Riverdale on the Radio #7
Only a few more days until the next Riverdale.
In the meanwhile, dig this:
When we look back at American family life in the late 1930s, many of us view it not through the eyes of reality but, instead, thru the rose colored glasses of popular culture. If you were young yourself at that time, you have a more realistic memory of those years - but, if you're a baby boomer and beyond, you're more likely to imagine a typical American home, circa 1940, as being in Carvel where a teenager named Andy Hardy lives: clean, pleasant, prosperous, and where every challenge, crisis, or misadventure is resolved in time for a happy ending - complete with the occasional musical number.
It's not surprising that we have this rosy vision of the past; after all, every entertainment medium did its best to create and sustain this image. Hollywood gave us a seemingly endless series of Andy Hardy movies, the Broadway stage gave us "What a Life!" which introduced the perpetually teenaged Henry Aldrich, and radio quickly turned Henry and his friend Homer into comedy characters that would endure for over a decade. As the 1940s progressed, the trend continued: perky teenager Corliss Archer came to radio in 1943, as did "A Date with Judy" - both sit-coms featuring a typical teenage girl dealing with her boyfriends, her often baffled parents, and the overwhelming dramas of high school social life. But it wasn't the stage, screen, or radio that would bring us our most enduring and innocent image of teenaged life; it was, instead, the comics.
In December of 1941, just two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Pep Comics introduced a new character that continues to entertain readers to this very day - and his name is Archie Andrews. From the beginning, Archie was the epitome of the American teenager of the 1940s: dressed in a polka dot bow tie and a letterman's sweater that proclaimed his loyalty to Riverdale High, he drove a souped-up jalopy, hung out with the perpetually lazy Jughead Jones, and spent most of his time in a lovesick haze. Aside from occasional crushes on movie goddesses, Archie divided his affection between two teenaged beauties: Betty Cooper, a bright and down-to-earth blonde, and Veronica Lodge, a wealthy brunette who loved to toy with Archie's affections. Hitting just the right mix of familiarity, slapstick comedy, and small-town warmth, Archie and his pals were an instant hit with teen readers - and, in less than a year, the characters had made their way from comic books to a daily newspaper comic strip and to radio.
In its first incarnation, "The Adventures of Archie Andrews" was a daily fifteen-minute radio series, aired over the Blue Network. Ratings were respectable and, after a brief move to a half-hour weekly slot, the five-a-week format returned on Mutual in 1944. But the series really hit its stride in June of 1945, when a largely new cast was introduced and it premiered over NBC in a Saturday morning slot that it would happily occupy for eight years. For the majority of the Saturday morning run, Archie was played by Bob Hastings, a talented young actor who had already made his reputation playing juveniles on dramatic programs. Woman-hating food-loving Jughead was played by Harlan Stone, perky Betty was played by Rosemary Rice, and the honey-voiced Veronica was played by Gloria Mann. If you were looking for subtlety or teenaged angst, you were never going to find it on "The Adventures of Archie Andrews"; in typical sit-com fashion, the plots usually revolved around some simple misunderstanding that quickly turned into bedlam. Aimed straight at a pre-teen audience, the programs were designed to be nothing more than loud, goofy, and fun - and, from the reactions of the studio audience that attended each live broadcast, the show was clearly adored by its listeners.