April 30, 1931 –
Radios in homes, shops and speakeasies were most likely tuned to WQAN, Scranton Times Radio, 1:00p.m. for the weekly Scranton Times/Ritz Theater broadcast for shut-ins.
On this date, though, the program at the Ritz on Wyoming Avenue was something special: it featured well-known songwriter and Broadway producer Joseph E. Howard, singers Mary Olcott and Amy Carswell, the Dixie Four and a young comedian named Bob Hope.
The Ritz Theater orchestra, under the direction of Willie Creager, provided the music, kicking off the show with the Irving Berlin hit “Putting on the Ritz.” The Dixie Four – twin brothers Charles and William Emmet, Herbert Benson and C. Fisher – then performed two original numbers.
Hope, then an up-and-coming comedian, took the microphone next and gave listeners a little bit of his routine along with a song.
Howard, known for such hits as “Goodbye My Lady Love” and “Honeymoon,” followed with soloist Olcott. The pair performed a medley of old-timey hits. Contralto Carswell then performed “Alice Blue Gown.” Hope returned to the mic with a few more jokes followed by a spiritual hymn from the Dixie Four before the Ritz Orchestra closed the program with selections from Ziegfeld’s musical comedy, “Sally.”
In addition to vaudeville acts, the Ritz Theater also was showing the film “It’s a Wise Child,” starring Polly Moran, James Gleason, Marion Davies and Marie Prevost.
The vaudeville radio performances for shut-ins started on WQAN in late 1930 and ran until April 1932.
Hope went on to become one of the biggest entertainers in the world. In addition to his films, radio and television programs, he toured the world to entertain military personnel for almost 50 years with the United Service Organization. Hope died on July 27, 2003, at 100.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast