Monthly Archives: June 2013

There is a saying that goes: “From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.” If radio, in pre-television days, were the acorns, then T.V. might be that mighty oak.
Remember Agnes Moorehead, Endora the meddling mother, from the T.V. sitcom “Bewitched?” What about Gale Gordan as Mr. Mooney, the ill tempered boss, from “The Lucy Show?” How about William Conrad with his sizable belly, tight lip, and rambling baritone voice, when he starred in the T.V. detective shows “Cannon” and “Jake and the Fatman?” Familiar names, but television was only a part of their career histories.
Would you believe that “Endora” once acted with Orson Welles in the radio series, “The Shadow,” playing Lamont Cranston’s beautiful sidekick, Margot Lane? Can you imagine the “Fatman” playing Gunsmoke’s rough, tough Matt Dillon when it aired on the radio?
Anyone familiar with Gordon’s character, Mr. Mooney, wouldn’t be surprised that he played parts in radio sitcoms ranging from the short-tempered bosses in “My Favorite Husband,” and “Our Miss Brooks” to the television stack-blowing boss in “The Lucy Show.”
It would certainly come as no surprise to Jay Hickerson, a contributor to On the Air, The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. According to him “Ninety percent of actors who were on television in the 1950’s got their start on radio.”
For those lucky enough to own one radio, during its golden age before television, must have seemed like a blessing. It brought the world into your home and it did more than just broadcast events that could be read about in the newspaper—it entertained. It attempted every genre: comedy, drama, adventure, musical, Western, and even quiz shows.
Before television, radio had a monopoly on the attention of the American public. As a medium, it had shows ranging from what people considered wonderful to those saturated with junk. Like the television-watching public of today, a radio program could air for years or only a day.
Radio shows came out of one of three national centers: Hollywood, Chicago, or New York. At one of these centers the careers of actors, writers or directors could be made or lost. Whatever the show, two worlds existed side by side: one behind the microphone and one heard through it. Amazing things were accomplished behind a microphone, while. hearing a show, letting it stimulate the listener’s imagination made it charming.
Though that world has faded, radio shows were a national force that shaped the opinions of three generations and would carry these opinions in generations to come. Like the mythical phoenix, which explodes into flames when dying, that world would be reborn when remnants of it would rise from the ashes and leave their mark on television.
How would this mark be made?
One way is that, from radio, the concept of the “spin-off’ first developed. Early examples of this appeared when Harold Peary’s character, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, from “Fibber McGee and Molly” left to do his own show” “The Great Gildersleeve.” Another one is when Phil Harris and Dennis Day of “The Jack Benny Show” would also have shows of their own: “The Phil Harris/Alice Faye Show” and “A Day in the Life of Dennis Day.”
Radio shows such as Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and Dragnet would make the transition to television and inspire other family programs (Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons) and police shows (The Untouchables, The FBI) for television.
Another concept is when an event, usually a crime or tragedy, would be inspired from real life and then be told, documentary style, in radio shows such as Suspense or Dragnet. Though used on Dragnet’s television version, this formula has been used on other police shows as “Law & Order.”
Sometimes an idea for a radio show could inspire an idea for a T.V. show. The premise of one short-lived radio sitcom, Granby’s Green Acres, featured an ex-banker who takes his bewildered family to the country to become farmers. Writer Jay Sommers, who developed this show, would eventually team up with writer/producer Paul Henning (The Beverly Hillbillies) and produce another Green Acres hit for television.
For the entertainment-loving public, probably the greatest contribution is when radio actors would provide the star on television shows and even provide the voices to cartoon and movie characters.
The Jack Benny Show was a springboard for several performers on the show. Bea Benadaret who played Gertrude the switchboard operator, and would continue to other numerous radio roles, would play T.V. parts of Pearl Bodine(The Beverly Hillbillies), Kate Bradley(Petticoat Junction) and Betty Rubble (The Flintstones).
Another Benny performer, the “man of a thousand voices,” Mel Blanc, who provided the sound effects for show which included Benny’s antique car, his pet parrot Polly, polar bear Carmichael, and the harried department store clerk at Christmas, would go on to voice Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and other Warner Brothers cartoon characters.
Thurl Ravencroft, best known for voicing “Tony the Tiger” of Kellogs Cornflakes commercials and would sing “Mr. Grinch” on Seuss’s holiday special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” started as the baritone of the Sportman’s Quartet who sang the songs for Benny’s sponsors,
The “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” had it share of radio voice actors, some among them from thrillers. June Foray, who acted in radio shows, such as The Whistler and Lux Mystery Theater, would provide the voices Rocket J. Squirrel, Natasha, and Nell Fenwick. Paul Frees, whose deep voice could be heard on Suspense, could be heard as no-goodnik Boris Badanov.
Hans Conried, who rivaled Gale Gordon as a radio “stack-blower,” would become the voice of Dudley Do-right’s nemesis, Snidely Whiplash. Walter Tetley, who voiced The Great Gildersleeve’s pre-pubescent nephew, Leroy, would also provide the voice of Sherman, the boy partner of the super-intelligent dog, Mr. Peabody(Peabody’s Improbable History).
It should be noted that another popular radio actress, Mercedes McCambridge, whose radio credits included I Love a Mystery and Red Ryder would use her vocal skills to voice the Demon in the 1973 movie, The Exorcist.
Perhaps the foremost example or radio’s legacy can be seen through the career of Sheldon Leonard. Though best remembered onscreen for his role of Nick, the bartender, in It’s A Wonderful Life, it was during his radio career when he was best known for his Damon Runyon-like gangster roles such as Spike McGurk on “Duffy’s Tavern” and as the racing tout on The Jack Benny Show.
Leonard’s career didn’t stop there. Besides acting, he also wrote for radio, and would go on to write, direct, and produce for television. With Danny Thomas, he helped develop shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC, and I Spy.
His influence would be seen in the writers he mentored: Danny Arnold (Barney Miller), the team of Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson (The Odd Couple, Happy Days) and Bill Persky and Sam Denoff (That Girl, Kate and Allie).
Not bad for a guy who worked in radio.
The tiny acorn of radio may have faded, but the mighty oak if grew into is still appreciated to this day.


There is an old saying: “Behind every successful man there is a good woman helping him.” When thinking of Jesus Christ, one probably remembers his disciples, all men, mentioned in the Scriptures, who followed him and helped build his ministry. One may be surprised to find that women played a part, not only in his ministry—but his life.
According to Women in the Ministry of Jesus, by Ben Witherington III, during the time of Jesus, “a woman’s sphere of influence was confined to the connection to her family, her faithfulness to her husband, and her domestic responsibilities.” The status and cultural view of women, at the time, can be summed in a prayer that reads: “I am glad that I was not born a woman.”
Throughout the gospel of Luke there are examples of how Jesus, in his treatment of women, defied tradition.
• Chapter 8:1-3, he accepts women into his inner circle.
• Chapter 10:38-42, the story of Mary and Martha, he teaches one sister while the other struggles to fulfill her traditional domestic obligations.

• Chapter 13:17, he calls a woman, whom he has just healed of an eighteen year infirmity, a “daughter of Abraham”. Although Jesus’ critics reprimanded him for healing her on the Sabbath, he does so in order that she might hold a place of honor where the “sons of Abraham” ruled.

In the fourth chapter of John, which describes Jesus’ encounter of the Samaritan woman, He violates three traditional rules of the time by 1) not possessing a cup or bucket when he stops at a well, 2) talking to a Samaritan when Samaritans and Jew were considered enemies, 3) and most significantly, talking to a woman in public—especially a women who has had five husbands.
The Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John list women who followed Jesus during his ministry. According to Luke, these women had been healed by Jesus and helped support him and the disciples “out of their own means.” These Gospels lists Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleophas, Joana the wife of Herod Antiphas’ steward, Chuza, Sussana, and many others not named who followed Jesus’ works and preaching.
It is not clear what the “means” these women had. They probably had domestic roles such as cooking, serving food, and getting water from wells. Though women are not mentioned in particular Scripture passages, they probably helped when it came to the feeding of the five thousand. Women possibly served in other ways such as speaking with other women and tending to children who shyly came with questions.
Women may have provided financially to Jesus ministry. Donating money to rabbis was not uncommon. Where and how these women would have owned money and property is not clear. Single women would have had better access to these resources than married women, whose husbands and fathers would have had to support them. Jesus’ charismatic power as a preacher would be proved, if it inspired women to go against the norms they had been taught, sell their valuables to provide monetary funding, and then followed him.
Though women are seldom mentioned during Jesus ministry, they are mentioned in each of the four gospels at his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection.
Each Synoptic Gospel, at the crucifixion, mentions women at the foot of the cross.
• Matthew lists Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the
mother of Zebedee’s children.

• Mark also denotes Mary Magdalene, names Mary the mother of James the
younger and Joses, and a woman named Salome followed him to Jerusalem,
were in his presence.

• John lists Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary (his mother’s sister) the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene stood by his side until his death and through his

• Luke simply says “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee who mourned for him, prepared spices and perfume, but rested on the Sabbath.”

Each Gospel mentions women, witnessing Jesus’ empty tomb, along with the presence of Mary Magdalene. Though she alone is mentioned in John, she is named with Mary the wife of Clopas in Matthew, with Mary the mother of James and Salome in Mark, and with Joana and Mary the mother of James in Luke.
Finally, there is the proof of Jesus’ resurrection: his appearance. In Matthew, he appears to Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas. In John and Mark, he appears to her alone.
The fact that Jesus appeared to any woman after his death is significant for two reasons: women of the time were not to be taken seriously as reliable witnesses and Mary Magdalene has been established as a controversial figure—a prostitute.
Gives the traditions of the time, Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene seems contradictory. Since she is mentioned soon after Luke’s account of an unnamed sinful woman’s acceptance of forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50) from Jesus, a few early priests concluded Mary Magdalene was this same woman and this idea became popular with fourth century evangelists—though there has been no other evidence found in Scripture support it.
The most specific information given about Mary Magdalene, in the Synoptic Gospels, is that she is mentioned fourteen times more often that any male follower and that she was a “woman whom seven demons were chased out.” These gospel writers do not tell how these demons were driven out or what these demons were, though the number “seven”, a number associated with mysticism, is suggestive.
After witnessing the empty tomb, encountering the angels, and seeing his body missing, the disciples are summoned. They see for themselves his body is missing and then go back to their homes. The story could end with disciples, the men, as witnesses to these events–but doesn’t.
It suggests that, perhaps Mary Magdalene was destined to play a starring role in Jesus’ life. Maybe there was a reason she was emptied of “seven demons,” to be filled with the life transforming love of God through His son as she walked with Him on the roads to Galilee.
It would not be wrong to say that she, unbidden, out of love, made the journey to the tomb, to properly prepare him in funeral arraignments as a final token of her gratitude for accepting her when other, during her life hadn’t. Imagine the horror and heartbreak she must have felt when she saw his body missing. Imagine her joy when she witnessed the risen Lord himself as he told her to give the message, to his disciples, that he was in fact alive, though they themselves had seen the empty tomb–a role that does not fall on one of the twelve disciples—but on a woman.
No mention of the women in Jesus life would be complete without mentioning Jesus mother, Mary. Though prominent in the story of Jesus birth, mentioned at the foot of the cross with “the disciple that Jesus loved,” and worshipped by the Roman Catholic Church, there is little information in the Scriptures about her. According to tradition she is renowned for prompting her son’s first miracle and remembering all the things that the shepherds had reported to her on the night of his birth.
Denying that women were part of Jesus ministry, when the Synoptic Gospels say otherwise, would be foolish. Jesus thought that women should be treated equally in this world–and the next. From this, we can conclude that Jesus ministry were not only open to a select few—but to everyone. The women devoted to Jesus were good women who supported him, loved him—and obviously thought he was a good man.


     In 1928, struggling cartoonist, Walter Disney, had a radical plan. He created a Mickey Mouse cartoon entitled Steamboat Willie, inspired from Buster Keaton’s comedy, Steamboat Bill, Jr. That wasn’t radical; he had used this character before. The radical idea was creating a cartoon, with synchronized sound, that audiences could hear as well as see.

     Since the turn of the Twentieth Century, moving pictures were a new form of medium that held the American public’s attention like a child with a new toy. It was a recreation that came alive through Thomas Edison’s invention, the nickelodeon, a projector which at the crank of a handle, would show a motion picture brought to life with a series of still photographs for the price of a nickel.

     The first successful animated cartoon, Gertie the Dinosaur, creation of newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay debuted in 1908. Other cartoon characters emerged: KoKo the Clown, from the Out of the Inkwell series (created by Max Fleischer), Bobby Bumps (Earl Hurd in 1915), Felix the Cat (Otto Mesmer in 1919), Dinky Doodle (Walter Lantz, of Woody Woodpecker fame, in 1924) and Oswald the Rabbit (Walt Disney).

     Shown in black and white, these “silents,” animated and real, became part of a new culture. In theaters, for the price of a nickel, you could watch cartoons and moving pictures whose plots involved adventure and romance. Dialogue, printed on cards and displayed on screen, was accompanied by an organ to provide mood music.

     In 1927, moviegoers applauded The Jazz Singer. With this movie, Paramount Pictures not only established themselves as a major player in the movie business, but also ushered in a new era in motion picture history. This movie introduced the novelty of synchronized sound and impressed audiences. The “talkies” had arrived.

     A few animators tried to add sound to their cartoons, but had failed to impress audiences when the sound failed to be in sync with the storyline. In May, 1924, Dave and Max Fleischer’s Inkwell Studios had earlier produced seven sound cartoons, the “Song Car-tunes,” but failed to keep the timing fully coordinated. In October, 1928, Paul Terry released Dinner Time also using a soundtrack—but failed to be a financial success.

     Though conditions were right for Disney’s idea, he was taking huge gamble. Because of a salary dispute with his former employer, Walter Mintz, Disney lost the rights for his earlier creation—and best moneymaker, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mintz had ordered Disney to take a production cut to make the cartoons. Disney balked at this suggestion and quit.

     Unfortunately, Mintz owned the rights to Oswald and Disney had to give up his creation. However, there was at least one factor in Disney’s favor. Ub Iwerks, his oldest friend and talented fellow animator whom he had started work with in 1919, would come up with another character, a mouse with big eyes.    

     Disney and Iwerks had used Mickey Mouse in the cartoons Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho. Each time the response was less than positive. Much work had to be done to make the mouse talk.

     First, the silent version of Steamboat Willie was completed in August. With a limited budget, Disney and Iwerks worked out of Disney’s garage in secret. A projector, with the cartoon, was run through a window and shown on a sheet, so that the segments could be followed and the sound effects and music could be placed.

     Disney’s crew handled the sound effects. Wilfred Jackson played the music on a mouth organ, Iwerks banged on pots and pans for the percussion segment, Johnny Cannon provided sound effects that included slide whistles and spittoons for bells, Carl Edouardo conducted the music and Disney himself would voice the grunts, laughs, and squawks that were part of the dialogue.

     Now, all Disney needed was a distributor. After visiting various engineers, he finally settled on Pat Powers, chief of Celebrity Pictures. Disney knew that Powers knew the motion picture business and had gone through a similar legal battle in which he emerged the winner against an employer who tried to take Powers’ idea. Now Disney could proceed—unfortunately, the timing for the first screening of Steamboat Willie emerged out of sync and. Disney had to sell his car to raise money for a second screening.    

     On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse made his debut at the Colony Theater in New York. Steamboat Willie was such a hit that the theater held it over for another week. Yet, the mouse did not talk—at least not right away. Though Steamboat Willie had sound and music, it had no audible dialogue. This would not come until 1929 with The KarnivalKid. In it audiences, for the first time, hear Mickey Mouse speak as he shouts, “Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs.”

     With these two Mickey Mouse cartoons, sound in animation became part of the culture. During the next decade, advances were made:

  •      In 1929, Disney launched Silly Symphonies which had mostly music,  , and no reoccurring characters. One such feature was the Skeleton Dance, the first successful synchronization set to music.


  •      In 1930 Sid Fleischer introduced Betty Boop voiced by Margie Hines. She went on to voice Olive Oyl from 1938-1943. Though Hines did the voice for Boop’s debut, Mae Questel was Betty Boop’s voice from 1931-1938 and Olive Oyl’s from 1933-38 until Fleischer took his studio from New York to Florida–and Questel refused to move with it. Hines voiced the roles of Betty and Olive during the years in Miami, until Paramont took over Fleisher’s studio moving it back to New York, where Questel voiced both roles in 1944. She also voiced Betty Boop, during her cameo appearance, in the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


  •      In 1931 Warner Brothers introduced Merry Melodies. Walt Disney Productions introduced Goofy voiced by Pinto Colvig. Colvig had made his debut when he voiced Mickey Mouse’s dog, Pluto, and voiced Practical Pig in Disney’s cartoon, Three Little Pigs, in 1933.


  •      In 1934, Disney studios introduced Donald Duck, who was voiced by Clarence Nash until his death in 1983. In 1986, Tony Anselmo, Nash’s protégé, became Donald’s voice.


  •      In 1936, Paramont Pictures produced a cartoon in Technicolor, Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor with the cast of Jack Mercer(Popeye), Mae Questel(Olive Oyl) and Gus Wickie(Sinbad). Sinbad was presumed a clone for Bluto who would later be voiced by William Pennell and Jackson Beck.


  •      In 1937, Walt Disney produced Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which cast Adriana Caselotti(Snow White), Lucille La Verne(Wicked Queen), Harry Stockwell(Prince), Pinto Colveg(Grumpy, Sleepy), Roy Atwell(Doc), Otis Harlan(Happy), Scotty Mattraw(Bashful), Billy Gilbert(Sneezy), Eddie Collins(Dopey), Moroni Olsen(Magic Mirror), and Stuart Buchanan(Huntsman).   


     From 1941-1945, animation played a part in America’s war effort. One example is the Donald Duck cartoon, Der Fuehrer’s Face. In it Donald experiences the nightmare of working in a German munitions factory only to wake to the beacon of the Statue of Liberty, kisses it and proclaims how “glad her is to be an American.” This won the 1942 Academy Award.

     And to think it all started with a talking mouse.