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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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America Invaded Australia .... On Radio Waves!
by by John Abbott © 2015
(From Radio Recall, April, 2015)

In a previous article on Grace Gibson, published in the June, 2014 issue of Radio Recall, it was noted that Ms. Gibson was responsible for introducing the American series Pinto Pete and his Ranch Boys, Chandu the Magician, The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen and others to Australian listeners. This article will attempt to define what some of those "other" programs were.

A major source of American programs imported to Australia has come from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, which has posted a catalog of their holdings on their website (www.nfsa.gov.au). The catalog, or catalogue, (after all we must speak the King's English occasionally), is a 240 page listing of the holdings in the NFSA's vaults as of 1998. So this list may possibly have grown in the interim. But even so the results are most interesting.

So, what can be gleaned from this catalog? The following is a list of 43 programs from the catalog with a direct or inferred reference to their American origin:
Adventures of Charlie Chan
Adventures of the Falcon
Air Adventures of Hop Harrigan
Amazing Mr. Malone
The Bell Telephone Hour
Burns and Allen
Can You Top This?
The Clock
Crime Fighters
Damon Runyon Theatre
Danger is My Business
Dangerous Assignment
The Dennis Day Show
Dick Tracy
Dr. Christian
Dr. Paul
Gracie Fields Show
The Guiding Light
Information Please
Inner Sanctum
It's A Crime, Mr. 'Collins
Let George Do It
Life Can Be Beautiful
The Life Of Mary Southern
The Lives of Harry Lime
Lux Radio Theatre
The Man I Married
The March of Time
Night Beat
Pepper Young's Family
Philip Morris
Country Music Show
Portia Faces Life
Quiz Kids
The Shadow
Squad Room
Stand By For Crimev Superman
When a Girl Marries
You Are There

It is interesting that there are two programs the author is aware of which do not appear on this list: The Adventures of Ellery Queen and The Fat Man. No doubt they will appear in an updated catalogue. It is also interesting that while Ms. Gibson is credited with introducing Pinto Pete and his Ranch Boys, Chandu the Magician and The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen to the Australian airwaves. there are no copies of these programs in the NFSA catalog, at least as of 1998.

However, within the list, there is a wide variety as to how the programs were obtained and how they continued. One common thread is that the person or company responsible for producing most of these programs is defined in two words - Grace Gibson.

As an example of the variety of sourcing, The Amazing Mr. Malone bears the comments "The American scripts carefully adapted for Australian radio. First broadcast in USA in 1948 on ABC Network then on NBC Network in 1951. Sponsored over the American N.B.C. Network by The Wine Growers Guild and sponsored on television by the Seiberling Tire Company of America". This shows that the program originated in America, but was "adapted" for Australian audiences.

The entry for Gunsmoke contains the note: "Based on the successful U.S. series." As we have seen in a recent MWOTRC recreation, the name is the same, but the characters differ. One stalwart American program, Dragnet, actually used the American scripts in their broadcasts however Australian actors played the parts. The program Night Beat started out with American scripts, which were then supplemented with locally-authored scripts.

There are several programs which Grace Gibson purchased in the US and played - with some modifications. After the scripts ran out, Australian writers carried the programs well beyond their US lives. These programs are Dr. Paul and Portia Faces Life. Dr. Paul ran in America from 1940- 1945 and briefly in 1953 while Portia Faces Life ran from 1940 to 1953. Grace Gibson was able to take Dr. Paul and extend its run from 1949 to 1971. Portia Faces Life was almost as long-lived ; running from 1954 to 1970. In addition to these two programs, The Guiding Light, Life Can Be Beautiful, The Life Of Mary Southern, The Man I Married, Pepper Young's Family" and When A Girl Marries round out a very popular genre of programs in Australia - soap operas.

There are several programs on the list that have familiar names: Information Please, Let George Do It, Quiz Kids and You Are There, yet there is nothing to indicate that they are the same programs. (The author is willing to travel to Australia to resolve the mystery should someone wish to fund the effort.)

As was mentioned earlier, many programs were "adapted" to Australian 'audiences. I am sure that there were changes in locations and word changes to replace American words that did not mean the same thing in Australia (or worse meant something totally off-color). What these are, I know not. But there is one reference that makes an interesting observation. In his book, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923-1960, author Richard Lane makes an interesting observation. He notes that when editing the scripts for soap operas "I always wrote an extra five minutes into each script; it was obvious that the Americans played soap operas much more slowly than we {Australians} did." We can only imagine what that sounded like.

The economics behind the use of American scripts, and the thirst of the local audiences made it worth the cost of buying scripts and reusing them. But once the well ran dry, radio did not end down under - rather it thrived on locally written scripts and provided regular entertainment for Australia and New Zealand as well as other part of the British Empire in southern Asia.