Jane Ace never really wanted to be any kind of actress, which is saying something for a woman of her time who looks nothing like her scatterbrained, malapropping radio persona. She’s movie-star pretty, with an infectious and incessant smile, but perhaps the very fact that she had no show business ambitions, when an accident of fate brought her and her clever husband, Goodman, to full-time series radio (in 1933, works more in her favour than she might realise.
A cult favourite decades before the term would come into too-common use, Easy Aces will very few dated episodes behind; the Aces may be clever enough that they’ll sell surviving recordings of their 1938-42 period into the first successful syndicated rerun package in broadcasting (Frederick Ziv will do the package for them; it out-rates the show’s own first-run performance), but future fans will find it impossible to date each episode.
There prove exceptions, and tonight plus its followup tomorrow night will be two, lucky for radio fans who appreciate clever dialogic comedy in which character and real word play transcend story: Jane and girl friend Dorothy (Betty Garde) hire on as wartime bus drivers, as part of a program putting the ladies into the homefront workforce while the gentlemenfolk fight the war or provide for it. Now, guess who’s going to drive her bosses to drink faster than she gets the workers to their wartime jobs—especially after she ropes those hapless bosses into a classic debate on manhours versus womanhours?
Abbott and Costello only wish they had a routine this flabbergasting.
Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Ford Bond. Writer/director: Goodman Ace.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Escape: Papa Benjamin (CBS, 1948)—A bandleader (Frank Lovejoy) exploits a sacred New Orleans voodoo chant in a futile bid to revive his failing nightclub show, but the theft ultimately backfires on him thanks to his failure to understand precisely the chant’s significance. Papa Benjamin: Luis van Rooten. Commissioner: Harry Bartell. Judy: Joan Banks. Music: Cy Feuer. Director: William N. Robson. Writer: John Dunkel, based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich.
Bold Venture: A Comeback Can Kill You (Syndicated, 1952)—Slate (Humphrey Bogart) and Sailor (Lauren Bacall) are amused by elder film legend Ricky Reed’s (Paul Frees) request to use the Bold Venture for an island trip to get a new film project’s background shots, his hope to restore his standing in the business . . . but there’s no amusement when the third of his six wives (Natalie Schaefer), who still loves and obsesses with him, fears he may be a potential murder victim—a fear that may be realised when the island turns out inhabited by a shady and embittered hunter (Gerald Mohr). Soapish even with the Bogarts. King: Jester Hairston. Laszlo: Fritz Feld. Announcer: Dan Seymour. Music: David Rose. Director: Henry Hayward. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Piano Lessons (NBC, 1941)—A piano concert the night before, courtesy of Mrs. Uppington (Amanda Randolph), has the Songbuzzard of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) bent on learning to play the instrument (The problem I have is these pedals under me—I don’t know which one’s the brake and which one’s the clutch) which has languished in his home little touched for long enough. Molly: Marian Jordan. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Writer: Don Quinn.
The Old Gold Comedy Theater: The Show-Off (NBC, 1945)—Fred Allen shines in the Red Skelton film role of a clerk whose penchant for self-exaggeration charm his blind date (Portland Hoffa) into marrying him despite her family’s disdain, but the charm begins to wear thin when his braggadoccio and his freewheeling spending cause financial and legal troubles. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Ben Grauer. Director: Harold Lloyd. Based on the screenplay by George Kelly and George Wells.
Joanie’s Tea Room: The Double Love Triangle (CBS, 1946)—Andy (Russell) and Harry (Von Zell) want to break away from the tea room early, but for different reasons—Andy has a hot date and Harry’s trying to duck his girl friend—while Joan (Davis) has plans to rid herself and Heppie (Shirley Mitchell) of a rival for the affections of their intended targets, Andy and Harry, who have plans of their own when they discover the mastermind who established a wife Andy doesn’t have. Rosetta: Verna Felton. Heppie: Shirley Mitchell. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Paul Weston Orchestra. Andy Russell. Director: Dick Mack. Writers: Jay Somers, Jack Harvey, Si Wills.
The Bob Hope Show: Eisenhower’s Inauguration; or, Just Be Calm and Cool—Like I Am (NBC, 1953)—This may come as a bit of a shock, but once upon a time Zsa Zsa Gabor really did perform. The fact that it may have been as far back as the Eisenhower Administration is completely irrelevant, even in light of her host having his usual arch fun over Eisenhower’s inauguration. Additional cast: Margaret Whiting. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Writers: Al Josefsberg, Hal Block, Larry Marks, Albert Schwartz.
Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network: Lawrence Fechtenberger; Intimate Dance Steps (Your Guess is as Good as Ours, 1960)—Musing on the Bob & Ray dance contest and Bob & Ray impersonators, which is probably as good as it gets for pure chutzpah; the less-than-dynamic duo preview a network detective series; and, following an emergency landing on Venus, the intrepid interstellar officer candidate and his crew enjoy some pleasant surprises among the flora and the fruits of the vines. Writers, it is alleged: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.
Suspense: 2462 (CBS, 1962)—Lawzon Zerbe in a provocative late-series installment as a poet in a dystopian future who works in a government job and imprisoned for “wasting time” writing poetry and failing to contribute mathematic or scientific work, then faceing trial by computerised justice. Guard: Robert Dryden. Young Guard: William Mason. Lieutenant: Robert Randle. Court Stenographer: Rosemary Wright. Announcer: Unidentified. Music: Ethel Huber. Director: Bruno Zirato, Jr. Writer: George Bamberger.
The Big Show: Bitchcraft, the Continuing Story (NBC, 1951)—It opens and continues with Dame Tallulah and Gypsy Rose Lee (Bankhead: I’ve played before every man and woman in the world; Lee: I must admit, honey, I’ve only played to half your audience), which is one way to open a fine evening with Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Portland Hoffa, Judy Holliday, Vaughn Monroe, Patrice Munsel, and Meredith Willson. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Music: Meredith Willson and the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, Fred Allen, Selma Diamond, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.