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Original American Portraits header art

The American Portraits Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> American Portraits

Milton Katims provided the music direction for American Portraits
Milton Katims provided the music direction for American Portraits

American Portraits was another of the National Broadcasting Company's NBC Presents series'. Similar in prestige to CBS's various experimental Radio and Norman Corwin mounted programming, NBC Presents was the network's showcase programming effort. NBC Presents was responsible for the network's NBC University productions, its own experimental Radio efforts, its NBC Premieres programs, its various sustaining Drama and Orchestral specials, and of course its history-making Cavalcade of America series.

The center of attention with this NBC Presents offering was a series of eight radioplays by George H. Faulkner, an NBC staff continuity and script writer. The theme uniting Faulkner's eight radioplays was the human element of some of America's greatest historic figures. There was one other uniting element--George Faulkner had already penned most of these radioplays for Cavalcade of America (in addition to another 30-40 Cavalcade of America scripts). Given that this was a Summer replacement for Cavalcade of America, one might well call this brief series, Cavalcade of America 'Lite'.
  • The Incomparable Doctor was from Cavalcade of America's 50-01-03 broadcast
  • John Yankee was from Cavalcade of America's 50-08-29 broadcast
  • There Stands Jackson was from Cavalcade of America's 51-07-31 broadcast
  • The Stepping Stones was from Cavalcade of America's 50-11-21 broadcast
  • The Sword Of Kentucky was from Cavalcade of America's 50-05-16 broadcast
  • Reveille was from Cavalcade of America's 50-02-21 broadcast
  • Keepsakes was from Cavalcade of America's 51-01-31 broadcast

The one apparently original script of the 8-program run was Storm At Monticello, featuring Thomas Jefferson, who Charles H. Faulkner had already written of in the Cavalcade of America script of 49-01-10, Experiment At Monticello. We rush to point out that all of these scripts were performed with new casts, direction, music and announcer. They also attracted a wonderful supporting cast as well.

As a Summer replacement for Cavalcade of America it was probably quite appropriate to hold the Summer timeslot with similarly themed, quality programming. In that respect this was a 'safe' replacement for NBC's Cavalcade of America. And to the extent that NBC took the trouble to devise this unique underlying theme for the eight scripts, the resulting 'human side of history' was a timely and somewhat fresh approach to rebroadcast scripts.

Now that many of us have virtually the entire Cavalcade of America collection of recordings at our fingertips, it's tempting to wonder why NBC even bothered plucking out these eight historical vignettes from its 707 other Cavalcade of America scripts by this point in its run. The answer is self-evident. The other 707 recordings weren't in wide circulation as they are today. The few people that were recording Radio to disc or tape during the Golden Age of Radio were doing so for their own enjoyment, not for profit.

In this respect it was probably something of an experiment for NBC to take these eight scripts and their uniting theme as a block and spin them off as a special series. Had the idea succeeded, and given the extraordinary depth and breadth of the Cavalcade of America repertoire of scripts, NBC could easily have sliced and diced subsets of Cavalcade of America for another twenty years or so. But as it was, Television had already made its in-roads into Radio audiences. The writing was writ indelibly on the wall in the Summer of 1951. If NBC was to further recycle any of its Cavalcade of America scripts it would be on Television, not over Radio.

Indeed, Cavalcade of America did air over Television beginning in 1952 and ran for five seasons in various incarnations: first as Cavalcade of America, second as DuPont Presents the Cavalcade Theatre, and finally as DuPont Theater. The first two seasons aired over NBC. The last three seasons aired over ABC. All of the fifth season Television episodes were produced under the Desilu Studios banner. The previous seasons were produced by as many as four other production companies any given year. And as we hinted at above, John Yankee at least, aired over Television on 53-06-10.

Series Derivatives:

Cavalcade of America
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Dramas
Network(s): NBC
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 51-07-10
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 51-07-10 to 51-08-28; NBC; Eight, 30-minute programs; Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m.
Syndication: None
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): James Harvey; Dee Engelbach [Producer/Director]
Principal Actors: Dennis King, Martin Blaine, Brook Byron, Ivan Curry, Gavin Gordon, Vinton Hayworth, Alan Hewitt, David Pfeffer, Ethel Wilson, Denise Alexander, William Greaves, Ronald Long, Gertrude Warner, Claire Niesen, Peter Capell, Jack Edwards, Ronald Long, Richard Newton, Sidney Smith, Kent Smith, Ed Begley, Bill Adams, Art Carney, Leora Thatcher, Cynthia Stone, Maurice Ellis, Joseph Kearns, Jack Manning, Frederick Warlock, Ivor Francis, James Monks, Kermit Murdock, Richard Newton, Guy Sorel, John Stanley, Ann Teaman, Lawson Zerbe, Jan Miner, Richard Newton, Dan Ocko, Stefan Schnabel
Recurring Character(s):
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): None
Writer(s) George H. Faulkner
Music Direction: Milton Katims [Conductor]; Alan Shulman [Composer]
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Ben Grauer; Kermit Murdock [Narrator]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
8
Episodes in Circulation: 8
Total Episodes in Collection: 8
Provenances:
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were the log of the RadioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.

Digital Deli Too RadioLogIc


OTRisms:

The one misspelled episode that particularly drives us nuts is the otr-unique misspelling of Monticello [they insist on spelling it Montecello]. A search on the internet for "Storm at Montecello" will always reveal only otr-related sites. The otr illiteracy--and/or plagiarism--problem is absolutely breathtaking in its scope. Most of it stems from The OTTER tagging and database program.

What defies logic is The OTRR's absolute refusal to spell-check their 'authoritative' logs. They market the OTTER database as the most authoritative and complete otr database in the history of the hobby. We're willing to stipulate that claim--given the obvious limitations of that claim's accuracy.

But as it is, given the Internet otr community's apparently boundless need for plagiarism and intellectual property theft, these absurdly simple misspelling errors get disseminated throughout the world through the breathtakingly illiterate OTTER database alone, let alone by the thousands of mee-too otr Internet sites and pages that have clogged up the Internet in the past four years.

Here's a hint for both The OTTER Database and the otr community at large: take a nickel out of your pocket or your piggy bank and look on the obverse side. We're all American's for Pete's sake. Is that too much to ask?

But how to find the worst of these Internet plagiarizers? Simple. Just type [in quotes] the following string into any internet search window:

"Storm at Montecello"

Your search window will soon fill up with seventy or so of the most shamefully plagiarizing otr sites on the Internet. If you're curious enough to be reading this, you'll be clever enough to avoid any of those sites like the plague. Here's the long and the short of it: these sites love taking your money, but they detest spending any of it to give you accurate logs or quality recordings. But then it seems that they all so addicted to plagiarizing from each other, that perhaps it's a symbiotic relationship--for them, anyway. Please don't fall into that trap yourself.


What you see here, is what you get. Complete transparency. We have no 'credentials' whatsoever--in any way, shape, or form--in the 'otr community'--none. But here's how we did it--for better or worse. Here's how you can build on it yourselves--hopefully for the better. Here are the breadcrumbs--just follow the trail a bit further if you wish. No hobbled downloads. No misdirection. No posturing about our 'credentials.' No misrepresentations. No strings attached. We point you in the right direction and you're free to expand on it, extend it, use it however it best advances your efforts.

We ask one thing and one thing only--if you employ what we publish, attribute it, before we cite you on it.

We continue to provide honest research into these wonderful Golden Age Radio programs simply because we love to do it. If you feel that we've provided you with useful information or saved you some valuable time regarding this log--and you'd like to help us even further--you can help us keep going. Please consider a small donation here:

We don't pronounce our Golden Age Radio research as 'certified' anything. By the very definition, research is imperfect. We simply tell the truth. As is our continuing practice, we provide our fully provenanced research results--to the extent possible--right here on the page, for any of our peers to review--or refute--as the case may be. If you take issue with any of our findings, you're welcome to cite any better verifiable source(s) and we'll immediately review them and update our findings accordingly. As more verifiable provenances surface, we'll continue to update the following series log, as appropriate.

All rights reserved by their respective sources. Article and log copyright 2009 The Digital Deli Online--all rights reserved. Any failure to attribute the results of this copywritten work will be rigorously pursued.

[Date, title, and episode column annotations in
red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]







The American Portraits Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
51-07-10
1
The Incomparable Doctor--Benjamin Franklin
Y
Premiere Episode

51-07-08 Amarillo News-Globe
AMERICAN PORTRAITS. NBC begins an eight-week series of radio dramas about distinguished Americans, Tuesday night at 7. This series is designed to show famous Americans not only in their greatness, but in their common humanity. The first drama is "
The Incomparable Doctor--Benjamin Franklin," starring Dennis King. This should be a fine series for family listening. KGNC.
51-07-17
2
Storm At Monticello
Y
51-07-17 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA): Dennis King as Thomas Jefferson in "
Storm At Monticello."
51-07-24
3
John Yankee
Y
51-07-24 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA): Dennis King as John Adams in "
John Yankee."

51-07-31
4
There Stands Jackson

Y
51-07-31 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA): Kent Smith in "
There Stands Jackson," sory of Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
51-08-07
5
The Stepping Stones
Y
51-08-07 Lowell Sun
- AMERICAN PORTRAITS. Frederick Warlock and Martin Blaine in "
Stepping Stone," drama concerning the events leading to the signing of the Mayflower pact; WBZ, 8:00.
51-08-14
6
Sword Of Kentucky
Y
51-08-14 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA): "
Sword Of Kentucky," story of George Rogers Clark.
51-08-21
7
Reveille
Y
51-08-21 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA): Stefan Schnabel in "
Reveille," story of Gen Von Steuben and Washington's troops.
51-08-28
8
Keepsakes
Y
[ Last Episode ]

51-08-28 Wisconsin State Journal
- 7 p.m. -- American Portraits (WIBA):
"Keepsakes," with Karl Swenson as Abraham Lincoln.







The American Portraits Radio Program Biographies




Dee Engelbach [Dee Engelbach]
(Director)

(1910-1983)

Birthplace: Virginia

Radiography:
1943 Radio Hall Of Fame
1945 The Doctor Fights
1945 Rogue's Gallery
1946 Academy Award
1948 Hallmark Playhouse
1948 The Man Called X
1949 Humphrey Bogart (Audition)
1950 The Scarlet Cloak (Audition)
1950 The Big Show
1951 American Portraits
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1972 Same Time, Same Station

Meredith Wilson and Tallulah Bankhead take bemused direction from Director Dee Engelbach (right) during Radio's The Big Show circa 1950
Meredith Wilson and Tallulah Bankhead take bemused direction from baby-faced Director Dee Engelbach (right) during Radio's The Big Show circa 1950
Dee Engelbach was by all contemporary accounts a boy-genius director when he got his start on CBS in his early 30's. While cutting his teeth on Radio, Engelbach began wearing both Radio and Television directorial hats in 1948. Quickly elevated to producer-director status at NBC, Dee Engelbach was entrusted with some of the entertainment world's often delicate talent.

Three cases in point: Tallulah Bankhead, Groucho Marx and Milton Berle. All three were seasoned professionals--and notoriously high-maintenance scene stealers. But young Dee Engelbach not only managed to wrangle excellent performances from them, but leave all three of them singing young Dee's praises in the process. All three were regular visitors to Engelbach's The Big Show (1950) once Engelbach had moved to NBC.

Mr. Engelbach was an executive producer-director and program consultant in television for NBC. In 1954, he joined Circa Productions Inc., a television production company active in both New York and California and became Executive Vice President of the company.

But indeed, Engelbach's most loyal fans recall his Radio career. Engelbach directed many of the The Hallmark Playhouse (1948) episodes for CBS, as well as Radio Hall of Fame (1943-1944), many of the Rogue's Gallery (1945) for Mutual, then CBS, Academy Award (1946) for CBS, The Man Called X, with Herbert Marshall, virtually all of The Big Show (1950-1952) for NBC and American Portraits (1951) for NBC.

In the early days of television he produced and directed The All Star Revue which reunited him with Tallulah Bankhead, Groucho Marx and Milton Berle.

Dee Engelbach died in 1983 after a short illness while at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan. He was survived by his wife, the former Carole O'Hara, a daughter, and two sisters.




Benjamin Franklin 'Ben' Grauer
(Announcer)
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor; NBC Announcer/Narrator
(1908-1977)

Birthplace: Staten Island, New York City, U.S.A.

Education: B.A., City College of New York

Radiography:
1930 The Coca-Cola Top-Notchers
1932 Olympic Games
1933 Thrills Of Tomorrow For Boys
1934 The Baker's Broadcast
1934 Fleischmann's Yeast Hour
1935 Radio City Matinee
1935 The Nellie Revell Show
1935 Ripley's Believe It Or Not
1935 Circus Night In Silvertown
1935 Lux Radio Theatre
1935 The Magic Key
1936 Paul Whiteman's Musical Varieties
1937 The Shell Show
1937 Shell Chateau
1937 The Fact Finder
1938 The Royal Desserts Program
1938 Walter Winchell
1938 Pulitzer Prize Plays
1939 Richard Himber and His Orchestra
1939 The Vitalis P rogram
1940 H.V. Kaltenborn
1940 News Roundup
1952 America Looks Abroad
1940 Behind the Mike
1941 The News From Europe
1941 Sunday Evening News Roundup
1941 NBC Sunday News Roundup
1941 Jergens Journal
1941 The Hemisphere Review
1941 Two Years Of War
1941 Radio City Music Hall Symphony Orchestra
1941 Kay Kyser's Kollege Of Musical Knowledge
1941 The March Of Time
1942 Radio City Music Hall On the Air
1943 Music Of the New World
1943 Mr and Mrs North
1943 Information Please
1943 The NBC Symphony Orchestra
1943 The Fitch Bandwagon
1943 Your Home Front Reporter
1943 General Motors Symphony Of the Air
1944 Treasury Salute
1944 Opening Of the Fourth War Loan
1944 NBC D-Day Coverage
1944 Republican National Convention
1944 Democratic National Convention
1944 We Came This Way
1944 Liberaton
1945 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre
1945 V-E Day Coverage
1945 Atlantic Spotlight
1945 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1946 Alec Templeton Time
1946 A Story For V-J Day
1947 Echoes Of A Century
1947 Home Is What You Make It
1947 Here's To Veterans
1947 You Have To Go Out
1947 Housing 1947
1948 The Chesterfield Supper Club
1948 Guest Star
1948 Living 1948
1948 Author Meets the Critics
1949 March Of Dimes
1949 The Henry Morgan Show
1949 Could Be
1950 The People Act
1950 We Can Do It
1950 The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
1951 Memo For Americans
1951 The Big Show
1951 Theatre Guild On the Air
1951 Living 1951
1951 American Portraits
1952 The Endless Frontier
1952 The Forty Million
1953 Medicine U.S.A.
1955 Biography In Sound
1955 Best Of All
1955 Guest Star
1956 X Minus One
1956 Recollections At Thirty
1956 Sleep No More
1957 The Boston Pops
1959 Johnny Presents
1959 Meet the Press
1961 Monitor
1962 Democracy In America
1968 New Year's Eve All-Star Parade Of Bands
1973 New Year's Eve With Guy Lombardo
1976 The First Fabulous 50

Ben Grauer circa 1947Ben Grauer circa 1947

Milton Cross, Graham McNamee and Ben Grauer share a meal of Chili Con Carne circa 1938
Milton Cross, Graham McNamee and Ben Grauer share a meal of Chili Con Carne circa 1938


Caption: Ben Grauer not only takes 'em but develops 'em (1938)

Ben Grauer applauds the Boss, Raymond Firestone on accepting an award for The Firestone Hour
Ben Grauer applauds the Boss, Raymond Firestone on accepting an award for The Firestone Hour.

Ben Grauer interviews Tobey Balding a five year old British evacuee during a World War II Broadcast
Ben Grauer interviews Tobey Balding a five year old British evacuee during a World War II Broadcast
Ben Grauer chats with Kukla of Kukla, Fran and Ollie from the TV Show of the same name
Ben Grauer chats with Kukla of Kukla, Fran and Ollie from the TV Show of the same name

Ben Grauer circa 1964
Ben Grauer circa 1964

Helen Hayes sits next to Mrs. Ben Grauer -- Melanie Kahane -- at an unidentified event during the 1960s
Helen Hayes sits next to Mrs. Ben Grauer -- Melanie Kahane -- at an unidentified event during the 1960s

Ben Grauer sits at the Monitor Desk with Miss Monitor on the phone
Ben Grauer sits at the Monitor Desk with Miss Monitor on the phone.


Benjamin Franklin Grauer was born in Staten Island, New York. Already a child actor in films and on Broadway during the 1920s, he began his career as a child actor in David Warfield's production of The Return of Peter Grimm. Among his early credits were roles in films directed by D.W. Griffith.

After graduating from Townsend Harris High School, he received his B.A. from City College of New York in 1930. Grauer started in radio as an actor but soon joined the broadcasting staff of the National Broadcasting Company. Grauer was one of the four narrators, along with Burgess Meredith, of NBC's public affairs series The Big Story, which focused on courageous journalists.

Starting in 1932, Grauer covered the Olympic Games, presidential inaugurations and international events. During the course of his extraordinary radio career, Ben Grauer covered nearly every major historic event, including the Morro Castle fire, the Paris Peace Conference and the US Occupation of Japan.

Upon graduating in 1930, a 22-year-old Ben Grauer joined the staff at NBC. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior commentator and reporter. He was the designated announcer for the popular 1940s Walter Winchell's Jergens Journal and was selected by Arturo Toscanini to become the voice of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Grauer took over in 1940 and remained until it was disbanded in June 1954. Toscanini said he was his favorite announcer.

Grauer provided the commentary for NBC's first television special--the opening in of the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1948 Grauer, together with John Cameron Swayze provided the first live TV coverage of the national political conventions. In 1956 NBC began broadcasting some of their shows in living color and in 1957 the animated Peacock logo made its debut. It was Grauer who first spoke the now famous words, "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC," behind the Peacock graphic. During his forty year broadcast career, Ben Grauer hosted numerous TV programs on NBC, including game shows, quiz shows, concerts and news programs.

In 1954, he married interior designer Melanie Kahane.

Millions still remember his NBC coverage of the annual New Year's celebrations on both radio and TV. Between 1951 and 1969, Grauer covered New Years Eve at Times' Square eleven times. Grauer continued covering New Year's Eve for Guy Lombardo's New Year's Eve specials on CBS throughout the 1970s, with his last appearance on December 31, 1976, the year before both he and Guy Lombardo died.

Several years after the death of Toscanini, Grauer and composer Don Gillis (who produced the NBC programs from 1947 to 1954), created the Peabody Award-winning radio series Toscanini, the Man Behind the Legend. Beginning in 1963, it continued through the centennial of Toscanini's birth in 1967. The Toscanini series ran for nearly two decades on NBC Radio and then other radio stations until the early 1980s.

In the last decade before his death, Grauer collected material for a projected history of Prices and Pricing, with special attention to Book Prices. He was active in several professional journalistic organizations as well as the Grolier Club. Grauer had a strong interest in the graphic arts, annually printing his own Christmas cards.

All of the networks produced at least one or two truly memorable network voices, whether as recurring announcers, heavily tapped narrators, or on occasion simply the voice of a familiar newsreader. NBC Radio was particularly blessed in this regard, as were its listeners. CBS had Dan Seymour, and NBC had Ben Grauer. The two were justifiable legends in their own lights at their respective networks.

But Ben Grauer quite literally did it all at NBC. No matter the task--from newswriting or reading to comedy to Toscanini to quiz shows to all day stints at Monitor--and on both Radio and Television. Ben Grauer literally has no equal in the history of Radio and Television as an announcer, and few equals in overall versatility.

The literally thousands of circulating Radio recordings and Television kinescopes or films that bear Ben Grauer's unmistakable signature--crystal clear ennunciation, steady rock-solid delivery, and natural enthusiasm. We miss him now 32 years after his passing and indeed he will always be missed as long as any of his recordings remain available.




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