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Adventures of Maisie, Volume 1 - 10 hours [Download] #RA657
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The Adventures of Maisie
"Likewise, I'm sure..."
In the 1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased the rights to a novel written by author Wilson Collison entitled "Dark Dame", which they had planned to film with their platinum blonde glamour gal, Jean Harlow. But Harlow's untimely death put the kibosh on that project, and Collison's work didn't reach the silver screen until 1939 when it was refashioned for M-G-M's new beauty queen (newly acquired from R-K-O), Ann Sothern, into a romantic comedy entitled "Maisie". Sothern played a character named Maisie Revere (her show business name -- her real moniker was Mary Anastasia O'Connor) who falls hard for a dude ranch manager (played by a pre-"Father Knows Best" Robert Young), Charles "Slim" Martin, when she finds herself stranded in Wyoming after a job offer falls through. The ending of the film -- which suggests that Maisie and Slim are heading down the wedding aisle -- would also seem to suggest that M-G-M had planned the movie as a one shot but, the following year, Sothern was back on screen with "Congo Maisie" (1940), a thinly veiled remake of 1932's "Red Dust" -- and she even got top billing this time. Eight other Maisie features would follow, pairing Sothern with male co-stars like Robert Sterling (her then-husband), John Hodiak, George Murphy, and M-G-M's star clown, Red Skelton.
The "Maisie" films rarely rose above their B-movie origins (though considering this was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, they were more like A-minus films) but because they were cheap to produce and generated big returns from loyal audiences, they remained one of M-G-M's popular movie properties in the style of Andy Hardy, Dr. Kildare and other film series. A testament to Maisie's popularity came in the form of a radio adaptation of "Maisie Was a Lady" (1941), one of the series' better entries, broadcast over CBS November 24, 1941 on the mega-popular "Lux Radio Theatre", which reunited Sothern and her co-stars in the movie, Lew Ayres (Dr. Kildare himself) and Maureen O'Sullivan. The groundwork had been laid for a Maisie radio series, which came to fruition on the same CBS network July 5, 1945 as a half-hour situation comedy sponsored by Eversharp Razors. Sadly, no episodes from the show's brief 1945-47 run (in which Maisie was gal Friday to an unsuccessful attorney) have turned up in circulation in old-time radio circles; interestingly, OTR historian John Dunning mentions that Samuel Taylor was a writer on the CBS series -- the same Sam Taylor who would go on to pen the screenplays for such films as Billy Wilder's "Sabrina" (1954) and Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (1958).
With the final Maisie romp, "Undercover Maisie", released in 1947, it looked as if audiences had heard the last of Miss Revere -- but in 1949, M-G-M got into the radio syndication game with radio versions of those same B-picture properties that had served them so well throughout the 1930s and 1940s. 1949 saw the debut of
"The Adventures of Maisie"
, first broadcast over New York's WMGM in September of that year, which returned Sothern's character to the familiar down-and-out, Jill-of-all-trades status she prominently displayed in the feature films. The new Maisie also featured one of radio's more memorable openings:
(SFX: clicking of high heels along sidewalk, followed by two wolf whistles)
MAN: Hiya babe! Say, how 'bout... (SFX: slap across face) Ow!!!
MAISIE: Does that answer your question, buddy?
"The Adventures of Maisie" benefited greatly from the fact that the series was slickly made (the series was produced at NBC in Hollywood) and featured top talent from "Radio Row," notably Sheldon Leonard (frequently heard as Maisie's boyfriend, Joe Pulaski), Hans Conried, Lurene Tuttle, Bea Benaderet, and Frank Nelson, along with others too numerous to mention. The series star enjoyed the working conditions on the show (though there was a certain irony in the fact that the M-G-M studio had let Sothern's contract lapse in real life), particularly since M-G-M graciously allowed the series to be recorded at her home when she was bedridden and recovering from a bout of hepatitis. Maisie had a long life in syndication after its initial run on WMGM (it was also briefly heard over Mutual in 1952), and now you'll get the opportunity to listen to the comical misadventures of the brassy showgirl with the heart of gold in twenty broadcasts contained in this ten-hour collection, restored to sparkling audio fidelity by Radio Archives. Here's the complete content:
#9 Lord Deverage and Lady Revere
Thursday, January 19, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#11 Room Clerk
Thursday, February 2, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#12 Trouble with the Law
Thursday, February 9, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#13 Clothes for the Poor
Thursday, February 16, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#14 Foot-In-Mouth Disease
Thursday, February 23, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#15 Maisie Plays Cupid
Thursday, March 2, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#16 A Barber Shop on a Horse
Thursday, March 9, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#33 Tag-A-Long Cassidy
Thursday, September 28, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
Thursday, October 5, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#35 The Poetic Wrestler
Thursday, October 12, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#36 Mrs. Hargrave's Banquet
Thursday, October 19, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#37 Maisie's Birthday Present
Thursday, October 26, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#38 The Duel
Thursday, November 2, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#39 Restoro Skin Rejuvenator
Thursday, November 9, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#40 A Vacation for Miss Hammerslogger
Thursday, November 16, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#41 Maisie and the Robber
Thursday, November 23, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#42 Maisie Takes the Census
Thursday, November 30, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#43 The Money Sitter
Thursday, December 7, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#44 The Needy Orphanage
Thursday, December 14, 1950 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
#55 The Dude Ranch
Thursday, March 1, 1951 - 30:00 - MGM Syndication
Fun with Dick and Jane
A Broadcasting Veteran Remembers Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Radio Productions
From the late 1930's to the early 1980's, William Richard "Dick" DeFreitas was a fixture at WHN, 1050am in New York. Whether as an announcer, newsman, program host, or Director of Public Affairs, his voice was heard throughout radio's golden age and far beyond. By fortunate happenstance (for me, at least) his mother and my grandmother were sisters, making him my first cousin, once removed by a generation.
When I joined the New York radio scene in the 1990's as the Director of Broadcasting at L.I.U.'s C.W. Post campus, Cousin Dick proposed a grand project on the history and importance of radio, as explained by the reflections of someone who had seen and heard it all, since the beginning of broadcasting.
So when scheduling permitted, I made weekend treks to Cousin Dick's Stamford, Connecticut home. He and his gracious wife Jane made these recording sessions oases of enjoyment in a desert of disinterested academia. To borrow from a bygone, popular primer, it truly was "Fun With Dick and Jane."
We started at the very beginning and Cousin Dick's memory took us back to the 1920's. Some of his observations, such as the power early radio wielded (especially over those who believed, "It must be so, for I heard it on the radio!"), found their way into my novel, The Demigod which, based on the career Father Charles Coughlin, follows the rise of an early radio demagogue.
At lunch time, Jane would always have a sumptuous spread prepared. So we would retire to the dining room and, though technically "taking a break," the stories would continue. As Cousin Dick told it, the post-WWII years were heady times in the New York area and for New York radio.
"WHN had pretty much cornered the market in local sports, both professional and amateur. For example, our Brooklyn Dodger broadcasts were so popular that the pre-game shows for afternoon games began in the morning! Despite the competition, it wasn't unusual for little WHN to beat the networks' New York affiliates with this kind of fare."
However, something was missing. Even today's all-sports stations don't offer games and pre-games 24/7. Since "talk radio" wasn't an option then, WHN went looking for what Cousin Dick referred to as "strategic bridges" which, airing at key times in the schedule, could either hold or deliver an audience, thus avoiding "desertion" to the networks. But what could WHN offer to compete with the likes of "The Aldrich Family," "Dr. Christian," and "The Lux Radio Theater?"
"The trouble was, a lot of the syndicated programming available to us had no 'star power' and, quite frankly, reflected a shoe-string budget. But then it dawned on us that WHN wasn't alone. It had a parent company in the Loews Corporation, and thus 'siblings' such as the MGM movie studio.
"The first step was to convince Loews to help us, which wasn't too difficult since it owned other stations that could benefit from whatever programming was generated. We then set about determining which MGM 'products' would make the best shows. The studio's movie series, like Dr. Kildare, Maisie, and Andy Hardy seemed like naturals. As did the idea for The MGM Theater of the Air, a top flight anthology which we hoped would 'out-Lux Lux.' Loews agreed on all counts and contacted MGM.
"For its part, MGM wanted nothing to do with the project. It was fighting a 'two-front war' for survival, what with the encroachment of television and the court-ordered break-up of the studio system (i.e., movie studios and/or their parent companies could no longer own their own movie theaters). At best, producing radio shows would be an unnecessary distraction. But in those days, as with most families, when a 'parent' spoke, the 'children' had little choice but to obey.
"MGM heavily resisted our program suggestions. They had discontinued all the series and the stars, such as Lew Ayers, Ann Sothern, and even Mickey Rooney, were no longer under contract to the studio. Since MGM was ordered to sign them to do the radio shows, negotiating leverage was weighted heavily in favor of the actors, and they used it!
"Despite a decided lack of enthusiasm on MGM's part, we were all pleased with the final results. We even altered our call letters to reflect and trumpet our new programming. WHN became WMGM. In terms of quality and star power, the shows were 'network equivalent.' In fact, Mutual was so fond of them that it picked them up in secondary syndication.
"All in all, it was a great idea... or at least would have been, if only we had done it ten years earlier. But in the late 1940's, we should have been more concerned with television networks, not their radio counterparts. The shows were too expensive to continue when compared with the ratings they delivered in the declining market. Ultimately, the whole project was well-intentioned, grand, even glorious, but decidedly a failure from a business standpoint."
Our radio history project also suffered a less-than-satisfactory fate in that we never came close to completing it. Neither one of us could continue to devote the time and effort needed to bring it to fruition. Cousin Dick moved to Virginia and in August of 1999 passed away. But even failures can produce unintended and extremely positive consequences. Our time together has left me with a wealth of wonderful stories and memories. And while the efforts of those at WHN, Loews, and MGM may not have generated great profits, they did produce a treasury of shows that have entertained audiences for sixty years and counting.
Richard Pirodsky is a media outlet director, the former station manager of KKFI, a 100,000 watt, non-commercial radio station in Kansas City, Missouri, and the author of "The Demigod", a novel based on the life and career of Father Charles Coughlin.
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