Skip to main content

Phil Harrises Re-Estimated, And the Verdict Is ‘Good’

St. Peterburg Times – Jan 31, 1950                  

Phil Harrises Re-Estimated, And the Verdict Is ‘Good’

Probably no show in radio ever started out less auspiciously than the Phil HarrisAlice Faye operation back in the Fall of 1946. Radio critics everywhere shuddered in rare unison. Looking back through my yellowing clippings on this program, I discover that first few episodes were largely kissing games, which immensely simplified the task of the writers. Either Phil was kissing Alice. Or both of them were kissing the children.

What little dialogue there was revolved around this osculation, more or less reviewing it. “Ya ain’t giving, honey,” Mr. Harris would mutter, a bad notice for Miss Faye. Or he’d exclaim –there’s no more exclamatory comedian in the business than Harris—“You blond beautiful bundle of dynamite! Put your arms around me and tell me how much you love me!”

While not exactly opposed to domestic felicity, critics –not just this one, either—muttered that it was a rather slender pretext for a radio show. Even as late as 1948. I find myself complaining that the Harris show was loud, crude and in decidedly questionable taste.

*    *    *

WELL, ALL THAT is in the past. Great changes have been wrought in the Harris household. The writers, for one thing, have been put to work, dreaming up something besides stage directions for kissing sequences. The children, while still in existence, are largely kept in the back room safely out of mischief, especially at the microphone. Miss Faye, who is not the most vivid of radio performers, has been pepped up a bit and, at the same time, her role has been abbreviated, a wise measure. Above all, the flame of love that once lit up the countryside for miles around has been dimmed to something approaching connubial candlepower. Miss Faye and Mr. Harris appear to have got used to having one another around the house.

The writers have happily turned Mr. Harris loose with his pal, Frankie Remley (Elliott Lewis), a character as innocent of book learning and as full of pool room wisdom as Mr. H. himself. These two raffish, ingenuous hoodlums are wonderfully funny together, grappling with Harris’ home life, something Harris only vaguely understands or trying to pound some sense into Harris’ carefree band.
The best way I can describe the Harris band is to point out the Harris is unquestionably the intellectual superior of any member of it. When he explains that he and the band are about to go into television and are there any questions, the guitar player speaks up and says: “Yes—what’s television?”
*    *    *
SEVERAL NEW characters have been added to fill in the spaces left by the absent children. One of them, a lad named Julius, is a pugnacious delivery boy with a fierce disdain for both Harris and Remley. Another is Miss Faye’s brother, Willie, a fey lisping character who represents culture as opposed to Harris and Remley who are pure animal. Culture, in this case, has grounds for a libel suit. Mr. Harris addresses this creature in what might be described as verbal pirouettes.

“I hope your next upside-down cake turns out right side up.” It’s pretty bad and I wish they’d quit it. And I’m not referring simply to Harris. All these fey characters on comedy programs have become not only tiresome but just a little indecent.

Miss Faye’s personality has been substantially rearranged so that, instead of being required to flame like white fire, she is now asked to be an all wise mother to her child – husband. This is an impossible role for any woman and especially for Miss Faye but, well there isn’t too much of Miss Faye anymore.

The Harris program is unabashed farce not susceptible to close examination but at its best when, for instance, Remley and Julius are lousing up an auction, it is hilarious fun and I’m sorry I said all the harsh things about it I once did. It was the show that changed, though, not me.  


Popular posts from this blog

"Was Jack Benny Gay?": The Amount of Weight In Jack Benny's Loafers

While doing research for an article I came across an unexpected search result: "Was Jack Benny Gay?" There was no more than the question as previously stated from the original poster, but the replies made for interesting reading, ranging from: Jack Benny Celebrating his 39th Birthday "Of course not, he was a well known skirt-chaser in his youth, and he was married to Mary Livingston for many years" "Sure he was, everyone in Hollywood with the possible exception of John Wayne was and is homosexual!" "Part of Benny's "schtick" was his limp-wristed hand-to-face gestures. He was not gay, but emphasized what his fans observed as "acting like a girl" for humor. While heterosexual Benny tried to gay it up, many really gay actors or comedians in those days tried to act as "straight" as they could muster." "... the idea behind his character was to have him a little on the ambiguous side. His charact


Old Time Radio Actor's Name, Character Played, Program Aaker, Lee Rusty Rin-Tin-Tin Aames, Marlene McWilliams, Lauralee Story of Holly Sloan, The Abbott, Judith Lawson, Agnes Aldrich Family, The Abbott, Minabelle Sothern, Mary Life of Mary Sothern, The Ace, Goodman Ace, Goodman Easy Aces Ace, Goodman Ace, Goodman Mister Ace and Jane Ace, Jane Ace, Jane Easy Aces Ace, Jane Ace, Jane Mister Ace and Jane Adams, Bill Cotter, Jim Rosemary Adams, Bill Hagen, Mike Valiant Lady Adams, Bill Roosevelt, Franklin Delano March of Time, The Adams, Bill Salesman Travelin' Man Adams, Bill Stark, Daniel Roses and Drums Adams, Bill Whelan, Father Abie's Irish Rose Adams, Bill Wilbur, Matthew Your Family and Mine Adams, Bill Young, Sam Pepper Young's Family Adams, Edith Gilman, Ethel Those Happy Gilmans Adams, Franklin Mayor of a model city Secret City Adams, Franklin Jr. Skinner, Skippy Skippy Adams, Franklin Pierce Emcee Word Game, The Adams, Guila Mattie Step M

Old Time Radio Shows "Transcribed" Explained

What does it mean on old time radio shows when you hear the show is "Transcribed"? During the Golden Age of Radio , "transcribed" programs were recorded and sent to stations or networks on a disc running at 16 rps. The discs are larger than 33 1/3s. "Transcribed" means it was recorded on a disc. "Recorded" was a term that was known, of course, but not used very much in Radio's Golden Age. During the era, it was also considered very important to distinguish which shows went out live and which were recorded (transcribed), so if a show was transcribed it was announced as such.  "Transcribed" was a colloquialism of the era. One reason they came up with it was because there was still enough skittishness about recording that "pre-recorded" sounded a little obscene inside the industry. CBS and NBC were live through the '30s and '40s. Yet line transcriptions were made for either the sponsor or its ad agency.