Happy Birthday, Gale Gordon

On Feb 20, 2015, we celebrate the 109 birthday of the beloved character actor Gale Gordon.

gale gordonGale Gordon was born Charles T. Aldrich in New York in 1906, the son of vaudevillian Charles Aldrich and his English actress wife, Gloria Gordon. The couple took their one year old son to Great Britain where they worked on stage, and the boy spent the next eight years absorbing the English reserve that would define his professional persona. Young Gordon underwent a delicate operation to repair a cleft palate while in England. The family returned to America when the boy was nine, settling in New York’s Forest Hill’s area. Gale returned to England to complete his education at the Woolbridge School in Suffolk at the age of 17.

Gale Gordon got his acting start in a 1923 Canadian production, working with stage and silent screen great Richard Bennett. To earn extra cash, Gordon also worked as Gale-Gordon-5Bennett’s dresser. The great actor must have seen potential in the young man, and he endeavored to teach Gordon the elements of acting and the craft of stage work. By 1925, Gordon found himself in Hollywood, taking what acting jobs he could find. In 1926,  he got a call to come to a studio to try his hand at a new thing called radio. “I sang and accompanied myself on ukelele. You might say I almost killed radio before it was born” Gordon later remembered.

By 1933, Gordon was the highest paid radio actor in Hollywood. He played the male lead on serials opposite Mary Pickford and Irene Rich. He appeared on most of the big shows on the air, from Lux Radio Theater to Stories From the Black Chamber. He even played the cockney-accented Inspector Lestrade opposite Basil Rathbone on Sherlock Holmes and was the first actor to play Flash Gordon.

Gordon met Virginia Curley while appearing on Death Valley Days in New York. The couple was married two days after Christmas in 1937. For at least the next twenty years, the 27th of each month was celebrated as an anniversary.

In 1941, Gordon appeared as Molly McGee’s former boy friend. The fit was so good that the part of Mayor LaTrivia was created for him, and Gordon became part of the Fibber McGee and Molly family for the next 12 years, with a break while he served in the Coast Guard. In 1948, Gordon landed the role of Principal Osgood Conklin on Eve Arden’s Our Miss Brooks, a role that would carry him into TV fame. The Conklin character was slightly refined to become banker Rudolph Atterbury on the Lucille Ball vehicle My Favorite Husband. galegordon2

Lucy and Gordon had been friends for a long time, first working together on Jack Haley’s Wonder Show in 1938-39. When My Favorite Husband made the move to TV as I Love Lucy, Gordon was Lucy’s first choice to fill the role of Fred Mertz. Gordon, however, remained committed to Miss Brooks and eventually moved to TV with the program.

On TV Gordon perfected his famous “slow burn” persona. He realized that his characters were funnier if he lost his temper by degrees rather than exploding all at once. Although his characters were full of bluster, in real life Gordon was a “pipe-smoking homebody”. In 1949, Gordon and wife Virginia bought a 150 acre ranch in Borrego Springs, 175 miles from the craziness of Hollywood. An incurable handyman, Gordon built the house himself and became one of the leading growers of carob beans in the US.

Gordon continued to have commitments on other shows, and was not able to become a regular part of a Lucille Ball TV show until the 1963-64 season of The Lucy Show. TheGale_Gordon_Jay_North_Dennis_the_Menace_boxing_1962 bombast between Gordon and Lucy became an important part of the red-head’s shows until they both “retired” from weekly TV in 1974, but their roles were recreated in annual specials for several years.

Of Lucy herself, Gordon commented “her attitude has never changed. Every show she did was the most important show of her life. And I think that is the secret of her success.”

The secret of Gale Gordon‘s success may have been to find roles he enjoyed, but mostly to enjoy life beyond the studio.

Patriotic Old Time Radio Radio: Comedies

Patriotism is an essentially happy situation, so why shouldn’t comedy be a part of a Patriotic Old Time Radio Collection?

No one needed a laugh as much as the Troops during WWII, and AFRS with their Command Performance. GI’s could write in requesting the acts and situations they wanted to hear, but the A-List Talent that was working on the program always made it a point to keep things light and amusing. The humor was sometimes military related, but always high quality. The Hollywood stars that appeared on Command Performance worked without pay in support of the War Effort. Of course appearing on the show was never bad for anyones public relations. Most of the stars seemed to genuinely enjoy working the program, and would reschedule other commitments to appear. We have included episodes featuring Bob Hope, Harpo Marx, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Ann Miller tap dancing in Combat Boots, Jerry Colonna, and Clark Gable.

Situation Comedy characters can be just as patriotic as anyone else. The Great Gildersleeve is in this collection, taking care of his family as usual, but also reminding us of the old fashioned Fourth of July Picnic. Henry Aldrich is trying to sell Christmas Cards in June so that he can buy a War Bond in The Aldrich Family. Eve Arden has a combination of money and romantic troubles in Our Miss Brooks. And Lucille Ball is her usual hilarious self in My Favorite Husband.

Fibber McGee and Molly were always funny and a comfort during some of the nation’s darkest times. The program began during the Great Depression, when Americans definitely needed something to laugh at. Although the situations the couple found themselves in were a bit far out, the fact that they were typical Americans helped bring them into the hearts of the Nation. The episodes in this collection are from the WWII years, and most are examples of the show bringing some sort of message approved by the Office of War Information.

The Patriotic Old Time Radio Collection is filled with thoughtful and inspiring programs. But there is plenty of room for us, as good Americans, to take some time for a healthy laugh.

Good Night, Doris Singleton

(1919-2012)

We would like to take a few moments to acknowledge the passing Doris Singleton. Ms. Singleton is remembered best for her successful television career, especially her role as Lucy and Ricky’s neighbor on I Love Lucy. Her other small screen roles were usually guest spots on shows like Hogan’s Heroes, My Three Sons, and Marcus Welby, MD, as well as a recurring role on the 1955 TV version of The Great Gildersleeve.

Doris was a native of New York City, and got her show biz start with the Ballet Theatre (later the American Ballet Theatre) in the mid 30s before becoming a vocalist for Art Jarrett’s Orchestra. By the end of the decade, her distinctive voice became popular on the radio. She became a regular part of the Lux Radio Theater,, regularly appearing as a spokesperson for the sponsor.

In addition to her regular appearances on Lux Radio Theater, Ms. Singleton was a guest on The Whistler and The Jack Benny program on several occasions. It was a guest appearance on My Favorite Husband in 1948 that led to the life long friendship between Doris Singleton and Lucille Ball. When Lucy and Ricky Ricardo began production of I Love Lucy, it was natural to include Doris in a semi-recurring role as Lucy’s neighbor and sometime nemesis. When Lucy was originally developing her third series, Here’s Lucy, in 1968, the original concept was for Doris to play an intelligent secretary in contrast to the not so smart one played by Lucy. The sponsors nixed the concept, but Doris did appear in the premier episode of the show.

Ms. Singleton’s last acting role was in 1985 although she continued to do commercials and voice-over work. At the time of her passing, she was the last surviving adult cast member of the Lucy shows. Doris Singleton passed away on Jun 26, 2012, at the age of 92.

Good Night, Doris Singleton.

Redhead On Suspense!

We’ve been looking at the way that Suspense! liked to cast actors far away from their type. One of the favorite comedians on Susspense was Lucille Ball.

Lucy was many peoples favorite. She was America’s Queen of Comedy, a favored pin-up girl, a pioneer in television acting and production, and the first woman to head a television studio. But she will always be remembered as the lady who made us all laugh with the classic routines from “I love Lucy” and her other great TV shows.

Early in her career was a time that many starlets appeared on the radio to help make ends meet. As her star began to rise, Lucy made several appearances on Suspense! In her earliest Suspense roles Lucy plays hard working girls on Broadway whom fate puts in the path of desperate men, and the third, “A Shroud for Sarah”, she becomes a cold and calculating black-widow who more than gets what she deserves. In “A Little Piece of Rope” Lucy is an ambitious girl in Hollywood who can’t get a role because she looks so young, but she can take advantage of men who like to pick up little girls, even “the Strangler”.

After she married, she appeared in “The Red Headed Woman”, playing a good girl who falls for temptation when her boss gives her the payroll money to put in the safe. She embezzles the money and makes her escape, and while driving to Mexico hears the report of a murderous bank robbery, and that the robber looks a lot like Desi Arnaz. And he has an accomplice who has red hair. And who does she see along the side of the road? Could it be Desi?

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Comedians-in-Suspense-491117-359-Red-Headed-Woman-Lucy-And-Desi-Arnez-OTRCAT.com.mp3

Old Time Radio Stars on Turner Classic Movies this Week



Turner Classic Movies
 is airing classic movies with some of our favorite stars from the golden age of radio.  Don’t miss these broadcasts this week:

Date Time (EST) Movie Title Starring
July 17, 2011 6:00 am A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob Edmund O’Brien & Lucille Ball
July 17, 2011 8:00 am She’s Back on Broadway Frank Lovejoy
July 18, 2011 6:30 am Whistling In The Dark Red Skelton
July 18, 2011 10:00 am A Southern Yankee Red Skelton & Brian Donlevy
July 20, 2011 2:30 am Chandu the Magician Bela Lugosi
July 23, 2011 9:30 am The Tall Target Dick Powell