Saturday, June 25, 2022

10 Comic Characters You Did Not Know Were On The Radio


Ad For the NBC Archie Andrews radio series, from "Pep Comics" #54, Sept. 1945. 

When it comes to Golden Age kids' radio shows and comics from the same period, many people will remember scenes from A Christmas Story where Ralphie is a fan of the Little Orphan Annie radio series. The theme from the Red Ryder radio series is also heard in a dream sequence. It is interesting to note the many classic comic strips or comic books quickly made the transition from the page to the radio.

Buck Rogers - Regarded as Radio's first Sci-Fi series, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century premiered in 1932 on CBS radio. The series ran periodically until 1947. Buck would continue to have adventures in a 1939 movie serial, and two TV series.

Batman - While the Caped Crusader had two failed radio pilots (one in 1943, a second in 1950), he was a frequent guest on "The Adventures of Superman" radio program. Batman was usually portrayed by Stacy Harris or Gary Merrill. Robin was portrayed by Ronny Liss. Interestingly, Harris was the star of "This Is Your FBI", and Liss was occasionally cast as troubled juveniles in this series.

Flash Gordon - A year before Buster Crabbe took off to the planet Mongo on the serial screen, Gale Gordon brought the famous hero to life. "The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon" radio serial also starred Bruno Hampton as Emperor Ming. The actress who played Dale Arden (and maybe Princess Aura as well) is still unidentified.

Blondie - Following the success of the first two Blondie films starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake, a radio series began on CBS in 1939. Lake was heard as Dagwood throughout the entire run which ended in 1950. While Blondie is one of the world's longest-running comic strips, it has yet to be adapted successfully as a TV series. The 1957 and 1968 versions both lasted one season or less.

Bob Hasting as Archie on "The Adventures of Archie Andrews". Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Archie Andrews - A long, long, time before "Riverdale", and even Saturday Morning's "The Archie Show", the comic teen was the star of a Saturday morning radio series. The most famous radio Archie was Bob Hastings. This was the first of his many pop culture roles. Hastings was also the voice of Superboy in the 1960s Filmation cartoon series, and Commissioner Gordon on "Batman The Animated Series". He even appeared as a cop in the 1977 Spider-Man TV movie.

Blackhawk - The DC Comics military team appeared in a short-lived radio program in 1950 that ran for an estimated 16 episodes. The lead character was voiced by Michael Fitzmaurice was also replaced Bud Collyer as the voice of Superman during that program's final season. No broadcasts of the program are known to exist today.

Superman - Mentioned earlier in this list the "Adventures of Superman" (1940 - 1951) is probably the greatest juvenile adventure program from Radio's golden age. The series introduced mainstays to the Man of Steel's legacy like Jimmy Olsen, kryptonite, The Daily Planet as the newspaper name, Inspector Henderson, and storylines where Batman and Robin actually work together (not just nice comic covers).

Popeye - E. C. Seger's spinach-loving sailor appeared in a popular radio series sponsored by Wheatena, a hot cereal. This led to many fun adventures where the famous sailor man got a boost from a hot wheat cereal instead of spinach. 


Blue Beetle -  The original Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett a police officer who fought crime with a costume made of bulletproof chainmail. He jumped from the comic to the air very quickly after Superman in 1940. 

Ad for The Blue Beetle radio series in "Blue Beetle" Comics #05, Nov-Dec. 1940.



Skippy - Probably the least familiar title on this list but very significant in comic history. A film adaptation that year became the first and only comic adaptation to win the Academy Award for Best Director. Along with Little Orphan Annie, Skippy was one of Radio's first serialized juvenile adventure programs. No episodes exist today.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Many Faces and Voices of Yolande Langworthy

An overlooked figure in the history of American children's radio is Canadian born singer, writer and poet Yolande Langworthy (1892 - 1976). For nearly 2 short years from 1928 to 1930 she wrote, directed and sometimes acted in children's radio series for the young Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Langworthty was a contralto singer who performed on American radio stations as early as 1922 under her married name Frances Reade. For still unknown reasons she adapted the nom de plume "Yolande Langworthty" and became a famed and notable director, writer and producer for CBS. 

Her most acclaimed series was "Arabesque", (1928-1930) a prime time drama series that modernized the 1001 Arabian Nights saga with poetic readings and acting. Langworthy also portrayed "Lizzie Twitch" on one of the networks earliest comedy-variety series "The Nit-Wits" which was CBS' rival series to NBC's "The Cuckoo Hour".

Yolande Langworthy dressed in Arabian/gypsy garb for "Arabesque" on CBS radio, c. 1929.

Langworthy (Second from Left) as "Lizzie Twitch" on "The Nit Wit Hour" or "The Nit Wits"., From Radio Digest, March 1931.

Her contributions to children's media include the public recognition as "director of Columbia's children's programs". While acting, writing and directing Arabesque, Langworthy was in charge of at least 3 children's radio programs for CBS. "Mountainville Sketches" or "Littmann's Mountainville Sketches" was a series about a small town with a child and adult cast. The series was created with the intent to foster understanding between parents and children. Langworthy portrayed a teacher's wife. 

Yolande Langworthy (center) with Artells Dickson captain of the "Ship of Dreams" on "Land O' Make Believe", and Patricia "Pat" Ryan possibly the first child star on CBS.  From "What's On The Air, August 1930.

There was also a Sunday morning fantasy series called "Land O' Make Believe". The program with her most lasting legacy was the "Adventures of Helen and Mary" a Saturday morning fantasy series about two little girls Helen (Jean Derby and Patricia "Pat" Ryan) and Mary (Estelle Levy**), whose storybook fantasies were enacted by adult performers. Levy and Ryan were featured in all the other children's programing on CBS. This series was the cornerstone for the acclaimed children's series Let's Pretend.

In "Let's Pretender" Arthur Anderson's (1922-2016) wonderful book "Let's Pretend and the Golden Age of Radio", it is claimed that either CBS executives or founder William S. Paley wasn't pleased with her scripts, and felt that another writer/director was needed for the children's program. However, Langworthy's departure from CBS coincides with a lawsuit that she filed in New York Supreme Court against the network to retain rights to her "Arabesque" stories. So, for whatever reason, two years of creative writing and directing by Miss Langworthy came to an end. 

She was replaced by Nila Mack (1891-1953) "The Fairy Godmother of Radio" and the rest is history. Mack does deserves credit for turning "Helen and Mary" into the Peabody award winning "Let's Pretend". However Langworthy's tenure on the series is worth more investigating after 92 years.

This blogger is not aware of surviving scripts or recordings for the children's series directed by Langworthy so it is impossible to objectively judge the quality of content that she created for children. Without revealing too much personal information for now, Langworthy returned to Canada, where she passed away at the age of 84.

If you have additional information about Yolande Langworhty, please leave a comment or write to archivebuilder@gmail.com with "Yolande Langworthy" as the subject header. 

**In 1941 Estelle Levy began singing and professionally acting as "Gwen Davies". As of 2004 she is believed to still be living. If anyone has more information about her please leave a comment. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Abbott and Costello's "Jack And The Beanstalk" at 70!


A childhood favorite to generations of children, "Jack and The Beanstalk" premiered April 12, 1952. One of two independent productions by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello during their time at Universal Studios, "Jack and the Beanstalk" is a fun musical comedy version of the famous folk tale.

The production is not as stellar as "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), the film it tries to imitate in design, but it is fun for children and families. As a 1990s kid who first saw this film on VHS it was an equal to "Oz" or any other live action fantasy film



Initial reviews of the film in 1952 were mixed to positive, and overwhelmingly recommending the movie to kids. Praised among the cast were Buddy Baer as the giant, 6' 2" Dorothy Ford as the giant's housekeeper, and Barbara Brown as Jack's mother. Adding romance and excellent singing were James Alexander, a stage veteran as the Prince, and Shaye Cogan a television vocalist as the Princess. 

The songs are fun and well written. Costello is a surprisingly good singer, able to still be funny while bolting a rhyming lyric.

Today after 70 years the film looks and sounds better than ever with new 4K restorations.

Watch Jack and the Beanstalk: 4k Restoration Special Edition on Tubi: https://link.tubi.tv/9mKqvnqjbpb

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Building an Art Linkletter Collection


As a millenial, I grew up watching the Bill Cosby version of "Kids Say The Darndest Things" which aired from 1998 to 2000 on CBS. The Cosby version, like the new reboot with Tiffany Haddish, showed classic clips with original host Art Linkletter (1912-2012). Linkletter was fascinating to watch and the clips had a timelessness about them. 
A week before the passing of Art Linkletter in May 2010, I purchased a vintage copy of his 1966 book "The Secret World of Kids". Linkletter's books remain fascinating today for his communication with children on the classic "Kids Say The Darndest Things" TV segments. Some of the topics the children would bring up are also great time capsules about what 1950s to 1960s children knew, or thought they knew.


Across the past 12 years, I have slowly picked up other copies of Linkletter's books plus ephemera from his days as a judge for Pillsbury competitions. With these materials there can be an Art Linkletter subject collection.

Friday, March 11, 2022

TV's Small Fry Club at 75


According to many TV histories, when Small Fry Club (originally "Movies For Small Fry) premiered March 11, 1947 it was the first children's program to air on a multiple stations by a network. In this case the DuMont Network.

It was a new beginning for commercial broadcasting for American children. Big Brother Bob Emory (1897 - 1982) would be a familiar and welcome face on the small screen months before Fran Allison and even Buffalo Bob Smith. 

A real Small Fry Club for membership did exist and children would receive membership cards. The orginal Small Fry Club ended in 1951. Reportedly only a small portion of one episode has survived to this day. 

Those small children who watched old movies and cartoons with Big Brother Bob, and the puppet shows, lessons on good manners, and funny characters would most likely be between 75 and 84 years of age today. If you remember this gem from TV's golden age please leave a comment or write to archivebuilder@gmail.com with "Small Fry Club" as a header.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Lost Kids TV - Famous Fairy Tales on WXYZ-TV

 Famous Fairy Tales

Aired: c. January 1949*** to January 1950 or 1951(?) WXYZ-TV Detroit, Michigan. Various times, usually Mondays at 7:00pm EST.
Puppets and Stories: Betty Rypsam and Marion Parker.
 
The Hook (what makes this series extra appealing): An overlooked early children's series depicting fairy tales by a gifted college graduate.
 
Radio station WXYZ  of Detroit, Michigan was famously known as "the last name in radio" and as a powerhouse of legendary juvenile radio shows like The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. When the WXYZ television station launched in October 1948 series for children's premiered soon after.  

Betty Rypsam as president of the Michigan State University Orcheis Modern Dance Artists, from the 1947 Wolverine Yearbook, Michigan State University. Image courtesy of the University Archives and Historical Collections of Michigan State University.

One of the first kids series on WXYZ-TV was called "Famous Fairy Tales". The star of this program was Betty Rypsam a recent art graduate from Michigan State University. Rypsam was only 21 years old when she signed a 13 week contract to do a puppet show on the station. The 13 weeks turned in a full year of programs every Monday at 7:00pm. Well qualified for this series Rypsam had crafted puppets since the age of 8 and drew attention in the local media for co-writing puppet shows.

The Detroit Free Press newspaper devoted a full page article to Rypsam's puppetry, which earned her additional praise in the Puppetry Journal published by the Puppeteers of America. In a few newspaper TV schedules, her puppets were billed as the "Rypsam Marionettes." As a student Rypsam was president of the MSU Orcheis Modern Dance Artist Organization, and one wonders if she incorporated dance into her TV storytelling as well. 

Betty Rypsam, early TV puppeteer for WXYZ Detroit.Betty Rypsam, early TV puppeteer for WXYZ Detroit. 13 Aug 1950, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com

Helping her with scripts, voices and manipulating the puppets for "Famous Fairy Tales" was a woman named Marion Parker. As of this writing no other information has been found on Parker.

The exact format of the program is unknown. The programs can be found in TV listings for Canada, and Ohio. Only a handful of titles could be pulled from station listings which include:

  • WXYZ-TV. 1949, May 02, 8:00pm - "Jorinda and Joringel" 
  • WXYZ-TV. 1949, September 12, 7:00pm "Peasants Wise Daughter" 
  • WXYZ-TV. 1949, September 19, 7:00pm "Tortoise and The Hare. 

"Famous Fairy Tales" disappeared from TV listings after January 1950. Rypsam and Parker did return to the air, but with adventure stories instead of fairy tales. The new name of their series and whether they switched stations is still unknown. A 1984 article in the Detroit Free Times claimed that their series ran until 1951. After 1955 Betty married and became Betty Schudel. She passed away in Naples, Florida in 2012.

If you have more information about Betty Rypsam, Marion Parker or "Famous Fairy Tales " on WXYZ-TV please leave a comment or email archivebuilder@gmail.com with "Rypsam" or "Famous Fairy Tales" as a subject. 

***Notes: A program called "Grimms' Fairy Tales" aired on WXYZ-TV from October to December 1948. It is unknown if this program was the predecessor to "Famous Fairy Tales".

Links/References. 

Sterling, Pauline. "Betty Keeps Busy: One Puppet Show 4 Months' Work" Detroit Free Press, 1950 August 13. Page 29. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/92089518/betty-rypsam-early-tv-puppeteer-for-wxy/

Puppetry Journal, 1949: Vol 1., Iss 1: https://archive.org/details/sim_puppetry-journal_1949_1_1/page/n7/mode/1up?q=television 

Puppetry Journal August 1950 Vol 2. Issue 1 - https://archive.org/details/sim_puppetry-journal_1950-08_2_1/page/22/mode/2up?q=%22marion+parker%22

Monday, December 27, 2021

Campus Hoola (1946 - 1947) TV's First Teen Show at 75

Behind the scenes look at a Keds commercial for "Campus Hoopla", from Televiser, March 04, 1947. Image scan from worldradiohistory.com

Campus Hoopla (debuted as Campus Sugar Bowl***)                                                                                        Aired: December 27, 1946 - December 19, 1947 Fridays at 8:00pm EST on WNBT New York. Seen on NBC's Eastern stations (only 6 in 1946)

Host: Lou Little. Sports Reporter: Bob Stanton Commercial Spokeswoman: Eva Marie Saint, Soda Shop Dancers: Carleton Carpenter, various.

The Hook: (what makes the series unique) This was the first television program geared to a teenage audience on an American television network. Some sources would say this was the first children's TV program after World War II.

75 years ago today, television audiences viewed a new program that was set in a campus soda shop. The program featured teens dancing to juke box music, cheerleader performances and playing quiz games. Bob Stanton would report on high school sports. Also a talented songwriter, Stanton worked under his real name Bob Haymes (1923-1989) beginning in the 1950s.

Woolery's history claims that this series premiered over WNBT on Friday, December 27, 1946. In TV listings for that date, the program in the 8:00pm time slot is called "Campus Sugar Bowl". The very next week, the series was called "Campus Hoopla" suggesting a last-minute name change. 

The series was sponsored by the U.S. Rubber Company, parent corporation over Keds shoes. Keds shoes were among the products plugged to teens during the program. The U. S. Rubber Company also promoted other shows that may have appealed to young audiences like "Serving Thru' Science". 

From Television magazine, March 1947

Unlike a majority of programs from television's pioneering era, footage of "Campus Hoopla" has survived as part of the Hubert Chain Kinescope collection. This footage from the October 3, 1947 broadcast was uploaded to YouTube in 2019 by the "Free The Kinescopes" channel.


1947/48 Hubert Chain pre-kinescope television recordings (For the Campus Hoopla footage start at 34:40)
 

Hopefully, a descendant of a cast member may uncover behind-the-scenes home movies of this landmark series. Classic television and film actress Eve Marie Saint (1924 - present) is one of the few surviving original cast members. 

NOTES:

***The TV Listing for the premier of "Campus Hoopla" as "Campus Sugar Bowl" comes from The Daily Record (Long Branch, New Jersey), dated Fri, Dec 27, 1946 . This listing is accessible at https://www.newspapers.com/image/497437950

Woolery, George W. Children's Television, the first thirty-five years, 1946-1981, Part II: live, film and tape series. 1981. Scarecrow Press.