This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Canine Appearances in OTR
by Jack French © 2008
(From Radio Recall, October 2008)
For dog-lovers who are also Old-Time Radio fans, there are many individual shows that might appeal to them, but very few in which these furry creatures have a series based upon them. Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin had their own radio series, of course, but few audio copies of either series survived to present day.
This article will attempt to enumerate the many radio programs in which “Man’s best friend” had a major role. Of course, with the possible exception of Lassie, every other one of these canines was voiced not by a real animal, but by a skilled impersonator with only two legs. It could have been the program’s usual sound man, or another specialist hired because of the difficulty of the role.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” a classic Sherlock Holmes story, was aired several times and not just on the various Holmes’ series. Another detective, Johnny Dollar, devoted a five-part story to a show dog, the "Laird Douglas Douglas of Heatherscote Matter."
The adventure series, Suspense, aired a number of shows featuring dogs, sometimes as heroes, occasionally as a suspect. The May 17, 1945 program "Two Birds With One Stone" had a plot in which a writer kills his wife, making it look like suicide, but is foiled by a faithful dog. Cast included Dana Andrews, Cathy Lewis and Joseph Kearns.
Another Suspense show , from March 1, 1954 was called "The Barking Death". In this one, an infected dog escapes and is roaming the city. The dog is adopted by a little boy and brought into his home. In the cast were William Powell, Junius Matthews, Hy Averback and Dick Beals (as the little boy, of course.)
The December 22, 1957 show of Suspense is available as an AFRTS rebroadcast entitled "Dog Star". All that a little girl wants for Christmas is a little puppy and she finally gets one...from outer space! Little Chipka falls to Earth from a Russian satellite. A fine Christmas story with Evelyn Rudie making her radio debut, plus Norm Alden, Lou Krugman, Jack Kruschen, and Shirley Mitchell.
There are at least a dozen audio copies of Lassie, and in most of them she (actually, he) plays another breed of dog. Then there's the parody of Lassie which Bob & Ray created called "Tippy the Wonder Dog" with Gramps and Little Jasper. Yukon King usually has a major role in many of the hundreds of Sgt. Preston episodes in circulation.
There are no surviving copies of the NBC or CBS's 1930s versions of Rin-Tin-Tin, but the Mutual 1955 series has two copies in circulation. (Of course by that time the series was also on TV.) Bobby Benson's dog "Hero" was in a lot of his adventures in the 1949-55 Mutual version, but he is scarcely mentioned in any of the existing less-than-20 audio copies we have now. The radio scripts never specified which breed Hero was, but in the Bobby Benson comic books, he is portrayed as a collie.
In the Thirties, there were many network programs on NBC Blue which put the spotlight on dogs, but very few audio copies of these have been found: Albert Payson Terhune's Dog Stories 1934-36, Animal Close-Ups in 1936, Dog Heroes 1936-39, and Don Carney's Dog Chats from 1933.
The only NBC show about dogs which survived in audio form is Bob Becker's Dog Tales which ran, on and off, from 1932 to 1944. Two copies of this program (one from 1938 and another from 1941) are in circulation. CBS had one canine show , Don Lang's True Animal Stories, 1932-33 but we've not found any audio copies of it yet.
Little Orphan Annie's dog, Sandy, was more prominent in the comic strip than in her radio show, but the courageous animal is represented in the surviving copies of that series. There are three existing audio copies of The Adventures of Champion, featuring Gene Autry's horse although Gene does not appear in the series. The boy-hero is Ricky West, and besides Champion, he has a german shepherd named "Rebel" who is prominent in the story-lines.
One of the Twenty-Six by Corwin was the story of a boy looking for his lost dog among a group of celestial spheres. Both boy and dog had been hit by a car and killed, and they somehow became separated in the afterlife. It is called “The Odyssey of Runyon Jones” and it was first broadcast on June 8, 1941 under the direction of the author. Many listeners still recall the opening; the boy asks: "Is this the Department of Lost Dogs?"
Several comedy series wove dogs into their story lines. On the Halls Of Ivy which aired 4-14-1950 the Halls are on their way to an important dinner when they find a lost dog. As a result they are late for dinner,however they find out the dog belongs to their hostess. The program is entitled “Mrs. Foster's Lost Dog.”
The Great Gildersleeve broadcast a story on 12-28-1941 called “Leroy's Big Dog.” In that show, Leroy's friend Piggy pawns off his dog "Tiny" on Leroy. Gildersleeve thinks it's a great idea for a boy to have a dog, until "Tiny" moves in. Contrary to Gildy’s assumptions, the dog is huge.
On 1-13-1953 Fibber McGee & Molly aired a tale under the title “Fibber Buys A Puppy.” It starts when Fibber hatches a plan to make a quick profit. He had overheard Old Man McDonald, the president of the Third National Bank, say that he would give $50 cash for a brown and white puppy. So Fibber scurries over to the pet shop and buys a pup for $10 to sell to McDonald for $50. But when he gets to the bank with the dog to clinch the deal, he finds out that McDonald is a gardener and what he actually wanted was "a poppy" that color.
On an earlier program Fibber McGee (10-31-1951) called “Young Fireball, the McGees' New Dog” a little pooch in enroute to Wistful Vista.
Uncle Sycamore is sending Fibber the animal and he can't wait, as the dog is a relative of "Old Fireball," Fibber's childhood canine buddy. But when "Young Fireball" arrives, he warms up to everyone...except Fibber.
Another program with the McGees involved Teeny and her “missing dog.” In this show , which aired 11-30-1943 Teeny comes to Fibber for help finding her blue-eyed, long-eared, stubby-tailed dog. The McGees scour Wistful Vista, only to come up empty. When they sadly inform Teeny they couldn't find the dog, the girl reveals that she's been looking for this dog for years because she's always wanted a little dog just like that.
Finally, on the Our Miss Brooks broadcast of 5-22-49 we heard the story of “Peanuts, the Great Dane.” In this one, Miss Brooks is stuck with baby-sitting a very large dog for a woman she barely knows and so she tries everything to find someone else to take the creature off her hands.