One of the records I remember growing up with is THE LONGINES SYMPHONETTE PRESENTS REMEMBER THE GOLDEN DAYS OF RADIO with Jack Benny. I listened over and over again to Jack Benny, Fred Allen and Fibber McGee and Molly. It was my first introduction to old time radio.
One movie that pops up on Turner Classic Movies is OH HEAVENLY DAYS. ("Oh heavenly days," was an exclamation that Molly used when McGee did something outlandish; i,e,. she said it a lot.)
This 1944 B-picture is the last of a handful of Fibber McGee and Molly
movies, and, from the description, is very much a
WWII propaganda picture.
It's funny, but these old radio
shows remind me of my childhood in the 1970s, since that's when I first
heard the recordings. First, I listened to my Dad's Longines record
set, and then I checked some records out of the library -- I think that
companies like Radiola and Decca were releasing old time radio shows.
those library "listening stations?!" I remember having to go to the
librarian, filling out cards and pieces of paper and being told I only
had an hour in the listening station, etc. And, in the stale-smelling
listening station cubicle: those big great metal turntables that looked
like they could survive an armed assault and the big clunky tone arms
that would sometimes have about 8oz. of dust clinging to them. And
those big, vinyl headphones you had to wear! Those big headphones
always made me rather hot and itchy after about 5 minutes. They were
definitely designed to be so ungainly that no sane individual would
ever consider for a moment trying to steal them. And when you were
finished, you had to walk back the librarian, and, standing there, s/he
would take the records out of the sleeves, looking for any scratches.
Always a serious visual inspection, both sides scrutinized for abuse,
before being allowed to take my nerdly leave.
Jordan, "Fibber McGee" himself, had a special radio series one summer
(maybe in 1972 or 73) where he would play the old programs. There was
this gimmick in the show. The deal was (and suspend about 20 tons of
disbelief, OK?) that Fibber had his old Philco radio in the garage, and
would tell the listeners that it was full of old radio shows that he
hadn't listened to back in the day. These old shows were still inside
the radio tubes, waiting to be unleashed and heard. I remember listening
to these old comedies and thinking seriously -- maybe waay too
seriously -- about the structure of the jokes, the wordplay, the puns,
the way an actor could get a laugh just by the tone of his/her voice
(Titus Moody, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, Baby Snooks, etc.).
Allen's RADIO DAYS film had it right: all of these people, all of
these beloved shows are dead because the way we listen to radio changed.
Oh, and Eugene Pallette in OH HEAVENLY DAYS. I love Eugene Pallette.
cartoonists and illustrators enjoy the old comedy, the ones we listened
to on those old records. And as my pal, and fellow old time comedy fan,
the award winning illustrator Sean Kelly, suggested to me: "That's why we're all so warped, today.... (Just like the old LPs!)"
Above Fibber McGee and Molly ad nicked from The Digital Deli. The uncredited color illustration is from this OTR download site.
Edited from a previously published blog entry from April 15, 2010.