Gerald Wilson &
Martin Grams Jr.
THE RAILROAD HOUR
“Entertainment for all. For every member of the family – the humming, strumming, dancing tunes of the recent musical shows. For Mother and Dad – happy reminders of the shows they saw ‘only yesterday.’ And also, occasionally, one of the great and everlasting triumphs that go ‘way back before then.” This was how the Association of American Railroads described their product known as The Railroad Hour, in their annual publicity pamphlets. For 45 minutes every Monday night, over the American Broadcasting Company’s national network, the American Railroads presented for listener enjoyment, one after another of the world’s great musical comedies and operettas . . . the top-rated successes whose names had been spelled-out in the blazing lights on both sides of Broadway. Complete with music and words, the program offered famed headliners of the stage, screen and radio taking the leading roles.
Highly favored by Joseph McConnell, President of the National Broadcasting Company and William T. Faricy, President of the Association of American Railroads, The Railroad Hour competed against such radio programs as CBS’ high-rated Suspense and The Falcon in the same weekly time slot. The program lasted a total of 299 broadcasts over a span of six broadcast seasons – an accomplishment some would consider impossible by today’s broadcasting standards should the program be dramatized on television.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE RAILROAD HOUR
The Railroad Hour was broadcast from the studios of the National Broadcasting Company in Hollywood, California. The program was heard regularly over 170 stations of the NBC network. According to an annual report issued by the Association of American Railroads that it was estimated that the program was heard by more than four million family groups.
“Musical shows with a dramatic continuity are enjoyed by persons of all ages, especially when the leading roles are portrayed by outstanding artists. All members of the family, as well as school, church and club groups, find The Railroad Hour wholesome, dignified and inspiring entertainment,” quoted Van Hartesveldt.
So why is the program called the Railroad “Hour” when it was on the air only thirty minutes? In radio, the term “hour” was indicative of the time of the beginning of the broadcast, rather than the number of minutes the program was on the air. Also odd was the fact that the program ran a mere 45 minutes instead of 30 or 60 during the opening months.
During its half-hour on the air, The Railroad Hour gave its listeners 25 minutes of entertainment. About two-and-a-half minutes were given to the railroad message. The remaining time was required for opening and closing announcements and station identifications.
The Railroad Hour did not broadcast any operas, contrary to popular belief, and reference guides. The producers of the series presented operettas and musicals, leaving the operas for other programs, namely The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. So what is the difference between opera and operetta?
An opera is an art form consisting of a dramatic stage performance set to music, and which the dialogue is sung, rather than spoken. An operetta was a musical performance where the conversations are “talked” and the expressive moments are set in song.
One question came up during a standard question and answer session with the Association of American Railroads: “Are recordings of The Railroad Hour broadcasts available?” The formal answer from the Association was that copyright restrictions did not permit the producer of The Railroad Hour to make any recordings of the musical program. However, recordings of many of the song hits heard were available at music stores. This of course, was the formal public statement. In reality, every broadcast of The Railroad Hour was recorded and transcribed. Numerous copies were made for both legal and historical purposes. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, who wrote the majority of the scripts, actually kept a copy of almost every broadcast for their personal collection. These discs were later donated to the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts located at Lincoln Center in New York City. The Library of Congress presently stores a copy of all the discs in their archives. Dealers and collectors specializing in recordings from the “Golden Age of Radio” have come across similar depositories over the years and thankfully, more than half of the broadcasts are presently available from dealers nationwide. Marvin Miller, the announcer for The Railroad Hour, saved a few of the scripts, which were later donated to the Thousand Oaks Library in California.
A limited number of free admission tickets for the public were available for each Railroad Hour broadcast. Tickets could be obtained by writing to the Association of American Railroads, Transportation Building, located in Washington, D.C., or by writing to the National Broadcasting Company in Hollywood, California. The Applicant was required to give the date for which the tickets were desired and the number of persons in the party. Because of the demand for tickets (especially since they were free), it was publicly advised to request them several weeks in advance of the broadcast.
SAMPLE FROM THE BOOK
Episode #168 “ROSALIE” Broadcast December 17, 1951
Cast: Herb Butterfield (the King), Nadine Conner (Princess Rosalie), Gordon MacRae (Lieutenant Richard Fay), Norma Varden (the Queen), and Theodore Von Eltz (the Major).
Based on the musical of the same name, which premiered at the New Amsterdam on January 10, 1928.
Music score and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg and P.G. Wodehouse, based on the book by William Anthony McGuire and Guy Bolton.
Adapted for The Railroad Hour by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Story and history: West Point cadet and football player Dick Thorpe falls in love with a girl named Rosalie, a Vassar co-ed who turns out to be a princess from the European kingdom of Romanza, in disguise. She has a pretty confidante, Brenda, and Dick has a comical sidekick, Delroy. Dick courts Rosalie in song until Rosalie is summoned back to marry her Romanzan fiancé, Paul. Dick follows her where he meets Rosalie’s father, the King of Romanza, who is a charming eccentric. After much dancing, and a revolution and most of the characters return to the U.S., the King decides to abdicate so Rosalie can marry Dick, and Brenda can marry Paul.
Songs included: Here They Are (chorus); Hussars March (Conner and chorus); Sweet, Sweet (MacRae and chorus); Say So! (Conner and MacRae); Rosalie Waltz (Conner); New York Serenade (MacRae); Oh, Gee! Oh, Joy! (Conner and MacRae); West Point Waltz (Conner and MacRae); and Oh, Gee! Oh Joy! (reprise with Conner, MacRae and chorus).
INCLUDED IN THIS BOOK:
* A history of this fascinating musical program, revealing why the show was referred to as "Hour" when the series was broadcast on a 30-minute time slot, why the series never features operas, and much more!
* A complete episode guide listing in extreme detail, all 299 episodes with titles of all songs, who sung them, the order in which they were sung, the origina of all musicals, plots, cast lists (who played who) and much more!
* Trivia listed under various episode entries.
* The Railroad Hour commercials.
* Biography and partnership of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
* Broadcast times schedule.
* Complete list of ABC Networks that carried the program.
* Complete list of the NBC Networks also.
* Complete list of Railroad sponsors for the program.
* Awards and Honors.
* Fully indexed.
* Plus much, much more!
The book retails $28.95 with Postage and Handling.
OUR PRICE: $24.99
(This price already Includes Shipping and handling in the U.S.)