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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hollywood Rides The Airwaves


Book Choice: From Radio to the Big Screen by Hal Erickson

Hal Erickson has for years been one of our lead historians in the field of television. His books on syndicated series and cartoon programming are classics on respective topics, and reference I've consulted on many a Greenbriar occasion. Now with From Radio To The Big Screen, from McFarland Books, he has widened research to radio and its Classic Era symbiosis with motion pictures, a profit-making handshake that lasted through "Golden Years" Erickson ID's as 1926-1962. What seemed a natural leap from airwave to movie screen was also effort to sometimes stumble, as in personalities clicking, others getting the frost. Voices we liked weren't always faces we'd accept. Erickson considers each of those who tried to scale high fence between crystal set and the boxoffice, from Amos n' Andy to Walter Winchell to Henry Aldrich to --- well, I never dreamed there were so many --- and what interesting stories lie behind each. We see more and more of these radio-based features as TCM, DVD, and streaming continue to mine them, Erickson lending texture to subjects/data too long ignored (show me another resource so detailed on Lum and Abner or Mr. District Attorney). I enjoyed From Radio to the Big Screen thoroughly and will read for both pleasure and fill-in on facts not accessible elsewhere. It's softbound, a hefty 300 pages from McFarland, and a trove of information as only deep digging Hal Erickson could uncover, a 2014 arrival among most welcome to Greenbriar's shelf.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson recalls some radio-to-film transitions:


Think Warner Archive recently released a Fibber McGee double header. The Great Gildersleeve, a spinoff of Fibber McGee, got his own movie series already in release.

I'm always intrigued by old pop culture figures jumping from one medium to another. Comics especially, but I've got the serials based on Captain Midnight and Green Hornet as well as the two Lone Ranger features (by way of the TV series, but still).

Captain Midnight was fun, perhaps because I only know the original as a generic nostalgia reference. Some typical James Horne goofery, but I was disappointed when the villain's equally evil daughter, Fury Stark, was played by a conventionally attractive young lady, interchangeable with the heroine aside from a trace of bad attitude. No sultry Princess Aura, or even a plausibly tough Spider Lady (Superman). She was always strong-arming the kidnapped heroine ("Lock her up"), and came off like a girls' school bully picking on the class wimp. Bonita Granville's Nancy Drew would have mopped the floor with both of them, chattering all the way.

It was a two-way street, with movies or movie characters going to radio. Sherlock Holmes was not a movie creation, but I think the Rathbone-Bruce pairing was. Or did the radio series precede Fox's "Hound"? Anyway, let's join Dr. Watson for a glass of Petri Sherry in his California bungalow . . .

Don't know much about Lum 'n Abner, but roadsideamerica.com reports a Lum 'n Abner tourist attraction lingers on in Oden, Arkansas.

7:16 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Randy Watts supplies some data re Sherlock Holmes and Lum/Abner on radio and elsewhere. Thanks Randy!:


In response to Donald Benson's question, Fox released "Hound of the Baskervilles" on March 31, 1939, according to trade papers of the day. Its sequel, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," followed in September. Rathbone and Bruce began their Sherlock Holmes radio series on October 2, 1939.

The Lum and Abner roadside attraction Benson refers to is "The Jot 'em Down Store and Lum and Abner Museum," actually in the town of Pine Ridge, Arkansas. Originally named Waters, the town changed its name to "Pine Ridge" in the 1936 in response to the radio show's popularity. ("Pine Ridge" was the where the radio show took place.)

Surprisingly, perhaps, a Lum and Abner comic strip is published weekly online and is currently in its fourth year!

Randy Watts

4:19 AM  

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