Poking fun of itself is often an old-time radio staple; poking fun at its periodic fads or nuisances seems almost a requirement. Poking fun at radio quiz shows is only too often tantamount to sending some of radio’s cleverest comedians—Fred Allen, Goodman Ace, and Henry Morgan come to mind at once—into the proverbial candy store with an unlimited budget.
When the Wistful Vista virtuosi takes one of their earliest cracks at the fledgling but soon-to-be ubiquitous (and often obnoxious) quiz and giveaway shows, the genre isn’t even close to what would cause critics to cringe and more discreet listeners to cower. Visiting the local radio station for a tour, Fibber (Jim Jordan) is getting a little bored Molly (Marian Jordan) insists on sticking it out, and the Wunderkind of 79 Wistful Vista backs into a chance to make a radio impact.
That’s because the McGees bump into Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) at the station, and the big blowhard is stuck like a pin in a cushion—he has to launch his own radio show, promoting his foundations business, and has no idea of what to do . . . until you-know-who offers to help him formulate one—a studio audience-participation quiz show, which may or may not prove as uplifting or as unique as a Gildersleeve girdle. Which shouldn’t prevent you from laughing along with this company as they zap the fledgling form with barely-disguised pleasure.
The Old-Timer/Horatio Boomer: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, Jimmy Shields. Writer: Don Quinn.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Great Gildersleeve: Does Leroy Need a Mother? (NBC, 1944)—Six months after his wedding plans with Leila collapse, still hesitant about romancing randy nephew Leroy’s principal Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet), Uncle Mort (Harold Peary) wonders whether Leroy (Walter Tetley)—whose solicitousness of late seems a shade suspicious, until he finally takes his report card out of its three-week hiding—isn’t missing something without the maternal touch. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.
Our Miss Brooks: Head of the English Department (CBS, 1949)—Connie’s (Eve Arden) hope to head the English department ramp up when the pregnant incumbent retires . . . until she remembers exactly who makes the official recommendation to the school board that has to approve the appointment. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Miss Enright: Mary Jane Croft. Announcer: Bob LaMond. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer/director: Al Lewis.
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Preparing to Attend Truman’s Inaugural (NBC, 1949)—The mixup resolved, Phil (Harris) leads his band to President Truman’s inaugural after all. Not that it’s a smooth path getting there, of course . . . Herself: Alice Faye. Remley: Elliot Lewis. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Willie: Robert North. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.
The Halls of Ivy: Medal of Honour (NBC; AFRTS Rebroadcast, 1952)—In one of the best-written and most understated installments of this distinguished, if short-enough lived comedy, the Halls (Ronald and Benita Colman) and Merriweather (Gale Gordon) try to help Ivy’s ROTC captain (Kirk Bartell) reconcile his snobbish girl friend (Alice Backus) to her modest father (Jess Kirkpatrick)—whose popular campus hot dog stand is putting her through Ivy in the first place. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolfe. Writers: Don Quinn, John DiGrassio.
Box 13: Three to Die (Mutual, 1949)—“Great oaks from little acorns grow. And before this one was over, the acorn grew into a large, large oak,” pronounces Dan (Alan Ladd) upon a vague letter, from a major builder whose tunnel project has been hit by accidents he thinks are inside jobs . . . and who fears publicity if he complains to the police. Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Unidentified. Writers: Richard Sandhill, Russell Hughes.
The Whistler: Impulse (CBS, 1949)—His wife’s incessant dissatisfaction moves an English professor (John Beale) to give in—fatefully—to the temptation to walk out of his own life and into that of a friend forced to retirement on doctor’s orders. Blanche: Betty Lou Gerson. Additional cast: Mary Lansing. The Whistler: Bill Johnstone. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Bob Wright.
Let George Do It: The Floaters (Mutual-Don Lee, 1950)—A young woman wants Valentine (Bob Bailey) to look into an apparent double suicide involving an immigrant woman and her husband but Valentine begins to smell murder soon enough. Brooksie: Florence Robinson. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: John Hiestand. Music: Eddie Dunstedter. Director: Don Clark. Writers: David Victor, Jackson Gillis.
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Duke Red Matter (Part One; CBS, 1956)—Abbott Stables’s Duke Red is a thoroughbred destroyed over a serious injury in an accident, and Dollar (Bob Bailey)—asked to review a $65,000 insurance claim on the horse—smells trouble when the stable’s business manager is dismissed after filing the claim, and its veterinarian may have destroyed the horse a little too swiftly . . . and without formal photographic or X-ray evidence of the horse’s injury. Additional cast: Barbara Fuller, Barbara Eiler, Herb Butterfield. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Amerigo Moreno. Director: Jack Johnstone. Writer: John Dawson.
Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police: In an Octopus’s Garden (Syndicated, 1937)—In Honolulu under assumed names, Speed (actor unknown) and Barney (John Gibson) rescue a girl who mentions their real names, forcing them to deny their identities to protect their assignment of catching the Octopus—who sends a note warning the boys to turn back. Uncle Clint: Howard McNear. Writers: Unknown.
The Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Death is an Artist (CBS, 1945)—A police reporter (Lee Bowman) has a once-in-a-lifetime story interrupt his cribbage game with a precinct officer: a barge dweller who slaughtered his own cats before slitting his own throat. Additional cast: Unknown. Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Frederick Mayfield.