Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dorothy Warenskjold

Dorothy Warenskjold and James Melton on "Ford Festival" (with conductor Frank Black)

As I mentioned in the previous post, one feature of the varied “Harvest of Stars” radio broadcast venues was my father’s use of local talent. As he traveled about on concert tours, my father got to know local music critics in various cities, and he would consult them about the best soprano or mezzo in the area. One of those lucky ladies who was featured as his singing partner on the show was Dorothy Warenskjold from San Francisco. She had recently made her debut with the San Francisco Opera Company, and came highly recommended. After her broadcast on “Harvest of Stars,” my father wired his agent in New York, “I’ve discovered gold in California!” In addition to advancing in her own career, Dorothy not only continued to make radio and concert appearances with my father, but was a regular on his television show in the early 1950s, and remains a dear and valued friend to this day.

In 1951-52, when she was a regular on TVs “Ford Festival” with my father, she was also a regular on “The Railroad Hour,” a Sunday night radio program of abridged musicals and operettas. She would appear on the “Railroad Hour” radio show on Sunday nights in Los Angeles, and Ford Festival in New York on Thursday nights, shuttling back and forth each week. Today it wouldn’t be considered so unusual, but in the early 1950s, before jet aircraft, when transcontinental flights took eight hours, it was a grueling pace. Although the critics were often grudging in their praise of my father’s television persona, Dorothy always got rave reviews, as in this August 1951 review from the Chester, Pennsylvania Times: “Jimmy has overcome his early stiffness and is steadily developing into a top TV personality. The good visibility is enhanced by lovely Dorothy Warenskjold, a welcome fugitive from the opera and concert circuits. Her duets with Melton are a high spot in every show.”

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