12 August 2006

Things Radio Taught Me

I love vintage radio and comedy. I listen to shows every day on my ipod or via the internet.

The other day I was trying to figure out just how long I have been interested in vintage radio, and came up with this: about 34 years.

It all started when I was a teen, probably about freshman or sophomore year in high school. Why did I get started? Have no idea. I do know the first show I heard on radio was "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater" hosted by E.G. Marshall. (I got a chance to interview Mr. Marshall and told him about those happy times.)

Imagine my surprise years later when I found out there had been comedies and dramas on radio for about 50 years before "CBS Radio Mystery Theater." I said "What? You mean there were other radio shows?" Ah, for those innocent days.

Anyway, I was also recently thinking about the things I learned about the world listening to those great vintage shows. Here is a list, in no particular order:

1: Times were simpler then. Much.

2: The word "menu" was pronounced differently. I pronounce it "MEN-you"; most people in the 1930s and 1940s (on radio) pronounced it "MAIN-you."

3: Nearly everyone who wrote for radio did not know the proper use of "imply" and "infer" often having characters say "Are you inferring that I did such and such?"

4: Even the most complex mystery can be solved in 30 minutes -- with time to spare for two commercials.

5: The writing in radio is hundreds of times better than the best television writing today.

6: Three women actors have been unjustly forgotten: Marion Jordan ("Fibber McGee and Molly," pictured), Gracie Allen ("Burns and Allen") and Mary Livingston ("The Jack Benny Show.")

7: Add Bea Benaderet to the above list, and make that four.

8: America was one big country during the war, not the splintered fragments it has since become.

9: Women were not considered very bright in the 1920s and 1930s. They somehow got smarter during the war, though. Hmmm....

10: Theater of the mind (which is how radio is often described) is way better than CGI.

Theater of the mind can be really believable. ("War of the Worlds.")

12: Black characters could be played by white actors and no one could tell the difference ("Amos and Andy," and "Beulah").

13: Racism was prevalent in the early years of radio, too.

14: It is said that you could walk down a residential street when "Amos and Andy" was being broadcast and hear an entire episode from all the radios in all the houses tuned to the same station.

The funniest things that happened on radio were unscripted. (Most shows were aired live.)

16: Gale Gordon was in, like, a million radio shows. (Co-starring with Lucille Ball on radio in "My Favorite Husband"; later to co-star with Ball on television in "The Lucy Show.")

17: Hollywood was the place to be in the 1930s.

18: Writing can be good even without the use of obscenities.

19: For some reason, radio actors were not allowed to say the word "lousy." They would say, "That was lou-, uh, bad."

20: According to some science fiction stories, we would be living on the moon in 1964.

21: According to one science fiction story, the world would blow up in 1979. Whew!

1 comment:

mass bradley said...

Right On!
I lurve this stuff-- and am addicted to "Tom Corbett, Spaaaaace Cadet!"-- sponsored by Kellog's 'Pep!' cereal, of course...
If you get XM radio, they've got 24 hours a day of this and other great programs on channel 164.
(Lots of mysteries and spooooky things too-- I never knew that ol' Vincent Price was master of all media back then!)
Could you publish a list of your fave OTR sites?