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Life with Luigi Old Time Radio

Life with Luigi: Old Time Radio Show Comedy

America has always been the land of promise. Life is rarely easy for immigrants, as they do all they can to fit into the hustle and bustle of American life and culture.

Luigi Basco came to America from Italy, and promised his mother that he would write every week to tell her of his adventures. These letters are the basis of the wonderful radio show, Life With Luigi.
The action takes place in the immigrant community of post war Chicago. The show is peppered with over done accents and caricatures of the different immigrant groups. But, like the ethnic send ups from Fred Allen‘s Allen’s Alley and The Goldbergs, they are done with affection and respect rather than ridicule.

Like many situation comedies, Life with Luigi is driven by it’s characters. Luigi himself, played by stage and screen star J. Carrol Naish is a hopeful and hard working young man who is often lost in the fast culture of America. (Naish himself was of Irish decent, and through his career played Native Americans, Latinos, Italian and Middle Eastern characters, but never Irish.) Luigi has a deep love for both his adopted country and the native land he has left behind. He attends night school to qualify for American citizenship, and is taught by the lovely Miss Spaulding, played by Mary Shipp, whose patience and affection for her students is more than admirable. Luigi’s classmates all put there own spin on the American experience, especially Schultz, played by Hans Conried, who manages to steal most of the scenes he is in.

Another scene stealer is radio veteran and future Fred Flintstone, Alan Reed as Luigi’s patron, Pasquale. Pasquale has “made it” in America, running a spaghetti restaurant. There is only one thing Pasquale needs to be truly happy; he needs to find a husband (preferably Luigi) for his sweet but overweight and not very bright daughter, Rosa, played by Jody Gilbert. Every episode features Pasquale hatching what is best described as a “Fred Flintstone-esque” plot to bring Luigi closer to Rosa, and Rosa gives us the cutest shy giggle whenever she enters a room that Luigi is in.

Life With Luigi was created by producer Cy Howard, who was also responsible for radio’s My Friend Irma. Luigi made the transition to television featuring many of the radio players, including Naish and Reed, but the series didn’t last.

Life With Luigi has also been called an Italian counterpart to The Goldbergs, which was a chronicle of Jewish immigrant experience in New York City. Both of these shows would likely have trouble on the modern, politically correct climate of the modern networks. But it should also be noted that in both programs, the racial stereo typing was done more with affection than a mocking tone.

J. Carroll Naish is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6145 Hollywood Blvd.

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Detective Radio Dragnet Jack Webb Old Time Radio Police Drama

21st Precinct and Dragnet, East and West Coast Cop Shows

The phenomenal success of Dragnet, premiering in 1949, was bound to have imitators. One of the Columbia network’s answers was 21st Precinct.

Comparisons between the two police procedural dramas are interesting. Both shows emphasize the human reality of police work. The sound effects are an important part of both shows, especially the background noise and chatter in the police station and the sounds of automobiles, and police jargon peppers the dialog.

The differences between the two programs are compelling. 21St Precinct takes place in Manhattan, where as Dragnet is very much a part of the 50’s west coast scene of Los Angeles. Twenty First Precinct is seen through the eyes of the precinct captain, and so gives us an overview of the entire precinct’s business. While a single case is the focus of each episode, we also hear the captain’s distractions as different cases and police business are thrown in.

Dragnet focuses on the work of a single police detective sergeant and his partner. The partners serve in the various divisions of the department, thereby giving us a glimpse of many different facets of police work. We also are allowed brief looks into the personal lives of Sgt.s Friday and Romero, which are not part of the plot, but help to make the characters more real.

Although Dragnet makes more use of dramatic devices, the very recognizable theme music and “the names have been changed” disclaimer, Jack Webb managed to create a much more realistic feeling program. This is due to the gritty feel of the program, and Webb’s portrayal of Friday as a “cops cop”, tough but not hard, conservative but fair and understanding.

21st Precinct lacks the “grab the audience by the throat” quality of Dragnet , but the stories, based on real events, are very well written and performed. In addition to being great police drama, 21st Precinct also gives us a good aural picture of Manhattan in the 50s.

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Debut Episode Musical Old Time Radio Voice of Firestone

The Voice of Firestone brings Classical Music to the Airwaves, 1928

Sponsored by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, the Firestone Hour debuted December 3, 1928 on the NBC radio-broadcasting network. The program featured classical and operatic music in an old time radio shows format, in which selections were performed by the Firestone orchestra. The long running weekly radio show was broadcast at 8:30 p.m. on Monday nights for 28 years.

On November 29, 1943, the show became known as, The Voice of Firestone, which coincided with its television premier on a New York television station. The “voice” of the new televised format focused more on documentary and commentary than its radio broadcast version. Firestone supported and promoted several national organizations on its show. In 1944, the NBC television network began televising the program to a nationwide audience. This series aired until 1947.

The Voice of Firestone continued to evolve and by 1949, the NBC network once again picked up the show. This time, the televised program aired simultaneously with its radio broadcast. Unfortunately, the televised series was less successful than its radio counterpart was. Mixed reviews and low ratings resulted in NBC wanting to remove the show from its prime time line-up; however, Firestone executives refused and the show was acquired by the ABC network in 1954. Radio broadcasting continued until 1956, while the televised show aired until its cancellation by ABC in 1959. Many viewers protested against the cancellation, citing that television lacked high quality programs. The program was revived in 1962, but it was cancelled within a year.

This is one of the few remaining recordings of the musical series from 1953:

[audio:Voice-Of_Firestone-53-11-30-25th-Anniv-Program.mp3]