,

“Good Ol’ Radio. I Still Think It’s The Finest Medium In Show Business”

 Tommy Cook at the Microphone

“Good ol’ radio –  I still think it’s the finest medium in show business”  declared Tommy Cook  to an interviewer documenting early radio.  Of course we would have to agree with him.   It was in 1939 that Tommy did his first radio show.   It was a show for Arch Oboler, who Tommy considers the finest writer, producer, director in the history of the medium.  Oboler had become famous in Chicago for the horror series Lights Out, a series he wrote and produced from 1936 to 1939 after taking over from Wyllis Cooper.  “When Oboler left Lights Out he headed for California to produce programs of  eloquent writings” said Cook who was about 8 or 9 years old when he got that first radio gig with Oboler in the series Arch Oboler’s Plays.   A couple of month’s prior to his appearance on the show, Tommy’s mother had seen an article in a magazine announcing free auditions at NBC.  His mom cut it out and mailed it in to NBC and shortly thereafter Tommy  got an audition with the NBC Artists service, which was the network’s  in house talent agency.  When Oboler was casting one of the plays for his new series, the head of the Artists Service remembered Tommy and called him in to audition for Arch.  Tommy was hired and he went on the air.  Tommy believes that he ultimately got the role only because he had the youngest sounding voice.  Oboler called him in again to audition for  Arch Oboler’s Plays  for the  part of a German refugee boy.  At the audition Tommy mimicked some German accent that he must have heard and once again Oboler gave him the role.  “Evidently accents came easy to me” says Cook.  From then on Oboler began using him regularly in small parts here and there until the series folded in March of 1940.    However,  in October of that same year, Everyman’s Theater premiered on NBC.  This was a new sustaining series that Arch Oboler would write, produce and direct.   It was on this new series that Tommy would receive his first starring role on radio.  The play was titled Problem Papa and would feature the talents of Howard Duff and Mercedes McCambridge as his father and mother.   Arch was originally planning on hiring  a young actor back in Chicago in the role but was encouraged by Alla Nazimova ( a legendary Russian actress who had immigrated to the United States) to use Tommy instead.  Ms. Nazimova had taken notice of Tommy when they had worked together previously in an Oboler radio play.  Prior to this starring role on radio,  Tommy had appeared as Little Beaver in the 12 part Republic movie serial The Adventures of Red Ryder.  Interestingly enough this lead to his playing the role on radio when the series began broadcasting on the Blue Network in 1942.   He would continue as Little Beaver  for four years.  Beginning in 1943 and continuing until 1946 he would also play Alexander in the Blondie radio show on CBS and in the mid 40s he was hired to play Junior on the Life of Riley taking over from Conrad Binyon.  William Bendix starred as Riley with Paula Winslow as Peg.  Sharon Douglas played Babs until Barbara Eiler assumed the role in 1947.

Tommy was quite a busy actor running from show to show back in those heydays of radio.   It’s a situation not so very different from his experience at SHOWCASE each year.  Being such a versatile actor, Tommy is very much in demand for SHOWCASE productions that are performed throughout the weekend. Every director at the event wants to cast Tommy who ends up booked back to back in several shows throughout the day.  You can usually find him running from rehearsal to performance and back to rehearsal and so on.   It’s so reminiscent of those bygone days of radio.

We’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing Tommy again when he returns to appear at the 2018 Showcase – April 13-14-15.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
, ,

2018 SHOWCASE SALUTES THE GOLDEN DAYS OF RADIO

The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound are pleased to announce the dates for the 2018 Showcase.  Mark your calendars for April 13,14,15  when once again REPS will roll out the red carpet to welcome the stars and fans in a grand celebration of  The Golden Days of Radio. Guests this year include Beverly Washburn, Tommy Cook, Stuffy Singer, Anne Whitfield, and many more.  Join us as we celebrate the legendary radio comedians, the spine tingling thrillers, mysteries, and adventures!   Stars from radio, television and film will once again step before the microphone in reenactments of classic shows featuring  live music, live sound effects,  and  a talented cast.  Look forward to many of the performers re-creating their original roles  from the Golden Age.

Hear stories of  the Golden Age of Radio from those who were there and worked with the biggest names in radio and on the most popular shows including the stories of what really happened behind the  microphone!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

APRIL 2017 SHOWCASE: LASSIE COMES HOME WITH JON PROVOST (TIMMY)

Lassie is best known as a very popular and long running TV series which aired from 1954-1973.  Most are not aware that Lassie was also a radio show airing between 1947-1950, years before the award winning television show.  Sponsored by the Red Heart dog food and treat companies, the radio series was quite unlike the Television version as well.  The radio version was more of an anthology and each week, Lassie as the star, would “portray” a completely different dog in one heroic adventure or another. Some critics really enjoy the series claiming that each adventure offers a dog gone good time with such dramatic plots as:

  • “Jumpy” the heroic dog can save a baby from a big one-eyed cat and helping lock the vicious animal in “the jug”,
  • “Tramp” despite being afraid of the water from being thrown in the river as a pup, he saves a boy from overflowing river
  • Brave, injured and starving “Laddy” fights off a bear for food then after long travels, returns safely to his mistress’ home.

The fictional character of Lassie was actually created by English American author Eric Knight in Lassie Come-Home, first published as a short story in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and later as a full-length novel in 1940. Set in the Depression-era England, the novel depicts the lengthy journey a rough collie makes to be reunited with her young Yorkshire master after his family is forced to sell her for money. In 1943, the novel was adapted into a feature film, Lassie Come Home, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) that starred Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie was a hit and enjoyed favorable critical response.  MGM followed this with several additional films, including a sequel entitled Son of Lassie (1945), starring Peter Lawford and June Lockhart, and Courage of Lassie with Elizabeth Taylor.   To capitalize on the popularity of the motion pictures the radio series was created.  Each program ran for about 15 minutes.  For the last few weeks the REPS SHOWCASE team have been looking over some of the original radio scripts which were produced for the National Broadcasting Company with the task of finding one which could be dramatized Saturday April 22nd at the REPS SHOWCASE.   Once the script was selected, who was to star with Lassie in her return to radio? Enter Jon Provost! Jon portrayed Timmy on the Lassie TV series for seven season ( 1957-1964) and will appear in the SHOWCASE reenactment of the Lassie radio show.  This should be a real treat!

Provost was born in Los Angeles. At the age of four, Provost was cast in the film The Country Girl (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. He then appeared in Back from Eternity (1956) with Anita Ekberg and Escapade in Japan (1957), with Teresa Wright, Cameron Mitchell, and an unknown and uncredited Clint Eastwood.

In 1957, Provost won the role of Timmy Martin in the CBS television series Lassie.

   

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

APRIL 2017 SHOWCASE: SCREEN LEGEND MARGARET O’BRIEN SCHEDULED TO APPEAR

We are very excited to hear the news that screen legend Margaret O’Brien will be joining us for SHOWCASE 2017.   Not only does Margaret have an incredible resume of appearances in some of the very best and well known classic Hollywood movies, she was practically a regular on radio during the Golden Age.
Born Angela Maxine O’Brien; January 15, 1937)  she was to become an accomplished American film, radio, television, and stage actress. She began her prolific career as a child actress in feature films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the age of four, O’Brien became one of the most popular child stars in cinema history and was honored with a Juvenile Academy Award as the outstanding child actress of 1944.
O’Brien made her first film appearance in Babes on Broadway (1941) at the age of four, but it was the following year that her first major role brought her widespread attention. As a five-year-old in Journey for Margaret (1942), O’Brien won wide praise for her convincing acting style. By 1943, she was considered a big enough star to have a cameo appearance in the all-star military show finale of Thousands Cheer.  Also In 1943, at the age of seven, Margaret co-starred in, “You, John Jones,” a “War Bond/Effort,” short film, with James Cagney and Ann Sothern, (playing their daughter), in which she dramatically recited President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
She also played Adèle, a young French girl, and spoke and sang all her dialogue with a French accent in Jane Eyre (1943). Arguably her most memorable role was as “Tootie” in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), opposite Judy Garland.  For several years in the mid 1940s, Margaret O’Brien was voted by exhibitors as among the most popular stars in the country.
Among her Film credits include:

Lost Angel (1943)
Jane Eyre (1944)
The Canterville Ghost (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Music for Millions (1944)
Little Women (1949)

Radio was a second home for Margaret O’Brien. She was regularly making appearances often reprising her role in radio adaptions of films she appeared in or as a requested guest star on a popular comedy variety program.
Selected Radio Credits:

Screen Guild Theater “Journey for Margaret”(April 5, 1943)
Lux Radio Theater “The Canterville Ghost”(June 18, 1945)
Lux Radio Theater”Meet Me in St. Louis” (Dec 2, 1946)
Philco Radio Time with Bing Crosby (May 28, 1947)
The Jimmy Durante Show (Dec 24, 1947)
Philco Radio Time with Bing Crosby (March 17, 1948)
Suspense “The Screaming Woman” (Nov 25,1948)
Lux Radio Theater “Little Women” (March 13, 1950)
The Big Show (Dec 24, 1950)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

APRIL 2017 SHOWCASE: REPS SHOWCASE RETURNS APRIL 21-22-23

 
The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound are pleased to announce the dates for the 2017 Showcase.  Mark your calendars for April 21,22,23 when once again REPS will roll out the red carpet to welcome the stars and fans in a grand celebration of  The Golden Days of Radio. Guests this year include screen legend Margaret O’Brien, Beverly Washburn, Tommy Cook, Stuffy Singer, Jon Provost, Sharon Baird, Anne Whitfield, and many more.  Join us as we celebrate the legendary radio comedians, the spine tingling thrillers, mysteries, and adventures!   Stars from radio, television and film will once again step before the microphone in reenactments of classic shows featuring  live music, live sound effects,  and  a talented cast.  Look forward to many of the performers re-creating their original roles  from the Golden Age.
Hear stories of  the Golden Age of Radio from those who were there and worked with the biggest names in radio and on the most popular shows including the stories of what really happened behind the  microphone!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

ESCAPE WITH US NOW . . . . BLOOD BATH BY JAMES POE DRAMATIZED

Escape Blood Bath

” Bloodbath  is quite unbelievably exciting.  The action is more or less non stop”    –  Alan O’Brien
As detailed on Christine Miller’s excellent website devoted to the series,  the thrilling story “Bloodbath” begins with a business partnership which unravels into a deadly competition.  Five Americans travel deep into the Andes mountains of Peru to search for a vein of uranium ore.   As they had hoped, they do find a fortune in uranium. Their plan was to divide the claim five ways, but greed swiftly takes over. Soon they are in a race to return to civilization and claim the land, but the tricky part is getting out of the jungle alive.
Mosquitos, pium flies, bloodsucking carapato ticks, snakes, vampire bats, and piranhas are some of the dangers they have to survive. Vincent Price narrates most of the story and listening to him describe the critters of the Peruvian jungle is entertainment in itself.
“Bloodbath” was written by Academy award winning screenwriter James Poe and starred Vincent Price. The combination of the two was an effective one.   This episode was produced and directed by William N. Robson and aired on June 30, 1950.  This thrilling adventure is regarded as one the best by many radio listeners and we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this story to the REPS Sound stage, with a full cast, on Friday morning April 15th.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

LEAVE IT TO LITTLE BEAVER

Leave it to Little Beaver

At first glance some readers may be led to believe that this article has some connection to the Leave it to Beaver TV series starring Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow.   Understandably since Tony Dow ( who played Wally from the aforementioned TV series)  is a featured guest at this year’s SHOWCASE. However, the Little Beaver in this article is a young Navajo boy who shared adventures with western hero Red Ryder and who was played on radio, at one time or another , by three of our special guests.  Red Ryder began as a comic strip in 1938 but Republic Pictures bought the movie rights soon after.  It was not long and there were Red Ryder comic books, a radio series and movie serials.  Tommy Cook portrayed Little Beaver in the 12 chapter movie serial The Adventures of Red Ryder released in June of 1940.   Tommy would follow the series to radio in the same role when Red Ryder appeared on the Blue Network in 1942 and later on Mutual.  It’s status as a national program was short lived.  From the fall of 1942 until the series ended in 1951, the program was heard only on the West Coast stations of the Mutual Don Lee Network (generally Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm Pacific Time).  Tommy recalls taking several connecting buses across town to get from home to the studio.  Although his parents were generally there to pick him up after the broadcast to drive him home.  Franklin Breesee, who has made prior appearances at REPS SHOWCASE, was also cast in the part of Little Beaver, from 1942-1946, as an alternate to Tommy and also to Henry Blair when Henry assumed the role from 1944-1947.   Tommy Cook and Frank Bresee have maintained a long friendship from their days on Red Ryder and continuing to the present day.  Frank Bresee has spent many years of his adult life documenting those bygone days of radio and hosted the long running radio show Those Golden Days of Radio.  “Speaking of radio”, Tommy says  “Those were some great days.  I don’t want to forget them.”
In 1947 young actor Johnny McGovern took over as Little Beaver and held the role until 1950.  “I succeeded Johnny as Little Beaver on Red Ryder” recalls Anne Whitfield. “His voice changed!  . . .  so they cast me because my voice was not going to change.”  Anne doesn’t remember how long she played the part but she doesn’t think it was for very long.  ” They probably figured that the show was not going to last very long when they realized they had a kind of effeminate sounding Little Beaver” she muses.    Sammy Ogg is credited as taking on the role until the series ended in 1951.
Tommy Cook,  Johnny McGovern and Anne Whitfield . . . they all played Little Beaver . . . and will be appearing April 15-16-17 at the REPS SHOWCASE.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
, ,

GREGG OPPENHEIMER — SON OF LEGENDARY I LOVE LUCY CREATOR – BRINGS CLASSIC RADIO DETECTIVES BACK TO THE MICROPHONE

Gregg Oppenheimer

Gregg Oppenheimer describes himself as a grown-up child of Hollywood being the son of the late I love Lucy creator-producer-head writer Jess Oppenheimer.   After his father’s death in 1988, Gregg spent several years doing research to complete his father’s unfinished memoirs. In the process he became one of the world’s foremost authorities on I Love Lucy, renewing old friendships with many of the individuals who contributed to the show in front of and behind the cameras.  The resulting book, published by Syracuse University Press, is Laughs, Luck…and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time, which went through seven printings in hardcover before its release in paperback.    From 2000 to 2006 Gregg worked with CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment as producer of the I Love Lucy DVDs, a project for which he received the 2004 and 2005 TV DVD Awards in the “Best 1950s Series” category. In 2007 he executive-produced I Love Lucy: The Complete Series, an all-inclusive 34-disc set comprising the entire saga of the Ricardos and the Mertzes, from the long-lost Pilot to The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hours. 
Since 2007 Gregg’s contributions to the REPS SHOWCASE have been monumental.   He has been a stalwart supporter of the cause, producing,  directing, and writing numerous old time radio show re-creations, including The Maltese Falcon, The Fred Allen Show, The Jack Benny Program, and Pinocchio.   The productions he has produced at REPS SHOWCASE have been a wonderful mix of drama and comedy (which often includes live music),  proving that Gregg has indeed inherited his father’s creative talent.
This year Gregg turns his craft towards radio crime solving as he brings back to the microphone,  cases from the files of two legendary radio detectives –  Sherlock Holmes and Richard Diamond.   Gregg is tasked with unraveling the mystery in a manner that is both enjoyable to the audience and keeps them in suspense.  The Sherlock Holmes radio stories were often action packed and filled with atmosphere and featured great music and sound effects.  In this production, Holmes is tasked with solving the case of a purported “suicide” which Holmes suspects to be murder.  Witness the case unfold Saturday Afternoon,  April 16th.
Richard Diamond will be a featured attraction on Friday evening April 15th.   Dick Powell was the star of the Richard Diamond radio series.  Diamond was a light -hearted detective who often ended each episode singing to his girl friend.  The program began on NBC on April 24, 1949 as part of NBC’s great parade of new shows, created by Blake Edwards.   Edwards began in the 1940s as an actor, but soon turned to writing screenplays and radio scripts before turning to producing and directing in film and television.  His best-known films include Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Days of Wine and Roses, 10 and the hugely successful Pink Panther film series with British comedian Peter Sellers.  The Richard Diamond radio series aired until 1953 and would be resurrected for television in 1957 starring David Janssen.   The case that Gregg has selected to “showcase”  involves a beautiful young woman who believes that someone is trying to kill her and hires Richard Diamond to protect her.
Gregg will be bringing Sherlock Holmes and Richard Diamond to the REPS Radio Sound stage with a full cast of outstanding actors many of whom appeared in the some of the best remembered radio shows of yesteryear.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

David Pollock Author of ‘Bob & Ray: Keener Than Most Persons’ Gives Homage to Legendary Team

       

With the recent passing of Bob Elliott ,who was one half of the comedy duo of Bob and Ray, it seemed fitting to pay tribute to the legendary comedy team.  For almost 45 years, until the death of Elliott’s comedy partner Ray Goulding in 1990, Bob and Ray entertained millions of radio listeners and television viewers.  Spoofs of other radio programs and man in the street interviews were staple  as were commercial parodies.   The pair were first heard on Boston radio station WHDH in 1946 and continued on the air for over four decades on NBC, CBS , and Mutual networks. Their last program was heard on National Public Radio in 1987.   Author David Pollock, who has had a life long appreciation for the comedy pair, tells the story of Bob and Ray in his 2013 biography,  Bob & Ray: Keener Than Most Persons which is described by  Doug McIntyre of the Los Angeles Daily News as “a must-read for fans of B&R or anyone interested in radio when it was still a creative force.”   This is a welcome biography that chronicles  their career with extensive detail.  Along the way , Pollock shares the history of the two men and provides insight into their personal lives and documents the origins of the team’s best known comedy bits which were key to the teams success and longevity.
The author himself has his own comedy credentials. David Pollock has written for the Carol Burnett Show , All In the Family, M*A*S*H*, Cheers, and Frasier, and even nightclub material for the legendary Jack Benny.  There is certainly no one better to document and  lead a tribute to  the Peabody Award winning comedy team.
David  Pollock author of Bob & Ray: Keener Than Most Persons will be featured Saturday morning at 11:00 am.  However,  you can find him at the REPS SHOWCASE all weekend long. He will have copies of his book so please make a point to come and see us.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
,

Michael James Kacey Tells the Story of Radio Through Dynamic Film

    

When Michael James Kacey began working on his film project, originally titled How Radio Changed America, it was originally conceived as a “love letter” to the Golden Age of Radio.  This feature film documentary has grown both in scope and depth and now expertly explores the historic and cultural impact radio played in American life, examining its unprecedented power to influence the nation. From radio to television to the Internet, HEARING VOICES: How Radio Changed America & America Changed Radio will shine the light on the past in hopes of safeguarding the future. Interviews are still being conducted for this film but already include such network radio veterans as Art Linkletter, Norman Corwin, Tommy Cook, John Astin, Dick Van Patten, Bob Hastings, and Peggy Webber.  Additional interviews include Larry King, Wink Martindale, Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher,  Norman Lloyd, Marsha Hunt and Ivy Bethune. This film will prove to be the definitive history of American radio.  From the time when Michael was a young boy he has had a special love for radio. It all started when he turned on his radio in the mid 1970s and came upon The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  For many years now, Michael’s enthusiasm for radio has never waned.  He still gushes about radio and as an adult film maker he set out to capture the history of the medium through the voices of the artists who were a part of that history.   This feature documentary, scheduled for release next year,  is still in production.  However, on Friday morning April 15th, Michael James Kacey will share  highlights from this remarkable film with behind the scenes stories and anecdotes as part of a special preview.   The promotional trailer for the film provides a glimpse of a sensational production that will not only delight anyone who has an appreciation for the history of  radio but should also prove interesting and entertaining to the public at large.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail