G.E.'s Television version of General Electric Theater was nominated for nine primetime Emmys and was hosted by future President Ronald Reagan for nine of its ten years on the air.
General Electric and Broadcast Radio
General Electric Theater (1953) was one of the finest, albeit short-lived, dramatic anthologies to air during the waning years of The Golden Age of Radio. General Electric was no newcomer to Radio sponsorship by any means. Beginning as early as 1927, G.E. sponsored one of the very first hour-long drama-variety programs ever to air over broadcast Radio. That first anthology aired over San Francisco's legendary KGO and was directed by Leon Strashun. The program aired weekly on Monday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in 1928), and could be heard over most of northern, central, and southern California and as far away as Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon. A combination of 'jamborees', dramatic sketches and orchestral music numbers, the programs were followed closely by local newspapers.
It's no coincidence that General Electric chose KGO as the outlet for its program. General Electric had launched KGO in 1924. KGO, along with KFRC (1925) were the two of the oldest commercial broadcast stations operating in the Bay Area. They were preceded only by KPO (1921) and KQW (1909). KQW was arguably the first Radio station on the west coast to actually broadcast the human voice. While begun as an experimental station, KQW eventually evolved to KCBS. We point out the early Radio efforts of General Electric over what would eventually become an NBC affiliate to underscore the irony of the subject of this article--General Electric Theater--airing over CBS in 1953.
General Electric's long affiliation with RCA and NBC spans the entire history of broadcast radio. Indeed it was a combine of General Electric, Westinghouse Corporation, and RCA that formed the National Broadcasting Company in 1926. It's often forgotten that it was General Electric that founded the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919 simply as a means to further encourage international radio broadcasts. Though G.E. divested itself of RCA in 1932 as the result of a Justice Department ordered divestiture, General Electric reacquired NBC and RCA in 1986.
General Electric Theater Airs Over CBS
One can only wonder by what means General Electric persuaded CBS to sponsor the General Electric Theater in the first place. But indeed, while G.E. held significant interests in both CBS and NBC at the time, as noted above, General Electric had, for some 20 years by then, distanced itself from overtures to acquire--or reacquire--either of the networks.
As you may have already noted in the sidebar at left, CBS and G.E. clearly pulled out all the stops with General Electric Theater. In addition to the star-studded casts, CBS had Norm Macdonnell directing the scripts for the production and Wilbur Hatch directing the music for the production. The series was hosted and narrated by William Johnstone and legendary CBS announcer Ken Carpenter did what he did best for CBS for 47 years. The scripts and adaptations themselves comprised works by some of the modern world's finest authors. Their works were adapted for Radio by Fletcher Markle, Kathleen Hite, James Poe, Jaime del Valle and John Meston among others. Several of the programs reprised roles portrayed in film by their famous leading actors.
Thirteen in all, the short Summer series provided a sorely needed spark to Radio's fading supremacy throughout The Golden Age of Radio. General Electric was also broadcasting a Television version of General Electric Theater during 1953, an equally star-studded production that ran for ten seasons and was nominated for nine primetime Emmys during its prestigious and highly popular run. Needless to say, the Radio rendition surely helped G.E.'s launch of its CBS Network Television series that ran for 262 episodes and was hosted from 1954 to 1962 by future President of The United States, Ronald Reagan.
All told, 1953 was a banner year for both General Electric and CBS, both of them enjoying the popularity, critical acclaim and prestige of both Radio and Television renditions of two of Broadcasting History's most famous and successful productions.
AFRTS R-Series 'Playhouse 25'; The General Electric Summer Theatre [proposed for 1954]
Anthology of Golden Age Radio Dramas
Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
54-01-18 [Audition] The Token [by Joseph Hergesheimer]
[Note: We believe this 'audition' to be an audition for a proposed subsequent General Electric Summer Theatre for possible airing during the Summer of 1954]
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
53-07-09 01 Random Harvest
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
53-07-09 to 53-10-01; CBS; Thirteen, 30-minute programs; Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.
General Electric Company
Norm Macdonnell [Producer/Director]
Ronald Colman, Benita Colman, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, William Powell, Jane Wyman, William Holden, Alan Young, Dorothy McGuire, John Hodiak, Ann Blyth, James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Van Johnson, William Johnstone, Herb Butterfield, Jack Moyles, Virginia Gregg, Bill James, Clayton Post, David Young, Ralph Moody, Ted Bliss, Dick Ryan, Bill Bouchey, John Stevenson, Bob Bailey, Jeanne Bates, Jeffrey Silver, Jay Novello, Verna Felton, Tom Tully, Sam Edwards, Joseph Kearns, Dick Ryan, Lamont Johnson, Pamela Mason, Dan O'Herlihy, Ben Wright, Gloria Gordon, Llurene Tuttle, John McIntire, Nestor Paiva, Edgar Barrier, Jeanette Nolan, Mary Jane Croft, John Dehner
Joseph Hergesheimer, James Hilton, Martha Cheavens, Owen Wister, Philip Strong, Edmond Rostand, Arthur Wing Pinero,
Fletcher Markle [Writer]
Walter Brown Newman, James Poe, Kathleen Hite [Adapters]
Hett Manheim, John Meston [Editorial Supervisors]
Jaime del Valle [Transcriber]
Ken Carpenter [Host/Announcer]
William Johnstone [Narrator]
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation:
Total Episodes in Collection:
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the newspaper listings.
Whoever's ghost-writing for radioGOLDINdex suprisingly cites the alleged 'audition' for General Electric Summer Theatre as an anomaly, stating--incorrectly--that including that program in the General Electric Theater canon would comprise fourteen episodes rather than the industry-standard set of thirteen episodes. Nowhere else in the radioGOLDINdex database is an 'audition' or 'promo' considered a constituent of the canon of broadcast programs for a production run. Auditions or promotional test recordings were universally considered separate and isolated productions from any of the commercial broadcast runs of a particular canon of programs.
In the alleged audition, The Token, Dana Andrews mentions that he's just completed production of Elephant Walk, a film he starred in with Elizabeth Taylor. Elephant Walk was officially released on April 21, 1954. This might well beg the question whether the circulating recording dated 53-01-18 wouldn't more likely be dated 54-01-18, given Andrews' promotional announcement and comments. The Token 'audition,' if it was one, would therefore have been for an anticipated Summer 1954 series of General Electric Summer Theatre broadcasts. The de Havilland Comet that Dana Andrews cites as flying him from London to Bombay first flew commercially on May 2, 1952, beginning with routes to South Africa. Flights to India commenced in September of 1952. A deadly crash of a de Havilland Comet in January of 1954 grounded the entire fleet until March of 1954, therefore had Andrews flown in a Comet in 1954 it would have to have been prior to January 10, 1954 or immediately following the suspension of the grounding of the Comet fleet on March 23, 1954.
And then we have this, from the January 16, 1953 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen:
DANA ANDREWS tells me the younger generation is a
rugged element to keep up with. His 19-year-old son,
David, is daft about music. When Dana took him on a
10-day visit his first to New York, they caught shows
in the afternoon and at night every day. Then David kept
his father up until 4 in the morning visiting the bop joints.
Finally, Dana arranged for David to play the famous
organ at the Paramount theater from 7 to 9 a.m., when the
place opened for business. Dad made it to the theater for
a couple of concerts, then gave in, and let the younger
generation take over on its own. It was a sort of farewell
outing for father and son, as Dana will go to Ceylon for
"Elephant Walk" next month, and David will enter the
Further, we have this provenance from the May 28, 1953 edition of Harrison Carroll's byline in the Lethbridge Herald:
Only Liz [Taylor] and Peter Finch are
needed for the final scenes in
"Elephant Walk." Dana Andrews
has finished his role.
He and Mary sailed on their
yacht for a week of loafing.
Dana's virus attack has dwindled
to laryngitis, but doctors
prescribed a complete rest.
Given the provenances of the above articles, we can rightly conclude that principal cinematography for Elephant Walk ended at least later in 1953, and in all likelihood as late as the Summer or Fall of 1953. In any case, Dana Andrews certainly couldn't have stated that he'd recently flown from London to Bombay prior to January 18, 1953, the circulating date for the General Electric Summer Theatre 'audition', The Token, since he hadn't even departed for India prior to February of 1953. Indeed, the production of Elephant Walk was further suspended due a switch in leading actresses from Vivian Leigh to Elizabeth Taylor, a change which occured while filming in India. We can therefore conclude only two possible answers to the mystery of the 'audition', The Token. The Token was either an audition for a subsequent summer 1954 broadcast of a program to be named General Electric Summer Theatre, or The Token was an actual broadcast from the canon of General Electric Theater broadcast during the Summer of 1953. The latter conclusion is unlikely, given the announced name of the series as The General Electric Summer Theatre, combined with Dana Andrews' comments about recently completing Elephant Walk.
The initial confusion as to the dating of the 'audition' might be understandable since General Electric was also broadcasting a Television version of General Electric Theater in January 1953.
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The General Electric Theater Radio Program Log
53-07-09 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Colman star in "Random Harvest" on the premiere performance of "General Electric Theater."
53-07-09 Tucson Daily Citizen
7:30--General Electric Theater. Ronald and Benita Colman play the leads in "Random Harvest" James Hilton's story about a soldier who lost his memory, (KOPO)
53-07-16 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Three romantically inclined young ladies versus one determined bachelor on "General Electric Theater" starring Gary Grant.
53-07-16 Tucson Daily Citizen
7:30--General Electric Theater. Known as "The Bachelor," Cary Grant tries to avoid three attractive young ladies bent on matrimony (KOPO).
53-07-23 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . (7:30 p. m.) Irene Dunne recreates her original role in "Penny Serenade" on "General Electric Theater."
53-07-23 Tucson Daily Citizen
7:30--General Electric Theater. Irene Dunne plays lead in Martha Cheavers' "Penny Serenade" (KGPO).
Father Came Home
53-07-30 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p.m.) stars in tonight's delightful romantic comedy on "General Electric Theater," "Father Came Home."
53-08-06 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Jane Wyman stars in "The Bachelor Girl" tonight on "General Electric Theater."
53-08-06 Tucson Daily Citizen - 7:30--General Electric Theater. Jane Wyman stars in "Bachelor Girl" (KOPO).
53-08-13 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Hear a special radio adaptation of "The Virginian" on "General Electric Theater" starring William Holden.
53-08-13 Tucson Daily Citizen -7:30--General Electric Theater. William Holden stars in "The Virginian," famous story of a gun duel (KOPO).
Spring Over Brooklyn
53-08-20 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Tonight's rib tickling
comedy on "General Electric Theater" is "Spring Over Brooklyn" starring Alan Young.
Sometime Every Summertime
53-08-27 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) "General Electric
Theater" presents film star Dorothy
McGuire in "Sometime Every
A Bell For Adano
53-09-03 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) "General Electric Theater" presents John Hodiak recreating his film role in "A Bell for Adano."
53-09-03 Tucson Daily Citizen
6:30--General Electric Theater. John Hodiak recreates his screen role of Maj. Joppole in "A Bell for Adano" (KOPO).
53-09-10 Tucson Daily Citizen
6:30--General Electric Theater. Ann Blyth plays an unhappy girl whose discontent is changed to happiness by a chance meeting with a newspaperman (KOPO).
Cyrano de Bergerac
53-09-17 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p. m.) Pamela and James Mason star in "Cyrano de Bergerac" on "General Electric Theater."
. . . (7:30 p.m.) Joan Fontaine stars in a poignant love story, "The Enchanted Cottage," on "General Electric Theater."
The Old Man's Bride
53-10-01 Mason City Globe-Gazette
. . . (7:30 p.m.) Van Johnson plays a m. modern John Alden in "General Electric Theater's" production of an intriguing love story.
AFRTS R-Series 'Playhouse 25' Radio Program Log
Spring Over Brooklyn
Sometime Every Summertime
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Old Man's Bride
Proposed General Electric Summer Theatre Radio Program Log
The General Electric Theater Radio Program Biographies
Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Producer, Director, Writer and Actor
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
1944 What War Means To Me
1946 Columbia Workshop
1946 Mercury Summer Theatre
1947 Studio One
1948 Ford Theatre
1949 The Lucky Strike Program
1953 General Electric Theatre
1977 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre
1979 Sears Radio Theatre
Fletcher Markle circa 1943
Fletcher Markle at work at The CBC
Fletcher Markle circa 1948
Fletcher Markle was married to Mercedes McCambridge for 12 years.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Fletcher Markle began his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Company (The CBC) in the early 1940s in Vancouver, British Columbia. He started out doing radio dramas with a group whose members included John Drainie, Lister Sinclair, Bernie Braden, and Alan Young on local canadian stations and The CBC network.
During World War II Markle performed in Journey Together (1946). Markle subsequently moved to New York City and though uncredited, wrote for Orson Welles'The Lady from Shanghai. During his time with CBS and NBC in New York, he produced, directed, wrote for, and performed in the CBS Radio drama anthology, Studio One. When Ford Theater moved to CBS from NBC, Markle was selected to helm the Ford program while tapping the same pool of excellent Radio actors he employed in Studio One.
He produced, wrote for and played a cameo role in the movie Jigsaw (1949). Night into Morning (1951) saw him direct Nancy Davis, Ray Milland, and John Hodiak.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, he was director, producer and host for a number of television series such as Studio One for television, Front Row Center, Boris Karloff's Thriller, Father of The Bride, and Life with Father. He also directed Telescope for The CBC. In 1963 Markle directed the movie The Incredible Journey (1963) for Walt Disney Studios.
Markle met Academy Award winning actress Mercedes McCambridge while working with her during The Mercury Theatre Summer Program of 1946. Markle produced and directed many of the Summer Theatre programs, and subsequently directed his, then, wife Mercedes McCambridge in both Studio One and Ford Theatre for Radio and Television. The couple were married for 12 years and Markle adopted McCambridge's son, John, with her. The couple divorced in 1962.
Markle continued actively producing, directing and writing for Television both in Canada and the U.S. through the 1960s. Markle retired from Television from the 1970s, on.
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor
Birthplace: New York City, New York
1937 Les Miserables
1938 The Shadow
1938 Great Plays
1939 The Campbell Playhouse
1940 The Cavalcade of America
1940 The Columbia Workshop
1945 The Pacific Story
1945 Arch Oboler's Plays
1945 Theatre of Romance
1947 The Theatre Guild On The Air
1946 The Mercury Summer Theatre
1947 The Whistler
1947 The Lux Radio Theatre
1947 Superman [Audition]
1947 Doorway to Life
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 Hallmark Playhouse
1949 The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
1949 The Adventures of Frank Race
1950 Family Theatre
1951 The Line-Up
1951 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
and hundreds more . . .
Bill Johnstone in Dragnet, c. 1952
Bill Johnstone and Jeanette Nolan of the Cavalcade of America dramas have been heard in more historical Mr. and Mrs. roles than any pair in radio. Off the air Bill is a bachelor. Miss Nolan is married to Actor John McIntire. (c. 1938)
Bill Johnstone and Agnes Morehead in The Shadow, c. 1938
Bill Johnstone, c. 1944
Bill Johnstone was one of the most prolific actors in Radio. Although precious little information is available on his private life, his radio life was arguably more varied and prodigious than virtually any of his peers.
While he's probably most immediately associated with his long-running role as Lamont Cranston, 'The Shadow', he's equally remembered by thousands of his fans as the voice of Lieutenant Ben Guthrie in the poorly documented, but highly collectable radio program, 'The Line-Up'.
So varied were his roles over the years that he'll be equally well remembered for his hundreds of appearances in Cavalcade of America, as the Autolite spokesperson for hundreds of Suspense episodes, and for memorable roles in Lux Radio Theatre, This Is Your FBI, Dragnet, and virtually every other detective genre drama series of the era.
My first acquaintance with Bill Johnstone was in his poignant role as the very Patrician John Jacob Astor in 1953's Titanic. I was quite surprised to square that very Patrician image with the over one thousand radio appearances I've heard him in over the years. That wonderfully kind face and demeanor juxtaposed with the often hard-boiled, two fisted, action oriented characters he most often portrayed in Radio simply reinforced my deep respect for his voice talent.
I'm sure there's some sort of back-story why he didn't appear more in film or on the small screen, but one of his all too rare appearances in Television struck me as one of his finest. It was a small role in the 1952 Dragnet episode, 'A .22 Rifle for Christmas'. In it he portrayed the father of a young boy who'd been accidentally shot and killed shot by his young son's best friend. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't had the opportunity to see it, but it's one of the most poignant moments I can remember from that entire series.
Bill Johnstone as John Martin in Season 2, Episode 7 of the original Dragnet series
Bill Johnstone is one of those handful of legendary radio actors that will always be inseparably associated with the most golden moments of the Golden Age of Radio.
Wilbur Hatch (Music Director)
Birthplace: Mokena, Illinois, U.S.A.
Education: University of Chicago
1937 White Fires Of Inspiration
1939 Gateway To Hollywood
1940 I Was There 1940 Forecast 1942 The Whistler
1942 They Burned the Books 1942 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1942 Meet Corliss Archer
1944 American Rhapsody
1944 Three Of A Kind (Audition)
1944 Four For the Fifth
1945 Twelve Players
1945 Columbia Presents Corwin
1947 The City
1947 Camel Screen Guild Theatre
1948 Shorty Bell, Cub Reporter
1948 The Little Immigrant (Audition)
1948 Our Miss Brooks
1948 Life With Luigi
1948 My Favorite Husband
1949 Young Love
1949 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1949 Broadway Is My Beat 1951 The Adventures Of Philip Marlowe
1952 I Love Lucy
1952 Hollywood Playhouse Of Romance
1953 General Electric Theatre
1953 Bakers' Theatre Of Stars
1953 Rogers Of the Gazette 1953 Crime Classics
1956 CBS Radio Workshop 1958 Luke Slaughter Of Tombstone 1958 Frontier Gentleman
Wilbur Hatch ca. 1958
Wilbur Hatch with Desi Arnaz ca. 1960
Wilbur Hatch was a very active member of the American Federation of Musicians
Wilbur Hatch Spot Ad thanking listeners for their response to his American Rhapsody Program ca. 1944
A midwestern product, Wilbur Hatch was born in Mokena, Illinois just southwest of Chicago. Wilbur Hatch attended the University of Chicago and upon completing his degree in Music, in 1922, became a staff pianist for KYW Radio in Chiacago at the age of 20. Hatch moved to Los Angeles in 1930 and began working as a staff composer and musician for CBS and Radio KNX in 1937
By 1937 Hatch was composing and conducting for CBS Radio's White Fires of Inspiration (1937-1938), Gateway to Hollywood (1938), and I Was There (1940). In 1940, Hatch got his big break tackling the Music Direction, composing, scoring and conducting for all of CBS Forecast's West Coast-originating previews for both the 1940 and 1941 seasons. The productions ranged from straight dramas to western adventures to comedies to variety programs. In all, Wilbur Hatch was credited with twelve out of the fourteen CBS Hollywood originating programs for Forecast's two preview seasons--an extraordinary performance.
Over the next twenty years, Hatch composed, conducted and/or directed the music for over 4,000 CBS Radio programs. He has one of the top 20 highest number of Radiography entries in the RadioGOLDINdex database of Radio programs and performers. Known for the music behind The Whistler (1942-1955), Hatch also scored the music for five of The Whistler movies, and twelve of The Whistler (1954-1955) Television programs.
Hatch's Radiography shows a breadth and versatility unique in Radio History. Wilbur Hatch directed most of the Screen Guild Players programs over a span of thirteen years. He also scored and directed the music for Broadway Is My Beat (1949) and Our Miss Brooks (1948) and then went on to direct the Music for the Our Miss Brooks (1952-1955) Television programs.
Even as CBS Television was taking off, Hatch continued to score and direct for both Radio and Television. CBS New York had Lyn Murray and CBS Hollywood had Wilbur Hatch. And that's how it stacked up for both of them for over twenty years for CBS.
Hatch got his next career break directing the Music for the I Love Lucy series, which led to his appointment as Music Director for Desilu Studios and all of their prolific output of Television programs. The 1960s saw Hatch directing and/or scoring the music for Gunsmoke (1964), The Untouchables (1960-1963), Mission Impossible (1966-1967), Twilight Zone (1961), and Star Trek (1966-1967).
Despite one of the busiest careers in Hollywood, Wilbur Hatch always found--or made--time to volunteer his talents to a dizzying array of Church and Community programs. His wife, Margaret, was also a Choral Director and soloist. They were both heavily involved in the local Church community.
Hatch was one of Hollywood's most respected and beloved Music Directors for almost thirty years, before he died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1969. A devoted family man, Hatch was survived by his wife, three children, and eight grandchildren.
Wilbur Hatch continues to be remembered by hundreds of thousands of Golden Age Radio fans to this day. Having scored a great number of Radio and Television's most popular and enduring programs over the years, it's a foregone conclusion that virtually every Golden Age Radio collector has at least 400 to 1,000 examples of his Hatch's work in their libraries. An extraordinary testament to one of Radio's most enduring, yet unsung talents--unsung until now, that is.
Kennneth L. 'Ken' Carpenter (Announcer)
Radio, Television and Film Announcer, Narrator and Personality
Birthplace: Avon, Illinois, U.S.A.
Education: B.A., Lombard College
1935 Rose Bowl Game
1935 Henry Busse and His Montmartre Orchestra
1936 The Magic Key
1936 The Packard Hour
1937 Paramount's Silver Jubilee
1937 Streamlined Shakespeare
1937 The Packard Summer Program
1938 The Ray Noble Show
1938 Kraft Music Hall
1939 Amos 'n' Andy
1940 The Rudy Vallee Sealtest Show
1940 Little Old Hollywood
1940 Bing Crosby Presents
1941 Quiz Kids
1941 The Jello Program
1941 Sweet and Rhythmic
1941 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1941 Songs By Bob Carroll
1941 The Great Gildersleeve
1941 One Man's Famiy
1942 Freedom's People
1942 Command Performance
1942 Eyes Aloft
1943 The Pepsodent Show
1943 Treasury Star Parade
1943 Mail Call
1944 Mystery House
1944 World News Parade
1944 Academy Awards
1944 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1944 The Shaeffer World Parade
1944 The Elgin CHristmas Day Greeting To America
1945 The March Of Time
1945 The Chase and Sanborn Program
1945 The Life Of Riley
1945 Music For Millions
1946 Truth Or Consequences
1946 Philco Radio Time
1947 Criminal At Large (Auditon)
1947 Elgin Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America
1948 Here's To Veterans
1948 Red Cross Fund Campaign
1948 The Bing Crosby Show
1948 Guest Star
1948 This Is Bing Crosby
1949 Opportunity U.S.A.
1949 A Tribute To...
1950 The Halls Of Ivy
1950 Welcome Back Baseball
1950 Screen Director's Playhouse
1950 The Man Called X
1951 Mr Keen, Tracer Of Lost Persons
1952 The Nelson Eddy Show (Audition)
1952 Truth Or Consequences
1952 Lux Radio Theatre
1952 The Judy Garland Show
1953 Christmas Seale Sale
1953 General Electric Theatre
1953 Easter Seal Parade For Crippled Children
1953 All-Star Revue
1956 Biography In Sound
1959 Stars For Defense
1959 Have Gun, Will Travel
1960 The Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney Show
1961 Christmas Sing With Bing
1964 It's That Tie Again
1974 The Tomorrow Show
1976 The Good Old Days Of Radio
Yank Swing Session
Stand By For Music
Treasury Star Parade
Ken Carpenter circa 1943
Carpenter was a member of Phi Delta Theta while attending Lombard College
Ken Carpenter (far right) emcees the Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, Marilyn Maxwell and John Scott Trotter
Born in Avon, Illinois, Kenneth Carpenter was the son of Barlow Carpenter, a Universalist minister, and Clara Carpenter. Ken Carpenter graduated from Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois in 1921, where he was a member of the national Phi Delta Theta chapter, a fraternity of college students espousing "the cultivation of friendship among its members, the acquirement individually of a high degree of mental culture, and the attainment personally of a high standard of morality". Lombard College also is where Carpenter met his future lifelong wife, Betty.
Ken and Betty Carpenter moved to Hollywood in 1929 and soon after, Ken became a staff announcer at Hollywood's KFI radio. After announcing the 1935 Rose Bowl game on NBC, he found himself in demand for national programs. He became Bing Crosby's announcer in 1936 shortly after Bing took over the hosting duties on the Kraft Music Hall. Carpenter remained with Bing Crosby through the next 27 years. He also announced for Al Jolson and Edgar Bergen's long-running show. He performed in the same capacity on the Radio and Television versions of Lux Radio Theatre and One Man's Family.
Throughout the Golden Age of Radio Broadcasting--and beyond--Ken Carpenter remained one of Radio's busiest announcers, appearing in over 6,000 broadcasts during a forty-two year career in Radio. The staggering array of Radio programs Ken appeared in forever set him apart in the annals of Radio Broadcasting History.
Ken Carpenter also enjoyed careers in both Film and Television. He was the announcer/narrator for a fascinating series of forty-one Paramount-produced, Jerry Fairbanks-directed shorts entitled Unusual Occupations (1939-1949), which won several Academy Awards in the Short Subject category. He was also the uncredited announcer in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and the announcer, emcee, commentator, or narrator in:
Rhythm on the River (1940)
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
New York Town (1941)
The Secret Code (1942)
The Spirit of Stanford (1942)
Strictly G.I. (1943)
Mystery Broadcast (1943)
True to Life (1943)
What a Woman! (1943)
Who's Who in Animal Land (1944)
The Crime Doctor's Courage (1945)
The Lonesome Stranger (1946)
Cross My Heart (1946)
Ladies' Man (1947)
Grounds for Marriage (1951)
Susan Slept Here (1954)
All told, Ken Carpenter enjoyed a Film career spanning twenty years. Ken Carpenter was also in demand on Television, enjoying yet another ten year career as the announcer for Lux Video Theatre (1950-1955) and The Bing Crosby Show (1954) among others.
Over a forty-seven year career in the Performing Arts, Ken Carpenter stands as a legend in Radio and a true American Treasure of 20th Century Broadcasting. Ranked among the top five most important announcers in his craft, Ken Carpenter's career in Radio will probably never again be equalled.
But equally important, as a beloved gentleman and icon to all of the Broadcast announcers that followed him, he remains one of the most influential proponents of his craft to this day.