[‘Dear Brutus’ at the Rudy Valee’s Show] (1935)
My Time Is Your Time
by Jack Banner
The Vallee hour is to radio what the old Palace Theater was to vaudeville of a decade ago. It is the goal of radio variety acts just as the Palace was the goal of stage variety. Dozen of entertainers had their first microphone experience here. Some of them were already big names in the stage or screen world, others were unknowns who built up careers with “heard on the Rudy Vallee hour” as a basis. At the present time there are more than three score acts touring the country with this phrase in their billings. Leslie Howard, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Eddie Cantor, Joe Penner, Block and Sully, Margarel Sullavan, Joe Cook, Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Barrymore, Beatrice Lillie, Cornelia Otis Skinner, are some of the names that come to mind offhand among those who first made their acquaintance with nationwide radio via the Vallee program.
One very good example of the prestige that Rudy’s
program has developed came up in a recent incident. Leslie Howrd was seekins a good oppurtunity for his 11-year-old daughter’s professional debut as an actress. Time was in the past when an actor as distinguished as Howard would have looked carefully over the opportunities
that vaudeville and the legitimate stage offered for such an event.
In 1935 he did not hesitate. To him there was only
one theater for his daughter’s first experience as an actress and that was the studio in Radio City where every Thursday night the Vallee cast assemble–a theater whose doors had opened for an estimated two billion listeners in the six years of its existence.
Howard talked to Rudy, told him his plan to bring
12-year-old Leslie Ruth to the microphone. Rudy was enthusiastic. Then the actor had misgivings. Suppose his father’s pride had led him to overestimate her ability.
“I’ll bring her in for an audition,” he said.
Several days later the two sat in an NBC studio control room with an engineer. Outside beyond the plate glass panel a little girl fingered a script nervously and waited for a signal to go ahead. The engineer nodded his head. The little girl began to read her lines–finely written lines from Sir James Barrie’s Dear Brutus.
Howard and Vallee sat with their had”t to the glass
panel, staring at the blank wall of the control room. The girl’s voice was moving, intense. When she finished the sIim, grave Englishman who was a London bank teller before he was an actor, looked up at his companion and there appeared a question in his eyes.
“She’s a trouper,” Rudy answered simply.
A week later a scene from Dear Brutus, starring
Leslie and Leslie Ruth Howard, was the feature of the Vallee hour.
(Radio Guide, August 17, 1935)