Radio Stars Compared to their Film and Television Careers

Discussion in 'Radio' started by happyfilmluvguy, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. happyfilmluvguy

    happyfilmluvguy Call Me a Cab

    This is a bit of a take off from another topic by Sunny, where many got their stardum in radio.

    Many of those stars of Radio became a boom when the "telly" entered the households of communities, stars like Eve Arden, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Groucho Marx, Red Skelton, (it seems almost all comedians :p), stars of Lux Radio Theater, Superman, and others packed their belongings and took a journey into the world of the box. Do you believe they did better on live radio, or television? Do you prefer one or the other, or maybe both? What other stars and programs moved from the radio to the television? Many television programs became radio programs to gain a little more popularity, for instance, Gunsmoke. Could you compare the television from the radio? Compare the comedy of Jack Benny through the eyes, or through the ears?
  2. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Interesting question. I think as a general rule, radio programs didn't translate well to television -- because writers and performers tended to forget that they're two very different media, and that what works on one doesn't necessarily work on the other.

    Jack Benny is a case in point. He himself was fine on television -- but when attempts were made to translate some of the more whimsical aspects of his radio persona to television, they couldn't help but be disappointing. For example, think about the Benny vault routine. The real humor in the bit comes out of its ever-increasing extremeness -- the booby traps, Ed the Guard, and all that. Actually *seeing* a literal attempt to picture the vault and all its appurtenances on screen tend to simply point up how implausible it all is -- and the humor is blunted as a result. Radio gags simply didn't work on television, and it took quite a few years for performers to get this right.

    George Burns and Gracie Allen, on the other hand, made a much more effective transition to television -- because Burns realized from the start that television *wasn't* radio, and that to succeed, a program had to acknowledge the differences. Burns and Allen did so by returning quite brilliantly to their roots in vaudeville -- which took full advantage of visual humor and breaking-of-the-fourth-wall -- and their program soon evolved into something quite different from what it was on radio. It was that willingness to depart from practices established on radio that spelled the difference between success and failure for the TV transplants.
  3. VivianRegan

    VivianRegan One of the Regulars

    Valley of the Sunstroke, AZ
    Quick note... "Gunsmoke" ran for three years before making the jump to the telly. According to various 'net sites, it ran on the radio for 6 years and on tv for 20.

    I agree with you, Lizzie, on the poor transfer of gags from radio to television... is it not similar to the adaptation of plays to film? Films of plays can smack of their original medium. Switching mediums seems an overall challenge in entertainment.

    Having grown up on television and later by choice listening to radio programs (who can forget their first listening of "War of the Worlds?") I find radio a fun imagination exercise.

    I wish Jack and George and Gracie were more easily accessed visually (like an entire channel of early programs) so I could compare better. I can hardly remember the last time I saw them, and it was probably in clip form, on some documentary or other.
  4. funneman

    funneman Practically Family

    South Florida
    Radio Stars...

    PBS just had a documentary on this very subject and those stars.

    Red Skelton was saying that when they all made the switch from Vaudeville to Radio they just described in the dialog the actions they would have been doing on the stage and recycled the same skits.

    Later, when TV came along, they all just went back to the stage version of the their act for the cameras, getting three careers out of the same material.
  5. Sunny

    Sunny One Too Many

    Good point about going back to vaudeville. Another team that did that extremely well was Abbott & Costello. They started in vaudeville, I believe, but as far as I can tell they ran their radio and film careers concurrently, and later both television and film. I've seen a few or their television shows, and it's very like vaudeville. Interestingly, in both their live radio and television shows, the blooper rate is very high. And somehow the boys are just as effective as in the films with no mistakes.

    However, didn't the vaudeville style of television show disappear? Was this a transition style, as more "sophisticated" television techniques slowly developed? How would you compare Burns and Allen to, say, "I Love Lucy"?

    Speaking of, I (or technically Santa Claus ;) ) picked up some DVDs of Burns and Allen at Walmart or Sam's last Christmas. I've seen them still for sale since then. And not only Burns and Allen.
  6. nick1909

    nick1909 Registered User

    The US
    As Bob Hope said, "Vaudeville died and television was the box they buried it in." :p

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