Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Dinah Shore and Pearl Bailey.


Arch Oboler's Plays was an anthology series that ran on NBC radio from March 25, 1939  23, to March 23, 1940.  The show was resurrected for a summer run in 1945 on the Mutual network.  Oboler wrote, produced, directed and introduced each show.

Oboler (1909-1987) was one of the great radio writers.  His classic "Chicken Heart" episode from the show Lights Out caused a mini-panic a la Orson Welles invasion from Mars.  Two mildly risqué sketches he wrote for The Chase and Sanborn Hour resulted in NBC banishing Mae West for fifteen years (not only was West banned, but the network forbade the very mention of her name).  NBC, looking for a radio writer to rival CBS's Norman Corwin, okayed Arch Oboler's Plays, perhaps in part because Oboler financed the entire commercial-less project himself.  Arch Oboler's Plays was a great success and, after it's first year run, gained Procter & Gamble as a sponsor with the show then being called  Everyman's Theatre.  Oboler then moved on to several series of anthology shows with a propaganda slant:  Plays for Americans, To the President, Free World Theatre, and Everything for the Boys -- Oboler also contributed anti-Nazi scripts for the second series of Lights Out!  In 1940, Oboler began his move to film (among those that he wrote and directed were 1952's Bwana Devil and 1953's The Twonky -- based on a Henry Kuttner story).  He also wrote a Broadway play (Night of the Auk) which, despite its all-star cast, folded quickly.  Oboler also wrote for television, produced one novel, and wrote several short stories.

In the radio play below, "[a] cranky mantel clock is the god a native chief prays to while waiting to kill a baby."  Classic Oboler.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The theme song from the Will Hutchins television series which ran for four seasons beginning in 1957.  Based on a Will Rodgers movie, Sugarfoot had an unusual hero for a western series -- an Easterner who eschews violence, drinks sarsaparilla, and is a correspondence law school student.  I  loved it and every once in a while I find myself humming the theme song.

OVERLOOKED MOVIE: PLANET OUTLAWS (1953 -- but not really)

Planet Outlaws is a 1953 69-minute edit of the 1939 Buster Crabbe serial Buck Rogers.  For reasons I cannot understand, the 1939 12-part serial is still under copyright while this 1953 assemblage is not.

By now, we all know the story:  a 20th Century soldier, felled by a strange gas, wakes up in the 25th Century and finds himself pitted against "Killer" Kane, the ruthless dictator of the world.  Buck Rogers started life as Anthony Rogers in a pair of novellas by Philip Francis Nowlan in Amazing Stories.  Nowlan changed his name to Buck when his character moved to the comic strips in 1939.  (Buck would undergo another name change with the Gil Gerard television series; he became William {again, for reasons I cannot understand].)  Soon buck was everywhere:  on the radio, in a Big Little Book, in a pop-up book, in numerous comic books, on television with two television series 28 years apart, in video games, on a pinball machine, in numerous tie-in novels and short stories, and with a gazillion toys.  Buck Rogers had found his way into the national consciousness, gaining a dubious sort of immortality with the phrase "that Buck Rogers stuff."

Anyway, back to Planet Outlaws.  Buster Crabbe (billed as Larry Crabbe in the original serial) played Buck Rogers.  Crabbe had previously played Tarzan and Flash Gordon and in a plethora of Zane Gray westerns; the former Olympian gold medal swimmer went to many more movies and television shows, including starring as Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion in the mid 50s.

The part of Wilma Deering went to Constance Moore.  A former big band vocalist, Moore co-starred with many of the notable personalities from the years 1937-1947, including W. C. Fields, Edgar Bergan, Fred McMurray, Eddie Albert, and Eddie Cantor.

Anthony Ward played "Killer" Kane, which was probably his most noted role.  Ward's career went from 1937 to 1964 (his last role was in The Carpetbaggers), often in minor or uncredited appearances.

A child actor in the 30s and 40s, Jackie Moran was cast as Buddy Wade, the young pal of Buck Rogers who was gassed with Buck Rogers and woke up in the future with him.  Moran stopped making films in 1946 when he was 23.  He reemerged in the 60s to act (?) in a couple of skin flicks, two of which were directed by Russ Meyers. (The two Russ Meyers skin flicks were written by Jack Moran, presumably Jackie Moran's son.)

Jack Muhall's career spanned almost fifty years and he has 444 credits on IMDb.  Here he was cast as Captain Rankin of the Rebel Hidden City forces.  Korean American actor Philip Ahn played Prince Tallan of Saturn and is probably best-known for his portrayal of Master Kan in the television series Kung Fu.  Also having major roles in Planet Outlaws were character B-movie actors C. Montague Shaw, Guy Usher, William Gould, and Henry Brandon.

It all adds up to mindless fun.  Enjoy.