The Jack Carson Show: Thanksgiving Dinner (CBS, 1946)
In some ways, Jack Carson can’t catch a radio break no matter what. He’s been forging a respected film career as a comedian, and he’s been leading an intelligently written, smartly acted radio comedy since 1943. His radio persona as a bumbler is actually more intelligent than your average radio bumbler—and maybe that’s the problem, when all is said and done.
Carson can’t put his clever comedy over Mr. and Mrs. North in the ratings no matter how high quality The Jack Carson Show is, and—perhaps illustrating one significant problem with CBS’s ability to develop or shepherd its own comedies at the time—his network doesn’t seem able to find him more favourable scheduling.
But in another sense, crime never will pay for Carson—it almost seems as though his radio shows are beaten by one or another whodunnit so invariably that it should make Carson himself allergic even to saying hello to a cop or a private eye.
With his highest Hooper ratings still in the single digit range, Carson will finally throw up his hands at the end of 1946-47. He will join future CBS star Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks) as the new co-hosts of NBC’s Sealtest Village Store when Jack Haley decides to leave that show.
The good news: Carson and Arden are hardly strangers; they played together behind Joan Crawford’s Oscar winner in Mildred Pierce in 1945, and their on-air chemistry is solid enough. The bad news: Though Sealtest Village Store will bring Carson his first double-digit radio ratings ever, the show will still be beaten in its time period by CBS’s treacly crime solver, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.
That will prompt Carson to give his former sitcom format another try. This time, in 1948-49, he will lose his time period to yet another gumshoe. (The Fat Man, on ABC.)
Carson is no fool. The comedian wisely retires from radio and concentrates on his film work and, in time, television. He’ll continue forging a solid character acting presense in both, until he is overcome by stomach cancer and dies in 1963—on the same day as a man who once starred in a radio role of the kind that usually took Carson down: Dick Powell, the former star of Richard Diamond, Private Detective.
At age 52, Carson’s death will belie his big and small screen image as a burly fellow of seemingly limitless vitality.
Tonight: Jack (Carson) likse (Arthur) Treacher’s idea for an early Thanksgiving because of a possible studio assignment on the actual day, at least until it turns into a slightly madcap game of chicken in which Jack’s rooster may turn out to be the turkey.
Tugwell: David Willock. Miss Ryan: Irene Ryan. Norma Jean: Norma Jean Nilsson. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Del Sharbutt. Music: Freddy Martin Orchestra. Director: Possibly Sam Fuller. Writer: Leonard L. Levinson.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Town Hall Tonight: Voopie on the Volga; or, They Drank and Drank Until They Borscht (NBC, 1935)—“A fear-raising melodrama of darkest Russia,” as Fred Allen describes the classic Mighty Allen Art Players sketch—once thought among the missing for many years—surrounding which come the usual lacerations of the news, a quick plug for Allen’s appearance in the Dick Powell film Thanks a Million, and a round of amateurs competing for prizes and a week’s stand at the Roxy Theater. With Portland Hoffa. The Mighty Allen Art Players: Jack Smart, Eileen Douglas, Minerva Pious, Lionel Stander. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden and his Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend.
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Flash Benny, Football Coach; or, Hold That Line (NBC, 1938)—Or: The gridiron becomes more like a flat iron. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris and his Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Ed Morrow, Bill Meloin.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Chops Down the Old Oak Tree (NBC, 1945)—The Sage of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) does it reluctantly, after a tree surgeon (possibly Russell Hicks) pronounces it a long-dead hunk of perpendicular firewood. Molly: Marian Jordan. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. LaTrivia: Gale Gordon. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.
Vic & Sade: Sade’s Parade of Interruptions (CBS, 1945)—That’ll teach Sade (Bernadine Flynn) to think of such heinous acts as cleaning the attic. Vic: Art Van Harvey. Rush: Johnny Coons. Uncle Fletcher: Clarence Hartzell. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.
The Great Gildersleeve: Birdie Takes a Vacation (NBC, 1946)—Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) survives a haircut while learning Bullard (Gale Gordon) has trouble with his household staff, one of whom is Birdie’s (Lillian Randolph) sister, who’s taken a better job, prompting Gildy to wonder whether Birdie herself doesn’t need a vacation. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Mary Lee Robb. Floyd: Arthur Q. Bryan. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Hooker: Earle Ross. Announcer: John Laing. Music: Jack Meakin. Director: Frank Pittman. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.
My Favourite Husband: Is There a Baby in the House? (CBS; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Service, 1947)—While the new neighbours moving into the building pique Liz’s (Lucille Ball) curiosity, George (Richard Denning) is the designated supervisor for an orphan’s group run by a major bank client. Iris: Bea Benaderet. Atterbury: Gale Gordon. Additional cast: Unidentified. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Our Miss Brooks: Thanksgiving Weekend (CBS, 1949)—With Mrs. Davis (Jane Morgan) forced to settle for squab thanks to rising prices, Connie (Eve Arden) is sort of forced to try manipulating herself into a Thanksgiving dinner invitation . . . which ends up being turned on her head when everyone manipulates their way to the boarding house. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Martha Conklin: Paula Winslowe. Conklin: Gale Gordon.
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Investment in a Female Wrestler (NBC, 1949)—Willie (Robert North) reviews the household investments and dividends, Phil (Harris) likes Alice’s (Faye) suggestion of investing in something he knows, and Remley (Elliott Lewis) suggests investing in his own business, show business, only Phil learns the hard way about the particular show. Myrtle: Martha Wentworth. Julius: Walter Tetley. Additional cast: Alan Reed. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Chaperones (NBC, 1951)—The First Couple of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim and Marian Jordan) are asked to chaperone a college dance, at La Trivia’s (Gale Gordon) behest, giving McGee dreams of rug-cutting as he (alleges) he’d done in his own youth and delighting Molly when a star footballer (Gil Stratton, Jr.) asks her to dance. Our Miss Brooks cast member Gloria McMillan plays several of the girls at the dance. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Additional cast: Jerry Farber, Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Phil Leslie, Keith Fowler.
The Whistler: Death Walks a Tightwire (CBS, 1944)—A tightrope legend who disappeared into oblivion a decade earlier, when his son died in a trapeze accident, returns to the circus where they performed, bent on proving the accident wasn’t an accident and avenging his son’s death. Cast: Unidentified, but possibly including Lurene Tuttle. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Bob Anderson. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Harold Wechtler.
The Whistler: Clever Mr. Farley (CBS, 1949)—He’s a counterfeiter (Gerald Mohr) traveling to California who agrees to hold a valuable package for a woman (Betty Lou Gerson) who has a secret of her own that might end up tripping his heretofore foolproof operation. Williams: Earle Ross. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Edward Bloodworth.
Romance: Penny Serenade (CBS, 1945)—A couple (Robert Walker, Cathy Lewis) once animated by big dreams and deep love become estranged in the wake their adopted child’s death, until they may find a key to resurrecting themselves through the songs they love . . . and a chance to adopt a new child. Adapted from a 1941 film (Cary Grant, Irene Dunne), this radio version eliminates most of the melodrama—most. Writer: Jean Holloway, based on the story by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind.
Radio Reader’s Digest: Why Keep Your Heart in Cold Storage? (CBS, 1947)—A wastrel before he went to war, a young man (Van Heflin) home from the war leaves his hometown behind, hits the road, and discovers his bitterness ending—and a new appreciation for family, friends, and lost girl beginning—when a kind but gossipy farmer (Will Geer) boards him gratis for a fortnight, finds him a new job, and helps him begin rebuilding his life. Additional cast: Unidentified. Host: Les Tremayne. Announcer: Tom Shirley. Music: Jack Miller. Director: Marx Loeb. Writer: Robert Sanatella.
Gunsmoke: Amy’s Good Deed (CBS, 1955)—It’s one thing to know, as Dillon (William Conrad) knows only too well, that there are people in this world just looking to be killed . . . but he gets a genuine jolt, as may you, when Amy Slater (Virginia Gregg) hits town asking him to kill her. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Additional cast: Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Sound: Tom Hanley, Bill James. Writer: John Meston.
Have Gun, Will Travel: From Here to Boston (CBS, 1960)—Paladin (John Dehner) stands to inherit six figures from his late Aunt Grace, whose husband has come to kill him while his sister romances Paladin to throw him off, but Paladin manages to thwart the attempt in time to leave San Francisco for New England to settle his aunt’s estate. You guessed correctly: Two days after Black Friday, one of television’s few hits adapted to a successful radio version goes to the gallows, too. Heyboy: Ben Wright. Miles Todhunter: Vic Perrin. Lavinia Todhunter: Virginia Gregg. Additional Cast: Martin Robinson, John James, Lynn Allen. Announcer: Hugh Douglas. Director: Frank Paris. Sound: Ray Kemper, Tom Hanley. Writer: Frank Paris.