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The Story Behind Orson Welles' Prolific 1937

By late spring in 1937, the WPA’s Federal Theater Project was under intense scrutiny for staging what some felt to be too many left-leaning labor plays. In Washington, there were rumblings that funds would be cut. At the same time, Orson Welles and John Houseman were rehearsing a production of The Cradle Will Rock, a play written by Marc Bitizstein with deep anti-capitalist themes. The play took place in "Steeltown, USA.” It followed the efforts of Larry Foreman to unionize the town's...


Frank Sinatra Remembers A Concert Where Screaming Girls Scared His Grandfather To Death

In the 1970s, Frank Sinatra remembered a funny story involving his grandfather and a concert at the Paramount where Sinatra was performing in the early 1940s.


Songstress Jo Stafford On Mitch Miller's Bad Material Selection Capabilities

In 2003 singer and musician Jo Stafford, who had 10 top-5 hits between 1944 and 1959, sat down with musician Michael Feinstein to talk about her career. During the conversation she touched on many subjects like her playing with the Pied Pipers, The Tommy Dorsey Band, and Mitch Miller's struggles as a music repertoire man—something echoed by many, including her former Pied Piper partner with Dorsey, Frank Sinatra.


Frank Sinatra on The Jack Benny Program 10/08/1944

In October of 1944 Frank Sinatra was enjoying the greatest popularity of his early career. Still only 29, he had taken to radio acting as well as singing. During this episode of the Jack Benny Program, Jack needs to replace his Irish tenor Dennis Day with another singer since Dennis is off fighting the war. After tuning in to Frank's "Your Hit Parade" performance, Benny decides to give him a call.


Frank Sinatra Tells a Hilarious Story About Don Rickles Embarrassing Him at a Restaurant

On November 12th, 1976 Frank Sinatra was a guest on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. They spoke of their relationship and Frank's career. In the middle of the interview Don Rickles surprised the duo by walking out on stage. Rickles and Sinatra were very close friends. Frank Sinatra proceeded to tell a great story about a time that Rickles embarrassed the him at a restaurant.


Andre Baruch On The Sponsor's Tight Control of Your Hit Parade

Longtime radio announcer Andre Baruch tells of American Tobacco President George Washington Hill's control of the show. Hill churned through many a singer during American Tobacco's sponsorship, including Frank Sinatra. It ran from April 20th, 1935 through January 16, 1953, becoming a tremendous influence in the pop culture of its day.


Rudy Vallée Explains The Importance of Being Different—How He Started Out

In the early 1970s Rudy Vallée, the most popular music artist of the late 1920s and early 1930s, sat down with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC's The Golden Age of Radio. In this clip he explains how he got started and why and how being different helped him so much.


Suspense: To Find Help—Starring Agnes Moorehead and Frank Sinatra 1/18/1945

With the most recent episode of Breaking Walls being on radio’s macabre, mystery, and horror programming, and the upcoming episode on Frank Sinatra’s radio career, I thought it would be a good time to play this episode of Suspense, entitled “To Find Help” and originally broadcast on January 18th, 1945. It stars Ms. Agnes Moorhead, along with Frank Sinatra. It was the only time Sinatra starred on the program. By the time From Here to Eternity relaunched his career, the big budget sponsor era...


Frank Sinatra Remembers Visiting a Heroin Dry Out Clinic To Prepare for The Man With The Golden Arm

In 1955 Frank Sinatra starred in Otto Preminger's production of The Man With The Golden Arm. It was a film many consider to be well-ahead of its time about a heroin addict who gets clean while in prison, but struggles to stay that way in the outside world. In this clip Sinatra talks years later about going to visit a teenager who was in the process of kicking the addiction at a facility in order to learn how to get into the character of Frankie Machine. Episode 85 of Breaking Walls will...


The Story Behind Bill Spier's Exit From Suspense

After the November 20th, 1947 episode of Suspense, Roma Wines wrapped up its sponsorship of the series. For the next five weeks CBS broadcast Suspense on Friday evenings. Beginning on January 3rd, 1948 the program changed directions. William Spier’s last date with the production was January 24th, with the episode “Eve,” starring June Havoc. They were married the next day. When the couple finished honeymooning, Spier looked for his next project. He found it on the American Broadcasting...


Orson Welles Reflects on War Of The Worlds—Admits He Scared People On Purpose

In the 1950s, Orson Welles reflected upon the public reaction to his War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30th, 1938, and also admits that he and the rest of his Mercury Theater production crew did the broadcast to prove a point to the American public that you shouldn't believe everything you hear coming out of the radio box.


Frank Sinatra Tells A Joke About What Misery Is

In 1965, CBS cameras followed Frank Sinatra around with unprecedented access to the performer's personal life. In this clip, seated at Jilly Rizzo's restaurant, he retells a joke to a group of friends and family, which included Sammy Davis Jr. and daughter Nancy Sinatra. After Nancy Sinatra explains that she wished her father caroused less, and stayed home more. Breaking Walls Episode 85 will focus on Frank Sinatra's radio career and be available beginning November 1st, 2018.


The Story Behind Lights Out—The Most Gruesome Radio Show of the 1930s

In 1934, as Chicago was cresting as the center for radio production, NBC Writer and director Wyllis Cooper created a program for NBC's Chicago affiliate WENR that drastically altered the tone of radio horror. Cooper had been writing advertising copy in the late 1920s when he entered radio, writing scripts for the NBC's Empire Builders. His idea was to offer listeners a late-night macabre program, at a time when other stations were mostly airing music. It emphasized crime thrillers and the...


The Story Behind Escape and The Saint, as told by Vincent Price and William N. Robson

After World War II ended, transcription became a network possibility as CBS and ABC in particular, pumped resources into programming. New mystery programs like The Haunting Hour, and Murder at Midnight entered syndication. Mutual’s short-lived The Sealed Book and ABC’s Dark Venture both launched in 1945, and NBC gave Abbott and Costello’s summer time slot to a Peter Lorre mystery and suspense program called Mystery is in The Air. It was CBS’ Escape, however that’s come to be known as one of...


BW - EP84: The Simple Art of Macabre—Mystery, Suspense, and Horror from Radio’s Best (1931 - 1982)

In Breaking Walls Episode 84, it’s the Simple Art of Macabre, to your ears from the mouths of some of the best who ever produced radio’s stuff of nightmares. Highlights: • Why Do We Like To Be Scared? • What pre-dated the radio horror program in the United States of America? • The Witch’s Tale • Cooper, Oboler, and Lights Out • Orson Welles, Himan Brown, and Bill Spier • Macabre Programming during World War II • How Transcription Advanced the radio mystery program • Escape, The Saint, and...


Harry Bartel Tells a Funny Jeanette Nolan Crime Classics Story

In 1982, SPERDVAC hosted a panel discussion with some of CBS's well-known Hollywood radio character actors. During the discussion, Harry Bartel told a quick funny story about Jeanette Nolan, who once starred as Lady MacBeth opposite Orson Welles, and who was known for her tremendous vocal range on radio.


Actress Peggy Webber Tells Funny Radio Script Stories About Orson Welles and Peter Lorre

In August of 1982 at a SPERDVAC panel discussion with some of CBS Hollywood's biggest radio character actors, Peggy Webber, who played numerous parts on radio, television, and film (and is still alive today) told a couple of funny script stories about Orson Welles and Peter Lorre.


Roxy Rothafel, Lew Fields, and Joe Weber Rehearse For the Opening of Radio City's Music Hall in NYC

Impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel in rehearsal for his radio show to be broadcast from Radio City in New York City, 1932. In this clip, Roxy Rothafel stands at microphone onstage in front of orchestra talking to comic duo Lew Fields and Joe Weber prior to broadcast of 'The Roxy Hour.'


Radio Actress Jan Miner Explains How She Got Started in New York Radio

In August of 1970, Jan Miner, Network Radio Soap Actress and heroine of "Hilltop House," sat down with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran to talk about her career as a radio actress in New York city. In this clip she explains how she got started in radio.


Director William N Robson Explains How War SFX Were Achieved On Radio During the 1940s

In January of 1976 famed radio producer/director William N. Robson sat down with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran to discuss his career for WTIC's The Golden Age of Radio. Robson was a huge part of the evolution of audio sound effects. During World War II he was in charge of the production of a very popular program called "The Man Behind The Gun." Part of his job was to try to get the most realistic sound effects possible. In this clip he explains how they were achieved.