Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Radio's Perennial Baby

Jerry Hausner was blessed with a long and interesting career in entertainment, but he may have been best known for something he wasn’t.

He played a baby.

Hausner was born in Cleveland on May 20, 1909 and attended art school in that city and Los Angeles. When the stock company he was in closed in 1929, its director went into radio and job him a job on the air. He continued to appear in theatres (road companies of “Family Upstairs” and “Sailor Beware” and on the Coast in “Of Mice and Men”), did several turns in vaudeville (including a stop at the Palace as part of Gaby and Hausner), and emceed personal appearances by rustic comic characters Lum and Abner, but it was in radio where he made his name. And though he played many parts, the five-foot-six Hausner made it as a specialist, called in when shows needed someone to imitate the sound of a baby crying.

He moved into television, appearing on Phil Silvers’ first network show on NBC in 1948. Three years later Hausner won what was supposed to have been a weekly role on I Love Lucy, only to see it chopped down to a semi-recurring part, and then ending when he quit after Desi Arnaz laced into him one night. He was a dialogue director at the UPA cartoon studio (and responsible for hiring Jim Backus as Mr. Magoo). He spent some time overseas with Radio Free Europe.

But let’s go back to those days when Hausner was appearing on The Fleischmann Hour, The Chase and Sanborn Program, Screen Guild, Texaco Star Theatre, Al Pearce and His Gang and many other shows. Here’s a nice biographical feature story from Radio Life magazine of January 5, 1947.

Now To Act Like a Baby
It's a Fine Art That's Taken Radio Actor Jerry Hausner Seventeen Years to Master

By Coy Williams
YOU'D think it's the simplest thing, in the world to sit down and cry like a baby. The little babies themselves, who haven't learned anything else, do an expert job at it.
But take it from Jerry Hausner, who hasn't been a baby for a good many years, it's a tough racket and he has a lot of respect for the infants who master it so quickly. He's been crying like a baby for seventeen years—ten years in radio—and not another grown-up male has come along to compete for the squalling jobs. Not that Jerry minds. It'd be a cryin' shame if one did, he agrees.
Thus Jerry, who does a lot of things in radio besides sobbing in a high register, becomes by default Hollywood's official radio cry-baby on the masculine side, and he has acquired some unusual and diverting yarns as a result.
Like the time on "Screen Guild" when he played a bawling brat and his suffering father at one and the same time! First the baby would let out a howl and then pop would try to soothe him.
"For a couple of minutes," recalls Jerry, "I stood there at the mike just talking to myself."
He was playing the infant youngster of Phil Harris and Alice Faye on the Jack Benny show when he joined the army -probably the youngest recruit Uncle Sam got. As their radio "baby," he's been figuratively cooed at and chucked under the chin by Loretta Young, Paulette Goddard, Ginger Rogers, Ginny Simms, Hedy Lamarr and a host of other lovelies. Under this treatment Jerry didn't feel at all like crying, but he had to, anyhow.
On the "Dr. Christian" program he played a whole orphanage. For thirty minutes he whimpered, sobbed and yelled in six or seven keys, and when it was over he went to bed for two days—on silence.
After he'd been Hedy Lamarr's baby on the Jack Benny show recently he sat at home and listened to the repeat show, via transcription. His mother, sitting with him, asked "Is that really you?"
"Yes," said Jerry complacently.
His mother looked at him over her glasses: "Aren't you ashamed?"
Jerry got into the crying business quite by accident. He was already doing well for himself as assorted gangsters, smart guys, newsboys and cab drivers on nearly every program in Hollywood. Playing some such character on the old "Silver Theatre" show, he stood around listening to Director True Boardman fuming about the inadequacy of cry-baby records for sound effects. Boardman wanted a baby cry with more personality to it.
"I can do one," Jerry offered. They tried it and it sounded okay, so Jerry did it on the broadcast. Only they forgot one thing: a grown man crying like a baby in front of a mike is a pretty funny sight to an audience, and a roar of laughter in the middle of a dramatic show doesn't help it. In fact, it ruined that one.
Hide Him
After that, whenever a baby cry was needed on a serious broadcast, and Jerry did it, they put him back stage or behind a screen. If a woman did the crying, that was different. Audiences don't think a crying woman is funny even when she's crying like a baby.
Jerry had first learned the art of crying seven years before the "Silver Theater" debut, when he was working with ventriloquist Frank Gaby in vaudeville. A Spanish clown named Pepito was on the same bill. Pepito did a good crying act, and one day he showed Jerry how he did it. He simply whined through his nose instead of from his diaphragm and he used a handkerchief over his mouth to muffle the sound.
It took practice, but Jerry got it down pat and one day it came in very handy. Gaby, using an act with a wooden baby, suddenly lost his high dummy voice, and Jerry stood in the wings and did the crying over a loudspeaker, while Gaby mouthed the sounds on the stage. Nobody knew the difference.
In radio Jerry does not do his crying simply as a sound effect. He tries to give character to it; he wants the baby to sound as if it's trying to say something. Frequently it comes close enough to get a big laugh.
However, Jerry dislikes being known purely as a baby-crier. He considers it a sideline. He's primarily an actor, and a good one, with a lot of acting experience behind him. He's been a regular in radio for fifteen years and rarely a week passes that he isn't heard on three or four programs.
Not long ago he finally realized a big ambition—a running part with billing, on the "Sam Spade" show. One flaw developed, however: during the thirteen weeks or more the show's been on the air, not once has Jerry appeared in the part originated for him. The guy just never gets into the script.
The crying babies do, though. Other actors say to him admiringly, "You sound exactly like my kid at home. Whose baby did you study?" Nobody's, says Jerry. He's married, but he has no kids of his own. In fact, after seventeen years of crying babies, he isn't sure he likes kids.
Network radio was long gone by November 8, 1962 when the Philadelphia Inquirer published this story about Hausner’s infant bawling and other activities.
Crying Pays, Actor Proves

LIBERACE is credited with that critic-twitting line about "crying all the way to the bank," but it's more appropriate for Jerry Hausner, 53, a professional crybaby.
Hausner's crybaby credits include the bawling by little Ricky in "I Love Lucy," by Baby Dumpling in the old "Blondie" radio show and by Sid Melton's new baby in "The Danny Thomas Show."
He'll demonstrate his wah-wahing technique for the first time in audience view on CBS' special, "Arthur Godfrey in Hollywood," Saturday at 8:30 P. M. (Channel 10).
He's a Method crybaby, Hausner reports.
"I think of myself as the child and say what he is trying to say," he explains. "A crying baby is trying to express itself. I just try to articulate a feeling."
Hausner has an entire catalogue of baby wails. On order, he can sound happy, unhappy, hungry, critical, fidgety, ornery, irritable or lovable.
The short, stocky Clevelander's odd career started 32 years ago when he was in vaudeville. One act featured Pepito, a clown whose specialty was sounding like a baby.
"I would frequently go to his dressing room and try to mimic the sounds he made," Hausner recalls. "The most difficult thing to learn was how to constrict my throat. It's necessary to force sound into a very small passage in the throat. This simulates the sound of a new-born baby."
SOUNDING like a new baby is so tiring, Hausner says, that he never eats before crying.
Although he's at the top of many directors' lists when they need an infant's yell, he prides himself in being equally in demand as an actor. Since his first job in Hollywood 25 years ago on radio's "Lum 'n' Abner," he's kept busy as a character actor.
His TV appearances have included two years as the agent on "I Love Lucy," the milkman in "I Married Joan" and guest appearances on such shows as "G. E. Theater," "Maverick" and "Mister Ed."
He's been the voice of a duck on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and Little Beaver's pet bear on "Red Ryder."
Beyond all that, Hausner has done dozens of commercials, was program manager of Radio Free Europe in Munich for three years and was dialogue director of both the "Mister Magoo" and "Dick Tracy" shows.
Through it all, however, he has worked at being a baby. Every time he takes another assignment, he recalls his mother's reaction the first time she heard him cry professionally.
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? she asked.
Everyone thought Hausner was perfect as a baby. Except one man.

Hausner recalled quite unhappily that he went to an audition to supply the voice of a newborn that had been added to a cartoon series. He, no doubt, wailed, giggled, spurted and goo-gooed like he had successfully on radio all those years, and then was told by the voice director he didn’t sound like a baby. The part was Pebbles on The Flintstones, which voice director Joe Barbera handed instead to Jean Vander Pyl, who once said she was a little embarrassed to win the part over someone who made a career of being an infant.

We’d like to think Hausner didn’t cry like a baby after losing the part. After all, that’s show biz.


  1. But in a Pebbles episode, "Dino Disappears", Hausner DOES provide the voice of the somewhat Ed Wynn sounding show biz owner of a lookalike Dino who Fred and Barney both confuse with Dino, as part of th\at plot. (It revolved around Dino's first anniversary being overlooked, and Pebbles, being a newborn, getting all the attention,l so Dino runs away, Pebbles herself notices, cries-with VanderPyl's voice,of course, so Fred and barney have to bring him back.) Anyway, Hausner's in the part in that one I mentioned..SC

  2. And Mr.Hausner at UPA but gloofy teenager/college kid Waldo,Mr./Magoo's nephew, too in adittion to his other UPA would have been fun if the WB cartoon department had him doing baby voices in lieu of Mel Blanc (with all due respect to Mr.Blkanc,of course,unless Hausner did.)O Btw no mention of therival, Leone Le Deoux?(same with what I said about Hausner being at WB being a fun thought though it probaly never happened applying for Leone,too..).:)

  3. Oh...Lum and Abner WERE in radio, as well, so Jerry Hausner could have worked for them as a baby VERY well..for a LONG time. After all, they made THEIR name in radio too!