|PAUL MILLS RHYMER
Paul Rhymer grew up in Bloomington, Illinois and attended Illinois Wesleyan
University, spent his adult years in Chicago as a freelance writer. In
the 1930s Chicago was the proving ground for radio dramas, and Paul Rhymer was
in the right place at the right time to assist at the birth of script radio, as
it was called. He quickly developed and became
the foremost practitioner of what can be termed "pure radio," using one set (the
small house), three (and later four) voices, and the
imagination of his
listeners to create a family, a neighborhood, a town, a world, and a time. Never
was a community so magnificently peopled by verbal reference alone.
He was not merely one of the great American humorists, but perhaps one
the most important dramatic chroniclers of American folkways in the post-Depression
years. In his characters, in his settings and plots, he captured the moods,
the interests, the conflicts and concerns of small-town life in Mid-America.
Ogden Nash once compared him to Mark Twain. What the latter did for Hannibal,
Missouri, Nash said, Rhymer did for Bloomington, Illinois and the entire
The vitality, accuracy, and vibrancy of Rhymer's portraits make Vic
and Sade, their life and times, universally appealing to fans old and new.
To dip into Vic and Sade is not merely to take a nostalgic trip to a bygone
era--it is to recognize that the people and pastimes of small-town America
are flourishing today.
Paul was quite a character, given
to sending postcards
to his friends. John Holtman, NBC announcer, showed
me one of the cards he had received at home: The front of the
an old-fashioned picture showing a girl in a costume from the 90's, but
written on the other side was something like this "Dear John, Mother wants
to know what happened to the blanket we left in Grant Park last night.
Please return it as soon as possible. Louise."
Excerpted from Kermit Slobb
"He was the only man I knew who did mathematics on the toilet."
Vic & Sade
Dec. 27, 1943
Few home towns
have been so profitably exploited as Bloomington, Ill. (pop.: 32,868).
Bloomington is the boyhood home of Paul Rhymer and the locale of his
dearly beloved Vic and Sade (NBC, Mon. through Fri., 10:15-10:30 a.m.,
C.W.T.) —probably, the best, certainly one of the smallest soap operas
on the U.S. air.
radio fans would find life harder to bear without Vic and Sade. They
would also find it difficult to explain why. It is a soap opera in which
nothing much ever happens. But it is as American as doubletalk. Vic, a
bookkeeper for a kitchenware company, and Sade, his natively bright,
homebound wife, in eleven years have built themselves considerable
prestige as symbols of U.S. small-town living.
They spend 15
minutes a day five times a week dramatizing the failure of the butcher
to deliver the meat, the business of buying a Christmas present for the
boss, the question of closed barbershops on Sunday, etc. They, plus
their adopted son Russell, plus Uncle Fletcher, an absentminded,
somewhat deaf, minutely anecdotal citizen, are the chief characters in
the show. But the actors who play these four talk about an odd
assortment of town characters who never appear.
Mr. Buller, Vic's business associate, who pulls his own teeth; R. J.
Konk, founder of Vic's lodge, the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way; Ruthie
Stem-bottom, a family friend; Godfrey Dimlok, who invented a bicycle
that could say "mama"; the Brick Mush (Vic & Sade's favorite breakfast
food) salesman, who cries almost all of the time; Bluetooth Johnson;
Cora Bucksaddle; Ole Chinbunny; Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan, Michigan;
Smelly Clark, and others.
How Does He Do
It? How these characters manage to convey reality to radio listeners is
something of a mystery even to Author Rhymer. He does not know how he
does it, and is inclined to give the credit to actors Bernardine Flynn,
a fugitive from Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, and Art Van Harvey,
ex-grain broker, advertising man and vaudevillian, who have played Sade
& Vic Gook from the beginning. Says Rhymer: "They could read aloud from
the telephone directory and sound entertaining."
Now 38, Rhymer
was once amazed at NBC because "you make me sound eccentric." He wrote
his own autobiography for the publicity department: "The place of my
birth was Fulton, Ill. I tarried there a week. My family then moved to
Bloomington, where I attended school for 14 years, at the end of which
time I was a junior at Illinois Wesleyan University, wore wide pants and
said 'hey, hey' conservatively on occasion.
"I have driven
Yellow cabs in Chicago, sold magazines in Cicero, and dived off the
highest tower at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. ... I have been in love
three times, and playing the piano is my secret vice. Like George Ade
and Harry S. New, I am a Sigma Chi. I have a Studebaker open job and an
immense vocabulary. I have been
writing stories very earnestly ever
since I was in high school, and I shall probably continue to do so."
about $35,000 a year for doing so. An ex-newspaper reporter who got
fired for writing news stories about people he had not interviewed, he
is intimately acquainted with some of his radio characters (they are
among his mother's best Bloomington friends). He is an incorrigible
practical joker. He once named all of NBC's vice presidents in his
script as a gang of jailbirds, and is given to telling strangers that
his handsome wife is three-quarters Eskimo, allergic to heat.