Vic and Sade

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Vic and Sade
Artberpaulbill.jpg
Vic and Sade rehearsal; from left: Art Van Harvey, Bernardine Flynn, Paul Rhymer and Bill Idelson
Genre Situation comedy: Daily (1932), Weekly (1946)
Running time 15 minutes (1932-44, 1945)
30 minutes (1946)
Country United States
Language(s) English
Home station NBC, CBS, Blue, Mutual
TV adaptations 1949 (NBC, as part of Colgate Theatre),
1957 (WNBQ, Chicago)
Starring Art Van Harvey
Bernadine Flynn
Bill Idelson
Clarence Hartzell
Creator(s) Paul Rhymer
Writer(s) Paul Rhymer
Recording studio Chicago
Air dates June 29, 1932 to October 26, 1946
Audio format Mono
Opening theme Chanson Bohémienne
Sponsor(s) Procter & Gamble (15 minute shows)
Fitch Shampoo (30 minute shows)

Vic and Sade was an American radio program created and written by Paul Rhymer. It was regularly broadcast on radio from 1932 to 1944, then intermittently until 1946, and was briefly adapted to television in 1949 and again in 1957.

During its 14-year run on radio, Vic and Sade became one of the most popular series of its kind, earning critical and popular success: according to Time, Vic and Sade had 7,000,000 devoted listeners in 1943. For the majority of its span on the air, Vic and Sade was heard in 15-minute episodes without a continuing storyline. The central characters, known as "radio's home folks," were accountant Victor Rodney Gook (Art Van Harvey[1]), his wife Sade (Bernardine Flynn) and their adopted son Rush (Bill Idelson). The three lived on Virginia Avenue in "the small house halfway up in the next block." The program was presented with a low-key ease and naturalness, and Rhymer's humorous dialogue was delivered with a subtleness that made even the most outrageous events seem commonplace and normal.

Broadcast history[edit]

Dates Format
June 29, 1932 to September 29, 1944 15 minutes daily
August 21, 1945 to December 7, 1945 15 minutes daily
June 27, 1946 to October 26, 1946 30 minutes weekly
July 11 to July 25, 1949 three half-hour television episodes as part of Colgate Theatre, Monday nights.
c. spring 1957 seven 15-minute television episodes for WNBQ, Thursday nights.

Vic and Sade was first heard over NBC's Blue network in 1932 and originated in Chicago. At the height of its popularity, it was broadcast over all three major networks and as many as six times a day.

Overview[edit]

Vic and Sade was written by the prodigious Paul Rhymer for the entire length of its long run. The principal characters were a married couple living in "the small house halfway up in the next block." After the first weeks in production an extra character, an adopted son, was added to the show, and it was in this format, with only three characters, that the program thrived for the next eight years and won many awards for the writer, actors and sponsor.

In 1940, the actor who played Vic, Art Van Harvey, became ill, and Sade's Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) was added to the cast to fill the place of the missing male lead. When Van Harvey recovered his health, Uncle Fletcher was kept on as a fourth character.

During World War II, the actor who played Rush, Bill Idelson, was called into military service, and he left the show. The spring months of 1943 were a tumultuous period, but eventually a second son figure, Russell Miller (David Whitehouse), was brought in, and the program continued as it always had. The show faltered somewhat with Whitehouse, who sounded as if he was reading his lines aloud in school. Idelson later returned as Rush.

Paul Rhymer frequently gave each of the principals a day off, by confining his scripts to only two of the main characters. Vic and Sade would discuss a domestic problem while Rush was in school; Sade and Rush would review the day's events while Vic was still at the office; Vic and Rush would tackle some project while Sade was out shopping. Several episodes deliberately make no forward progress whatever, as the cast introduces the episode's premise but gets bogged down in endless details, not resolving the story at all!

Vic and Sade was technically a "soap opera," in time slots slanted toward an audience of housewives, and sponsored by food items and cleaning products. Rhymer evidently felt some pressure from the sponsor's advertising agencies to include more romance and human interaction into his scripts, like the other daytime dramas on the air. Rhymer complied in his own dry way, by adding ridiculous touches (his romantic lead, Dwight Twentysixler, always speaks with his "mouth full of shingle nails"!) and oddball characters (Orville Wheeney, the slow-witted gas-meter man; Jimmy Custard, the crochety town official who never quite makes clear what he does as the City Calistrator; Mr. Sprawl, the frail old man who dotes on "peanuts with chocolate smeared on the outsides").

Vic and Sade went off the air September 29, 1944 but was brought back several times. In 1945, the cast was augmented to include many characters who were previously only talked about. In 1946 it was a summer replacement series, now in a half-hour format and played in front of a live studio audience. Later that year it became a sustaining (unsponsored) feature on the Mutual network.

In 1949 three television episodes were made (with only Bernardine Flynn remaining from the original cast), using an elaborate set that included the whole house as well as the front and back yards; the three episodes aired as part of the Colgate Theatre anthology series.

In 1957 a series entitled The Humor of Vic 'n' Sade ran for seven weeks, returning to the original three-character format with 15-minute episodes, a multi-camera setup and a small, stripped-down, bare set. Both Flynn and Art Van Harvey reprised their roles, with teen actor Eddie Gillian as Rush; the revival was cut short when Van Harvey died in July 1957.

The show's strength and appeal stem from its author's unique outlook on the world, his peculiar sense of humor, and his ability to create a universe of people, places and fascinating situations out of exiguous material.

Characters[edit]

Part of the magic of Vic and Sade is that all of the action, all of the people and all of the places in the town were created strictly through the dialogue. Listeners heard just the voices of the three, later four, principal speaking characters, embellished with very few sound effects. This effect is lost as the series progresses and more and more voices are added.

Speaking characters[edit]

Vic
Victor Rodney Gook was the chief accountant of the Consolidated Kitchenware Company Plant Number Fourteen. He was the Exalted Big Dipper of the Drowsy Venus Chapter of the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way, a fraternal order founded by R.J. Konk. Vic's passion was parades, alarm clocks, cigars, wide-brimmed hats and doorbells. He was often asked to submit articles to the Kitchenware Dealers Quarterly and the lodge magazine. Rush's/Russell's nickname for Vic was "Gov." Vic's good deed was always looking out to help Hank Gutstop get a job, allowing Hank to pay Vic back (Sade thought little of Hank, a constant source of friction with Vic). Vic's opening line upon entering the house through the kitchen screen door was usually, "Hi-dee-hi, Ho-dee-ho," a borrowing from Cab Calloway's version of "Minnie the Moocher."
Sade
Sade was a housewife who took pride in her housekeeping. Her interest outside the home was primarily focused on the Thimble Club sewing circle where she and the thimble ladies would get together to sew and gossip. She was very pragmatic about things and had little sense of humor. Her world extended to a very small radius and she cared little for anything outside her tightly drawn circle. Vic has addressed Sade as "Uncle Harry" and "Corporal Johnson," but his usual nickname for her was "Dr. Sleech" (he also called her "kiddo" quite a bit) and Rush/Russell just called her "Mom." Her unfulfilled goal was to go shopping with Ruthie & have each come out even in their money when they got home; it never balanced as she felt Vic & Rush would make fun of her money struggles.
Rush/Russell
Paul Rhymer had intended to introduce Rush by having Sade give birth to an 8 year old boy, but the sponsor objected. Rush's/Russell's favorite activities were playing baseball (and football) in Tatman's vacant lot, watching the fat men play handball down at the YMCA, taking in the moving picture show at the Bijou Theatre (pronounced, "BY-JOE"), and reading about the adventures of Third Lieutenant Clinton Stanley. Rush and Russell had the same friends, but they differed in character: Rush was the schemer who was always looking for ways to make a quick buck and had an angle on everything; doing homework, and especially algebra, was not high on his priority list. Russell enjoyed and did well in school despite the fact he was more the dreamer, the naive young romantic; he was always willing to lend a hand no matter how impractical his outlook was; it follows then that chores around the house were not something he excelled at. Sade's usual nickname for Rush/Russell was "Willie," and Vic might make a nickname out of another boy's name (e.g. "Roscoe"), a girl's name (e.g. "Margaret", or "Margorie"), or a compound noun (e.g. "Brain-Fog" or "Stove-Poker").
Uncle Fletcher
Uncle Fletcher was a talker who had an outrageous story and advice about everything. If there were one activity, outside of telling stories, that he can be noted for, it would be riding on Gumpox's garbage wagon, and he even got a special pass to allow him to do so. He would sometimes fall into the garbage. He especially enjoyed discussing the interesting facts and statistics about such things as his watch fob collection, key collection, photos and snapshots, and his landlady's washrag collection. And he liked popping popcorn. He was always bringing up names of people he assumed Sade knew, of which she never did. Uncle Fletcher liked to always bring up the fellow who walked to his own funeral: "He made his plans, walked to the mortuary. There he later died." Uncle Fletcher would get embarrassed giggles when he addressed his family members as Vic Honey and Rush Honey. He frequently told anecdotes about characters with names such as Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan Michigan.

Non-speaking characters[edit]

The following characters were not portrayed by actors until very late in the show's run (and rarely even after that) but were frequently discussed by Vic, Sade, Rush and Uncle Fletcher.

Bess and Walter
Sade's sister and her husband. Walter ran a barbershop in Carberry, Illinois, and Bess would send letters and postcards that always began "Dear sister and all, Thought I would write and see how you are feeling." Bess and Walter's daughter Eunice (nicknamed Yooncie) was learning to play the piano; the pieces invariably found her stomping on the loud pedal with both feet and dragging her fingernail down the white or black keys. Walter always had twinges in his kneecap.
Fred and Ruthie Stembottom
... enjoyed playing Five Hundred with Vic and Sade. Ruthie would go with Sade to the washrag sales at Yamilton's Department Store, where she always ended up in the underwear department. Fred often tried to extort hard manual labor out of Vic (pour concrete floors, tear down partitions, change tires on the car) on the pretext of inviting him over to play cards, and serving Vic "buckets" of warm lemonade. They also serve as a means of transportation for Vic and Sade (who do not own a car), though before leaving, Fred must, inevitably, air up at least one tire. Uncle Fletcher developed the habit of calling Fred "Ted" (for no logical reason), others are influenced by this (including, it seems, Fred himself), and the name eventually sticks and Fred goes by Ted as the series progresses.
Sade's other friends
include, among others: Mis' Brighton, Mis' Trogel, and Mis' Appelrot.
Vic's work associates
Mr. Ruebush (his boss), Miss Hammersweet (his secretary), Gus Fuss (from Plant Number 17 in Dubuque, Iowa), Mr. Buller (in Chicago) and Lolita DiRienzi (in the boxing department -- Sade was quite jealous!).
Vic's lodge acquaintances
His fellow-members of the All-star marching team: Y.Y. Flirch, J.J.J.J. Stunbolt, Harry Fie, I. Edson Box, Homer U. McDancy, H.K. Fleeber, Robert and Slobert Hink, O.X. Bellyman of Detroit and honorary member Pom-Pom Cordova.
Rush's friends
Smelly Clark, Blue-tooth Johnson, Rooster and Rotten Davis, Leland Richards, Vernon Peggles, Milton Welch, LeRoy Snow, Heinie Call, Willis Roreback and Russell Duncan (not to be confused with Russell Miller). Nicer Scott was his deadly enemy. Mildred Tisdel, Eunice Raypole and Anabel Hemstreet were the girls in the neighborhood.
Russell's friends
Russell had most of the same friends as Rush with the addition of Oyster Crecker. His enemy was Heinie Call, although their relationship never reached the same feverish pitch as Rush and Nicer.
Neighbors
Mis' Harris, Mr. and Mis' Donahue, Charlie Razorscum, and Ike Kneesuffer (who played indoor horseshoes in his basement; also worked with Vic, always discussing the boxing dept at Plant 17 in Dubuque, Iowa on the phone). There was also Mis' Call, Mis' Fisher and Grandpa Snyder.
Townsfolk
Hank Gustop (also in the Lodge as exaulted " Little Dipper," a peach of a fellow, known for sleeping 10 hours outside on the Illinois Central depot platform, fond of cigars), Stacey Yop, Alf Musherton, Pelter Unbleat, and B.B. Baugh. Mr. Gumpox was the garbage man. The Brick-mush man once got his head caught in a revolving door (at Yamilton's). Rishigan Fishigan from Sishigan, Michigan was introduced to the show as part of Mr. Buller's Christmas shopping list, but soon became a regular friend of both Vic and Uncle Fletcher.

Setting[edit]

The town in which Vic and Sade live is named only once, in passing through a humorous credit in one episode ("Sade's gowns by Yamilton's Department Store — Crooper, Illinois"), over the course of the entire series, as far as it is known from existing scripts and recordings. The town is based on a vaguely fictionalized version of Bloomington, Illinois, where Rhymer grew up.

Catchphrases[edit]

  • "I have Bluetooth Johnson out by the garbage box"
  • "Keep him there!"
  • "Vic one, Rush nothing"
  • "Thunder, Thunder, Thunder!"
  • "Hey!! I'll speak American, but I won't speak that Greek trash! "Hic spittle dumb-cluck ad naseum cornucopia up-yours"
  • "Hank Gustop is healthy!"
  • "Get my full lodge regalia- boots, sword, tunic, plumed hat, robe"
  • "Ruthie and me, we come out even!"
  • "Is there a perfumed lady, heavily veiled and greatly agitated, hiding under the davenport?"
  • "The bullet that choked Billy Patterson"
  • "You'll throw your shoes over the People's Bank building."
  • "You'll send your undershirt to Detroit parcel post."
  • "Vic is running around on one foot yelling " Chocolate" "
  • "Get me volume 7 from my lodge library"
  • "Will you make that snappy!"
  • "Get your hat! Get your hat, Sadie! Get your hat"
  • "Lodge Lodge Lodge. Money Money Money."
  • "Left-handed counterfeiting Albanians"
  • " Clear the track- there's a North Dakota River bottom revel on for tonite!"
  • " Lodge ritual-Sim duck nomenclauture stevensbob cum laude sinus trouble dimwit ad infinitism magnum R J Konk-"
  • From the Lodge Handbook for Wives - wives should not steal property belonging to others, use coarse language or engage in rough street brawls
  • " Good morning! Top Coat weather!" from Hank's Daily weather report call
  • "On the top step but one"
  • "Fine, fine." (Uncle Fletcher)
  • "I'll say..." (Sade)
  • "Works out that way sometimes." (Uncle Fletcher)

Constant themes[edit]

  • Vic trying to buy " wide brimmed hat"; Sade says it makes him look like " peeled onion"
  • Rush trying to borrow 10 cents from Vic
  • Rush trying to finish a story about Smelly Clark's uncle's escorting his ladyp-friend to Chicago for purposes of enjoying fish dinner
  • Vic defending Hank Gustop to Sade
  • Sade comparing receipts coming out to an even dollar amount with Ruthie's totals on shopping trips
  • Sade put upon having to buy xmas cards in July
  • Vic handling xmas gift list annually for boss
  • Sade darning socks
  • Sade bemoaning " those boys from Chicago Lodge headquarters" always coming up with new ways to get money out of Vic
  • Vic wanting to fix the alarm clocks- " they always need oiling & regulating"- with his little hammer, always breaking them
  • Sade being jealous of the flirtatious Lolita DiRienzi

Venues frequently referenced[edit]

In town[edit]

  • The Bright Kentucky Hotel (which was shabby)
  • The Butler House Hotel (which was expensive)
  • The Ten Cent Store
  • The Greek's Confectionery
  • Croucher's Grocery Store (where Rush can buy bananas "if they're ripe")
  • Yamilton's Department Store (the place with washrag sales)
  • The Little Tiny Petite Pheasant Feather Tea Shoppy (which had only 3 tables; Hank was fired as hostess for excess eating)
  • The Royal Throne Twenty-five-cent Barbershop (Hank quit on 1st day of job as business developer)
  • The People's Bank Building
  • The Unity Building (where Lodge meetings were held)
  • The courthouse
  • The Bijou Moving Picture Theater (usually featuring films starring Gloria Golden and Four-Fisted Frank Fuddleman)
  • Tatman's vacant lot (where Rush/Russell played baseball; at one time it was called Seymour's vacant lot)
  • Kleeberger's Haberdashery (who Vic perpetually owed $2)
  • Miller Park (which featured a zoo and a lake)
  • The Interurban Train Station

Communities oft mentioned[edit]

  • Sweet Esther, Wisconsin (town of the daily parade)
  • Grovelman, South Carolina (described as the geographical center of the United States by H.K. Fleeber)
  • East Brain, Oregon (home of Homer U. McDancy)
  • Yellow Jump, North Dakota
  • Sick River Junction, Missouri (home of the Missouri State Home for the Tall)
  • Fiendish, Indiana
  • Dismal Seepage, Ohio

As well, several actual Illinois communities near Bloomington were frequently referenced on air:

Influence[edit]

Once voted the best radio serial in a poll of 600 radio editors, Vic and Sade also received praise from many well-known listeners, including Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, Stan Freberg, Edgar A. Guest, Ogden Nash, John O'Hara, Fred Rogers,[1] Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jean Shepherd, James Thurber, Tom Lehrer and Hendrik Willem van Loon. Nash and O'Hara both compared Rhymer to Mark Twain, while others made a comparison with Charles Dickens, but Rhymer defies comparison since his work is basically a sui generis. The series had an influence on the writing of Kurt Vonnegut, who called it "the Muzak of my life."

Bernardine Flynn said the show once received a letter from a judge who called a recess each afternoon so he could listen to Vic and Sade.

Extant episodes[edit]

Despite such high praise, 2000 disc recordings of the show were destroyed just before 1940 and some 1200 have been lost since that time, including all episodes made before 1937. Today only about 330 original recordings have survived. (See #Audio downloads.) It is estimated that Rhymer wrote more than 3500 scripts for the show. Some of his scripts were collected in books (See #Bibliography).

Resources[edit]

Wisconsin Historical Society[edit]

Paul Rhymer's papers, including many Vic and Sade scripts and recordings, are held at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Cast and credits[edit]

Principal cast[edit]

Character Actor
Vic Gook Art Van Harvey (1932–1946, 1957)
Frank Dane (1949 TV)
Sade Gook Bernardine Flynn
Rush Gook Bill Idelson (1932–42, 1945-6)
Dick Conan (1949 TV)
Eddie Gillilan (1957 TV)
Uncle Fletcher Clarence Hartzell (1940–46)
Russell Miller David Whitehouse (1943–44)

Supporting characters[edit]

As noted above, supporting characters were rarely heard before the end of the original run in 1944. The following is a partial list of those who made the transition to "on-stage" supporting characters, generally without success.

  • 1938 (special appearance)
    • MR. GUMPOX Cliff Soubier
  • 1943
    • DOTTIE BRAINFEEBLE Ruth Perrott
    • BLUE-TOOTH JOHNSON Dick Toerne
    • CHUCK BRAINFEEBLE
    • LELAND RICHARDS
  • 1945
    • MR. SPRAWL Johnny Coons
    • ORVILLE WHEENEY Johnny Coons
    • SMELLY CLARK Johnny Coons
    • MIS' HARRIS
    • JIMMY CUSTARD
    • DWIGHT TWENTYSIXLER
    • SWEETCORN MCBLOCK
    • L.J. GERTNER, ET AL.
  • 1946
    • MR. SPRAWL Johnny Coons
    • ORVILLE WHEENEY Johnny Coons
    • HARRY DEAN Johnny Coons
    • MIS' HARRIS
    • MIS' KELLER
    • MIS' KESLER
    • POLICE CHIEF CULLERSON, ET AL.
  • 1949 (for television)
    • IKE KNEESUFFER Cliff Soubier

Other personnel[edit]

Announcers included Bob Brown (from 1932–40), Ed Herlihy, Ed Roberts, Ralph Edwards, Mel Allen, the legendary New York Yankee broadcaster (went by Melvin) and Jack Fuller.

In addition to Rhymer himself, directors included Clarence Menser, Earl Ebi, Roy Winsor, Charles Rinehardt, Homer Heck, and Caldwell Cline.

The organist for the 15-minute version was Lou Webb.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Herman, Karen (22 July 1999). "Fred Rogers interview". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

Books containing complete Vic and Sade scripts.
Halfway.jpg
Firestone, Ross. The Big Radio Comedy Program. New York: Contemporary Books, 1978. (Contains: "Mr. Dempsey and Mr. Tunney Meet in a Cigar Store")
Rhymer, Paul, ed. by Mary Frances Rhymer, foreword by Ray Bradbury. The Small House Halfway Up in the Next Block: Paul Rhymer's Vic and Sade. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1972. (30 scripts)
Rhymer, Paul. Vic and Sade: The Best Radio Plays of Paul Rhymer, foreword by Jean Shepherd. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. (30 scripts)
Whipple, James. How to Write for Radio. New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1938. (Contains "Sade Thinks Baseball is Just a Game")
Wylie, Max ed. Best Broadcasts of 1940-41. New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1942. (Contains "Mis' Keller's Birthday")
Periodicals
Thurber, James. "Onward and upward with the arts * soapland", The New Yorker. Five-part series appearing on May 15, 1948 (p. 34-44), May 29, 1948 (p. 30-41), June 12, 1948 (p. 46-53), July 3, 1948 (p. 37-44) and July 24, 1948 (p. 55-60).
"Vic and Sade," Time, vol. 42, December 27, 1943. (p. 42).
Williamson, Albert R. "Vic and Sade's Creator" The Magazine of Sigma Chi. Volume 55, Number 3, July 1936. (p. 109-111).

Discography[edit]

LP records
Paul Rhymer's Classic Vic & Sade Original Radio Broadcasts. Producer, George Garabedian. Writer, Paul Rhymer. LP. Annaheim: Mark56 Records, 1976.
Son of Jest Like Old Times: More Genuine Original Recordings of Radio's Most Famous Funny Men. LP. New York: The Radiola Company, c1971.
"Vic and Sade: Exactly as heard on Mutual on October 26, 1946." The Spike Jones Show. LP. Sandy Cove, Conn: Radio Yesteryear - The Radiola Company, 1972.
Vic and Sade: One Full Hour with Radio's Homefolks. Writer, Paul Rhymer. LP. New York: Golden Age Records, 1978.

Further reading[edit]

  • Idelson, Bill (2007). The Story of Vic & Sade. Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-061-5

External links[edit]

Audio downloads[edit]