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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

2000 Plus -- "The Brooklyn Brain"

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2000 Plus (1950-52) aired "The Brooklyn Brain" on June 21, 1950 as its 15th episode. The first of radio's "adult" SF shows, predating Dimension X by less than a month, it hasn't fared as well as others when it comes to the number of existing episodes, only some 16 still in circulation, with some of less than ideal audio quality. Fortunately, "The Brooklyn Brain" comes to us with excellent audio quality, and along with an interesting script and fine acting is a prime example of how even a humorous SF tale deals with the lives of real people.

Joe is a hard-working, uneducated stiff from New York who desperately wants to marry his girlfriend and will do anything to win her love. But Clarise--no Einstein herself--refuses Joe's proposal by telling him he is not cultured enough for her. Confiding in his friend and fellow office worker Flora about his plight, Flora finds an ad in the paper requesting volunteers for a scientific experiment that will supposedly raise one's intelligence, said experimental technique involving a machine that transfers sound waves into electrical impulses that, when the brain is attached to electrodes passes on the knowledge from an audio tape. Hokey, yes, but a lot of fun as Joe overnight becomes an art expert and shows off to Clarise at a local art exhibit. There is only one problem: the knowledge fades, wears off, in about 24 hours, and the inventor must now go back to the drawing board to perfect his invention. But what of Joe, now that Clarise has agreed to marry him? What is the poor but sincere schmuck to do? Aside from Joe's sticky situation, there is some real humor to be found here, as one scene has Joe--with his thick, unrefined Brooklyn accent--arguing art theory with a rival for Clarise's hand.

On a personal note, the actress (Bryna Raeburn) who plays Joe's love interest, Clarise, also plays the role of Joe's office confidant Flora, but you wouldn't know it from the two wildly different voices she has chosen to represent these female characters. Of special interest to me is that the voice of Flora sounds as close to the wonderfully charming voice of beloved film actress Judy Holliday as is possible, and if I didn't know otherwise would swear it was the delightful Miss Holliday. Those of a certain age--or film buffs of any age--will notice the remarkable likeness to Holliday's voice from her films, though perhaps from her most remembered role opposite Broderick Crawford and William Holden in 1950's Born Yesterday, in which she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as ex-showgirl Emma "Billie" Dawn. Coincidentally, Holliday plays the undereducated (New Yawk) girlfriend of abusive, cutthroat mobster Crawford, who, with the help of hired tutor William Holden, becomes uplifted to her own potential--and much too much for her callous sugar daddy Crawford to handle. Anyone who has seen this marvelous film (or any other of Holliday's roles) will quickly hear the uncanny resemblance to her voice in Flora's. Though Born Yesterday was released six months after this 2000 Plus radio drama, Born Yesterday was a hit play back in 1946, and it would come as no surprise to learn through the trade papers such as Variety at the time (1950) that the cast of upcoming films would be listed, including that of Born Yesterday, and that the actress playing the dual role here chose to mimic Holliday's unique voice. Judy Holliday was born on June 21, 1921 and died of breast cancer at the age of 43 on June 7, 1965. To add to the coincidences mentioned so far, note that this episode aired exactly on Judy Holliday's 29th birthday...

A remake of Born Yesterday was made in 1993 and starred Melanie Griffith as Billie Dawn, John Goodman in the Broderick Crawford role, and Griffith's first (m. 1976, and now again 1989 until 1996) third hubby Don Johnson in William Holden's role as Billie's tutor. While a decent, acceptable remake, it just doesn't quite evoke the charm of the 1950 original. There was only one Judy Holliday, and she played the adorable, endearing ditz better than anyone.

So whether we have an undereducated Joe here, or an undereducated Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, both productions seem to have a link to the unmistakable voice of the much-loved actress Judy Holliday. Enjoy "The Brooklyn Brain" for its sentiment and humor, and as an example of how even a whacky SF idea has its heart in the right place (substitute the learning machine here for William Holden in Born Yesterday to see the similarity).

Play Time: 28:57

{With summer vacation looming, the neighborhood scholars gave their new pair of Keds a quick workout in a race to the corner drugstore, for it was first come, first served with issues of their favorite SF magazines, a few examples of which are shown below. Astounding was as reliable as ever with its monthly schedule, as was Thrilling Wonder Stories with its bi-monthly schedule. While Famous Fantastic Mysteries was also on a bi-monthly schedule, it missed its December issue in what appears to be a timeout to retool its cover, which was given a facelift with its forthcoming January 1951 issue.}

[Left: Astounding, June 1950 - Center: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1950 - Right: Thrilling Wonder, June 1950]

           

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.