Radio: The 1,000-Watt Bulb

Robert Cummings' mother was an ordained minister, and back in the family home in Joplin, Mo., she gave him a short sermon that he has never forgotten. Said she: "Your mind is like a light bulb. It's up to you whether you use it like a 60-watt bulb or make it shine as bright as a 1,000-watter." She did not protest when Cummings decided to look for a socket on the Great White Way.

Three times the Cummings glow has threatened to flicker out when his career seemed to reach a dead end: 1) on...