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.
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. 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. He complied 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 with the statistics he collects; 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 studio audience. Later that year it became a sustaining (unsponsored) feature on the Mutual network. In 1949 three television episodes were made (with only 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 Van Harvey reprised their roles, with teen actor Eddie Gillian as Rush; the revival was cut short when Van Harvey died in July 1957.
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.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 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.
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 (but sometimes spoke with imperfect grammar) 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. Some scripts featuring Rush were recycled to feature Russell, such as "Working on Hank Gutstop's Debts", "Sleepers Beware", and "Mr. Chinbunny Wants to Smoke Cigars". However, "Rush Tenders His Resignations" involved Rush's scheme to make it well known among his school's faculty that he was resigning from clubs he had belonged to, ostensibly to focus on academics, in order that they would reward his new resolve with better grades; "Russell Tenders His Resignations" is less in character. Sade's usual nickname for Rush/Russell was "Willie" (based upon Bill Idleson's actual name?) 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," with "White-House" being the actual surname of the actor portraying Russell).
Uncle Fletcher was a talker who had an outrageous story and advice about everything. If there was 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, whom she never did. Uncle Fletcher liked to 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 often address the family as "Vic/Sadie/Rush/Russell Honey," but once he denied Sade her "Honey" appellation because she had expressed impatience when he tried to relay some not-so-important news. He frequently told anecdotes about characters with names such as Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan Michigan.
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, Walter, and "Yooncie"
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 "Yooncie" (apparently a misreading of "Eunice," although Rush referred to his classmate Eunice Raypool correctly) 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 ( voted best looking man on east side of Lester, Neb), 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.
Smelly Clark, Blue-tooth Johnson ( whom Rush usually had " out by the garbage box"), 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 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.
Mis' Harris, Mr. and Mis' Donahue (pronounced "Donahoo" by Sade and Rush/Russell), 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.
Hank Gutstop (also in the Lodge as "Exalted 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 Vic's (who would address him as "Fish" when they talked on the telephone); he was also the gentleman friend of Rush's Sunday School teacher Miss Neagel.
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. In the June 20, 1940 episode, Rush says of his school's principal, "Mr. Chinbunny is attending a meeting of Illinois high school principals." Therefore, their town must be in Illinois. The town is based on a vaguely fictionalized version of Bloomington, Illinois, where Rhymer grew up. In fact, Bloomington is the county seat of McLean County, where Plant Number Fourteen is located."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!"
"Lodge, Lodge, Lodge. Money, Money, Money."
"Left-handed counterfeiting Albanians"
"No, we're just sitting here with our teeth in our mouth." -- response to phone call asking if they were doing anything.
"No, we're just sitting here with our shoelaces in our eyelets." -- ditto
"Lodge ritual-Sim duck nomenclauture stevensbob cum laude sinus trouble dimwit ad infinitism magnum R J Konk-"
"Axle-grease and peach-butter."
"On the top step but one"
"I'll say . . . ."
"Works out that way sometimes."
"____'s a good boy . . . ."
"In the living room, are they?" -- even if asking about one person!
"I've got something in my tooth."
"Out of a clear sky."
"Airtight, waterlogged, and foolproof."
"Telephone's ringin', telephone's ringin'!"
"What was it the poet Keats said to the poet Browning when he held a dandelion under his chin to see if he liked butter?"
"Crazy [or sleepy or fictitious] as a horse."
"I don't believe I read that section of the newspaper on the floor there by your foot. Would you hand it to me, please?"
Vic trying to buy "wide brimmed hat" or "cowboy hat"; Sade says it makes him look like a "peeled onion"
Rush trying to borrow 10 cents from Vic
Rush trying to finish a story about Smelly Clark's uncle's escorting his lady-friend to Peoria for purposes of enjoying a fish dinner
Vic defending Hank Gutstop 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 Christmas cards in July
Vic handling Christmas gift list annually for boss
Vic doing a spot of office work at the kitchen table
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
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, 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.
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).
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.