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Happy Birthday, House Jameson!


When radio’s popular family sitcom The Aldrich Family came to television in the fall of 1949, it soon established a reputation as being a sort of “revolving door” as far as acting talent went.  During its four-year run on NBC, they went through five Henrys, three Mrs. Alice Aldrichs, three Mary Aldrichs and three Homer Browns.  The one actor that remained constant—as lawyer and family patriarch Sam Aldrich—was House Jameson, who was born in Austin, Texas on this date in 1902.  Not surprisingly, Jameson played Mr. A on the radio version for practically its entire run as well.

jameson7House went into acting almost immediately after graduating from New York’s Columbia University in 1924.  He did quite a bit of stage work with various stock companies; his Broadway debut in a production of St. Joan found him holding a spear.  Later in his noteworthy dramatic career, he had high-profile parts in productions of Never Too Late and Don’t Drink the Water.  But like many actors at that time, Jameson found that radio promised a steady paycheck, and he soon found himself in high demand on the airwaves—he even landed a plum role as the titular hero of Renfrew of the Mounted, which was heard over CBS from 1936 to 1937, then on NBC Blue from 1938 to 1940.  Daytime soap operas also put groceries on the table; House played roles on such series as Brave Tomorrow, By Kathleen Norris, Hilda Hope, MD, Marriage for Two, This Day is Ours and Young Widder Brown.  Anthology programs such as The Columbia Workshop and The Cavalcade of America also made use of Jameson’s dramatic talents.

Dick_Jones_Katherine_Raht_House_Jameson_Aldrich_Family_1944House Jameson introduced the famous “creaking door” on Inner Sanctum Mysteries for a fleeting moment in 1941 before host Raymond Edward Johnson began entertaining listeners with his morbid sense of humor, and Jameson also played David Harding, Counterspy on that long-running series’ premiere before being replaced by Don McLaughlin.  The actor was also one of several who played Dr. Benjamin Ordway—known to many listeners as Crime Doctor.  But it was his role as Mr. Aldrich on The Aldrich Family that cemented House’s radio immortality; the role of the stern but loving father (and that’s how he was addressed—never “Dad” or “Pop” like those other radio juveniles who had no respect for their elders) fit him like a glove as he spent week after week trying to undo whatever catastrophe his well-meaning son Henry had concocted.

jameson4Until the medium said its final goodbyes, House continued performing in radio, on series like X-Minus One and Suspense, but playing Sam Aldrich on the boob tube version of Aldrich Family opened up new vistas in television.  He appeared on live dramatic anthology programs like Robert Montgomery Presents and The U.S. Steel Hour, and made guest appearances on regular series such as The Phil Silvers Show, The Defenders and N.Y.P.D.  Jameson also harkened back to his radio days with regular roles on TV soap operas like The Edge of Night and Another World; he even appeared on the cult daytime drama Dark Shadows a time or two.  He appeared on several occasions on the TV crime drama Naked City, which seemed only fitting as he had a prominent showcase in the original 1948 movie noir of the same name; other movies on which the actor worked include Parrish (1961) and Mirage (1965).  His last feature film before his death in 1971 was The Swimmer (1968), in which he played Mr. Chester Halloran, the nudist neighbor of protagonist Ned Merrill (played by Burt Lancaster).  (Nudist?  What would Alice, Henry and Mary say?  Or Aunt Martha, for that matter!)

20465Earlier this year, Radio Spirits had yours truly compose the liner notes for a CD collection of broadcasts from The Aldrich Family…which was a very enjoyable experience for me because, though the series might seem a little corny and dated to some, I think it’s a splendid situation comedy.  I can certainly see why it was an audience favorite for so many years—in its heyday, its ratings were on par with the comedy shows hosted by such legendary comedians as Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy.  We also encourage you to check out the birthday boy on two DVD collections: House appears in the premiere episode “Black November” on Route 66: The Complete First Season, and guest stars in two hilarious outings (“That’s Show Business” and “The Biggest Day of the Year”) of Car 54, Where are You? on that classic comedy’s second season set.

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