Easy Aces: Jane Helps the War Effort (CBS, 1943)
She lacked a classic radio voice and by her own admission she had—contrary to a few storylines in which her on-air self would mix—no inclination toward acting. Which is probably what did make movie-star pretty Jane Ace the virtuoso cliché-scrambler (as critic John Crosby once described her) she was, as radio’s first and in many ways most deft malaproprietess.
And if you can (and should) credit her wry husband Goodman Ace with fashioning the crazy-as-a-fox malaprops that came out of her mouth, a facility he once swore she came by naturally, malaprops that didn’t try inventing or mangling but rather reshaped the language into miniature masterpieces of sound and blurred vision, you can (and should) wonder just how effective they would have been in the care and feeding of a performer who was only too well refined in the craft.
There is, in other words, a case to be made that when it came to radio comediennes acting naturally, every last one of them had to see and raise Jane Ace and damn few of them had the facility, never mind the inclination, to try. The evidence is in abundance but it almost doesn’t get better than tonight:
Jane (Ace) and her girl friend Dorothy (Betty Garde) hire on as wartime bus drivers, part of a program putting the ladies into the workforce while the gentlemenfolk fight the war or provide for it. What a surprise: Jane drives her bosses to drink faster than she gets the war workers to their wartime jobs. Isn’t this awful: They’ll be guzzling by the gallon when Jane ropes them into debating manhours versus womanhours. Proving she certainly believed that exasperation didn’t end at home.
Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Ford Bond. Writer/director: Goodman Ace.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Big Show: Bitchcraft, the Continuing Story (NBC, 1951)
TALLULAH BANKHEAD: Everybody knows you’re famous for taking off clothes.
GYPSY ROSE LEE: Everybody knows you’re famous for taking off birthdays.
TALLU: I’ve played before every man and woman in the world.
GYPSY: I must admit, honey, I’ve only played to half your audience.
That’s one way to open an evening with Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, Portland Hoffa, Judy Holliday, Vaughn Monroe, Patrice Munsel, and Meredith Willson. Announcer: Ed Herlihy. Music: Meredith Willson and the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, Fred Allen,
Selma Diamond, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.
The Bob Hope Show: Eisenhower’s Inauguration; or, Just Be Calm and Cool—Like I Am (NBC, 1953)—This may come as a bit of a shock, but once upon a time Zsa Zsa Gabor really did perform. The fact that it may have been as far back as the Eisenhower Administration is completely irrelevant, even in light of her host having his usual arch fun over Eisenhower’s inauguration. Additional cast: Margaret Whiting. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Writers: Al Josefsberg, Hal Block, Larry Marks, Albert Schwartz.