"The Golden Age of Radio"
(As originally broadcast on WTIC, Hartford, CT)

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Program 60 - March, 1975 - The Chicago Actors

 Les Tremayne  
and Betty Lou Gerson    
Bret Morrison Early NBC Logo
We'll hear interviews with the actors who started in Chicago radio, Les Tremayne, Betty Lou Gerson, Bret Morrison, and Vincent Pelletier.

Born in London, Les Tremayne moved to America in his early teens. Educated at Northwestern, Columbia and UCLA, Tremayne went on the stage in the early 1930s, where his distinguished demeanor and mellifluous voice served him well. He rose to stardom on radio, appearing in literally thousands of "Golden Age" broadcasts, notably as star of the long-running anthology "The First Nighter" Program.

Betty Lou Gerson was perhaps best known for her role as the unforgettable and bombastic voice of the fur-loving villainess, Cruella De Vil, in Disney's classic 1961 animated feature "101 Dalmatians." Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Gerson began her radio career in 1935 and went on to earn the nickname, "Soap Opera Queen of Chicago." Her extensive radio credits included dramatic roles on such popular programs as "First Nighter" (with Don Ameche), "Grand Hotel" and "The Lux Radio Theater."

The Shadow is probably the best remembered radio crime fighter of all time. But it was more than a super hero show. It also had supernatural overtones, and the Shadow himself was a cruel dispenser of vigilante justice with a haunting laugh. For the first several years, he wasn't a character in the story at all, but an omniscient narrator/host, very similar to The Whistler (and a decade ahead of his time). He narrated The Detective Story Hour, a general crime anthology for Street & Smith's Detective Story magazine, the publishers behind The Shadow magazine. The Shadow was an active character in those stories, and the pulp sold like like gangbusters. Around 1937, the show's sponsor (Blue Coal) agreed to let the Shadow play the principal role in the radio plots as well... on a trial basis. A large variety of actors voiced the role of The Shadow through its long run, including James LaCurto, Frank Readick, Orson Welles, and Bill Johnstone.  Bret Morrison replaced Johnstone in April of 1943 until 1944, John Archer did it for about a year, followed by Steve Courtleigh for a couple of months in 1945. Bret Morrison then returned from 1945 until 1954.

Vincente Pelletier was one of the busiest and most well-known radio announcers in the Golden Age.  

Pelletier began his career in radio in Minneapolis in 1927. Four years later, he moved to Chicago to take a position as an announcer at NBC in 1931, where he stayed for four years. He then became a free-lance announcer and began his 13-year run as the announcer for the "Carnation Contented Hour" with Percy Faith's Orchestra. During his radio days, his credits included "First Nighter" and "Armour Hour." He also narrated the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair. 

In 1946, he began his TV career, moving to Los Angeles and announcing "The Nat King Cole Show." Over the years, he worked at KTTV, ABC, NBC and KCET, until retiring in 1976. He worked on recordings for the blind during his retirement.  Pelletier was a charter member of AFTRA and served on the union's board in both Los Angeles and Chicago. He died in 1994 at age 85.

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Program 60 - March, 1975 - The Chicago Actors

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