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Happy Birthday, Everett Sloane!


In the 1941 movie classic Citizen Kane, Kane’s business manager Mr. Bernstein makes an observation that remains in the memories of movie fans long after Kane’s final reel has unspooled: “One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off.  A white dress she had on.  She was carrying a white parasol.  I only saw her for one second.  She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.”

sloane6Citizen Kane was the feature film debut of actor Everett Sloane (who played Bernstein).  Today is the anniversary of his debut on Earth, when he was born in Manhattan, NY in 1909.  Although Sloane would never be mistaken for a leading man, he enjoyed a fruitful career as a respected character actor on stage, in movies, and on TV.  (He even dabbled in songwriting and directing.)  Since radio is an aural medium, however, Everett could play as many handsome male leads as his heart desired over the ether…and suffice it to say, he was one of the busiest actors to ever stand in front of a microphone.

Everett Sloane once remarked to an interviewer: “I never got the idea of becoming an actor until I was about 2 years old.”  It’s nice to know Everett carefully took the time to consider his options.  At age seven, he made his footlights debut in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (he played Puck)—but his first professional gig wouldn’t happen until 1928, in a play performed at The Cherry Lane Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Sloane had been enrolled at The University of Pennsylvania, but left in 1927 to join a stock company in Moyland, PA.  An actor’s life is not an easy one, and because thespians thrive on little luxuries like food, clothing, and shelter, young Everett found a job as a stockbroker’s runner on Wall Street for the princely sum of $17 a week.  A year later, that ballooned to $140 a week when he was promoted to manager’s assistant.

sloane11Sloane, however, became one of the many victims of the Wall Street Crash in 1929; because his salary was slashed in half as a result of that financial disaster, he aggressively began looking for acting jobs…and found a welcome home in radio.  His first gig was on a broadcast of WOR’s called Impossible Detective Mysteries.  Further opportunities on shows such as 40 Fathom Traveler followed, and in 1935 Everett became a member of the large cast of performers on the highly-rated The March of Time.  Also appearing on Time was a young Orson Welles, who cast Sloane in his 1937 Mutual radio production of Les Miserables, and later made him a member of his renowned Mercury Theater company.  This insured that Everett worked steadily on such Orson-dominated shows as The Shadow (he often played Shreevy the cab driver) and The Mercury Theater on the Air (and later, when Theater had secured a sponsor, The Campbell Playhouse).

At the same time that Everett Sloane was emoting on The March of Time, the actor made his Broadway debut in a production of Boy Meets Girl…and he followed that success with such plays as All That Glitters (1938), Native Son (1941—the last of the Mercury Theater productions), and A Bell for Adano (1945).  A 1946 revival of The Dancer gave Everett his first opportunity to direct, and in 1960 a revue entitled From A to Z (with a book co-written by Woody Allen) featured a number of songs contributed by novice tunesmith Sloane.  (The cast of that production featured Hermione Gingold, Elliott Reid, Stuart Damon, Bob Dishy, and Larry Hovis.)

sloane1It’s safe to say, however, that radio was Everett’s bread-and-butter—his acting over the airwaves netted him at one time an annual income of $50,000, and Sloane himself estimated that in his first fifteen years in the business he performed on an average of twenty shows a week.  Everett was heard on daytime dramas like Betty and Bob, Central City, The Guiding Light, Pretty Kitty Kelly, This is Nora Drake, and Valiant Lady.  He was a cast member of The Goldbergs for eight years (as son Sammy), having previously appeared on Gertrude Berg’s The Heart of Glass in 1935.  Sloane also made the rounds on many an anthology show, including The Cavalcade of America, The CBS Radio Workshop, Columbia Meets Corwin, The Columbia Workshop, The Ford Theatre, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, The MGM Theatre of the Air, The NBC Star Playhouse, The Philip Morris Playhouse, The Radio Reader’s Digest, Studio One, and The Theatre Guild of the Air.

Everett Sloane sidekicked as Denny on Bulldog Drummond alongside his fellow Mercury Theater thespian George Coulouris (who played the title role), and at one time was Dr. Benjamin Ordway on radio’s Crime Doctor (a role played previously by another Mercury alum, Ray Collins).  Other shows on which Everett appeared include The Adventures of the Abbotts, The Affairs of Peter Salem, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, Cloak and Dagger, Crime and Peter Chambers, Crime Does Not Pay, The Danny Kaye Show, The Falcon, Inner Sanctum, The Man Behind the Gun, The Molle Mystery Theatre, Mr. Ace and Jane, The Mysterious Traveler, Stroke of Fate, Suspense, Treasury Agent, True Detective Mysteries, Words at War, and You Are There.  Beginning in July of 1953, Sloane was heard as Captain Frank Kennelly on Twenty-First Precinct, a part he played until 1955 (when James Gregory took over).

sloane2Somehow, Everett Sloane missed out appearing in Orson Welles’ second directorial movie effort, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).  But he more than compensated for this with a role in Journey Into Fear (1943—film buffs still debate whether Welles directed this one despite the credit of Norman Foster), and made a memorably formidable villain (a criminal defense attorney confined to crutches) in Orson’s cult noir The Lady from Shanghai (1947).  (Everett also appeared with Orson in 1949’s Prince of Foxes.)  Many of Sloane’s finest moments onscreen were Orson-free, however: a sympathetic doctor in The Men (1950); a mysterious mob figure in The Enforcer (1951); and a ruthless boss in Patterns (1956).  Everett’s other film appearances include The Big Knife (1955), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Lust for Life (1956), and The Disorderly Orderly (1964).

dicktracyEverett made many inroads into television as well…though one of his more prolific gigs harkened back to his radio roots: he was the voice of Dick Tracy in an animated cartoon series produced in 1961 (in addition to providing voices on The Adventures of Jonny Quest).  Sloane also flexed his directorial muscle on episodes of Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, and Hawaiian Eye, while making the acting rounds on the likes of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, and Zorro.  (Ever whistle the theme to The Andy Griffith Show?  Its official title is “The Fishin’ Hole,” and it was written by none other than Everett himself.)  Sloane had just completed an episode of Honey West when, plagued by fears that he was going blind, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and died in 1965 at the age of 55.  (Ironically, he had played a character who committed suicide in a similar manner in 1960’s Home from the Hill.)

21317It was a tragedy for fans of radio, TV, and film when Everett Sloane took his own life…yet we can take solace in the actor’s rich radio legacy.  Radio Spirits features today’s birthday celebrant in The Shadow collections Hearts of Evil (our newest release!), Knight of Darkness, Radio Treasures, and Strange Puzzles.  A May 9, 1948 production from The Ford Theater and featuring Mr. Sloane can be found on Stop the Press!, and you can round out your listening tribute with the sets Barry Craig, Confidential Investigator, Bulldog Drummond: Out of the Fog, Inner Sanctum: Shadows of Death, and The Mysterious Traveler: Dark Destiny.  Happy natal anniversary to one of our favorite actors!

Happy Birthday, Lamont Johnson!


I’m certainly not the first person to observe that the best directors—whether they work in film, television, theater, or elsewhere—are often those with an extensive background in acting…and today’s birthday celebrant, Lamont Johnson, certainly proves to be a solid example of this.  Born Ernest Lamont Johnson, Jr. in Stockton, CA on this date in 1922, Lamont would become a highly respected film director (The McKenzie Break, Cattle Annie and Little Britches).  He would go on to enjoy even more success on the small screen, with eleven Emmy Award nominations for directing and producing, winning two trophies each for the miniseries Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story (1985) and Lincoln (1988).  Here’s where things get interesting: Johnson got his show business break before a radio microphone; as radio’s Lord of the Jungle (Tarzan).  He certainly had an easier time of it than, say, movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller.

johnson3Lamont Johnson’s interest in radio acting began as a member of the kiddie troupe on Let’s Pretend…but it really blossomed while he was attending Pasadena City College.  By the time he transferred to UCLA, he had made his stage debut at the Pasadena Playhouse.  A hip injury kept Johnson out of the service during WW2, so to “do his bit” Lamont joined the USO and was sent to entertain troops in Europe.  His future wife, actress Toni Merrill, was in the same USO troupe (the two of them had met at Pasadena City College) and the couple eventually tied the knot in Paris in 1945.

Even before his return to the States, Lamont had already expressed an interest in directing stage plays (which he did at local theatres).  Still, to make sure there were adequate groceries on the Johnson household’s table, he relied on radio as his main source of income.  He was a member of the cast of The Adventures of Frank Merriwell, and played Ms. Warren’s first beau on the offbeat daytime drama Wendy Warren and the News (the program would begin with a legitimate newscast, then segue into the soap opera content).

johnson1Johnson’s radio resume includes appearances on such radio favorites as The Adventures of the Saint, Broadway’s My Beat, The Clock, Crime Classics, Defense Attorney, Escape, The Man Called X, The Man from Homicide, The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe (one of several actors to play legman Archie Goodwin), Night Beat, The Silent Men, Suspense, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.  Lamont’s voice—described in his 2010 obituary in The Independent as “richly sonorous” and “virile”—made him an ideal announcer, a function that he fulfilled on shows like Life Can Be Beautiful, The Six-Shooter, Tales of the Texas Rangers, This is Your FBI, Truth or Consequences, Vic and Sade, and The Whistler.

tarzanLamont Johnson’s best-remembered role in the aural medium was as the lead on Tarzan, a transcribed series that began in 1950 as one of several series from syndicator Commodore Productions (at the time enjoying great success with Hopalong Cassidy).  By January of 1951, Mutual made room for Tarzan on its schedule, and from March 22, 1952 to June 27, 1953 the series aired over CBS Saturday evenings, sponsored by General Foods/Post Toasties.  It was at this point in Johnson’s career that he also began appearing in films like Retreat, Hell! (1952), Sally and Saint Anne (1952), The Human Jungle (1954), and The Brothers Rico (1957).  Universal had signed him to a contract, but Lamont never made the impact on audiences that his fellow studio contractees Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, or Jeff Chandler did.  He gravitated toward acting on television, and from there it was just a short walk to working behind the camera.

johnson2Lamont’s first television assignment was to tackle a one-hour adaptation of Wuthering Heights for NBC-TV’s daytime Matinee Theater, and his success paved the way for 77 additional live productions for that series over the next two years.  Johnson then moved seamlessly into the world of taped television programs, helming episodes of programs like Have Gun – Will Travel, Peter Gunn, Naked City, and Dr. Kildare.  His work for The Twilight Zone still resonates with fans of that iconic series years later, with classic episodes like “Nothing in the Dark” and “Kick the Can.”

Johnson’s debut as a feature film director was 1967’s A Covenant with Death, a legal thriller with a promising plot that was ultimately sabotaged by its leaden pace.  Lamont followed it with The Mackenzie Break (1970), an exciting thriller with the novelty of German prisoners busting out of an Allied POW camp.  Many film critics agree that The Last American Hero (1973), a docudrama featuring Jeff Bridges as the legendary stock-car-racer Junior Johnson (though Bridges’ character in the film goes by “Junior” Jackson), represents the director’s finest achievement on the silver screen…eclipsing other Johnson-directed efforts such as A Gunfight (1971), You’ll Like My Mother (1972), and One on One (1977).

thatcertainsummerLamont Johnson received the first of his eleven Emmy Award nominations in 1970 for My Sweet Charlie—a controversial telemovie for its time, with an interracial romance at the center of its plot.  Lamont had to settle for a Directors’ Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for that project, which he shared with assistant director Ralph Ferrin.  Johnson courted controversy again three years later with That Certain Summer, the first TV-movie to tackle the taboo subject of homosexuality—and was again nominated for an Emmy, but lost (though he added a third DGA trophy).  Lamont’s other Emmy-nominated telefilms include The Execution of Private Slovik (1974—the story of the only American soldier executed for treason since the Civil War), Ernie Kovacs: Behind the Laughter (1981), and The Kennedys of Massachusetts (1990).  Johnson’s direction of 1975’s Fear on Trial, adapted from John Henry Faulk’s autobiography about his experiences on the blacklist, was also nominated for an Emmy…and had great verisimilitude for the director, who once found his name on such a list.

19576“Projects about human problems, about the testing of the human experience, about the pressures which exist upon human beings in a difficult world, are what really involve me,” Lamont Johnson was once quoted as saying. “The traps people get into and have to battle out of are the elements of drama with which I like to deal.”  Johnson left this world for a better one in 2010, but his radio legacy is well preserved by Radio Spirits in the following collections: Broadway’s My Beat: Great White Way, Broadway’s My Beat: Murder, Broadway’s My Beat: Neon Shoals, Crime Classics, Crime Classics: The Hyland Files, Defense Attorney, The Man From Homicide, The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe, The Six-Shooter: Gray Steel, and The Six-Shooter: Special Edition.  Happy birthday to the multi-faceted Lamont Johnson!

“…the Texas plainsman who wandered through the western territories, leaving behind a trail of still-remembered legends…”


In Leonard Maltin’s anecdotal old-time radio page-turner The Great American Broadcast, there’s a photograph of Parley Baer chatting with Academy Award-winning actor James Stewart—and in the caption underneath Maltin notes that Stewart was “one of the best of the Hollywood stars who moonlighted on radio.”  Most old-time radio veterans solidly agreed with this assessment.  Dick Beals had high praise for Jimmy’s thespic skills behind a microphone, observing that Stewart “was a total professional as a radio actor and never tried to draw attention to himself as the star.”

shooter5Stewart demonstrated that he had impressive radio chops as far back as the mid-30s, appearing on the likes of Hollywood Hotel and The Lux Radio Theatre. As a contract player with M-G-M, he made regular visits to the studio’s Good News program between 1937 and 1940.  But Jimmy wouldn’t commit to a weekly series until the 1950s—when transcribed programs made it easier to work around celebrity schedules—and when he did, he was the star of one of radio’s best “adult westerns,” premiering on this date in 1953: The Six-Shooter.

The origins of what became The Six-Shooter go back a little further than its official premiere date; the pilot was originally broadcast on April 13, 1952 as an installment of NBC’s Hollywood Star Playhouse (1950-53).  Star Playhouse took a different tack from the other dramatic anthologies on the air (Lux, Screen Directors’ Playhouse, etc.), presenting original half-hour plays with big Hollywood names instead of the usual movie-adaptation-with-original-star(s) formula.  (For example, an August 31, 1952 episode of Star Playhouse, “Statement in Full,” served as the radio drama debut of Marilyn Monroe.)  The reaction to Stewart’s Star Playhouse episode was most positive, and NBC commissioned an audition for a possible series on July 15, 1953.  (Much of the same script was used, only a subplot from the Star Playhouse presentation—a Wells Fargo robbery that propels the initial plot—was excised.)

shooter3“The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged,” went the show’s standard opening. “His skin is sun-dyed brown…the gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both ‘The Six-Shooter.’”  Except for his horse, Scar, drifter Britt Ponset (Stewart) was the series’ only recurring character, with The Six-Shooter functioning as something of a Western anthology.  Ponset was not a lawman, but an easy-going cowpoke who roamed around doing odd jobs to keep body and soul together…never looking for trouble, though it frequently found him.  The character of Ponset was strikingly similar to those individuals played by actor Stewart in the Anthony Mann-directed movie westerns of the 1950s (Winchester ’73, Bend of the River)—reluctant heroes who functioned in a morally ambiguous universe.  Ponset helped to round up criminals and right wrongs, but refused to look at the world as good or bad, black or white.

shooter4The scripts for the series were written by Frank Burt (credited as the creator), who playfully used sources like Cinderella (“If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit”) and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (“Britt Ponset’s Christmas Carol”) for inspiration.  Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar’s Jack Johnstone directed The Six-Shooter, and the music came courtesy of Basil Adlam—who composed the memorably haunting theme “Highland Lament.”  Though The Six-Shooter arrived a little late to make a significant amount of noise in Radio’s Golden Age, a lot of the blame for its brief run can be placed on the shoulders of the show’s star.  After four episodes of sponsorship by Coleman Home Heaters, the show became a sustained program…with NBC scrambling to find another sponsor to pay the bills.  According to Jack Johnstone: “Chesterfield begged and begged and begged for months trying to get sponsorship, but Jim didn’t feel that because of his screen image that it would be fair…for him to be sponsored by a cigarette.  There was another advertiser who wanted very much to sponsor the show, but again Jim, and MCA, which owned the show, said no.”

restlessgunWithout an “angel” to write checks, The Six-Shooter eventually climbed into the saddle and rode away on June 24, 1954.  This was not the end to the series, however; in the fall of 1957, NBC-TV premiered The Restless Gun—a small screen oater clearly derived from the radio program.  (Like its radio inspiration, Restless Gun first aired as a pilot on an anthology show…on a March 29, 1957 telecast of CBS’ The Schlitz Playhouse of Stars.)  The main character was now known as “Vint Bonner,” and played by former Fox-movie-musical-turned-tough-guy John Payne.  Producer David Dortort—creator of the later Bonanza and The High Chaparral—recycled many Six-Shooter scripts (with Frank Burt receiving credit in the form of “based on characters created by”).  Restless Gun was a Top Ten hit in the Nielsen ratings in its first season (#8), but in its sophomore year the numbers took a dip and it was cancelled on June 22, 1959.  (Reruns of the series were a weekday/Saturday morning staple on ABC until September 1960.)

19198Fortunately for old-time radio fans, the entirety of The Six-Shooter’s thirty-nine episodes—not to mention its original Hollywood Star Playhouse broadcast and the July 15, 1953 audition—survived those all-too-familiar ravages of time and neglect.  Radio Spirits offers up twenty episodes of the series on The Six-Shooter: Grey Steel (the July 15, 1953 audition is in this set), and the collection The Six-Shooter: Special Edition wraps it up with the remaining twenty.  We invite you to enjoy this fine, underrated western series featuring one of Hollywood’s exemplary actors: James Stewart.

The Strangest of Puzzles


Walter Brown Gibson leaned back in his chair for a well-deserved stretch after spending a number of hours hunched over his trusty Corona typewriter.  He had just put the finishing touches on his latest contribution to The Shadow Magazine, a Street & Smith publication that resulted as a by-product from the introduction of CBS Radio’s The Detective Story Hour in July of 1930.  The S&S-sponsored program was supposed to boost sales of their Detective Story Magazine, but because the unseen narrator of those broadcasts—known as “The Shadow”—became so popular with listeners, the company decided to launch another publication based on the character.

shadow1Gibson was in the right place at the right time.  An author/editor with an insatiable interest in magic and the occult, he had submitted several of his fiction stories to Street & Smith for consideration for Detective Story…yet he was genuinely surprised when the company asked him to contribute a 75,000-word tale for what would be the premiere issue of Shadow Magazine.  That story, “The Living End,” would be the start of Gibson’s prolific fiction-writing career; he had previously written articles on the subject of magic for a number of newspapers, in addition to designing crossword puzzles.  As a nod to his lifelong interest in the art of prestidigitation, he adopted the pen name of “Maxwell Grant”—derived from the names of two of his fellow magicians, Max Holden and U.F. Grant.

It wasn’t easy maintaining the over 1,500,000-word output that Walter wrote yearly for the monthly Shadow mag, but Gibson was fortunate in that he enjoyed what he did—describing himself as “a compulsive writer.”  Yet even the most dedicated scribe knows when to “take five,” or what he himself termed as “pauses” once he had reached “the peak of progress.”  He had done so earlier that evening, celebrating dinner with friends on the occasion of his birthday (September 12, 1897).  Afterward, he returned to his typewriter in order to take up where he left off.  It was now nearing the midnight hour, and it was time to recharge the batteries in order to begin another day of writing come the following morning.

gibsonshadowHe leaned over to turn off the lamp on his desk…and that’s when he heard it.  A laugh.  A rather sinister-sounding laugh, to be sure…only Walter wasn’t actually sure he heard it.  With a second attempt to dim the lights, he heard the laugh again.  It definitely wasn’t his imagination this time.  Then a voice broke the stillness.

“Who knows…what evil…lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows…”

There was another burst of sinister chortling, and Gibson chuckled to himself as well; he recognized the words as the standard opening to the radio program on which he often served as a consultant.  All that was missing was the familiar strains of Saint-Saëns’ “Omphale’s Spinning Wheel.”

“Well, this is certainly an interesting birthday joke,” Walter called out to the voice.  He looked around the room for signs of electrical equipment or even a filter microphone.  Gibson knew enough about the art of illusion to recognize a leg-pulling when he experienced one.

“It’s no joke,” the voice replied.  “This is The Shadow.”

“Sure.  And I’m Chandu the Magician.  Look, it’s a little late for pranks, my invisible friend…and I’ve got a busy schedule tomorrow.  So why don’t…”

gibson1“Surely you wouldn’t begrudge me an opportunity to meet with my creator,” returned the voice.  “Do I refer to you as ‘Walter Gibson’ or ‘Maxwell Grant’?”

Gibson thought for a moment.  Either the individual behind this practical joke had gone to elaborate extremes to try and convince him that a character he had created had come to life…or his rigorous work schedule was giving him a not-to-be-ignored sign that he was due for a long rest.  Walter could see no upside to the latter part of that equation—so why not play along?  Sooner or later, the person behind “The Shadow” would give himself away.

“Okay,” Gibson finally acquiesced.  “Let’s talk.”

And talk they did—for the better part of…well, as to the time frame Gibson couldn’t say.  Admittedly, Walter dominated the conversation: giving his mysterious guest a lively and detailed account of his life, with a heavy concentration on his interest in magic and his boundless enthusiasm for the written word.  He felt a little funny describing for “The Shadow” how he came to create the character, combining the escape talents of the legendary Harry Houdini and the powers of hypnosis practiced by Tibetan mystics.  He also added the expertise of renowned magicians like Blackstone (for which he would later contribute scripts in a 1948-49 Mutual quarter-hour radio drama) and Howard Thurston to create illusions…just for a little spice.

shadow3The oddest part of the conversation was when Walter Gibson suddenly realized that, in fact, Margo Lane was not “the only person who knows to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs”—he created the character, so understandably he knew the Shadow’s identity as well!  “Aren’t you afraid that I’ll reveal to the world that you’re really Lamont Cranston?” Walter asked his mystery guest.  “Or I should say, former WWI aviator Kent Allard—if you’ve read any of my novels.”

The Shadow gave out with a laugh…not a sinister one, but a hearty guffaw that said “You got me there, pal.”  Gibson was relieved that his creation seemed to possess a sense of humor.  What at first was an effort to show he was a good sport about a practical joke turned out to be one of the most enjoyable evenings the author had ever spent with someone who may or may not have actually been there.  He even entertained his invisible guest with some magic tricks; though he wasn’t able to tell whether or not The Shadow actually enjoyed his efforts.

Then Walter Gibson awoke with a start.  He was seated in his favorite chair in the room where he wrote—though, in truth, he wrote everywhere…keeping typewriters in every room of the house, since he never knew when inspiration would strike.  The evidence would seem to suggest that he had nodded off shortly after completing his Shadow novel, and that his conversation with the character had all been a crazy dream.

He chuckled to himself and, returning to his typewriter, he noticed that there was a sheet of paper already in place—a habit he had adopted to make certain that he kept up his prolific output.  For a moment, he thought about transferring the events of his dream to the page…and then Gibson hesitated.  “No one would believe it,” he muttered to himself…as he embarked upon yet another well-written flight of fancy.

21317Today, Radio Spirits salutes the man responsible for creating one of the aural medium’s most enduring crime fighters on what would have been Walter Gibson’s 119th birthday.  You’ll find a goodly number of his Shadow story reprints by “browsing the stacks”, and the broadcast adventures of the mysterious hero who knows “the weed of crime bears bitter fruit” are available in the following collections: Bitter Fruit, Dead Men Tell, Dream of Death, Knight of Darkness, Radio Treasures, Silent Avenger, and Strange Puzzles.  Our latest compilation of Shadow broadcasts, Hearts of Evil, will be released soon; I was pleased to contribute the liner notes for this set, as well as indulging in a little frivolity today for Mr. Gibson’s natal anniversary tribute.

Happy Birthday, Charlie Cantor!


The actor best known for making his weekly entrance on Duffy’s Tavern with a cheery “Duhhh…hello, Arch!” was born on this date in Worchester, MA in 1898.  Charles “Charlie” Cantor was radio’s most beloved dunce, Clifton Finnegan—whose name was inspired by Clifton Fadiman, the host of the erudite radio quiz show Information Please.  That, however, is where the similarity ends: Finnegan was a well-meaning dimwit who frequently found himself embroiled in the weekly shenanigans at Duffy’s, always instigated by “Archie the Manager” (Ed Gardner).  Finnegan wasn’t ever going to be appearing on any kind of quiz show in his lifetime…unless it was It Pays to Be Ignorant.

charliecantorAt the height of his radio career, Cantor was one of the medium’s most dependable second bananas.  Like most people in the entertainment field, he had a little show business in his blood—he worked a little in vaudeville (where he did a blackface act) and as a song plugger during his school vacations (attending a number of New York institutions, finally obtaining a B.A. from NYU), and one of his hidden talents was a none-too-shabby proficiency playing barrelhouse piano.  Upon graduation, he landed his first job as a shoe salesman—he was not going to be a starving artist, but rather a success in the business world.  Sadly, his experience with big business left him flat broke, and so he turned to nightclub work…which ended up being his ticket to radio.

Charlie Cantor’s first work over the ether was as an actor for New York’s WHN in 1921.  Cantor found radio a delight, and his talent for dialects ensured that he would never lack for work.  By the mid-1930s, Charlie had established his second banana bona fides as one of the “Mighty Allen Art Players” on Fred Allen’s Town Hall Tonight.  He also appeared on shows headlined by Phil Baker, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor (no relation, of course), Walter O’Keefe, Fred Waring, Benny Goodman, Tim & Irene Ryan, and Kate Smith (he and his fellow Allen Art Player Minerva Pious even performed as a duo on Kate’s show in 1941).  Cantor didn’t just run through his repertoire of dialects on comedy and variety shows, however; he emoted on such dramatic programs as The Shadow, Gang Busters, and Dick Tracy.  An article from The Pittsburgh Press in 1943 made mention that “A few years back, before he decided there could be too much of a good thing, Charlie was on 22 shows a week—seven of them on Wednesday.”

piouscantorbrowndouglas2By the 1940s, Charlie had started to taper off his radio assignments despite regular roles on The Amazing Mr. Smith (as Herbie the valet) and Meet Mr. Meek (as Meek’s boss, Mr. Barker).  His work on Fred Allen’s show (now known as The Texaco Star Theatre) kept him pretty busy, particularly in December of 1942 when Allen instituted the “Allen’s Alley” segment on his show.  Cantor played one of the first denizens of the Alley, an amiable dunce who answered to “Socrates Mulligan.”  (Charlie also occasionally played “Rensaleer Nussbaum.”)  He’d portray Socrates for two years before Fred took his hiatus in the 1944-45 season.  When Allen returned to the airwaves in the fall of 1945, however, he would be forced to find a replacement…because by that time Charlie was devoting a lot of time to what would become his signature radio role.

cantor5Charlie Cantor joined Duffy’s Tavern while Texaco Star Theatre was in its first season.  Seemingly surrounded by a force field of stupidity, Cantor’s Clifton Finnegan became one of the most popular characters on star Ed Gardner’s successful sitcom.  On one Yuletide-themed broadcast, Finnegan explains to Archie that he’s been having trouble selling raffle tickets as part of a charity sponsored by the tavern— “I’ve been to every house on the block,” he complains.  “Well…have you been off the block?” Archie asks his pal.  “Arch…for years!” is Finnegan’s reply.  In later years, the Duffy’s scribes introduced Finnegan’s kid brother Wilfred (played by a young Dick Van Patten) to provide support for Cantor’s unforgettable characterization.  Cantor remained with the show until it left the airwaves in 1951; he even made the move to Puerto Rico when Ed Gardner decided to relocate the show there for tax purposes.

cantor13In addition to his work on Duffy’s, Charlie Cantor was a regular on The Alan Young Show, playing another mental giant named “Zero.”  Cantor was Solomon Levy on Abie’s Irish Rose, Uncle Louie on The Baby Snooks Show, and Uncle Buckley on The Life of Riley.  He also made guest appearances on other popular comedy programs, including Amos ‘n’ Andy, The Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show, The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show, Meet Mr. McNutley, My Friend Irma, and The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

Charlie had made sporadic appearances on Jack Benny’s radio program, beginning in the 1930s, often as a heckler named “Logan Jerkfinkel.”  When Jack moved to television, Cantor inherited a role that had originally been  played on radio by Elliott Lewis, a character described by Jack’s writers as a “mooley.” (If anyone looked like a “mooley”…it was Charlie Cantor.)  The mooley often turned up during Jack’s traditional Christmas shopping trek to a department store, where he would ask: “Duhhh, can I help youse, huh?”  Once asked by Jack how he wound up selling perfume, the mooley replied, “I woik in da fertilizer department, but once’t a munt they sends me up here to even t’ings out.”

cantor7Other radio programs on Charlie Cantor’s resume include Command Performance, G.I. Journal, Jubilee, The Lux Radio Theatre, Mail Call, Orson Welles’ Radio Almanac, The Radio Hall of Fame, Request Performance, The Revuers, and Truth or Consequences.  Radio was good to Charlie, and because he made such a good living emoting in front of a microphone, his movie appearances were infrequent.  He did reprise his Clifton Finnegan role for the 1945 silver screen version of Duffy’s Tavern, and also graced the casts of Stop, You’re Killing Me (1952), The Great Imposter (1961), and That Funny Feeling (1965).  Cantor made a successful transition to the small screen as radio faded.  In addition to his appearances on The Jack Benny Program, he worked on the likes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, December Bride, The People’s Choice, and Harrigan and Son (with a recurring role as “Gimpy”).  In 1966, a week after his 68th birthday, Charlie Cantor passed away.

20788Our birthday celebrant demonstrates just why he was in demand as one of radio’s top stooges with guest appearances in the Bergen & McCarthy collection The Funny Fifties, and a March 7, 1949 broadcast of My Friend Irma, available on the CD set On Second Thought.  Of course, you’ll really want to check out the work he did with the great Fred Allen in the compilations The Fred Allen Show and Jack Benny vs. Fred Allen: The Feud.  We’ve saved the best for last: make a pilgrimage to “where the elite meet to eat” and drop into Duffy’s Tavern; Duffy Ain’t Here…but Charlie Cantor definitely is as the immortal Clifton Finnegan.


Happy Birthday, Fred MacMurray!


With his first credited film appearance in 1935’s Grand Old Girl, it didn’t take long before Frederick Martin MacMurray—born in Kankakee, IL on this date in 1908—became one of the silver screen’s most personable motion picture stars.  Fred MacMurray specialized in romantic leads, notably in such screwball comedies as The Gilded Lily (1935) and Too Many Husbands (1940) …but he also received opportunities to extend his acting range with darker performances in the likes of Double Indemnity (1944).  When MacMurray began to age out of playing leading men, he continued his career as the easily recognizable Dad in both a slew of Walt Disney comedies and a long-running television sitcom, My Three Sons.

youngfredFred MacMurray may not have had a lot of acting experience when he started out in pictures…but show business undeniably ran through the family bloodline; young Fred was born in Kankakee while his concert violinist father was on tour.  (MacMurray’s aunt was actress Fay Holderness, who had performed in vaudeville.)  Both of his parents were Wisconsin natives, and when Fred was two, the family moved back to the Badger State, settling in Madison and then Beaver Dam (the place of his mother’s birth).  Pa and Ma MacMurray separated when Fred was only five, and some have speculated that the experience encouraged him to become a model father (both off and onscreen) in later years.  He graduated from high school with an impressive record in athletics, and an American Legion scholarship paved the way for his enrollment at Waukesha’s Carroll College.

MacMurray never graduated from Carroll, however.  His interest in the saxophone at an early age had grown by leaps and bounds as he got older, and while attending college he started his own three-piece ensemble, Mac’s Melody Boys.  Music eventually become Fred’s main interest, and over the years he did quite a bit of sax-wailing in dance and vaudeville bands across the country.  Arriving on the West Coast, he joined up with an aggregation known as the California Collegians; they performed extensively in vaudeville until they were asked to appear in a 1930 Broadway revue entitled Three’s a Crowd.  (That show featured Libby Holman, Clifton Webb…and some comic named Fred Allen.)  The Collegians were also featured in the 1933-34 Broadway hit Roberta as the band for “Huckleberry Haines”—played by none other than Bob Hope.

fredclaudetteThough Fred MacMurray had appeared in extra and bit roles in movies before signing a seven-year contract with Paramount, it was The Gilded Lily that made him a performer to watch.  His co-stars in that film were Ray Milland (also a Paramount newcomer) and Claudette Colbert—Colbert would eventually become MacMurray’s most frequent leading lady, appearing with him in six additional feature films: The Bride Comes Home (1935), Maid of Salem (1937), No Time for Love (1943), Practically Yours (1944), The Egg and I (1947), and Family Honeymoon (1948).  In addition, Fred made four films with Carole Lombard: Hands Across the Table (1935), The Princess Comes Across (1936), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), and True Confession (1937).  Other silver screen favorites to appear alongside MacMurray include Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams), Marlene Dietrich (The Lady is Willing), Rosalind Russell (Take a Letter, Darling), and Joan Crawford (Above Suspicion).

doubleindemnityBy 1943, Fred MacMurray was one of the motion picture industry’s highest-paid actors (he cleared $420,000 that year, making him the fourth highest-paid American).  Typecast in “nice guy” roles, it was writer-director Billy Wilder who decided to besmirch Fred’s clean-cut image by choosing him to play insurance agent Walter Neff in Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir classic in which he helps murder Barbara Stanwyck’s husband so she can collect the insurance.  Indemnity provided a much-needed dimension to MacMurray’s acting, and Wilder would call upon him again in 1960, making him an even bigger scoundrel as the unscrupulous Jeff Sheldrake in the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, The Apartment.  Those two performances, as well as villainous turns in Pushover (1954) and The Caine Mutiny (1954), clearly showed that Fred had far more depth as an actor than his previous roles had allowed him to demonstrate.

fredradioAt the height of his movie fame, Fred MacMurray often promoted his films through the medium of radio.  He made the rounds on many an anthology series, among them Family Theatre, The Gulf/Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre, Hallmark Playhouse, The Lux Radio Theatre, and Screen Director’s Playhouse.  MacMurray guested on the likes of Hollywood Hotel and Suspense; joshed with Edgar Bergen, Bob Hope, and Martin & Lewis; and did his bit for the war effort on Command Performance, G.I. Journal, and Mail Call.  Fred’s most notable radio success was a syndicated series, Bright Star, in which he and Irene Dunne (who had appeared opposite MacMurray in Invitation to Happiness [1939] and Never a Dull Moment [1950]) starred.  Dunne was Susan Armstrong, the owner and editor of the fictional Hillside Morning Star, while Fred played her ace reporter George Harvey.  The 1952-53 series centered around Susan’s struggles to keep the newspaper going, and included Elvia Allman (as Susan’s housekeeper) and announcer Harry von Zell in the cast.

shaggydogAs the 1950s came to a close, good roles came few and far between for Fred.  He started to become a fixture in Westerns, like Day of the Badman (1958) and Good Day for a Hanging (1959).  A modest little comedy film from the Walt Disney Studios would prove to be the career reboot that he needed.  Though he resisted appearing in The Shaggy Dog (1959) at first, the movie became one of that year’s biggest box office hits, and led to additional Disney work in vehicles like The Absent-Minded Professor (1961—and its sequel, 1963’s Son of Flubber), The Happiest Millionaire (1967), and Charley and the Angel (1972).  Curiously, Disney had originally pitched The Shaggy Dog as an idea for a series to ABC (who wanted the studio to duplicate its small screen success with Disneyland and Zorro), but the network nixed the idea.  Still, Shaggy Dog would be a springboard for a successful situation comedy that premiered on that same network in the fall of 1960.

sonsOn the television sitcom My Three Sons, Fred essayed the role of Steve Douglas, a widower trying to bring up his three kids (Tim Considine, Don Grady, Stanley Livingston) with the help of grandfather Michael Francis “Bub” O’Casey (William Frawley).  Movie actors still shunned TV at this time, but what sold MacMurray on the series was the working conditions: he was only required to work 65 days a year, a practice that soon became known in the industry as “the MacMurray method.”  All Fred had to do was change his cardigan for each scene shot in that time frame…and even then, a few of the show’s episodes featured him “away on business.”  The show was a big hit for ABC, and when the network couldn’t commit to filming the show in color after five seasons, Sons moved to CBS for an additional seven years.  (There were a slew of casting adds and deletions along the way, too.)

20263After My Three Sons came to an end, Fred MacMurray appeared in only a handful of films and TV movies before deciding that he’d had enough (his final performance was in 1978’s The Swarm, a picture that should have killed the careers of everyone involved).  He once described himself as being “lazy in spurts—I’d as soon go fishing or play golf.”  That’s how he lived out his retirement (he also liked painting and cooking) until his passing in 1991 at the age of 83.  To celebrate Fred’s birthday, Radio Spirits encourages you to check out The Funny Fifties, a superb collection of Edgar Bergen (and Charlie McCarthy) shows that features an October 18, 1953 broadcast with our birthday boy and Anita Gordon.  Mr. MacMurray’s signature series, Bright Star, is also available in a 4-CD set containing eight vintage shows.

Happy Birthday, Lesley Woods!


Actress Lesley Woods is described in author Jim Cox’s compendium The Great Radio Soap Operas as someone who “made a career out of playing mean-spirited first wives” in the world of daytime drama.  Woods would later earn a long list of soap opera credits on the small screen as well…yet to limit her as a performer on the “weepies” would overlook her work on such shows as Boston Blackie and Casey, Crime Photographer.  She was born in Berwick, IA on this date in 1910.

woods9A graduate of Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama, Lesley Woods set her sights on stage acting upon completion of her courses…and immediately found work in summer theatre, where her duties ranged from shifting scenery to taking over as leading lady (when the star of one production suffered a fainting spell due to the heat).  Woods moved on to a stock company in Michigan, gaining more experience in both bit parts and meatier ingénue roles…and again, filling in for those who did not believe “the show must go on” in spite of illness.  When her stint with the stock company ended, Lesley had planned to return to Chicago, but two other members from that company convinced her to move to New York.

Despite her acting experience, Woods found it rough going in the Big Apple.  Many producers would tell her at auditions, “You’re not the right type.”  But her perseverance paid off; she appeared in a Theatre Guild production of Love is Not Simple, and won roles in both Broadway’s Double Dummy (1936, produced by Mark Hellinger), and Excursion (1937).  In between her stage work, Lesley toiled as both a model and clerk for a number of stores along Fifth Avenue as well as posing for photographers and appearing in movie shorts.  Her later Broadway appearances include Comes the Revelation (1942), The Assassin (1945), Advise and Consent (1960), and A Case of Libel (1963).

CBS RadioA decision to return to Chicago for a brief vacation would provide the impetus to change Lesley Woods’ career direction…since an empty pocketbook often seemed to be an accessory to her fabulous young actress wardrobe.  While attending a party, at which a number of radio thespians were in attendance, Lesley received a suggestion that she, too, “take a crack” at acting in the aural medium.  Casting directors would soon learn that while Lesley may not have been “the right type” for stage work, her technique was just right for radio.  Woods extended her vacation in the Windy City for two years, where she worked on such series as The First Nighter Program and The Wayside Theatre.  It was at this time that she also found steady work in daytime dramas as well.

woods3Lesley emoted on the likes of The Guiding Light (as Helene Cunningham), Road to Life (Carol Evans Brent), Woman in White (Janet Munson Adams), Midstream (Meredith Conway), Backstage Wife (Maida), Bright Horizon (as both Rosie and Margaret Anderson McCarey), The Romance of Helen Trent (Tember Adams), Rosemary (Audrey Roberts), This is Nora Drake (Peggy Martinson), We Love and Learn (Mickey), Joyce Jordan, Girl Interne (Margot Sherwood—this was before Joyce became an M.D.), The Man I Married (Evelyn Waring), and Portia Faces Life (Elaine Arden).  The Great Radio Soap Operas credits Woods with fifteen daytime dramas, and that doesn’t even take into consideration appearances on non-soap opera programs such as Bulldog Drummond, The Chase, Crime and Peter Chambers, Dimension X, The Falcon, Gangbusters, Inner Sanctum, It Can Be Done, The Molle Mystery Theatre, Murder by Experts, The Mysterious Traveler, The Private Files of Rex Saunders, Suspense, This is Your FBI, Treasury Star Parade, Words at War, and You Are There.

woods21946 was a particularly prolific time for Lesley Woods; she was, as described by author Cox, “the girlfriend-confidante-accomplice of a trio of radio sleuths.”  On Boston Blackie, she was the detective’s gal Friday Mary Wesley.  She appeared for one season on The Shadow as “the only person who knows to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs”—the lovely Margo Lane.  And in the summer of 1946, Woods hung out in the dive known as The Blue Note for a brief time as reporter Ann Williams, gal pal to Casey, Crime Photographer.  Lesley’s commitment to radio drama would extend to appearances on programs that attempted to revive the medium’s Golden Age, including 60s shows like Theater Five and efforts in the 1970s like The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and The Mutual/Sears Radio Theatre.

woods7Lesley Woods’ attempt to make inroads into television hit a small snag when she was listed among many of her fellow radio performers in the notorious publication Red Channels, which was responsible for the “blacklisting” of artists due to their political affiliations.  Yet Lesley would overcome this setback, and began appearing on as many daytime television soaps as she had in her radio days.  A list of her small screen appearances in the afternoons would include Young Dr. Malone, The Edge of Night, A Flame in the Wind, The Nurses, Search for Tomorrow, The Secret Storm, Bright Promise, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, All My Children, and The Bold and the Beautiful.  Her boob tube resume also includes guest star roles in a number of TV favorites: The Real McCoys, Daniel Boone, Bonanza, The F.B.I., and The Rockford Files.  In addition, Woods made the rounds on nighttime soaps like Dallas, Family and Knots Landing; she had recurring roles on Falcon Crest (as housekeeper Mrs. Miller) and L.A. Law before her passing in 2003 at the age of 92 (a little over two weeks’ shy of her 93rd birthday).

21173Radio Spirits has a fistful of collections spotlighting Lesley Woods’ signature radio roles.  She can be heard on Boston Blackie on The Voices of Christmas Past, Great Radio Detectives, and Highway Horror; while her work on Casey, Crime Photographer can be sampled on Stop the Press! and the Casey sets Blue Note and Snapshots of Mystery.  Listen to Lesley as Margo Lane in The Shadow collections Bitter Fruit, Radio Treasures, Silent Avenger, and Strange Puzzles…and as a palate cleanser, check out Woods on the Inner Sanctum set Shadows of Death.  Happy birthday, Lesley!


Happy Birthday, Eddie Green!


If what I’m hearing are the familiar strains of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”—then we’ve apparently stumbled into old-time radio’s most famous watering hole, Duffy’s Tavern:

ARCHIE: Eddie, uh…get me a pail of hot water and a mop, will ya?

EDDIE: What for, you gonna take a bath?

ARCHIE: No, I’m gonna mop up the place…now, uh…lemme get to work here…

EDDIE: You? Going to work?

ARCHIE: Is it such a surprise?

EDDIE: Well…up to now, it’s been one of your hidden talents…

ARCHIE: Oh yeah? Well, that’s all been changed, Eddie—I’m even gonna help you do your work…now, hand me the mop…

EDDIE: Okay, but don’t get too close to me…

ARCHIE: Why not?

EDDIE: Whatever you got, I don’t wanna catch it…look, how come you suddenly wanna do my work?

ARCHIE: Eddie…just because a guy wants to help people, do you have to be suspicious?

EDDIE: If the guy is you, and the people is me…yes!!!

eddie-green-getty-imageThe actor who played “Eddie the Waiter”—essentially the “Rochester” to Duffy’s Tavern star Ed Gardner’s “Jack Benny”—was born in Baltimore, MD on this date in 1896.  Eddie Green was a show business veteran at the age of seven, performing as a “boy magician” for a number of churches in and around the Baltimore area.  By fifteen, he was hiring halls in nearby towns and making money with his prestidigitation.  He would abandon his magic act by the time he entered vaudeville, where he earned a hefty salary of $9 a week.

Green also became a fixture in burlesque.  He spent eleven years working as a right hand man for the legendary Billy Minsky, functioning as both writer and comedian.  After leaving Minsky, he started a lucrative career on stage, beginning in 1929 with the musical revue Hot Chocolates.  (Chocolates served as the Broadway debut for Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, and also featured James Baskett, future Oscar winner for Song of the South.)  Other shows that utilized Eddie’s comedic talents include Blackberries of 1932 (for which he wrote the book), A Woman’s a Fool—to Be Clever (1938), and The Hot Mikado (1939; an all-black version of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta).

eddiegreen1Eddie’s fame as a Broadway performer would later extend to the world of motion pictures.  He made his “talkie” movie debut in a 1929 Vitaphone short, Sending a Wire.  Like the pioneering writer-director-producer Oscar Micheaux, Green later participated in what were known at the time as “race pictures”—films produced with African-American audiences solely in mind.  Eddie wrote, directed, and starred in such features as What Goes Up (1939) and Mr. Adam’s Bomb (1949), and was the producer of titles like Dress Rehearsal (1939) and Comes Midnight (1940).  Green’s other motion picture appearances include Laff Jamboree (1945) and Mantan Messes Up (1946).

In a large sense, Eddie Green owed his fruitful radio career to Rudy Vallee—Vallee often featured Eddie on his Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour, Royal Gelatin Hour, and Sealtest shows.  Green was also a regular on his old friend Louis Armstrong’s variety series in 1937, where he performed sketches and routines with Gee Gee James.  Other radio shows on which the comedian appeared include The Gibson Family, Maxwell House’s Show Boat, The Jack Benny Program, The New Army Game (with Ben Bernie), Meet the Colonel (a sitcom starring F. Chase “Colonel Stoopnagle” Taylor), The Pursuit of Happiness, The Columbia Workshop, The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy, and The Philco Radio Hall of Fame.  Eddie was also a frequent performer on Jubilee, an AFRS series spotlighting top African-American talent (Lena Horne, Ernest Whitman, Leadbelly, etc.), and joshed with radio boss Ed Gardner on installments of AFRS’ Mail Call.

eddiegreen4The program that would eventually develop into Duffy’s Tavern was first auditioned on the CBS series Forecast.  Technically, Green wouldn’t join Duffy’s until the show premiered over CBS in March of 1941—but he did appear on a Forecast broadcast with the legendary Paul Robson in a production of “All God’s Children” (08/26/40).  Duffy’s would prove to be a splendid showcase for Eddie—the waiter character even shared the same surname, and as OTR historian John Dunning shrewdly observed, Green’s “cunning dialogue contained some of the show’s funniest lines.”  (An interesting note is that Eddie was no stranger to the craft of waiting on tables; he also dabbled in the food business, maintaining a chain of Harlem-based restaurants for a number of decades.)  Eddie, along with Duffy’s co-star Charlie Cantor (a.k.a. “Clifton Finnegan”), would reprise his famous radio role when Ed Gardner brought Duffy’s Tavern to the big screen in 1945.  Considered by many to be a notorious flop, film-wise, the picture actually made money due to its all-star Paramount Pictures cast.

amosandyEddie Green’s other claim-to-fame was his role as Stonewall the lawyer on Amos ‘n’ Andy; never has an individual made the legal profession so disreputable and yet so falling-down-funny at the same time.  Stonewall was a shyster…but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming one.  On one broadcast, Stonewall relates to the Kingfish the importance of maintaining positive PR with the public if one plans to run for political office—he himself has been out pressing the flesh and kissing any number of babies and young women.  “Well, what political office are you running for?” Stonewall is asked.  “I ain’t runnin’ for nothin’—I’m just out for the smoochin’!” he replies.  When Ed Gardner relocated Duffy’s Tavern from Brooklyn to Puerto Rico (the program moved for tax purposes), Eddie reluctantly gave up his gig as Stonewall and was replaced by Johnny Lee as “Algonquin J. Calhoun.”  (It just wasn’t the same after that.)

20788Duffy’s Tavern, sadly, would lose its most beloved employee when Eddie Green succumbed to a heart ailment on September 19, 1950.  If the information in this tribute seems a bit sketchy, it’s because the incredibly talented Green has never really received his proper due as a performer and comedian.  Green’s daughter Elva Diane Green has rectified this slight with the recent Bear Manor Media publication of Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer.  It is the very definition of “labor of love,” as Elva researched major archives for more information than we can make available here. (For example, did you know that Eddie wrote the song standard “A Good Man is Hard to Find”?)

At Radio Spirits, we have Eddie on tap in the Duffy’s Tavern collection Duffy Ain’t Here, and you can also hear his hilarious contributions as Stonewall in our newest Amos ‘n’ Andy set Radio’s All-Time Favorites.  Happiest of birthdays to you, Eddie Green…you always made listening to the saloon “where the elite meet to eat” a most enjoyable pleasure.