Rumors, Excess, and the Unlikely Journey of John Barrymore’s Corpse

Hollywood sometimes seems to run on the motto that “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing”. A one-industry town built where fantasy and hard cash come together, it can be difficult to tell which stories are true and which are simply stories. Strangely, because Hollywood is a place where excess is a way of life, the more fantastic a story is, the easier it is to believe. The story that follows is so far out that it seems more likely to have happened than not. There are voices from the past which claim it is a hoax and others which claim it is true. Our opinion is that true or not, it is a very good story.

John Barrymore became one of the greatest actors of his generation. Born into the Drew and Barrymore acting dynasties in 1882, Barrymore was expected to follow his father Maurice, older brother and sister Lionel and Ethel, and his maternal uncles John and Sidney Drew onto the stage. John became one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time, was one of Hollywood’s first super-Stars during the silent era, and with his stage-trained voice flourished with the advent of talkies. This success came despite the fact that Barrymore struggled with the bottle from the time he was fourteen. While starring in the silent horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), he was working at the studio during the day while staying at a sanitarium to dry out (he also managed to get another man’s wife pregnant about the same time).

Hard-drinking director Raoul Walsh had been a friend of Barrymore’s since boyhood, and notorious tippler W.C. Fields was also a companion. Swashbuckling star Errol Flynn, who claimed to have patterned his own acting after the great Barrymore, joined what became known as the “Bundy Drive Gang”, a gin-soaked bunch who made Humphrey Bogart‘s and Frank Sinatra‘s Holmby Hills Rat Pack seem likes a gathering of choir boys.

By the mid-1930’s, Barrymore’s drinking had led to him nearly being blacklisted by the major studios. However, word got out that CBS was going to broadcast Columbia Presents Shakespeare as a summer replacement program in 1937. Not to be outdone by the upstart “Tiffany Network”, NBC began to plan Streamlined Shakespeare, but the show needed a “name” to carry it and the decision was that John Barrymore was the name.

Critics are divided on Barrymore’s performance on Streamlined Shakespeare, some praising him for bringing the Bard to life for the masses while others felt his work lampooned the greatness of the material. To Barrymore’s credit, he remained sober and reliable through the program’s run, leading the studios to give him another chance at film work. Although he was relegated to supporting roles, the infusion of cash was a great relief to his many creditors and film crews referred to him as “Mr. Barrymore” out of respect. NBC took another chance on him, giving him a part as Rudy Vallee‘s foil on The Sealtest Show. There was plenty of self-deprecating jokes about his relations with women and his drinking, but the show also gave him a chance to do some serious radio acting. While recording a segment from Romeo and Juliet on May 19, 1942, Barrymore collapsed in the studio. He was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where he died of cirrhosis of the liver complicated by kidney failure. After sixty years, John Barrymore had finally drunk himself to death.

The surviving members of the Bundy Drive Gang did not take the death of their leader well and retired to L.A.’s Cock and Bull Bar. After a few hours of liquid mourning, excused himself, claiming that the grief had overwhelmed him. Errol Flynn expressed his grief by continuing his attempt to drink the establishment dry. What happened next is reported in Flynn’s autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959, Putman) which was released weeks after his own death (Flynn, too, drank himself to death, dropping dead in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 1959, where he had traveled to sell his yacht Zaca to satisfy creditors, at the time the schooner was rotting in a harbor in France, it has since been restored and is said to be haunted by Errol Flynn‘s ghost).

After leaving the bar, Walsh drove to the Pierce Bros mortuary where money was exchanged with a funeral director. Barrymore’s body was loaded into the director’s car, and Walsh then drove to Flynn’s mansion. He pounded on the door until he awoke Flynn’s butler who he directed to help him bring Mr. Barrymore into the house. “I think he is dead, sir,” said the butler, but Walsh pointed out that the butler had seen Barrymore in this condition before. Once the departed Barrymore was ensconced on Flynn’s sofa, Walsh sent the butler to get coffee “to help sober him up”.

About this time, Flynn wobbled home from the Cock and Bull. He collapsed into a favorite chair when the butler came into the room saying, “Here’s Mr. Barrymore’s coffee”. Flynn then spotted the corpse on his sofa and ran screaming from the room. From behind a bush, he yelled for Walsh to “Get him out of here! You are going to get us all of us put in San Quentin!” When Walsh returned to the funeral home, the funeral director asked where the film director had been. After laughingly describing their visit to Flynn’s mansion, the mortician said, “Why, if I’d have known you were going to take him up there, I would have put a better suit on him!”

This episode, as mentioned, was described in Flynn’s autobiography and confirmed by Raoul Walsh in a documentary in 1973. However, a close friend of the Barrymore family and fellow member of the Bundy Street Gang, Gene Fowler, states that he and his son stood vigil with Barrymore’s body in the funeral home and the shenanigans described above never occurred.

True or not, it is too good of a story not to share.

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Mystery Writers in Old Time Radio

Although sometimes maligned for its pulp-magazine origins, Hard Boiled Detective fiction has become a fixture in romantic literature. The genre delights in emphasizing emotions of apprehension, terror, awe, and even horror while filtering the emotions through the cynicism of the protagonist. The cynicism results as a reaction to the violence that the protagonist faces.

The typical Hard Boiled Hero faces senseless violence on a daily basis, and the hero’s cynicism is a defense to help prevent him from going mad. In some cases,  it may be a manifestation of madness. In any case, it is this very cynicism that we enjoy in the Hard Boiled stories.

With this in mind, it is interesting to take a look at some of our favorite Hard Boiled authors. These are the minds that have given life to many of the stories which have delighted radio listeners, movie goers, and readers for decades. Were these minds as troubled as the characters they created suggest? Perhaps so, in some cases. In others, the writer seems to be having as much fun as we are.

James M Cain (1892-1977) personally hated labeling, but came to personify the Hard-Boiled novelist and screenwriter. Cain’s most famous novels, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are tales of infidelity and murder. Both novels have been retold several times on the screen. The stories were apparently inspired by the true-life case of Ruth Synder, the New York housewife who plotted with her lover to murder her husband for the insurance money. Both were executed in Sing Sing’s electric chair.

John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) was a master of the plot driven “closed door mystery”. An American who spent time in Great Britain, Carr is often grouped with English Mystery authors. In addition to his novels, Carr penned a number of scripts for Suspense, and his radio play Cabin B-13 was expanded to an entire CBS series. During WWII, he wrote mystery and propaganda scripts for the BBC.

Frederic Brown (1906-1972) is best remembered as a Sci Fi author and a master of the “Short-short” form of storytelling (many of his best works are less than 1000, some less than 500 words long). Many of his stories have been adapted for popular Sci Fi television, including the Star Trek episode “Arena”. Brown’s crime novels are noteworthy for their tight plotting and riveting suspense, reminding us of the noir influences of Cornell Woolrich.

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) wrote crime fiction almost exclusively, but her work is considered to be artistic and thoughtful enough to rival mainstream fiction. European critics consider her to be an important psychological novelist, pretty good for someone whose writing career began by writing for comic books. Her novel, Strangers On A Train was first adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock.

John Micheal Hayes (1919-2005) is remembered for his screenwriting collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. He had missed much of his primaries schooling due to recurring ear infections, but while bed ridden he developed a passion for reading. Hayes began writing for radio while in college after winning a contest sponsored by the Crosley Corporation. After serving in WWII, he moved to California and continued his radio career, contributing scripts to The Adventures of Sam Spade, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, My Favorite Husband, Your’s Truly, Johnny Dollar, and others. Radio success led to a call from Universal, and eventually to collaboration with Hitchcock on four films, including Rear Window.

Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) has been called “the dean of the ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction”. Hammett was an agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency before he began writing (he found the agency’s role in union busting distasteful, however). His best known stories include The Maltese Falcon, which introduced Sam Spade, The Thin Man with Nick and Nora Charles. Hammett’s nameless character, the Continental Op is considered the prototype for the most popular Hard Boiled characters, including Hammett’s own Sam Spade, Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and several others.

Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) has had more of his stories adapted to film noir scripts than any other author in the Hard Boiled Genre. He began writing Jazz Age romance novels, but turned to detective fiction, often writing under pseudonyms. Many of his stories were adapted for Suspense.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) turned to writing pulp fiction at the age or 44 after losing his job as an oil company executive. Chandler and his character Philip Marlowe had an enormous influence on the style of hard-boiled fiction. Indeed, Marlowe as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, is considered the model for movie Hard Boiled Detectives.

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Happy Birthday, Carol Channing! Enjoy her Old Time Radio Broadcast from 1955

Today we celebrate the 97th birthday of the actress, Carol Channing.  Dubbed “First Lady of Musical Comedy”, Carol Channing was primarily a comic stage actor.

Born on January 31, 1921, she debuted on stage in “No for an Answer” (1941), She made her Broadway debut in “Proof Through the Night” (1942) and appeared on the silver screen in the film “Paid in Full” (1950).

Channing went on to appear in additional films such as “The First Traveling Sales Lady” with Clint Eastwood.   She is best remembered as Muzzy Van Hossmere in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” for which she won a Golden Globe award.

Please enjoy this rare radio broadcast of Anthology from June 5, 1955: “The Lives and Times Of Archie and Mehitabel” in which she appears in the recording:

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Country Music Parleyed Strong … Just Ask Johnny

Old Time radio never would have had the following it enjoyed if not for the music venues that were offered from coast to coast. Americans loved to tune-in and catch the hits and wonders of the day in various musical genre. One of the more prolific and popular trends was that of country music. Country music caught the attention of many listeners because it brought things down to the roots of the nation. Country music spoke at a time when people were needing to have heels kicked up with the heaviness of life; economically, foreign problems, family strife; hitting people where they lived.

Johnny Cash brought the “old time religion” back into America’s hearts and homes and inspired people to gather around their tables and pray. His brand of folk-tale “talk” worked well with the American working man, because he came from the dirt of the land and carried his homespun words of ‘wisdom’ to millions of listeners every week. Cash had the innate ability to warm a heart the moment he started to “speak’ a song.

Country music singers, like Johnny Cash, denied the critics that branded their musical repertoire as “fit for the simple”. If the music catered to the less intellectual, well then much of America must have been simple. People loved the Grand Ole Opry and they loved their night time visit around the radio to hear the songs that comfort and told a story.

Country style music…ah heck, call it what it is…country lovin’ music played to a need in the country on the airwaves. The need was to be be reminded of what this country meant to people. The need to be be brought home again. Finally, the need to know neighbor could count on neighbor. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash knew that people loved God, country and family and used that as the theme to regain the consciousness of the American radio audience. “If the Circle be unbroken” then thank country music for keeping it secured.

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Old Time Radio Christmas

The shopping and preparation for Christmas is when the retail industry makes their biggest haul of the year. It just wouldn’t seem right if Santa didn’t start showing up in the stores before the Halloween candy was put away. In the last few weeks before the Big Day, many of us are sticking the buds of our MP3 players in our ears just to drown-out those darn chipmunks and listen to some Christmas OTR.

Fibber and Molly had plenty of terrific Christmases in their long run as well. Fibber had more than his share of problems with the Wistful Vista Christmas salesman over the years. On different occasions,  he tried to cut down his own tree to trusting his haggling skills. Perhaps his finest Christmas Tree moment came in 1945 when he uses an attachment on Molly’s vacuum cleaner to paint the tree white!

Everyone loves to get into the Gift giving spirit, but Santa can be a positively dangerous job. In fact,  Santa manages to get “rubbed out” on Nero Wolfe, Rocky Fortune, and Casey, Crime Photographer. Murder and death don’t really fit into the joyous season, but Sgt Friday manages to use them in one of the most depressing Christmas episodes on radio, the “Rifle for Christmas” episode of Dragnet.

Dragnet also gives us one of the most uplifting Christmas episodes in “Big Little Jesus”. During the Los Angeles Christmas craziness, it seems like a senseless crime had been committed, when it turns out that a poor little boy who received a red wagon for Christmas is keeping a promise he made to the Baby Jesus.

Whether OTR keeps you company while you are driving from one seasonal errand to the next, or if a few episodes keep you smiling while you wait for the last batch of Holiday cookies cool, we hope that you will enjoy this Christmas Season.

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Christmas Episodes: Bergen & McCarthy and Great Gildersleeve

Christmas is too special of a holiday to be restricted to just one or two days. Yes, the Big Guy in Red coming down the Chimney and filling the stockings, followed by the kids ripping into all those beautifully wrapped boxes, is the high point of the season, but the anticipation of Christmas really is the best part.

Back to Christmas on the radio, Charlie McCarthy faces a little competition when Edgar Bergen’s 9 year old daughter Candice appears on the 1955 Christmas edition of the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show. Bergen does a marvelous job of being the straight man for both Charlie and Candy as the two youngsters present their version of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The Great Gildersleeve lasted for 13 Christmases, and the writers loved every one of them. From the very first season, 1941, when Gildy “graduated” from Fibber McGee and Molly to his own show, the Gildersleeve household was making the adjustment to having their own show in the weeks following Pearl Harbor. Gildy had two Christmas shows that year, both of which were seasoned with War news. In the middle of the month, Leroy and Gildy have to deal with Iron Reindeer, and just before Christmas the Great Man tries to find an inexpensive gift for his pal Fibber, only to get caught in a cycle of “gift inflation”.

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Recommended Series For First Time OTR Listeners

There are so many facets to the world of Old Time Radio, it is hard to know where to start enjoying it. The truth is there is so much to enjoy in OTR, it is easy to imagine that almost anything you pick out will delight you.

But that still leaves you with the difficult job of choosing! Lets look at a few of the options: Most OTR fans get started by choosing a genre of shows they enjoy. There are Adventure programs for action fans, for those who enjoy a good puzzle there are a number of great Detective and Mystery shows. If your day isn’t complete without a few good laughs there are several comedy programs, ranging from sketch driven variety programs to character rich situation comedies.

The great thing about enjoying OTR today is that there are so many ways and places you can enjoy it. For many of us there is nothing that makes a commute enjoyable than following an exciting adventure serial program. At the end of the day it helps to remove the stress of the work day by trying to solve a mystery along with a hard boiled detective during the drive home. Time spent working in front of the computer goes a lot better listening to the songs and jokes of a variety show. With a good set of noise-reducing earbud speakers attached to our pocket MP3 player or cellphone, some of us are even known to enjoy listening to the cowboys in Western programs while mowing the lawn!

Many purveyors of Old Time Radio try to sell their programs on the nostalgia appeal. Sadly, most of the people who are nostalgic for these shows are no longer with us. Most of the series and shows are very enjoyable in their own right, but we feel that knowing a little bit about the actors and the programs make them even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will whet your appetite to know more about these great shows.

Some of our favorite genres and and shows include:

Mystery and Horror:

These are the late-night shows that make you want to pull the bedsheets up over your eyes! Most will agree that the most blood-curdling ghost story is even more frightening on radio!

Mystery In The Air features one of the creepiest voices and personalities ever to grace the screen, Peter Lorre.

The Whistler is a collection crime stories where the justice always comes to the villain, but not a way that he or the listeners would expect!

Suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat with nearly a thousand episodes of “Radio’s Outstanding Theater of Thrills!”

Lights Out! was one of the original late night thrillers with stories written by two of radio’s greatest talents, Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries is like having Halloween every week with creepy stories, dark jokes, and creepy thrills.

Weird Circle brings us a collection of classic ghost stories.

Adventure:

These shows will take our imaginations to the far corners of the world.

Escape! features some of the greatest stars Hollywood, Broadway and radio in some great original and adapted stories.

Cloak and Dagger is based on true stories of the Operatives of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

The Adventures of Superman. Much of the legend of the original comic book hero was actually developed on the radio.

 

Comedy:

There can never be enough things for us to laugh at, and Radio brings us some of the best!

You Bet Your Life, developed as a sort of game show, the program was really a chance for Groucho Marx to simply be Groucho!

Fibber McGee and Molly is nothing but good-hearted fun featuring a well meaning schemer who seems to have never held a steady job and his long suffering but happy wife along with his friends and neighbors.

The Jack Benny Program is a collection of music and skits built around a character who was everything that the real Jack Benny wasn’t, vain, cantankerous, and cheap!

Crime and Detective:

Whether we are following the wits and bravery of hard working policemen and brave private eye, or pitting our wits against one of the great detective, everyone enjoys Crime and Detective stories.

Dragnet starring Jack Webb is a series of exciting stories based on true cases of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tales of the Texas Rangers brings us more true crime stories from the Oldest and Most Well known law enforcement agency in North America.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is the story of an investigator for insurance companies with an “action-packed expense account”.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a humorous collection of the cases of a rather eccentric but incredibly intelligent crime solver whose effectiveness isn’t hampered by his girth.

Drama:

More serious stories, but still greatly entertaining, our dramas include tales from literature, great movies, and even “serial dramas”.

Academy Award Theater, adaptations of Hollywood’s best movies, all Oscar Winners.

Dr Christian was one of the great wash-tub-weepers that kept house wives entertained with their continuing stories and weekly cliffhangers.

Lux Radio Theater brought the stories of the best movies to the radio, featuring a full orchestra, and usually the film’s original stars performing before a live audience.

 

Science Fiction:

Sometimes condemned as “kid stuff”, several radio programs treated Sci Fi as serious literature.

Dimension X and X Minus One had stories from the pages of great SciFi magazines and the best and most influential SciFi writers.

Space Patrol was meant for kids, but the space-opera was based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

 

 

Westerns:

Some of these are kid shows, and others are serious adult drama, while others are treasures of great country music!

Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were serious drama that never allowed the gritty reality of the rough and tumble West get in the way.

The Six Shooter featured the acting talent of the great James Stewart and some of the best written stories of any radio genre.

Melody Ranch featured the music of one of the screens great singing Cowboys, as well as a story or two of genuine ranch life.

 

Posted in Country Western Music, Detective Radio, Dragnet, Escape, Fibber McGee and Molly, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Horror Show, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Old Time Radio, Radio Detective, Suspense, X Minus One, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Singin Sam “Barbasol Man”

When we study the personalities of Old Time Radio, every once in a while we encounter the story of what appears to be a very happy man. One such person was Harry Frankel, better known as Singin’ Sam.

Harry was born in Ohio in 1888 to a men’s clothing merchant who soon took the family to Danville, Kentucky.  The family business would take them to Richmond, Indiana when Harry was nine, but by this time the “Old Kentucky Home” had a hold on the lad. For the rest of his life, Harry was a Son of the South. In 1908,  Harry joined Al G. Fields’ Minstrels and began his vaudeville apprenticeship.

In 1930,  an offer from the Great States Lawnmower Company allowed Harry to leave the hectic life of vaudeville, and he settled in Cincinnati, to sing over WLW as Singin’ Sam, The Lawnmower Man. Exposure on WLW led to an opportunity to move to New York to become Singin’ Sam, the Barbasol Man. Life in New York was not happy for the confirmed Son of the South, and he left after three years, but first he met and courted Helene “Smiles” Davis. Harry and Smiles settled in Richmond, and soon Harry was again singing for Barbasol on national broadcasts originating in Cincinnati. In 1937, Harry became a “Jet-Set entertainer in the pre-jet era, flying to New York twice a month to record a series of shows for Coca Cola, Refreshment Time With Singing Sam. The transcribed shows were distributed nationally while Harry got to spend his off time at home with his wife, Smiles.

Sadly, this happy man was cut down by a heart attack at the age of sixty. Much too young for someone who made his living happily singing “old songs”. For finding lasting success on his own terms, we have to tip our hat to Singin’ Sam.

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Old Time Radio Crime Shows

 

Die hard fans of Old Time Radio would have us believe that there is something in the OTR world for everyone, and to a great extent they are correct. Many of us find that we have favorites in every OTR genre. However, there are three types of show which Old Time Radio does exceptionally well, arguably a superior storytelling medium than Movies or TV.

These are Horror, Science Fiction and Crime Drama. The first two are actually fairly obvious. To achieve the desired response from the audience, the creators of both these genre must create indelible images for the audience. Common sense would have us believe that the visual media should be better at this, but in actual practice even the best special effects men cannot create images as intense as those created in the minds of an attentive listener. In other words, the scary monster on the screen can never be as scary as the one we can conjure in our own imagination. At least, this is true if the writer, director, and actors in the drama have any more than mediocre talent. Many of the surviving examples of both Horror and Drama were produced by the best talents in the showbiz industry.

Crime Drama is a somewhat different case. Whereas Horror and Science Fiction are image driven, fans of Crime Drama are essentially enjoying a puzzle. Whether the audience is able to solve the puzzle themselves, or they have to wait for the Dashing Detective to solve it for them, makes little difference. The complexity and intricacy of the puzzle are as important as the solution.

The Puzzle Factor is especially important for the so-called Soft Boiled Detectives. These are the guys who specialize in the Whodunit story. Their archetype in both literature and on the Radio is Sherlock Holmes, who always got his man but took the listener through some plot twists that were positively neck snapping. Nero Wolfe, The Saint, Nick and Nora of The Thin Man and Hercule Poirot are also popular Soft Boiled Detectives.

The existence of Soft Boiled Detectives implies Hard Boiled Detectives, and Old Time Radio has them in droves. The came from between the covers of pulp magazines and Noir Detective Cinema, and they flooded the post War airwaves. Part of the reason for their abundance was that they were ideal listening for the target audience of the time, largely rugged veterans who were adapting to the new affluence of of civilian life. The hard boiled detective might taken a licking once in a while, but they were rugged individuals who answered injustice whether it was perpetrated against themselves or those they had taken into their protection.

The archetype of the Hard Boiled Detective is Philip Marlowe. Marlowe was developed in pulps of the 1930s, and even though he was a tough guy, he was a character you would introduce to your grandma; he enjoyed classical music, chess, and had a strong moral code. Other Hard Boiled regulars may have been more Neanderthal, but characters like Sam Spade, Pat Novak, Michael Shayne, Mike Hammer or Johnny Dollar may have had to take their lumps, but they always got their man.

Just because imagery was not as important to crime drama as it was to Horror of Science Fiction radio, it was far from ignored. Thanks to the great writing and production values, when a listener enjoys an episode of the classic Dragnet they are transported to post-War Los Angeles. Although it is a noticeably monochromatic Los Angeles (with occasional flashes of brown from a well behaved Mexican shop owner), Dragnet‘s Los Angeles is a city of lunch counters, War Factory workers, urban sprawl just beginning to spread, and even the junkies wore coats and ties.

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Let Yours Truly, Bob Bailey, Do It!

Bob Bailey

Bob Bailey was “born in a theater trunk” in Toledo, Ohio, to traveling-performer parents. Bob first hit the stage at the age of six. As a young man he began performing on the radio in Chicago, which was a hub of network production during the pre-War years. Bailey appeared in a number of anthology productions originating from WGN and WMAQ, and worked on several of Arch Oboler’s productions.

Bailey reached the West Coast soon after the War broke out. There was a shortage of male-talent because of the War, and Bob landed a standard one year contract with Twentieth Century Fox. He would appear in seven films for Fox. Of medium height and rather skinny, as far as the movies were concerned, Bob Bailey had a face for radio.

Fortunately for his career, he also had a voice for radio. Hollywood was gaining prominence as the center of radio production, and perhaps capitalizing on his Chicago connections, Bailey found occasional work on Oboler’s Everything For The Boys, Treasury Star Parade, Lux Radio Theater, and Arch Oboler’s Plays. In 1946 the door to stardom opened for Bailey with the Don Lee/Mutual network production of Let George Do It.

George Valentine was a departure from the typical hard-boiled detectives of the time. A detailed and believable backstory was built through the first season; Valentine had been a GI during the war, and while he was overseas he had plenty of time to consider what he wanted to do (or more likely, what he DIDN’T want to do) when he got home. He took out a personal ad in the local paper:

Do You Have a Job That Needs Doing?
Let George Do It!
Danger is my stock in trade.
If the job is too tough for you to handle
You’ve got a job for me,
George Valentine
Write FULL details

Virginia Gregg and Dick Powell

Conceived as more of a professional problem solver than a detective, the program began as almost a situation comedy before it evolved into a not-quite-hard-boiled detective drama. Valentine always displayed a degree of GI ingenuity and out of the box thinking. Let George Do It had many of the trappings of the Detective genre. He always had an eye for a pretty girl, much to the consternation of his secretary and sometimes love interest Claire Brooks (Brooksie), played by Virginia Gregg. Brooksie’s kid brother was an occasional character; Sonny was none other than Eddie Firestone Jr., and often turned up just when Valentine needed a hand or an obscure piece of information.

As part of the Don Lee Network, Let George Do It was a popular program, but little known in the East for its first five seasons. By that time Bailey was ready to move on, and he found an opportunity in the reformulated version of CBS’s Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Johnny Dollar had been a popular detective radio program for several years, with different actors in the lead role. Dollar was an insurance investigator with an “Action Packed Expense Account” beginning in 1949. His various cases took Johnny Dollar around the world in search of insurance fraud. By the end of the 1954 season, YTJD was little different from the rest of the detectives on the air. In order to breath new life into the show, production was turned over to Jack Johnstone, who had previously produced Buck Rogers and The Adventures of Superman. One of Johnstone’s first moves was to change the format from a weekly half hour to a five day a week 15 minute show. The new format allowed for week-long story arcs and greater character and plot development.

This was a great fit for the thinking-man detective persona Bob Bailey developed on Let George Do It. Of all the actors to handle the Johnny Dollar role, Bailey is the fan favorite. Unfortunately the daily format only lasted for thirteen months before returning to weekly episodes (Johnstone continued to contribute scripts). By this time the writing was on the wall for Radio Drama. CBS moved production to New York as a cost cutting move in 1960, but Bailey chose to remain in Hollywood.

Bailey made a few television appearances, and began writing for TV (he wrote “the Carmen Kringle Matter” Christmas episode for Johnny Dollar’s 1957 season). He would battle with alcoholism for most of his remaining years. He began to make a recovery with the help of Alcoholic’s Anonymous when he was felled by a massive heart attack. He would spend most of the remaining ten years of his life in a convalescent home, renewing his relationships with friends and family.

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