INFORMATION PLEASE by Martin Grams, Jr. (paperback)
Wake up, America! The biography is here!
Information Please, the popular radio quiz program that played experts for fall guys, was capital, dependable, adult radio fun for more than a decade (1938 – 1952). The fast-cracking experts – John Kieran, omniscient sports columnist for the New York Times; Franklin Pierce Adams, New York Post columnist; Oscar Levant, composer, pianist, gag-stacked Broadwayfarer – were acknowledged by listeners as the most knowing of know-it-alls. Master of Ceremonies Clifton Fadiman was famous for beating the experts to the pun while he picked the questions submitted each week by listeners. Information Please spawned a short-lived series of film shorts (1940-1943), a summer-run television program (1952), at least two card games, and the long-running Information Please Almanac.
--Documentary on the making of the broadcasts, and background production.
--Sponsor and Cast contracts are reprinted.
--Day-by-day information about the 1945 Information Please European Tour.
--Chapter documenting the history of the 18 RKO Information Please Shorts (1939-1942).
--Chapter documenting the short-lived 1952 television series.
--Chapter documenting the radio program's involvement with the Information Please Almanac.
--A complete episode guide listing each and every radio broadcast, television broadcast and movie short.
DID YOU KNOW...?
The Hepburn-Tracy movie "Woman of the Year" featured a scene in which Information Please was being broadcast over a radio in a bar?
One of the eighteen Information Please shorts had to be thrown away and never released because the guest expert on that film referred to Clifton Fadiman in another name!
Martin Grams, Jr. is the author and co-author of numerous books about Old-Time Radio and Old-Time Television, including The Have Gun – Will Travel Companion (2000), The History of the Cavalcade of America (1999), The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion (2001), Radio Drama: American Programs (2000), Invitation to Learning (2002), Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills (1998), The Sound of Detection: Ellery Queen’s Adventures in Radio (2002), Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Behind the Creaking Door (2003), The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook (1999), and more magazine articles than could possibly be counted.
To the average fan of Old-Time Radio, Mr. Grams is no stranger and his many of his books come to mind at the sound of his name. His publications have even been acknowledged by Leonard Maltin (Entertainment Tonight) and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth (by letter via Royal Mail). Mr. Grams has already gained access to the private collections of Dan Golenpaul, the creator of the Information Please series, including other definitive sources that will provide superb historical documentation.
Radio historian Martin Grams, Jr. really scores heavily with his history of Information, Please!
The book details, in a lively, chatty way, the history of the show, incorporating mishaps, memorable moments, and quotes from the witty participants. Oscar Levant, for me, gives this book its comic edge, with his always unforgettable humor ("Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her.").
Considering all the great information that Grams has compiled, it's surprising that this is the first book on the show. His work is so complete, however, there need not be another. In addition to the great anecdotes, insider history and biographical data, this volume reprints letters sent to the show, many from celebrities trying to stump the experts, and a complete radio log for the program. RKO did a series of eighteen shorts based on Information, Please!, and the author covers that, as well as the short-lived television version.
This book is very entertaining. I was largely unfamiliar with the program, but this gave me everything I need to know. It's done with style, wit and enthusiasm, just like the show.
- Laura Wagner, Classic Images
"I didn't forget, strangely enough, to take along my new copy of Martin Grams, Jr.'s latest book, INFORMATION PLEASE, which I received in the mail yesterday. A nice, quick and easy read, and it measures up to the usual Grams standards, of course."
- Ivan G. Shreve, Jr., THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR
"This time around, Martin Grams, Jr., lets us in on the creation and structure of one of radio's most popular and satisfying quiz programs, but one in which the listener was the quizmaster rather than the other way around. INFORMATION PLEASE is another in the seemingly endless forays into the details of OTR programming for which Grams has become justifiably famous. Here we learn why the program was even considered for airing in the first place. After all, who wants to listen to a bunch of egoists blow off about how smart they are, especially to we, the listeners, who might get irritated just listening to them. But the producer of INFORMATION PLEASE, Dan Golenpaul, had an idea that the listener could get his kicks, and maybe a dollar or two besides, by knocking the big guys down a peg or two. Thus was born the idea of questions sent in by the listeners and for any question that stumped the experts, the successful submitter might profit by $5.00 or more, plus receive a sample of the sponsor's product. Remember that this was during the depressing years and no sum of money could be considered too small not to claim.
"This book provides the details we expect from a Grams' offering and he doesn't let us down. Not only do we learn about the sponsors, who took a chance with the program, but we also find out about the aborted television production of INFORMATION PLEASE in the early 1950s, the INFORMATION PLEASE game, and a mini-biography on each of the major panelists that made the program so much fun. Grams makes it clear that the chemistry between the program's moderator, Clifton Fadiman, and the usual panelists: John Kieran, Franklin P. Adams and Oscar Levant, was what made the show a success. Learned, yet funny and very quick with a quip, these four made an unrehearsed show sound like it had been written by a gaggle of comedy writers.
"Of course, a Grams' book would not be complete without a detailed and complete broadcast log and we are not disappointed with this offering. The log includes the date of airing of each broadcast, the regular panelists foreach show and the guest panelist for the evening. We get a peek into who was considered a bust as a panelist, who really didn't want to go head-to-head with the brain trust and who wanted to return on a more-or-less regular basis."
- Charles R. Sexton, RRL ON THE AIR