Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Archie Andrews: 9/11/48

Character actor Bob Hastings is the answer to a great trivia question: Who has played Archie Andrews, Superboy and Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon?

Hastings would provide the voice for Superboy/Clark Kent in a series of Filmation cartoons during the 1960s, then do Gordon’s voice in the excellent Batman animated series made in the 1990s.

But before he moved into television, he did a lot of radio, including playing the lead in NBC’s adaptation of the Archie comic books.

I’d never listened to an episode of Archie Andrews before. I like the characters well enough, but I just never got around to giving the radio show a listen. There’s just too much good OTR out there and I never do seem to manage to catch up with everything. But I made a point of getting hold of an Archie episode recently after reading an article about Hastings.

This episode, at least, was good, goofy entertainment. Hastings was in his 20s when he played the teenaged Archie, but he had a voice in the tenor range and could turn it up to soprano just often enough to sound like a kid whose voice isn’t quite done changing yet. He then plays Archie with an almost manic enthusiasm.

The plot depends on a lot of little things building up into a disaster. Archie’s dressed up to go to a dance. But, gee whiz, a few hairs on the back of his head are standing up and the girls will all laugh at him!!!! He decides to use some hair gel, which leads to a series of unlikely but escalating incidents finally result in Archie losing his pants while a false alarm is called into the fire department. Believe it or not, the chain of circumstances actually makes some sort of sense.

None of the dialogue is as clever or laugh-out-loud funny as on some of radio’s classic shows (Jack Benny, Fibber McGee, etc.), but the comedy depends on circumstance rather than verbal humor. On this level, buoyed by some good acting, it does get you to laugh aloud at least a few times.

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