John Nesbitt's Passing Parade
The Passing Parade, a.k.a. John Nesbitt's Passing Parade, was an American radio series created, written, and narrated by John Nesbitt which was adapted into an Oscar-winning series of MGM short subjects. In both media, the series usually focused on strange-but-true historical events, both little-known and famous, as well as figures such as Catherine de' Medici and Nostradamus.
Passing Parade on radio
The radio series, developed as an outgrowth of an earlier Nesbitt-produced program (Headlines of the Past), was launched on the NBC network on February 1, 1937, running off and on until 1951 over three different networks and in syndication. Nesbitt's inspiration was a trunk left to him by his father which contained news clippings of odd stories from around the world. Nesbitt, who usually presented his stories without sound effects or music, utilized a research staff of 14 people in verifying the details of his tales, but wrote the final scripts himself, often within an hour of airtime.
Joseph M. Koehler described the unusual nature of the program in a review in the July 31, 1943, issue of Billboard: "There was a time when no one could be sold the idea that one man, without much musical help, could fill a half hour and hold his audience. Nesbitt has disproved the bromide because he's Nesbitt and spins a yarn that's as tight as an Armistice announcement."
The Passing Parade was heard as a segment on The John Charles Thomas Show (1943-1946).
Radio producer/announcer John Doremus later acquired the rights to the series and revived it as a late 1950s-early 1960s syndicated feature, billing his version as "from the files of John Nesbitt." Over 1500 three-minute episodes were broadcast.
Parade on film
The series of Passing Parade one-reel short subjects was produced for MGM from 1938 to 1949. Most of the films featured the slow movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 as the opening theme music. The directors included Fred Zinnemann and Jacques Tourneur.
The known episodes in this Passing Parade are:
- The Story of Alfred Nobel (1939) with Paul Guilfoyle
- Angel of Mercy (1939) with Sara Haden
- The Story that Couldn't be Printed (1939) with Victor Kilian
- The Hidden Master (1940) with Peter Cushing, Emmett Vogan and Louis Jean Heydt
- A Way in the Wilderness (1940) with Shepperd Strudwick
- Trifles of Importance (1940) with Guest stars: Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Robert Taylor, Myrna Loy, Mickey Rooney and Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Utopia of Death (1940)
- Dreams (1940)
- American Spoken Here (1940) with John Harmon, Barbara Bedford and Ray Teal
- Willie and the Mouse (1941)
- This is the Bowery (1941)
- Of Pups and Puzzles (1941)
- Strange Testament (1941) with Edward Ashley and Ava Gardner
- We Do It Because--- (1942) with Ava Gardner, Dorothy Morris and Mark Daniels
- The Woman in the House (1942) with Ann Richards
- The Incredible Stranger (1942) with Paul Guilfoyle, Dorothy Vaughan and Walter Baldwin
- The Magic Alphabet (1942) with Horace McNally
- The Film that Was Lost (1942)
- Madero of Mexico (1943) with Paul Guilfoyle and John Picorri
- That's Why I Left You (1943) with Jacqueline White and James Warren
- Forgotten Treasure (1943)
- To My Unborn Son (1943) with Steven Geray
- Return from Nowhere (1944) with Don DeFore
- A Lady Fights Back (1944)
- The Great American Mug (1945)
- Stairway to Light (1945) with Wolfgang Zilzer and Gene Roth
- People on Paper (1945)
- Golden Hunch (1946)
- Magic on a Stick(1946) with Paul Langton, Jacqueline White
- Our Old Car (1946) with Jacqueline White
- A Really Important Person (1947) with Dean Stockwell, Connie Gilchrist, Clancy Cooper and Chick York
- Tennis in Rhythm (1947)
- Goodbye, Miss Turlock (1948) with Nana Bryant
- My Old Town (1948)
- Souvenirs of Death (1948)
- The Fabulous Fraud (1948) with John Baragrey, Phyllis Morris, Marcia Mae Jones and Morris Ankrum
- Annie Was a Wonder (1949) with Kathleen Freeman, Howard J. Negley, Ruth Lee and Hugo-Sven Borg
- Mr. Whitney Had a Notion (1949) with Lloyd Bridges
The films were re-edited for television syndication by MGM in the early 1960s. The shorts in their original form were eventually re-aired on Turner Classic Movies.
Home video availability
These Passing Parades can also be found as extras on DVDs of classic MGM films of the period:
- We Do It Because- is on the DVD of Reunion in France
- A Lady Fights Back is on the DVD of 30 Seconds Over Tokyo
- The Great American Mug is on the DVD of Thrill of a Romance
- Stairway to Light is on the DVD of The Picture of Dorian Gray
- A Really Important Person is on the DVD of Song of the Thin Man
- Goodbye, Miss Turlock is on the DVD of Fiesta (1947 film)
- Souvenirs of Death is on the DVD of Command Decision (film)
- Annie Was a Wonder is on the DVD of The Barkleys of Broadway
- Mr. Whitney Had a Notion is on the Blu-Ray of On the Town
- Dunning, John (1998). On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 533. ISBN 0-19-507678-8. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
- Koehler, Joseph M. (July 31, 1943). "Program Reviews: "The Passing Parade:". Billboard. p. 12. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 177.
- "The Passing Parade", Grace Gibson Productions.
- Slide, Anthony (2014). The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry. Routledge. ISBN 9781135925543. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "The Passing Parade (anthology, hosted by John Nesbitt)"
- "John Nesbitt (I) (1910–1960)", IMDb
- "The Passing Parade - Pgm 10", rand’s esoteric otr
- "John Nesbitt's Passing Parade", The Classic TV Archive
- John Nesbitt filmography, TCM
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