Henry Morgan Show The

Henry Morgan Show The

In 1940, he was offered a daily 15-minute series on Mutual Broadcasting System's flagship station, WOR. This show was a 15-minute comedy, which he opened almost invariably with "Good evening, anybody; here's Morgan." In his memoir Here's Morgan (1994), he wrote that he devised that introduction as a dig at popular singer Kate Smith, who "...started her show with a condescending, 'Hello, everybody.' I, on the other hand, was happy if anybody listened in." He mixed barbed ad libs, satirizing daily life's foibles, with novelty records, including those of Spike Jones. Morgan stated that Jones sent him his newest records in advance of market dates because he played them so often.

He also targeted his sponsors freely. One early sponsor had been Adler Shoe Stores, which came close to canceling its account after Morgan started making references to "Old Man Adler" on the air; the chain changed its mind after it was learned business spiked upward, with many new patrons asking to meet Old Man Adler. Morgan had to read an Adler commercial heralding the new fall line of colors; Morgan thought the colors were dreadful, and said he wouldn't wear them to a dogfight, but perhaps the listeners would like them. Old Man Adler demanded a retraction on the air. Morgan obliged: "I would wear them to a dogfight." Morgan later recalled with bemusement, "It made him happy." This incident appears to have later been incorporated, with the names changed, into the 1957 movie A Face in the Crowd, with Andy Griffith playing an iconoclastic radio and television personality.

Later, he moved to ABC (formerly the NBC Blue Network) in a half-hour weekly format that allowed Morgan more room to develop and expand his topical, often ad-libbed satires, hitting popular magazines, soap operas, schools, the BBC, baseball, summer resorts, government snooping, and landlords. His usual signoff was, "Morgan'll be here on the same corner in front of the cigar store next week."

He continued to target sponsors whose advertising copy rankled him, and those barbs didn't always sit well with his new sponsors, either. He is alleged to have said of his sponsor's Oh Henry! candy bar (after exhorting listeners to try one), "Eat two, and your teeth will fall out." When Eversharp sponsored his show to promote both Eversharp pens and Schick injector razor blades, Morgan threw this in during a show satirizing American schools: "They're educational. Try one. That'll teach you." He also altered the company's Schick injector blade slogan "Push-pull, click-click" to "Push-pull, nick-nick." Eversharp finally dropped him in December 1947, citing what Dunning called "flabby material," to which Morgan—picked up promptly by Rayve Shampoo—replied, on the air, "It's not my show, it's their razor."

Perhaps most notoriously, Life Savers candy, another early Morgan sponsor, dropped him after he accused them of fraud for what amounted to hiding the holes in the famous life saver ring-shaped sweets. "I claimed that if the manufacturer would give me all those centers," Morgan remembered later, "I would market them as Morgan's Mint Middles and say no more about it." Radio historian John Dunning, in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, has noted that Morgan also started describing his "mint middles" flavors as "cement, asphalt and asbestos." Notwithstanding, Morgan enjoyed a last laugh of a sort: ABC had been founded by Life Savers chief Edward Noble—who had bought and renamedNBC Blue as ABC, after NBC was forced to sell the Blue Network following a federal anti-trust ruling.

ABC afforded Morgan his first exposure on television as host of a low-key variety series, On The Corner, produced at affiliate station WFIL-TV in Philadelphia (ABC's New York station and production center was still under construction) and aired on the fledgling TV network as a summer series in 1948. True to his iconoclasm, he satirized his sponsors during the short run of that show as he had so often done on radio.

Veteran radio announcer Ed Herlihy, a friend of Morgan, remembered him to radio historian Gerald Nachman (in Raised on Radio): "He was ahead of his time, but he was also hurt by his own disposition. He was very difficult. He was so brilliant that he'd get exasperated and he'd sulk. He was a great mind who never achieved the success he should have." Nachman wrote of Morgan that he was radio's "first true rebel because—like many comics who go for the jugular, from Lenny Bruce to Roseanne Barr—he didn't know when to quit."

Morgan had his fans and his professional admirers, including authors Robert Benchley and James Thurber, fellow radio humorists Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and Fanny Brice, futureToday Show host Dave Garroway, and Red Skelton. Morgan, for his part, claimed Allen as a primary influence; Allen often had Morgan as a guest on his own radio hit, including and especially the final Fred Allen Show in 1949, in a sketch that also featured Jack Benny. ("If Fred Allen bit the hand that fed him," Nachman wrote, "Henry Morgan tried to bite off the whole arm.") Morgan's byline appeared in three 1950s issues of the similarly sardonic Mad magazine.

Another supporter was Arnold Stang, who worked as one of his second bananas on the ABC shows and was known later as the voice of Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat. "He was a masochist, a neurotic man," Stang told Nachman about his former boss. "When things were going well for him, he would do something to destroy himself. He just couldn't deal with success. He'd had an unhappy childhood that warped him a little and gave him a sour outlook on life. He had no close friends." Stang also claimed Morgan's first wife "kept him deeply in debt and refused to give him a divorce"; the divorce occurred in due course, and Morgan remarried happily enough. [Source: Wikipedia]

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