Sunday, November 30, 2008

Four Variations On A Theme





If you were to try to pick the most copied, or imitated, movie, radio and TV plot over the years, I suspect two works would come to mind.  First, and probably the winner hand's down, is  A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.


The second commonest plot, I suspect, would be derived from Richard Connell's   1924 short story, The Most Dangerous Game.  


You'd be hard pressed to find any adventure TV show that ran more than one season that didn't place the chief protagonist in the role of the unarmed quarry, pursued through the woods/hills/jungle by a `big game hunter'.


I remember reading the story at about the age of 10, in one of those Alfred Hitchcock Anthology paper backs, and suddenly realizing I'd already seen the same plot a dozen times on TV.   


Still, as someone who truly loves to read, it is hard to beat the  original story.   You can read it online, for free:  HERE.



The first movie version of the story would come 8 years after it was published, in 1932, and it would star Joel McCrea as Rainsford  and Leslie Banks as Zaroff, along with Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.



Moviephiles will recognize that two of these actors (Wray & Armstrong)would star in King Kong, released the following year.  Although not the huge hit of King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game was reportedly so inexpensive to make, it actually made more money than the big Ape did for RKO. 



Fay Wray and Joel McCrea in
The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game - David O. Selznick, Merian C. Cooper

Ship wrecked Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) crawls ashore on a mysterious island and finds his way to a creepy castle inhabited by a Russian Count named Zaroff (Leslie Banks). There he meets the lovely Eve (Fay Wray) and her drunken brother Martin (Robert Armstrong), who were also ship wrecked. It turns out that the "Game" of the title is the mad Count hunting down and killing human prey.



Over the years, the story was filmed again as:

  • A Game of Death (1945)
  • The Dangerous Game (1953)
  • Run for the Sun (1956)
  • Bloodlust! (1961)
  • The Woman Hunt (1973)
  • Mottomo kiken na yuugi (1978)
  • Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)
  • Deadly Prey (1988)
  • Lethal Woman (1989)
  • Surviving the Game (1994)


    Plus elements of the storyline would be used in movies like:


    • Hard Target
    • Gymkata, Predator and Predator 2
    • The 1983 James Bond 007 film Octopussy


    Among others.  As to how many times it has been adapted for television, I doubt anyone has an accurate count.  No doubt more than 100 times, though.



    The original 1932 film version, however, is probably the best.   Certainly better than the 1961 offering below, called  Bloodlust!   



    Fair Warning: I'm not responsible for any brain cells destroyed watching this grade Z film.


    Bloodlust - Ralph Brooke

    Bloodlust! (1961) Director: Ralph Brooke Writers: Ralph Brooke & Richard Connell Tagline: Two beautiful young girls...Defenseless against the deadly ancient crossbow! more Plot Outline: A crazed hunter kidnaps people and turns them loose on his private estate, where he hunts them for sport Wilton Graff : Dr. Albert Balleau Robert Reed : Johnny Randall June Kenney : Betty Scott Joan Lora : Jeanne Perry





    Luckily radio gave us several quality adaptations of the story, including two by the long-running anthology show  Suspense!  and one by Escape!

  • Suspense ran from 1942 to 1962 on the radio (and in the early days of TV, as an anthology series sponsored by AutoLite).   The radio series is particularly well remembered because they were able to attract many big Hollywood stars to perform on the show.


  • In 1943,  Orson Welles starred in an adaptation that moved the focus of the story away from Rainsford (played by Keenan Wynn), and more onto Welles' General Zaroff performance.   


    430923_The_Most_Dangerous_Game     14 MB



    While produced on a lower budget than Suspense!, Escape! consistently produced some of the finest radio drama heard during the late 1940's and early 1950's.   Each week, listeners would be beckoned with the voice of Paul Frees or William Conrad saying:


    “Tired of the everyday routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you... Escape!


    This version of The Most Dangerous Game is, in my opinion, superior to the two from Suspense!.



    October 1, 1947. CBS network. "The Most Dangerous Game".

    A big game hunt for the biggest game of!

    Hans Conried, Irving Ravetch (adaptor), Paul Frees, Richard Connell (writer), William N. Robson (producer), Richard Sanville (director), Cy Feuer (music conceiver, conductor). 1/2 hour.


    ESCAPE  Most_Dangerous_Game_10-01-47.mp3    3.6 MB



    The next time you find yourself watching an adventure story, and somewhere along the way the hero (or heroine) of the story becomes the focus of a `big game hunt', you'll know you are watching a tried and true plot device. 


    But do yourself a favor: read the story, watch the 1932 film, and listen to the 1947 episode of Escape!  if you want to enjoy the best of the versions to date.




  • Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Spend `An Evening With Groucho Marx'








    If there were any justice in the world, when you looked up the word `raconteur' in the dictionary, there'd be a picture of Groucho Marx.


    While Groucho certainly used physical comedy in his films, it was his ability to tell stories, and interact humorously with his guests, that turned him into a huge hit on radio, and then on television. 


    In future blogs, we'll take a look at the Marx Brothers, and Groucho's radio and Television career, but today we have something very special: Groucho's (almost) one-man show recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1972.


    Groucho was 81 when he recorded this show, which was released as a  two-album set in the early 1970's.   You wouldn't know that by his delivery.


    Introduced by Dick Cavett,  and with piano accompaniment by no less than Marvin Hamlisch,  Groucho regales an adoring audience with dozens of anecdotes about his career in show business, and delivers a few songs as well.


    You can download the entire collection HERE in zip format,  with extras like jpg photos of Groucho, and four extra audio files.







    The individual cuts from the album are available on the Internet Archive.




    Overture - Medley from Marx Brothers Films     

    Introduction - Dick Cavett                              

    Hello, I Must Be Going                                    

    Violin Solo, Jack Benny Tribute                      

    How I Got Started In Show Business               

    My Family, How We Got Our Names                 

    Strange Relatives - Uncle Julius                       

    Chico At Klauber Horn Co                                

    Uncle Herman, Chiropodist                              


    Annie Berger                                                    

    World War One, Vaudeville In Toronto             

    Oh, How That Woman Could Cook                    

    Toronto Song                                                    

    London Stories: Polish Officer Story                 

    London Stories: Churchill & 2nd World War      

    Tough Chicago Critic Story                               

    Palace Theatre: Sarah Bernhardt                      

    Palace Theatre: Fanny Brice/Swayne's Rats and Cats 

    Poem From The Play      

    T.S. Eliot Memorial: Laurence                            

    2nd World War Bond Tour                                 

    Houdini Story                                                   

    Music in                                                            

    Music in                                                            

    Otto Kahn Story                                                

    W.C. Fields: Bee Bee Gun/ Prohibition             

    W. C. Fields: Baby Leroy                                    

    Heaven's Above                                                 

    Everybody Works But Father                             

    Father's Day                                                       

    Margaret Dumont, The Dowager In Our Films    

    Thalberg Story - Garbo                                       

    Sampson And Delilah Story                                 

    Will Rogers, Baseball in Baltimore                       

    Priests' Stories: Plaza Hotel/ Montreal               

    Priests' Stories: Rome                                         

    Show Me A Rose                                                 

    Lydia, The Tattooed Lady                                  

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Not Exactly Ozzie And Harriet




    At a time when most `radio couples' were loving, sweet, and kind to each other. . . John and Blanche Bickerson were something a bit different.


    The married protagonists of the show spent practically every on-air moment exchanging withering, and usually hilarious, insults.


    Starting as a sketch in 1946 on NBC's Chase & Sandborn Hour, and starring Frances Langford and Don Ameche,  the battling Bickersons would prove popular enough to  move to their own CBS show the following year.


    Critics (and sometimes even fans of the show) often cringed at the vituperative late night exchanges between John and Blanche, but the writing was always sharp and funny, and the performances dead-on.




    A Typical exchange of  3am `pillow talk'  might include (from the wikipedia)


    B: You used to be so considerate. Since you got married to me you haven't got any sympathy at all.
    J: I have, too. I've got everybody's sympathy.
    B: Believe me, there's better fish in the ocean than the one I caught.
    J: There's better bait, too.
    B: I don't see how you can go to bed without kissing me good night.
    J: I can do it.
    B: You'd better say you're sorry for that, John.
    J: Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
    B: You are not.
    J: I am too. I'm the sorriest man that was ever born.

    John and Blanche were trend setters.  



    Jackie Gleason was reportedly a fan of the show and would model parts of Ralph and Alice Kramden on the Bickersons, and Al and Peg Bundy of Married, With Children were basically the Bickersons updated for the 1990's.


    A young, and not-quite-famous Danny Thomas would appear as Blanche's ne'er-do-well brother, Amos.   Even after moving to CBS, the Bickerson's remained a 15-minute sketch on a half-hour variety show.


    Frances Langford would sing a couple of songs, and Danny Thomas would provide some comedy or a song, during the non-Bickerson segments.


    There were some that considered the scathing late-night exchanges between John and Blanche as being detrimental to the institution of marriage.   Phillip Rapp, the creator and writer of the show, reportedly based many of the exchanges on his own rocky marriage.


    Most people, however, took the Bickerson's antics as guidance on`what not to do' in their marriage.   That is, if you wanted to wake up in the morning without a butcher knife sticking out of your chest.


    The long-suffering role of John Bickerson was played for the first 4 years by the well known radio and movie star, Don Ameche.   His movie portrayal of Alexander Graham Bell was so famous, `Ameche' briefly became slang for the telephone. 


    from the trailer for The Feminine Touch (1941)

    Another Hollywood triumph for Ameche came when he starred in Ernest Lubitch's  Heaven Can Wait which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.    Ameche would retire during the 1970's, but returned to the silver screen in the 1980's in such movies as Cocoon (1985), and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993).


    Ameche died in 1993 of prostate cancer.




    Shrewish Blanche was played by the beautiful and talented songstress, Frances Langford.   Langford got her start on the Rudy Vallee radio show during the early 1930's, became a regular on the Dick Powell radio show in 1935, and had a movie career that spanned two decades.



    Frances Langford in the film This Is the Army (1943)


    She appeared in many movies, including Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Born to Dance (1936) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)  and the Glenn Miller Story (1954). In several of these movies, she appeared as  herself.


    Langford pretty much retired from the national stage in the mid-1950's although she appeared frequently at a resort she and her third husband, Ralph Evinrude, created in Jenson Beach Florida.


    Langford died on July 11th, 2005 of congestive heart failure.  She was 92.



    During the last year of the Bickerson's radio show, Lew Parker (later to play Marlo Thomas' father on That Girl) took over the role of John Bickerson.  


    The chemistry was never quite the same, however, and the show ran out of steam.  Attempts to resurrect it on television failed as well.  It lasted only 13 episodes, with Lew Parker and Ms. Langford.



    Here you will find a selection of Bickerson's episodes available on    Many of these recordings are short - 5 to 10 minute sketch segments - not the entire show.   Some feature Lew Parker instead of Don Ameche.




    1947-02-23 Amos Does Time
    1947-03-16 Racetrack, The
    1947-05-18 John Makes Out His Will
    1948-05-14 Two Weeks With Pay
    194------- 8th Wedding Anniversary
    194------- Amos Borrows The Car
    194------- Amos'sBachelorParty
    194------- BachelorDinner
    194------- BickersonsLoseTheirApartment
    194------- BirthdayPresent
    194------- BlancheBetsOnTheHorses
    194------- Blanche'sNewCoat
    194------- Breakfast
    194------- CarRepairsFooTeachingBlancheToDrive
    194------- ChristmasEve
    194------- Cruise, The
    194------- EasterParade
    194------- Eunice'sWedding
    194------- HospitalStay
    194------- IncomeTaxRefund
    194------- John Goes To Las Vegas
    194------- John The Shoplifter
    194------- Kitty's Litter
    194------- Presidential Suite
    194------- Vacation Trailer
    194------- Valentine's Day
    194x-xx-xx Movie The
    194x-xx-xx New Puppy
    194x-xx-xx Pink Slip
    1951-06-05 Fatal Anniversary Present
    1951------ Gooseby Vacation, The
    1951------ Mink Coat, The

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Memories Of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger





    As children of the 1950's, for my twin brother and I, 7 am on Saturday mornings invariably meant one of two things:



    Gathering in front of the TV set in the living room to watch reruns of Red Ryder or (or better yet!), Rocky Jones -Space Ranger.    Both shows were shown on alternating Saturday mornings for several years during the late 1950's in the Tampa-Bay TV market.



    The first issue (numbered 15) of the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger comic



    There were other space operas geared for juvenile audiences in those early days of TV, with Space Patrol and Captain Video probably the best remembered. 


    But both of these shows suffered from extremely low budgets; most were stage bound live productions with cardboard scenery and papier-mâché planets suspended by fishing line. 


    By contrast, Rocky Jones was filmed, and while these shows could never be described as big-budget productions, they did use exterior shots, matte background paintings, and remarkably good (for the times) special effects. 


    Some of the features of Rocky's ship would become staples of later science-fiction classics, like Star Trek.


    The Orbit Jet


    Rocky and Winky


    The Wikipedia lists the Orbit Jet's advanced features as including:


    • An electronic viewscreen (instead of a simple window or porthole)
    • A fantastically complicated control panel (without an airplane-styled control wheel or stick)
    • Power doors opening side-to-side as one approaches
    • Subspace radio (the "Astrophone") that allowed instantaneous communications over interplanetary distances
    • Artificial gravity as an explained feature and plot element
    • A cloaking device that rendered the ship invisible.



    Thirty-nine episodes of Rocky Jones were produced over a two-year period, starting in 1954.  Nearly all of the 30 minute episodes were part of a 3-episode arc.   Only 3 of the episodes were standalone stories.


    Many of these 3-episode stories were combined later into syndicated movies, which is how I remember them - probably from around 1958 or 1959.


    The plots were nonsense, of course, and there was very little `science' to be found in this fiction.   But to a 6 year old, in an age before John Glenn orbited the earth, these were wondrous tales indeed!


    Each week Rocky and crew would blast off to strange worlds, usually `moons', with names like Fornax, Medina, and Cryko - where he would do battle with `space gangsters' or some evil Asteroid Queen.





    Square jawed Richard Crane (June 6, 1918–March 9, 1969) played Rocky, a veteran actor with a long list of B credits to his name. 


    His career began in 1940 with a small role in  Susan and God, and he worked steadily during the 1940's (often uncredited) in movies like  So Proudly We Hail, Flying Tigers, This is the Army,  and Keep em Flying.


    In the early 1950's Crane worked in several serials, including Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe.    After Rocky Jones, Crane worked steadily in television, mostly as a supporting actor.   


    He became a semi-regular on Surfside-6, and was featured several times on 77 Sunset Strip.   His last role was on Adam-12.  Crane died of a heart attack in 1969, at the age of 50.



    Rocky's co-pilot and  sidekick (everyone had a sidekick!) was Winky, played by Scotty Beckett (October 4th, 1929 - May 10th, 1968). 




    Scotty Beckett was one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood during the 1930's and 1940's.  His  career began at the age of 3, playing in the Our Gang series.   After 15 of these comedy shorts (1934-1935), Beckett graduated to feature films.


    Among his major credits were

    Dante's Inferno (1935)

    Anthony Adverse (1936)

    The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)

    Conquest (1937)

    Marie Antoinette (1938)

    My Favorite Wife (1940)

    Kings Row (1942)


    Unlike many child stars, he managed to keep on working even after adolescence.


    My Reputation (1946)

    The Jolson Story (1946)

    Cynthia (1947)

    Battleground (1949)

    Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)

    The Happy Years (1950)


    While his career was thriving, his personal life began to unravel.  In 1948 he was arrested for drunk driving and resisted arrest. 


    In September of 1949 he eloped with tennis star Beverly Baker, only to end in a very nasty, and public, divorce the next year. 


    In 1951 he began dating a young actress named Sunny Vickers.  She became pregnant, and they married in 1951.   His reputation as a `bad boy' made him a Hollywood outcast.  


    Roles were offered less frequently, and while his contemporaries, like Jane Powell and Elizabeth Taylor continued to see their careers flourish, Beckett was lucky to get a supporting role in a syndicated kids TV show.


    In the second year of Rocky Jones, Beckett apparently became involved in an armed hotel robbery, and after posting bail, fled  with his wife and 3-year old son to Mexico.   There he passed some bad checks, and was involved in a shootout with Mexican authorities.


    Beckett seemed on the road to recovery by 1957, but was arrested bringing illegal drugs into the country from Mexico.  In 1959 he wrecked his car (alcohol was involved), crippling himself for life.  During the 1960's, he would be arrested several more times, and in 1968 died from an overdose of barbiturates.


    A sad and tragic end to such a promising young actor.



    Sally Mansfield (born Marie Mahder  1923-January 28th, 2001) played the role of Vena Ray the navigator and assistant aboard the United Worlds rocket ships Orbit Jet .


    A contract player for Paramount, Sally was chosen from a field of 300 applicants for the role.   Prior to Rocky Jones, she had appeared in a handful of television productions.




    Mansfield added some much needed estrogen to the Rocky Jones shows, giving young girls a role model (and some eye candy for older boys!).   



    Mansfield would work in television for another 10 years, after the Rocky Jones show ended  production, in shows like Grindl, McHale's Navy, and The Donna Reed Show before retiring.


    Sally Mansfield reportedly died of lung cancer in California in 2001 at the age of 78.




    Robert Lyden, age 10,  played young space cadet Bobby, who was basically there to give young kids someone to identify with.   He made only a few more television and movie appearances after Rocky Jones, with the most notable one being his portrayal of a young Creighton Chaney in `Man of A Thousand Faces" with James Cagney.



    Because these shows were done on film we still have many of these episodes available.    If you can suspend disbelief for an hour or so, and ignore the juvenile plots and low budgets, they remain entertaining to this day. 


    At least, if you grew up with Rocky Jones and his crew.


    Here are 4 of the re-edited Rocky Jones Movies. The descriptions are from the uploader at the Internet Archive.




    "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" – Rocky's Odyssey (1954)
    "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" â Rocky's Odyssey (1954) Starring Richard Crane, Scotty Beckett and Sally Mansfield Chapter I, II & III aired weekly, beginning September 19, 1954. Reedited into feature length TV film "Gypsy moon".

    Rocky Jones, Space Ranger - Crash of the Moons - Arthur Pierson, Guy V. Thayer Jr.
    Cruising the galaxy in his space ship "The Orbit Jet" Space Ranger, Rocky Jones (Richard Crane), Vena Ray (Sally Mansfield), Winky (Scotty Beckett) and 10 year-old Bobby (Robert Lyden) defend the Earth and themselves against space-bound evil doers. On the planet Ophesus, Rocky is involved in contentious negotiations with Cleolanta (Patsy Parsons), iron-fisted dictator/queen of this world. Along with Rocky are his co-pilot Winky and diplomat Drake (Charles Meredith), who is "Secretary of Space" f...

    Rocky Jones, Space Ranger - Menace from Outer Space - Arthur Pierson, Guy V. Thayer Jr.
    Cruising the galaxy in his space ship "The Orbit Jet" Space Ranger, Rocky Jones (Richard Crane), Vena Ray (Sally Mansfield), and 10 year-old Bobby (Robert Lyden) defend the Earth and themselves against space-bound evil doers. A couple of missiles strike earth and Rocky and the gang go to find out where they are coming from. They end up on a moon of Jupiter which is perfect for their survival. They are lucky to land because they have run out of gas...

    “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger” – Beyond the curtain of space (1954)
    âRocky Jones, Space Rangerâ â Beyond the curtain of space (1954) Chapter I, II & III aired weekly beginning April 10th, 1954. Reedited into feature length TV film âBeyond the moonâ. Half hour episodes were usually grouped into stories that consisted of three 'chapters' that were broadcast on successive weeks. A few of the stories were complete in one episode. Thirty six of these were grouped into 12 three-episode stories, and three were complete in one episode...

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    A Treasury Of Christmas Radio Shows




    In order to give you time to download and burn these shows to CDs as Christmas gifts, we are doing Christmas a little early this year.   No fear, however.  In mid December I'll post some Christmas TV specials you can download as well.



    Radio shows of the 1940's and 1950's were not unlike the television shows that most of us grew up with.   There were variety shows, sitcoms, detective shows, westerns, and even science fiction and horror shows. 


    While there genres differed, almost all took notice of traditional American holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years.  


    Depending on the type of show, Christmas show offerings might be simply comedy, or music, or something heartwarming or poignant.  


    Sometimes it would be a mixture of all of the above.


    Of course, versions (and parodies) of famous Christmas stories were often used.   A Christmas CarolTwas The Night Before Christmas, and The Gift of The Magi were all done  . . . probably more times than we can count.


    Bing Crosby would often have his wife and kids on his Christmas show, and would sing traditional Christmas Carols, and do a quasi-religious playlet called `The Small One'. 


    Dinah Shore would serve up Christmas songs for the boys overseas.


    But not every show tried to be heartwarming.


    Jack Benny would drive a sales clerk (usually Mel Blanc or Frank Nelson) to the point of suicide each year as he dithered over buying cheap gifts for Rochester, Mary, and Don Wilson.   Even though you knew what was coming, it was always hilarious.


    And even Sgt. Friday had holiday stories to tell, and they didn't always have a happy ending.


    Such as in the .22 rifle for Christmas episode of Dragnet, where a young boy is accidentally slain by his best friend with the rifle he got for Christmas.  


    Better remembered (and far less somber) was The Big Little Jesus, where the detectives investigate the apparent theft of a statue of the baby Jesus  from a Church Manger scene.


    Even horror and suspense shows would use Christmas themes, although peace on earth and goodwill to men wasn't always part of the Christmas menu!  


    Fair warning if you should download shows like Escape! , Suspense, Quiet Please, or Lights Out!, or even some of the detective shows.


    But most shows were family friendly fare. 


    In any event, what follows are a sampling of Christmas shows from the Internet Archive's  1930s-1947 Christmas Collection and their 1947-1959 Christmas Collection.



    There are more than 200 shows in these two collections, so I won't try to post links to all of them. 


    You can readily go to the download pages  HERE  and  HERE to select from the listing.    But here is a representative sampling.


    (For most browsers Left Click to Listen - Right Click to Download)





    Eddie Cantor Show  1935            5.5 MB

    Benny Goodman 1935-12-23        5.3 MB

    Song Of Songs  1937                    10 MB

    Jack Benny Program   1938          5.3 MB

    Snow White                                11 MB

    A Christmas Carol                        10 MB

    Fibber Cuts Christmas Tree         5.3 MB

    Listening To Carols                      5.4 MB

    Bing Crosby Christmas Program   10 MB

    Gift Of The Magi                          2.3 MB

    Holiday Inn Christmas                  5.3 MB

    Amos and Andy Show                  5.0 MB

    1945 Christmas Special                22 MB

    The Night Before Christmas        5.1 MB

    Meet Me In St. Louis                   9.7 MB

    Milton Berle                                4.9 MB

    Fibber McGee  A Lost Key Ring   5.0 MB

    Jimmy Durante 1947-12-24          3.6 MB

    Bing Crosby -The Small One         3.7 MB

    Abbott & Costello 1947-12-24      5.3 MB

    Bing 1947 Christmas Show           5.3 MB

    Escape!  1947-12-24                     5.2 MB

    Casey Crime Photo1947-12-25      5.1 MB

    Family Theater 471225 (046)        5.2 MB

    Henry Morgan Christmas Show    3.2 MB

    The Special Christmas Present    4.8 MB

    Sherlock HolmesNew Years Eve   5.3 MB

    Quiet Please RainOnNewYear's    4.4 MB

    Fibber McGee $10 Gift Certif       4.9 MB

    Miracle Of The Bells 1948-05-31   10 MB

    Fibber McGee Early Christmas     5.3 MB

    Archie Andrews 1948-12-14         3.6 MB

    Bob Hope                                    5.5 MB

    Sealtest Variety 1948-12-16         5.2 MB

    Gregory Peck - Lullaby Of Chris    2.2 MB

    Jack Benny 1948-12-19                 5.3 MB

    Box 13   The Sad Night                 4.7 MB

    Ozzie/Harriet 1948-12-19             5.3 MB


    And many . . . many . . .  more  . . . .

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Cinnamon Bear - A 71 Year-Old Christmas Tradition




    In 1937 a Hollywood production company called Transco (Transcription Company of America) produced a 26-episode children's Christmas program called The Cinnamon Bear


    Since that time, the Cinnamon Bear program has reportedly been broadcast somewhere in the world every holiday season. 


    In some locales, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, it has become a much beloved yearly radio tradition.  


    In 1951, the Cinnamon Bear program was done with hand puppets on TV (using the audio from the radio show).  The show was so popular, it wasn't uncommon in the 1950's to find department stores with a Cinnamon Bear that kids gave their Christmas wish lists to.


    And a new book was released on the program's 70th anniversary.




    Jerrel McQueen and Timothy Holmes illustrated this book published in 2007 by Beautiful America Publishing Company. -Wikipedia



    Its 26 15-minute episodes (with commercials) were designed to be aired six nights a week from November 29th to the grand finale on Christmas Eve. 


    Geared for the 3 to 8 year old crowd (not that adults couldn't enjoy it!), the plot involves the adventures of Judy and Jimmy Barton as they go to the enchanted world of Mabyeland in search of their missing silver star that belonged on the top of their Christmas Tree.


    Along the way they meet the Cinnamon Bear, a miniature stuffed bear with shoe-button eyes who would serve as their guide, and other characters like the Wintergreen Witch and Fe Fo the Giant.  


    The copyright status of these shows is a little blurry.  The Wikipedia lists the copyright as being current, and held by the heirs of the author, Glanville Heisch, who died in 1986.


    The shows, however, are available for free download from a variety of sites, including, and are rebroadcast each year by a great many radio stations.   


    The cast includes some familiar names and voices.


    • Joseph Kearns (as the Crazyquilt Dragon) is best remembered for his role as Mr. Wilson in the TV series Dennis The Menace.
    • Howard McNear (as the Cowboy, and Sammy the Seal) created the role of Doc Adams on radio's Gunsmoke, but the baby boomer generation knows him as Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith Show
    • Gale Gordon (Weary Willie the Stork and Oliver Ostrich) was an accomplished radio actor as well, but is best known for playing Theodore J. Mooney on The Lucy Show.
    • Frank Nelson (Captain Tintop) was Jack Benny's long time foil, appearing as a variety of rude salesclerks.  His signature lines "Ye-e-e-e-s?"  and "Oo-oo-oo-ooh, DO they!"  are imitated to this day on shows like The Simpsons.



    In the tradition of Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz, these are wonderful fantasy trips for children of all ages. 


    You can download all 26 episodes in one .Zip file (you'll have to unzip them to a directory) from the Internet Archive HERE.


    Or . . . you can download (or listen to) individual episodes from the archive.  If the Archive is slow, or not responding, you can also download the shows HERE, at


    Paddy O'Cinnamon Part 01            2.7 MB

    Weary Willy Part 02                      2.8 MB

    Crazy Quilt Dragon Part 3             2.8 MB

    The Ikaboos Part 4                       2.8 MB

    Weasley The Wailing Whale Pt 5   3.0 MB

    Samuel Seal Part 6                        3.1 MB

    Presto The Magician Part 7          3.0 MB

    Candy Pirates Part 8                    2.9 MB

    Rolly Polly Policeman Part 9         3.0 MB

    Professor Whiz Part 10                2.9 MB

    Fee Foo the Gentle Giant Pt 11   3.0 MB

    Rhyming Rabbit Part 12               3.0 MB

    The Wintergreen Witch Part 13   3.0 MB

    Queen Melissa Part 14                 2.9 MB

    Snaper Stick the Crocodile P15   2.9 MB

    Oliver Ostrich Part 16                  3.0 MB

    Muddlers Part 17                         3.0 MB

    Cocklebur Cowboys Part 18         3.0 MB

    Wooden Indian Part 19                3.0 MB

    Flying Hat Part 20                        2.9 MB

    Snowman Part 21                        2.9 MB

    Santa Claus Part 22                     2.9 MB

    The Bad Dolls Part 23                  3.0 MB

    The Parade Part 24                     3.0 MB

    Captain Tintop Part 25               3.0 MB

    North Pole Part 26                      2.9 MB



    Note: The runtime of these shows is just under 12 minutes.  If you want to burn them to CD's as a Christmas gift, it would take 5 Audio CDs (6 shows max per CD).   


    You could, of course, burn them as a single MP3 cd, but it could only be played on an MP3 compatible player.  


    You could also burn them to a DVD, and they could be listened to via a TV.


    If you want to gather the family around the computer to listen to them, better to download them all early, and play them on your machine, than to try to listen live off the Internet.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas some of these sites may be busy, and you may experience slow downloads.

    Sunday, November 9, 2008

    An Old Time Radio Christmas







    Several years ago I began a Christmas tradition of sending to my friends and relatives audio CD's with a selection of old-time Holiday radio shows.   


    Before television, radio brought Holiday cheer into people's homes, and just about every show did a Christmas or New Year's Eve Special.  Fibber McGee and Molly, Duffy's Tavern, Bing Crosby, and Jack Benny all celebrated Christmas in their own inimitable ways.


    Not just the comedy and variety shows, but even shows like Dragnet, and The Whistler, and Suspense took notice of the season.  Not every show was `kid friendly', as even the horror shows often did Christmas themes.


    There are Holiday shows out there for just about everybody's sensibilities and taste.


    This has proved to be a fun, personalized, inexpensive, and well received Christmas present.  


    Blank CD's cost only about .25 cents each, and can hold about 80 minutes of audio.   (MP3 format CDs can store maybe 50 hours, but not everyone has an MP3 compatible player).


    Even with plastic or paper sleeves, and mailing costs, a package of a 4 CD's can be put together for an investment of about $3 and a little bit of your time.  






    Not a bad deal, and searching out these shows and burning the disks is sure to put you in the Holiday spirit.


    And the best thing is, there are enough old-time radio Christmas shows out there to allow you to do this for many years to come.


    Here's how I do it every year.  


    I use a Windows XP computer, and I use NERO burning software, so my setup may be a little different than yours. 


    If your computer has a writable CD or DVD (not just a player), then you probably already have the capability to burn CDs.


    Most computers manufactured in the past 4 or 5 years have this capability, and most come with either NERO or ROXIO software that will allow you to burn Audio CDs.


    If your computer doesn't already have burning software installed, there are a number of freeware CD burning packages available on the net. 


    (As always, when in doubt, read the manual!)


    I create (on my desktop)  some temporary directories: CD1, CD2, CD3, and CD4  (one for each disk I plan to burn).


    I then go looking for the shows I want to share.   Each disk can only hold 80 minutes of audio, so I try to find a couple of 30 minute shows, and 1 15-minute show for each disk.  


    Some radio shows have had their commercials removed, so their runtime for a half hour show could be down to 22 to 24 minutes.  You may be able to fit 3 of these onto one disk.


    You can always `fill' with some Christmas music to use up any empty CD space.


    You may decide to go with a `theme', and try to group shows that are alike on the same disk, or you might just want to go free-form, and make it an eclectic collection.  




    Jack Benny




    If you are sending to families with small children, you might want to make a couple of disks specifically for kids.  


    And fair warning: Many Christmas shows were sponsored by cigarette manufacturers.   If that troubles you, or you feel it would be inappropriate, you'll want to avoid those.


    Once you have your shows selected, and placed in your directories, it's time to burn your disks.


    Each software package is different, but what you want to create are AUDIO CDs, that will play in any CD player.   Not DATA CDs.   


    One at a time, you will drag (or drop) the contents of each disc into the burning program, and instruct it to burn the CD.   It should only take a minute or two per disk. 


    You can either burn multiple copies of each disk now, or simply create MASTER disks which you can quickly copy later.


    The first year I did this, I had an old 4x CD burner, and I burned over 100 disks.  It took several evenings.   Today, with a 52x burner, the process goes a lot faster!


    Over the next week or so I'll present several blogs offering suggestions on a variety of different Holiday radio shows you can download and burn.


    Now, just to give you a wee taste of something traditional, here is Bing Crosby's 1947 Christmas Show. (Right click on the link to download)



    Bing Crosby 1947 Christmas Show
    5.3 MB

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    And Now, A Lucky Strike Extra . . .



    Back in September, when I began this blog, my second entry was called 'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade,  which looked back at the Lucky Strike Hit Parade show of the early 1950's.











    Dorothy Collins From Your Hit Parade



    Shortly thereafter I received a very kind email from Andrew Lee Fielding, whose mother Sue Bennett was one of the early stars of television, and a regular on Your Hit Parade.


    We exchanged several emails, and Andrew told me about a book he had written about his mother's career and early television.   He was nice enough to send me a copy.






    The book is called  The Lucky Strike Papers,   and is published by Bear Manor Media.   Andrew also has his own blog which I am putting in my sidebar links column.


    Although Andrew sent me the book a month ago, I wanted a quiet day to enjoy the book.  Such a day was today.  And enjoy it I did.


    For anyone curious at all about the early days of live television, and the transition from radio to TV as being the dominant form of home entertainment, this book is a delight.


    Fielding guides us through the early years of TV, mostly through his Mother's career, which took her from the Kay Kyser Show, to the Freddy Martin Show, and onto Your Hit Parade.


    Although just recently published, Andrew began researching this book, and conducting interviews with many of the pioneers of early television, back in the late 1970's.  


    The book is filled with wonderful anecdotes, rare photos, and a rich and abundant history of early television.  


    It makes a worthy addition to anyone's library, and would make a terrific Christmas gift for anyone with a love of nostalgia.  You can order it HERE.


    Highly recommended.

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    Quatermass And The Pit




    For early British television viewing audiences, one of the  most memorable heroes was Professor Bernard Quatermass, who saved the world with some regularity during the 1950's.


    He  has been described as Britain's first television hero.


    Created for the BBC by writer Nigel Kneale, Quatermass appeared in three popular, and influential, science-fiction television serials.  The character also appeared in films, print, and on the radio over a period of 50 years, with a recent remake of the first serial appearing on BBC Four in 2005.


    The first appearance of Professor Quatermass was in 1953, in The Quatermass Experiment.   It was followed by Quatermass II in 1955, with a new actor playing the lead.  


    The third, and arguably best of the series aired in 1959, starring André Morell.    It was called Quatermass and the Pit.


    These shows were produced live, with some filmed segments (mostly exterior shots) interspersed where needed.    Listed by The British Film Institute as one of the 100 Greatest British Television ProgrammesQuatermass and the pit has achieved a bit of a cult status.  



    The Quatermass stories have been turned into feature films, with probably 1967's  Five Million Years To Earth, a remake of Quatermass and the Pit, being the best remembered of the lot.



    While only two episodes of the original series, The Quatermass Experiment, are known to exist, we are fortunate to have the entire series of the second two outings.   


    Here then are the six episodes of Quatermass and the Pit.






















    Note: These shows are hosted on GUBA (I don't host any files myself).  How long they will remain available is up to that site.  My recommendation is to watch them while you can.