Edgar John Bergen (born Edgar John Berggren, February 16, 1903 – September 30, 1978) was an American actor, comedian and radio performer, best known for his proficiency in ventriloquism and his characters Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. He was also the father of actress Candice Bergen.
Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy in Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Edgar John Berggren
February 16, 1903
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 30, 1978 (aged 75)|
Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
|Resting place||Inglewood Park Cemetery|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, ventriloquist|
(m. 1945; died 1978)
|Children||2, including Candice Bergen|
Bergen was born in Chicago, Illinois, one of five children and the youngest of two sons of Swedish immigrants Nilla Svensdotter (née Osberg) and Johan Henriksson Berggren. He lived on a farm near Decatur, Michigan until he was 4 when his family returned to Sweden where he learned the language. He taught himself ventriloquism from a pamphlet called "The Wizard's Manual" when he was 11 after his family returned to Chicago. He attended Lake View High School. After his father died when he was just 16, he went out to work as an apprentice accountant, a furnace stoke, a player piano operator, and a projectionist in a silent-movie house. The famous ventriloquist Harry Lester was so impressed by Edgar that he gave the teenager almost daily lessons for three months in the fundamentals of ventriloquism. In the fall of 1919, Edgar paid Chicago woodcarver Theodore Mack $36 to sculpt a likeness of a rascally red-headed Irish newspaperboy he knew. The head went on a dummy named Charlie McCarthy, which became Bergen's lifelong sidekick. He had created the body himself, using a nine-inch length of broomstick for the backbone, and rubber bands and cords to control the lower jaw mechanism of the mouth.
For college he attended Northwestern University where he was enrolled in the pre-med program to please his mother. He switched to Speech & Drama but never completed his degree. He gave his first public performance at Waveland Avenue Congregational Church located on the northeast corner of Waveland and Janssen. He lived across the street from the church. In 1965, he gave the church a generous contribution, a thoughtful letter, and a photograph of himself which had been requested by the minister and was displayed in the church's assembly room which was dedicated to Bergen. He cut out an "R" and a "G" from his family name and went from Berggren to Bergen on the showbills. Between June 1922 and August 1925, he performed every summer on the professional Chautauqua circuit and at the Lyceum theater in Chicago. Bergen had an interest in aviation, becoming a private pilot.
His first performances were in vaudeville, at which point he legally changed his last name to the easier-to-pronounce "Bergen". He worked in one-reel movie shorts, but his real success was on the radio. He and Charlie were seen at a New York party by Elsa Maxwell for Noël Coward, who recommended them for an engagement at the famous Rainbow Room. It was there that two producers saw Bergen and Charlie perform. They then recommended them for a guest appearance on Rudy Vallée's program.
Their initial appearance (December 17, 1936) was so successful that the following year they were given regular cast rolls as part of The Chase and Sanborn Hour. Under various sponsors (and two different networks), they were on the air from May 9, 1937 to July 1, 1956. The popularity of a ventriloquist on radio, when one could see neither the dummies nor his skill, surprised and puzzled many critics, then and now. Even knowing that Bergen provided the voice, listeners perceived Charlie as a genuine person, but only through artwork rather than photos could the character be seen as truly lifelike. Thus, in 1947, Sam Berman caricatured Bergen and McCarthy for the network's glossy promotional book, NBC Parade of Stars: As Heard Over Your Favorite NBC Station.
Bergen's skill as an entertainer, especially his characterization of Charlie, carried the show (many of which have survived). Bergen's success on radio was paralleled in the United Kingdom by Peter Brough and his dummy Archie Andrews (Educating Archie).
For the radio program, Bergen developed other characters, notably the slow-witted Mortimer Snerd and the man-hungry Effie Klinker. The star remained Charlie, who was always presented as a highly precocious child (albeit in top hat, cape, and monocle)—a debonair, girl-crazy, child-about-town. As a child, and a wooden one at that, Charlie could get away with double entendres which were otherwise impossible under broadcast standards of the time.
Charlie and Mae West had this conversation on December 12, 1937.
Charlie's feud with W. C. Fields was a regular feature of the show.
Bergen was not the most technically skilled ventriloquist—Charlie McCarthy frequently twitted him for moving his lips—but Bergen's sense of comedic timing was superb, and he handled Charlie's snappy dialog with aplomb. Bergen's wit in creating McCarthy's striking personality and that of his other characters was the making of the show. Bergen's popularity as a ventriloquist on radio, where the trick of "throwing his voice" was not visible, suggests his appeal was primarily the personality he applied to his characters.
Bergen and McCarthy are sometimes credited with "saving the world" because, on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play that panicked many listeners, most of the American public had instead tuned to Bergen and McCarthy on another station and never heard Welles' play. Conversely, it has also been theorized that Bergen inadvertently contributed to the hysteria. When the musical portion of Bergen's show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, aired approximately 12 minutes into the show, many listeners adjusted their dial and found the War of the Worlds presentation already underway with a realistic-sounding reporter detailing terrible events.
Ray Noble was the musical director and composer, and teenage singer Anita Gordon provided the songs on his show. Gordon was said to have been discovered by Charlie, who had a crush on her.
In the fall (autumn) of 1948, Edgar and Charlie faced serious competition from ABC's "jackpot" quiz show, Stop the Music, which suddenly drew more listeners (Fred Allen faced a similar problem because he directly appeared before them). In December 1948, Edgar announced he was temporarily "retiring" from radio, admitting that Stop the Music was too popular to compete with. His final NBC broadcast was on December 26, 1948.
In October 1949, Bergen went to CBS, with a new weekly program, The Charlie McCarthy Show, sponsored by Coca-Cola. After their sponsorship ended in June 1952, Richard Hudnut, on behalf of "Lanolin Plus" cosmetics, primarily sustained the series until the end of the 1953–54 season. In October 1954, Kraft Foods sponsored a new Edgar Bergen Hour. After Kraft's departure, the series continued with participating sponsors as a 55-minute series in the fall of 1955. However, because more people were watching television on Sunday nights than listened to radio (and advertisers preferred to sponsor TV shows by then), the series finally ended on July 1, 1956.
In addition to his work as a ventriloquist, Bergen was also an actor and comic strip creator. He established the syndicated comic strip Mortimer & Charlie, which ran in newspapers from July 1939 to May 1940, illustrated first by Ben Batsford  and then by Carl Buettner.  The comic strip's writer was uncredited, but some of the gags certainly were lifted from the hit radio show. Between 1947 and 1954 Harvey Eisenberg also drew a comic strip based on Charlie McCarthy, scripted by Bergen.
Bergen and his alter ego Charlie McCarthy were given top billing in several films, including the Technicolor extravaganza The Goldwyn Follies (1938), opposite the Ritz Brothers. That year they also appeared in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man with W. C. Fields. At the height of their popularity in 1937, Bergen was presented an Honorary Oscar (in the form of a wooden Oscar statuette, the only wooden Oscar given so far) for his creation of Charlie McCarthy. Bergen, along with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd were also featured in the 1938 film Letter of Introduction.
As an actor alone, Bergen portrayed the timid suitor of the sister Trina in I Remember Mama (1948), and appeared in Captain China (1949), The Hanged Man (1964) and Don't Make Waves (1967). Other film roles for the team include Look Who's Laughing (1941) and Here We Go Again (1942), both with Fibber McGee and Molly. Charlie McCarthy wore a US Army uniform in Stage Door Canteen (1943) with Mortimer Snerd. Bergen and McCarthy were also featured in Disney's Fun and Fancy Free (1947). He later cameoed in all-star films such as The Phynx (1970), Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and The Muppet Movie (1979). In 1977, Bergen had made a guest appearance on a second-season episode of The Muppet Show, the highly acclaimed television comedy/variety program produced by Jim Henson who considered Bergen a major inspiration. His daughter Candice had also guest-starred on the show during its first season. Bergen died shortly after filming his Muppet Movie scene, which was also his final public appearance, and was subsequently dedicated to him. In 2009 Bergen was featured in the comedy documentary I'm No Dummy, directed by Bryan W. Simon.
Although his regular series never made the transition to television, Bergen made numerous appearances on the medium during his career. His first appearance was with Charlie McCarthy on NBC's pioneering television variety show Hour Glass in November 1946. In a filmed Thanksgiving special, billed as his official TV debut, sponsored by Coca-Cola on CBS in 1950, the new character Podine Puffington was introduced; this saucy Southern belle was as tall as a real woman, in contrast to Bergen's other sit-on-the-knee sized characters. On Christmas Day that same year, Bergen and McCarthy appeared as guests on Walt Disney's first television show, One Hour in Wonderland.
In 1954, Bergen was a co-host on a memorable TV musical special, General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein.
On December 26, 1954, Bergen appeared on What's My Line as a mystery guest. Bergen also hosted the television game show Do You Trust Your Wife? in 1956–1957, later succeeded, in a daytime edition, by Johnny Carson.
He appeared in the Christmas 1957 episode of NBC's The Gisele MacKenzie Show. In 1958, Bergen appeared with his 12-year-old daughter Candice on an episode of You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx. In 1959, he appeared in the second episode titled "Dossier" of the NBC espionage series Five Fingers starring David Hedison. On May 21, 1959, he guest-starred with Charlie McCarthy on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. Bergen continued to appear regularly on television during the 1960s and into the 1970s, appearing on The Tonight Show as late as 1977. He guest-starred as Charlie in the 1960 episode "Moment of Fear" of CBS's The DuPont Show with June Allyson. He did a stint as one of the What's My Line? mystery guests on the popular Sunday night CBS series. His colleague Paul Winchell happened to be a panel member during that episode. Bergen appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.
Bergen appeared as Grandpa Zeb Walton in the original Waltons television movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971). The role was played by Will Geer in the subsequent TV series. During the run of The Waltons — which took place throughout the 1930s and 1940s—the voices of Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were sporadically heard from the Waltons' radio, as family members regularly tuned in for that program.
In 1941, Bergen met 19-year-old Frances Westerman, who had graduated from Los Angeles High School the year before, in the audience of Bergen's radio program as the guest of a member of his staff. Sitting in the front row, the young fashion model's legs caught 38-year-old Bergen's attention and he asked to meet her. The two were married in Mexico after years of long-distance courtship, on June 28, 1945. On May 9, 1946 Frances gave birth to future actress Candice Bergen, whose first performances were on Bergen's radio show. Their second child was film and television editor Kris Bergen. Frances also acted, appearing in several movies, co-starring in the 1958 television series Yancy Derringer, and guest-starring in numerous other shows.
In mid-September 1978 he announced that he was retiring after over 50 years in show business and sending his monocled, top-hatted partner, Charlie McCarthy, to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. He opened at Caesar's Palace Hotel Las Vegas on September 27, for a two-week "Farewell to show business" engagement. He died three days later on September 30, 1978.
Bergen was interred with his parents (who are buried under their true surname of "Berggren"), in Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. Edgar Bergen's wife of 33 years, Frances Westerman Bergen, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, on October 2, 2006, aged 84, from undisclosed causes. She is also buried in Inglewood Cemetery. In 1990, Bergen was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame, the same year that The Charlie McCarthy Show was selected as an honored program. A message in the closing credits dedicates The Muppet Movie (which featured Edgar and Charlie in their last screen appearance) to the memory and magic of Edgar. In 1991, the United States Postal Service honored him with a 29-cent commemorative stamp.
Bergen was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with three stars in 1960, for his contributions to television, motion pictures, and radio. The stars are located at 6425, 6766, and 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, respectively.
The 1950–51 United States network television schedule began in September of 1950 and ended in the spring of 1951. This season became the first in which primetime was entirely covered by the networks. It was also the inaugural season of the Nielsen rating system. Late in the season, the coast-to-coast link was in service.
In September 1950 NBC added two live variety series, Four Star Revue and The Colgate Comedy Hour, to its fall schedule. These programs were a network effort to bring NBC's most popular radio stars to television; talent included Eddie Cantor, Jack Carson, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas, Ed Wynn, Bob Hope and Fred Allen. The two new star-studded series were scheduled directly against two of CBS's most popular programs: Four Star Revue went up against Arthur Godfrey and Friends on Wednesday nights, while The Colgate Comedy Hour was slated against Toast of the Town. NBC was confident that its strategy would pay off.CBS answered NBC's schedule with big radio stars and variety programs of its own, bringing in Frank Sinatra and (in occasional specials) Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, and Edgar Bergen. "Despite the big budget variety shows in its schedule, though, CBS felt that situation comedy was actually a more stable television form that would be easier to exploit in the long run."In many time slots, the underfunded DuMont Network did not bother to compete against NBC's or CBS's hit series, instead airing what some TV historians have called "time-filler". For example: "During its long run [The Johns Hopkins Science Review] was scheduled against such hit shows as Break the Bank [and] Dragnet, programs from which its network had little chance of luring away viewers." During fall 1950, The Court of Current Issues and The Johns Hopkins Science Review aired at the same time as the most heavily viewed program on television, NBC's Texaco Star Theater. Given the competition, DuMont's Tuesday night public-affairs programming attracted virtually no audience. The network had some success with a crime drama that had debuted in January the previous season titled Inside Detective (later retitled Rocky King, Detective), which became one of the longest-running series on the network. Another DuMont series to debut during the season, Star Time, while short-lived, is remembered for including a television version of the popular radio sketches The Bickersons, and for being an early example of a sponsored network series to feature an African-American as a regular (jazz pianist Teddy Wilson, a familiar member of the Benny Goodman Sextet).
New fall series are highlighted in bold.Captain China
Captain China is a 1950 American adventure film directed by Lewis R. Foster and written by Lewis R. Foster and Gwen Bagni. The film stars John Payne, Gail Russell, Jeffrey Lynn, Lon Chaney Jr., Edgar Bergen, Michael O'Shea and Ellen Corby. The film was released on February 2, 1950, by Paramount Pictures.Dorothy Kingsley
Dorothy Kingsley (October 14, 1909 – September 26, 1997) was an American screenwriter, who worked extensively in film, radio and television.Frances Bergen
Frances Bergen (née Westerman; September 14, 1922 – October 2, 2006) was an American actress and fashion model. She was the wife of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the mother of actress Candice Bergen and film and television editor Kris Bergen.Fun and Fancy Free
Fun and Fancy Free is a 1947 American animated musical fantasy package film produced by Walt Disney and released on September 27, 1947 by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the ninth Disney animated feature film and the fourth of the package films the studio produced in the 1940s in order to save money during World War II. The Disney package films of the late 1940s helped finance Cinderella, and subsequent others, such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
The film is a compilation of two stories, the first of which, Bongo, is hosted by Jiminy Cricket and narrated by Dinah Shore. Based on the tale Little Bear Bongo by Sinclair Lewis, Bongo tells the story of a circus bear cub named Bongo who longs for freedom from captivity. Bongo escapes the circus and eventually forms a romantic relationship with a female bear cub named Lulubelle in the wild, realizing that he must prove himself in order to earn Lulubelle as his mate. The second story, Mickey and the Beanstalk, is hosted by Edgar Bergen and is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as three peasants who discover the temperamental Willie the Giant's castle in the sky through the use of some magic beans. They must battle the greedy but lovable giant in order to restore peace to their valley. Though the film is primarily animated, it also uses live-action segments to join its two stories together. Mickey and the Beanstalk was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, because he was too busy on other projects to continue voicing the famous character. Disney replaced himself with sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald.Here We Go Again (film)
Here We Go Again is a 1942 American film, a sequel to Look Who's Laughing. Fibber McGee and Molly's second honeymoon goes awry.Jeff Dunham
Jeffrey Dunham (born April 18, 1962) is an American ventriloquist and comedian who has also appeared on numerous television shows, including Late Show with David Letterman, Comedy Central Presents, The Tonight Show and Sonny With a Chance. He has six specials that run on Comedy Central: Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself, Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity, Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special, Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos, Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters, and Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map. Dunham also starred in The Jeff Dunham Show, a series on the network in 2009.His style has been described as "a dressed-down, more digestible version of Don Rickles with multiple personality disorder". Time described his characters as "politically incorrect, gratuitously insulting and ill tempered." Dunham has been credited with reviving ventriloquism and doing more to promote the art form than anyone since Edgar Bergen.Dunham has been called "America's favorite comedian" by Slate. According to the concert industry publication Pollstar, he is the top-grossing standup act in North America and among the most successful acts in Europe as well. As of November 2009, he has sold over four million DVDs, an additional $7 million in merchandise sales, and received more than 350 million hits on YouTube as of October 2009; his introduction of Achmed the Dead Terrorist in Spark of Insanity was ranked as the ninth most watched YouTube video at the time. A Very Special Christmas Special was the most-watched telecast in Comedy Central history, with the DVD selling over 400,000 copies in its first two weeks. Forbes ranked Dunham as the third highest-paid comedian in the United States behind Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock and reported that he was one of the highest-earning comics from June 2008 to June 2009, earning approximately $30 million during that period. Dunham also does occasional acting roles. He achieved the Guinness Book of World Records record for "Most tickets sold for a stand-up comedy tour" for his Spark of Insanity tour, performing in 386 venues worldwide.Joe Connelly (producer)
Joe Connelly (August 22, 1917 – February 13, 2003) was a television and radio scriptwriter born in New York City. He was best known for his work on The Amos 'n' Andy Show, Meet Mr. McNutley, Leave It to Beaver, Ichabod and Me, Bringing Up Buddy, and The Munsters, along with his co-writer Bob Mosher, who was from Auburn, New York.
Connelly had a stint in the merchant marines before landing a job at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City, where he met Mosher, a fellow copywriter. Mosher left the agency in 1942 and moved to Hollywood to write for the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy radio show. Connelly soon followed him. In the mid-1940s, after writing for the Frank Morgan and Phil Harris radio shows, they began a 12-year run writing for The Amos 'n' Andy Show including the early 1950s TV version of the popular radio show. Their first solo effort in television was developing a short-lived anthology series for actor Ray Milland, an experience that taught them, Connelly said, to focus their writing instead on "things we know."Connelly and Bob Mosher were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for The Private War of Major Benson, a 1955 comedy that starred Charlton Heston as a hard-nosed Army major who takes command of the ROTC program at a children's academy that was inspired by an incident Connelly witnessed while driving one of his sons to parochial school.Leave It to Beaver took their dictum of writing about "things we know" to a new level. Connelly, the father of seven children, and Mosher, the father of two, had to look no further than their own homes for inspiration.
Connelly's 14-year-old son, Jay, served as the model for Beaver's older brother, Wally; and Connelly's 8-year-old son, Ricky, was the inspiration for Beaver, the nickname of one of Connelly's merchant marine shipmates. Connelly reportedly followed his children around with a pad of paper writing down funny situations and lines that were later used in the show.Connelly is buried in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery. He died of a stroke while in the Motion Picture Country Home nursing home in Newport Beach, California after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for years. Connelly outlived both of his wives, Kathryn and Ann and was survived by his 7 children, 12 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.Letter of Introduction (film)
Letter of Introduction is a 1938 American comedy-drama film directed by John M. Stahl.
In 1966, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.Look Who's Laughing
Look Who's Laughing is a 1941 film from RKO Radio Pictures. The film is built around a number of sitcom characters from the Golden Age of Radio and centers around a radio personality who plans to build an airplane plant in a small town. This film is followed by Here We Go Again.One Hour in Wonderland
One Hour in Wonderland is a 1950 television special made by Walt Disney Productions. It was first seen on Christmas Day, 1950, over NBC (4–5 pm in all time zones) for Coca-Cola, and was Walt Disney's first television production. It featured Walt as host, with Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy (who appeared on radio for Coke), and other celebrities who worked with Walt, including the Firehouse Five Plus Two jazz band. This special was actually a promotional film for Disney's upcoming theatrical feature, Alice in Wonderland. Kathryn Beaumont, who was Alice's voice, was dressed like her for this television special.
This television special was included as a bonus feature on the Masterpiece and Un-Anniversary DVD editions of Alice in Wonderland, as well as the 2011 Blu-ray release.The Chase and Sanborn Hour
The Chase and Sanborn Hour was the umbrella title for a series of US comedy and variety radio shows sponsored by Standard Brands' Chase and Sanborn Coffee, usually airing Sundays on NBC from 8pm to 9pm during the years 1929 to 1948.The Goldwyn Follies
The Goldwyn Follies is a 1938 Technicolor film written by Ben Hecht, Sid Kuller, Sam Perrin and Arthur Phillips, with music by George Gershwin, Vernon Duke, and Ray Golden, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Some sources credit Kurt Weill as one of the composers, but this is apparently incorrect. The Goldwyn Follies was the first Technicolor film produced by Samuel Goldwyn.
The movie, which features Adolphe Menjou, Vera Zorina, Edgar Bergen (with Charlie McCarthy), Andrea Leeds, Kenny Baker, Ella Logan, Helen Jepson, Bobby Clark and the Ritz Brothers, depicts a movie producer who chooses a simple girl to be "Miss Humanity" and to critically evaluate his movies from the point of view of the ordinary person. The style of the film is very similar to other musicals of its era, including the "Gold Diggers" series and others. The film is an effective satire on Hollywood and have some excellent numbers choreographed by George Balanchine.
"Our Love is Here to Stay"
"I Was Doing All Right"
"Love Walked In"
"I Love to Rhyme"This was the last film score written by George Gershwin before his death on 11 July 1937. The Goldwyn Follies was released on 20 February 1938. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score and for Best Interior Decoration.The Muppet Movie
The Muppet Movie is a 1979 musical road comedy film and the first theatrical film featuring the Muppets. Directed by James Frawley and produced by Jim Henson, the film's screenplay was conceived by The Muppet Show writers Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns. An American and British venture produced by Henson Associates and ITC Entertainment between the first half and the second half of The Muppet Show's third season, the film depicts Kermit the Frog as he embarks on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, California. Along the way, he encounters several of the Muppets—who all share the same ambition of finding success in professional show business—while being pursued by Doc Hopper, an evil restaurateur with intentions of employing Kermit as a spokesperson for his frog legs business.
In addition to the Muppet performers, the film stars Charles Durning and Austin Pendleton, and features cameo appearances by Dom DeLuise, James Coburn, Edgar Bergen, Steve Martin, and Mel Brooks, among others. Notable for its surreal humour, meta-references and prolific use of cameos, The Muppet Movie was released in the United Kingdom on May 31, 1979, and in the United States on June 22, 1979, and received critical praise; including two Academy Award nominations for Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher's musical score and their song, "Rainbow Connection". In 2009, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The success of The Muppet Movie led to several other feature films starring the Muppets: The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets from Space (1999), The Muppets (2011), and Muppets Most Wanted (2014).Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou
Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou was a radio situation comedy broadcast in various timeslots from 1938 to 1946.
Tommy Riggs switched back and forth from his natural baritone to the voice of a seven-year-old girl, Betty Lou. These dialogues found a shape in later episodes when the character of Betty Lou Barrie was established as Riggs' niece.
In his hometown of Pittsburgh, where Riggs ran a poultry business, he was a pianist-vocalist on WCAE in 1931. When station manager J.L. Coffin heard Riggs' little girl voice, he put The Tom and Betty Program on WCAE's schedule, and Riggs later moved on to KDKA (Pittsburgh), WTAM (Cleveland) and, in 1937, WLW (Cincinnati), where Harry Frankel (aka Singin' Sam) called a New York agent. An audition in New York led to a transcribed series for Chevrolet, and after Rudy Vallée heard the Chevrolet show, Riggs' agent told him he had two days to get ready for an appearance on Vallée's Royal Gelatin Hour. Vallée signed him for a 13-week contract. The audience reaction catapulted Riggs to fame and the Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou show. Anita Ellis was the program's vocalist.
It was one of the earliest shows scripted by comedy writer, comedian and bestselling author Jack Douglas. Despite the contributions of Douglas, Riggs never attained a level equal to that of Fanny Brice, famed for her Baby Snooks character. In the 1940s, Riggs faded as the popularity of Edgar Bergen expanded.
Riggs consulted with doctors at Cornell Medical College to find what caused the second voice that he used for Betty Lou. He was told that his throat muscles were unusually large and strong -- the strongest they had seen, causing the unusual condition.The cast included Bert Wheeler, Hank Ladd, and Dick Wheeler. Ben Gage was the announcer, and Victor Young was musical director. Sam Moore and Robert Brewster were writer and producer, respectively.Vent Haven Museum
Vent Haven Museum is the world's only museum of ventriloquial figures and memorabilia. Its collection contains more than 900 ventriloquist figures from twenty countries as well as hundreds of photographs and other pieces of memorabilia related to ventriloquism, including replicas of figures used by Edgar Bergen. The museum is in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, five miles south of Cincinnati. It opened in 1973.Vent Haven Museum was founded by William Shakespeare Berger, a Cincinnati businessman and amateur ventriloquist. Berger amassed the collection from the 1930s until his death in 1973.The museum is open seasonally from May 1 to September 30 by appointment only. It is also open to those attending the Vent Haven ConVENTion.Walter O'Keefe
Walter O'Keefe (August 18, 1900 – June 26, 1983) was an American songwriter, actor, syndicated columnist, Broadway composer, radio legend, screenwriter, musical arranger and TV host.
O'Keefe was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He attended the College of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, London before entering the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1916. At Notre Dame, he was a member of the Glee Club and a Class Poet. He graduated cum laude in 1921.
O'Keefe began as a vaudeville performer in the midwest for several years. In 1925, he went to New York City and became a Broadway performer. By 1937, he wrote a syndicated humor column and filled-in for such radio personalities as Walter Winchell, Edgar Bergen, Don McNeill and Garry Moore. He became the long-time master of ceremonies of the NBC show Double or Nothing and was a regular on that network's Monitor series.
O'Keefe also worked in television, presiding over talk shows and quiz shows for the CBS network. Producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman hired him for their game show Two for the Money. When the show's usual host Herb Shriner had other commitments during the summer of 1954, O'Keefe took over for three months. He was the host for the first Emmy Awards ceremony, held on January 25, 1949 at the Hollywood Athletic Club.
O'Keefe wrote the musical scores of several Hollywood films. He introduced the popular song "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" in 1934, and it became permanently associated with him.
O'Keefe became addicted to alcohol, and sought treatment in Cleveland, Ohio during the late 1960s.He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of radio. He died in Torrance, California of congestive heart failure at the age of 82.You Can't Cheat an Honest Man
You Can't Cheat an Honest Man is a 1939 American comedy film starring W. C. Fields. Fields also wrote the story on which the film is based under the name Charles Bogle.