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Rogan's Recollections

(And an Occasional Historical Observation)

It's a Wonderful Life--70 Years Later

Since I seem to be attracted to various enterprises for which I have no innate talent (e.g., writing best-selling books), I decided last year to try my chops at acting—something for which I have no training at all (unless one counts elective office). Anyway, last month I was honored to rejoin a troupe of great professional actors at the Pantages Theater of the Long Beach Veterans Hospital to recreate (on the seventieth anniversary of the original broadcast) the original 1947 Lux Radio Theater old time radio production of "It's a Wonderful Life." The theater, by the way, hosted many of the great old radio shows during the World War II era, such as Jack Benny and Bob Hope.

 

In this picture, I am looking at the director waiting for my cue to read my part of Nick the Bartender—the mean guy who tosses George Bailey and Clarence the Angel out onto the snow-covered sidewalk. Looking at me—and not needing any cue from anyone—is one of the great voice actors in America today, Bryan Hendrickson, who played the soon-to-be manhandled Clarence.

 

Starring in the Jimmy Stewart role of our production was the fantastic (and friend of many decades) Paul Petersen, who is best remembered for playing son Jeff Stone on the long-running iconic TV program, The Donna Reed Show. As a movie star, Paul played opposite such legends as Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. Now Paul plays opposite me, which proves the old Hollywood maxim—when you fall in this town, you fall hard! Also in the cast were fabulous actors from OTR's (old time radio's) heyday—Stuffy Singer, Ivan Cury, Tommy Cook, Gloria McMillan, and a host of other fine talents such as Camden Singer ("Mary"--our female lead--tremendous!), Bobb Lynes, Barbara Watkins, the mighty Gassman brothers (John Gassman and Larry Gassman), and an up-and-coming kid—Jeff Ferguson (aka Judge Jeff Ferguson, Superior Court of California). I brought Jeff along so that I wouldn't be the only actor who stank. In that regard, Jeff (who was good) let me down.

 

As they say in the biz, there are no small parts, only small actors. In my case, they might amend the phrase: there are no small parts, only lousy actors—no matter what size the part.

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