Breakfast in Hollywood
Breakfast in Hollywood was a popular morning radio show created and hosted by Tom Breneman who broadcast from 1941 to 1948 on three different radio networks: NBC, ABC and Mutual. These unscripted shows were spontaneous and involved much audience participation. Breneman's many guests included such stars as Jimmy Durante, Andy Devine and Orson Welles.
Then radio personality Breneman was in Hollywood having lunch in 1940 with friends at Sardi's Restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard when he realized the location's potential for a radio program. He quickly found an audience when he began broadcasting his Breakfast on the Boulevard January 13, 1941, on KFWB Los Angeles. Breakfast at Sardi's aired on the Blue Network from August 3, 1942, until February 26, 1943, when the title was changed to avoid confusion with Sardi's in New York.
Breneman's program went through numerous title changes but was best known as Breakfast in Hollywood (1948–49). He had numerous sponsors, including Kellogg's cereals, Ivory Flakes, Planters Peanuts, Aunt Jemima Flour, Minute Man Soups and Alpine Coffee. By the mid-1940s, Breneman had ten million listeners. The popularity of the radio program was such that he created his own magazine, and in 1945 he opened his own establishment, Tom Breneman's Restaurant, located on Vine Street off Sunset Boulevard. Organist Korla Pandit was only one of the musical talents who performed at the restaurant.
In 1945, flushed with success, Breneman promoted the production of a 90-minute feature film, Breakfast in Hollywood (1946) starring Breneman, Bonita Granville, Beulah Bondi, Edward Ryan, Raymond Walburn, ZaSu Pitts, Billie Burke and Hedda Hopper, featuring musical numbers by Spike Jones, the Nat King Cole Trio and Andy Russell. Songs included "It Is Better to Be Yourself" by Nat King Cole and "If I Had a Wishing Ring" by Marla Shelton and Louis Alter. The film is available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment in the Classic Musicals 50 movie pack. It has played on Turner Classic Movies, which offers this description of the storyline:
- As day breaks in Hollywood, California, many women make their way to Tom Breneman's popular radio show Breakfast in Hollywood. Among them are Elvira Spriggens, who hopes Breneman will notice her crazy hat; Dorothy Larsen, who is trying to find her fiancé, a sailor; Annie Reed, an elderly woman who lives alone with her old dog, Tippy; and Frances Cartwright, a dowdy, middle-aged woman with a philandering husband. On his way to the show, Breneman stops to pick up Ken Smith, a hitchhiking sailor from Minneapolis, and offers him a ticket to the program. After saying goodbye to Tippy, Annie, meanwhile, is hit by a car driven by Frances' husband, who is hurrying to meet a young woman. Although the police summon an ambulance, Annie is determined not to miss Breneman's show, and insists that she is unharmed. Nonetheless, the police detain Cartwright for questioning. During the program, Breneman interviews people in the audience. Learning that Ken and Dorothy are both from Minneapolis, he introduces them. When Dorothy tells Ken her fiancé's name, Ken at first says he knows him, but quickly retracts his statement, confusing Dorothy. Next Breneman chooses the silliest hat in the audience to try on. He is about to fulfill Elvira's dream and choose hers, when he spots Hedda Hopper seated nearby and picks hers instead. Then Dorothy is declared the winner of the "wishing ring." When Breneman awards an orchid to the oldest guest, Annie is thrilled to accept it. Finally, Frances wins a beauty kit.
- After the program ends, Annie faints. When Breneman learns that she was hit by a car, he insists that she go to the hospital. Annie is reluctant to leave Tippy alone, so Ken offers to walk the dog and invites Dorothy to go with him. Later, when Dorothy gets angry after he kisses her, Ken reveals that her fiancé has married another woman. Brokenhearted, Dorothy runs away. Because Annie is seriously injured, the police arrest Cartwright, and Frances, unaware of her husband's predicament, impulsively slips into a beauty salon for a makeover. Distraught over losing Dorothy, Ken begs Breneman to help him get her back. Then, worried about Annie's condition, her nurse asks Breneman to look in on her. Annie tells Breneman that she is ready to die, but when he tells her about Ken and Dorothy, her interest is piqued. By the time Breneman reaches the bus station, Dorothy's bus has left and Ken has disappeared. He asks the police to bring Dorothy back to town and has his secretary try to locate Ken.
- As Frances leaves the salon looking beautiful, a just-released Cartwright is getting a shave and haircut next door. She overhears his plans to go to the races with a young woman, and furiously berates him. Meanwhile, Ken brings a bone to Tippy, and Annie tells him that Breneman is having Dorothy arrested. Feeling protective, Ken hurries off to Breneman's club. Cartwright also comes to the club, searching for Frances. After a few misunderstandings, Ken and Dorothy are reconciled, as are Frances and her husband. Breneman then telephones Annie to let her know that Ken and Dorothy will be married. Outside the club, Elvira stops Breneman as he leaves and shows him a hat given to her by Hedda Hopper. Breneman admits that the hat is very silly, tries it on, and kisses the happy Elvira goodnight.
At the age of 46, Breneman died April 28, 1948, in Encino, California, and other hosts, including Garry Moore, stepped in as replacements, but without Breneman, the ratings dropped, and the program came to an end in January 1949.
- Radio Lovers: Breakfast in Hollywood (December 8, 1941)
- Hollywood on the Radio: Breakfast in Hollywood (1946)