Amoeblog

Six Shooter -- The Radio Western Starring Jimmy Stewart Debuted 20 September, 1953

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 20, 2013 02:16pm | Post a Comment
Jimmy Stewart at microphone

On this date (20 September) in 1953, one of my favorite old time radio Westerns debuted on NBC -- Six Shooter. It was created and written by Frank Burt, who'd also written for The Six Shooter promo picWhistlerThe Man Called X, and The Unexpected. It was produced by Jack Johnstone (Buck Rogers, The CBS Radio Workshop, Richard DiamondSomebody KnowsYours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and others). The music director, Basil Adlam, arranged and conducted the theme,Ralph Vaughan Williams’s "The Highland Lament." The announcers were Hal Gibney (and John Wald), who introduced each episode with the words "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both "the Six Shooter."

The only recurring character was Britt Ponset – played with greatness by Jimmy Stewart, who'd been interested in starring in a radio drama for some time before Six Shooter. Other actors that frequently appeared on the series included Parley Baer, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Howard McNear, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Alan Reed, Marvin Miller and William Conrad (though often credited as "Julius Krelboyne" since, at the same time, he was starring on Gunsmoke over at NBC's rival network, CBS).

Happy Birthday, Gildy -- The Great Gildersleeve debuted on this day in 1941

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 31, 2013 04:20pm | Post a Comment
The Great Gildersleeve was a radio sitcom and one of the first spin-offs. It was tremendously popular in the 1940s and led to four feature films and three 78 records.

The Great Gildersleeve (1942) movie poster

The series centered on Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve (nicknames included "The Great Man" or just "Gildy"), a lovable windbag who first appeared on Fibber McGee and Molly in 1939. OnGildy's Blade Fibber McGee and Molly he was McGee's antagonist armed with a catchphrase ("You're a haaard man, McGee!"). He was originally expertly played by Harold Peary.

Gildersleeve was so popular that he soon got his own show, The Great Gildersleeve, which debuted on NBC on 31 August, 1941. It was sponsored by Kraft Foods whose advertisements promoted their Parkay margarine -- a weird, oily yellow spread that people turned instead of butter during the Great Depression but strangely continued to eat after butter was affordable again). On The Great Gildersleeve, the titular character retained some of his pomposity and general man-childishness but was made more likeable. And whereas he had a wife on Fibber McGee, on his own he was a lifelong bachelor and much of the plot revolved around his awkward romantic pursuits.

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(In which it's all about Eve.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 11, 2013 04:04pm | Post a Comment
vintage radio ad
All the cool kids are doing it.

Proving once and for all that I have my finger on the pulse of what youth today really want, I’m continuing my list of favorites from the so-called Golden Age of Radio. You older, out-of-touch squares can stop reading now and go listen to punk rock or trip-hop or whatever it is seniors are into these days.

Now that the fogeys are out of the (metaphorical) room, read and listen on...

Let’s consider a comedy, namely, Our Miss Brooks.

our miss brooks

Premiering in 1948, Our Miss Brooks was an immediate success, garnering awards and a loyal fan base for its lead actress, Eve Arden.

People don’t speak of Eve Arden as much as her talent warrants. She had fantastic comic timing, capable of evoking laugh-out-loud moments with a single, monosyllabic word.

eve arden

Our Miss Brooks has flimsy, unimaginative plot-lines, and you’ll never listen to it because you “can’t wait to find out what happens next.” The show is great because the cast is great, and Eve Arden delivers punch-lines with such wry deftness, it’s as if Touchstone from As You Like It has been reincarnated as a public high school teacher.

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(In which we mine for some gold.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 11, 2013 02:04pm | Post a Comment
counting sheep
Don't try this at (my) home.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days; what sleep I have gotten is mostly thanks to the fine folks who make Motrin PM. (In the interest of full disclosure you should know that while McNeil Consumer Healthcare – makers of the aforementioned drug – are not a sponsor of the Amoeblog, they do give us free donuts on Mondays and occasionally wash our cars for an extra buck or two.)

While my Mom was kind enough to pass down to me a knack for cooking and robust health, I also inherited her tenuous sleeping habits. We deal with it similarly, too: we listen to the radio to keep our minds from, as she puts it:

“Going, going, going… just making plans and playing with ideas.”

Or, as I put it:

“Obliterating my peace of mind with the chaos and fury of post-traumatic stress fantasies catalyzed by a cruel and crippling world.”

It’s semantics, really.

Mom likes to treat this with AM radio, a favorite program being Coast to Coast. While this particular broadcast seems to promote a nightmarish reality of government conspiracy, alien invasion, body snatching and morally questionable fringe-sciences, she finds it delightful. That she does speaks to her unwavering trust in our fellow man and her willingness to believe everyone deserves to prove their innate goodness – even if, I suppose, it’s lizard-men from another planet who are covertly running our government.

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Happy Birthday, Gunsmoke - The Greatest Radio Western of All Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 26, 2011 12:24pm | Post a Comment
Gunsmoke was, without question, the greatest radio western of all. It debuted 59 years ago today, on April 26th, 1952. Having been exposed to juvenile westerns like The Lone Ranger and Red Ryder as well as the boring Gunsmoke TV series, for a long time I avoided the radio program. Besides, it was set in Kansas.
 
Then one day, I tuned in to an episode already in progress. Not knowing what it was, I didn't immediately change the station and was drawn into what sounded like a vivid, violent film noir, albeit set in 19th century Dodge City. When I realized it was Gunsmoke, I was surprised to say the least, but also hopelessly hooked.
 

Gunsmoke was created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston at the behest of CBS's programming chief, Hubell Robinson. His boss, CBS chairman William S. Paley, was a fan of another classic CBS program, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe. Robinson had suggested to the West Coast CBS Vice-President, Harry Ackerman, who had developed the Philip Marlowe series, to create a 
"Philip Marlowe of the Old West" in the 1940s.
 
In 1949, Ackerman and the famed scriptwriting duo of Mort Fine and David Friedkin created an audition script called "Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye" based on one of their Michael Shayne radio scripts, "The Crooked Wheel." It starred Michael Rye as Matt Dillon. A second audition used Howard Culver, who employed a lighter approach. CBS OKed the latter but Ackerman's contract as the star of Straight Arrow (on the Mutual Network) interfered. Gunsmoke was thus shelved until three years later, when MacDonnell and Meston discovered it whilst working on their own adult-oriented western.
 

The new version cast the inimitable William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon, Howard McNear as Doc Charles Adams, Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell and Parley Baer as deputy Chester Proudfoot. The writers sought to create the first realistic western, one populated by sociopaths and without untarnished heroes. Stories unflinchingly depicted rape, lynchings, murder, prostitution, scalping, massacres, theft, drug addiction and more. Justice was often not served. 

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