Sunday, March 29, 2009

Solid Potato Salad




A quickie for a Sunday evening. 


The Ross sisters were a novelty act who made, as far as I can tell, only one appearance on the the big screen – in an otherwise forgettable MGM musical from 1944 called Broadway Rhythm – starring George Murphy and Ginny Simms.


Other cast members included Charles Winninger, Gloria DeHaven, Lena Horne, Nancy Walker, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and Ben Blue, and Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.


The plot doesn’t really matter, suffice to know that George Murphy wants to put on a show, and that gives him the opportunity to audition a number of acts.


The Ross Sisters are listed as a Dance Specialty act, and that doesn’t begin to describe it.  


At first, they sound like a rip-off of the Andrews Sisters doing a hep tune called Solid Potato Salad . . . but give it your full attention for the entire 3:50. 


The Andrews Sisters never dreamed of doing an act like this!




While they are billed as Aggie, Maggie and Elmira Ross, their real-life names were actually Vicki, Dixie and Betsy Ross. 


There is an amazing lack of information about this trio online.  Hard to figure, really.  


But Novelty acts were like that sometimes. 


No matter how spectacular, once they’d been seen nationally . . . producers were bound to ask . . . “That was great, but what else can you do?”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Joe Howard And The Gay 90’s Review



If you’ve every wondered if Television was as much fun in its infancy as it is in it’s adultery . . . . we’ve an example of some very early television for your viewing pleasure.   


In this case, a rare surviving episode of Joe Howard’s Gay Nineties Review – which was broadcast on the ABC network between 1948 and 1949.



You may not know who Joe Howard was, but you undoubtedly know some of the songs he wrote.  


His two biggest hits were `I wonder who’s kissing her now?’ and “Hello, Ma Baby”, immortalized forever in the the classic cartoon “One Froggy Evening”.


Michigan J. Frog


But Joe wrote more than 100 songs, many of which ended up in Broadway musicals around the turn of the century (not the last one, the one before last!).


In 1948, at the age of 81 (he was born in February of 1867), Howard was tapped by ABC-TV to do a weekly Gay 90’s Review type show.  For 81, he was pretty spry – and was still a long way from retirement.


The show, like many early TV shows, was produced with almost no budget to speak of.   It was basically a venue for a series of Vaudeville style acts.    A barbershop Quartet,a dance routine (by Honey Murray), and 3 `bird-brained’ violinists you have to see to believe.


Sharing the hosting duties was Lulu Bates.


Lulu who?   

Ok, so she isn’t a household name.  You probably won’t recall the Townsmen Quartet either.   Their lack of fame shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment, however.

Lulu Bates takes the role of the `Red Hot Mama’ Jazz Singer.   She’s no Sophie Tucker, but this was early TV after all.


By 1948, Joe Howard had done it all in show business.


He’d run away from home as a kid, entered show business, and over the next 8 decades would perform as a singer in concert saloons, acted in touring companies, was a headliner in Vaudeville, was a host of a network radio show during the 1930’s, and of course composed music and even wrote plays.


Howard would live another 13 years, after the Gay Nineties Review left the air, and literally died on stage at the age of 95, while taking a bow at Chicago's Opera House in 1961.  


He’d just led the audience in singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and during a curtain call, died of a heart attack.  


Hollywood couldn’t have written a more fitting ending to his career.



click to play movieclick to play movie
click to play movieclick to play movie

Click on any of the pictures to view the video.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Out Of The Clear Blue Of The Western Sky Comes . . .






It’s okay to admit it.   Sky King was cool.


Sure, Sky King was a kids show.  But we were all kids once.  Some of us, deep down inside, still are . . .  and so Sky King holds a special place in our hearts.


Sky (Skyler or Schuyler) King was a flying cowboy, the two-fisted owner of the Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona, and every week he would round up rustlers, spies, or bank robbers while saving his niece from certain death.


How much cooler could you get in the 1940’s and 1950’s?


Created by Robert Morris Burtt and Wilfred Gibbs Moore, who also created Captain Midnight,  Sky king debuted on radio in 1946. 


Many believe that Sky King was loosely based on a real character - Jack Cones, the Flying Constable of Twenty-nine Palms during the 1930s.


Private aviation was still a bit of a novelty in the 1940’s, although its popularity soared (sorry . . .) after the end of WWII.   Radio shows and movie serials about daring pilots were therefore very popular in the 1940’s offering such fare as Terry and the Pirates, and Captain Midnight.


Sky King was played on the radio by two different actors; Earl Nightingale (yes, the motivational speaker!), and John Reed King – a well known radio actor/announcer (Duffy’s Tavern, What’s My Line) who would go on to host several television game shows in the 1950’s (Chance of a Lifetime, Beat the Clock).


The radio show ran until 1954, running concurrently with the later television show starring Kirby Grant.


We’ve 8 episodes of the radio show for your listening pleasure, all from the Internet Archive.



SKY_K_1947.06.30_Prince_Aron_Zibi.mp3                      7.13 MB

SKY_K_1947.07.14_Army_of_Blue_Men.mp3                   6.90 MB

SKY_K_1947.07.23_The_Stolen_Pearls.mp3                    7.11 MB

SKY_K_1947.07.31_Capture_of_the_Pearl_Thief.mp3    6.90 MB

SKY_K_1947.12.04_A_Message_in_Code.mp3                 14 MB

SKY_K_1951.04.12_The_Lady_Sheriff.mp3                     12 MB

SKY_K_1951.04.17_The_Mark_of_El_Diablo.mp3            12 MB

SKY_K_19xx.xx.xx_The_Black_Circle.mp3                      9.31 MB


Of course, most of us remember Sky King – the television show.


Beginning in 1951, and flying a Cessna T-50 `Bamboo Bomber’,  Sky King flew into the world of early TV first on the NBC network.  Reruns of that first year’s show ended up on ABC’s Saturday morning lineup.


The show would run briefly during primetime on ABC in 1954, before going into syndication.  Episodes would be produced until 1959. 


The T-50 was replaced with as Cessna 310-B midway through the series when the producers began to worry that the ageing Bamboo Bomber was no longer safe to fly.  


All of Sky King’s aircrafts were called the `Songbird’.


Kirby Grant (born Kirby Grant Hoon Jr in 1911), who is best remembered today for his role as Sky King, had been a `B’ movie actor for many years. 


A musician (violin) and singer, Grant won a “Gateway to Hollywood" talent contest in 1939, which gave him a movie contract – and a new name -  Robert Stanton.   


Grant would alternate between his stage name and his given name in the 1940’s, but ultimately went back to using his first and middle name. 


During the early 1940’s he appeared in a number of movies, often as a singer, including:


  • Rosie the Riveter (1944) (uncredited) .... 'Rosie the Riveter' singer at Award Presentation
  • Hi, Good Lookin'! (1944) .... King Castle
  • Chip Off the Old Block (1944) (uncredited) .... Member, Jivin' Jacks
  • Destination Tokyo (1943) (uncredited) .... Hornet's Captain
  • The Stranger from Pecos (1943) .... Tom Barstow
  • Bombardier (1943) (uncredited) .... Pilot
  • Hello Frisco, Hello (1943) .... Specialty singer
  • My Favorite Blonde (1942) (uncredited) .... Pilot

    In 1945, Grant was picked by Universal to replace Rod Cameron in a series of `B’ Westerns, and after that, Monogram Pictures put him in a series of series of mounted-police adventures, featuring "Chinook the Wonder Dog."


    While not exactly prime roles, it did establish Grant as an action star.


    So when television needed a two-fisted cowboy to play Sky King, Grant got the call.


    There has always been a bit of skepticism over whether Kirby Grant was a real pilot.   The flying on the show was done by (according to the Wikipedia):


    Paul Mantz Air Services and flown by several pilots, and the Cessna 310B used in later episodes was provided at no cost by Cessna and flown by Cessna employee Bill Fergusson


    Grant, however, was a pilot, and did fly the Songbird.  


    At least according to anecdotal reports from friends and co-workers.   Grant pretty much gave up acting after Sky King, although he did make numerous personal appearances int he 1960’s, 1970’s, and early 1980’s as `Sky King’.


    Grant was killed in 1985 in a car accident near Titusville Florida, as he was enroute to Cape Kennedy to watch the Challenger Liftoff.


    Gloria Winters, who played Sky’s niece Penny, had first appeared as Babs, Chester Riley’s daughter in the first (Jackie Gleason) incarnation of the Life of Riley on Television.   She retired from acting in 1960.


    Ron Hagerthy played Sky’s nephew Clipper, but didn’t appear in all of the episodes.



    In all, 72 episodes of Sky King were produced over the years.   We have 17 available for your nostalgic viewing pleasure.


    Sky Robbers
    destruction from the sky
    Bullet Bait
    A Dog Named Barney
    Ring Of Fire
    The Wild Man
    dust of distruction
    the silver grave
    rodeo round up
    double trouble
    sleight of hand
    the runaway
    designing woman
    carrier pigeon
    fish out of water
    note for a dam


    While yes, this was a kids show, many pilots (and a few astronauts) credit Sky King as having sparked their desire to learn to fly as a youth.  


    And let’s face it . . .  nearly 60 years after it was filmed, it is wonderful to see that old Bamboo Bomber slicing through the Arizona Skies once again.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Warner Brothers Breakdowns Of The Early 1940’s




    In my last post I highlighted the blooper, or gag reels, produced by Warner Brothers during the 1930’s for in-house consumption at their annual Christmas party.


    Today we continue with the blooper reels from the early 1940’s, featuring such players as William Demarest, Humphrey Bogart, George Brent, James Cagney, Miriam Hopkins, Bette Davis, John Garfield, Brenda Marshall, Pat O'Brien, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson Allen Jenkins, Joel McCrea, and Ann Sheridan – among many others.


    We’ve the breakdowns of 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1944 available for viewing. The gag reel for 1943 doesn’t appear to be available at this time.

















    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Warner Brothers Breakdowns of the 1930’s



    Just about everyone loves to watch ostensibly `perfect’ movie stars screwing up their lines, bumping into furniture, or otherwise ruining a shot.


    Appending a short blooper reel at the end of movies has become fairly common in the past dozen or so years,  and of course, there have been a number of `blooper’ TV shows hosted by Dick Clark.


    But back in the early days of Hollywood, bloopers were generally kept hidden from the public.   After all, it wouldn’t do to have the public see All American nice guy Jimmy Stewart cussing after blowing a line!


    Bloopers were collected and compiled, however, by the Warner Brothers social club, which was open to all studio employees, and these blooper reels – or `Breakdowns’, as they were called – were a highlight of their annual Christmas party from 1935 until 1949.


    Here you’ll find stars like Bogart, Pat O'Brien, Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Glenda Farrell, Errol Flynn, Dick Foran, Joan Blondell, Kay Francis, Hugh Herbert, Allen Jenkins, Boris Karloff, Barton MacLane, Dick Powell, Claude Rains and scores of other familiar faces having a bad moment captured on film. 


    Not only are they funny clips, they also serve to humanize many celebrities that we rarely saw under such candid circumstances. 


    With the warning that what follows would never have been shown publicly under the Hays Movie Code, and that the language gets a bit salty at times, we have the Warner Brothers Breakdowns of 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939.
























    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    What In The World?








    I'll admit that this show may not be for everyone, but I found myself absolutely fascinated by it.   I honestly don't remember it at all, and so it may never have been broadcast where I lived as a kid.


    Of course, as a kid I enjoyed shows like the GE College Bowl, Travelogues, and was absolutely captivated by just about any documentary produced by David Wolper.  


    I was a bit of a geek before it became trendy.  


    And this show certainly was cerebral. 


    A panel of experts would be shown 6 to 8 artifacts, plucked from museums, and asked to identify their point of origin, intended use, and age.


    Really, it's better than it sounds.  A sort of `What's My Line' for anthropologists and archeologists!


    I'll direct you to the University of Pennsylvania's excellent website to learn more about the show, which ran for the 14 years between 1951 and 1965.   


    The reviews page  is particularly enlightening.  I heartily recommend you visit, and peruse their website.


    There are only 6 surviving shows (a genuine pity), and they are part of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Films, of which more than 600 are available to view on the Internet Archive.


    Episode # 4 has guest panelist Vincent Price, who was an amateur collector, and he acquits himself very nicely indeed.


    If your tastes run to something seriously educational on occasion, give this show a try. 


    Here is how the Internet Archive Describes the show.


    What In the World

    What in the World?® was the Penn Museum's Peabody Award-winning popular weekly half-hour television program which was first seen in 1951 and which ran for 14 years. By the early 1960s it was one of the oldest programs on television, bringing positive reviews and a steady stream of fanmail to the Museum which continues to this day.

    On each What in the World?® program, four or five unidentified objects were presented to a panel of experts who were asked to guess what each piece was, where it came from, how old it was, and how it was used. Objects were selected from storerooms and had never before been seen by the panel. Before the experts guessed, the audience was told what the object was, and, during the course of the program, could watch the thought processes of real --and often fallible!-- anthropologists and archaeologists.

    After they had completed their identification, the moderator, Froelich Rainey, Director of the Museum, told them whether they were right and if not, gave the correct identification. Only four episodes of the show survive. The special guest on one of these was the famous actor (and collector) Vincent Price.


    What in the World #1 - WCAU TV (CBS, Philadelphia)

    All rights are reserved by the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum). Any use of the footage in productions is forbidden unless rights have been secured by contacting the Penn Museum Archives at 215-898-8304, or email

    This film and all of the films in the Penn Museum collection are copyrighted by the Penn Museum, and are not in the public domain

    "What in the World?" #2 - UPMAA, WCAU-TV

    "What in the World?" #3 - WCAU TV (CBS, Philadelphia)

    What in the World #4 - UPMAA, WCAU-TV

    "What in the World?" #5 - WCAU TV (CBS,

    "What in the World" #6 - WCAU TV (CBS,

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Before We Loved Lucy




    Lucille Ball and Richard Denning performing in

    My Favorite Husband




    In 1948, television was still pretty much an experimental medium, with only a few hundred thousand television sets able to receive programming in the United States.


    Few homes had these new-fangled (and expensive) devices, and most people's first exposure to television came from bars that had installed them, or from display windows of electronics shops.






    In 1948, there were only 36 TV stations broadcasting in 19 American cities. Radio, at least for the next couple of years, would remain king in the home entertainment arena.


    Shows like Escape!, The Falcon, Fibber McGee & Molly, Duffy's Tavern, and The Whistler were popular fare in the late 1940's.


    Although all genre's were popular - everything from westerns to murder mysteries and horror -family oriented situational comedies, like The Life of Riley, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet were increasingly popular.


    One such show was an early vehicle for two Hollywood actors who had, thus far, seen limited success.  It was called My Favorite Husband - and it would serve as a prototype for the biggest television success story of all - I Love Lucy.


    But before we loved Lucy, Lucille Ball was a struggling actress.


    Born in 1911, an 18 year-old Lucille Désirée Ball began as a model in 1929. In the early 1930's she worked a bit on Broadway under the name "Diane Belmont".


    As a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures, Ball had many small, often uncredited,  roles in `B' movies.   If a director needed a  tall, leggy, young lady to play a model, or a slave girl, or some other minor part - Lucille Ball was often cast.





    Just a few of the better known movies she appeared in include:



    Her biggest early success came from in the hit film Stage Door (1937) co-starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers.  She was then signed by MGM, and continued to appear in films, but never became the success that she and others had hoped for.


    While she appeared in many films during the 1940's, few are memorable.  Some of the more notable ones included:



    Along the way, Ball augmented her film work by working on the radio - usually in small, supporting roles.


    In 1940, Ball would meet Cuban born bandleader Desi Arnez while filming a forgettable version of the Broadway Hit, Too Many Girls.  This would begin a successful, but tumultuous union that would span two decades.


    By 1948, now in her late thirties, Ball accepted the role of  Liz Cugat (later changed to `Cooper'), a wacky wife on the CBS radio sitcom  My Favorite Husband.


    Richard Denning, who played her husband, was a relatively little known actor who had - like Ball - mostly done `B' movies.   He'd won a radio contest in the late 1930's called "Do You Want to Be an Actor?", which gave him a screen test at Warner Brothers.


    Warners passed on him, but Paramount took him on under contract. 


    They changed his name from Denninger (it sounded too much like Dillenger), and he worked fairly steadily throughout the 1940's in such blockbusters as:



    Radio work might not have been as glamorous as Hollywood film acting, but it did pay the bills.


    In the early 1950's, CBS, seeing how successful the radio show had become, asked Ball to develop it for Television.  Ball Agreed, but insisted on having Desi play her husband.

    The network was very skeptical that America was ready for an All-American Redhead married to a Cuban, but Ball insisted.


    Ball and Arnez formed Desilu Productions and filmed a pilot, but the network wasn't impressed. 


    Ball and Arnez took the show on the road, performing on the Vaudeville circuit, using the `Lucy want's to get into show business' plot.  The show was a big success, and CBS eventually took a chance on Lucy.


    But we're ahead of ourselves a bit.


    Back to 1948.   And the prototype for I Love Lucy.


    The OTR.NETWORK library has 65 episodes of My Favorite Husband available for you to listen to, or download.  


    Here are just the first 20.



    #  Airdate     Episode Name   Notes

    1  1942-01-25 Marriage License Error (23 min)

    2  1948-07-05 First Show (30 min)

    3  1948-07-19 Mother's Suprise (30 min)

    4  1948-07-99 The Kissing Booth (30 min)

    5  1948-08-06 The Portrait Painter (30 min)

    6  1948-08-20 Liz Teaches Samba (24 min)

    7  1948-09-03 Liz's Mother's Boyfriend (30 min)

    8  1948-09-14 General Timberlake (30 min)

    9  1948-09-24 Baby Booties (30 min)

    10  1948-10-03 The 10th Wedding Anniversary

    11  1948-11-06 Katy and Roscoe (23 min)

    12  1948-11-13 Learning to Drive (28 min)

    13  1948-11-20 Teenage Dating (23 min)

    14  1948-11-27 Is There a Baby in the House 

    15  1948-12-25 Numerology (23 min)

    16  1949-01-07 Over Budget (27 min)

    17  1949-01-14 Piano Lessons (23 min)

    18  1949-01-21 Marriage Licenseerror (23 min)

    19  1949-01-28 Absolute Truth (25 min)

    20  1949-02-04 Speech for Civic Group (25 min)

    And 45 more episodes HERE.

    While Lucy would become a television fixture for the next 3 decades, Richard Denning would go on to star in his own, moderately successful Television Series,  Mr. and Mrs. North.

    He would also star in some well remembered (by some of us, anyway), if not critically acclaimed movies, such as Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Black Scorpion (1957).

    He retired from Hollywood to Hawaii in the late 1960's, but appeared in more than 70 episodes of Hawaii 5-0 (as the Governor) during the 1970's.


    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Changes Coming to Master Of My Public Domain




    For those who like the site the way it is, have no fears.  A large portion of what happens here will not change.    I will continue to showcase public domain movies, radio shows, and TV shows from the golden age of broadcasting.


    But in addition, I'll be adding some new categories. 


    Not exactly Public Domain . . . but freely available media on the Internet. I will attempt (where possible) to differentiate between public domain and other types of media. 


    But there is an expanding universe of fascinating programming legally available online.   TV networks now stream many of their shows, often within 24 hours of their initial broadcast.   Sites like HULU and AOL provide classic TV shows for free.


    These aren't public domain . . . but they are free for you to watch.


    And there is a growing sector of original programming coming from very talented people on the Internet.   The production values, given the budgets and tools they have to work with, are sometimes astonishing.


    Many of these are short films, but some run 20 - 30 - even 60 minutes in length. 


    There are performing artists - real talent - that are out there on the Internet, hoping to reach a larger audience.  And they too deserve some exposure.   


    And I'll be introducing `quickies', which are some of the best, or at least the most entertaining, film clips from movies or variety shows from years gone by.   


    Of course, I'll try to provide some background information on these classic performances. 


    There will only be two basic criteria for inclusion in this blog.


    First, everything I will reference must be available without charge.  And second . . . I have to find it entertaining. 


    A subjective litmus test, I admit . . . but that's the advantage to having my own blog.  I get to make the rules.


    A word of warning:  Often these links either disappear or are changed over time.   If you see something that interests you, you probably should click through to it sooner than later.

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Martin Kane, Private Eye








    Not surprisingly, when the television revolution began to sweep the United States in the late 1940's and early 1950's, producers borrowed heavily from existing radio shows to fill their program line ups.


    I Love Lucy was basically a thin retread of Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband radio series, with her real-life husband Desi Arnez taking over the role originally played by Richard Denning.


    Gunsmoke was a very popular radio series, starring William Conrad,  long before it made it to the small screen.   Frankly, the list of transition shows is both long, and notable.   Burns & Allen, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Dragnet, Suspense, Lux Theatre . . . .


    Some of the shows are far less well remembered today, but at the time, they were very popular fare.   One such show, whose roots go back to radio, was Martin Kane, Private Eye.


    William Gargan, who was a member of what was known affectionately in Hollywood during the 1940's as "the Irish Mafia", played the lead role on the radio, and for the first couple of years on television.


    The Irish Mafia weren't gangsters, they were an established group of (mostly) character actors who all had a drop or two of Irish blood, and who often played roles of policemen, priests, reporters, and sometimes even detectives.


    Other notables in this group included James Cagney, Spenser Tracy, Pat O'Brien, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Morgan, and Frank McHugh.





    William Gargan



    William Gargan took over playing the role of Ellery Queen in the movies in 1942 from Ralph Bellamy, and would appear in such varied movies as The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) and  Swing Fever (1943).


    He took on the role of Martin Kane in 1949 on the Mutual Radio network.  U.S. Tobacco was the sponsor, and as was common during this period, they managed to work the sponsor into the show's format. 


    William Gargan, Lloyd Nolan and Lee Tracy played Martin Kane on what would be one of television's earliest detective show.


    Martin Kane's favorite hangout was a tobacco shop, run by Happy McMann, played by Walter Kinsella, the only cast member to appear in all five seasons.   That made it easy to segue into a commercial pitch for the sponsor's products.


    Ironically, Gargan would lose his voice box, and his acting career, in 1958 due to throat cancer.  He became a strong anti-smoking advocate, a cause he championed until his death in 1979.


    The show was shot live, and quite frankly, it shows. 


    It also seemed to vary from year to year in how the lead character was portrayed.  Some years Kane was a hard boiled detective, other years he was more suave and sophisticated.



    This isn't masterpiece theatre.  But it was entertaining enough, even with the flubbed lines, missed cues, and Spartan budget to run for 5 years on NBC.  



    We've three episodes available, from the middle years of the series, when Lloyd Nolan had taken over for Gargan.





    Nolan, was a better actor than most of his B-Movie credits would indicate.  He was the original Captain Queeg in the The Caine Mutiny Court Martial on Broadway, and his performance was hailed as brilliant.


    One of the hardest working actors in both movies, and TV, Nolan appeared  as 'Bugs' Moran on the "The Untouchables" (1959), along with  appearing in five episodes of the extremely popular "77 Sunset Strip" (1958).


    He would co-star for 3 seasons with Diahann Carroll in the ground breaking sitcom, Julia in 1968.


    In the late 1960's and early 1970s,  Nolan appeared in such certifiable hits as Ice Station Zebra (1968), Airport (1970), and Earthquake (1974). 


    Nolan passed away at the age of 83, of lung cancer in 1985.


    Here then are 3 episodes of Martin Kane.




    "Martin Kane Private Eye" - Rest home murder (1951)
    Episode "Rest home murder" of series 'Martin Kane, Private Eye'. Lloyd Nolan as "Martin Kane".

    "Martin Kane Private Eye" - Nightclub murder (1952)
    Episode of the "Live" TV series "Martin Kane, Private Eye" in which a "Crooner is murdered". Originally aired 31 January 1952. With Lloyd Nolan in the role of "Martin Kane".

    "Martin Kane, Private Eye" - Black Pearls
    Episode "Black Pearls" of the "Live" 50's TV series "Martin Kane, Private Eye", which ran from 1949 to 1954. Original Air Date: 27 March 1952 and starring Lloyd Nolan. "Martin Kane" was also played by William Gargan 1949-51, Lee Tracy 1952-53 and Mark Stevens 1953-54.

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    And Now A Word From Our Sponsor



    In the very earliest days of commercial radio broadcasting, which began in about 1922 and ran to about 1930, direct advertising wasn't allowed. 


    Commercials as we know them today simply didn't exist.  

    Shows were sponsored by companies with products to sell, of course, and so radio listeners were reminded of the sponsor's product in various, often clever, ways.


    The first advertising success came from General Mills, the makers of Wheaties cereal, who were seeing sagging sales, and considering discontinuing the product after two lackluster years of promoting the product.




    On Christmas Eve, 1926 they ran a soon-to-be famous jingle on the radio; "Have You Tried Wheaties?" sung by the Wheaties Quartet.


    The jingle wasn't trying to `sell' the product, it was merely asking if you'd tried it.  A clever way around the ban on direct selling.


    Sales in the markets where the jingle played soared.  Wheaties soon became one of the most popular breakfast cereals in the nation.  And radio advertising had proven it's worth.


    For the next few years, sponsors would incorporate their product's names into the radio shows they sponsored, in lieu of direct advertising.


    Shows such as  The Ipana Troubadours and the A&P Gypsies managed to get around the advertising ban.  


    The Palmolive Soap company pushed the envelope the most, perhaps, with their musical variety program  The Palmolive Radio Hour which featured the singing duo of  "Paul Oliver" and "Olive Palmer".

    Radio shows were owned, and often written by the sponsor. 


    By the 1930's direct advertising was allowed on the radio.  Many shows found clever ways to incorporate the sponsor into the show.


    Jack Benny would open his show with "JELL-O Everybody", since his sponsor was . . . Jello.  Fibber McGee would make fun of `Waxy', their announcer, who would pitch Johnson's wax at the halfway point of the show. 


    A website with well over 100 Old Time Radio Commercials you can listen to or download  is Old Time Radio Fans.


    And so when television came around in the late 1940's, it was pretty standard that each show would have their own sponsor. 


    Lucky Strike sponsored Your Hit Parade,  Texaco (and later Buick) Sponsored Milton Berle,  Dinah Shore was sponsored by Chevrolet.  Practically every major show was `owned' by a sponsor. 


    Some shows had two sponsors, and rotated every other week.


    Eventually the cost of producing shows grew too great for a single sponsor to carry, and so the number of commercial minutes in each hour was increased to allow shows to sell enough advertising time to be profitable.


    We've got three (roughly) 10 minute collections of commercials from the 1950's to watch or download.    Click on the images below to go to each one.




    Part 1 features Clark Kent, Perry White, and Jimmy Olson selling Sugar Smacks,  Buster Keaton as a Mountie after . . Buster Keaton, who needs some Alka Seltzer,  Bosco Syrup, Tootsie Roll Pops, Mike Wallace hawking Fluffo Shortening (no kidding), the Old Gold Dancing Cigarette boxes (a classic!), Captain Midnight pushing Ovaltine (and a secret decoder ring),  Tang, and mint Life Buoy Soap.


    Part II includes Turkish Taffy,  Jello (very un-pc by todays standard), Maypo Oatmeal, RAID, Ajax (Bum Bum . . .the foaming cleanser . . .), Yodels cakes, QT Tanning lotion, and the Doublemint Twins.


    Part III brings us Maxwell House's percolator song, Hertz (with the couple flying into the car), Bucky Beaver for Ipana toothpaste, Vel Dish Soap, Ajax Laundry Detergent, Coca Cola, and Brylcream.



    What these commercials may lack in production value or subtlety, they make up for with nostalgia.   If you are of a certain age, say over 45 or 50, you will probably remember most of these.

    Younger people may simply marvel at how simplistic things were in the 1950's.


    Either way, I'm betting you'll enjoy them.