The Blue Network, still in its infancy, brought Little Blue Playhouse to the air on April 4th 1942.
From the March 25th 1942 edition of the Panama City News-Herald:
NEW YORK, March 25--(Wide World)--More serious consideration in the training of its own actors is another prospect for radio. While through its children programs it has turned out quite a few, these have not been sufficient to meet all the requirements. Most microphone actors come from stage and screen or other sources.
So, to provide a place where this idea can be materialized, the Blu network is setting up a series of programs to be known as "The Little Blue Playhouse." In it boys and girls aged six to 16 not only will obtain dramatic training but enable the listeners to hear how they are getting along.
Under the guidance of Madge Tucker, who will write and direct and who has had long experience with young actors, the playhouse, to start at 10:30 a.m. April 4, will present the childhood stories of American heroes, past and present.
Almost simultaneously, the Blu on April 5 is starting a grown-up series as "The Blue Theater Players." Actors who are experienced primarily in radio will be used.
From the May 15th 1943 issue of The Billboard:
NEW YORK, May 8.--If there's such a thing as the forgotten show in radio, it's the kiddie program. Kiddie-cast layouts are still going strong on network and local stations (in fact, many veteran "kid" performers have reached draft age), but few manage to land sponsors. Brat programs draw packed studio audiences, long waiting lists of would-be actors annd big fan mail. Also build a lot of good will from "just folks" for radio--but still the sponsors act coy. For example, the time for CBS's Let's Pretend, now in its 14th year, was sold three times with the contingency that it precede the sponsor's program. In other words, the money man wanted the audience drawn by the LP kiddie show but didn't want the show itself--a horrible example, say kid show producers, of sponsors being "unfair" to tot-talent programs.
Only two kid-peopled network shows are sponsored: Quiz Kids, on Blue for Alka-Seltzer, and Bobby Hockey, on Mutual for Pharmacal, Inc. (commercial on Don Lee stations and sustaining on rest of the web).
Despite lack of sponsors, child artists draw enough attention to encourage I. W. Clements, of the Clements Agency, Philadelphia, to plan a fall Broadway musical, Automatically Yours, which will use low-age performers from both of Horn & Hardart's New York (WEAF) and Philadelphia (WCAU) programs. Will be the first kid musical to reach Broadway. Programs will be tied in with the stage-show, each plugging the other, and a large audience is expected to be drawn from relatives of youngsters in the cast.
5 on Nets Sans Sponsor
There are five network sustaining kid-cast shows:
(1) Let's Pretend, which started on CBS in 1930 as a dramatization of fairy tales, changed to Adventures of Helen and Mary, changed back to Let's Pretend in 1934, when Nila Mack took it over. Won the Women's National Radio award as best children show for 1942.
(2) Youth on Parade, on CBS Saturday mornings, started at WEEI, Boston, two years ago under Dolphe Martin and with Milton Grubbs, 12, as emsee. Went Coast to Coast last year.
(3) Game Parade, Saturday mornings on the Blue, now in its sixth year. Oldest kid quiz in the business, produced and directed by Natalie Purvin Prager.
(4) Coast to Coast on a Bus, Sunday mornings on the Blue, on the air since 1942 (oldest sustainer in radio), with Milton Cross stil emsee and Madge Tucker the producer-director since 1929.
(5) Little Blue Playhouse, Saturday mornings on the Blue for a year, which uses professional juveniles and has Madge Tucker, producer-writer, and Ira Marion, writer.
These shows have produced a raft of kids that were good enough to become pro performers, some moving on to big money in radio, legit and films. According to Miss Tucker, bigest money-makers developed among the kid actors have been: Jak Kelk, recently in films and still under film contract; Billy Hallop, an original Dead End kid, now an army corporal, and Nancy Kelly, now a film contract player.
Hottest performer is Skippy Homeier, 12-year-old veteran of 600 radio programs, featured in the Broadway hit Tomorrow the World. Started his career on Coast to Coast on a Bus and also worked on Let's Pretend. Another hot shot is Bobby Hockey, five-year-old singer and radio's youngest regular network performer, who is on Mutual Sunday nights in a 15-minute airing for Choos (Pharmacal, Inc.). Does a Rocking Horse Rhythm program. (Show is commercial only on the Don Lee net.) Also has a regular spot on Voice of Olivio program, on a limited NBC network Sunday nights, for dog food sponsor Thrivo. Hockey started on Horn & Hardart program three years ago when he was two. Important also is Olivio Santoro, 14, singer, who has the Voice of Olivio show.
Other kids who have become standard performers after starting on raio low-age programs:
Mickey O'Day, 18, who started at 6; Charita Bauer, 17; Vivian Smolen, 18; Billy Redfield, 15, in Junior Miss; Alastair Kyle, English refugee, of brief-run The Rock; Peter Fernandes, 15, formerly in several legit shows; Ronnie Liss, 12, who started on radio when only 2 1/2; Bobby Hastings, 17; Ann Blythe, 13, signed by Universal Pictures; Marily Day, 16, now with Johnny Long's band and also under contract to Columbia Pictures; Walter Tetley, 18, now in pictures and in Great Gildersleeve program on the Coast; Nancy Walker, Dewey Barto's daughter now working for MGM; Tommy Dix, also under contract to MGM; Tommy Dix, also under contract to MGM; Joan Tetzel, under contract to David Selznick and now in the play Harriet; Paul Porter Jr., who has worked more than 200 broadcasts and is now in Tomorrow the World.
Many of kid actors on the air are now old enough to qualify for Uncle Sam. Group includes: Jerry Tucker, who ran away three times to enlist in the navy; Charles Reilly, who enlisted in the Canadian Air Force; Billy Hallop, now a corporal; Ralph Welliver, now in Iceland; Eddie Wraggs, a lieutenant in the Signal Corps; John Most, a lieutenant ferry pilot, and Jimmy MacCallion, 24, formerly in films, now at Camp Jackson, S.C.
Auditioning Mom's Pride
Kid casts draw a lot of would-be actors. Quiz Kids, which started in Chicago almost three years ago as a sponsored show, has handled 5,000 auditions in Chi and other cities, according to Louis Cowan, who owns the show. It has used around 150 punks during that time and has rafts of applications that it thins down thru questionnaires. (Its latest Crossley is 10.5, very high for the Blue Network.) Sustaining Game Parade has had 1,400 kids on its quiz program during its five years, with a waiting list of 1,755. Coast to Coast draws 1,700 requests a year for auditions, but can use only about four new children monthly, and only one of the four is usually good enough to rate repeat appearances. Let's Pretend draws 500 audition bids annyally, but "only 2 out of 30 are good enough to get on the show," says Nila Mack, the show's producer.
Child shows draw many adults to the studio audiences and from among those writing in. For example, 40 per cent of the 1,500 questions sent in weekly to Game Parade come from grown-ups.
As for earnings, the quiz programs pay off in prizes; amateur contest programs often hand out awards also, and the others pay AFRA scale or more. Those kids who establish themselves on radio augment their income thru making shorts and feature pictures, plus modeling, doing voices for animated cartoons and legit, etc.
From the November 1943 issue of Radio Mirror:
There's a young boy of twelve who's worth watching. His name is Skippy Homeier and you hear him daily on the radio in The Right to Happiness and, if you're lucky enough to live nearby, you can see him nightly in the Broadway
success "Tomorrow The World," in which Skippy's performance as a nasty Nazi-conditioned child brought rave notices from New York's critics.
Skippyreal name George Vincent Homeier, Jr.was one of those kids who could go to the movies or the theater and come home and act out what he had seen and heardand do it well. At five he was sent to dancing school, not with a professional career in mind, but so he could learn poise and make friends easily.
That's what his mother thought. When the family moved to New York, Skippy soon found himself auditioning for Madge Tuckerand he had a job on her Little Blue Playhouse. Mrs. Homeier then gave in to the inevitable, did a bit of scouting around on her own and pretty soon Skippy was one of the busiest juveniles around NBC. He's played in such shows as Mary Marlin, Portia Faces Life, Cavalcade of America, The March of Time, Against the Storm and many others. In spite of his strenuous career, Skippy finds time to pursue the normal activities of a healthy American boy. His hobby is building model airplanes and he's an ardent swimmer and diver.
Like most other youngsters his age, he is heart and soul for winning the war. He is the president of the Children's Section of the Ambijan Committee for the Relief of Russian Children. The organization sends necessities to the needy children of heroic Stalingrad and other Russian cities. Skippy's work is cut out for him. When "Tomorrow the World" finishes its successful run in New York, Skippy will be due in Hollywood to fulfill an MGM contract.
Not badfor twelve!