THE OTHER MADONNA
"A strange female curtain-climber, with a trick of punching herself in the jaw and a curious resemblance to Olive Oyl in the cartoons."
Variety described 1941-42 as Cantor's "most successful radio work since 1933." That assessment considered only the ratings, however. Artistically, Time to Smile had but one major asset -- Dinah Shore.
His writers now had Eddie playing the straight man throughout most of the program. Gone were most of the boyishly effeminate inflections, the infectious Cantor enthusiasms, and the delightful "Ohs" of fear. The "modern" Cantor simply walked (or talked) through the motions; the energy, the character, the classic shtik were missing.
The Cantor of the '40s read through sketches in a detached, vaguely condescending manner, and his "stooging" for Bert Gordon and numerous guest stars sounded like a stage manager reading the script for an actor's audition -- repeating the gag lines, not to the "comic" but to the audience, as if trying to explain the joke.
Cantor did the final nine broadcasts of the season from the West Coast, six of them from military installations, with Bristol-Myers's full cooperation. "It was great for Dinah," recalls Janet. "She had always been insecure about her appearance, and the soldiers going wild about her made her feel good about herself." Dinah's healthy appetite for men would later become well known among Hollywood insiders. (Her lovers in the 1950s would include another Cantor discovery, Eddie Fisher.)
Cantor's writers had all heard the rumors of his adventures with women ranging from Lillian Lorraine to comedienne Collette Lyons, and they tended to be cynical about his public image as the nation's "family comedian." It had become Eddie's habit to hold court in bed on weekday mornings, his writers sitting alongside as he critiqued their efforts, told them