Biography

Pioneer

Braden, Bernard

(1916-1993)


It was more fun than work for a group of young people who produced plays on CJOR Vancouver in the late 30s and early 40s. They even created their own "Lux Radio Theatre" (then the top-rated drama on North American radio) - freely writing and producing adaptations of movie scripts, which one of them picked up from west coast film distributors. They worked on each other's shows and they earned fame - among them were Fletcher Markle, Alan Young, John Drainie, Juliette, Andrew Allan, Lister Sinclair, Peggy Hazard, Barbara Kelly and Bernard Braden.

As radio developed, Vancouver couldn't hold them, and they moved east to Toronto in 1942. 

 Bernie Braden met Barbara at her radio debut. She was just 16 and was playing the Virgin Mary in a mystery play. They were married when she was 17 so made the move as husband and wife. Over the years they were to star together on stage, radio and television in Canada, the United States and England.

In Toronto, the two found work on CBC's Sunday night Stage Series and Bernie captured a lead role in the Thursday night sponsored drama John and Judy. Comedian Alan Young had also moved east, basking in the success of the Vancouver radio show Stag Party.  In 1940, under the sponsorship of Buckingham Cigarettes, it became The Alan Young Show. Bernie had acted in the show in the West and continued his participation. Wayne and Shuster also selected Bernie for the role of a deaf postman in a comedy that, for 13 weeks in the summer, replaced The Life of Riley in the United States.In 1946 Bernie narrated several filmed documentaries: Ski Skill, Science Goes Fishing, Safe Clothing, Organization and Machines.  He was also principal writer on a half-hour radio show, John and Judy, that starred Jane Mallett.

 
Bernard Braden & Barbara Kelly
Bernard Braden & Barbara Kelly (photo : Lynda Hurst)
In 1949, Bernie moved to London with his family (now five).  There, Bernie quickly made a name for himself on stage, when he played the role of Mitch opposite Vivien Leigh in the London production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.   Bernie also soon became a radio star on the BBC.  Breakfast With Braden  was fabulously successful, as was its successor Bedtime With Braden, and while Bernie was the star, Barbara guested from time to time. The couple turned to TV in 1951 as hosts of An Evening At Home With Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly. In 1953 they piloted a new sketch comedy for the BBC, titled Barbara with Braden, but it did not go to series.

 In 1957 Bernie hosted Chelsea at Nine for Granada TV, and in 1962 he created Britain's first television consumer affairs show called On the Braden Beat.

The stage and films provided two other opportunities for the Braden talent to be on display. Bernie appeared in the movies Love in Pawn (1952), The Kid From Canada (1957), All Night Long (1961), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962) and The War Lover (1963).

In 1968, Bernie with his wife Barbara starred in a short-lived (7 episodes) BBC sitcom, B-and-B, which also featured their daughter Kim.  In 1969, Capitol Records issued an LP of Bernie reading the works of Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock.

In 1970, when the British parliament ended the BBC's monopoly on radio broadcasting, Bernie joined with Canada's Standard Broadcasting Corporation in what proved to be a successful application for a coveted general entertainment radio franchise covering London.

 On The Braden Beat was cancelled by the BBC in 1972, reportedly because Bernie had begun to be seen on private television doing margarine commercials. Shortly after the Global Television Network began operations in 1974, Bernie came back to Canada to pitch a similar consumer show to CTV and CBC, but it was Global who picked up the series, only to cancel it shortly thereafter, as money became tight.

On returning to London, Bernie did less and less television, though in 1987-88 he did return to the small screen as host of a revived Granada series, All Our Yesterdays, which featured clips from news stories from 25 years previously.

 In 1973, Barbara had started a new venture, Prime Performers, to represent celebrity speakers, and on reducing his broadcasting activities Bernie, for his part, set up a conference presentation organization,  under the umbrella of their company, Adanac Productions.  In 1990, Hodder and Stoughton published Bernie's autobiographical memoir, The Kindess of Strangers.

Bernard Braden died in London on February 2nd, 1993, after suffering a series of strokes.

Written by Ross McCreath - June, 2005

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