Friday, September 04, 2009

Radio Days

I'm sure there are a few of you out there who remember, as I do, what it was like to spend hours in front of a radio listening to shows that meant adventure (Superman, Green Hornet, Hopalong Cassidy etc) and shows that meant laughs (I loved Jack Benny, The Great Gildersleeve, Bob Hope (who knew what a dick he was in reality?) and of course Fibber McGee and Molly.

Two of the shows my little brother and I liked best were The Lone Ranger and Tom Mix. The Lone Ranger was sponsored by Cheerios so of course we wanted to eat same while the show was on. No problem because Cheerios were great. The trouble came with cowboy legend Tom Mix. He had the coolest offers. Send in a box top and a quarter and you could get a pair of authentic plastic glow-in-the-dark spurs. We had a deal with our mother. She'd buy us any cereal we wanted as long as we promised to eat all of it. Tom Mix was sponsored by Chex, which has always tasted to me like ground up concrete. But we had to eat it to get those spurs. It was worth it because in the dark of our room we could see the spurs hanging off our shoes. Pretty damned cool.

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I was reminded of this while I was reading the new Crippen and Landru collection The Casebook of Gregory Hood, the scripts of fourteen radio shows by none other than Anthony Boucher and co-creator Denis Green. The shows were not only Golden Age Radio they were Golden Age Mysteries. Gregory Hood is one of those amateur sleuths who learned his stripes reading the Sherlock Holmes stories. He's a wealthy man of course and a dashing figure even among all the other dashing figures.

The whodunit set up challenges the reader to guess along with the detective. And they're a lot of fun, so much so that I'll probably invest a little and buy some of the tapes as well. There were a number of similar shows on radio over the decades (John Dickson Carr had a pretty good one) but I'd give the nod to Boucher because the way he has fun with the clues--a beeswax candle anyone?

The Crippen and Landru `Lost Classics' are always important additions to the general mystery library. And this one is no exception.

7 comments:

Todd Mason said...

As you probably know, Boucher and Green also wrote a Holmes series together, as well...wonder what the relation of this series was to that one (rejected script ideas/scripts reformatted? Some self-poaching?).

Many of the latter-day projects in radio drama I've heard have often been spread too thin, when not too thin anyway (THE CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER, THE SEARS RADIO THEATER/MUTUAL RADIO THEATER, Rod Serling's ZERO HOUR, each of which were on five days a week), or were difficult to catch very often (EARPLAY; NPR PLAYHOUSE). But certainly the BOB AND RAY and Firesign Theater NICK DANGER series, and such items as the NPR version of THE FOURTH TOWER OF INVERNESS, helped make the seeking out worthwhile.

WV: yessess. Clearly agrees.

Todd Mason said...

I recently suggested to someone that Basil Fawlty was in the tradition of THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE (albeit Gildy was mostly more polite), rather to my colleague's disbelief.

wv: susnach

Jeffrey Marks said...

Todd, Gregory Hood was a replacement series for the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes when the show took a summer break. Boucher and Green had the same format, same advertiser, same announcer. A Watson-esque character opened the show, talking to Gregory Hood. The scripts were much more loose and fun than the Holmes scripts.

Christopher said...

I never listened to any of these shows love because I am too young.

I was fortunate enough to live in San Francisco growing up. They had a radio station that played old time radio shows at night. I loved listening to them.

I still give it credit for fostering my love of the written word. You had to listen and imagine. It was great.

I still listen to them on XM Radio.

Dave Lewis said...

Love OTR, but haven't heard any Gregory Hood episodes. That will be promptly corrected. Thanks!

Todd Mason said...

Christopher--you're not much younger than I am, but it was easy enough to miss all the radio drama of the '70s and '80s and on that I cited. I myself never heard the mid-late '70s GENERAL MILLS RADIO ADVENTURE THEATER on CBS, despite seeing the ads for it in comic books; likewise the public radio NATIONAL RADIO THEATER OF CHICAGO, despite citations in various places (including the writers markest volumes).

WAMU in DC on Sunday nights still does a fine showcase of OTR, THE BIG BROADCAST, from 7-10p ET. www.wamu.org

I'd been wondering if Sirius-XM was running any radio drama, since they never seemed to fess up about it in any ads I saw, including on their website. Glad to know they have them.

Jeffery--thanks for the lowdown.

wv: cavan

Todd Mason said...

Sorry, that's 7-11p ET. Here's tonight's playlist:

07:00p Johnny Dollar
07/31-08/01/56 Sea Legs Matter Pts. 2-3 (Sus.) (CBS) (27:58)

07:30p Dragnet
02/16/54 #235 Big Sucker (NBC) (26:10)

08:00p Gunsmoke
11/22/59 (01/17/53) #398 Paid Killer (Sus.) (CBS) (29:48)

08:30p Lone Ranger
01/31/38 #782 Horse Thieves Steal Silver (MBS) (28:41)

09:00p Philco Radio Time
03/19/47 #23 w/Danny Kaye & Peggy Lee (Philco) (ABC) (29:30)

09:30p Nightbeat
09/18/50 Wanna Buy a Story (Sus.) (NBC) (29:30)

10:00p Tales of the Texas Rangers
07/20/52 #088 Round Trip (Sus.) (NBC) (29:28)

10:30p Richard Diamond
05/29/49 The Betty Morgan Case (Sus.) (NBC) (29:24)

wv: unaysio