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NYT coverage of Chappell & Cooper

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Posted May 03, 2004 - 10:30 PM:


Various mentions of Ernest Chappell and Wyllis Cooper in the New York Times. In chronological order. Items separated by a line. Text in brackets is for context or clarification. Film reviews, most radio schedule listings, and material about Cooper's "Army Hour" series are not included.

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[April 15, 1939 evening radio schedule: TODAY ON THE RADIO]

6:45- ... WOR -- Of Mutual Interest -- C. J. Ingram; Ernest Chappel [sic], guest.

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[August 22, 1939 movie column: SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD]

... Willis Cooper has been assigned [by Paramount Studios] to develop a sequel to "Dr. Cyclops," under the title "Phantom City" ...

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[January 18, 1940 rents column: EAST AND WEST SIDES SHARE SUITE RENTING]

... Wyllis Cooper in 71 Washington Sq So; ...

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[July 17, 1940 rents column: MANHATTAN FLATS LIST NEW TENANTS]

... Wyllis Cooper, through [real estate broker?] Mrs. Ida E. Catlin ... in 242 E 72nd St; ...

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[August 21, 1941 rents column headlined: RENTING OF SUITES TAKES NEW SPURT ... Radio Writer Leases 2 Units in East 73rd Street House--Other Rentals Reported]

... At 28 East Seventy-third Street two apartments were leased to Wyllis Cooper, radio writer. ...

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[November 9, 1941 review of two spoken word albums, one of which is "an adaptation and dramatization of Charles Dickens's standby, _A Christmas Carol_. (Victor, four twelve-inch records, $3.50.)"]

... The Dickens story has an effective production under the direction of Ernest Chappell, who is the narrator. The performance is compact and well paced, and though there are cuts in the original, the essence of it comes through. Eustace Wyatt plays the part of Scrooge with the flintiness and then the good-will that are the accepted tradition of the character. The rest of the cast is also professional. There is a pleasant vocal quartet for occasional effects and there is an obvious score by Lew White.

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[March 29, 1942 THE WAR PROGRAMS / In Which It Is Suggested That, in the Long Run, Facts Are Good Ammunition / By JOHN K. HUTCHENS]

Doubtless it is a little early to be talking about what constitutes the ideal war program on the radio -- i.e., the program best designed to stir its hearers to an acute awareness that they are participants, each and every one of them, in a conflict that marks a turning point in history. On second thought, there probably is no point in discussing the ideal war program, as such, at all. Elsewhere in the radio business the most optimistic program department does not expect any one listener to be moved by the same degree by drama, comedy, light and serious music, quiz shows, etc. For the same reason, people listening to war programs (and they must include most adults capable of turning a dial) cannot reasonably be expected to react with equal fervor to all the special wartime fare now put before them. It becomes, then, more or less a problem of deciding for one's self what kind of program strikes one most forcibly.

Obviously, it is a large field to choose from, and will remain so even after the ineffective matter has been weeded out and the remainder properly spaced across the dial and around the clock: Arch Oboler's fierce dramas; the "This Is War!" series that Norman Corwin is directing; the transcribed Treasury Star Parade series; the shows produced and performed in training centers by talented members of the armed forces; the special talks. Most of these are legitimately planned to inspire, startle and awaken, though some of the less direct appeals also have been effective -- such a bill as William Trenk, formerly of the Paris and Vienna radio, recently staged for WNYC under the title of "Old Vienna Versus the New Order," which in its nostalgic evocation of a shattered civilization carried implications of what could happen to our own.

And then there are those shows which, like "Spirit of '42," report as simply and objectively as possible on the preparations for the day when America will really take the offensive. To this listener, that kind of program is the most telling of all.

Different Goals

That is said with full recognition of the fact that no installment of "Spirit of '42," say, carries the same kind of impact you felt upon hearing Mr. Corwin's superb salute to the Bill of Rights, "We Hold These Truths," or Stephen Vincent Benét's "Your Army," which at this writing is still the best of the "This Is War!" series. There is a distinct difference in form and intent -- the difference between a first-rate newspaper story and any contrived account, fictitious or otherwise. Inevitably, too, there is a difference in the response of the individual.

To the objective, eyewitness story the reader -- or in this case, the listener -- brings his own emotion, the intensity of which depends of course upon his own background, personality, imagination. Ernest Hemingway once said that most writers achieve an emotional effect by describing emotion instead of the causes of it, his own preference being for the latter method. He, as it happened, chose fiction as the medium for his objective technique; but the principle holds true in such programs as "Spirit of '42" and "They Live Forever" and, to a lesser extent, "Report to the Nation" and "March of Time."

Hearing them, you will not experience the exaltation induced by a creative work of art, but you will know the sharp and stinging force of reality. Still speaking in terms of personal preference, it is the notion of this column that for the purpose at hand, which is the psychological preparation of the American people for a fearful ordeal, this is the approach best suited to a program that has enlisted for the duration. For it is unfortunate, but also true and human, that the exhortatory, inspirational program can reach a saturation point. The informational one is not likely to.

They Get Around

It can do a number of things, the informational program can, particularly when it goes visiting to the training camps. When it arrives there, it speaks with authority from places where things are happening, bringing you the voices of men who are immediately in charge of preparing America for its greatest crisis. And the voices are real -- no carefully modulated diction, but the plain talk of men from the farms and the cities, in accents from every section of the land. You get the sense, as you never would in a prepared address, of a people's army in the making. And the sound effects are not "effects" in the calculated manner of a studio production. The guns and whirring motors are as real as the voices and terse talk of busy and earnest men, and they are effective for the same reason.

"Spirit of '42," which skips a performance today and will shortly begin a vacation, has set a pattern that other programs would do well to heed; and perhaps we will get something of the sort when the "Army Hour" opens a week from today on WEAF. With Brewster Morgan, Wyllis Cooper and Rush Hughes setting the stage and asking the questions, "Spirit of '42" has provided something like a combination first-rate, on-the-spot reporting and feature writing. When you sat through half an hour with them you learned something. You heard and, vicariously, you saw, and it would be astonishing only if you did not feel a certain lift, a greater confidence. Morale, it is called. Which, of course, is the idea of the whole thing.

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[April 19, 1942 RADIO ROW: A COUPLE OF FOOTNOTES]

... [Kate Smith] becomes mistress of ceremonies today for "Spirit of '42," this in accordance with the change of format which last Sunday found the show switching to a musical program. "Spirit of '42," in its old form had not run out of material; it had simply become too difficult to set the show up in advance, what with sudden troop movements, censorship, etc. ...

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[September 27, 1942 column ONE THING AND ANOTHER ON RADIO ROW by Jack Gould]

What may revolutionize radio's coverage of the war is a new program entitled "Freedom's Firing Line," which, when fully developed, is expected to bring to American homes an eyewitness, first-hand account of our armed forces in action on the world's battlefronts. The project is the idea of Ernest Chappell, former production manager of the Columbia Broadcasting System and free-lance announcer. He has been assisted in its execution by Jay Fonda, a specialist in the design of recording apparatus, and Oliver Gramling, assistant general manager of the Press Association, Inc., radio news subsidiary of the Associated Press.

Mr. Fonda has perfected a new, compact device which makes recordings on film and the basic idea is that the unit would be carried into the combat areas by a specially trained crew, one of whom might be an AP man. The film, which eliminates the fear of breakage common to acetate recordings and takes up little room, would be shipped to this country by airplane, thus affording coverage which in many instances would not lag far behind official communiqués.

Mr. Chappell, who said that the device was undergoing finishing tests in this country, saw no reason why Americans at home should not hear the actual noise of battle and perhaps a running account as, for instance, the Marines fight in the Solomons, a pilot goes over Berlin, or a destroyer protects an Atlantic convoy. Mr. Gramling said that the AP, in exchange for its cooperation, would have first refusal on any spot news. The program, which has the approval of the Army, Navy and OWI, is being handled by the Lyons & Lyons agency and already has aroused considerable interest among potential sponsors. ...

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[Brief January 2, 1944 item headlined: Claudia Morgan Ill in Hospital]

Claudia Morgan, Columbia Broadcasting System actress, has been ill of pneumonia since Thursday at Lenox Hill Hospital, where she was reported last night as "somewhat improved and resting comfortably." She is the wife of Ernest Chappell, CBS announcer, and a daughter of Ralph Morgan, actor. Her parents were reported due here from Hollywood tomorrow night.

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[May 21, 1944 'ARTHUR HOPKINS PRESENTS' by JOHN K. HUTCHENS]

"When Arthur Hopkins 'presents,' Brooks Atkinson wrote in this newspaper fourteen years ago, "that hackneyed old verb musters up a dignity. His goods are worth looking at." The general title of the series of dramas now being broadcast over WEAF-NBC on Wednesday nights at 11:30 is "Arthur Hopkins Presents," and again his goods are worth -- not looking at, because on the radio you do not see them, but mighty well worth hearing. For it is a treasure chest of drama over which the most distinguished of living American theatrical producers is presiding, with the keen cooperation of Wyllis Cooper, who makes the radio adaptations, and Wynn Wright, who directs them. The National Broadcasting Company has honored itself and the public with this project.

There have, of course, been other radio series that revived the great or at least worthy works of the stage in sixty-minute productions. None that comes to mind has done it so well as this one. Let it be admitted at once that merely hearing a play could never give you the complete satisfaction of hearing and seeing one, especially if you first met it in the theatre and cherish the memory of it in its entirety. Granted, too, that the individual listener's enjoyment is different from, and less intense than, that of the spectator in a crowd, who derives added pleasure from that of the people around him. The fact remains that the plays Mr. Hopkins and his colleagues have brought to the air have been singularly rewarding; that they have not only accepted the limitations of radio but, in a sense, have capitalized on them.

Stage to Air

You will observe, for instance, that they are presented as radio, not as pseudo-theater. There is no elaborate setting of the stage, because it is one of the rules of radio that the listener does his own scenic designing according to the power of his imagination. And because this is entertainment, and not a course in literature, Mr. Hopkins in his brief foreword says something about the performer or author -- Katharine Hepburn of "The Philadelphia Story," Thornton Wilder of "Our Town" -- but seldom much about the play. The listener is flattered by not being told what to think of what he is about to hear. The play simply starts, and thereafter it stands on its dialogue and its performance, and casts such a spell as it can.

For, in a curious way, the enforced simplicity of radio production has a certain affinity with Mr. Hopkins' theories of theatre direction. Long years ago, in the credo entitled "How's Your Second Act?" he declared war on "the prepared exits, the speeches at the door, the exits laughing, exits sobbing, exits hesitating, the standing in the doorways to watch someone off so that any applause they may receive would not be interfered with." He denounced "all gesture that is not absolutely needed, all unnecessary inflection and intonings, the tossing of heads, the flickering of fans and kerchiefs ... all the million and one tricks that have crept into the actor's bag."

No Tricks

It did not always work, his director's theory of "unconscious projection." He produced more than one play which lacked the substance, and sometimes the cast, that could meet such a challenge. But the best of them did meet it, plays like "Redemption," "The Jest," Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie" and "The Hairy Ape," "Machinal," Philip Barry's "Paris Bound" and "Holiday," and needless to say, the great Shakespearean productions with John Barrymore. How deliberately Mr. Hopkins is applying his old rules to a new medium it would be hard to say, but it would be surprising only if they were not in the back of his mind. In part, as noted, the straight line in which the productions move is of the essence of radio. They have no other choice. But if you listen carefully you will note that they avoid also the meretricious little tricks that radio has acquired through the years -- the phony sound effects, the contrived mechanics, the stilted diction. That would be the Hopkins way.

They Meet the Test

It is, naturally, to the great advantage of the series that it consists of the tried and true, and that the plays are performed by gilt-edged casts, including such players as Frank Craven, Miss Hepburn and Pauline Lord recreating roles they first played on the stage. By the same token, plays and players must meet the standard and the expectation their reputations have evoked before the radio curtain rises. To one listener it seems that they have thus far done so with exhilarating success.

And, with luck, this is but the beginning. In the little office in the Plymouth Theatre where so much history has been made, Mr. Hopkins talked to a visitor the other day of his dream of "a people's theatre" achieved by radio. Coming from another man that might have been a glib phrase, but you knew that he meant it. Amid the hurly-burly of Broadway he has never been ashamed to speak of art. Indeed, he has insisted upon it, with the courage of an experimentalist and the high optimism of a man of good-will. ... He envisioned, he went on to say, a radio repertoire of fifty plays going across the country to millions who had never heard them and might never hear them otherwise; inspiring new artists and community theaters; keeping the flame aglow.

"After all," he said, "in the beginning was the word."

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[May 25, 1944 "Advertising News" column]

... Wyllis Cooper and Floyd Holm, formerly with the National Broadcasting Company, have joined the radio department of Compton Advertising, Inc. John Gordon, evening radio supervisor, will leave the agency June 9 to accept a commission in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. ...

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[June 4, 1944 column RADIO NOTEBOOK / On Good Shows at Bad Hours, a Holiday With the Wireless, and Glamour by JOHN K. HUTCHENS]

With the words that recently have been appearing in praise of "Arthur Hopkins Presents" it is agreeable to report that most listeners seem to agree. They have had a little something to say, though, about the hour at which that notable dramatic series is broadcast over WEAF-NBC (11:30 P. M. Wednesdays), nor could you blame them for being pretty annoyed. It is an unholy hour at which to ask the average citizen to sit down at his receiving set and prepare to listen for sixty minutes.

To be sure, it does not seem like sixty minutes, such is the spell created by the plays and players. The fact remains that it is after 12:30 A.M. hereabouts when the curtain rings down, and a vast number of people for whom this would be one of the major radio events of the week almost certainly hear it seldom, if at all. As the program moves westward across the country it is aired at a more convenient hour -- 10:30 in Chicago, 9:30 in Denver, etc. -- but in the densely populated areas of the East its public, whatever it may now be, should be larger than it is.

Time Is Money

The reason is, of course, that it is an as yet unsponsored show, and that a sustaining program has small chance to acquire a full hour of choice or even fair time on a network. The Hopkins project is not the only sufferer. The "Authors' Playhouse" at 11:30 P. M. on Friday nights on WEAF, the "Sinfonietta" and "Invitation to Music" on Tuesday and Wednesday at the same hour on WOR and WABC have clearly been shunted off into a non-paying segment of the broadcasting day. Supported by cash on the line, they and a parcel of others would be moved to a place on the schedule where they would command an audience worthy of their appeal. It is too bad. It also raises anew a few queries regarding the old and never resolved definition of what constitutes the public interest, convenience or necessity.

To these queries the broadcasting industry's standard reply is that while radio moves through the air it does not live on it, and that it must be paid for by commercial programs, unless there is to be a subsidized system that few American listeners have ever shown any sign of wanting. There is something in this argument, even to the point of justifying the lugubrious but lucrative soap operas that "carry" so many infinitely finer, and less popular, attractions. To the average listener, this still does not make sense. He would continue to want to know why such a program as "Arthur Hopkins Presents," which is worth any two consecutive half-hour sponsored items, should be hidden away in the middle of the night; or, if it must stay there in its "live" form, why it cannot be repeated in transcription. Just now the broadcasters are so busy making more money than they ever have made that they probably have not time to explain this, but sooner or later they will have to make a real reply, if only for the sake of appearances.

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[July 23, 1947 "The News of Radio" column -- This is apparently the NYT's first mention of "Quiet, Please" although the series debuted earlier that year. The episode described is "I Remember Tomorrow."]

... The bizarre and supernatural will be the material for writer Wyllis Cooper's "Quiet Please," a new dramatic series to be heard on WOR by transcription, beginning July 28, at 10 P.M. Mr. Cooper, who also will produce the programs, will offer his listeners during the initial offering, the story of the inventor of a time-machine who learns that he is about to be murdered.

[The column's very next item is about another radio writer, a pre-"Death of a Salesman" Arthur Miller:]

The right of bank workers to organize will be discussed tonight at 9:15 on WINS by Arthur Miller, author and playwright, and Jack Hurley, a bank teller at the Brooklyn Trust Company. Mr. Hurley is also chairman of the strike and policy committee of the trust company's workers. A WINS spokesman said that the Brooklyn Trust Company had been offered equal air time, but that the offer had been refused. ...

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[August 22, 1947 "The News of Radio" column - an item about the QP episode "Three Sides to a Story"]

... Ernest Chappell, the announcer; his wife, Claudia Morgan, and his father-in-law, Ralph Morgan, the film player, will make a joint appearance at 10 P.M. Monday, Sept. 8, on "Quiet, Please," over WOR. ...

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[July 17, 1948 "The News of Radio" column]

... Wyllis Copper [sic] has been signed to prepare the script for the Army's radio show, "Roll Call," heard at 8 P.M. Thursdays on NBC. ...

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[September 19, 1948 column by Sidney Lohman headlined: NEWS AND GOSSIP CONCERNING TV AND RADIO]

"Quiet Please," a dramatic series dealing with psychological situations, mysteries and fantasies with comic overtones, will switch from the Mutual network to WJZ-ABC this afternoon at 5 P.M. The series is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. Today's episode is entitled "Anonymous" and deals with the reactions of a man who receives a series of unsigned letters and mysterious telephone calls. ...

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[April 19, 1949 "Radio and Television" column]

... Wyllis Cooper, author of the "Quiet Please" dramas heard Sunday afternoons over ABC, is readying a television dramatic series, which will be introduced over the ABC television network in June. "Volume One, Numbers One to Six" is the tentative title of the half-hour television programs which Mr. Cooper is modeling after his radio dramas. In addition to writing the shows, he will direct and appear in them personally. ...

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[Cast lists for "Volume One" series from TV listings:]

No. 1 Jack Lescoulie, Nancy Sheridan, Frank Thomas, Jr.
No. 2 Anne Seymour, Donald Briggs, Sid Cassel
No. 3 Herb Sheldon, Edgar Stehli, Alice Reinheart
No. 4 Nancy Sheridan, James Monks
No. 5 Vicki Vola, Marie Kenney, William A. Lee
No. 6 Happy Felton, Abby Lewis, Alex Segal

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[April 15, 1950 "Radio and Television" column headlined: C.B.S. Video to Present New Drama Series, 'Stage 13,' Beginning on Wednesday]

A new series of dramas with a mystery and adventure format will make its debut over the Columbia Broadcasting System's television network on Wednesday from 9:30 to 10 P.M.

The series has been given the title of "Stage 13" and will be directed and produced by Wyllis Cooper, who also will write some of the scripts. The initial offering will be "Now You Know," a story of the eerie disappearance of people from a Third Avenue saloon, written by Draper Lewis.

The dramatic series replaces the Joey Faye Show which has been dropped by the network. ...

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[April 15, 1950 "Radio and Television" column headlined: WPIX to Expand Daily Schedule May 1 With Presentation of 3-Hour Ted Steele Show]

... Wyllis Cooper's new mystery-adventure series, "Stage 13," will be presented for the first time this evening at 9:30 by WCBS-TV. Tonight's play is called "Now You Know," a story of the eerie disappearance of people from a Third Avenue saloon.

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[Dates, titles and casts for "Stage 13" from TV listings:]

04-19 NOW YOU KNOW
04-26 THE STARS IN THEIR COURSES - Nancy Sheridan, James Monks
05-03 MIDSUMMER'S EVE - Pat O'Malley, Richard MacMurray, Emily Barnes
05-10 NEVER MURDER YOUR GRANDFATHER - Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Bolton, Robert Gallagher
05-17 PERMISSION TO KILL - Alice Reinheart, Daniel Morgan
05-24 THE LAST MAN - Vinton Hayworth, Cathleen Cordell
05-31 NOW YOU SEE HIM - Dennis Harrison
06-07 THE PAY-OFF - Adelaide Klein, Elaine Ward
06-14 Broadcast pre-empted when engineers union goes on strike
06-21 YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED - James Monks, Jane White
06-28 NO MORE WISHES - Donald Briggs, Lucille Patton, Phil Sterling

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[May 28, 1950]

... Homes and Gardens
A tour of four homes in the Clinton, N.J. area, for the benefit of Hunterdon County Medical Center, has been arranged by the Clinton Woman's Club, and will be held on Friday from 1 to 5 P.M. The tour includes three early American houses: Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Chappell's Breezy Hill Farm; Whitehall Farm owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Proctor, and Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Wescott's Mulhocaway Farm. The fourth is a new adaptation of the early American, just completed by Mr. and Mrs. Donald D'Aprix at Crooked Hill Farm. Members of the Hunterdon County garden clubs are arranging flowers for the homes, and tickets may be secured from Mrs. Leon Carpenter in Clinton. ...

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[November 16, 1951 - item in column headlined "N.B.C. CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY" - The series mentioned was retitled "Whitehall 1212."]

... "This Is Scotland Yard" will make its debut over the N.B.C. radio network on Sunday at 5:30 P.M. The show will be written and directed by Wyllis Cooper.

________________________


[Obituary from June 23, 1955, accompanied by a 1942 photo of Cooper]

WYLLIS COOPER, 56,
SCENARIST, DEAD

Originator of 'Lights Out'
for N.B.C. Was a Screen
Writer, TV Producer

Special to the New York Times

HIGH BRIDGE, N.J., June 22 -- Wyllis Cooper, writer, director and producer for films, radio and television, died today at a local hospital after a long illness. He was 56 years old and resided in the neighboring community of Glen Gardner.

Associated with the National Broadcasting Company in Chicago in 1930, Mr. Cooper was the originator of the "Lights Out" program, a long-run series.

From 1936 to 1940 he wrote for Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox in Hollywood, Calif. During this period he and Norman Foster wrote the screen play of "Mr. Moto Takes a Chance." The following year Mr. Cooper's scenario "Son of Frankenstein," was produced by Universal and shown at the Rivoli Theatre.

He entered the field of television in 1949 with the series known as "Escape." This was followed by his direction and production of "Stage 13" for the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1951.

Mr. Cooper who was born in Pekin, Ill., served on the Mexican border in 1916 and, in World War I, with the 131st Infantry from Illinois. He was gassed in the Argonne Forest while attached to the British Expeditionary Forces there. Mr. Cooper reproduced some of these adventures in a program entitled "Spirit of '42," produced by the Columbia Broadcasting System in March of that year.

Before joining N.B.C. in Chicago Mr. Cooper wrote for an advertising agency in Santa Monica, Calif. He was also manager of the radio department of the Compton Advertising Company in New York for a brief period.

In World War II Mr. Cooper was a special consultant to the Secretary of War. On this assignment he wrote and directed the "Army Hour," the official Army radio documentary.

After the war he wrote scripts for Radio Free Europe.

Surviving are his widow, the former Miss Emily C. Beveridge, and a brother, Harry Cooper of Chicago.

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[March 23, 1955 column headlined: APARTMENT RENTALS]

... Ernest Chappell, in 430 E 57th St; ...

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[March 23, 1958]

FILM ABOUT COUNTY
IS SHOWN IN BERGEN

HACKENSACK, N.J., March 22 -- The Bergen County Board of Freeholders gave a preview this week of its 1958 movie, "County on the Move." The film depicts the impact on county and municipal government of the surge in population since the end of World War II.

The twenty-minute color movie with sound was made for showings in schools and before service groups and other organizations interested in the county's growth. Freeholder John K. Pollitt said the film would be sent to any organization that made a request, along with an operator and a member of the board who would answer questions.

The first county movie was a documentary on the functions and duties of county government and the second an annual report to the people, Fred W. Meuter, director of the board, said at the preview.

Robert H. Gamble, county public relations director wrote the script; Sam De May did the photography and Ernest Chappell was narrator.
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Posted May 04, 2004 - 5:24 PM:

I find it interesting that no mention of QP is mentioned in WC's Obit....sad
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Posted May 08, 2004 - 5:02 PM:

"I find it interesting that no mention of QP is mentioned in WC's Obit...."

While the NYT did not mention it, the New York Herald did mention the radio series in their obit.

It really wasn't that unusual by 1955 for people who were making their mark in television not to have their radio credits mentioned at least in full. I know one would have hoped that this series would be mentioned, but Cooper had written in all three major media - radio, film and television.
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Posted Aug 01, 2004 - 12:29 PM:

There are much worse ways they could've written the obituary. Just came across this: http://www.globalseek.net/ToDaY/JuNe/june22.html
"1955: Wyllis Cooper, TV narrator (Volume One), dies at 56"

I wonder what Cooper would've thought of being remembered as a TV narrator.


Edited by Paul on Aug 01, 2004 - 12:59 PM
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