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Arthur Godfrey Old Time Radio Program
Arhur Godfrey Old Time Radio Program
Arthur Godfrey (1903-1983) born in New York City in 1903. His father was in the horse drawn cab (hackney cab) business, but with the coming of the automobile, his family's fortunes seriously declined. His family was a prominent New York family, but they had the name, but no longer had the money. They moved to New Jersey, and he moved out, joining the Navy at the age of 16 and he lied about his age to enlist. Arthur moved in and out of the military (I'm guessing it must of been different in those days) and was on detail to the coast guard in Baltimore from 1927 to 1930 when he won a talent show competition and was so popular that he got a weekly radio show.
He left the military, then moved to Washington DC, and became an announcer on station WRC. Godfrey modified and perfected his radio personality over the next few years. He would talk conversationally rather than as The Formal Announcer, he would inject some humor into his advertising bits, and occasionally sing when you wouldn't expect him to. The listeners felt that they got to know him. President Roosevelt was a listener to his show, and with Roosevelt's encouragement Godfrey received a commission in the Naval Reserve. Godfrey did a brief stint on the Fred Allen show, but 'creative differences' made the two talented radio men split up soon.
Arthur Godfrey achieved national notice on a tragic note. In April of 1945 he was the CBS radio morning anchor in Washington DC, and he covered Franklin Roosevelt's funeral procession. His more friendly and intimate radio style really hit the mood of the country for this shattering event. Instead of delivering just the news of the funeral, he put his emotions on display and at one point, broke down in tears during the procession. The broadcast was so moving that CBS ran his show on the entire network.
Shortly after this broadcast CBS gave him a network-wide morning show. It was a news show, with interviews of celebrities and his own music thrown in. CBS moved his show to prime time, but made it more of a talent show contest. Young acts on his show included: Lenny Bruce, Don Adams, Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline, and Pat Boone. However, he didn't always pick future stars. Elvis Presley tried out for the show, and was rejected. This show, morphed into the Arthur Godfrey and his Friends weekly variety show in 1949. Godfrey would interview the acts on his show, he would sing and play his signature instrument, the ukulele, joke with his announcer and cast, and keep the show moving along at a friendly pace.
Godfrey became one of the busiest men in entertainment. His show was a success, he did many appearances on other shows, his cast, known as the Little Godfreys, were becoming stars in their own right, he was working in multiple media formats. The audience liked him because he had that 'neighbor next door' feel, with his informal and conversational tone, and, perhaps just as important, sponsors liked him because he was a heck of a salesman. He would mock and joke with the advertisements he had to sell but was careful to mock the sales script, or the company executives, but not the product itself. He also had the reputation of only selling products he believed in. When he quit smoking, he also stopped selling Chesterfield cigarettes, even though Chesterfield was a longtime advertiser for his show. Advertisers loved him, CBS loved him, and the public trusted that when he sold something, he believed it was a good product.
Perhaps his success went to his head, perhaps he had been able to mask a large ego from his audience for decades, but the perception of Godfrey changed drastically when he fired one of his cast on the air. Julius LaRosa was one of the members of his cast. He was gaining in popularity (possibly getting more fan mail than Godfrey himself) and had a hit record. LaRosa and Godfrey were having difficulty behind the scenes, and it led to Godfrey firing him on the air. Godfrey did not help his case when he said in a press conference later that he fired LaRosa to teach him humility. Godfrey became the punchline for comics for years. However, even with this hit to his public image, he still maintained a large and loyal fan base. Arthur Godfrey has also been accused of anti-semitism, however, he had many Jewish performers appear on his show, including his long time announcer Tony Marvin. One civil rights issue that is clear is that he gave African Americans ample opportunities. On one television broadcast in particular, he had a black and white act dancing together. Southern stations and politicians objected, but Godfrey refused to remove the act.
Godfrey Episode List
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