OTR Wednesday – Dark Journey

I’m sharing another Suspense episode today – one I hadn’t heard before this week. But thanks to a new to me podcast (The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society) I found this gem. And it is a gem. It was written by the master radio scribe, Lucille Fletcher who also wrote my favorite Suspense episode “Sorry, Wrong Number”.

What makes Dark Journey so special, you ask? Well, it’s an entire dramatic program that stars two women – just women. Which was rare in the 1940s – and rare still in 2018, unfortunately. It also goes in an unexpected direction that I should have seen coming, but didn’t. That’s how good Lucille Fletcher was. This episode of The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society has a great discussion on it.

If you haven’t seen this chart about women’s speaking time in Oscar-winning films that’s been going around Twitter have a look.

Disheartening, isn’t it? It comes from a BBC article which also states women were better represented in films in the 1930s vs. today. As a classic film fan, I could have told you this, but it’s really starkly represented in this article. Give it a read after you listen to Dark Journey.

OTR Wednesday – “And the Moon be Still as Bright”

In honor of today’s #superbluebloodmoon (that I couldn’t see because of cloud cover… grr…) I’m sharing another unsettling adaptation of a Ray Bradbury short story. This one’s from the short-lived sci-fi program Dimension X (1950-51) and is adapted from one of the stories in Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.

“And the Moon be Still as Bright” is about the 4th attempt at Mars colonization, and well, things don’t go great (with direct allusions to the European colonization of the US).

OTR Wednesday – The Mercury Theater’s A Christmas Carol

If you’ve read HOMICIDE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, then this is the rendition of A Christmas Carol that’s mentioned in the first chapter (although not by name). This version aired December 23, 1938 – the night of the Witchell’s Christmas party.

A movie version of A Christmas Carol had just come out starring Reginald Owen. That was a bit of casting blasphemy at the time since Lionel Barrymore was famous for his portrayal of Scrooge on the radio. He’d reprise the leading role (on radio at least) in 1939.

By the way, if Lionel Barrymore sounds familiar to you it’s probably because you know him as nasty old Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. (That character isn’t far off Ebenezer Scrooge – except that Mr. Potter never has an epiphany and never becomes a better person…)

OTR Wednesday – The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope

I grew up with Bob Hope Christmas shows on TV, so just hearing his voice is nostalgic for me. His show biz career spanned almost 80 years.

The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope debuted in September 1938. On this episode, aired December 20, 1938, he welcomes Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead (which I also grew up with in the Sunday comics – do they even have those anymore?).  The first movie based on the comic strip had just come out in November 1938.

And of course, the episode ends with Bob’s rendition of “Thanks for the Memory” – his trademark.

OTR Wednesday – Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon

In keeping with the theme of shows that Vivian and her friends and family may have listened to during the events of Homicide for the Holidays, today’s show is a children’s program that aired between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1938. It’s in the vein of The Cinnamon Bear (if you’ve heard of that) about two children who find a tiny bear in the attic that takes them on a fantastic adventure. That program is from 1937 so it doesn’t qualify for my 1938 series – though it was repeated every Christmas for years. As a matter of fact, my daughter and I are going to a live stage production of The Cinnamon Bear next weekend.

Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon is about a six-year-old that goes on an adventure to the moon to rescue a kidnapped Santa. It’s amazing to me that small children would sit quietly in front of the radio and listen intently to a story like this using only ::gasp:: their imaginations. It was a different time.

Santa’s always been a shill

If you’ve read The Darkness Knows or Homicide for the Holidays you know that the detective serial that Viv and Graham star on (also called “The Darkness Knows”) is sponsored by Sultan’s Gold cigarettes – “You’ll be sold on Sultan’s Gold!” Cigarette companies were huge sponsors of radio programs, and later, TV programs. Cigarettes were touted as “healthy” and often used doctors – or images of doctors – in their advertising expressing their love for a certain brand of cigarette. 

Here’s a snippet from Homicide for the Holidays (Viv and Charlie #2):

She could picture the ad already: Graham’s face in three-quarter profile, a self-assured half smile on his lips, his dark-brown eyes trained on the reader, a Sultan’s Gold cigarette balanced in fingers held below his chin. The text appearing in a balloon above him would read:

Graham Yarborough, radio’s Harvey Diamond, says, “I smoke nothing but Sultan’s Gold. The mellow taste and smooth fla¬vor of Sultan’s Gold cigarettes calm my throat and assure me of a confident vocal delivery every time.”

And one from Dig Deep My Grave (Viv and Charlie #3):

The national campaign for Sultan’s Gold cigarettes that she’d appeared in with Graham had been a success. “You’ll be sold on Sultan’s Gold,” she thought. It was a catchy slogan. The ad had featured illustrated photos of her and Graham smiling at each other from opposite sides of the page. Speech bubbles came out of each of their mouths. Vivian’s said, “Here, Graham, smoke a Sultan’s Gold. That mellow flavor and cool menthol taste will assure you of a confident vocal delivery every time.” Graham’s said, “Thanks, Viv. Harvey Diamond’s got to be on top of his game, and with Sultan’s Gold, that’s assured.”

Of course, advertisers pulled Santa into their schemes at the holidays as well. It’s weird to think there was a time when this wasn’t weird, isn’t it?

You can read more about the history of cigarette advertising at the Smithsonian blog.

Old Time Radio Wednesday – Jack’s Christmas Open House

This episode of the Jack Benny Show aired on December 25, 1938. That’s right in the middle of the events of Homicide for the Holidays, and Vivian would have certainly been listening (along with almost everyone else in the country). If you’re not familiar with Jack Benny, his schtick was that he was a cheapskate and sort of an arrogantly loveable loser. So it’s no surprise that when he invites the celebrity couples of the day (Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers and Ronald Coleman) to his Christmas open house that none of them show up.

Listening to Jack Benny is like getting a big, warm hug for me – especially his Christmas shows. So get yourself some hot chocolate (or a hot toddy), put your feet up, and escape to Christmas 1938 for 30 minutes or so.

Another kind of debut

It took much longer than anticipated to get this little guy up and running, but our little free library is now open for business! Too bad that the weather has turned colder, and we no longer have the kind of foot traffic past our house that we do in the warmer months. Still, it’s adorable, isn’t it? I saw a girl from down the street stop on her way to the bus and pick out a book yesterday morning. That made my day.

It even has motion-activated lights inside so people can browse at night.

Kate is beyond thrilled. She made invitations (with her dad’s help) for all the kids in her class to come visit and share their books. Here she is checking it at night before bed in her jammies and winter coat.

If you’re inspired to put up your own check out the resources on the Little Free Library website. You can see if there are any near you on their map.