LIKE Fred MacMurray, another successful ex-ex- coollegian in Hollywood, Pinky Tomlin got a fair start at the higher learning, but tunes and rhythms kept running through his head in the classroom, and he ended up by having only a fraternity shingle to show for his academic days. MacMurray and Tomlin now have about $1000,000 apiece--a very disconcerting fact to Ph.D. a who stuck it out--and didn't have any tones to plague them.
An Oklahoma farmband, Pinky Tomlin can look either forty or his actual twenties, depending on the camera used and the amount of re-touching. He was a professed hick and already losing his tin, flame-colored hair rapidly when Delta Tau Delta at the University of Oklahoma pledged him. That made no difference; the brothers hoped to tame their alfalfa cowboy. In the meantime, he went to work leading a college orchestra. That got him three meals day low grades, and a reputation for having a singing voice with a twang to it. In spite of the Delta, he remained a hill-billy.
THE Oklahoma law school was the end for Pinky. The tune that was bothering him the day be received his release was something about the object of his affection. Pinky put it on paper, and soon sorority girls the nation over were playing it again and again on the victrola they hadn't used since the radio came in.
On the strength of the song, Coy Poe, a fellow Delt, and Pinky started for Hollywood in an old Ford. A few months later they bought a Lincoln and took a vacation trip. Pinky needed it. He had just finished his first acting--in M. G. M.'s Times Square Lady. He has since made Smart Girl. M. G. M. is going to keep him at acting for some time to come; and when he's out of greasepaint, M. G. M is chaining their hog-caller and actor to a piano.
ANOTHER important boy from rural mountain parts--with face and hair of reddish hue, is Thomas L. Riley. Fat pencil in hand, he's the man who has put such people as Lowell Thomas, Ruth Etting, and the NBC Honeymooners on the air. His job is not performed at the microphone. His pencil may cross out one of Lowell Thomas lines. When the orchestra gets its cue for one of Ruth Etting's songs, Tom Riley, late of the University of Kentucky, is the man who penciled it in. Mr.Riley, in short, is a producer at NBC, one of the gentlemen who is as important to radio as Flo Zicfeld was to the Follics.
For his present job of building radio shows, Riley started training at the age of eleven, when his magician's act made him a sort of boy wonder in Henderson, Kentucky, his home town. Roughing it later as a minstrel end-man and a showboat entertainer, he departed the tinseled and shabby byways of trouping to enter the University of Kentucky. There he began a one-man show, starring Tom Riley, Pi Kappa Alpha. He produced student revuea, directed the university players, the Strollers; announced over WHAS. University of Kentucky station; and found time to go to movies and review them for the "Kernel."
A GRADUATE in 1931, he went to WLW in Cincinnati as continuity writer, later to a handful of other stations where he did everything at the microphone and off except run the control room. He came to NBC in 1934.
If it's a good NBC show, Tom Riley may be the man whose pencil and quiet word gave the script its magic touch. If the base fiddler didn't arrive for the broadcast, that may have been Tom Riley you heard, taking it. He's one of many well-paid but unsung NBC producers.