Superstion and Old Time Radio End of the World

Mayan End of the World

The world is a pretty pleasant place; it has warm puppies, fresh huckleberry ice cream, and Fibber McGee and Molly episodes is pretty much alright. It is too bad that it all has to end.

You may have heard that the end will come on Dec 21, 2012. At least that is the feeling of those who are paying attention to the Mayan Long Count Calendar. The Long Count Calendar follows a 5,125 year cycle, originally observed and recorded by the ancient Mayans. The Mayan civilization was notable for leaving a fully developed writing system as well as having been incredibly gifted astronomers and mathematicians. They were able to calculate the length of the solar year to an even greater degree than the Europeans.

Arch Oboler

The Long Count Calendar is linear rather than cyclical. This means that at the end of the 13th cycle, called a b’ak’tun, the calendar simply stops. Many have interpreted this to mean that time, and the world, will stop at that point.

There is plenty of arguments as to just how the world will end. Some believe that the sun will explode; others feel that time will simply turn off like a light switch. There are theories that a mysterious planet called Nibiru will collide with the Earth, or that the magnetic poles will shift, throwing the world into incredible chaos.

The end of the world should be nothing new to fans of Old Time Radio. OTR fans heard the world end for perhaps the first time on Halloween of 1938, when Orson Welles gave everyone the jitters with his extraordinarily realistic presentation of The War Of The Worlds.

atom-bomber

When Arch Oboler took over the Lights Out radio program, he gave us plenty of reasons to believe that the world could end, from Oxychloride to “The Projective Mr. Drogen to “The Chicken Heart”!
Probably the closest the World has come to ending has been since the end of WWII and the invention of the Atomic Bomb. The implications of such destructive weapons found their way into several OTR programs and documentaries. Science Fiction fans know of a dizzying array of ways that the world could end.

The End Of The World collection of Old Time Radio Shows explores all of these possibilities. Hopefully, you will find them enjoyable listening as we approach the end of the thirteenth b’ak’tun.

Finishing our Christmas radio shopping will be a much bigger concern on Dec 21 than the end of the world. After all, on September 30, 1962, when Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar became the final broadcast of the Golden Age of Radio, the world failed to end.

If the Superstitious Radio World can survive the end of Old Time Radio, it should be able to survive the thirteenth b’ak’tun!

Joan Fontaine in Old Time Radio

Two of the last surviving leading ladies from the great Hollywood movies of the 1930’s are Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. They are sisters, but not the best of friends.

The sisters were born in Tokyo in 1916 (Olivia) and 1917 (Joan) to an English Patent attorney and an English Stage Actress. Joan was sickly as a baby, developing anemia after being attacked by the measles and a streptococcal infection. On the advice of her physician, Mrs. De Havilland took her daughters to live in the US. The de Havillands divorced in 1919.

Joan’s health rapidly improved, and soon she soon joined her older sister taking diction lesson. But the sister’s relationship was never a warm one. There is a story that Olivia would tear apart the clothes that Joan was expected to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Joan to mend them before they could be worn. It has also been alleged that Olivia was her mother’s very obvious favorite. At the age of 15 Joan returned to Japan for 2 years to live with her father.

When she returned to the US she began acting on the stage and film. As Olivia had already begun acting, her mother refused to let Joan use the family name. She would be billed as Joan Burfield in her first movie, later adopting the name Fontaine. Supposedly she was asked to appear in Gone With the Wind, but when she heard that she was being considered for Melanie and not Scarlett she flatly refused and quipped “Go ask my sister!” Olivia de Havilland was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Melanie.

At a dinner party she found herself seated with producer David O. Selznick with who invited her to audition for the upcoming project Rebecca. A grueling six months of readings and screen tests later she won the part, working with Alfred Hitchcock in his American debut. Joan was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1941 for Rebecca, and again the following year for Hitchcock’s Suspicion. Olivia was also nominated in 1942 for Hold Back the Dawn. Joan became the only actor that Hitchcock would direct to an Oscar, but she felt guilty about winning, given her “lack of obsessive career drive”. At the award ceremony she rejected Olivia’s attempts at congratulations, embarrassing and offending the older sister.

The sisters have not spoken since the 1975 death of their mother. Joan claims she was never told about the Memorial arranged by Olivia. Olivia countered that she had informed Joan, but the younger sibling choose not to attend because she was busy. Joan further claims that the entire sibling rivalry was a hoax cooked up by studio publicity hounds.

Joan Fontaine appeared in several Movie related radio programs such as Lux Radio Theater, and Screen Directors Playhouse. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1645 Vine Street.

Basso Profundo On Escape: Paul Frees & William Conrad

The opening lines of Escape plant themselves in our minds; “Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you… Escape!” The magic of the opening is more than the words themselves, it is the way they are delivered.

The wonder of radio drama is the pictures that the actors and producers are able to paint in our minds. Every so often a performer finds that extra touch that brings the ordinary to the extraordinary. One opening that builds the anticipation was Fred Foy’s for The Lone Ranger, which builds to a climax of “Hi Ho Silllver!” The extended L in Silver was a touch that Foy added, but it told the audience that it was time to breath again- the story was about to start.

Escape’s intro was effective for creating the mood that producer Norman MacDonnell was after, but it was unique because it was performed on a regular basis by two different actors, both incredibly talented, versatile, and prolific. William Conrad and Paul Frees worked together on many projects, often interchangeably, as they were on Escape, as well as Suspense. The two distinctive baritones had an arrangement where one would perform in an episode while the other would take over the announcing duties. The arrangement worked very well through the seven year run of Escape, and allowed for continuity when one or the other of the actors were involved in other projects. Frees revealed in an interview that the pair had agreed to try and sound like one another for the announcing duties. In fact, listeners are often hard pressed to tell which actor is performing on the show until the credits are read at the end of the broadcast.

Conrad will forever be associated with the role he created for radio’s Gunsmoke as the hard but compassionate Marshal Matt Dillon. His deep voice and potentially menacing demeanor made him a natural to play the “heavy” in film noir pictures, in contrast to radio where he worked both sides of the law. Although CBS wasn’t interested in taking Conrad to the small screen as Matt Dillon, he would later star in three different TV detective series; Cannon, Nero Wolfe, and Jake and the Fatman.

Paul Frees seems to have been happier to let his voice do the performing. He was posthumously recognized as a “Disney Legend” in 2006 for his narration and character work in Disney TV shows and film, as well as adding his voice to several of the Animatronic attractions at the Disney amusement parks. He is also remembered for the many characters he created for nine of the major Hollywood animation studios. Although rarely seem, he was heard several times every evening on television ads ranging from the Joly Green Giant’s companion, the Little Green Sprout, the Poppin’ Fresh Doughboy, Toucan Sam, and narrating everything from shaving cream to tire ads.