu   12  "The Girls From Earth"

                         author: Frank M. Robinson 
from: Galaxy, 1952-01


Mar 26, 1953  Thu   13  "The Old Die Rich"    

                         author: H.L. Gold 
from: Galaxy, 1953-03
script: Michael Sklar




Last month I posted one of the early Tales of Tomorrow TV shows, with a very young Paul Newman in a supporting role.    Other stars who would appear in this anthology series included Boris Karloff, Thomas Mitchell, Rod Steiger, Brian Keith, Leslie Nielsen, Joan Blondell, John Newland, and Franchot Tone.


This was live television, always performed on stage, with a very limited budget.   There were no special effects to speak of, and compared to science fiction of today, certainly not as action packed.  


But many of these scripts were literate, and many of the performances were excellent. 


The most famous episode was Lon Chaney Jr.'s portrayal of the monster in Frankenstein (included below).    Over the years, the retelling of the story has embellished it a bit, but it is an example of how things didn't always go as planned during a live broadcast.


The legend is that Chaney, under the influence of alcohol, thought that they were doing a dress rehearsal, and not a live broadcast.  During his `rampage scene' in the first half of the show, instead of busting up props, he picked them up and then set them down carefully. 



For whatever reason, Chaney does pick up, and set back down, a number of props - particularly in the first half of the show. 



So, without further ado, here are 6 episodes of Tales of Tomorrow (comments by the uploader to the Archive).



Tales of Tomorrow #16: Frankenstein - George E. Foley

A live tv production of Frankenstein from the anthology series Tales of Tomorrow. Legend has it that Lon Chaney Jr. (playing the monster) was unaware that it wasn't a rehearsal, so rather than break up props as planned, he simply put them down. While he certainly does some odd things with the chairs and appears to ask a question to somebody off stage (at 12:04), he does break up some props, and certainly isn't the only one flubbing (or was 'elictricigate' a word in the day of Mary Shelley?) More...


Tales of Tomorrow - Past Tense (Karloff)

Tales of Tomorrow - Past Tense (Karloff). If you like Karloff this is the show for you.


Tales of Tomorrow #15: The Dune Roller - George F. Foley

From the live tv anthology series Tales of Tomorrow. Mysterious menacing minerals in Michigan. More info at the IMDB. Upload courtesy of Inventing Situations. Hopefully in the public domain. 


Tales of Tomorrow #9: The Crystal Egg - George E. Foley

From the live tv anthology series Tales of Tomorrow. After a customer is overly eager to buy a crystal egg, an antique shop owner does the only logical thing: takes it to the chairman of Cambridge's physics department (played by Thomas Mitchell, Uncle Billy from It's a Wonderful Life), who discovers the egg's secret. From a story by H. G. Wells More info at the IMDB. Upload courtesy of Inventing Situations


'Tales of Tomorrow' - The little black bag (1952)

Episode "The little black bag" of the "Live" 50's TV series 'Tales of Tomorrow'. This episode originally aired 30 May 1952 (Season 1, Episode 35). Cast: Vicki Cumming, Joan Blondell Directed by: Charles S. Dubin Complete with original commercials.


Tales of Tomorrow - The Window

Last one I have. Kind of cool to see a 1950's TV studio step outside of the box. An early experiment in TV.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Most Famous Halloween Broadcast Of All





Among Halloween radio broadcasts, there is none more famous than the Mercury Theatre's  War of the Worlds,  broadcast on Oct 30st, 1938.


My parents were listening that Sunday night, and having tuned in from the beginning, knew this was a dramatic presentation.   Anyone who listened to the first 2 minutes of the show heard the introduction by Orson Welles.



Orson Welles 

Osron  Welles



Still, some people apparently tuned in late, only to find that instead of hearing the popular Mercury Theatre, their local CBS station was broadcasting a program of dance music by Ramon Raquello and his orchestra. 


Within moments, however, there would be a simulated `news flash', indicating that astronomers had detected explosions of `hydrogen gas' on the planet Mars.


With increasing frequency (far too fast, but hey, it was only an hour show), more news flashes would break into to `music program'.   First, with an interview with an `astronomer' named  Richard Pearson (quite obviously voiced by Orson Welles), who discounts any concerns over Mars being inhabited.


Within seconds, however, there are reports of seismic activity in New Jersey, and the next 30 minutes are a series of flash news reports covering the landing of a space craft in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, and its subsequent attack on the people there.


Soon New York City is under attack by "five great machines" wading across the Hudson River.  

Now, the story goes that more than a million people believed this radio broadcast to be real.     I doubt that.   


There were disclaimers during the shows intermission, a full disclamer in the first two minutes, and quite frankly it has the `sound and feel' of a radio drama.   


Anyone alarmed by this broadcast  would certainly have checked other stations to see if they, too, were carrying the`news'.   The Edgar Bergan-Charlie McCarthy Show was broadcasting on the other network as normal.


The next day, there was a great to-do make over the broadcast, and recriminations against Welles and his radio troop. 



New York Times headline from October 31, 1938

The wikipedia describes the reaction thusly:

Professor Richard J. Hand cites studies by unnamed historians who "calculate[d] that some six million heard the CBS broadcast; 1.7 million believed it to be true, and 1.2 million were 'genuinely frightened'".

While Welles and company were heard by a comparatively small audience (in the same period, NBC's audience was an estimated 30 million), the uproar was anything but minute: within a month, there were 12,500 newspaper articles about the broadcast or its impact, while Adolf Hitler cited the panic, as Hand writes, as "evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy."

Later studies suggested this "panic" was less widespread than newspapers suggested. During this period, many newspapers were concerned that radio, a new medium, would make them defunct. In addition, this was a time of yellow journalism, where newspapers were not held to the same standards as today.

As a result, journalists took this opportunity to demonstrate the dangers of broadcast by embellishing the story, and the panic that ensued, greatly.


While the `panic' caused by this show was probably exaggerated, some people did apparently take it to be real.   In any event, legend or fact, it is a piece of history now. 


Listen to the most famous Halloween radio broadcast of them all.


1938-10-30 War of the Worlds



And from the same performing troupe, we have another classic of horror presented just 3 months before the War of the Worlds broadcast.  This is the first radio broadcast of the Mercury Theatre.




1938-07-11 Dracula

Tools I Use To Download, Capture And Burn Media




NOTE:  The Internet appears to be  having problems this morning.  Many of the links in this blog are to that site, and may be temporarily offline.   (10-25-08).    If so, try again at a later time.

Updated: 12:50 ET 10-25: appears to be back online, but is VERY slow in responding.  Obviously they are still having `issues' and may be intermittent for awhile. 





If you are serious about collecting old time radio and public domain movies and TV shows, you will probably need to augment your computer with a couple of specialized software packages.



I tried, valiantly, to find freeware programs that would capture streaming video, MP3 music (or radio shows),  and a decent - easy to use- DVD burning package.    About a year ago, I gave up.  


After installing, and testing, dozens of programs I came away disappointed with just about everything I tried.  



Some programs worked part of the time, but failed other times.  Some never worked on my machine (Dell E521  Windows XP) at all. 


I finally bit the bullet and purchased two commercial packages.  And I am happy with both of them.



First, I spent roughly $70 and bought NERO 8,  for burning CDs and DVDs.   I know there are freeware burning programs out there, but none seemed to do everything I wanted them to do.  


In the past year, some of these freeware and shareware programs may have improved.  I don't know.  I'm happy with NERO now that I've bought it.  


I'm also aware that NERO 9 has just been released.  I'm not sure when, or if, I'll upgrade.


ROXIO is another DVD burning package that has a lot of users.  


The second thing I needed was a way to record streaming video.  I tried a number of programs, including Videodownloader (firefox add on).  I had hopes for videodownloader, but the author stopped updating it in 2006. For many `tube' sites, it was broken when they upgraded their protocols.


I finally found a program called Replay Media Capture  by Applian Technologies that does everything I want it to.    It captures 90% of all streaming video feeds (Youtube, Google, etc.) and most streaming MP3 streams, as well. 




I bought the complete Video Capture Suite last year for $99, but found I really only use the Replay Media Capture software.    If I had it to do over again, I'd just buy the one module for $39.




Luckily, in many cases, you can simply download an audio or video file from these public domain web sites (Right click Choose `Save As' or `Save Link As').   Some, however, insist on only streaming them, and that is where capture software can come in handy.



I've no stake in Applian technologies.  I'm just a satisfied customer (although I wish I hadn't bought the full suite!).   That isn't to say the other tools that came with it aren't useful.  They are.   But most can be duplicated by freeware on the web.


For instance, I use Prism Video Converter Software to convert between video formats.  NCH Software offers a functional freeware version (for windows or Mac) in hopes the user will upgrade to Prism Plus. 


So far, I haven't felt the need to upgrade. 




I would be grateful to any of my readers who have tried some of the freeware solutions out there if they'd share what they are using, and how well it works. 


Particularly software to:


  • Burn CDs/DVDs
  • Capture Streaming Video
  • Convert Video Formats
  • Edit, split, or join Audio or Video files



If you've got a recommendation, please leave a comment on this thread.


And happy collecting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Horror Of It All!





Horror movies have been around almost as long as movies have, and they remain a staple of Hollywood today.   While today's films are apt to depend on gore,  the horror movies of yesteryear depended on atmosphere.


And in today's entry, we have a lot of atmosphere to examine.



In 1910, Thomas Edison's studio produced the first filmed version of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. The quality of some of this film, particularly the first few minutes, is poor.  It is, after all, nearly 100 years old!    It runs only about 12 minutes, and is worth a look.


Frankenstein - Thomas Edison
This is Edison's COMPLETE 1910 silent Frankenstein film.



In 1919, the first `modern' horror movie would  be released. This version was edited and speeded up slightly during the 1950's so it could be broadcast on television.   It remains, however, a chilling masterpiece.


Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari ( The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ) - Rudolf Meinert and Erich Pommer

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the first modern Horror Film and it influence a number of contemporary productions. A real classic! PLOT: A man named Francis relates a story about his best friend Alan and his fiancée Jane. Alan takes him to a fair where they meet Dr. Caligari, who exhibits a somnambulist, Cesare, that can predict the future. When Alan asks how long he has to live, Cesare says he has until dawn...


Three years later, Nosferatu would be released.  As it was an  unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, certain names were changed to protect the studio. 


Originally released in 1922 as Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, director F.W. Munarau's chilling and eerie adaption of Stoker's Dracula is a silent masterpiece of terror which to this day is the most striking and frightening portrayal of the legend.



The last great silent movie is this 1929 reissue of 1925's The Phantom of the Opera, with Lon Chaney.   While the original 1925 version is truer to the director's vision, the 1929 print is in far better shape for viewing.





The Phantom Of The Opera (1929) - Carl Laemmle
The most commonly available version, this release is visual-only representation with musical accompaniment) of the 1929 sound reissue for foreign markets (note that the title sequence and Carlotta's performance as Marguerite are shot at sound speed of 24 frames per second) and is the best surviving 35mm version of the film (the 1925 general release version only exists in 16mm show-at-home prints and is of very poor quality)...



By the early 1930's, Talkies had replaced silent films.   Universal Studios would release two famous horror movies - Dracula and Frankenstein - that would forever cast the studio as the king of horror movies.


Dracula (1931) 

(Classic Cinema Online - Click to view)





In 1932, Todd Browning would use real carnival performers with genuine physical deformities in his controversial movie  Freaks.   While promoted as a horror film, it is more of a drama and a morality play; an exploration of how outer beauty doesn't necessarily equate to inner beauty.


In it, the deformed cast members are trusting and honorable, while the two ostensibly `normal' members of the circus are the real `monsters'.


Classic Cinema Online - Click to view)



The public reaction to the film was so strong, many of the more disturbing scenes were cut by the studio, and roughly 30 minutes of footage is now considered `lost'.


A commercial failure, Freaks proved to be  undoing of director Todd Browning.  Browning would direct just four more movies over the next 8 years, and then, unable to get directing assignments, he retired.


More than sixty years after it was made, Freaks would be selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"





Radio also embraced the horror genre, must to the distress of some vocal politicians and religious leaders.   The graphic sound effects (crunching of bones, eating brains, etc) that accompanied these lurid tales was sometimes just too much for these critics to endure.


One of the best of the horror shows was  Lights Out!, created by Wyllis Cooper in 1934.  He left the show two years later, and today, most people associate his replacement, Arch Obler with the show.  


The first script Obler wrote, in 1936, was about a paralyzed girl who is buried alive.  This episode reportedly elicited outraged letters in response. 



His second script, however, became a classic. It was called Cat Wife. 


It proved so popular it was re-aired by NBC  on February 17, 1937 and again on April 6, 1938 and on January 14, 1943.   And yes, that's Boris Karloff you hear playing the husband.




Arch Oboler and Tommy Cook (ca.) 1936

Arch Oboler and Tommy Cook (ca.) 1936



Here are 13 episodes  (hosted on from that very popular show.  



1937-12-22 Christmas Story

1939-12-16 Nobody Died

1941-02-17 Special to Hollywood


1942-10-13 Revolt Of The Worms

1942-11-17 Come to the Bank


1942-12-22 The Meteor Man

1943-06-29 Bathysphere


1943-07-20 Profits Unlimited

1943-07-27 The Little People


1943-08-24 Sub-Basement

1943-09-14 The Word


1946-07-27 Battle Of The Magicians

19xx-xx-xx Cat Wife


There were other great horror radio shows, and I will profile them in future blogs.   The Inner SanctumSuspense!,  and the Hermit's Cave are just a few.   




Horror movies became less popular by the end of the 1940's, and Science Fiction drew a lot of the market away.  Still, stars like Chrisopher Lee and Vincent Price would continue to have successful careers in the genre.


One of the best remembered horror films of the 1950's is this one, Starring Vincent Price.   The House on Haunted Hill.



House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Classic Cinema Online - Click to view)




While these movies may be fine for teenagers and adults, if you have younger ones to entertain this Halloween, you might consider these two `horror'  comedies, with Abbott and Costello.


Of course, if you don't have kids, there's no law that says you can't enjoy them yourself.




Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)   

Classic Cinema Online - Click to view)



Abbott and Costello: Hold That Ghost (1941)

 Classic Cinema Online - Click to view)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Nat `King' Cole Show




When you think about the great popular male singers of the 1940's and 1950's, a handful of names come to mind.  



Sinatra, Como, Martin, Bennett . . . and Nat `King' Cole






Starting out in the mid 1930's as a jazz pianist with his  older brother, Edward, the world first heard Nat playing on 4 Decca sides recorded with Eddie Cole's Solid Swingers.


In 1937 Cole formed his own trio with Wesley Prince on bass and electric guitarist Oscar Moore.  Johnny Miller would eventually replace Prince on Bass, and in 1947,  Irving Ashby  would replace Moore.


Their big break came when they accompanied Lionel Hampton for two recording dates in 1940.  Late in the year, they inked a recording deal with Decca.


In 1943 the King Cole Trio would hit it big with a Capitol Records recording of Straighten Up and Fly Right!  


More hits would follow, including  Get Your Kicks (On Route 66) in 1946,  Nature Boy (1948), Mona Lisa (1950), Too Young (the #1 song in 1951) and his signature tune "Unforgettable" (1951).


During the late 1940's Nat Cole is a regular on the Chesterfield Supper Club radio show.


By the 1950's Nat Cole was performing mostly as a single.  Below is one of his best songs,  Stardust.





The Nat King Cole Show debuted on November 5, 1956,  NBC-TV. 


He was not, as has often been cited, the first African-American to host a network TV show.  That distinction belongs to Hazel Scott, who had a very short-lived show on the DuMont Network in 1950.


The show ran for 64 episodes, but it came at a time when few sponsors were willing to affiliate themselves with a black entertainer for fear of alienating a southern audience.   The show never did attract a national sponsor, and NBC often had to carry the show without advertising revenue.



Ratings for the show were only fair.  Rock & Roll was sweeping the land and singers of ballads, regardless of their race or talent, were having a hard time drawing an audience.



A little more than a year after it began, the Nat King Cole show was history.   While it lasted, it was a wonderful showcase for some of the most talented singers and performers of the day.



Here are four classic episodes of the Nat King Cole show.   Get they while they last.    The site where I found them, GUBA, had a lot more of them a few months ago.    I'm not sure why they are removing them. 






While musical tastes were changing Cole managed to turn out a few more hits until his death in 1965 including  "Ramblin' Rose" in  "Dear Lonely Hearts," "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer" (his final hit, reaching #6 pop), and "That Sunday, That Summer".



Nat King Cole died of lung cancer (he was a heavy smoker) on February 15, 1965.   He was 44.


He leaves a tremendous legacy, however, in his recordings and his TV and radio appearances. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Really Big Show






Television, the new upstart in entertainment, was still struggling to make inroads into the marketplace in 1950, but radio executives were clearly worried.   Prices of television sets were coming down, and new TV stations were coming online all across the country.  



By the end of the year, there would be more than 100 licensed Television broadcasters around the nation, and more than 3 million receivers.   



While radio was still the main source of in-home entertainment in the United States,  radio executives saw Television as a major threat, and at NBC they decided to do something to combat it.


They decided to put on a really big show.


And they chose the `glamorous and unpredictable' Tallulah Bankhead to be mistress of ceremonies, along with Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa, who would share in the hosting duties.




When The Big Show premiered November 5, 1950, this ad, showing NBC's full evening schedule, ran in Sunday newspapers across the country. Here's how it looked in the Kingsport Times-News (Kingsport, Tennessee). Clockwise from top left: Mindy Carson, Jimmy Durante, Tallulah Bankhead, Fred Allen and Ethel Merman


Clockwise from top left: Mindy Carson, Jimmy Durante, Tallulah Bankhead, Fred Allen and Ethel Merman (from the Wikipedia)



Tallulah Bankhead, for those who may not remember her, was an established star of stage, and movies, and a familiar voice on the radio.  


Her best known film performance was probably in Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944),  which garnered her an Academy Award nomination.  She was reportedly David Selznick's first choice to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, but she did not photograph well in technicolor and was considered a bit long in the tooth for the part.


Much of her professional success came on the Broadway stage, in plays like The Little Foxes and Noel Coward's Private Lives.  But she was most famous, perhaps, for being a personality and a notorious bon vivant.  


Her outrageous personality, quick wit, and distinctive southern accent made her a natural for the radio,  even if she gave the censors a heart attack every time she opened her mouth. 



Once heard, she was rarely forgotten.   She would, however, only host the first season of The Big Show.






When it premiered in November of 1950,  The Big Show was radio's biggest weekly extravaganza.   It featured the top musical, comedic, and dramatic stars of the era - and it ran for 90 minutes every Sunday night. 



It was the most ambitious radio series ever made with an astounding budget of up to $100,000 per show. 




Although Television would eventually conspire to kill it, while it lasted  . . . it was glorious.



Tallulah Bankhead received national acclaim for her role as hostess, and for her performances in comedy routines, musical numbers, and dramatic scenes.   The critics loved her.  



But the public was enamored with the box with the moving pictures.   The Big Show may have been a critical success, but not a financial one.  After two years, and a loss of 1 million dollars, NBC pulled the plug.



Radio drama would continue throughout the 1950's, but its days were numbered.  Most successful radio shows had a counterpart on television.   Gunsmoke, Dragnet, Have Gun-Will Travel  . . . radio successes, true.



But bigger yet on TV.



We are fortunate to  have roughly two dozen of The Big Shows available.


The Wikipedia lists some of the guests as:  Ethel Barrymore, Charles Boyer, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Carmen Miranda, Bob Hope, Martin and Lewis, Ginger Rogers, George Sanders, and Gloria Swanson; musical/comedy stage stars Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Judy Holliday and Gordon MacRae, Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, the Ink Spots, Frankie Laine, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra, Rudy Vallee and Sarah Vaughan.



And for those of us who remember, and love, those old stars of yester-year.  These shows are a genuine treasure.




Fred Allen, Jimmy Durante
21 MB


Groucho Marx, Fanny Brice
21 MB


Eddie Cantor, Mindie Carson
21 MB


Fred Allen, Ed Wynn, Jack Carson
21 MB


Fred Allen, Phil Silvers
22 MB


Clifton Webb, Jimmy Durante
21 MB


Bob Hope, Phil Harris
21 MB


Jimmy Durante, Robert Merrill
21 MB


Vivian Blaine, Jose Ferrer
21 MB


Fred Allen, Danny Thomas
21 MB


Louis Calhern, Jack Carter
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


Ray Bolger, Gary Cooper
21 MB


Fred Allen, Robert Cummings
21 MB


Groucho Marx, Judy Garland
21 MB


Fred Allen, Jack Carson
21 MB


Jack Haley, Paul Kelly
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


Judy Holliday, Carmen Miranda
21 MB


Groucho Marx, Bob Hope
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
42 MB


Eddie Cantor, Jack Carson
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle
21 MB


Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa
21 MB


George Sanders, Bea Lillie
14 MB


Richard Eatham, Joe Frisco

21 MB

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some Very Early Johnny Carson






It is hard to believe that it has been 16 years since Johnny Carson, the undisputed king of late night television, stepped down from hosting the Tonight Show.   



Most people remember him only from that very successful 30 year run, but Johnny Carson began his career on television more than a decade earlier.



After serving in the Navy during WWII, Carson returned to civilian life and attended the University of Nebraska.  In 1950, Carson worked at WOW radio (Omaha), and for a local television station where he hosted a morning show called The Squirrels Nest.



In 1951 he moved on to KNXT, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, where he started in a sketch comedy show called  Carson's Cellar, which ran from 1951 to 1953.  Red Skelton, who was a fan of the show, hired Carson to be a writer in 1953.



Remarkably, one of these early shows (circa 1951-53) still exists.  




Carsons Cellar - Johnny Carson

KNXT Cautiously Presents 'Carsons Cellar' Johnny (in drag) instructs the audience on the proper way to stuff a turkey.



This early foray into sketch TV would lead to Carson hosting a game show called Earn Your Vacation.   This show would only run for 5 months during the summer of 1954. 



Carson continued to be a staff writer for the Red Skelton Show, and one night in 1954  he was called on to stand in for Red, when Skelton was knocked unconscious during rehearsal.  



He did well enough that CBS decided to give him a shot at a half hour variety show.   While it might not have been his  finest (half) hour, it was certainly good training for what was to come.






Here we have a rare episode with Johnny's guest, Rudy Vallee.




The Johnny Carson Show - Ben Brady
The Johnny Carson Show Guest Rudy Vallee Produced by Ben Brady Directed by Ron Winston Written by : Charles Isaaces Jack Elinson Jack Douglas Musical Supervision : Lud Gluskin Conductor : Paul Baron Art Direction : Robert Tyler Lee James D. Vance Technical Direction : Brooks Graham Set Decoration : Anthony Mondell




Although it only ran 39 episodes (June 30, 1955 – 1956), Johnny's career continued to expand as he became a regular panelist on the original To Tell The Truth. 



In 1958, Johnny began a 5 year run as host of  Do You Trust Your Wife?  aka Who Do You Trust?     Much like Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life, the `game' itself was of secondary importance. 



The real entertainment came from the host's interviewing of the contestants.



'Do You Trust Your Wife' with Johnny Carson

An 1958 episode of "Do You Trust Your Wife" starring Johnny Carson, complete and unedited. Rated G. This series was a daytime game show.

During the `Trust' years, Carson would occasionally be called up on to substitute host on the Tonight Show during the Jack Paar years.


In 1962, Carson would replace Paar as permanent host.


Much of Carson's early years on the Tonight Show, literally thousands of hours of classic interviews and performances, are lost today.  NBC in a cost cutting move, decided to tape over old shows in order to reuse the video tape.


Home video recorders weren't widely available (or affordable), until the mid-1970's.    


Hopefully more of these rare kinescopes will emerge over time.  Some may be hidden in closets, cellars, or storage units unmarked and unnoticed.    If you have old records, or transcription disks, or film canisters buried in your attic, you might have a look.


Who knows?   Maybe you'll find a piece of history.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Okay . . . You Asked For It!




One of my early TV remembrances was of the show You Asked For It, which ran, first on the DuMont Network and then ABC,  from 1950 to 1959.   


The premise was simple on this, admittedly, low budget show.   Viewers would write in with requests of things they'd like to see on TV.


Now, this was at a time when Television was very new, and as individuals we were far more isolated than we are today.   What might seem rather mundane to us today could actually be very novel to the viewing audience of 50 years ago.


Created by Art Baker, who would host the show until 1958 - and then Jack Smith would host the remaining shows -  You Asked For It was the quintessential live `reality' show of the 1950's.


In retrospect, some of the segments in these shows are just awful. 



And the commercials are, like many from this era, pretty boring.  Thankfully, none of these segments last very long.   Two or three minutes for most. 


After all, how long can you spend watching an Eskimo build an igloo, or the Worlds Tallest Man?



But there are real video gems hidden in these shows that make enduring the less enjoyable segments worth while.  



Some of the highlights include a remarkable musically talented french clown in episode #3,  a demonstration with a python that gets out of hand in episode # 4,  and the TV premier of Jive Pianist Ivory Joe Hunter in episode #1.




(Ivory Joe Hunter)



This is, for the most part, live television (a few filmed segments were used).  Thing can, and do, go wrong.    That is part of the appeal of early television, in my estimation.


They were working without a net.



Here are 5 episodes of You Asked For It.   



Misc episode of 'You Asked For It' #1
Misc episode of the popular 50's TV series "You Asked For It", featuring a Wrestling Chimpanzee, a Jive Pianist, and the secrets of Card Sharks. Also features original commercials.

Misc episode of 'You Asked For It' #2
Another misc episode of the 50's TV series "You Asked For It", featuring a diver and an octopus, a theremin player, special effects demonstations, among others. As this TV series could never be broadcast again, it may be considered "ephemeral TV". This was originally broadcast sometime between 1950 and 1959.

Misc episode of 'You Asked For It' #3
Episode of the 50's TV series "You Asked For It", featuring: A Hindu fakir on a bed of nails, a man shot wearing a bullet proof vest, carnival conmen, and a clown act, plus more. This was broadcast live, and this copy features original commercials for Skippy Peanut Butter.

Misc episode of 'You Asked For It' #4
Misc episode of the 50's TV series "You Asked For It", featuring a America's tallest man(?), largest star sapphire in the world, and a frightning attack by a python, among other things. Not "reality TV" but not quite a documentry either, falling somewhere between the two genres.

"You Asked For It"
Popular television show from the 1950s, where viewers would write in requesting to see various interesting things. With this episode we see a knifethrower, an octopus trapper, a ride on a roller coaster and a speedy dressmaker.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mendel Berlinger





Well, you probably remember him as Milton BerleUncle Miltie, or even Mr. Television.    During the early 1950's, he owned Tuesday nights.


Berle was the first bona fide television star, and his career spanned 8 decades . . . from silent films . . .to vaudeville . . . to radio . . . to television and even into movies.


And while most people don't remember this, he was more than just a clown.  He was capable of turning out a decent dramatic performance, could sing (well, a little), and dance. 



Milton Berle

Mendel Berlinger
July 12, 1908(1908-07-12)
Manhattan, New York
United States

March 27, 2002 (aged 93)
Los Angeles, California


Berle began playing child roles in early silent films, and while some of his credits are disputed today, he reportedly made his debut in The Perils of Pauline (1914).  He would have been about 6 years old.


According to Berle's autobiography, some of his earliest credits included:

Bunny's Little Brother (1914)

Tess of the Storm Country (1914)

Birthright (1920)

Love's Penalty (1921)

Divorce Coupons (1922)

Ruth of the Range (1923) 


Berle worked in Vaudeville during the 1920's, wrote some mostly-forgotten songs and movie scripts, and continued to appear in the occasional silent film.


In the mid-1930's Berle became a regular on the Rudy Vallee Hour radio show, which led to a series of radio shows such as Stop Me If You Heard This One and Three Ring Time.   Berle was also a guest on many comedy-variety radio shows during the 1930s and 1940's.


It was in 1947 that Berle really hit it big with The Milton Berle Show, sponsored by Philip Morris on the NBC network.  


This show paired Berle with Arnold Stang, who would go on to be a regular on his TV shows, along with Pert Kelton (The original Alice Kramden when the Honeymooners were on the Dumont Network). Other cast members included Mary Schipp, Jack Albertson, Arthur Q. Bryan, Ed Begley and announcer Frank Gallop.   


We have at our disposal a nice selection of these shows that aired between 1947 and 1948, each show was a loosely themed `salute' to some subject.  I've only listed the first dozen, there are a lot more here.  


Salute To The Great Outdoors
5.1 MB

7.1 MB

Salute To Relaxation
7.1 MB

Salute To The Railways Of America
7.1 MB

Salute To Our South American Neighbors
7.2 MB

Salute To The American Farmers
7.1 MB

Salute To Radio
7.2 MB

Salute To The Automobile Industry
7.1 MB

Salute To Brooklyn
7.2 MB

Salute To The Old West
7.0 MB

Salute To The New York Theatre Season Opening
7.0 MB

Salute To Good Health
7.2 MB


In 1948, Berle would move on to the ABC radio network and do the Texaco Star Theatre, taking Pert Kelton and Arnold Stang with him.   While the show would only run for less than a year, it was a stepping stone to the Texaco Star Theatre on television.




Texaco Star Theater : May 29th, 1951 - Milton Berle
"The Milton Berle Show" Also Known As : Texaco Star Theater Original Air Date: 29 May 1951 Milton Berle ... Host Vivienne Della Chiesa ... Herself - Opera Singer Frank Gallop ... Himself - Actor Beatrice Kraft ... Herself - Dancer Michael Rabin ... Himself - Violinist Carlos Ramírez ... Himself - Singer Allen Roth ... Orchestra Leader Danny Thomas ... Himself - Singer / Comedian Fran Warren ... Herself - Singer



In 1951, Berle was so hot, NBC signed him to an unprecedented 30-year exclusive contract.  Little did they know that Berle's popularity would start to wane in only a few years.


In 1953, Texaco would drop the sponsorship of the show, and it would be picked up by Buick.   While critics still liked the show, its ratings were beginning to slip.



Milton Berle 09-21-54
The Buick Berle Show from Sept 21 1954 with Mickey Rooney as Guest

The last incarnation of the Milton Berle show was launched in 1956, although it lasted only a year.  


Berle went on to play Vegas, and appeared on the Kraft Music Hall, but as far as TV was concerned, he was relegated to guest appearances on other people's shows, and hosting a game show called Jackpot Bowling. 


In 1966, freed from his NBC contract, Berle tried again with a variety show on the ABC network, but it was canceled after one season.


Berle appeared in a number of movies, and received good notices for his dramatic performances.   He is also credited with having made more charity performances than any other show business personality.


One last remembrance of Berle comes from  This Is Your Life,  where Milton Berle's life and career are reviewed by Ralph Edwards in 1956.



This Is Your Life Milton Berle
This Is Your Life Uncle Miltie 



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Classic Noir's



While I've already highlighted several public domain television shows, tons of public domain 78' recordings, and the early radio career  of Jack Webb, I've not presented any public domain movies for your viewing pleasure. 


Today I have 3 classic film noir's, all public domain and available for download.



But first a word about video quality and downloading.


The Internet Archive has more than 1,000 public domain feature films (some are pretty obscure) available for you to watch online, or download to your computer.  


The video quality of these movies vary widely, and while many look pretty decent in the `postage-stamp' sized viewer on their web page, when viewed full screen on your computer, or worse, on a big screen television . . . well, the results can be extremely pixilated and eyestrain inducing.


Most movies are offered in more than one video format/resolution.  As a general rule, the bigger the file (in megabytes) the better the quality.  


While it may take longer to download the larger file formats, if you intend to burn these films to DVD, then you will be much happier selecting the better quality formats.


That doesn't mean you have to go with the absolute highest quality.   Below is a typical download selection for a movie on the Internet Archive.   This one is for Kansas City Confidential (1952).  





In this case, there are 4 different movie formats to choose from.  Some movies may offer only 2 or 3 formats, and some just one.   But most have several options.


The move runs 99 minutes.  My personal rule of thumb for B&W films is that you need a minimum of 100 megabytes for every 30 minutes of runtime.  


Anything less, when blown up to full screen size, will be disappointing.  I would only opt for a lower resolution if nothing better were available. 


In this case, the minimum file size would be about 330mb.  While the 256kb version is close, I'd opt for the MPEG1 download at 635mb.   


Unless you have a really fast connection, and bandwidth to burn, the 2gb format is probably a little overkill.


I use NERO to burn these movies to DVD, and since I'm not a purist, I find the extended-play format works well enough.  I can generally put 3 or 4 movies on a single disc.  



You should know in advance that many of these films do show their age.  Sometimes there are missing frames or other blemishes.   



As for today's film noir selections,  here are three dandy examples of the genre.  The second movie, Quicksand,  stars Mickey Rooney in one of his best performances.




Kansas City Confidential - Edward Small
Four robbers hold up an armored truck getting away with over a million dollars in cash. Joe Rolfe (John Payne), a down-on-his-luck flower delivery truck driver is accused of being involved and is beaten up by the local police. Released due to lack of evidence, Joe, following the clues to a Mexican resort, decides to look for the men who set him up and get revenge.
Average rating: 4.89 stars (9 reviews)

Quicksand - Mort Briskin, Samuel H. Stiefel
After borrowing $20 from his employer's cash register, an auto mechanic is plunged into a series of increasingly disastrous circumstances which rapidly spiral out of his control.
Average rating: 3.8 stars (5 reviews)


Panic In The Streets - Elia Kazan
Not to be confused with the later (1972) version, which is copyrighted, this one is PD One night in the New Orleans slums, vicious hoodlum Blackie (Jack Palance) and his friends kill an illegal immigrant who won too much in a card game. Next morning, Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark-this time not seen pushing little old ladies in wheelchairs down the stairs) of the Public Health Service confirms the dead man had pneumonic plague...
Downloads: 30,051
Average rating: 4.25 stars (6 reviews)