10 hours - Digital Download
The Old Gold Comedy Theatre
It's always exciting to hear a radio show you've never heard before -- but it's particularly exciting to discover an entire radio series that hasn't been heard since it was originally broadcast. That's the case with
"The Old Gold Comedy Theatre," an NBC anthology series broadcast for a single season between 1944 and 1945. Hosted by comedy star Harold Lloyd and featuring some of the biggest names from film and radio, this half-hour series was preserved from 78 RPM discs by Richard Simonton and has now been digitally restored by Radio Archives.
The first collection of programs - a five CD set containing ten broadcasts - was released a few months ago. Now we offer the remaining shows in the series in this new ten-hour set; twenty original broadcasts, all fully restored from Harold Lloyd's personal collection and available to hear and enjoy for the first time since their original broadcast over sixty years ago.
Mr. Simonton has graciously agreed to share with us a few notes about the series:
Preston Sturges was a hot property in 1944. Recently emerged as the director of tremendously successful comedy films such as "The Lady Eve" and "The Palm Beach Story," he had attained the summit at Paramount Pictures and was about to begin his descent toward oblivion, until again appreciated decades later by new generations.
Harold Lloyd had admired the view from Paramount's summit nearly twenty years earlier and was also, in 1944, decades away from being rediscovered, although his earlier influence was remembered by Preston Sturges. They were pals - not close friends, but sometimes would hang out together at Preston's restaurant or Harold's bowling alley.
Sturges could afford to turn it down when offered the position of host and director of a proposed radio program. "The Old Gold Comedy Theatre" was intended as a lighter version of "The Lux Radio Theatre," hosted by Hollywood pioneer (thirty years as a director and counting), Cecil B. DeMille. The story goes that when Sturges declined the job, he nominated Harold Lloyd in his place.
Harold Lloyd had performed on the stage as a youth, then entered the motion picture business in about 1912, a year or two before even DeMille. By the mid-1920's, he was the leading star of comedy films, surpassing all others in popularity and income. Some of his sound films were successful, but never approached the appeal of his greatest silents. While many film stars, such as Harold's early leading lady, Bebe Daniels, were to become popular in radio, Harold's only involvement had been as an investor in KMPC, along with Bing Crosby, Amos 'n Andy, and Paul Whiteman.
Harold Lloyd could never resist a challenge. He had to be good at everything he did, if not the best. Before tackling the job of host/director for "Old Gold Comedy Theatre," he made extensive recordings - voice tests - to "get the hang of it." By the first broadcast, Harold was at least capable, if still a bit forced and nervous. Later in the series, he sounded more relaxed, which indicated that he could have mastered it by the second season, if only there had been one. The contract called for Harold to be paid $1500 per broadcast, with an increase to $2000 by the second year and $2500 by the third, but for whatever reason, the series didn't catch on and lasted for only one season of 32 shows. The scripts were all cut down from successful comedy films of recent years, but were perhaps too truncated in half-hour form, despite the presence of big-name guest stars from the movies (and some often-heard radio character actors).
78 RPM acetate discs of 29 of the shows were found in Harold Lloyd's basement, along with some of the scripts, without which the show would have been virtually lost, except for some AFRS re-broadcasts as "The Comedy Theatre," with the commercials removed.
A couple of years later, Preston Sturges and Harold Lloyd made a film together. "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" ended their friendship and Harold's film career. (Howard Hughes later recut the film and issued it as "Mad Wednesday.") Watching the film about two months before his death, Harold admitted that maybe it wasn't as bad as he had once thought.
The series ran for only thirty two broadcasts, twenty nine of which were preserved by Mr. Lloyd in their original network form on 78 RPM copy discs; an additional broadcast was later discovered in an edited Armed Forces Radio Service version and was included in Volume 1, leaving only two programs yet to be found.
#13 The Show-Off
A businessman convinces his girlfriend that he's a successful railroad man, but his tale is challenged when he loses his job and is reduced to wearing a sandwich board in order to make a living. Fred Allen, Alice Frost, and Joseph Curtin star.
Sunday, January 21, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#14 Appointment for Love
A charming gentleman (Paul Henreid) woos a physician (Virginia Bruce) and the two impulsively get married. The honeymoon ends very quickly, however, when Jane voices her progressive views on marriage -- which include the two having separate apartments!
Sunday, January 28, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#15 My Favorite Wife
Ellen Arden (Gail Patrick) arrives home seven years after being given up for dead in a shipwreck to find that her husband Nick (Joel McCrea) has just been married to a new wife, Bianca (Constance Moore). Nick awkwardly tries to break the news gently to Bianca, but before he can do so, receives an unpleasant surprise: it seems that Ellen has spent the seven years on a deserted island with a handsome and virile fellow survivor!
Sunday, February 4, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#16 A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob
George Murphy and Lucille Ball star in a comedy about a shy, quiet executive for a shipping firm who finds himself with a dilemma: he's become smitten with his young temporary secretary but she's the girlfriend of his Navy buddy -- and the buddy is scheduled to be discharged in only a few days.
Sunday, February 11, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#17 The Milky Way
By accident, a timid milkman knocks out a boxing champ in a brawl -- which gives the champ's manager a bright promotional idea: build up the milkman's reputation in a series of fixed fights, and then have the champ beat him to regain his title. This adaptation of Harold Lloyd's 1936 film features Robert Walker, James Gleason, Eve Arden, and Nat Pendleton.
Sunday, February 18, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#18 You Can't Ration Love
Betty Rhodes reprises her film role as a young college student whose fellow female classmates cook up a plan: due to the war, there aren't enough men at Adams College to go around -- so the women institute a point system for "rationing" dates! The program also stars singing star Dick Haymes.
Sunday, February 25, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#19 Standing Room Only
During World War II, Lee Stevens (Burgess Meredith) travels to Washington D.C. with his secretary Jane Rogers (Paulette Goddard) in order to secure a government contract. But, forgetting that hotel rooms are hard to come by, Jane cancels their reservations when she feels the accommodations are inadequate. With no rooms available in the entire city, Lee and Jane pose as a married couple and take positions as maid and butler in the Cromwell home until the contract can be secured.
Sunday, March 4, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#20 The Magnificent Dope
Dwight Dawson's "success school" is proving unsuccessful, so he stages a contest to find the biggest failure in the USA. Complications develop when contest winner Tad Page, contented with his idle and lazy life, threatens to convert Dawson's other students to his peaceful philosophy. William Gargan, Janet Blair, and Tom Drake star.
Sunday, March 11, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#21 A Lady Takes a Chance
Gene Tierney plays a city girl on a bus tour of the West who encounters a handsome rodeo cowboy (Randolph Scott) who helps her forget her big-city suitors right quick.
Sunday, March 18, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#22 Brewster's Millions
Monty Brewster (Dennis O'Keefe) learns that he has inherited eight million dollars from a distant relative. But there are two catches: he must spend one million of that money before his 30th birthday in order to inherit the rest AND he cannot tell anyone about the need to spend that million in order to get the rest. With his birthday only two months away, everyone thinks that Brewster has flipped when he practically knocks himself out on a spending spree to get rid of the $1 million in time. Helen Walker and Mischa Auer also star.
Sunday, March 25, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#23 The Major and the Minor
A New York working girl (Joan Fontaine) is so desperate to go home to Iowa that she disguises herself as a twelve-year-old child to ride half fare. When her deception is discovered by the train conductors, she hides out in the compartment of Major Philip Kirby, a military school instructor, played by Sonny Tufts.
Sunday, April 1, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#24 A Slight Case of Murder
After prohibition is repealed, a bootlegging beer baron (Edward G. Robinson) decides to go legit -- but there's a problem: he's a tee-totaler, his beer tastes terrible, and nobody dares tell him for fear of losing their lives! Allen Jenkins also stars.
Sunday, April 8, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#25 The Nervous Wreck
A hypochondriac (Jack Haley) heads off for the wide open spaces for the sake of his health. Landing on a dude ranch, he runs afoul of crooks, crackpots...and a beautiful nursemaid (Martha O'Driscoll) with whom he falls in love.
Sunday, April 22, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
In a satire of Hollywood, a studio publicity man cooks up a scheme to make his girlfriend a star: he'll "plant" her with an Ozark hillbilly family, arrange for her to be discovered by the head of the studio, then make a big fuss about her in the press when she arrives in Hollywood. Problems develop, however, when the studio head travels to the Ozarks -- and proceeds to discover the wrong girl! Judy Canova stars in an adaptation of the 1940 Republic film that brought her to stardom.
Sunday, April 29, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#27 Hired Wife
An advertising man (Robert Paige) asks his secretary (Joan Bennett) to marry him in order to protect his finances during an important business deal. Once the deal is completed, he asks Kendall for a divorce -- and is dismayed when she refuses.
Sunday, May 6, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#28 She Loves Me Not
A nightclub dancer (Maria Montez) witnesses a murder and runs away to avoid being held as material witness. Landing in Princeton, she hides out in a college dorm, decked out in men's clothes and haircut by students Paul and Buzz (Tom Drake and Freddy Bartholomew).
Sunday, May 13, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#29 Boy Meets Girl
The crazy world of a Hollywood studio is revealed in this adaptation of this stage and screen farce. Two freewheeling screenwriters (Chester Morris and Lee Tracy), needing a story for the studio's cowboy star, cook up an idea centering on the unborn child of a waitress (Ann Southern).
Sunday, May 20, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#30 June Moon
Jack Carson and Frank McHugh star in this adaptation of the George S. Kaufman/Ring Lardner play concerning the relationship between a young small-town songwriter and an experienced tunesmith whose once successful career has lately hit the skids.
Sunday, May 27, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#31 Having Wonderful Crime
A lawyer (Pat O'Brien) has two friends (June Duprez and Tom Conway) who regularly coerce him into solving mysteries. Their latest investigations have left them wanted by the police, so the lawyer finds he must accompany them on their honeymoon in order to escape being arrested.
Sunday, June 3, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes
#32 Tom, Dick, and Harry
A telephone operator is pursued by three suitors - a down-to earth regular guy, a rich man, and a nonconformist - and dreams what life would be like if she were married to each of them. June Allyson and Reginald Gardiner star in the last show of the series.
Sunday, June 10, 1945 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes