In the second part of this old-time radio playlist, we find that summer can teach us more important lessons.
Our Miss Brooks, August 7, 1949
“Believe me, Walter, going to see Mr. Boynton is no way for me to cool off.”
Lesson Learned: When it’s really hot, wacky scheming may not be the best way to conserve your energy.
My Verdict: This show is always worth a listen. Mr. Conklin here reaches levels of indignation that test even Gale Gordon’s considerable powers of indignation-expression.
“Beautiful Summer in Newport”
NBC Short Story, April 18, 1951
“Fraulein beats me.”
Based Upon: A story by Felicia Gizycka, whose own incredible story included being kidnapped by her father, a Polish count.
Lesson Learned: Vet your summer child care providers very carefully.
Notable Performers: Anne Whitfield, a busy child actress in radio, plays the lead role. If you’re like me, you know her best as Susan, the general’s niece, in the movie White Christmas.
My Verdict: This story has some disturbing scenes, as a governess hired by a social-climbing aunt abuses the woman’s young nieces. Hey, announcer: You didn’t really have to tell us that the word “Beautiful” is used ironically.
“Summer and Smoke”
Best Plays, May 22, 1953
“He told me about the wonderful talks he had with you last summer, when he was so mixed up.”
Based Upon: The 1948 play by Tennessee Williams.
Lesson Learned: Try to avoid being a character in a Tennessee Williams play.
About Best Plays: From 1952 to 1953, this show delivered just what its title promised, with notable stage actors in its cast.
Notable Performers: Geraldine Page plays frustrated, fragile Alma, as she did in the play’s highly successful 1952 New York revival. Page also played the role in the 1961 movie, earning an Academy Award nomination. Richard Kiley, who plays John, created the role of Don Quixote in the 1965 musical Man of La Mancha.
My Verdict: Page’s performance is outstanding—its preservation for us is one of the wonders of old-time radio.
Bonus Feature: Here’s the theatrical trailer for the movie.
Family Theater, December 1, 1954
“I have a feeling the ‘defender of justice’ is in for a bad half-hour.”
Lesson Learned: Age and experience can triumph over youth and beauty in the world of entertainment. (Disclaimer: This lesson may not apply in real life.)
Notable Performers: Una Merkel plays a radio performer whose long-time role is given to a younger actress when the show transitions to TV. (In a coincidence involving our previous recording, Merkel appeared with Page in the movie Summer and Smoke, and she also earned an Oscar nomination.) Desi Arnaz hosts this episode of Family Theater.
My Verdict: This is a sprightly script, and Merkel conveys plenty of charm. I like the way her character wants to continue working even after landing a rich husband—and the husband is okay with that.
Romance, July 2, 1955
“I always forget the rules.”
Lesson Learned: Rich girls are easy.
About Romance: This dramatic anthology show ran in many different incarnations from 1943 to 1957. The 1950s episodes, produced by many of the same creative minds as Gunsmoke, are quite entertaining.
Story: Country club lifeguard Scott knows he shouldn’t fraternize with the guests, but seductive Dana makes his life difficult.
My Verdict: Dana is sexually aggressive to a shocking degree for a 1950s show. “Summer Skank” would be a more accurate title.
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