Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ars gratia artis

It’s a new month…what am I saying, it’s a new year! And with each new year/new month, the good people at First Generation Radio Archives polish up a brand-spanking-new Premier Collection for your pleasure. This January, the syndicated radio dramatic anthology The MGM Theatre of the Air is featured with ten hour-long productions on 10 CD’s.

The MGM Theatre premiered in 1949 as part of the studio’s plan to get into the lucrative business of radio syndication—in fact, many of their popular “movie series” were transformed into half-hour programs: The Adventures of Maisie, The Story of Dr. Kildare, The Hardy Family, etc. MGM also wanted to use MGM Theatre as a device to put people back in movie theater seats; the decline in weekly attendance being attributed to that brand new nemesis on the horizon, television. Patterned after the popular Lux Radio Theatre, MGM Theatre relied on radio adaptations of films from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s vaults, and featured weekly guest stars like Marlene Dietrich, Rex Harrison, Basil Rathbone, Celeste Holm, etc. The people at MGM didn’t skimp when it came to professional quality in their radio fare (a cursory listen to Dr. Kildare will demonstrate that) and Theatre is no exception, bringing you first-rate productions in Anna Karenina, Crossroads, Queen Christina and seven others. This is most assuredly a purchase that every classic movie and old-time radio fan should consider making.

In their Radio Legends series, FGRA is also introducing a third volume of broadcasts—twenty in all—of one of my personal favorite old-time radio series: Dragnet, with Jack Webb and Barton Yarborough. In fact, the picture of the two actors featured in the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear banner was sent to me by Harlan “Low Overhead” Zinck after I dropped a small hint about “confiscating” it for the blog—so I want to thank him profusely for the loan of the photo. It will serve as a reminder all month long that if you’re a serious collector of the series, you can do no wrong than picking up a Radio Legends set of this fine program, courtesy of First Generation Radio Archives—“preserving radio’s past for the future.”

1 comment:

Slowjack said...

I'm sure that the people at First Generation Radio Archives are good people, but I couldn't recommend them in good conscience. To sell ten episodes of Dragnet for $20 does not seem to me to be a public service when said episodes are in the public domain.

Admittedly there is some service in collecting the episodes, and the prices are cheaper than some other outfits (Radio Spirits, for example), but I would encourage you to promote more reasonably priced alternatives. Besides just finding the old episodes on the Web, my favorite source is "Otrcat.com," which instead of selling audio CDs, sells data CDs of mp3 files. If you have an iPod this is ideal, and even without it burning the CDs yourself is a lot cheaper. To put things in perspective, Otrcat offers the entire run of Dragnet (380 episodes) for $20. This site was a boon for me this Christmas, when I purchased a boatload of old shows for my dad, who was laid up with a broken leg with only old-time radio to entertain him. Luckily we like a lot of the same shows, so it was a winner for me, too.