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Happy Birthday, Pat McGeehan!

Patrick Joseph McGeehan—born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on this date in 1907—enjoyed a long and fruitful association with comedian Red Skelton.  He joined Red’s radio program as an announcer in the fall of 1943 and, though he would eventually take a back seat to Rod O’Connor as Red’s foil, McGeehan was still on hand as an assistant announcer…plus he played many incidental roles on the show as well.  Pat would later transition to Skelton’s TV series, as an announcer, during the 1951-52 season.

According to an April 30, 1944 issue of Radio Life, Pat McGeehan considered himself “dull copy.”  This was far from the truth! At the age of 14, young Pat was filled with wanderlust and signed on to be an apprentice seaman on the Leviathan.  He globetrotted in that capacity for six years and, upon his return to New York, he began working in various vaudeville and musical comedy shows. That is, until he made the acquaintance of wire walker Con Colleano.  Colleano hired McGeehan to be a companion-secretary, and the duo traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada for another six years with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

McGeehan would eventually leave Ringling to focus on a show business career…but the Great Depression was at its height, and Pat had to settle for a gig with the Works Project Administration, handling a pick and shovel.  Eventually, McGeehan—through his association with both the Federal Theatre Project and the Pasadena Playhouse—started to land some radio jobs, and it wasn’t long before he was one of the busiest actor-announcers in the industry.  His pre-Skelton work includes assignments on The Romance of the RanchosThe Cavalcade of America, and Dr. Christian. One of his high-profile gigs was as an announcer on an Orson Welles series, Ceiling Unlimited, which premiered over CBS Radio on November 9, 1942 for Lockheed Vega Aircraft.  (Come to think of it—I’d be curious to know just how many people in the radio audience were looking to buy an airplane.)

Welles’ stint with the program didn’t last long; Orson had a disagreement with an agency man and walked off the show. The hosting duties were left to various guest celebrities until Lost Horizon author James Hilton took over in June.  Two months later, the series was re-christened America—Ceiling Unlimited and revamped as a half-hour variety program, with Welles’ Citizen Kane co-star Joseph Cotten as master of ceremonies.  McGeehan continued in his role of announcer until the show signed off on April 30, 1944; by that time Pat was not only working for Red Skelton, he was doing up to six shows a day.

Red Skelton wasn’t the only comedian in need of Pat McGeehan’s services.  Pat worked for a time as an announcer on the Joan Davis and Abbott & Costello shows, and would ply his comedic acting talents as a guest on the likes of The Adventures of MaisieBurns and AllenCommand PerformanceThe Eddie Cantor ShowFibber McGee & MollyThe Great GildersleeveThe Jack Benny ProgramThe Life of RileyMail Call, and Meet Mr. McNutley.  His work on weekly dramatic and anthology shows included Diary of FateFamily TheatreGunsmokeHollywood PreviewIntrigueJeff Regan, InvestigatorLet George Do It, The LineupThe Roy Rogers ShowScreen Directors’ PlayhouseStars Over HollywoodSuspenseThe Whistler, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Pat McGeehan played “Ben Calvert” on an NBC West Coast soap opera, The Story of Aunt Mary, for several years (the show ran from 1942 to 1951) and was associated with The Hour of St. Francis (a syndicated dramatic anthology that, despite its title, ran only fifteen minutes).  Pat was “the voice” of the latter show, and he gained much recognition for his recitation of the Catholic saint’s peace prayer.  McGeehan even got the opportunity to be the star of a show: a syndicated series entitled Strange Adventure.

Pat’s movie work relied on his announcing talents; he narrated such films as The Dark Past (1948), Son of the Renegade (1953), and Okefenokee (1959).  Yet his talents as a voice actor came in handy in the field of animated cartoons. The IMDb doesn’t credit him, but he’s been identified by ‘toon experts as participating in such Tex Avery-directed efforts as Doggone Tired (1949) and Rock-a-Bye Bear (1952).  McGeehan also did voice work on an early television cartoon series entitled NBC Comics. Rounding out his small screen work are announcer-narrator assignments on the likes of The Bob Hope ShowThe Loretta Young ShowFibber McGee & Molly, and Insight.  His final TV credit (according to the IMDb) was on an episode of The Law and Mr. Jones; he left this world for a better one in 1988 at age 80.

As a member of the wonderfully hilarious ensemble that comprised radio’s The Red Skelton Show, you’ll find much McGeehan in our Red collections Scrapbook of Satire (with liner notes by yours truly), Clowning, and our newest release, Mischief.  There’s also Skelton to be had in our Yuletide sets Christmas Radio Classics and Radio’s Christmas Celebrations, and in our all-star comedy compendiums Comedy Goes West and Great Radio Comedy.  See of you can identify our birthday boy in Burns & Allen: Muddling ThroughFamily Theatre: Every HomeRoy Rogers: King of the Cowboys, and Suspense: Beyond Good and Evil.

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