Hunky movie action star of the 1950s, Jeff Chandler, got his start as an actor on radio. First, he played supporting roles on anthology series, working his way up to leads and co-starring parts in three series.
YTJD is arguably the best detective series on old-time radio. It featured seven lead actors over its 13-year run. Three of them made more of a mark as film stars: Dick Powell, Edmond O’Brien, and John Lund. But here’s how they sounded when they played “the man with the action-packed expense account.
You know Lucile Ball’s as TV’s “queen of comedy.” She also had a career in film, before and after her TV work. In the midst of all of it was radio, where she promoted her movie work, and began building a character that would eventually becomes Lucy Ricardo – or at least, it would show the way to where Lucy Ricardo lived.
Lucile Ball began appearing on radio in the late 1930s, when she was an RKO contract player. One of her first gigs was asa series regular on The Wonder Show. She moved on to guest-starring roles on popular comedy and drama series of the 1930s and 40s, and ended the decade as the star of her own radio sitcom, “My Favorite Husband.” This series was written by the team that would create “I Love Lucy” on television.
Radio was an important part of many Hollywood careers, But formed the backbone of Frank Sinatra’s success, especially in the beginning. Long before Sinatra made a film, his voice could be heard on the radio, crooning love songs to bobbysoxers. He got hist start at 19, on the Major Bowse Amateur Hour, and soon became a regular on the show. Sinatra range with big bands in the early 40s, where had had even more opportunities to appear on radio. By 1943, he was hosting Your Hit Parade, as well as a short show bearing his name. He would keep up both shows, under various names and networks, throughout the 40s. As Sinatra’s singing career hit a snag in the early 50s, he still had limited radio work, including as start of Rocky Fortune, a vehicle for his comedy talents. He didn’t sing on the NBC show.
I’ll admit to giving you a very brief overview of Sinatra, the radio star. But you’ll get some sense of his presence from this week’s three recordings; Your Hit Parade, from 11/8/43, Songs by Sinatra, recorded 9/13/45, and The Boarding House Double-cross, a Rocky Fortune episode from 1953.
For more Sinatra on radio, check out the four-CD set, Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air (1935-1953).
Unlike most actors I’ve featured on HOTR, Richard Widmark did not turn to radio as a means of promoting his film career. He started on radio, working as supporting player, then lead in daytime serials and mystery programs, from the late 1930s to the mid-40s. His first radio appearance was in 1938’s Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, but he went on to appear regularly on The Shadow, Columbia Radio Workshop, and several mystery series. Even in early radio, he was often a villain, or unstable character, though he could play comedy, too. Widmark had the lead in the soap, Front Page Farrell, until it switched networks.
In 1946, Widmark made his Broadway debut, and that success propelled him to Hollywood where he made his first film, Kiss of Death. It’s still among his most memorable, and chilling performances, and got Widmark an Oscar nomination. He continued working in film, as a leading man in noir and Westerns, making occasional return visits to radio in recreations of his films, and as a guest on variety shows. Widmark died in 2008.
Marlene Dietrich appeared frequently on radio in the 1930s, mostly in Lux Radio Theater adaptations of her films. During the war years, she actively raised funds during bond drives and entertained the troops in person and via radio. She appeared in post-war years on variety shows, and in 1953, she briefly had her own series, A Time for Love. This week, we’ll hear the second episode of the series, from January 1953.
Breakfast in Hollywood aired on the Blue Network from 1941 to 1948. The show originated daily from Tom Brenneman’s restaurant in Hollywood and featured Brenneman walking through the restaurant, chatting up the mostly female, and frequently tourist patrons.
In 1946, Harold Schuster made film by the same name, using the show (and Brenneman) as a backdrop for a series of intertwined melodramatic stories. You can watch on YouTube, or download it from The Internet Archiv.
MGM star, and serial Academy Award nominee (she won once) Greer Garson spent her radio career performing in adaptations of her own films for Lux Radio Theater. She was also active in on-air wartime fundraising, and performed on variety shows with Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy and Jimmy Durante. This episode of HOTR, which was suggested by a listener, features an episode of Academy Award, in which Garson takes the female lead in a 1946 adaptation of Brief Encounter.
The words Rita Hayworth and radio star don’t seem to quite fit together. Celebrated primarily for her beauty and glamour, Rita Hayworth electrified the motion picture screen. But did she have the personality for a medium without pictures, or even the inclination to perform there? Apparently the answer was yes. Between 1942 and 1947, she is credited with 34 radio appearances, on program ranging from the dramatic Lux Radio Theater and Suspense) to the light-hearted Edgar Bergen. She was also a popular attraction on wartime series, Mail Call and Command Performance. In this episode of HOTR, we hear Rita paying “herself” on the Burns & Allen program from March 21, 1944.
In the post-war years, Judy Garland appeared on many of the leading radio variety shows, including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and The Big Show. She also contributed her time and talnet to charitable and political causes. In this episode, however, we hear one of Judy’s several dramatic performances. From December 1946, it’s an episode of Suspense called “Drive In”.