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Old Time Radio Espionage: German Spies in Mexico!

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It is extremely serious business when a nation employs spies in order to gather secrets. Even more important than gathering secrets from other nations is protecting the nation's own secrets. In many ways, counterintelligence is the business of spying on spies. As such, it is the most intriguing and dangerous part of the espionage world. During the Second World War , the services each had their own intelligence service. The Office of Strategic Services was created to coordinate intelligence operations behind enemy lines. All of them went after spies working against the Allies in the various theaters of the war, while domestic counterintelligence came under the jurisdiction of the FBI. While looking for a wartime counterpart to Gangbusters, writer/producer Phillips H. Lord took on the inky world of Counter Intelligence with David Harding, Counterspy . The United States Counterspies were a fictional agency of the Federal Government which combined the roles of the FBI and the O

Happy Birthday, Virginia Gregg!

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March 6: Happy Birthday,  Virginia Gregg 100 Years ago in 1916, the reliable radio actress  Virginia Gregg  was born. While not particularly famous, she could be heard up and down the dial on series such as  Richard Diamond ,,  Sam Spade , and  Voyage of the Scarlet Queen .  A regular during Bob Bailey 's tenure on " Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ".   Jack Webb used her so many times for his late Dragnet , she could almost be credited as "costar." Others might best remember her for her film and television roles: she was a hill person on the show  The Waltons , one of the "masks" in  The Twilight Zone  and the voice of "Mother" in  Psycho .    A marvelous voice, she appeared in the movie "Operation Petticoat," as the nurse that was a major and the one who used a girdle to solve a problem in the engine room.   Virginia Gregg You can hear her in a broadcast of  Frontier Gentleman  and hundreds of other recordings in

Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy: Radio Beginnings ...

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It seems that every day is the anniversary of something important. And that is especially true when you look at Old Time Radio . However we think that Dec 17 th  is one anniversary that is more than worth remembering. 79 years ago, on Dec 17, 1936, Edgar Bergen brought his companion, Charlie McCarthy , to the radio waves for the first time. The show was  The Royal Gelatin Hour  hosted and directed by Rudy Vallee . Better known as  The Rudy Vallee Show , the program was going through a barely noticeable shakeup of its own. From 1929 Tuesday nights were dedicated to Rudy entertaining radio audiences and pushing Fleischmann's Yeast. Rudy Vallee was one of the earliest "crooners"; his voice wasn't really strong enough to fill theaters before electric amplification, but he was able to use the microphone to create an intimate and appealing (to young women) sound. NBC head of programming, Bertha Brainard, pushed for Vallee to host the show, explaining that "only

Dec 10: Happy Birthday, Dorothy Lamour - Singer and Actress

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She was a lady of quality, beauty and class - Bob Hope Dorothy 'Dottie' Lamour may not be that highly appreciated for her talent as an actress but, sure, she was one of those glamorous and most celebrated film stars of her time. Sadly though, only a few, if any, remember her today. Mary Leta Dorothy was born on December 10, 1914 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her mother was twice a divorcee , first when she was still a preteen and second, when she was already in her early teens. She took her mom's second husband's surname from whom her mom divorced later. She witnessed her mom's hardship raising her so she dropped out of school soon after, at the age of 15, by forging the signature of her mother. Her desire to earn her keep landed her in a beauty contest in 1931 which she handily won as Miss New Orleans. She always wanted to become a singer but when her mother moved to Chicago, she ended up as an elevator operator instead, earning a measly $17 a week

It's Time To Smile with rare guest appearance Sidney Toler

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Enjoy this 1941 broadcast of It's Time to Smile with a rare appearance by Sidney Toler (best known for his role as Charlie Chan ) If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element

For the Young and the Young at Heart: Big Jon and Sparkie

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There is plenty in OTR to keep "serious" listeners busy. By serious, we mean grown ups! The simple fact is that sponsors wanted to put their message (and their money) where it would be heard by the people who had cash to spend. Through the years, this made for some interesting programming decisions. The radio noir and hard boiled detective shows of the post-War era were meant to appeal to the adventurous vets coming back to a humdrum home life. The radio soaps were designed to tug at the heartstrings of the stay-at-home housewife who did most of the shopping for the household. Comedy variety programs were for the whole family. Programming for kids was often an after thought, sustained programs without sponsors, since kids don't buy anything because they don't have any money. However, cereal makers realized that even though the kids were not the ones buying breakfast cereal, they did have a big influence on what Mom picked off the store shelves. Kids may or

Remember Radio Detective: Johnny Dollar!

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Radio detective dramas ofte n ne eded a "hook" in order to stand out in the crowded postwar marketplace. Shows of all types used some sort of gimmick to attract listeners. The real trick was to hold enough listeners to get the program renewed for the next season. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar held listeners until the end of the golden age of radio era. Few detective radio programs had as many gimmicks as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar . Being smart-mouthed, independent, and tough had appeal for an audience filled with veterans adjusting to work-a-day civilian life, and tough, smart-mouthed, independent detectives filled the airwaves. A popularly gimmick was the method a detective would find his cases. In Box 13 , Dan Holiday, played by Alan Ladd , had a decidedly generalized Want Ad that brought him interesting clients. Frank Sinatra as Rocky Fortune found cases when he went out on temporary employment. There would be no lack of jobs for Johnny Dollar a

Morning Music... Another Start to A Good Day for The Listeners of Old Time Radio

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Ah, the melodious voice of a Dennis Day , or Doris for that matter, in the breaking hours of the day. This is what met many American folks as they sat down for their pancakes, eggs and coffee on the radio in the 1940’s and 1950 ’s. The major broadcasters out of Hollywood, Chicago and New York presented such a varied repertoire of soothing crooning and spiritual hymns, that listeners were becoming enthralled with their favorites. The breakfast genre of old time radio did more than fill a segment of the day faithful followers...it was a necessity to crack the blues and the doldrums. Whether it was Tex McCrary or Tex Ritter , country music played a major part of early morning radio. The sounds of the Grand Ole Opry did more to educate the masses on what fiddles and Gee’tars could do to stomp out the blues of Americans as they began the race to their 9-5 work day. Of the many forms of melody and verse that greeted millions of people, none had the ability to conquer a day like coun

Autistic Children in The Eternal Light Radio Show

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"Nobody is expected to do what it is impossible for them to do..." 64 Years Ago today in Radio History:   In this December 3, 1950 broadcast of The Eternal Light , "Thou Shalt Teach Them Diligently" is the 1872 story of teacher, Julia Richman who was 17 years old when she began.  She taught autistic "retarded" children in a way that better suited to them. She went to be appointed as the youngest principal in New York City for 19 years.  She was later appointed the first woman superintendent. If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element Julia taught that "children and adults need to respect themselves and each other" when the mother of a fellow student shames autistic Amy.  Despite obstacles, Julia taught alternative methods of instruction for arithmetic by sewing with autistic students. "The world rests on the breath of  the children in the school yard..." Sponsored by the

Radio's Escape To Adventure

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Old time radio had a few distinct purposes. One of those was to allow the listener an opportunity “Walter Mitty” their routine life. Just as Mitty daydreamed his days away, so programs like Escape gave the radio audience a chance to become part of the drama. Take for example the episode “Shipment of Mute” the listener became part of the cruise as the narrator shared about his time in South America and seeking to get back to New York. The voice of Jack Webb as Chris Warner shared the adventure of capturing the BushMaster snake... the deadliest snake in Venezuela. He was planning on removing the specimen he captured to take back to the museum in NYC. Now was this going to be a simple cruise travelling back to the states, or a travel of terror? (I don’t want to give it away.) This type of programming was the trademark for  Escape   s the audience member would crane their ear closer...to hear the screams, gunfire, sound effects creating the storm to start their active imaginations i

Top Five Scariest Old Time Radio Broadcasts

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Young and old people enjoy Old Time Radio alike. People who grew up during the Radio Age are naturally fans of OTR. It isn't a surprise when kids from the Age of Television discover Radio, and the fact that it is often a superior storytelling medium. When we hear about folks who grew up in the age of the Internet professing their enthusiasm for old radio shows, we choose to just put on a smug and satisfied smile. A lot of young fans find they laugh at themselves for actually liking radio drama, but they are fascinated by how effective the speaking voice can be in conveying a story. As long tie OTR fans know, rarely do we see how effective this is as in the scariest Horror and Thriller radio programs . 5) “The Yellow Wall Paper”  starring Agnes Moorehead on Suspense , 1948.  Orson Welles called Moorehead one of his favorite actresses to work with.  4)“The Walking Dead” from Creeps By Night , 1944.  Rise of Zombie Apocalypse in popular culture for this one, while recog

What’s a Breakfast Program without ‘Cereal’ (Old Time Radio Breakfast Shows)

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Programs, such as Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club , would not have lasted very long without their sponsors. breakfast time was a great format for the big name corporations to get their wares out to the listening public. Aunt Jemima slipping out of the bottle onto warm, buttered pancakes. The “snap, crackle and pop” of Rice Krispies. These were samples of the fare being offered to the morning crowd, starting their day off just right with a delicious wake-up meal. Boardrooms all over America were figuring on how to find the perfect fit for their product line to be commercialized. One of the big leaguers in the day was Frosted Flakes. Kelloggs had its name in a few of the popular programs of the time. Many folks today that enjoy the sugar-coated corn flake owe their tastebuds to the old-time radio morning shows. Kelloggs was one of the pioneers of using the morning radio slot to figure in their cereal line. “Tony the Tiger” can still be remembered with his famous, “it’s Great” approach

Portrayal of Autistic Children in Old Time Radio: Pepper Youngs Family Radio Show

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In this first part: enjoy this classic radio broadcast from the radio soap opera, Pepper Young's Family Episode #61.  The Pepper Young family are selling their property and Sam has some good news. "I know you're going to be excited about it... they're gonna put up some kind of home or group of cottages for retarded children!" Sams is going to make some good money selling the lumber and was hired to run the home while Edie will invite the children to their home for supper. If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element

What does it mean for an old time radio show to be "Transcribed"?

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"Transcribed" means the entire show is/was written down as recorded and broadcast. To complicate things, in British English, a transcription would probably be a written record of what was said in the show. In America, During the golden age of radio and in the age of heavy censorship, extensive records were required by the government. In addition they needed to be able to demonstrate to advertisers that their copy was read/delivered as paid. For example Johnny Dollar uses the phrasing--"The transcribed adventures of the insurance investigator with the action-packed expense account."