Friday, March 25, 2011

The Big Ruditsky



James Gregory



Barney Ruditsky was a real-life detective in New York City during the roaring 20’s, and later, after he retired from the force, became a well known private detective in Hollywood, California.


In fact, he was hired by  Joe DiMaggio to tail fiancĂ© Marilyn Monroe prior to their marriage.


His work as a P.I. in Hollywood put him in contact with a number of producers, and in 1959 a TV series (very) loosely based on his career during the Prohibition years  was created called The Lawless Years.

The show was the first `roaring 20’s’ show on TV, appearing on NBC 6 months before Robert Stack would make a `Ness’ of things on ABC’s The Untouchables.


Ruditsky served as a technical advisor on the show.


The star was a James Gregory, probably better known to younger viewers as Inspector Lugar on Barney Miller, but in reality one of the hardest working character actors in Hollywood.

His first film (uncredited) was Naked City in 1948, but his distinctive looks and gravelly voice soon fetched him a series of roles in television and film.


He made television history by starring in the first episode of The Twilight Zone ( “Where Is Everybody?”), and played in such big-budget films as The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and PT 109 (1963).

In fact, it would be hard to find a TV show during the 1960s and 1970s where he didn’t show up in a guest appearance at least once; Star Trek, Gunsmoke, M.A.S.H., The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West  among others.


Beginning in 1959, and over 2 years and 47 30-minute episodes, Gregory played the role of Barney Ruditsky in The Lawless Years.


As a period piece, the show still holds up pretty well, and as a bonus and you’ll catch a lot of young actors in guest roles before they became household names.


Clu Gulager, Robert Fuller, Burt Reynolds, Martin Landau, Warren Oates, Jack Weston and Nita Talbot  . . .  to name a few.


The show aired on Thursday evenings at 10:30 EST, opposite the stiff competition of CBS’s Playhouse 90.


You’ll find 8 episodes of The Lawless years on The Internet Archive, and more will probably turn up over time.


"The Lawless Years"


James Gregory died in September of 2002, at the age of 90.  He had appeared in well over 100 television and film roles, and remains one of the best remembered faces (and voices) of the the baby boomer generation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Brief Hiatus




This blog has not been updated in more than 2 weeks, and to those who keep checking back, I apologize.


I will return to this blog with new features in the near future, but for now the demands of my other blog (Avian Flu Diary) - in the wake of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis - have left me with precious little time for MOMPD.


I’ll try for an update this weekend, and but probably not another until I return in early April from a trip I must make to Missouri.


Once again, thanks for checking back.


And there are more than 170 blogs, going back 2 1/2 years on this site, and so you may find something of interest among those.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Treasury Of Bob & Ray




Ray Goulding and Bob Elliott hosting The Name's the Same in 1955.


Show business lore is filled with stories of fortuitous pairings that led to fame, sometimes fortune.  It is difficult today to think of Abbott without Costello, or Laurel with Hardy.  


Yet all four were relatively obscure solo performers before getting together.


Another such pairing, that endured nearly 50 years, was that of radio comedians Bob & Ray.   

Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding were both radio announcers on the same Boston radio station (WHDH)  in the early 1940s, and while working separately (Elliot was a DJ, Goulding a news announcer) they became friends off the air, and developed a natural and informal banter that impressed the station management.

During Red Sox rain delays, they were called upon to `vamp’ to fill air time, and soon were given their own 15 minute (then 30 minute) daily radio spot.  Improvising as they went along, their off the wall humor (often directed at the very medium in which they worked) quickly caught on with the audience.


Their stock in trade was the bogus interview, done with dead-pan seriousness, no matter how absurd the subject matter (or interviewee). 


Along the way they create a number of memorable characters (voiced by Bob & Ray) including: inept news reporter Wally Ballou,  sportscaster Biff Burns, Charles the Poet (a sort of Percy Dovetonsils character), book reviewer Webley Webster, and a Peter Lorre clone named Peter Gorey who read gruesome news stories.


They also parodied radio shows of the era, with offerings such as "Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife" and "One Fella's Family" (takeoffs of Mary Noble, Backstage Wife and One Man’s Family).   The Mary Backstayge spoof ran so long, it became better known than the soap opera it lampooned.


In the early 1950s Bob & Ray branched out into television, but would remain firmly entrenched in radio.   A small sampling of their early television work (1951) follows, with Audrey `Alice Kramden’ Meadows.

They would do commercial voice-overs (spokesmen for Piels Beer), host a game show (The Name’s The Same), and make numerous guest appearances on variety shows, including on Saturday Night Live Special in the late 1970s.


They appeared in several movies including Author, Author!  and Cold Turkey, and starred in a couple of 2-man stage shows (The Two and Only on Broadway in 1970, and A Night of Two Stars at Carnegie Hall in 1984).


But radio was their bread and butter, and over the decades they managed to appear on NBC, CBS, and the Mutual radio networks, along with NPR.


During the early to mid 1970s they were the afternoon drive hosts on WOR, doing a four-hour show. They were regulars on NBC’s Monitor during it’s 20 year run, often available to fill in when technical difficulties derailed a scheduled segment.


For Bob & Ray aficionados, the Internet Archive has a huge treasury of material, consisting of more than 235 separate audio files.   Some of these are short bits, while many others are full 30 minute shows. 


Bob and Ray


Ray Goulding died in 1990, but Bob Elliot is still with us. You’ll find more on this talented duo at:

Their legacy of delightfully deadpan humor remains a highlight of the golden age of radio. And we are indeed fortunate that so much of it has survived over the years.