In the 1940s, the newspaper habit was hard to break, as demonstrated in the “Seventeen Days” video of readers lining up to buy daily papers off the loading docks during a New York delivery strike, and New York’s mayor reading the comics on the radio.
Classic radio comedies like “Vic and Sade,” “Easy Aces” and “The Couple Next Door” also reflected the prominent place of the newspaper in American homes during the Golden Age of Radio, although the stories themselves were rarely about newspaper reporters. Radio was the era’s “new medium,” but families still subscribed to a morning newspaper, an evening newspaper, or both — and that daily habit showed up in radio’s “domestic comedy” series — not just in the crime and adventure shows punctuated by shouts of “Extra! Extra!”
Today’s example is a 1944 episode of one of the most popular programs of its day, the brilliantly quirky and subtle “Vic and Sade.” Stories often began with the couple at home reading their respective sections of the newspaper aloud to one another, no matter what else was going on.
Both Vic’s inevitably interrupted dramatic readings from the evening paper and Sade’s devotion to a newspaper-serialized love story appear in this episode, titled “Miss Keller’s Wedding Ring,” broadcast on Sept. 15, 1944. (That title appears on the script in a collection of a dozen published on the Web by the Generic Radio Workshop. Vic & Sade expert Jimbo calls the story “Sade Helps With a Ring” in a blog post that also includes a link to an better-quality copy of the audio file than the one I’ve used at the Internet Archive.) From the script:
ED: Well sir, the evening meal has been over only a little while as our scene opens now and here in the living room of the small house halfway up on the next block we find Mr. & Mrs. Victor Gook. Our friends are seated on the davenport with sections of the newspaper and the master of the menage seems to have come upon an article of interest for he is reading aloud with briskness and enjoyment, listen.
VIC: Multiple co-efficients of modern business procedure. Mr. O’Slooner also touched on the variance in imponderables connected with the mercantile conduct in general. Thinking men in this day and age, he said, may be likened to the merchants of ancient times to whom miscellaneous tenants of humanitarianism and occult perceptive considerations were in direct relation……
SADE: Oh ish Vic ….. Let me read my own trash here.
VIC: What trash is that?
SADE: A little daily love story.
VIC: You would prefer to occupy your mind with childish and trivial …
SADE: Yes, and anyway I heard the kitchen door open. Is that you, Russell?
RUSS: Hi Mom. (muffled) Somebody’s here.
VIC: Mr. Curtis O’Slooner says, whose words I was quotin’ formerly taught mathematics in college.
SADE: Did he?
RUSS: We’re going to have company.
VIC: Seems to me as long as a man of his intellectual caliber is willing to surrender the fruit of his rich thoughts in a newspaper article the least we can do…
As was standard practice, Vic and Sade’s conversation was interrupted repeatedly by the arrival of their son, Russ, and Uncle Fletcher, each with his own attempt to break into the conversation, but Vic was steadfast about his newspaper.
VIC: Curtis O. Slooten of course never says anything with nonsense. He’s just a poor half-wit. Poor old Curtis O Slooten….
SADE: Oh, ish Vic. Where is Uncle Fletcher?
RUSS: He’ll be right along. He paused out in the alley a minute to speak to Mr. Razerscum.
SADE: Mr. Razerscum’s in Peoria.
RUSS: Oh, I mean Mr. Kneesoffer. …
VIC: Say, here’s something you can understand. ‘Human ingenuity, Mr. O’Skooner, went on to say, is merely…’
SADE: I don’t want to understand that craziness. Vic, read it to yourself.
VIC: Craziness she calls it.
SADE: What do I care about human ingenuity and trash.
VIC: Trash. Trash she says.
SADE: Here we are.
SADE: You’re not going to hold that newspaper up in front of your face and read while we got company, I don’t suppose.
VIC: I have a paragraph to finish.
SADE: Put your newspaper down.
VIC: I’ll put this newspaper down after I have finished this paragraph.
SADE: Who was it who used the word childish a minute ago? What great big man said somebody was childish and made some…
For further discussion of this episode and others, see the Comedy topic page here.
If the Seinfeld-like strangeness of “Vic & Sade” is tempting, the prolific blogger and Vic & Sade expert who goes by the handle “Jimbo” is the author of these resources:
http://vicandsade.blogspot.com/ (Note the more than 50 links in the left column, headed “Crazy Stuff”)
http://vscharacters.blogspot.com/ (More than 750 characters mentioned by the name-dropping Gooks and their friends)
Jimbo discusses earlier Vic and Sade chroniclers in his Tribute to ‘Friends of Vic and Sade’