Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hollywood in New York

Radio stations in the Golden Age of the ‘30s and ‘40s had three sources of programming. They could create their own, of course. They could work out a contract to affiliate with a network. Or they could buy transcription discs containing full or partial programmes from a production company.

Production values on a syndicated programme weren’t generally anywhere close to something you’d hear on NBC or CBS simply because the production companies didn’t have big money sponsorship like the networks. But one company gave it a try by ponying up the cash for the occasional ‘A’ list guest.

Kermit-Raymond Corporation came up with a show in 1944 called “Hollywood’s Open House.” Originally, it was in conjunction with Motion Picture magazine. Two parted company apparently in 1948 but the show carried on for a while after that. “Hollywood’s Open House” was good enough to land a Thursday night slot on the flagship NBC station in New York City from December 1947 through May 1948 opposite Henry Morgan on ABC and Bob Crosby on CBS.

Syndicated programming rarely caught the attention of Herald-Tribune syndicate radio writer John Crosby, but he took a look inside “Hollywood’s Open House” in a column published on April 6, 1948. He seems to have had a little trouble with its title.

Radio In Review

A Bit Of Everything
“HOLLYWOOD OPEN HOUSE,” a transcribed syndicated program is on all counts rather difficult to explain.
In the first place it hasn’t a great deal to do with Hollywood. It is produced and transcribed in New York at a CBS theater.
In the second place, it is heard in New York over WNBC, which with superb disregard for the facts that it was “transcribed earlier specifically for presentation over WNBC at this time.”
The program is heard over 203 other stations at a variety of times.
In the third place, you never know from week to week whom you will run into on this Hollywood house party which takes place in New York at CBS for broadcast over an NBC station.
“HOLLYWOOD House Party” is a variety program on you may hear almost any combination of acts short of performing seals. The only steady contributors are Jim Ameche, brother of Don Ameche (who sounds just like him), and Ray Bloch's orchestra, a terribly noisy aggregation.
Jim introduces, Ray accompanies. The rest of the show is provided by the guests, who may be—depending on what week you’re listening—Jack Benny, Bert Lahr, Zero Mostel, Roddy McDowell, Hildegarde, Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone, Freddie Bartholomew, Martha Scott, Rolond Young, Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, Jack Pearl or a bunch of people not nearly so well known.
NATURALLY with such diverse talents no two of these programs sound much alike. Here is a summary of one of them which I don't claim as typical:
Zero Mostel delivered one of his comic monologs, and a very good one, on the relationship of the brain with the rest of the organism. (That’s as close as I can come to describing it.)
Freddie Bartholomew, the former child actor, then into a tragic scene from David Copperfield. Mr. Bartholomew, as I recall, played the child David in the movie years ago and it’s nice to see he has been graduated to the adult role. It’s a bit difficult under any circumstances and particularly difficult following one of the zaniest comedians in the business.
This program was rounded out by Monica Lewis, a very gentle singer, complaining of the heart-break caused her by the man she loved. As I remarked earlier, this is a variety show.
ANOTHER Hollywood Open House consisted almost entirely of Bert Lahr’s engaging nonsense.
“Eight goes into 50—no, it doesn’t. I must have missed a hypotenuse. According to statistics, people would be better off if they’d never been born, but that seldom happens to people.”
Still another one comprised of an elfin drama about the ghost of a man who had been murdered hundreds of years earlier presumably for whimsy.
As a matter of fact, it’s pretty good variety, though I’m not sure it’s pretty good radio. The only constant ingredient in Hollywood Open House is surprise.
TWO SMALL EVENTS of elusive significance:
1.—The Ogden Nash influence creeping into singing commercials has produced:
“Call for Cuticura.
It’s fragrant. It’s purah.
2.—A juvenile quiz and information program called “Mind Your Manners” has replaced “Coffee with Congress” at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays.

If you’d like to hear an episode of the show, here’s one courtesy of Rand’s Esoteric OTR, a fine web site with many old syndicated radio programmes. One of his listeners found this show was heard on WNBC on December 18, 1947.

1 comment:

  1. "[O]pposite Henry Morgan on ABC, and Bob Crosby on CBS".

    You forgot to mention what was on Mutual.