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    Follow the Stories | Atlantic City, New Jersey (2010)

    Request Performance: "The Reconversion of Karloff"

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    Posted: 2.8.2010

    Collectibles appraiser Rudy Franchi appraised a collection of guest log books from the 1940s CBS radio program "Request Performance" for between $6,000 and $7,000 at the June 2009 Atlantic City ROADSHOW. Transcript courtesy of The Masquers Club of Hollywood (www.masquersclub.org).

    At the Atlantic City ROADSHOW event on June 16, 2009, a guest named Steve brought in a collection of guest logs books for the 1940s CBS radio program "Request Performance." The logs bear the signatures of many of the day's biggest stars of stage and screen, including Roy Rogers, Frank Morgan, Janet Blair, and Boris Karloff. For the benefit of all you lovers of the golden age of radio (before TV took over!), here's a transcript of the February 3, 1946, CBS Radio broadcast of Request Performance episode 18, "The Reconversion of Karloff." In which Boris Karloff , the consummate creepster, decides he wants to shed his ghoulish image and become a comedian, among other amusing things. ...

    TRANSCRIPT: Request Performance | Episode 18 | "The Reconversion of Karloff"
    Produced by: The Masquers Club of Hollywood
    Broadcast on: February 3, 1946 by CBS Radio
    Host: Alan Jones

    BORIS KARLOFF: "Oh fudge! I get so tired of scaring people."

    ANNOUNCER (DEL SHARBUT): Campbell's Soup on your shelf is like a part-time cook in your kitchen!

    ANNOUNCER: The makers of Campbell's Soup bring you Request Performance! (Applause and music ... ) This is a program where the stars you request do the things you request. Tonight, we bring you one of the most unusual star combinations in radio history: Frank Morgan, Roy Rogers, Janet Blair, Boris Karloff, and as master of the mailbag tonight — a young man whose voice has inspired millions on the screen and on the concert stage and on the air: Alan Jones!

    (Music and singing: "There's a song in the air, but the fair senorita doesn't seem to care, for the song in the air! ... )

    HOST ALAN JONES: You're going to hear a lot of songs on the air tonight at this Request Performance from the beautiful Janet Blair, from America's king of the cowboys, Roy Rogers, and from Lee Stevenson's orchestra. We can expect a full court of laughs from the irrepressible MGM star Frank Morgan, and to get your spine ready for a few chills by the screen's greatest star of horror pictures.

    BORIS KARLOFF: Oh Alan, don't tell me I'm going to have to scare people again.

    ALAN: It's Boris Karloff!

    (Applause ... )

    BORIS: Thank you Van Johnson fans.

    (Laughter) Hello Alan. You're looking very well tonight for a human being.

    ALAN: Thank you, Boris. You know, we get a lot of letters here at Request Performance asking you —

    BORIS: Don't say it — I know — they want me to be horrible. Night after night, all I do is frighten people and I always hate myself in the morning.

    (Laughter) Everybody thinks of me as Frankenstein's monster. Nobody loves me. Nobody laughs at me. If only someone would laugh at me.

    (High-pitched woman's laughter, sounding more like a scream)

    BORIS: Thank you, Mrs. Lagosi.

    (Laughter)

    ALAN: Boris, do you mean you want to reconvert?

    BORIS: Yes, I'm tired of being that gloomy, weird character I always play. I fancy myself more as the, uh, as the gay jokester.

    (Laughter)

    ALAN: I see. You want to be a witty and charming individual who immediately captivates everyone he meets.

    FRANK MORGAN: Someone talking about me?!

    ALAN: Frank Morgan!

    (Applause ... )

    FRANK: Hello Alan? ... Who, uh, who's your lugubrious friend with the weasel eyes?

    BORIS: It's me, Frank.

    FRANK: Oh, it's you Frank.

    BORIS: No, no, Frank — you remember me.

    FRANK: Well, I can't quite place the face. But the embalming job is familiar.

    (Laughter)

    ALAN: Oh, cut it out, Frank. You know very well who this is.

    FRANK: Well now, let me see. You're not one of the Harvey girls. I've got it! You're what they lost in The Lost Weekend.

    ALAN: Haven't you boys ever met? Frank, this is Boris Karloff.

    FRANK: Boris?

    (Frank screams)

    BORIS: See what I mean? I do that to everybody.

    ALAN: Frank, Boris has a little problem. He'd like to change the character he's been playing and become a comedian.

    FRANK: Oh, murder! —

    BORIS: Please! Please, don't say that word. Frank. I've always admired your wonderful sense of humor and your delightfully effervescent manner.

    FRANK: Ah-ha-ha-ha well now there's a charming fellow! Of course, you realize the puckish qualities of which you speak are the natural attributes of the Morgan personality.

    ALAN: Oh brother. Keep Ralph out of this.

    FRANK: Only the other day I was a guest at a rather exclusive gathering. Immediately upon entering the room, I exemplified the best features of extemporaneous humor coupled with sanguinary juxtaposition of overhanging quadriceps.

    ALAN: ... That's what it says here.

    (Laughter)

    FRANK: I was immediately greeted with gales of spontaneous laughter.

    ALAN: Frank, what does all that mean?

    FRANK: I forgot my pants.

    (Laughter)

    BORIS: You should have left them home tonight.

    FRANK: Stop ad-libbing, you monster.

    BORIS: Now Frank, tell me frankly. Do you think I can make a go of it as a radio comedian?

    FRANK: Well, it's hard to tell. I've never heard you work.

    BORIS: Listen to me tell a funny joke.

    FRANK: Oh no.

    (Laughter)

    Funny ... eh ... you're a brave one. Go ahead Karloff!

    BORIS: Well, it seems one fellow asked another chap, "Where were you born?" And the other replied, "In Brooklyn."

    (Boris laughs)

    FRANK: Eh ... Very good, Karloff. You told it well, too!

    BORIS: But Frank —

    FRANK: Never heard that one before! Must remember it!

    BORIS: Frank, I'm not finished —

    FRANK: That's what you think!

    BORIS: You see, these two men met in Brooklyn —

    FRANK: Yeah, we're sure of that. I met a charming little parlor maid in Brooklyn once, lived on Kosciusko Street —

    BORIS: Frank, you don't understand —

    FRANK: Neither did her husband!

    (Laughter)

    BORIS: Anyway, one fellow said to the other man, "Any big people born in Brooklyn?" And the other answered, "No. Only babies."

    (Laughter and applause ... )

    FRANK: Well, go ahead, Karloff, finish your story.

    BORIS: That's a joke, son! "Only babies."

    FRANK: Yes, you keep that up, Karloff, and you'll become another Red Skelton.

    BORIS: You really think so?

    FRANK: You'll kill the people. They'll split their sides. They'll laugh their heads off. You'll knock them dead!

    BORIS: I'm right back where I started.

    FRANK: Excuse me, folks, I gotta go out and see a Peter Lorre picture.

    (Applause ... )

    BORIS: Alan, I'm not getting anywhere.

    ALAN: I've got an idea, Boris. Have you ever been out west in the cowboy country?

    BORIS: Well, I saw a movie about it once.

    ALAN: Then you undoubtedly saw America's king of the cowboys and sweet-singing star of Western pictures, Roy Rogers!

    (Applause ... )

    ROY ROGERS: Well, howdy everybody. Hello, Alan. Say, who's that tough-looking hombre over there? Don't tell me you've got trouble with rustlers on Request Performance.

    BORIS: I'm not a rustler. It's just my script shaking. I'm scared to death of microphones.

    ALAN: Roy, I want you to meet Boris Karloff. Boris?

    (Roy screams)

    BORIS: Oh fudge! I get so tired of scaring people.

    ROY: Well Mr. Karloff. You've been living in cobwebs too long. Why don't you try being a singing cowboy out in the wide-open spaces?

    BORIS: Do you really think I could?

    ROY: Sure I'll give you a little coaching. Let's strike up a real old western song ... how about "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie"?

    BORIS: No, no!

    (Laughter)

    ROY: Well now, don't champ at your —

    BORIS: No "bury"! —

    ROY: Don't champ at your bits like that, partner. How about this one?

    ROY:

    (playing guitar and singing) I'm an old cow hand, from the Rio Grande ...

    ROY: — There now Karloff, you take my guitar and see what you can do to that

    tune.

    BORIS: (singing the same tune, gloomily) I'm an old cow hand, by the Rio Grande

    ...

    ROY: No, no ... whoa, Karloff. Alan, this fellow's a hopeless case.

    ALAN: I've got one more idea, Roy. I think a beautiful woman might bring out the softer side of Boris Karloff. Maybe he's really a Charles Boyer in werewolf's clothing. Why don't you try being a romantic young juvenile, Boris?

    BORIS: Me?

    ALAN: Yeah, I'll give you some pointers on lovemaking and let's see how you do.

    BORIS: With whom?

    ALAN: With one of Hollywood's fairest young ladies. The star of tonight and every night and many other screen hits, Janet Blair!

    (Applause and whistling ... )

    JANET: Hello, Alan. Why Boris Karloff. How are you? Gosh, I've been wanting to meet you for so long —

    (Boris screams)

    JANET: Oh for heaven's sakes, what's the matter, Boris? Is there something about me that seems strange to you?

    BORIS: You're ... you're alive!

    ALAN: Now here's what you do, Boris. You sit down beside Janet on the love seat like this.

    BORIS: Yes.

    ALAN: You put your arm around her like this.

    BORIS: Yes?

    ALAN: And you sing her a love song, like this.

    (Alan and Janet sing a romantic duet)

    JANET: There now, Boris, you get the idea?

    BORIS: Oh sure, I know all about this sort of thing. I did it in my last picture. Frankenstein and the Batwoman.

    (Laughter ... )

    JANET: Why Boris, what did you do?

    BORIS: I sat down beside the batwoman on an old mummy case, like this.

    JANET: Yes?

    BORIS: And I took her claw in mine, like this.

    JANET: Yes?

    BORIS: And I sang her a love song, like this.

    BORIS: (singing, to haunting music) I saw you hanging in the air, and you were ghastly to see. I know what I hate, I despise what I saw, and I said to myself — BATS for me. (Applause)

    ANNOUNCER: Say, Alan, I've been listening to this reconversion of Karloff, and you know, I've got a great angle for you. You think he'd like to be a commercial announcer?

    BORIS: (interrupting) — I'm dying to be.

    ANNOUNCER: Well, all right, Mr. Karloff. You stand there and read this when I point to you.

    BORIS: Now?

    ANNOUNCER: Not yet, Mr. Karloff. If you agree with me that there's just nothing takes the place of good home cooking, then let me tell you Campbell's Vegetable Soup is just your dish, because Campbell's make it the good home way, with all the scrupulous care of the very fussiest housewife.

    BORIS: Now?

    ANNOUNCER: Not yet, Mr. Karloff. They select their vegetables critically, scrub and peel and dice them carefully and then cook them just so to add all their goodness to the full-flavored beef stock. No wonder women tell us this soup tastes every bit as delicious as their own home kitchen guide. And what's more, this stock is so hearty and so chocked full of choice vegetables, these same good home cooks look upon Campbell's Vegetable Soup as almost a meal in itself.

    BORIS: Do I say it now?

    ANNOUNCER: In just a second, Mr. Karloff. Now, you know that would be a mighty swell idea, to build lunch or supper tomorrow around big plates of Campbell's Vegetable Soup. Take it, Karloff.

    BORIS:

    (scarily) Mmmmmm. Goooood.

    (Laughter)

    ANNOUNCER: Why that's wonderful, Boris. You were great! There's, there's only one more thing I want you to remember —

    BORIS: What's that now?

    ANNOUNCER: Campbell's Soup on your shelf ...

    BORIS: — I know: "It's like a part-time cook in your kitchen."

    (Music and applause)

    ALAN: Request Performances answered a letter asking for songs by Janet Blair. For John Rivers from Charleston, South Carolina, and Marie Kelly from Brooklyn, New York, and for the Royal Pursuit Club of Atlanta, Georgia, here's Janet.

    JANET BLAIR: (singing)

    I'm glad I waited for you. I'm glad my heart waited too. Yes there were one or two I used to date with, but they always knew I used them to wait with. I'm glad I waited for you. I'm glad my heart waited too. That favorite dream of mine has just come true. I'm glad I waited for you. ... That favorite dream of mine has just come true. I'm glad I waited for you. (Applause and whistling)

    ALAN: That was swell, Janet. Hundreds of Request Performances letters have asked to hear Frank Morgan, the serious actor, so here's tonight's scenario in a nutshell, and whether Mr. Karloff wants to be reconverted or not, you've asked for Boris Karloff, the serious actor, too. Bring up the curtain, Del.

    (Dramatic music)

    ANNOUNCER: Campbell's Soups bring you, Frank Morgan and Boris Karloff in a Request Performance short, short thriller — Anton Chekov's famous story, The Bet.

    (Dramatic music)

    ANNOUNCER: Czarist Russia, in the middle of the last century. ...

    BORIS: Fifteen years ago tonight, we made the bet. I was rich then, very rich. He was an attorney, not too prosperous. It all began at a party here in my home. We were having the usual after-dinner discussion.

    FRANK: In my time, gentlemen, I've defended the great many prisoners at the bar, and it is my conviction that it is far better to live in prison than die on the gallows.

    BORIS: I can't agree with that. Tell me, who is the more humane executioner? —One who kills you in a few seconds, or one who drains the life out of you incessantly for years?

    FRANK: It's better to live in prison than not to live at all.

    BORIS: That's not true. I bet you two million rubles you wouldn't remain in a cell for even five years.

    FRANK: If you mean that seriously, then I'll bet I could stay not five years, but 15.

    BORIS: Fifteen?! It's a bet. Gentlemen, I stake two million rubles.

    FRANK: And I stake my freedom.

    BORIS: You're perfectly serious?

    FRANK: Absolutely.

    BORIS: I'll give you one more chance to get out of this. I can afford to lose the money, but you stand to lose three or four of the best years of your life. You'll never stick it out any longer.

    FRANK: The bet has been made.

    (Dramatic music)

    FRANK: I will remain here from midnight tonight until midnight of 15 years from tonight with only food and books. If I escape if only for two minutes before the time, you'll be free from the obligation to pay me the two million rubles.

    BORIS: Agreed.

    FRANK: I'm ready now. You may lock me in the hut.

    (Dramatic music)

    FRANK: The first year in prison is very lonely. I reject wine and tobacco. It's not good to drink wine alone. Tobacco spoils the air. I read: love stories, crime stories, comedies.

    (Dramatic music)

    In the second year, the classics, the great thoughts of the great thinkers: Milton, Shakespeare, Dante. The fifth year: wine, much wine. I write. I tear it up. I weep. I yawn. I ache to walk a long distance. But in the second half of the sixth year, I begin to study: languages, philosophy, history. In four years, 600 books. ...

    FRANK: (continues) ... My dear jailer, I am writing these lines to you in seven different languages. Show them to the experts. They'll not find a single mistake. After the 10th year, one book. One book alone: the Bible.

    (Dramatic music)

    And now in the last two years of my confinement, all kinds of books: science, medicine, a novel, Byron. Anything and everything. And all of it here, inside my head. All of it.

    (Dramatic music)

    BORIS: Fifteen years ago tonight, we made the bet. It is five minutes until midnight. Five minutes, he will be free and I will be ruined. Fifteen years ago, two million rubles meant nothing to me. But now, I shall be bankrupt. (Dramatic music)

    There's only one escape: the man must die. ... A gun. Loaded. It's a windy night, lonely in the garden. No one will hear.

    (Sound of footsteps)

    What's this? A note tacked to the door of the hut in his words, his handwriting.

    FRANK: (reading) "My dear jailer. At midnight, I will be free. For 15 years, I have studied. For 15 years, I have lived in your books. Without leaving this hut, I climbed the summit of Mont Blanc and saw from there how the sun rose in the morning and in the evening made the ridges purple-gold. Without leaving this hut, I saw green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, cities. I worked miracles, preached new religions, conquered whole countries. Your books gave me wisdom. Having that wisdom, I no longer want or need the two million rubles I once dreamed of as paradise, and which I now despise. That I may deprive myself of the right to that money, I shall escape from this hut five minutes before the stipulated time."

    BORIS: Gone. He's gone!

    (Laughs) He lost the bet! He lost! ... Or did he? ...

    (Dramatic music and applause)

    ALAN: Thank you Frank Morgan and Boris Karloff. That was an unforgettable story. Now Request Performance fulfills the wish of a listener in Bay City, Michigan. Miss Alice B. wants a trip for the biggest state in the union on the arm of the most famous movie cowboy of them all, Roy Rogers. Texas, here we come!

    ROY: (singing) We'll build a big fence around Texas, around Texas, way 'round Texas! I'm gonna build a big fence around Texas so they can't steal my baby away. ... (Applause)

    FRANK: Hey, that wasn't bad singing, for a city slicker.

    ROY: Well, thank you partner. But, uh, who are you?

    FRANK: Grub State Morgan, sir, of the old pan-handling Morgans.

    ROY: You from Texas?

    FRANK: Why sure. Had myself a 50,000-acre ranch down San Antonio way.

    ROY: Mighty pretty country down that a way, mighty pretty!

    FRANK: Watch your language, son! You been seeing too many western pictures. Yes, sir. Had myself a big ranch with upwards of a 100,000 head of cattle.

    ROY: A hundred thousand head?

    FRANK: Yep ... the other ends too. (Laughter) ... That's a lot of bull!

    ROY: Well, you don't sound like much of a Westerner to me.

    FRANK: Careful son, in my youth I was known as the Errol Flynn of Death Valley. (Laughter) ... I was a shade more virile in those days.

    ROY: Well, you don't sound like much of a Westerner to me.

    FRANK: Don't say that now, son! In the old days of the pony express, I rode the most dangerous route in the whole panhandle ... was in the saddle day and night. Was so dangerous always had two armed scouts riding ahead of me, to guard me against Indians.

    ROY: Uh, what did you use to you use to protect your rear?

    FRANK: Dr. Scholl's foot pads. (Laughter)

    ROY: Well, you don't sound like much of a Westerner to me.

    FRANK: You better be careful, son. You keep on like that and the same thing will happen to you that happened to Cactus Face Magurk!

    ROY: What happened to him?

    FRANK: I went into his saloon one day and he insulted my gal. I said, look Cactus, I'm warning you, this town ain't big enough for both of us. One of us will have to clear out in 24 hours.

    ROY: Why 24 hours?

    FRANK: Well, I had a lot of bags to pack. (Laughter) Sure broke my heart to leave the fair state of Texas.

    ROY: Now just a minute Frank. Janet and I've been to Texas and we don't understand why Texans always brag about it.

    JANET: Yes Frank. After all, it's not the only state in the Union.

    FRANK: What!? You mean to say that you think Texas is only sensational?

    JANER: Well isn't that enough?

    FRANK: Ma'am you have besmirched the fair name of the Lone Star State. Come on, Rogers, let's ride these varmints out of town on a rail. Let's ride 'em out on Frank Sinatra. (Laughter)

    ROY: Just a minute, sheriff, we really love Texas.

    FRANK: Shoot 'em full of holes if ... what!? You do?

    ROY: Oh, I knew you were just joshin' folks. Let's have a round of toasts to Texas.

    FRANK: Great, Roy, all of you say 'em, and I'll drink 'em!

    (Janet and Roy sing a duet medley, starting with "Home on the Range")

    (Applause ... )

    ALAN: ... We're back in Hollywood just long enough to hear what Del Sharbut has to say about the most important room in your house: your kitchen.

    ANNOUNCER: Well, tomorrow evening at your house, how about a supper that starts with the steaming plates of Campbell's Vegetable Soup? Matter of fact, you don't need a great deal else for a tempting and satisfying meal. For this is the soup you know that's so deep down hearty. Mothers everywhere say it's almost a meal in itself, and if you could see the good things that go into it you'd surely agree. First, there's the hearty beef stock, so full flavored that every spoonful brims with good beef taste. Then 15 different kinds of vegetables, all so tender and luscious they might have been picked right out of your own garden. Tomatoes, green peas, lima beans, sweet golden corn, and all your other old favorites. To add to the hearty eating of this delicious soup — mmm good. You bet! If you like to do right for the family come suppertime tomorrow, just ladle out big plates of Campbell's vegetable soup. Campbell's soup on your shelf is like a part time cook in your kitchen!

    (Music)

    ALAN: Next week, Request Performance answers your letters by bringing you Red Skelton, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Sir Aubrey Smith and Lina Romay. And you'll want to hear Sir Aubrey play the washboard in Spike Jones' orchestra. Right now it's goodnight from Frank Morgan, Roy Rogers, Janet Blair, Boris Karloff, and your host from Hollywood tonight, Alan Jones. So long, everybody!

    (Applause)

    (Mmm mmm good, Mmm mmm good, that's what Campbell's Soups are, Mmm mmm good.)

    ANNOUNCER: Every week Campbell's soup brings you two big shows from Hollywood: the Jack Carson on Wednesday and on Sunday, Request Performance. Request Performance is produced by the Masquers Club of Hollywood and is directed by

    William N. Robson. Remember you're the boss on these Request Performance broadcasts. Your letters addressed to Campbell Soup's Hollywood, pick the performers and tell them what to do. So how about writing Request Performance tonight and tell us what you want to hear from Hollywood! Next Sunday on Campbell Soup's Request Performance: Red Skelton,

    Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Sir Aubrey Smith and Lina Romay.

    (Mmm mmm good, Mmm mmm good, that's what Campbell's Soups are, mmm mmm good.)

    (Applause and music)

    ANNOUNCER: Roy Rogers may currently be seen in the Republic picture

    Along the Navajo Trail.

    This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

    (Applause and music)

    THE END

    Transcript reproduced with permission. © The Masquers Club of Hollywood. All rights reserved.

    More ANTIQUES ROADSHOW articles from the Collectibles category:
    Classic Movie Stills (Chattanooga, 2009)
    1948 Harry S. Truman "8-Ball" Statuette (Chattanooga, 2009)
    Buddy Holly and the Crickets Collection (San Antonio, 2008)

    See the Atlantic City, New Jersey (2010) page for a list of all appraisals from this city.





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