In 1943, after having published some twenty odd successful whodunits, Erle Stanley Gardner signed a contract with Procter & Gamble to bring his fictional lawyer and his team to America’s living rooms. Although scarred by his experiences with Hollywood and Warner Bros’ six reluctantly successful screen adaptations, he agreed to broadcast Perry Mason as an afternoon program to entertain his target group and thus promote his books. Despite Gardner’s own deficiencies to turn his narratives into suspenseful scripts, Perry Mason premiered in the fall of 1943 and underwent several revisions until the author finally came to like the radio version of his famous character three years later. Improved by writer Irving Vendig in 1946, Perry Mason was brought to life by several actors, among them Donald Briggs, John Larkin, Sanots Ortega and Bartlett Robinson. They presented a sophisticated, multifaceted lawyer who was in the habit of defending friends and enjoyed good food. He was supported by an ever-loyal and savvy Della Street, played by Joan Alexander, Jan Miner an Gertrude Warner. Their relationship, like in the books, remained a riddle: close-knit and intimate, yet respectful and professional, they shared a kiss more than once. Paul Drake, the smart-mouthed, brisk detective, was played by Matt Crowley and Charles Webster. Always kept on his toes by Perry’s cases and eager to banter with Della, he was an important ingredient to the slowly blooming success of a soapy yet suspenseful show. Broadcast five days a week in fifteen minute segments, Perry Mason solved his cases with the help of recurring guest characters such as Helen and Jake Jacobson, two news reporters who helped fool suspects or the prosecution more than once. Designed as a suspense program with melodramatic elements, the show lasted twelve consecutive seasons and was finally terminated in 1955. Followed by the still popular Perry Mason TV show (CBS 1957-66, NBC 1985-95) and The Edge of Night (CBS 1956-75, ABC 1975-84), selected episodes of the Perry Mason radio program are now available on The Internet Archive and Old Time Radio. Although incomplete and rather different in quality, the episodes are a wonderful treat for any Perry Mason fan, novice or seasoned, and a great addition to any radio detective collection.
TV Classics: The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
USA 1950-58, eight seasons, 291 episodes 30 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Announcer: Harry von Zell, Cast: George Burns, Gracie Allen, Bea Benaderet, Larry Keating, Ronnie Burns, Fred Clark and others
Plot summary: Gracie is a normal housewife who frequently confuses her husband and neighbors with a rather hilarious if not peculiar sense of logic.
Review: When George Burns and Gracie Allen first appeared on television on October 12, 1950, the comedy duo had already successfully jumped through the hoops of Vaudeville, motion pictures and radio for many years. Landing one of the new medium’s instant hits, The Burns and Allen Show introduced its audience to a married couple whose everyday adventures were shaped by a housewife’s genuine logic. Twisting words and ideas without deliberate intention, Gracie’s actions and stories often brought her husband to the verge of humorous desperation and made her an endearing friend to neighbor Blanche Morton (played by Bea Benaderet).
Originally shot in front of a live studio audience, the show was later filmed on set alone and broadcast with recorded reactions from a real audience. With his weekly comments on each episode and his “Say good night, Gracie” farewell, George Burns was an integral part of a show that actually circled around the charming but simple mind of Gracie Allen’s alter ego. A classic today, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show is a real treat for anyone who is looking for some diversion after a long day at the office. The episodes are short, crisp and entertaining, and never dwell on potentially unpleasant topics. Selected episodes are available on DVD or on The Internet Archive, including radio episodes and other appearances of one of America’s funniest married couples.
Do you like to listen to the radio?!
Well, if you’re like me and enjoy the beats, lyrics and commercials of the swing, big band and rock ‘n roll era, I just found the place for you today: Radio Vintage.
Go ahead and listen in, they are online and a wonderful addition to all the available programs on the Internet Archive (including Lux Radio Theater, selected episodes from Dragnet or Father Knows Best, Mr. and Mrs. North, Our Miss Brooks and Perry Mason).
But be warned, you better plan to sing along and move your feet – I know I’ve been doing that all day and enjoyed every blessed minute!