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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

3000 1938 Miles For 15 Minutes' Work

A Cast Reading Of The Script Includes a Young Frank Lovejoy at Right

Rochelle Hudson Rides Rails East For Radio Guesting

Rochelle Hudson Alights From The Chief
Radio remains for me the vast unexplored territory of show biz. Thousands of listening hours survive, most of more than passing interest, so why not dig in and pull a broadcasting blanket over me? Time is the first and highest blockade. Where do you begin on a landscape so vast? Until deeper commitment is made, posts along today's superficial line will have to do. The month is May, 1938. Rochelle Hudson, known for ingĂ©nue work in Hollywood, is rail-bound for New York from Hollywood to appear on The Kate Smith Program. She'll travel 3000 miles for a skit lasting fifteen minutes.  They'll perform it twice, three hours apart, for east, then west, coast broadcast. Radio's customary deal with guests called for appearance fees to cover every incidental, including train fare, hotel expense ... the whole bag. Was it worth Rochelle's while to make the trip?

Was Rochelle, a Program Guest, This Involved In Vetting The Script?

Final Rehearsal with Kate Smith
Maybe so --- radio exposure meant access to an enormous audience, and Kate Smith's half-hour had a listener base larger than was following Rochelle Hudson movies, limited by 1938 to "B" pics and voice work in MGM Bosko cartoons (she was "Honey"). Money may have mattered less than opportunities the broadcast could lead to. A good airwave impression meant further (and steady) income from speaking into microphones. Pay varied between $800 and $5,000 for radio guesting, name value a determinant. I'd figure Rochelle's take at lower end of that, but then, animation voicing for Metro may by 1938 have given her cache to earn more with a voice than with face/figure. Rochelle Hudson merits detailed bio for, among other things, espionage work she and a husband did on our side's behalf in Mexico, ferreting below-border German operatives (sort of like playing Notorious on real-life terms). How many actor/actresses were engaged in spy ringing up to and through the war? Not-so-recognizable ones like Rochelle Hudson would seem uniquely qualified to do Allies plenty of good. A shame she was (presumably) not interviewed about a very interesting chapter in her performing life. Rochelle Hudson would end up selling real estate in California and died at age 54 in 1972.

3 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

Likewise, I know very little about Old Time Radio (OTR), so I'm occasionally pretty surprised by what I read.

I'd always assumed that movie stars made radio appearances between shooting days, or at night after a day on a soundstage. So I was very surprised, when I read Stephen Jacobs' BORIS KARLOFF: MORE THAN A MONSTER, to learn that Karloff in 1939, at the height of his Hollywood success, traveled to Chicago and stayed there for five weeks to appear one hour a week on LIGHTS OUT. I can only assume that he spent the other six days of the week at Wrigley Field or on State Street, that great street.

Jacobs also writes of Boris doing INFORMATION PLEASE while he was in New York, appearing in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE on Broadway. Evidently he'd rush from the radio studio to the theatre not to just make curtain time--but to just make it in time for his first entrance (which came probably 15-20 minutes into the show.)

12:42 PM  
Blogger VP81955 said...

The Media History Digital Library (http://mediahistoryproject.org/) has among its growing library of volumes many vintage radio magazines, which can be found at http://mediahistoryproject.org/broadcasting/. Perhaps the most helpful from a film perspective are Radio Mirror and Radio Today, both of which had many Hollywood-related stories, particularly after West Coast-based network broadcasting began to boom in the mid-1930s.

The key came early in 1936 when, following an FCC investigation, AT&T agreed to lower transcontinental land-line rates. A New York-based anthology series, the "Lux Radio Theater," took advantage of this to move its operations to the Coast (the company had been using Hollywood stars in its advertising for many years), the struggling series became a smash, and many notables who had worked in both Hollywood film and New York radio could do both from one location. Before the '30s were over, CBS and NBC had built state-of-the-art studios rivaling what they had in the east.

I've done a few recent "Carole & Co." entries on radio and Hollywood (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/618852.html, http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/619551.html), and I'm sure more on the topic will be uncovered in ensuing weeks.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Lux Radio Theater might be a good entry to radio drama/shows for movie fans, it adapted popular movies from the various major studios to radio, very often using the same stars (and when not, using equally interesting alternate actors). The earlier episodes are also interesting because they features guest stars and celebrities who would do short (and sometimes painfully stilted) interviews in-between acts. Some of these folks were studio heads, producers, writers, directors, as well as cartoonists, athletes, designers, etc. It's a chance to hear the voices of people you have heard of but have rarely or never heard often. And you get to hear plugs for various films and events of the day, as well as the always-funny intake of breath from the studio audience when they announce the actors on the following week's show (if someone like Robert Taylor, Cary Grant or Lana Turner gets mentioned, it's a pretty loud response). Other, similar shows include Radio City Playhouse, also, a lot of film actors appeared on radio, some had their own shows, and many famous tv shows started on radio, it's a lot of fun to hear "new" material with movie stars like Alan Ladd in Box 13, Bogart and Bacall in Bold Venture, Orson Welles in The Adventures of Harry Lime (a spinoff of The Third Man, etc. You can find these shows easily on OTR sites online (google OTR, radio shows, free downloads etc) and listen to shows for free, there are streaming free stations on iTunes as well (in the News/Talk radio section).

7:02 PM  

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