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Original Jerry Lester Show header art

The Jerry Lester Show Radio Program

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Background

From the July 24th 1943 edition of the Mason City Globe-Gazette:

JERRY LESTER TO
OPEN THURSDAY 

Miriam Hopkins Will
Appear as First Guest
      Miriam Hopkins, famous dramatic actress, romps through a comedy routine with Jerry Lester, fast flinger of flip quips, when she appears as the first big-name guest on the "Jerry Lester Show," making its debut on KGLO-CBS next Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

     Miss Hopkins, now starring on Broadway in Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer prize play, "The Skin of Our Teeth," has a long list of stage and film roles to her credit.  She appeared in "Wine of Choice," "Men are Not Gods," Woman Chooses Man," "Wise Girl," and many others.  Miss Hopkins pursues two hobbies  avidly:  Reading and painting.  Her education was acquired at Goddard seminary, Vermont, and Syracuse university.

     In addition to Miss Hopkins as guest, and Jerry Lester as star comedian, Producer Larry Berns assembles for the half-hour of comedy and melody a cast including Fred Uttal, announcer-straight man; Diane Courtney, singer; Ray Sinatra's band, and Florence Pritchett, a John Powers model.

Series Derivatives:

None
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Comedy-Variety
Network(s): CBS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 43-07-25 01 Guest Miriam Hopkins
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 43-07-25 to 53-11-11; CBS ; Twenty Six, 30-minute programs;
Syndication: Columbia Broadcasting System; Presto [performer recordings]
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s):
Principal Actors: Regulars:

Jerry Lester, Diane Courtney, Vera Holly, Jim Backus, Hans Conried

Featured Guests:

Anna Sten, Audrey Christie,Billie Burke, Binnie Barnes, Carole Landis, Constance Bennett, Diana Barrymore, Ethel Merman, Gene Tierney, Jean Parker, Jeanne Cagney, Joan Blondell, Margaret Lindsay, Marsha Hunt, Michele Morgan, Miriam Hopkins, Ralph Bellamy, Shirley Booth
Recurring Character(s): None
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): None
Writer(s)
Music Direction:
Musical Theme(s):
Announcer(s): Fred Uttal
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
26
Episodes in Circulation: 11
Total Episodes in Collection: 11
Provenances:
Contributor, Jerry Haendiges.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were newspaper listings.

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[Date, title, and episode column annotations in
red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]







The Jerry Lester Show Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
43-07-18
--
--
43-07-18 Wisconsin State Journal
6:00 Chips Davis, Commando--WBBM

43-07-25
1
Guest Miriam Hopkins
N
43-07-25 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): new series with Diane Courtney; Miriam Hopkins, guest.

43-08-01
2
Guest Carole Landis
N
43-08-01 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): and Carole Landis.

43-08-08
3
Guest Ethel Merman
N
43-08-08 Wisconsin State Journal
6:00 Jerry Lester--WBBM WCCO

43-08-08 Boston Herald
7:00 WEEI--Jerry Lester Show--
Ethel Merman, guest.

43-08-15
4
Guest Joan Blondell
N
43-08-15 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): and Joan Blondell.

43-08-22
5
Guest Billie Burke
N
43-08-22 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): with
Billie Burke

43-08-29
6
Guest Gene Tierney
N
43-08-29 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): with
Gene Tierney

43-09-05
7
Guest Carole Landis
N
43-09-05 New York Times
7:00-WABC--Jerry Lester Show;
Carol Landis, Guest

43-09-12
8
Guest Constance Bennett
N
43-09-12 Wisconsin State Journal
6 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): and
Constance Bennett.

43-09-19
9
Guest Unknown
N
43-09-19 Wisconsin State Journal
6:00 Jerry Lester--WBBM-WCCO

43-09-19 Long Beach Independent
4 P.M. KNX--Jerry Lester Show

43-09-26
10
Guest Unknown
N
43-09-26 Zanesville Sunday Signal
7:00 WJR--Jerry Lester Show

43-10-03
11
Guest Madeleine Carroll
N
43-10-03 Boston Herald
7:00 WEEI -- The Jerry Lester Show with
Madeleine Carroll, guest; Ray Sinatra's Orchestera

43-10-10
12
Guest Unknown
Eileene Wilson
Y
43-10-10 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
7:00--Jerry Lester Show, WABC.

43-10-17
13
Guest Margaret Lindsay
Y
43-10-17 Long Beach Independent
4 P.M. KNX--Jerry Lester Show

43-10-24
14
Guest Ralph Bellamy
Y
[ Moves from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night]

43-10-24 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Fred Uttal. Guest:
Ralph Bellamy.

43-10-31
15
Guest Ralph Bellamy
Y
[ Announces, "Tonight is Halloween" ]

43-10-31 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Fred Uttal, Ray Sinatra's band.

43-11-07
16
Guest Jean Parker
Y
43-11-07 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Fred Uttal, Ray Sinatra's band.

43-11-14
17
Guest Joan Blondell
Y
43-11-14 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Fred Uttal, Ray Sinatra's music.

43-11-14 Canton Repository
Joan Blondell, stage and screen actress, will make her second guest appearance on the "Jerry Lester" show tonight at 7 over Columbia.

43-11-21
18
Guest Binnie Barnes
N
43-11-21 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): and
Binnie Barnes.

43-11-28
19
Guest Marsha Hunt
N
43-11-28 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): and
Marsha Hunt.

43-12-05
20
Guest Jeanne Cagney
N
43-12-05 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Vera Holly, Guest:
Jeanne Cagney.

43-12-12
21
Guest Diana Barrymore
Y
43-12-12 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Vera Holly. Guest:
Diana Barrymore.

43-12-19
22
Guest Michele Morgan
Y
43-12-19 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM):
Michele Morgan, guest.

43-12-26
23
Guest Carole Landis
Y
43-12-26 Chicago Daily Tribune
7:00--WBBM--Jerry Lester show, with Vera Holly. Guest:
Carole Landis.

44-01-02
24
Guest Anna Sten
N
44-01-02 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM) with
Anna Sten.

44-01-09
25
Guest Shirley Booth
Y
44-01-09 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM):
Shirley Booth, guest.

44-01-16
26
Guest Audrey Christie
Y
44-01-16 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Jerry Lester Show (WBBM): with
Audrey Christie, comedienne.

44-01-23
--
--
44-01-23 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Recreation Hall (WBBM): Carole Landis as mistress of ceremonies in War Bond show; Minerva Pious, comedienne; Lud Gluskin's orchestra; contest between Camp Haan servicemen, each a former professional entertainer.

44-01-30
--
--
44-01-30 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Recreation Hall (WBBM): Carole Landis in bond show, with Minerva Pious, Lud Gluskin's orchestra, and three servicemen vieing for dates with Carole.

44-02-06
--
--
44-02-06 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--The Star and the Story (WBBM): Walter Pidgeon begins series of dramatic programs with guest stars; first drama, "The Awful Truth," with Irene Dunne.







The Jerry Lester Show Radio Program Biographies




Jerry Lester
(Star Performer)

(1910-1995)

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois

Radiography:

1939 Rudy Vallee Hour
1941 Kraft Music Hall
1942 Adolf Hitler's Mock Birthday Party
1943 Jerry Lester Show
1944 Radio Hall Of Fame
1944 Mail Call
1945 Command Performance
1950 Cloak and Dagger
1951 Stars On Parade
G.I. Jive

From the March 26th 1995 edition of the Los Angeles Daily News:

JERRY LESTER, COMEDIAN, PIONEER OF LATE-NIGHT TV:

Jerry Lester, an ebullient comedian and former song-and-dance man who became the host of the first successful late-night network television talk and variety show, died Thursday in a Miami nursing home. He was 85.

His wife, Alice, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Lester appeared in a number of Broadway musicals and a few Hollywood films in the 1940s. He also was familiar to radio audiences, but he broke into late-night television in 1950 almost by mistake.

Asked to appear as a guest on a talk show with Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg, Lester almost refused until he was assured that a movie he and his wife planned to see that night had a later showing.

His shameless mugging, corny jokes and irrepressible energy lighted up the NBC telephone switchboard, prompting Pat Weaver, the president of NBC, to offer the comedian a show of his own on the spot.

Called "Broadway Open House," the show began in May 1950, and for the next year it introduced viewers new to television to the kind of late-night entertainment vehicle - featuring comedy, music and famous guests - that ultimately made stars of Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.

Lester's most famous cast member was Dagmar, a voluptuous blonde whose deadpan reactions to his mugging were a hallmark of his early shows.

Jack Gould, television critic of The New York Times, called Lester the master of low comedy and a performer who never gave up on a joke.

Even Lester called himself the "heckler of all hecklers."

Lester never failed to be surprised by his initial television success. In an interview in 1950, he said his aim was to make the audience like him, no matter what, and that talent was not so important.

"If they like you, you don't have to worry whether every gag goes over big or if every sketch is the best thing they've ever seen," he said. "And if it isn't, I don't beat the audience over the head. I never tell them they're wrong. I just apologize."

Lester was born in Chicago, where his father was a music critic. As a boy he entered Charleston and tap-dancing contests and performed in music halls and nightclubs. After studying at Northwestern University, he embarked on a career in show business that included music halls, nightclubs, Broadway, Hollywood, radio and finally television.

In the 1940s, he appeared in a number of Broadway shows, including George Abbott's "Beat the Band" and "Jackpot."

In 1965, he renewed his tie to Abbott and appeared in the road production of Abbott's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." In 1969, he played the wheeler-dealer Seabee, Luther Willis, in a Jones Beach production of the musical "South Pacific."

Lester's wife said he was stricken with Alzheimer's disease in 1975 and never performed again.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children from an earlier marriage: a son, Jay, of Tucson, and two daughters who reside in the Southland, Judy Stein of Calabasas and Joan Busler, of West Hills; four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


From the March 26th 1995 edition of the Galveston Daily News:

Late-night
TV pioneer
Jerry Lester
Dead at 85 

The Associated Press
      MIAMI--Jerry Lester, a host of the early '50s TV show "Broadway Open House," the forerunner of the "Tonight Show," has died after a long illness.  He was 85.     Lester died Thursday at a nursing home, said his widow, Alice.  He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for several years.
     "Broadway Open House," a vaudeville-style mixture of music and jokes, ran for 15 months on NBC in 1950-51, becoming hte first network late-night show.
     Lester was host three nights a week, splitting the chores with comic Morey Amsterdam.  Amsterdam went on to TV fame on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."     NBC later refined the late-night concept, and "Tonight" premiered in 1954.
     Lester also was a regular on the '50s game show "Pantomime Quiz," and other variety shows like "Saturday Night Dance Party" and "Cavalcade of Stars."
     Lester worked with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others in various comedy shows during his radio days, Mrs. Lester said.
     He was also part of Don Ameche's weekly program for several years.
     Before embarking on a broadcasting career, he worked as a comedian and performed in night clubs across the united States, Europe and Australia, Mrs. Lester said.  He also acted in several movies and appeared on Broadway.
     He performed off and on until 10 years ago.  At a New Year's Eve performance at a Miami hotel, he forgot his lines because of Alzheimer's.  "It was terrible to see him struggle," Mrs. Lester said tearfully.  "I told him, 'Darlin', don't ever get on stage again."'
     He didn't.
     Survivors include a brother, Buddy Lester, of Los Angeles; three children; and several grandchildren.



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