It could have been better . . . it certainly could have been worse . . . but now let’s say goodbye to 2012 the auld-time radio way, beginning (perhaps this will become a tradition in this space, too) with a legendary New Year’s Eve music special for American and other troops still scattered ’round in the immediate wake of World War II . . .
Various Artists: New Year’s Radio Dancing Party (Armed Forces Radio Service, 31 December 1945)
With some of the biggest names in jazz and popular music, broadcast live by remote station hookup from their various New Year’s Eve hotel/ballroom engagements, American servicemen still stationed around the world in the aftermath of World War II are the privileged few and the privileged proud to be in on this remarkable hour’s music.
There is hardly a bad or exhausted performance among the lot, of course, but even given that there remain unquestioned highlights which only begin with Harry James, the broadcast’s leadoff hitter, and an exuberant “Sad Sack,” and you may even forgive the lack of spotlight turn from his then-star sideman, tenor saxophonist Corky Corcoran. The further highlights:
* Count Basie’s ripping take of “One O’Clock Jump.”
* Louis Armstrong’s bristling “Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive.”
* Jimmy Dorsey’s breakneck “I Got Rhythm.”
* Artie Shaw, with guest trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and a shivery “Little Jazz.”
* Stan Kenton and June Christy’s irrepressible “Tampico.”
* Benny Goodman’s snappy “Gotta Be This or That.”
* Duke Ellington’s rarity “Let the Zoomers Zoom,” a composition he may never have released, on the assumption the Duke and his merry men ever recorded it at all.
* Guy Lombardo auld langing his customary syne to seal the proverbial deal.
Also featured: Freddy Martin, Les Brown, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Henry King, Carmen Cavallaro (whose introductory announcement suggests his selection, “The Polonnaise,” practically his theme song, has probably been played once or twice elsewhere during his evening’s show), Louis Prima.
Host announcer: Unknown.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING: WAR NEWS
World News Today: Bulging Progress (CBS, 31 December 1944)—Battle of the Bulge progress including Allied forces repelling a German push to block a relief corridor to Bastogne, Soviet forces cutting down German army and SS forces in a furious battle for Budapest, the American recapture of Barga on the Italian front, an end to hostilities in Athens, an unconfirmed Belgian report of the death of Germany’s commander along the Italian front, Chiang Kai-shek’s call for a people’s congress to write a new Chinese constitution after the war’s end, and an interview with a Navy Seebees commander in the wake of their successful first three years’ operations and their enthusiastic reception from the Philippines.
Overseas correspondents: Ned Calmer and Charles Collingwood from Paris, reporting French hopes for the war’s end following the liberation from the Vichy regime; Eric Sevareid from London on a New Year’s Eve celebration that is “a bit forced” and questions over likely British influence in the postwar world; Don Pryor from Pearl Harbour on the next phases of the push toward Japan’s mainland and with an interview with Maj. George Dooley, commander of a Marine battle squadron around Guam; Maj. George Fielding Eliot on the Third Army’s northward progress through central Europe.
Other news: a trainwreck near the Great Salt Lake; a thwarted overthrow of Panama’s government.
Anchor: Douglas Edwards, New York.
1944 In Review (Mutual, 31 December 1944)—The network’s annual news review features sound clips from such figures as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, and Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, among others.
With a few brief dramatisations, the major events reviewed include: the first revelation of the Bataan Death March (including an interview with a march survivor); the death of Mutual reporter Raymond Flapper (the sixteenth American correspondent to die during the war); in a plane crash while covering the battle of the Marshall Islands; the battle of Anzio; the opening of the long-called-for second front with the D-Day invasion; reports of German prison camp atrocities; the liberation of France; the Battle of Saipan and the resignation of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and his entire Cabinet; the U.S. Presidential election; and the Battle of the Bulge.
Also reviewed: a once-thought-unlikely burst of American night life and leisure activities early in the year, perhaps indicating a temporary weariness with the war’s progress and harsh realities; continuing shortages of food and tobacco products;
Moderator: David Bristol, WOR New York.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING: FOR AULD LANG SYNE . . .
Fibber McGee & Molly: New Year’s Celebration (NBC, 1935)—Fibber (Jim Jordan) and Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Geraldine) prepare for a big New Year’s Eve out . . . assuming the Sartorial Sage of 79 Wistful Vista can finish dressing without shredding every stitch of his tux, or get them there without the car breaking down. Silly: Hugh Studebaker. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox (who also plays the waiter). Music: Rico Marcelli Orchestra, Audrey Call. Writer: Don Quinn.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Fix-It McGee (NBC, 1941)—Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Mrs. Wearybottom) has reason enough to fret when she sees that look in McGee’s (Jim Jordan) eye—the look of a man itching to fix things, regardless of whether they’re necessarily broken. Mrs. Uppington: Amanda Randolph. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.
The Henry Morgan Show: New Year’s Eve Show (NBC, 1949)—Legendary Washington columnist and broadcaster Drew Pearson steps in for a guest shot, after (Henry) Morgan parodies a typical Pearson predictions broadcast, right down to the Adam’s Hats spots. Also: Morgan cleans out his joke file, Gerard (Arnold Stang) kvetches about New Year’s shows, and a lady cab driver (Pert Kelton) goes toe to toe with Morgan. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Music: Milton Tatum Orchestra. Director: Kenneth MacGregor. Writers: Henry Morgan,Joe Stein, Aaron Ruben, Carroll Moore, Jr.
The Whistler: Murder on Rourke Island (CBS, 1946)—Once a troubled high school student, heir Keith Brandon (David Ellis) loves singer Cathy Diamond but is stifled by his disapproving father who also waves an inheritance in his face . . . until the old man’s death leaves Brandon the inheritance—controlled by his uncle, with whom he must live for a year under terms with a few loopholes. Additional cast: Charles Seal, unidentified others. Announcer: Marvin Miller. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Harold Swanton.
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Forbes Matter (Conclusion; CBS, 1955)—Dollar (Bob Bailey) confronts Sheldon Forbes (Jack Edwards), who stole nearly five thousand dollars trying to win a singing actress (Sandra Gould) with no apparent interest in him—and who ended up in the hospital following a suicide attempt, all of which provoke the woman to an unexpected decision. If you want to know the best reason why this show worked best as a serial, as opposed to the hamfisted half-hour by which it was born and somehow managed to survive, you could begin here (and hunt the first four parts, while you’re at it) and not feel cheated in the slightest. And it only begins with Bailey’s comically humane depth, which rescues a wooden caricature. For a few glorious years, anyway. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: John Dawson.
Gunsmoke: Hound Dog (CBS; Armed Forces Radio and Television Service rebroadcast, 1955)—Doc (Howard McNear) loses a patient, a spotted dog whose shooting death makes Matt (William Conrad) fear for its owner’s life. It goes deeper than you’d think. Chester: Parley Baer. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Walsh. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: Les Crutchfield.
Escape: Confession (CBS, 1947)—Recuperating for several months, an improving shell-shocked soldier (William Conrad) bumps into a likewise lost woman (Peggy Webber) while walking in a London fog, but his hope that she can help him is thwarted when she is killed. Doctor: Ramsay Hill. Music: Cy Feuer. Director: William N. Robson. Writer: John Dunkel, from a story by Algernon Blackwood.
Bold Venture: The Carlo Ruiz Story; a.k.a. Crazy Old Carlo (Syndicated, 1951)—Veteran fisherman Carlo Ruiz, with whom Slate (Humphrey Bogart) has a longstanding acquaintance, gives money away on a street corner because he fears his avaricious brother plans to murder him for it, prompting Slate to offer protection that may not prove easy to sustain, after all, especially when the brother asks Slate not to help the man—in a meeting during which the man is killed, anyway. Sailor: Lauren Bacall. Dr. Jones: Betty Lou Gerson. Additional cast: Unknown, but possibly including Junius Mathews, Jay Novello, Paul Frees. King: Jester Hairston. Inspector: Nestor Paiva. Announcer: Dan Seymour. Music: David Rose. Director: Henry Hayward. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: What Are Ya Doin’ New Year’s Eve? (NBC, 1939)—Jack (Benny) marvels over his gift calendars; Phil (Harris) is astonished that Jack didn’t get a gift calendar of him and his band; Mary (Livingstone) needles Jack about the calendar from his life insurance company and his Christmas gift to her; and, the troupe ponders each other’s New Year’s Eve plans—until Jack’s date leaves him in the lurch. Guest: Andy Devine. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Writers: Ed Beloin, Bill Morrow.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Finds a Gold Watch (NBC, 1940)—And, advertises for its owner, though it was tempting to McGee (Jim Jordan) to think this was one time finders/keepers should have applied, all things considered. Molly: Marian Jordan. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. The Old Timer: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.
The Charlie McCarthy Show: New Year’s Eve Play (NBC, 1944)—You can argue a little with Effie Klinker singing “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week” on an otherwise festive night (especially because this happens to be a Monday night), but you can’t really argue with Charles Loughlin making Edgar’s (Bergen) New Year’s Eve party a night—and a play—to, well, let’s just say you won’t necessarily forget, if Edgar playing Father Time and Charlie playing the usual have anything to say about it. With Don Ameche. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Ray Noble Orchestra. Writers: Possibly Roland MacLane, Joe Connolly, Bob Mosher.
The Great Gildersleeve: New Year’s Eve (NBC, 1944)—Well, it’s actually the day before, here, and our hero (Harold Peary) lets Marjorie (Lurene Tuttle) and Leroy (Walter Tetley) talk him into ice skating, which only begins the chill Hooker (Earle Ross) puts into him by roping him into a mock trial putting the year about to end into the docket. Peavey: Richard Le Grand. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Claude Sweeten Orchestra. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.
The Mel Blanc Show: Zebra of the Year (CBS, 1946)—The lodge’s annual gala has Mel (Blanc, who also plays Zookie) edgy enough because of his role in the stage pageant, without Colby (Joseph Kearns) trying to strong-arm him into voting the old man Zebra of the Year. Betty: Mary Jane Kroft. Additional cast: Earle Ross, Hans Conreid. Unknown. Announcer: Bud Easton. Music: Victor Miller Orchestra. Writer: Mac Benoff.
The Jimmy Durante Show: New Year’s Eve, with Red Skelton (NBC, 1947)—The Old Schnozzola has been hospitalised “to undergo a few minor repairs,” so Skelton and Durante’s former co-star Garry Moore pinch hit engagingly enough. Additional cast: Candy Candido, Florence Halop. Announcer: Howard Petrie. Music: Peggy Lee, Roy Bargy and His Orchestra. Writer: Syd Resnick.
Matinee with Bob & Ray: New Year’s Eve Day (WHDH, Boston, 1949)—Recalling choice high, middle, low, and off-chart lights of the year about to end, not to mention a little problem trying to spell “juxtaposition.” Writers, such as they were: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.
Our Miss Brooks: Christmas Gift Returns (CBS, 1950)—Connie’s (Eve Arden) and Walter’s (Richard Crenna) exchange of several gifts not to their taste becomes an exercise in unfair trade when some of the givers insist on seeing them in prominent places or uses. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Clerk: Joseph Kearns. Announcer: Verne Smith. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Al Lewis. Writers: Al Lewis, Arthur Alsberg.
Lux Radio Theater: Pride of the Marines (CBS, 1945)—John Garfield re-creates his film role as blinded-in-battle (at Guadalcanal) Marine Sgt. Al Schmid, who rehabilitates back home with the aid of the wife (Eleanor Parker, also re-creating her film role) who married him despite his tries at breaking their engagement because he feared himself less a man. Additional cast: Dane Clark. Adapted from the screenplay by Marvin Borowsky.
Boston Blackie: Carl Brown Cleaning Shop (Syndicated, 1946)—After Brown engages Blackie (Dick Kollmar) to help him thwart a protection shakedown, the cleaning shop proprietor is murdered by his own doctor, who had just ordered him to start trying to take things easy to restore his shaky health. Faraday: Maurice Tarplin. Mary: Jan Minor. Additional cast, director, announcer, writers: Unknown.
Richard Diamond, Private Detective: The Thomas Jason Case (NBC, 1949)—A retired stockbroker (Wilms Herbert) hires Diamond (Dick Powell) to determine whether his belligerent daughter (Betty Moran) has graduated from mere delinquency to trying to kill him for his money. Helen: Virginia Gregg. Levinson: Ed Begley. Additional cast: Hy Averback, Howard McNear, Edwin Max, Jay Novello. Announcer: Eddie King. Music: Frank Worth. Director: Blake Edwards. Writer: Herb Perkham.
The Big Show: Once More with Little Margaret (NBC, 1950)—Margaret O’Brien returns following her charming Christmas appearance a week earlier; Dame Tallulah’s usual bitchcraft includes Gloria Swanson; Sam Levine plays in a smartly-compressed scene from Guys and Dolls; Jose Ferrer joins Swanson for a torrid scene from the revival of 1931’s Twentieth Century (Ben Hecht); and, a rousing finale medleys the year’s signature Broadway song hits. Additional cast: Vivian Blaine, Ken Murray. Music: Meredith Willson and the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.
(If the foregoing links do not work—or, if they do not show up in the titles as links because of technical glitches beyond the author’s control—you can find these shows at The Internet Archive or The Old-Time Radio Researchers’ Library.)