The Oscars, 1945 Style

We enjoy the occasional award show, but Oscar night is our favorite because of the history and tradition associated with it. The Academy Awards debuted way back in 1927; 2015 marks the 87th presentation of these storied statuettes.

As we post this, the chances are pretty good that you are prepping your home prior to the arrival of guests for your Oscar party or perhaps making a batch of guacamole (hopefully, you’re using Boris Karloff’s recipe) to take to a friend’s Academy Awards gathering. If so, we’ve got the perfect hour’s worth of listening to accompany those chores.

Oscar winners Barry Fitzgerald, Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby

The 17th Academy Awards ceremony, held on March 15, 1945, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, was the first to be broadcast nationally on the radio (on the Blue Network, the precursor to ABC) and also the first to feature clips from the various nominated pictures. And what pictures they were! Double Indemnity, Going My Way, Lifeboat, Gaslight and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek are just a few of the classic pictures that were nominated for the top awards that year.

Host Bob Hope was in top form that night, and the proceedings came off in a mere 66 minutes. And you, dear reader, can experience that magical evening anew by clicking the link below.

The 17th Academy Awards ceremony; Bob Hope, host (1:06:29)

It’s “Free Roscoe” Friday

March 24th marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of the great Roscoe Arbuckle. And to celebrate, Cladrite Radio is giving away not one, not two, but three copies of The Forgotten Films of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a four-disc DVD boxed set that features 32 restored comedy classics.

In the 1920s, Arbuckle, once as popular as any comedy performer of the silent era, experienced a fall from grace that was precipitous and, sadly, unjust.

Born in Smith Center, Kansas, in 1887, Arbuckle, one of nine children, weighed in at 13 pounds. Because both his parents were slim, his father was convinced he was, well, not his father, and he named his son Roscoe after the philandering local politician he was sure had cuckolded him.

As a child, Arbuckle enjoyed performing in theatres as a singer, but when his mother died when he was 12, his father disowned him and Roscoe was forced to do odd jobs in a hotel. A professional singer heard Arbuckle singing in the lobby and encouraged him to enter an amateur talent show. Arbuckle used a spry bit of acrobatics to avoid the hook that was headed his way during that competition and in the process won the audience over, taking first prize.

That led to a vaudeville career, and in 1909, he signed on with the Selig Polyscope Company, appearing in one-reelers until 1913. He then moved briefly on to Universal Pictures before rising to stardom on the strength on his work in Mack Sennett‘s popular Keystone Kops shorts.

In 1914, Arbuckle signed with Paramount for the unheard-of sum of $1,000 a day and was afforded complete creative control over his movies. But excessive drinking and health issues led to an addiction to morphine, and he was in danger of losing a leg to a carbuncle. He eventually recovered, keeping his leg in the process, and launched his own production company, Comique, in partnership with Joseph Schenck. The company proved a success, but in 1918, Arbuckle transferred ownership to Buster Keaton so that he might sign a three-year, $3-million pact with Paramount.

Arbuckle had a big impact on a number of other memorable careers. He mentored Charlie Chaplin after the Brit signed with Keystone, and it was from Arbuckle that Chaplin borrowed the idea of having his Little Tramp character wear baggy pants, an undersized hat, and boots.

Arbuckle also gave Keaton his first work in motion pictures in the 1917 effort, The Butcher Boy. The two went on to be a successful and popular team until Arbuckle departed for Paramount.
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Goodbye to another glorious gal

Dolores and Bob HopeThe lovely and talented Dolores Reade Hope, longtime wife to comedian Bob Hope and a talented singer in her own right, died yesterday at the tender age of 102. We thought we’d pay our respects by rerunning the following post, which first appeared here at Cladrite Radio on March 19, 2010.

Rest well, Dolores.

* * * * *

Yesterday, we shared with you one of the spring-themed songs we’re playing these days on Cladrite Radio, and we’ve decided to follow that up today with one of the recordings of Irving Berlin‘s “Easter Parade” that we’ll be sprinkling throughout our broadcasts for the next two weeks or so.

Our library boasts several renditions of the song, fine performances by the likes of the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Djano Reinhardt, Gene Austin, and Leo Reisman and His Orchestra (with none other than Clifton Webb on vocals).

But our favorite is a 1933 recording by violinest Joe Venuti and his orchestra. And while Venuti and his cohorts acquit themselves admirably, it’s the vocalist who most made our ears perk up.

We did a little digging to ascertain which nightingale it was who delivered the lovely, languid vocals on this recording, and as it turned out, it was Dolores Reade. If that name rings a bell, it’s likely because Ms. Reade gave it up (along with, for the most part, her singing career) to marry comedian Bob Hope.

A native New Yorker, Reade was born Dolores DeFina in the Bronx (or Harlem—there’s conflicting info out there), and in the 1930s, she changed her name and began singing on the NYC nightclub circuit. One night in 1933, Hope accompanied a pal to the Vogue Club, promised only that he would get to “hear a pretty girl sing.”

Hope made it a nightly practice to be at the Vogue Club when Dolores performed, and his devotion soon paid off, as the two were married a few months later. She then joined his vaudeville act, but eventually gave up performing (except when she toured with Hope to entertain the troops) to be a mother and homemaker.

Encouraged by Rosemary Clooney and others, Dolores would eventually record four or five CDs in the 1990s, sounding much younger than a woman in her eighties, but it’s painful to think of the remarkable work she might have done had she been recording all along, from the 1930s forward.

Joe Venuti and His Orchestra, feat. Dolores Reade — “Easter Parade”