Note that audio problems from 11:25 - 11:40 were present in the original source material. We apologize for the issue, but keep watching anyway — the video's pretty great.
In 1940, the Bell System started its own weekly radio show, called the Bell Telephone Hour. Presenting classical music, light opera, and musical comedy, the program ran for almost two decades before it moved to television.
Though the initial concept of the program was to NOT have "big name" stars, the program eventually abandoned that principle. In April of 1942, the show began a "great artists" series, from which point all programs featured a soloist from the highest echelons of the classical, broadway or jazz world, including Marian Anderson, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Lily Pons, Andres Segovia, Jascha Heifetz and many, many more.
The program had a regular orchestra conductor, Donald Voorhees, and a regular chief announcer, Floyd Mack. There was limited commercial content related to the Bell System, though the occasional announcement was made, like the ones during World War II reminding the listener not to make long distance phone calls at peak hours.
This film gives a behind-the-scenes look at the preparation for a typical broadcast, circa 1947. It features singers Ezio Pinza and Blanche Thebom, and more. It was originally shown in movie theaters as a promotion for the radio show.
Listen to episodes of the Bell Telephone Hour radio program, online.
Watch the program's original interstitial, Seven Hilltops, about the brand new microwave relay network.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ