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Business: Free Show

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For meteorological and commercial reasons, when summer ends, the radio season begins. Some broadcast sponsors think programs may be spoiled by summer static; others believe listeners are cool when the weather is warm. By last week, however, practically every solvent producer of consumer goods in the U. S., cheered by signs of recovery (see col. i), had laid his plans to tap the national pocketbook by tickling the national ear with the mightiest and most expensive free show since radio began.

This year advertisers will pay nearly $100,000,000 to the eight U. S. networks,* 561 stations, for time rental alone. Of this the stations will plow back less than $10,000,000 on sustaining (noncommercial) programs. It will take another $51,000,000 to pay the vaudeville, theatrical and cinema talent which this year will pump commercial entertainment through the 26,000,000 loudspeakers of the land. This opulent wedding of Big Business and Show Business will thus beget a lively brood of ck ,vns and crooners, ingenues and instrumentalists, mimes and maestros who serve as U. S. Industry’s most spectacular sales crew. It had taken a summer of wangling and finegling between talent agents, time salesmen, admen and sponsors to line up the 1936-37 radio’season, which by last week manifested the following high spots:

Procter & Gamble was to continue to rent the largest amount of air time. With 13 hr. 15 min. a week on National Broadcasting networks, P. & G. will spend some $3,000.000 this year on seven different programs to plug Oxydol, Ivory Soap, Camay, Chipso, Crisco. Because it now uses day time exclusively, Radio’s No. i customer is not likely to be inconvenienced this autumn, as will many another advertiser, by the many and unavoidable interruptions caused by the political oratory of a Presidential campaign. As in the past, most of P. & G.’s programs will be serial dramas designed, like the fiction in women’s magazines, for housewifely appeal. For these programs, talent cost is relatively low.

American Tobacco, which makes the biggest single time purchase on N. B. C.’s books, also carries a relatively small talent budget. Though Lucky Strike’s weekly Your Hit Parade is played by routine bandsmen, it offers this season a unique merchandising trick characteristic of American Tobacco’s rampant, sensation-loving President George Washington Hill. The program purports to present the week’s 15 most popular songs. Mr. Hill promises to give a carton of his cigarets to every listener who correctly predicts, in order of popularity, the first three songs. By last month, the “Lucky Strike Sweepstakes” had used 150 tons of application blanks. Biggest week drew 6.500,000 replies. Biggest weekly give-away was 43,000,000 cigarets which set American Tobacco back about $200.000. To facilitate his flood of free smokes, Mr. Hill is using every station of N. B. C.’s combined Red & Blue networks, at a weekly cost of $22,000 for a full hour on Wednesday nights, repeats the show three evenings later for another $18,395 over the entire Columbia chain.

Ford is the star boarder at Columbia. Two full evening hours a week go to the motor company, which is currently paying for time at the rate of some $1,800,000 a year. This season the Ford Symphony Orchestra will grind out time-honored classics on Sunday nights under such conductors as Victor Kolar, Eugene Ormandy, Alexander Smallens, Fritz Reiner. Fred Waring’s band and entertainers will go after the young folks in half-hour periods, one on N. B. C., one on C. b. S., at other times in the week. For such talents Henry Ford will probably pay another $750,000 a year after settling up with C. B. S. and N. B. C.

Bankers. Like Ford and General Motors, whose Sunday evening concerts also will continue, a group of bankers last week spotted symphonic music as a suitably expensive and respectable vehicle for institutional advertising. Heartened by a Columbia survey in which 23% of one program’s listeners said they detested “ultramoder. -” music, and 19% cried out against jazz, the bankers’ group hired the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, on a.three-year contract. Starting in November, the orchestra will serenade the U. S. public in a weekly concert under sponsorship of Manhattan’s Chase National Bank, Chicago’s First National. With each concert, the bankers will give what they consider an instructive talk. Beside the metropolitan giants, other banks in Des Moines, Detroit Cincinnati, other cities, will help pay for propaganda, Poet & Peasant and Fin gal’s Cave.

Maxwell House Showboat is noteworthy in the new season’s radio alignment chiefly because, beginning next fortnight, it will be playing on N. B. C. “op-posite” the redoubtable Major Edward Bowes, still Radio’s No. i attraction with his famed Amateur Night.— Under the sponsorship of Walter P. Chrysler (TlME, June 22), Major Bowes will move his show from Sunday to Thursday nights, from N. B. C. to C. B. S. There the bland master of ceremonies of the amateur hour will compete for listeners with a “Show-boat” captained by Yale’s Singer Lancelot (“Lanny”) Ross.

Trick of the Yean Last year’s outstanding audience-catcher was the Bowes amateur hour, acquired by Manhattan’s J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency from a relatively small station to follow in the footsteps of Comedian Eddie Cantor as nation-wide salesman for Chase & Sanborn’s coffee. This season’s most unusual big program may be Chase & Sanborn’s “Good Will Court” in which downhearted folk step up to a microphone, tell their personal difficulties to municipal judges who pass out good advice. Appeal of this program, which shrewd J. Walter Thompson begins for its coffee client next fortnight, is that everyone likes to hear other people’s troubles.

Trend of the Yean Most significant aspect of last week’s round-up of radio listings was the increasing tendency of some of the biggest and smartest U. S. advertisers to get their glamour this season at the nation’s glamour headquarters: Hollywood. As evidence of Radio’s Hollywood trend, admen pointed to a dozen important programs scheduled to be regularly broadcast from the cinema capital this season, in comparison with last season’s four or five. With Radio thus definitely established in Hollywood, cinemactors gazed bug-eyed with joy at Variety’s report that “[Radio] salaries of $10.000 and over for individual names for single performances may be paid,” and that “over a 39-week season . . the lowest requirement for Holly-wood shows alone will be in excess of 1,000 names.” Only croaking voices in Hollywood’s radio boom were those of film exhibitors, who claimed that on nights when cinema stars were broadcasting, their theatres were sparsely attended. In the Midwest, in Southern California, in Arizona, Colorado, New York and New England, the embattled members of the Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America protested bitterly to studios for permitting stars to go on the air as well as the screen. Admen’s attitude on the exhibitors’ yowl to the studios was summed up last week in a four-word Variety headline: RADIO JUST DOESN’T CARE. Some of the programs which produce strife in the cinema industry:

Lux. Most ambitious dramatic broadcasting by cinemactors is done in the “Lux Radio Theatre,” which started modestly two years ago as a program emanating on Sunday afternoons from Manhattan’s Radio City. Policy of the program was to pick up cinemactors who had gone East for some fun. Top for an actor’s appearance on the Lux program is now $5,000. Last June the Lux program moved to Hollywood. In its Manhattan run, the “Lux Theatre” had supposedly been administered by one “Douglas Garrick,” fictitious character created for advertising purposes. In Hollywood, the “Lux Theatre” also had a dummy director, but this time he could walk and talk. While production was actually handled by J. Walter Thompson men, it was announced that oldtime Cinema Director Cecil B. De Milk was putting on the radio show. For his opening program from Hollywood, California’s De Mille presented handsome Clark Gable and long-legged Marlene Dietrich, in a radio version of the six-year-old cinema Morocco. Miss Dietrich, whose voice is not her most celebrated asset, fascinated listeners with a mysterious whispered drawl. The Gable personality, currently one of the most popular at U. S. cinema boxoffices, registered more favorably n the air. Since then, on a talent budget whose maximum is said to be $15,000 a week, Lux has favored the listeners of the country with an hour of high-priced acting each week from a cross-section of the cinema’s most glittering stars. Since radio advertisers are quick to drop a flop, the Lux show clearly demonstrates that certain cinemactors make excellent salesmen for certain products. In the coming season, Lux plans to offer listeners such Hollywood celebrities as Jack Oakie, Helen Twelvetrees, Lily Pons, Joe E. Brown, Ginger Rogers, Brian Aherne.

Camel. On the heels of the Lux hour, the “Camel Caravan” trekked to Holly-wood for a new start last June 30. Resulting show was a “clambake” (radiomen’s term for a program with many unrelated items), featured two bands, vocalists, and, as master of ceremonies, Author Rupert Hughes whose flat, querulous voice suggests Donald Duck’s. There were cinema stars in short, glamorous radio dramatizations of crowd-pleasing plays and pictures. So well had Clark Gable helped launch Lux in California that he was signed to appear in Camel’s opening Holly-wood show at the same price Lux had paid him. Men in White was the Gable vehicle, British Cinemactress Madeleine Carroll the Gable leading lady, $6,250 the Gable fee.

Easy-going and informal, Clark Gable is credited with breaking the Hollywood taboo against permitting audiences at broadcasts. He made his radio debut two years ago. Since then, Gable’s radio appearances have been judiciously spaced.

Like most stars, he is as well pleased with radio as radio is with him. The work is light, two or three rehearsals and a performance from a written script. The monetary windfall comes in handy, even for one who earns some $150,000 a year from screen work.

By the terms of his Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract, Actor Gable may now make four annual commercial radio appearances. This year’s two remaining broadcasts have already been engaged by Camel. This week. Actor Gable was thoughtfully thumbing the scripts of The Last Mile, What Price Glory, Little Old New York, Journey’s End and One Sunday Afternoon. From this list of dramas will come the radio adaptations used by Gable in his appearances in the Camel hour between now and Christmas. After that, any other sponsors who can pay his price may bid for Actor Gable’s services.

The Camel program also has in store for its listeners Joan Crawford & Franchot Tone, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, Marion Davies, Herbert Marshall, Gloria Swanson.

Texaco opens its autumn radio season next fortnight with banjo-eyed Comedian Eddie Cantor and his company of funnymen on C. B. S. Reflecting the satisfied attitude of most advertisers toward their cinema salesmen, Texaco’s George W. Vos announced: “Mr. Cantor is more than a comedian. He realizes that his job is to sell Texaco products to the public, and he brings us a sound background of actual business experience and an unusual knowledge of sales-promotion technique—a rare trait among so-called ‘show people.’ ” Packard announced that the cinema’s Dancer Fred Astaire would represent its cars this autumn in 26 weekly one-hour broadcasts originating in Hollywood. Now a good “singer, versatile Actor Astaire will vocalize, dance, read funny lines, play the piano, other instruments, for a reported weekly $5,000. Light-footed Fred Astaire got his radio start last year with Lucky Strike.

Minors. Hollywood’s child actors have also benefited from the radio boom. Though cautious handlers kept Clark Gable’s female box-office counterpart, little Shirley Temple, off the air, 13-year-old Jackie Cooper (Skippy) last week landed a $10,000 contract, had to have it approved by a court. For Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Coal Co. young Actor Cooper will next month make a series of recorded programs with such of his older Hollywood colleagues as Fred & Paula Stone, Polly Moran, Patsy Kelly, Dolores Costello Barrymore, Hoot Gibson, Jack Holt, Elissa Landi. For working in Jackie’s program, Cinemactress Anne Shirley has already been promised a $600 fee.

Gossip. Even a Hollywood Gossip, Hearst’s Louella 0. Parsons, landed herself in the big radio money two years ago as guiding spirit of Campbell Soup’s “Hol-lywood Hotel.” Beside this weekly program, the soup-makers present an annual Yuletide broadcast in which Actor Lionel Barrymore (fora reputed $1,250) wheezes, growls, grunts and snuffles his way through the part of Scrooge in a dramatization of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Last week’s “Hollywood Hotel” offered an adaption of Dadsworth with Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton. Next week: Norma Shearer as Juliet, to a radio Romeo as yet unchosen.

If for no other reason, “Hollywood Hotel” is notable because it is credited with having wangled $500,000 worth of free cinema talent since its inception, through the persistence of Gossip Parsons. Paying no money to weekly guest stars, Miss Parsons is supposed to bring ungenerous cinemactors into line through their fear of unfavorable publicity in the Hearstpapers. One of Hollywood’s most derided and dreaded characters, chunky, many-chinned “Lolly” Parsons gives in her column an astounding daily show of uncritical gush. Great & good friend of William Randolph Hearst, Miss Parsons also professed great affection for Hollywood’s grande dame, Cinemactress Mary Pickford.

Last March the Pickford-Parsons friendship struck a reef because Miss Pickford had begun paying real money ($1,000 to $3,000) for guest appearances on her “Parties at Pickfair” program in the interest of National Ice Advertisers Inc. “Lolly”‘ Parsons threatened to blackball anyone who showed up at “Parties at Pickfair.” This epic controversy was terminated when the Pickford program went off the air. Meanwhile, under the guidance of famed Radio Producer William (“Bill”) Bacher, a onetime dentist, with Crooner Dick Powell and “Lolly” Parsons as continuing talent, Campbell’s clambake goes serenely on its way.

—Tvo largest: Columbia Broadcasting, 98 stations; National Broadcasting, 95 stations. —Latest of Radio’s so-called “Crossley Reports ” which attempt to determine the percentage of radio listeners attending a certain program during its time on the air, gives Major Bowes a rating of 27%. Nearest rival, Lux Radio Theatre, had 17.4% of listeners queried.

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