Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ask Molly: Issue 1

Dear Ms. McGee,

The other night my husband suggested that when our children are old enough to understand what they’re hearing and seeing, we’re going to get rid of cable television and start regularly listening to old time radio shows. What can you tell us about what’s available, and what would you recommend for youngsters?



Dear GF,

Why not start now? Exposing babies to language in any way is nearly always positive (One soap box at a time, but baby sign is also a great way to accomplish this). Being able to do this without the negative effects of television's visual stimulation (see this article - and this one - for more on that) is the perk of Old Time Radio. You'd have to dig to find shows with questionable content, so you're pretty much safe with anything. Personally, I think the comedies are best for young 'uns. Of course my favorites are the staples: Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, and the inspiration for this blog, Fibber McGee and Molly. While I personally find her voice aggravating, little babies might enjoy the adventures of Baby Snooks.

You can even introduce your son (son, what? You said children. I must be psychic) to classic movies and stories through OTR. Every age is a good age for Bing Crosby. With Christmas right around the corner, Cinnamon Bear can be a fun romp for the kiddos, along with these classics - Jack Benny at his best.

The main benefit of getting your child interested in Old Time Radio from a young age, is how cool his Auntie Molly will think he is for it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So this is Christmas?

The only member of family that I will be spending Christmas with this year is my Mother. Which is great, and I am looking forward to it. But it's difficult not to ache for the rest of my family. I've come to terms with it at this moment in time, but it's hard to imagine I'll be so complacent come Thursday morning.

If other factors in my life were different, I may not feel as "family sick." But I currently have 90% of my belongings in storage so I can live with a family I babysit for. This definitely has its perks (read: perk. No rent), but I didn't plan ahead, and all of my Christmas memorabilia is too hard to reach in my little storage unit. So I am left this year without my beloved Old Time Radio tapes. I realize that I can search online for MP3s of Jack and Mary Christmas shopping or of Fibber's ill-fated decorating dreams. But it just isn't the same.

It just isn't the same.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day to the one who started it all.

I have no doubt that if my dad had never purchased that cheesy, plastic radio case full of classic shows from yesteryear, I would never have gotten into Old-Time Radio. If he had tried to introduce it to me in Jr. High or High School, I probably would have rolled my eyes and kept listening to blink-182. But I received those tapes at an age when I was young enough to not be self-conscious about listening to them. And once I grew to love the radio shows I was never able to stop.

My dad is still one of a only a handful of people that I can talk to about the shows. He actually knows who I'm talking about when I drop names like Don Wilson or Bill Goodwin. He laughs at silly lines like I do and can be equally creeped out by a really good episode of "Suspense!"

Recently the poor guy unwittingly exposed himself to poison ivy whilst weed eating in South Carolina. Yesterday he sent two photos via e-mail: how he used to weed eat and how he weed eats now.

So on this father's day I wish for you that poison ivy be eradicated and that we have many years ahead of us full of, amongst other things, lots of good OTR talk. Thank you for saving me from myself. If it weren't for those tapes I would probably instead have a blog dedicated to all things "One Tree Hill."

Love you, Pops!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

OTR stars get animated.

As I've mentioned before, old-time radio has been a part of my life since before my age had two digits in it. Which means that by the age of 24 I had heard Phil Harris' voice as the bandleader on the Jack Benny program easily thousands of times. It was ingrained into my conscious and subconscious. Yet until less than a year ago it hadn't clicked that I had heard that voice elsewhere.

One day I was watching "The AristoCats" with some kids I babysit. I was in the kitchen, head turned away, and realized I was a hearing a familiar voice, but it was out of context. I closed my eyes and concentrated. Then it hit me. How had I never noticed it before?

Phil Harris is not only the voice of Thomas O'Malley the alley cat in the aforementioned cartoon, he is also the voice of Baloo in "Jungle Book" and Little John in "Robin Hood." All movies I have seen many-a-time in my life, and somehow it just never clicked. How had I missed it? I could understand if these weren't cartoons, I'm just now beginning to faces to all of the voices I'm oh-so-familiar with. But I hadn't recognized his voice. It confounded me, but I was intrigued. What other old-time radio stars had made cartoon appearances? Here's what I've found so far:

Jim Jordan, aka Fibber McGee, is the voice of the albatross, Orville, in "The Rescuers." (Another revelation that made me go "DUH!")

Ok, well that's really all I have for now. Do you have a name to add to the list?

Jack Benny presents the "Golden Memories of Radio."

Kudos to my brother. This year he got me (his wife, too, of course, but I'm pretty sure he's the one who found it) a set of records of Jack Benny reminiscing about, you guessed it, the golden age of radio.

I finally got a chance to listen to side one of record one last night and was immediately hooked. Benny describes radio as "do-it-yourself television." You paint your own picture with your imagination. He begins with a clip to help warm up your imagination. And what is said clip? McGee opening his infamous closet, much to Molly's dismay, and the inevitable tumbling out of all of his junk. The scene is an array of clangs and bangs and clashes. Not a single item is named, yet the listener is able to create a clear picture for themselves.

The next clip comes from Philco Radio Time, a show hosted by my first love, Bing Crosby. Benny and his real-life wife and on-air costar are the guests on this episode, and the former is attempting a solo on his violin. After a few failed tries he proclaims, "I can't understand it, I've never played so poorly." To which Crosby replies, "Oh cheer up, sure you have."

Then Jack plays a clip chosen by George Burns himself as one of his particular favorites from his show. It's a scene where Gracie is complaining about a list of the best men from the previous half century. Gracie has her own idea about who should have been chosen as number one on the list, and goes on and on about what a great man he is, so handsome, so talented. And naturally George thinks he is referring to him but Gracie bursts his bubble by revealing it's Charles Boyer. George is shocked. Charles Boyer over Thomas Edison? Over Albert Einstein? "Einstein is the father of relativity," he interjects. "Who's she?" Gracie Responds. "Relativity Einstein?....I think she's with Warner Bros." is George's classic answer.

The last clip is Amos & Andy, a show I've never been able to get into. Mostly because they're white actors playing off of the archetypes of African Americans. The issue of racism in OTR is a post all in its own.

Coming attractions from "Golden Memories of Radio":
- Day Time Radio & Commercials
- The Great Radio Comedians
- Radio Adventure & Drama
- The Classic Radio News Broadcasts
- The March Toward WWII
- On-The-Spot Coverage of Sports! (the "!" is in the title, I didn't add that)
- Radio Reports WWII
- Great Moments of Humor & Pathos
- Special Production: Arch Oboler presents "Cat Wife." (I've heard this before and it's disturbingly creepy. I'll try to find it online. Totally worth a listen.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm still here.

But all of my OTR tapes are in storage and my iPod is in desperate need of some updates. Stay tuned, I'll get on that shortly. Until then I'm searching online for this amazing "tale that is well-calculated to keep you in...Suspense!" starring Bette Davis that I listened to on a drive home from Dallas a few weeks back. When I find it, I'll tell you where you can listen to it.

Until then, my fellow OTR-aficionados...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Did you catch it? Did you?

Probably not. For sure no one in the audience did. It was probably the funniest part of his whole bit. Don't watch the whole thing, by any means. Let it load, then scan forward to 2:40 then watch until 2:50.

Now here is some good comedy to explain what caught my eye. Johnny Carson was copying it over 50 years ago, and last night Billy Crystal copied it on American Idol.