The Golden Years of Radio | Signature Series | Orlando Shakespeare Theater The Golden Years of Radio | Signature Series | Orlando Shakespeare Theater

The Golden Years of Radio

The Foundation of American Entertainment

Generally favoring comedy, the following were the top rated radio programs during the 1940s that shaped the standard for American entertainment.
30
November

2017

Before television, immersive radio dramas were a favorite source of entertainment for the whole family! In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast a dramatic interpretation of War of the Worlds that was so realistic it caused a “nationwide panic”, as listeners thought aliens were truly invading Earth.

From sci-fi’s to soap operas, a wide variety of radio shows meant there was something for everyone. Generally favoring comedy, the following were the top rated radio programs during the 1940s that shaped the standard for American entertainment.

Top 10 1940s Radio Programs

1940-41: The Jell-O Program

Starring Jack Benny as himself, the laugh-out-loud sitcom is widely considered the epitome of 20th century American comedy. The program changed names over the years as it was sponsored by different products, but Benny remained a household name as the  protagonist of the show.

Photo by Tony Firriolo features Duke Lafoon and Sarah French.

1941-42: The Chase and Sanborn Hour

Sponsored by Standard Brands’ Chase and Sanborn Coffee, the program included a series of US comedy and variety radio shows that aired on NBC from 1929 to 1948.

1942-43: The Pepsodent Show

Sponsored by Pepsodent toothpaste for the entirety of its ten year run, the comedy broadcast starred comedian Bob Hope and his sidekick Jerry Colonna. Familiar supporting cast members include Judy Garland, Frances Langford and Desi Arnaz and his orchestra.

1943-44: Fibber McGee and Molly

The most popular and enduring radio series of its time, the situation comedy ran on NBC from 1935 to 1959. The show starred real-life husband and wife team Jim and Marian Jordan who both developed and portrayed the title characters.

1944-45: The Pepsodent Show

The minty fresh comedy returned to the limelight!

1946-47: Fibber McGee and Molly

Mr. and Mrs. Jordan wouldn’t be upstaged for long…

1947-48: The Fred Allen Show

Sponsors over this show’s seventeen year run included Texaco Gas Company  and Ford Motor Company. A popular segment on the show called “Allen’s Alley” featured Allen strolling through an imaginary neighborhood knocking on the “doors” to meet with a quirky variety of neighbors.

1948-49: Fibber McGee and Molly

And for a third year the dynamic duo reign as the King and Queen of American radio!

1949-50: The Lucky Strike Program

And we’ve come full circle! Previously called The Jell-O Program, a decade later this show had a new sponsor but still featured beloved radio comedian Jack Benny.

While the Golden Age of Radio may have passed, old time radio is still alive and well! OTR’s loyal fans can still tune in online, and the longest running radio drama, The Archers, is still producing episodes in 2017.


Don’t miss your chance to experience this incredible art live on stage in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. In this retelling of the beloved holiday classic, five actors play the dozens of characters in Bedford Falls as well as produce all the sound effects as part of a live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience!

Buy Tickets Here

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