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Posted October 20, 2001
Cronkite picks radio's best performances
I bought this 30 CD collection for an eight day road trip across America -- and what fun! Discovering these great old radio shows was like discovering the greatness of America herself. A handful of shows, like the one-hour play starring James Stewart about the creation and purpose of the Bill of Rights, are more than patriotic; they're meaningful and entertaining. Other programs, like the Command Performance 'Dick Tracy Operetta,' are just pure joy. This wonderful musical simply soars thanks to Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Dina Shore, the Andrew Sisters and about a dozen other stars from the 1940s. Great comedies are also common among this CD collection, and I've come to appreciate Jack Benny as a more nuanced and funny comic than I had preveiously seen from re-runs of later television appearances. In addition to three episodes of the Jack Benny Program (with Rochester, Phil Harris and the rest of his troop), the CD collection also includes Benny as a guest star on the Eddie Canter Show and the Burns and Allen Show, where Jack and George pursue their life-long dreams to be recognized for their 'talents' as a violinist and singer. In addition to comedians, gritty detectives abound in this collection. For example, Phillip Marlowe -- portrayed on the big screen by tough guys like Humphrey Bogart and (much later) Robert Mitchum -- is given a compelling, fatalistic characterization by actor Van Heflan, who is mostly known for his supporting role in the movie 'Shane.' But the detective show that is a real hoot is 'Sam Spade,' starring Howard Duff, who is somehow both gruff and sympathetic. Not surprisingly, Orson Welles performs on several shows in this collection, as well. Besides his famous performance of H.G. Well's 'War of the Worlds,' Welles offers a chilling tale in the Mercury Theatre's 'The Hitchhiker' (which is perfect to hear while driving the open roads at night). Other shows are admittedly better heard in the quiet of the indoors, rather than in a noisy, moving vehicle. These more intricate shows include CBS radio's 'Brave New World' and 'George Corwin Presents,' particularly the Corwin story, in rhyme, starring Groucho Marx. So many great performances make up this 30 CD collection, compiled and introduced by Walter Cronkite, that I have listened to these programs again and again. This collection of old time radio programs should be a part of everyone's personal CD or tape collection.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.