Amoeblog

Suspense - Radio's outstanding theater of thrills

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 23, 2014 01:36pm | Post a Comment
AND NOW, A TALE WELL CALCULATED TO KEEP YOU IN SUSPENSE
 
Lurene Tuttle (left) and Rosalind Russell in "The Sisters" (9 December, 1948)
Lurene Tuttle (left) and Rosalind Russell in "The Sisters" (9 December, 1948)

On 17 June, 1942, the anthology Suspense debuted on CBS Radio. The long-running series, which anticipated television programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, concluded in 1962, an occasion now usually cited as signalling the end of radio's Golden Age.

The formula of Suspense was similar to that of another excellent anthology of the day, The Whistler. In most episodes a crime occurs shortly after the program begins. Suspense is heightened as the drama unfolds. In the end justice prevails and the program concludes. Suspense succeeds where lesser anthologies often failed through good production, usually-taut writing, and the presence of some of the biggest names in Hollywood including giants like Bela Lugosi, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Joan CrawfordJohn Garfield, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Paul Muni, Peter Lorre, among others -- who were often cast against type (especially in the case of actors mostly thought of as comedians like Jack BennyLucille Ball, and Red Skelton). 

The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.
 

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Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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A Fantastic New Pressing of a Miles Davis Masterstroke

Posted by Rick Frystak, January 15, 2014 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Miles Dewey Davis may have been many things, but he was certainly a forward-thinking artist with an eye out for what was happening at any given time in the musical landscape, and an urge to not repeat himself in his journey toward a newer, “hipper “style, like it or not. Some, myself included, would argue this point vigorously towards various stages of his career output, especially later. This week, the formidable Impex Record company releases one of Miles’ most contemporary and timeless albums of music and cultural relevance: 1965’s “ESP”.  

 

Miles Davis Quintet

E.S.P.

Impex Records IMP 6018

180 gram LP (2014) 

 

So… Miles Davis in 1965? ‘Trane releases “A Love Supreme”, “Rubber Soul” comes out, Horowitz plays Carnagie Hall, Otis Redding , The Byrds and Bob Dylan release classic, timeless music, and new Miles Davis Quintet members Wayne  Shorter and Herbie Hancock had just presented “Speak No Evil” and “Maiden Voyage” to the universe. Miles' previous band had already left, but he had the next great quintet already assembled, Wayne being the final glorious recruit. "E.S.P." would be their first studio recording together, and what a record it turns out to be, produced by Columbia Records' A&R man Irving Townsend, he of “Kind Of Blue”, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, etc. fame. The cover features a bewildered Miles and an adorable Frances Davis, with Miles sporting quite the flummoxed facial expression. "Man, does she have 'E.S.P.'?" 

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Happy Birthday, The Whistler! - rated by independent research the most popular West Coast Program in radio history

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 16, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
Adventures of the Lone RangerMy introduction to old time radio was listening to a 1957 Decca 12” The Adventures of the Lone Ranger that my dad presumably procured as a child. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I don’t think I ever made the connection that the album’s tracks were old radio episodes… I don’t think I even knew about radio dramas until I think I became vaguely aware of – but not interested in -- The Shadow sometime later.

It must’ve been around 2000 when I was hanging out with my friend Josh Beckman one night and he excitedly turned his radio on and dialed in to AM 1260 KNX to catch The Whistler. I’d never heard ofThe Whistler before but Josh was obviously a fan and whistled the Whistler’s theme as the program began. I listened and was entertained and surprised at how much more mature the story was – having previously assumed that all old time radio consisted of nothing but adolescent serials.

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Signal Gasoline

The Whistler debuted on CBS on 16 May, 1942. For most its run it was sponsored by Signal Oil Company, an oil company founded in The Harbor’s Signal Hill community. Regular fans from any era feel their ears prick up when they hear the sound of clicking shoes, the haunting, whistled theme and the announcement, "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler.”

Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 
One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

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