The Variety “Femcee” on Radio and Television
Kate Smith is best known today for popularizing Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”. However, her ability to sell Berlin’s song rested in her radio fame: she hosted her own weekly evening program and daily commentary show for decades. In 1950 her television program paved the way for the variety show to be a staple of the medium because it accommodated the viewing habits of the housewife and played on the desires of the amateur in the audience while teaching viewers to appreciate professional entertainment. Moreover, as a mismatched woman, Smith posed no threat to the invasion of the home that could have been associated with television; she was neither mother nor temptress. Smith relied on her professionalism, patriotism, and mismatch to make a tacit argument that television was an ideal medium for representing American talent.
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