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Original Warner Bros Academy Theater header art


The Warner Academy Theater Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Warner Academy Theatre

Warner Academy Theater, here referred to as Encore Theatre of The Air, is announced on April 1, 1938
Warner Academy Theater, here
referred to as Encore Theatre of The
Air, is announced on April 1, 1938

Dorthy Comingore went on to fame with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre and her co-starring role in Citizen Kane
Dorthy Comingore went on to fame
with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre
and her starring role in Citizen Kane

Ronald Reagan went on to, among other things, become the President of The United States.
Ronald Reagan went on to become, among other things, the
President of The United States.

Cute as a button, Priscilla Lane was Cary Grant's love interest in Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Cute as a button, Priscilla Lane was Cary Grant's love interest in Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Oscar-winning Susan Hayward went on to four other Oscar nominations
Oscar-winning Susan Hayward went on to four other Oscar nominations, a
Cannes Film Festival award, and
two Golden Globe awards

Five times married, five times divorced Carole Landis, the lovely young Norwegian-American actress tragically took her own life at age 29
Five times married, five times divorced Carole Landis the lovely young Norwegian-American actress tragically took her own life at age 29.

Gloria Dickson became one of Hollywood's brightest burning candles prior to her accidental death at the age of 29
Gloria Dickson became one of Hollywood's brightest burning
candles prior to her accidental
death at the age of 29

Warner Brothers Academy Theater was something of a departure from the myriad other movie studio 'trailer programs' that aired in abundance during the 1930s. Movie trailer programs for the most part simply provided audio clips from recently released or soon to be released film or short features, sprinkled with a few candid promotional pieces from the actors or directors. The intent was obvious: to create a 'buzz' in the radio audience for an upcoming film from a particular studio. Examples of such programs were Leo Is On the Air from M-G-M (1935), Hollywood On the Air (1935), RKO Presents (1938), 20th Century Fox Preview (1936), Samuel Goldwyn Air Trailers (1946), Paramount Is On the Air (1937-1946), Roar Heard 'Round the World (1934), and Warner Bros. Air Trailers (1935). There were more, to be sure, but these are the examples most in circulation at present.

1938's Warner Brothers Academy Theater presented an even more innovative premise. Drawing upon Warner Bros.' stable of rising starlets (the series famously refers to both their young male and female actors as starlets) in "revivals and hitherto unused scripts" as a means of showcasing their young talent. The program refers to this stable of young actors as the Warner Academy Players, in reference to its self-described Warner Academy of Acting. Whether in fact either group actually existed within Warner Brothers remains to be proven, but it made good promotional copy in any case. Thinly veiled as 'revivals', well over half of the presentations were crafted to promote Warner Bros. productions already in wide distribution.

Sponsored by the Gruen Watch Company, Warner Brothers Academy Theater is referred to under several different names in the promotional copy and radio listings of the era. The listings could be found under, variously:
  • Warner Brothers Academy Theater
  • Warner Bros. Academy
  • Encore Theater of The Air
  • Rising Stars
  • Academy Theater
  • Academy Theatre

The confusion this ambiguity creates for any historian researching the newspapers of the era on this interesting, short-lived Summer program is quite understandable. Thankfully, once one finds a common thread in a single newspaper, tracing the entire thirteen program run becomes far easier. Indeed, the program was an historical one for the many young stars it introduced and promoted to the early Radio audience. Often anchored by one or two established Warner Bros. film actors, the series introduced the following young Warner Academy Players to America:

  • Dick Foran (28)
  • Gloria Dickson (22)
  • Gale Page (25)
  • Ronald Reagan (27)
  • Carole Landis (19)
  • Gale Gordon (32)
  • John Ridgely (28)
  • Pat O'Brien (39)
  • Rosella Towne (20)
  • Jeffrey Lynn (28)
  • Jan Holm (22)
  • Larry Williams (25)
  • Susan Hayward (21)
  • Dorothy Comingore [Kay Winters] (25)
  • Sheila Bromley (27)

To make it more interesting, the program intersperses the presentations with, among others, Jack Warner himself, Alan Jenkins, Margaret Lindsay, Wayne Morris, Priscilla Lane, Ray Enright, Frank McHugh, Ian Hunter, and Basil Rathbone, also still young actors in their own right. In the above list of rising stars one can't help but notice Dick Foran, Gloria Dickson, Ronald Reagan, Gale Gordon, Carole Landis, and Susan Hayward. Pat O'Brien was already well established by 1938. Of the young actors listed, two of the young female actresses had their careers tragically cut short--Gloria Dickson in a house fire in 1945 and Carole Landis, a suicide--each only 29 at the time of their deaths.

Though ostensibly some of their earliest performances, most of the featured actors had already performed in Film. Nonetheless, it's fascinating to hear what, for many of them, was their first on-air performances. Warner Brothers didn't reprise this feature beyond the Summer 1938 run. It might have continued to be a fascinating summer feature. As it stands, it remains a first glimpse of future stardom for over half of the featured players.

The program was syndicated via electrical transcription by the Trans-American Broadcasting System, aired live via the early California Radio System, and locally over Warner Bros. own KFWB in Hollywood. Those independent stations that aired the program by syndicated electrical transcription broadcast the program whenever and wherever it fit into their respective schedules. As such, dates and times vary throughout the country during the Summer of 1938. The log we adopted below was for continuity's sake. We found that the WMAQ affiliate broadcasting to Wisconsin aired the entire run, in sequence, for thriteen consecutive weeks, so it served as the best contiguous log for our purposes.

Though syndicated, it's worth noting that the Gruen Watch Company's commercials are both interwoven into each script, and part and parcel of each complete airing. This was something of a departure for syndicated programs of the era, which customarily left blank or musical fill within each electrical transcription disc side for either local or national sponsor spots. The surviving run is intact for the nine circulating programs, although four of the programs remain as yet un-discovered.

Often confused or conflated with Academy Award (1946) , the E.R. Squibb-sponsored movie anthology, or Hollywood Academy Theater (1944), Warner Academy Theater both preceded them by at least six years, and showcased only Warner Bros. players and productions. The production remains both a fascinating Golden Age Radio artifact as well as an historical footnote to Warner Bros. Film History. In both respects, Warner Academy Theater remains a highly collectible and historic addition to any serious Radio collector's holdings.

Series Derivatives:

None
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Movie Dramas
Network(s): California Radio System; CBS; Trans-American Broadcasting System
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 38-04-03 01 One-Way Passage
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 38-04-03 to 38-06-26; CRS; Thirteen, 30-minute programs; Sundays, 8:30 p.m., then 9:00 p.m.
Syndication: Trans-American Broadcasting System
Sponsors: Gruen Watch Company 'Curvex' Wristwatch; Dale Carnegie How to Get Ahead in The World Today Book Premium
Director(s): Unknown
Principal Actors: The Warner Academy Players: Dick Foran, Gloria Dickson, Ronald Reagan, Carole Landis, Gale Gordon, Wayne Morris, John Ridgely, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Gale Page, Rosella Towne, Jeffrey Lynn, Ian Hunter, Jan Holm, Larry Williams, Susan Hayward, Dorothy Comingore [Kay Winters], Sheila Bromley, Henry O'Neill, Margaret Lindsay, Allen Jenkins , Frank McHugh, Priscilla Lane , Ian Hunter, Edmund Goulding , Basil Rathbone
Recurring Character(s): Varied from program to program.
Protagonist(s): Varied from program to program.
Author(s): None
Writer(s) None
Music Direction: Unknown
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Unknown
Estimated Scripts
or Broadcasts:
13
Episodes in Circulation: 9
Total Episodes in Collection: 9
Provenances:

Jeweler's spot ad for Warner Academy Theatre's presentation of Snowed Under from June 19 1938
Jeweler's spot ad for Warner Academy Theatre's presentation of Snowed Under from June 19 1938
Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenance were newspaper listings.

We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Warner Academy Theatre log, which the OTRR claims to be correct according to their 'OTTER log' they represent as the "most authoritative and accurate otr database in the world":

OTRRpedia

We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE to protect our own due diligence and intellectual property.

What you see here, is what you get. Complete transparency. We have no 'credentials' whatsoever--in any way, shape, or form--in the 'otr community'--none. We're not 'important' in any way. But here's how we did it--for better or worse. Here's how you can build on it yourselves--hopefully for the better. Here's the breadcrumbs--just follow the trail a bit further if you wish. No hobbled downloads. No misdirection. No posturing about our 'credentials.' No strings attached. We point you in the right direction and you're free to expand on it, extend it, use it however it best advances your efforts.

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We don't pronounce our Golden Age Radio research as 'certified' anything. By the very definition, research is imperfect--and forever incomplete. We simply tell the truth. As is our continuing practice, we provide our fully provenanced research results--to the extent possible--right here on the page, for any of our peers to review--or refute--as the case may be. If you take issue with any of our findings, you're welcome to cite any better verifiable source(s) and we'll immediately review them and update our findings accordingly. As more verifiable provenances surface, we'll continue to update the following series log, as appropriate.

All rights reserved by their respective sources. Article and log copyright 2009 The Digital Deli Online--all rights reserved. Any failure to attribute the results of this copywritten work will be rigorously pursued.







Warner Academy Theater Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
38-04-03
1
One Way Passage
Y
[Premiere Episode]

38-04-01 Dunkirk Evening Observer
RONALD BEGAN (right), who started his career as life guard sports announcer, plays the male lead in Robert Lord's famous "
One Way Passage" when the "Encore Theater of the Air" makes it debut on April 8. Blonde Gloria Dixon (center), who came to Hollywood from the W.P.A. Theater, plays the girl, and beloved Henry O'Neill (left) supports them. Revivals and hitherto unused scripts will be presented by Warner Brothers on this uniqne new program, and it's up to the listeners to write in if they want to see the shows made into movies

38-04-08 Chester Times
8:00 -- WCAU— Play."
One Way Passage."
38-04-10
2
The King and The Chorus Girl
N
38-04-17
3
I Found Stella Parrish
N
38-04-13 Circleville Herald
GALE PAGE RETURNS
Gale Page long a favorite on the national networks, leturns to radio after an absence of several months on the "Warner Academy Theatre" program 10 to 10 30 p m, EST, Sunday, April 17, over WLW. This broadcast will present Miss Page with James Stephenson in '"
I Found Stella Parrish" Both are members of the Warner Academy.

38-04-17 Wisconsin State Journal
10 p. m. — Academy Theater
(WMAQ): "
I Found Stella Parrish."
38-04-24
4
Special Agent
Y
38-04-17 Wisconsin State Journal
8 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ): Wayne Morris in "
Special Agent."
38-05-01
5
It's Love I'm After
N
38-05-01 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ): Pat O'Brien guestars in playlet "
It's Love I'm After."
38-05-08
6
That Certain Woman Act One
Y
38-05-08 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ)
38-05-15
7
That Certain Woman Act Two
Y
38-05-15 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ)
38-05-22
8
Don't Bet On Blondes
Y
38-05-22 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ)
38-05-29
9
Her Husband's Secretary
N
38-05-28 Circleville Herald
9:00: Warner Academy WLW. Sponsored by Gruen Watch Co., Press Hosler, local dealer.

38-05-29 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p. m. — Academy Theater (WMAQ)
38-06-05
10
The Crowd Roars
Y
38-06-04 Circleville Herald
9:00: Warner Academy WLW. Sponsored by Gruen Watch Co., Press Hosler, local dealer.
38-06-12
11
Desirable
Y
38-06-12 Circleville Herald
9:00: Warner Academy WLW. Sponsored by Gruen Watch Co., Press Hosler, local dealer.
38-06-19
12
Snowed Under
Y
[See spot ad in Provenances]

38-06-19 Circleville Herald
9:00: Warner Academy WLW. Sponsored by Gruen Watch Co., Press Hosler, local dealer.
38-06-26
13
The House On 56th Street
Y
[ Last Episode ]

38-06-26 Circleville Herald
9:00: Warner Academy WLW. Sponsored by Gruen Watch Co., Press Hosler, local dealer.






Warner Academy Theater Biographies




The Warner Brothers [Hirsz, Aaron, Szmul, & Itzhak Wanskolaser]
[Also Harold, Albert, Samuel, and John Eichelbaum]
(Producers/Creators)
Harry Warner (1881-1958)
Albert Warner (1883-1967)
Sam Warner (1888-1927)
Jack Warner (1892-1978)
Birthplace: Poland, Russian Empire

Radiography:
1934
Warner Air Trailers
1938
Warner Academy Theater

The Warner brothers: Harry, Al, Sam, and Jack, ca. 1937
The Warner brothers: Harry, Al, Sam, and Jack, ca. 1937

The Strand Film Service was one of the Warner Bros. early New York film production efforts, resulting in 1922's Pirate of Plains
The Strand Film Service was one of the Warner Bros. early New York film production efforts, resulting in 1922's Pirate of Plains

Warner Bros. wind machine on their new lot, ca. 1922
Warner Bros. wind machine on their new lot, ca. 1922

Al Warner, movie magnate as Director while David Belasco and his star Lenora Ulrich enjoy their introduction to the official movie world at the offices of the Warner brothers in New York, ca 1923
Al Warner, movie mogul as Director while David Belasco and Lenora Ulrich
enjoy an intro to the movie world at Warner brothers, New York, ca 1923.

Rin Tin Tin and Rin Tin Tin, Jr. put the early Warner Bros. studios on the map, ca. 1922
Rin Tin Tin and Rin Tin Tin, Jr. put the early Warner Bros. studios on the map, ca. 1922

Ernst Lubitsch, ca. 1935
Ernst Lubitsch, ca. 1935

John 'The Profile' Barrymore, ca. 1925
John 'The Profile' Barrymore, ca. 1925

The Vitagraph Theatre, ca. 1914
The Vitagraph Theatre, ca. 1914

Warner Bros. partnered with Western Electric in 1926
Warner Bros. partnered with Western Electric in 1926

Warner Bros. established Vitaphone's famous technology in 1926
Warner Bros. established Vitaphone's famous technology in 1926

Warner Bros./Vitaphone logo, ca. 1927

Warner Bros./Vitaphone features logo, ca. 1927

New York billboard promoting Warner Bros. Don Juan feature with Vitaphone, ca. 1926
New York billboard promoting Warner Bros. Don Juan feature with Vitaphone, ca. 1926

The Premiere of The Jazz Singer, ca. 1927
The Premiere of The Jazz Singer, ca. October 1927



Warner Bros. acquired First National Pictures in thirds, eventually owning the company
in 1929 in the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash

Charles Skouras, ca. 1940
Charles Skouras, ca. 1940

Spyros Skouras, ca. 1946
Spyros Skouras, ca. 1946

The 'Hays Code' Resolutions of June 12, 1934
The 'Hays Code' Resolutions of
June 12, 1934

KFWB Certified Reception Stamp
KFWB Certified Reception Stamp

First National The End title

Warner Bros.' involvement in Radio began with Sam Warner's 1925 purchase of Radio station KFWB in Los Angeles. The Call Sign, despite the obvious inference, didn't derive from the name Warner Brothers. The Department of Commerce seredipitously issued three Call Signs the same day that they processed Sam Warner's application. The Ogden, Utah applicant was assigned KFWA, Sam Warner was assigned KFWB and the San Bernardino, California applicant was assigned KFWC. The fortuitious Call Sign assignment was simply another in a long history of lucky breaks for the four Warner Brothers.

The three older jewish immigrant brothers first emigrated from their native Poland to Ontario, Canada. The oldest brothers in a family of twelve children, their youngest brother, Jack, was born in London, Ontario, Canada in 1892. Traveling south to the U.S. in the mid-1890s, Jack Warner's father and three older brothers began exhibiting films to the mining towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio with a movie projector and equipment their father reportedly acquired for $150. By 1903 the trio had opened their first commercial theatre--the Cascade--in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Not content to simply show films, in 1904 the Warner brothers founded the Duquesne Amusement & Supply Company to distribute films. This led to film distribution deals eventually spanning a four-state area. By 1912 they'd acquired an auditor, Paul Chase, to handle their growing financial empire. Within five years they had begun producing films of their own. In 1918 the four brothers opened the Warner Bros. studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The two younger brothers, Sam and Jack Warner, produced the films and the two older brothers, Harry and Al Warner, and Controller Paul Chase handled the finance and distribution out of New York City.

On April 4, 1923 they formally incorporated as Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated. The Brothers' first major acquisition was the rights to Avery Hopwood's Broadway play, The Gold Diggers (1919) from theatrical impresario David Belasco. But Warner Bros. greatest early coup was the dog, Rin Tin Tin, brought over from France after World War I by an American G.I..

In yet another bit of serendipity, Rin Tin Tin debuted in the short film, The Man from Hell's River (1922). The short was an instant success and Jack Warner signed the dog to star in what eventually became 28 more short films and features. Signed for $1,000 per week, Rin Tin Tin soon became the top dog at Warner Bros. Jack Warner reportedly nicknamed 'Rinty' The Mortgage Lifter. Rin Tin Tin's success also boosted his producer Darryl F. Zanuck's career. Zanuck rose to become the top Producer for the studio and by 1928 had become Jack Warner's right-hand man and executive producer.

Even more fortuitous was the arrival of famed German filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch as head director, replacing Harry Rapf, who left the studio to work at MGM. Lubitsch's film The Marriage Circle (1924) was the studio's most successful to date and remained on The New York Times best films list for the entire year.

The success of Rin Tin Tin and Lubitsch brought more financing to Warner Bros. but the studio still lacked a major human stable of stars. Their solution was to offer the famous Stage actor John Barrymore the lead role in Beau Brummell (1924). A runaway success, Harry Warner agreed to sign 'The Profile' to a generous multi-year contract. And as with The Marriage Circle before it, Beau Brummel again topped the New York Times best films list.

As 1925 arrived, Warner Bros. was by most accounts the most successful independent studio in Hollywood. And as unlikely as it is to view Warner Bros. as an independent, it's useful to remember that their competition at the time was the Big Three studios--First National, Paramount, and M-G-M. Harry Warner was able to convince a group of 1,500 commercial exhibitors to spend $500,000 in newspaper advertising promoting early Film, and Harry saw an opportunity to finally establish theaters in big markets like New York and Los Angeles.

As the studio prospered, it got the attention of Wall Street. With a major loan from Goldman Sachs in 1924, the Warners bought the pioneering Vitagraph Company and its nation-wide distribution system. And so it was that in 1925, the Warners also experimented with Radio, establishing the highly successful KFWB, Los Angeles.

Warner Bros. had been a pioneer of films with synchronized sound or "talkies." But when Sam Warner pushed for adding the feature to their own films, Harry Warner initially refused, reportedly observing,
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" As a consequence, by February 1926, Warner Bros. suffered a reported net loss of over a third of a million dollars. Having too long resisted Sam's demand for sound, Harry finally capitulated, "as long as studio's usage of synchronized sound was for background music purposes only." They signed a contract with sound engineering firm, Western Electric and established Vitaphone.

Vitaphone began producing films with music and effects tracks, notably the feature Don Juan (1926), starring John Barrymore. To promote Don Juan's release, Harry Warner acquired the Piccadilly Theater in the heart of Manhattan, renaming it The Warner Theater. Don Juan premiered at the Warner Theater on August 6, 1926. Vitaphone's contribution was to produce eight Vitaphone shorts which aired at the beginning of every showing of Don Juan across the country. This prompted other film companies to question the necessity of providing full orchestras to accompany their own distributed features.

Don Juan was a success at the box office, but it didn't earn back its production costs. In addition, Ernst Lubsitch left Warner for MGM. Indeed, by the Spring of 1927, the now Big Five studios--
First National, Paramount, MGM, Universal, and Producers Distributing--were leaving the Warner brothers in their dust. Western Electric, for its part, agreed to renew Warner's Vitaphone contract but with terms that allowed other film companies to test sound as well.

Awash in red ink, Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer (1927) starring Al Jolson. The film was a sensation and was credited with officially beginning the"talking pictures" era--and ending the silent era. Sam Warner died in October of 1927. His brothers were at his funeral and didn't attend The Jazz Singer premiere. Jack Warner became sole head of Production. Sam was Jack's favorite brother so his passing hit Jack particularly hard. Reportedly turning quite sour, in years to come Jack ran the studio like a tyrant, firing studio employees routinely for whatever perceived offense, however slight. Rin Tin Tin (1929) and
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1933) were among the early casualties .

The Jazz Singer recouped $3 million on a $500,000 investment. The studio was suddenly flush with cash again. Al Jolson's next film, The Singing Fool (1928) was another hit. Warner Bros.' talkies elevated it to one of the top studios in Hollywood and the brothers were now able to move out of Gower Gultch and acquire a big studio in Burbank, California. They also acquired the Stanley Corporation, a major theater chain, and with it a one-third interest in former rival First National Pictures. Outbidding William Fox, the Warners bought even more First National shares in September 1928. Producer Darryl Zanuck became the Studio Manager of First National Pictures. Had they waited only a year they could have bought everything William Fox owned for a song.

With the approach of the Great Depression in 1929, the Warners also acquired the Skouras Brothers theatre chain. Spyros Skouras became general manager of the Warner Brothers Theater Circuit in America. Harry Warner was also able to acquire a string of music publishers and form Warner Bros. Music. Just missing the purchase of Brunswick Records by M-G-M, Harry still managed to acquire a string of radio companies, foreign sound patents, and a lithograph company. The acquisition of First National dramatically increased Warner Bros.' profits. By the third quarter of 1929, the Warners gained complete control of First National, buying William Fox's remaining one-third share for a song. The Justice Department permitted the purchase under the understanding that First National would be maintained as a separate company.

With the official onset of The Great Depression, Warner asked for--and received--permission to merge the two studios, although the Justice Department required Warner to produce and release a few films each year under the First National name until 1938. This was the rationale for thirty years of several Warner productions to be identified as 'A Warner Bros. - First National Picture.'

The Warner brothers continued to buy up even more theater chains throughout the Great Depression years, in spite of universally lower box office receipts. Though losing money as many years as making money, Warner Brothers managed to survive the Great Depression economy long enough to usher in the F.D.R. era.

Their method of survival was in producing a string of musicals and later, gangster pictures, which despite the bad economy seems to have struck an almost universal chord with the reduced population of movie goers of the era. In response to the proliferation of gangster movies, The Hays Code began to be enforced in earnest. The Code had technically been in place since 1930, but wasn't really enforced until 1934. Many of Warner Bros.' productions and actors had been of the pre-Code era, indeed well into 1935, by which time they began to run afoul of the censors.

By then well diversified, Warner Bros. managed to change course, and introduced yet another diversified effort, Warner Bros. Animation, in 1933. The various diversification efforts kept Warner Bros. both in the black and poised to move quickly in almost any direction the public's interests might take them.

The studio discovered and hired Midwestern radio announcer Ronald Reagan in 1937. They introduced him to a Radio audience with their inaugural program of the Warner Brothers Academy Theater (1938). Initially deemed a small-time B-film actor, the Warners were impressed by his performance in Knute Rockne, All American (1940) and the 'Gipper' scene, especially. They paired him with Errol Flynn in Santa Fe Trail (1940). Reagan subsequently returned to B-films. The era also marked Warner Bros.' last major presence over Radio. They sold Radio Station KFWB to its General Manager in 1950 and its studio was moved off of the Warner Bros. lot.




Gruen Watch Company
(Sponsor)

(1894-1958)

Founded: Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

Radiography:

1930
The Town Crier
1935
Washington Merry–Go–Round
1936
Time Turns Back
1937
The Time of Your Life
1938
Warner Academy Theater
1939
Gruen Watch Company Program
1939
If I Could Live It Over
1947
Hollywood Music Hall
1949
Hollywood Calling
1952
Walter Winchell

You Are the Jury

Gruen

Founder Dietrick Gruen
Founder Dietrich Gruen
(1847-1911)

Frederick Gustavus Gruen (1872-1945)

Co-founder Frederick Gustavus Gruen (1872-1945)

Dietrich Gruen's patent for the Safety Pinion, ca. 1874
Dietrich Gruen's patent for the Safety Pinion, ca. 1874

Gruen Watch jeweler's display plaque, ca. 1934
Gruen Watch jeweler's display plaque, ca. 1934

Gruen's 'the old-way, Verithin Way' illustration of the thinner case movements of the Gruen line of watches
Gruen's 'the old-way, Verithin Way' illustration of the thinner case movements of the Gruen line of watches

Gruen's Curvex design for curved wrist watches
Gruen's Curvex design for curved wrist watches

The Gruen Curvex wrist watch and its presentation case
The Gruen Curvex wrist watch and its presentation case.


The Gruen Watch Company traced its origins to as early as 1874, but was formally founded in 1894 as D. Gruen and Son Watchmakers. The founders, Dietrich Gruen and his eldest son, Frederick, had both worked at the Columbus Watch Company in Ohio, but grew tired of both the working conditions and the lack of innovation at the company. With money borrowed from friends and relatives, Dietrich and Frederick or 'Fred' formed the partnership D. Gruen and Son. Together they began to design innovative new, far smaller watch movements. Fred had studied in Germany, but incorporated revolutionary new innovations invented by the Gruens in all their new designs.

Dietrich Gruen had obtained his first patent in December 1874 for a vastly improved safety pinion which prevented the common gauling of watch movements of the era due to minute shavings breaking off and ruining the other fine gears inside the movement. The safety pinion was the first of several patents the Gruens would acquire in their quest to create ever thinner and more lightweight, yet rugged, watch movements.

Their line of Verithin watches came to be the standard by which most other American watches were measured. Their patented movements reduced the thickness of both pocket watches and wrist watches to half the thickness of most of their competitors.

By 1911, the company had grown large enough to build watchworks in both Cinncinatti and Germany. Founder Dietrich Gruen died in 1911 and the company continued on, run by his two sons. Sales of Gruen watches increased dramatically until the time of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression era that followed. Originally selling for $300 to $500 dollars at the turn of the century, the Gruens had managed to bring the price of a fine wrist watch or pocket watch to $35 to $60 during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

Despite the ravages of the economic downturn during the Great Depression, the Gruen watches continued to sell, but their finances were growing thinner than their watch movements. With both new management and an influx of cash from financier Benjamin Katz, the company continued downsizing their movements through the 1930s. By then widely respected for their highly reliable line of Railroad Engineers watches as well as their ultra-thin pocket watches and wrist watches, they introduced their ultra-thin curved watch cases and movements.

The curved movements made both men's and ladies' wrist watches far more comfortable to wear. Continuing their innovations, they brought out an even more curved wrist watch case that could be worn facing the inside of a driver's wrist, making it far safer and convenient to check the time while driving, yet not uncomfortable in that position. Naturally as car makers introduced dash mounted clocks of their own, the drivers' watches declined in favor. Gruen benefited in any case, selling their watch movements to most of the more popular and upscale automobile makers of the 1930s and 1940s.

Beginning in 1930, Gruen began 23 years of sponsoring Radio programs. Their first, The Town Crier (1930) was a variety program of organ music that aired for over four years. During the mid-1930s they stepped up their sponsorship to include Washington Merry-Go-Round (1935), Time Turns Back (1936), The Time of Your Life (1937), Warner Brothers Academy Theater (1938), and The Gruen Watch Company Program (1939). It was during their later sponsorship of the 1930s that their famous Gruen Watch Time slogan began to become part of popular American Culture. This was not one of their innovations, since Bulova had introduced their own "At the tone, it's [whatever] P.M., B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time." slogan as early as 1926 over Radio.

Through the 1940s and 1950s, Gruen increased both their Radio sponsorship and visibility, ultimately sponsoring the Walter Winchell broadcasts of the 1950s, during which Walter Winchell would famously employ the Gruen Watch Time slogan into all of his broadcasts. Their competitors had taken notice, airing competing news broadcasts, drama anthologies and commentary programs of their own--Bulova, Elgin and Timex among them. Gruen's variety and commentary programs were always top-notch for their day, but with the onset of the 1950s, their mostly conservative approach to both marketing and design allowed their competitors to gain parity with them.

Frederich Gruen had retired in 1940, and died in 1945. The remaining brother, George, died in 1952. George's death persuaded the remaining Gruen family to sell their interest in the company in 1953. The Gruen Watch Company continued on for five more years, but the absence of guidance from the Gruen family saw The Gruen Watch Company fall into greater decline.

In 1953, the Gruen Watch Company had posted its highest sales in its history, but by 1958, the company (having changed its name to Gruen Industries) was facing massive legal problems, had laid off most of its employees, and was selling off its properties, including its flagship Time Hill headquarters in Cinncinatti. Gruen Industries was so deeply in debt that they were unable to secure additional financing. In 1958 Gruen Industries was broken up, its headquarters moved to New York and its assets sold off in pieces.




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