Sunday, April 17, 2011

Radio war propoganda

My friend 'Boston Blackie'  continues to be crucial to this blog with his always- clever suggestions.  This is another of his ideas.

Jimbo: Shows during the war featured lots of propaganda.  Is there any show or shows that stick for you where you have noticed a lot of propaganda?

Boston Blackie:  In terms of old time radio the first impression about the war was the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.  I recall the recordings of shows that were interrupted by the announcement that Pearl Harbor was attacked by air.  They were truly memorable recordings.  I wanted to make this statement first.  Then as the war continued on we got into the propaganda that was expressed in the shows.  The one that I felt made the most of this type of thing was the Fibber McGee & Molly Show.  They had lots of references to ‘Japs; and ‘Nazis’ in the show.  I may be wrong on this, but, my memory seems to stick the comedy shows presenting the most propaganda than the drama or detective shows.  I think it fit in better into their format than the other types of shows.

Jimbo: What you say is true.  Comedy shows were ripe with propaganda.  Fibber McGee and Molly is certainly the comedy show with the most propaganda.  But you also had The Great Gildersleeve, Red Skelton, Abbott and Costello - and to some extent, Jack Benny Show, Burns and Allen and some others.

Abbott and Costello had the harshest humor of all when it came to the Axis.

Boston Blackie:  I can’t speak about Abbott and Costello, but, I think that Fibber McGee & Molly were also harsh in their remarks about the ‘Japs’ and slanted eyes, etc. I think shows like Burns and Allen were more on emphasizing the war effort than demeaning or degrading our war enemies.  They pushed War Bonds and Victory Gardens.  I can recall Gracie many times referring to their Victory Gardens out back.  Shows also expressed concern about saving cooking fats and returning the fats to the butchers.  The fats then were recycled to produce explosives.  The Great Gildersleeve often talked about helping the war effort by purchasing War Bonds. 

Jimbo:  And shows like Guest Star were devoted to War Bond promotion during the war.

For those who don't know, Victory Gardens were gardens suggested by the government to provide more food stateside so that more food could be sent overseas.

You being the wise one that you are probably already know this, but the government encouraged people to plant gardens in public parks.

There was also the "don't travel if you have to", "don't drive to save rubber on your tires" (!!) and "don't buy anything you don't absolutely need."  Those must have been some tough times!

Boston Blackie:  The recycling of aluminum is another one promoted during the war.  My mother would have us kids save the wrapper around gum and peel off the tin foil.  We would create big balls of tin foil from the gum wrappers and then my mother would turn them in.  Of course there was gas rationing as well.  All these things were mentioned during the Fibber McGee & Molly shows.  It was the war effort, they would say.

In addition to the above ways of fighting the war other shows presented story lines about the Nazi’s or the ‘Japs.’  One of the story lines for Superman was fighting the wartime enemies.  The Shadow often set out to find counter spies.  The Green Hornet did the same thing.  Of course there was This Is Your FBI and the FBI in Peace and War which devoted a few shows about fighting the war.

Jimbo: There was also the whole "black market" warnings and many shows were devoted to this subject.  I remember one specific one on Fibber McGee and Molly but other shows with a similar theme can be found on Boston Blackie, This is Your FBI, The Green Hornet and many Lum and Abner episodes, just to name a few.

Boston Blackie:  You are right about that.  If you recall there were several episodes of Fibber McGee & Molly which they boarded a young girl who worked at a war factory.  She was sort of a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ personality.  That story line allowed for additional war propaganda for the show. Also, let us not forget about the songs that were played on the radio during the war years.  So many of the songs related to our boys overseas and the girls left behind.  The Andrew Sisters were big on this and so was Vera Lynn.  There was a song where Bing Crosby sang about there will be a hot time in old Berlin when the Brooklyn boys get there.  The name of the song was “Will Be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin” with the Andrews Sisters.  Problem was, the Russians got there first.

Jimbo:  Shirley Mitchell played the part of Alice Darling, the aircraft war plant worker who stayed with the McGees for a while.

And wow I am glad you brought that up about music, as Spike Jones had a big hit with, "Der Fuehrer's Face" , which is quite a funny song.

©Jimbo 2010/2011


  1. That was a great ad you implanted here on saving fats!

  2. I just got lucky - it's not one that I had saved, I found it floating on the internets...


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