Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Footprints

I’m not sure who wrote the signatures in the cement in the above photo, Charlie McCarthy or Edgar Bergen, but the handwriting is the neatest I’ve ever seen. Probably Edgar, because Charlie was always cutting school, so his penmanship might have suffered.

The comedy team, one human and one ventriloquist’s dummy, had hit the big time after the inevitable vaudeville apprenticeship. A few movie appearances and some successful guest appearances on the Rudy Vallee radio show led Mr. Bergen, and his unruly sidekick, to their own radio program where they remained for the next decade or so.

Edgar Bergen’s film work continued in decades to come, and there was even a dramatic role or two without Charlie McCarthy, but at this moment in time, July 20, 1938, they were at the unique position in their career (difficult to speak of them separately), as being both at the pinnacle of achievement and yet at the same time, standing on the threshold of something very new and exciting.

In this same month, July 1938, the last reunion of Union and Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War took place at the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Howard Hughes set a new flight record by flying around the world in 91 hours.

Somewhere in Austria, a concentration camp called Mauthausen was being constructed.

Pinnacles and thresholds for many indeed, and something more sinister on the horizon for many other people.

But for Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist whose lips moved and who was such a comfortable entertainer that it did not matter, did not even matter that he was a ventriloquist ON THE RADIO, time pleasantly stopped as he (or Charlie) scratched their signatures and planted a big set of hands and feet, and a little set of hands and feet, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Four days later on July 24th, their radio program, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, was hosted by Edward Arnold. Bergen and Charlie rubbed elbows with Spencer Tracy and Dorothy Lamour. Just another day at the office.

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