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Charlie McCarthy Comedy Edward Bergen Old Time Radio

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Save the World!

Edgar Bergen is best remembered for his ventriloquism and his diverse cast of comedic wooden dummy co-performers. Bergen was born February 16, 1903 in Decatur, Michigan. Self-taught, Bergen caught the attention of Harry Lester, a master ventriloquist who schooled Bergen in the art. Bergen mastered the art of ventriloquism before he finished high school. Before he graduated, Charlie McCarthy was born. Charlie’s life first began as a drawing made by Bergen, who later had the puppet carved by some accounts by the local butcher and in others the local bartender, who in any case, also happened to be a woodworker. Charlie’s character and physical appearance came from Bergen’s observation of a local newsboy, named Charlie. Bergen later revealed that the Mc in McCarthy came from Mack, the last name of the man who carved Charlie into life.

The Bergen-McCarthy act quickly grew in popularity. Audiences were enthralled with the sassy and snappy Charlie McCarthy. The act made their radio debut in 1936, on the Rudy Vallee’s Royal Gelatin Hour. The following year, the Chase and Sanborn Coffee company offered Bergen the opportunity to star in his own radio show. The Edgar Bergen Charlie McCarthy show was playfully credited with saving the nation from panic and chaos. It was estimated that at least half of the October 30, 1938 nightly listeners were tuned into the Bergen show, while Orson Welles broadcast his famous, War of the Worlds.

Bergen continued to delight and entertain radio audiences for nearly twenty years. Guest on his show included Carole Lombard, W.C. Fields, Sonja Henie, Hoagie Carmichael, Mary Pickford, Bette Davis, Clark Gable and many others. The last broadcast was heard on July 1, 1956. After his radio show ended, Bergen kept busy with a number of television appearances. During his lifetime, he also enjoyed a film career. His film performances include the 1938 production of The Goldwyn Follies and the 1948 film, I Remember Mama. His last film appearance, at the insistence of his actress daughter, Candice Bergen was in the 1979 release of The Muppet Movie. Edgar Bergen died on September 28, 1978. Charlie McCarthy and his companions, Mortimer Snerd and Effie Klinker currently reside at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Enjoy this episode of the Edgar Bergen show from Feb 16, 1947 starring Billie Burke and Nelson Eddy:

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Comedy Jack Benny Jack Benny Birthday Old Time Radio

Happy 39th Birthday, Jack Benny!

The “stuck on 39” running gag got started the year after Jack Benny celebrated his “first” 39th birthday on the air. It was so much fun he decided to do the same thing the next year, because “There’s nothing funny about 40.” Jack would celebrate his 39th birthday 41 times. Headlines just after Christmas, 1974, reported “Jack Benny Dies- At Age 39?”

It seems appropriate that such a well loved entertainer would be born on Valentine’s Day, 1894. Meyer and Emma Kubelsky’s boy was born in Chicago and grew up in nearby Waukegan. He began his lifelong affair with the violin at the age of six. He loved the instrument, but hated to practice. He did get good enough to play with local dance bands and his school orchestra by 14, and by 17 began playing in local Vaudeville theaters. In 1911 he shared billing with the young Marx Brothers. The Marx mother, Minnie, though Jack would be a good fit as permanent accompanist for her boy’s act, but the elder Kubelsky’s wouldn’t allow their 17 year old boy to go on the road. The next year he did go on the road with 45 year old pianist Cora Salisbury. Responding to pressure from another violinist with a similar name, Kubelsky became Ben K. Benny.

Joining the Navy during WWI, he often played to entertain his shipmates. One night his violin playing was booed by the sailors, but he managed to ad-lib his way out of the jam, and thereafter the violin became a prop to his comedy. After the war he started a Single act- “Ben K. Benny: Fiddle Funology,” but ran afoul of another name problem.  He adopted the sailor’s nick name “Jack” (short for Jack Tar) and went on developing his comic talents.

In 1922 Jack was invited to a Passover dinner by Zeppo Marx, where he met cousin Sadye Marks, whom he married in 1927. In Vaudeville tradition Jack Benny worked his new bride into the act, and she adopted the stage name of Mary Livingstone.

Jack Bennycame to the radio on May 2, 1932, sponsored by Canada Dry. The Jack Benny Program became a staple of family entertainment. Jack Benny was one of William Paley’s main targets in the famous CBS Talent Raids of 1948-49.

On the Radio, Jack was everything that he was not in real life. Benny’s character was cheap, vain, petty, and self congratulatory. Part of Benny’s genius was that he didn’t hog the laughs for himself. His assumed personality drew fire from his supporting cast, and Benny took the role of straight man. By allowing himself to become vulnerable, what could have been a despicable character was well loved.

One long lasting highlight of Benny’s comedy was the long lasting mock feud with Fred Allen, who, along with Benny, was part of NBCs powerful Sunday night line-up. The feud began when Allen made a disparaging remark about Benny’s violin playing in an ad-lib. Though the feud would run for years, Benny and Allen were great friends.

In later years Jack Benny rediscovered his love of classic violin playing. More due to his fame than talent, he played as a guest with several prominent orchestras, which resulted in considerable fund raising for these important institutions.

Further proof that Jack Benny had been born on Valentine’s Day: Arrangements had been made in his will so that after his death, Mary Livingstone received a single long stemmed red rose every day. This went on until Mary’s own death nine years later.

Enjoy this episode from his Jack Benny’s 39th Birthday in 1937:
http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Jack-Benny-370214-820-Jacks-Birth-OTRCAT.com.mp3
Categories
Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Old Time Radio

Fibber McGee and Molly: Broadcast 63 years ago today…

Some people would argue that Fibber McGee and Molly were the Golden Age of Radio because of the show’s very long successful run (1935-1959). But more than just staying power, the show at 79 Wisful Way showcased terrific comic and musical talent. Throughout its run, the show was a reflection of its time in the American scene.

(Source: http://FibberMcGeeAndMolly.com/)

This Fibber McGee and Molly website is dedicated to the comedic folks at 79 Wistful Way including new episodes every week.

Enjoy this episode of “Waiting for a Bus” from Jan 28, 1947:

http://fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm470128%20Waiting%20For%20A%20Bus.mp3

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Comedy Fred Allen Old Time Radio Portland Hoffa

Happy Birthday Portland Hoffa!

Portland Hoffa, wife and radio co-star of comedian Fred Allen was born on this day, Jan 25, 1905, in Portland Oregon.

Portland HoffaHoffa and Fred Allen met while on the road with The Passing Show of 1922, and started going together while the show was under extended engagement in Chicago. After the show closed Fred went back on the road in Vaudeville. When he returned to New York in the winter of 1927 he found that Portland had been taking instruction to become a Roman Catholic. Says Fred, “The next thing I know I had bought the ring, and Father Leonard was marrying Mary Portland and me at the Actor’s Chapel.”

The first thing a Vaudevillian does after getting married is write his wife into the act. Not only does this allow them to be together on the road, but if he had been a solo performer, he could now demand more money as a Double Act.

However Vaudeville was dying when Portland and Fred Allen hit the road together. So they began to investigate a new form of entertainment; now known as old time radio. Fred was determined to perform with his wife, but on the air Portland sounded nothing like herself. A character had to be invented for her, which Fred described as “a small e-flat Frankenstein monster.” Through most of their radio shows Portland’s character would join Fred at the mic as a comic foil for Fred after his monologue. When the Allen’s Alley segment was introduced it would be Portland who would ask Mr. Allen what his question of the week would be.

Fred Allen passed away suddenly in 1956. Portland Hoffa remarried in 1959. She survived long enough to celebrate a second silver wedding anniversary with her second husband, Joe Rines.

Portland Hoffa is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in Radio. Her star is at 1640 Vine St.

Enjoy this episodes of Texaco Star Theater from Jan 22, 1941 in which Portland Hoffa can’t stop laughing during an interview with Kenny Baker:

Categories
Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Great Gildersleeve Christmas

Just like at your house, Christmas in Summerfield is a special time. Of course sponsor Kraft Foods would insist that Gildy’s Christmas be extra special!

During the first season of The Great Gildersleeve the 15th episode would occur on Dec 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. That year would also have the excitement of Gildy’s first Christmas in a new home. The years in Wistful Vista won’t be forgotten. As Gildersleeve is preparing to send Fibber a cheap present that he found in the discount bin, a large and mysterious package arrives from Wistful Vista marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas, signed Fibber McGee.” Now embarrassed by the small gift he was going to send, Gildy hurries to find a better gift for Fibber. Soon Judge Hooker hears about the new present and thinks it is for him. A series of “Gift Inflation” occurs with hilarity until Fibber‘s package is opened to reveal the old lawn mower Fibber had borrowed from Gildy months ago.

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG411207%20Cousin%20Octavia%20Visits.mp3

In 1945 Gildersleeve is determined that there will be a “Traditional Family Christmas” at home, but the kids have other ideas. Eventually Gildy has his sweet family Christmas, but not until there is a great deal of confusion and “Gift Inflation.” And we can’t forget adventures involving Mrs. Ransom and the mistletoe!  Walter Tetley also appears as the lovable Leroy.

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG451223%20Christmas%20at%20Home.mp3

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Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 2

Today we continue our trip down Christmas Radio Shows Nostaliga Lane with our favorite old time radio comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly: On Dec 24, 1940 there is confusion in the McGee household when they receive a package addressed to Gildy, an expensive radio/phonograph combo. Of course Fibber breaks the expensive gadget, and the McGee’s desperately try to replace it before Gildy finds out, only to discover that it is Gildersleeve’s present to them.

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm401224-0267-Radiophonograph-OTRCAT.com.mp3

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

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Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 1

Any radio sitcom that lasts more than one season is likely going to do a Christmas Radio Shows. I think it may be an FCC rule. It is fun to think about, especially for pre-recorded TV Sitcoms that are probably shot the previous summer.

The Grand daddy of all radio sitcoms, Fibber McGee and Molly had many wonderful Christmas Radio Shows over their 24 year run. Many shows seem to be OK with just one nod to the holidays every season, but Fibber McGee and Molly had many years where they had a Christmas themed radio show most weeks in December. Whether this is because stars Jim and Marian Jordan were an actual couple raising kids who would have wanted more Christmas cheer, or if writer Don Quinn was just a big kid at heart is purely up for guess. Maybe Harlow Wilcox and the Johnson Wax company had a Santa Complex.

In the coming days we hope to feature some of our favorite Fibber McGee and Molly Christmas Radio Shows.

On Dec 10, 1940, Fibber McGee and Molly try to mail their Christmas packages, not only do they have to deal with long lines at the post office, but Fibber is talked into mailing Gildersleeve’s packages as well. Then they find out Fibber has stood them in the wrong line at the post office!

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm401210-0265-Mailing-Christmas-Packages-OTRCAT.com.mp3

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

Categories
Comedy Fred Allen Old Time Radio

Radio Comedian Fred Allen dies at age 61, 3-17-1956

Fred AllenA frequent star of the old time radio shows the “Colgate Comedy Hour” and host of the “Fred Allen Radio Show,” today in 1956, comedian Fred Allen died at age 61.

Here is one of his late broadcasts a June 6, 1952 broadcast of “Frankenstein”:

[audio:Fred-Allen-52-06-09-Frankenstein.mp3]
Categories
Comedy Fred Allen Jack Benny Old Time Radio

Jack Benny v Fred Allen Feud “Battle of the Century” 3-14-1937

Jack Benny and Fred AllenBilled as the “Battle of the Century”, comedians Jack Benny and Fred Allen began long running faux feud. This is the opening of the on-air brawl, the broadcast of the Jack Benny program from March 14, 1937:

[audio:Jack-Benny-370314-824-From-The-Hot.mp3]

On the Red Network (KFI, Los Angeles) and sponsored by Jell-O, this program originates from The Grand Ballroom of The Hotel Pierre, New York City. “Bing” Shlepperman (Sam Hearn) offers to substitute for Kenny Baker, who’s back in California and Mary sings! Jack sings the Jell-O commercial, but is interrupted by guest Fred Allen. Jack and Fred start an argument and wind up reminiscing about their days in Vaudeville and then sing a duet.