Radio Western Adventures
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Placing the entire run in the same prime-time time slot helped as well. Broadcasting on Mondays, after the dinner hour, gave CBS their best bang for the buck--and best opportunity for success. CBS inaugurated its first Forecast season in the Summer of This was another strategic move. CBS's prime-time slots were invariably occupied with one or more of their nightly, longer-running successful programs. In this instance it was Lux Radio Theatre , a solid, already long-running, highly popular CBS drama and movie anthology. Most major productions broke for the Summer. So rather than fish around for something to keep the slot warm for three months, CBS essentially put the onus on themselves with these two seasons of Forecast.
It was a clever, well-calculated gamble. Forecast's opener for its first season was a half-hour of Variety followed by a half-hour of Drama. Whenever CBS aired a double bill they would generally air the New York broadcast first in the line-up, followed by the Hollywood broadcast. Given the prime-time Lux Radio Theatre slot allotted to Forecast , it made better sense to air the East Coast broadcast first. Pitting a contemporary Dance Band against a more traditional Symphonic Orchestra provided a rarely heard counterpoint between the two, often dissonant, major music formats, hence the name.
Conjecture as to its merits aside, the airwaves were already filled with any number of Band Remotes, as well as a full compliment of traditional symphonic orchestral offerings. In addition, programs such as The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street already provided some of that counterpoint and entertaining dissonance. Esteemed Metropolitan Opera commentator Milton Cross delivered the critique of the mostly Jazz, Boogie-woogie and Swing music program, given in equal measure of tongue in cheek and artistic assessment. It ran for twelve years. The Battle of Music might very well have made a respectable run, but it wasn't picked up.
So score this one a delayed fuse, perhaps. Proposed as an inspirational dramatic anthology series, The American Theater would have drawn on the finest American novelists of the 19th and 2oth Centuries, anthologizing a broad cross-section of simple, hardworking Americans and the values they held most dear.
Houseman also directed the production. The stirring music was scored and directed by Lud Gluskin. Married couple, Frederic March and Florence Eldridge performed very poignantly and effectively, but The American Theatre wasn't picked up. Proposed as an anthology of retrospectives on noteworthy years in America's Entertainment Past, it was more a vehicle for Danny Kaye's versatile antics than any other element of the production.
And in that regard it worked, albeit on a timed fuse basis. Danny Kaye would launch his well-received The Danny Kaye Show with Lionel Stander four years hence, in much the same mixed format--minus the retrospective hook. So perhaps give this preview a close, but no cigar. Proposed as a suspense thriller anthology, aptly titled, Suspense , the preview production mounted The Lodger with no less than Alfred Hitchcock directing his own adaptation of his own silent film chronicling the infamous Jack The Ripper-- The Avenger.
Wilbur Hatch --of The Whistler --provided the wonderfully atmospheric musical scoring and direction.
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It was a stunning presentation, as might be expected from the sheer talent behind the preview. Intended as a vehicle for the only recently immigrated Alfred Hitchcock and his already lengthy filmography, the concept in its original form would have seen Hitchcock adapt his many films for a Radio thriller anthology.
Suspense would go on to six highly successful seasons in early Television as well. As it turned out, Suspense didn't need Alfred Hitchcock to sustain it, nor did Alfred Hitchcock need Suspense to kickstart his career in America.
Radio Western Adventures
But this historic juxtaposition of one of history's great Radio thriller anthologies and one of history's greatest thriller directors makes this broadcast one of The Golden Age of Radio's genuine treasures. Forecast's third week was another mixed bag and, again, somewhat bittersweet. Given all of the well-deserved publicity The American Red Cross earned throughout the first half of the 20th Century, it defies logic why this program wasn't picked up. The concept wasn't lacking in the least, and Loretta Young and Elliott Lewis were predictably effective in their respective roles. A beautifully sympathetic treatment of a True Boardman story, we personally found Angel very compelling.
RADIO WESTERN ADVENTURES to Include Never-Before-Seen Lester Dent Western Tale “Snare Savvy!”
One can only surmise that the timing simply wasn't right for its star, Loretta Young. For whatever rationale, Angel wasn't picked up--ever. Ed Gardner debuted his irrepressible 'Archie', manager of Duffy's Tavern. A precursor to any number of local watering hole formats that followed it for the next sixty years, Duffy's Tavern was an almost Runyonesque treatment of the second home--and refuge --that, for many during the era, was their local neighborhood bar. The Radio program also spawned a star-studded feature film, Duffy's Tavern All in all a very lucrative franchise, indeed.
And it all started here, in CBS's Forecast.
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Forecast's fourth week brought one of the run's relative turkeys, an hour-long Variety format posited around the concept of presenting one American State's performers and musical and comedic traditions each week for, one would surmise, an intended forty-eight weeks. Perhaps they'd have lumped Rhode Island and Delaware into one week and brought the run in at forty-seven weeks. Not to demean the concept, but with the Nation at War and on the brink of being at War on two fronts simultaneously, one can't really see such a format succeeding. Sooner or later one or more of the smaller states would have come up dry, and in any case, we were a nation trying to pull together, not compete or attempt to one-up one state over the other.
Given the political temperament of era, one has to wonder if this wasn't just another CBS attempt to appease Representative Martin Dies of Texas.
In any case, the Hollywood broadcast preview showcased the State of Texas. One of the brighter spots of the presentation was the opportunity to showcase young starlet Virginia Vale. Hedda Hopper and Knox Manning were also predictably entertaining. Needless to say, Of Stars and States didn't make the cut. Forecast's fifth attempt was another stark contrast in formats--and quality.
From New York we got The Life of The Party , a kitchen sink kind of production, positing the notion that every entertainer "has at least one bit he or she can do better than just about anyone else. Wodehouse's classic comedy Leave It To Jeeves.
New York's kitchen sink broadcast had everything from American legend Bill Robinson tap dancing on a typewriter , to a musical fire extinguisher , to a man singing with his hands , to four of the Brooklyn Bums in a singing quartet--oh, and Hildegarde. It just didn't ring true. Alan Mowbray and the supporting West Coast cast were very entertaining, and Edward Everett Horto n was wonderful in almost any other role but Bertie Wooster. Apparently the listening audience agreed with us.
It's really, really hard to mess up P. Wodehouse , but somehow CBS managed to do just that. Wilbur Hatch's transitions were--yet again--wonderfully timed and effective. But Leave It To Jeeves ultimately got left behind. Esteemed critic Clifton Fadiman emcee'd. If for no other reason than to hear a reasonably clear rendition of Woody Guthrie, this particular preview is a genuine keeper. Putrefaction was a central theme of this presentation.
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Double Feature was an interesting contrast. The question raised was, "Did they really live happily ever after?
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To sum this one up, think Walt Disney meets The Bickersons and you pretty much have it. It was cute, novel and unique, but it got the hook. Starring married couple Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester , the story is a characteristically interesting Corwin twist. Charles Laughton sets down to pen a letter to his son for the son's twentieth birthday-- fifteen years hence.
The further twist is Laughton is an infantry officer writing from a trench on the battlefields of France, only moments away from one of those suicide charges so prevalent--and deadly--in trench warfare. There's no question this format would have succeeded had it been given a chance. The contrast between the rather frivolous fare of Ever After and the poignant tale of a doomed man writing his last letter to his only son was a pretty great expanse of emotional impact.
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Had CBS turned over the entire production to Corwin's short stories, there's no doubt it would have attracted an audience--and sponsors. Corwin's genius is nowhere better showcased than in the remarkable number of poignant, shared vignettes of Life that Corwin manages to cram into this limited fifteen-minute format. Laughton and Lanchester were predictably brilliant. First from New York was an all-star musical montage starring gifted, legendary baritone Paul Robeson leading several Negro performers and groups.
And ambitious it was, for a half hour format.
It was over before it started. One wonders what they might have mounted with a full hour to present their talent. For its part, CBS was too politically cowardly to promote the All God's Children production, other than by the faintest of possible praise.