MGM 1939 film: Radio Hams / More than a Hobby
“Radio Hams” do more than play with their machines. They are also invaluable in relaying vital information during times of tragedy and disaster.
Here is a mildly entertaining look at radio hams, those amateurs sending and receiving coded messages during the late thirties when films first dealt with the subject of “radio hams.” In this case, the ham operators manage to be helpful during situations of stress, using their abilities with code to help someone in distress and to seek aid for pilots flying a missing plane.
The humorous ending has the family gathered around the radio listening to someone speaking Chinese while the narrator tells us how impressed the family was to be hearing someone across the world on their radio set.
This little vintage film, a rather more serious film than many of Pete Smith’s other presentations, takes a look at how ham radios can become priceless aids during emergencies. The two stories shown, one dealing with sickness, the other with a missing plane, are bookended by a humorous look at a typical three-generation family’s fascination with their ham radio.
Of course, amateur radio, or “ham radio”, is alive and doing very well, in our modern times. Using satellites, moon-bounce communications, repeater networks, as well as shortwave, mediumwave, and longwave telecommunications technology, amateur radio continues to provide emergency services in times of need, from hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and even during such times as the infamous 9/11 atrocity. But, amateur radio also breeds invention and experimentation, always at the cutting edge of science. It is a hobby worth investigating, having room for a wide-range of interests. Preppers, science lovers, experimenters, and those with a passion to meet people from all over the world by way of radio waves, all together make up the radio hobby of amateur radio.
Clayton Moore, later famous as the Lone Ranger, appears uncredited as a ship radio operator.
Directed by Felix E. Feist
Writing Credits Buddy Adler (screenplay) (as E. Maurice Adler)
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Barbara Bedford – Mrs. Crane (uncredited)
Eleanor Counts – Miss Mulligan, Jimmy’s Sister (uncredited)
Jack Daley – Pa Mulligan (uncredited)
Robert Homans – Lighthouse Keeper (uncredited)
Clayton Moore – Ship Radio Operator (uncredited)
Alonzo Price – Clyde DeVinna (uncredited)
Jason Robards Sr. – Pilot in Distress (uncredited)
Pete Smith – Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Harry Strang – Man in Montage (uncredited)
Phillip Terry – Co-Pilot (uncredited)
Dorothy Vaughan – Ma Mulligan (uncredited)
Produced by Pete Smith – producer (uncredited)
Music by David Snell (uncredited)
Cinematography by Robert Pittack
Film Editing by Philip W. Anderson (as Philip Anderson)
Music Department Jack Virgil – orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew Douglas Smith – technical advisor
According to https://archive.org/details/wwIIarchive this film is in the Public Domain.
Creative Commons copyright.