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Philly broadcast legend dies in Mexico

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Mr. Crane rode a horse at the beginning of every episode of Grand Chance Roundup, an early TV show for children. Photo: Broadcast Pioneers of Phila.

Anyone who grew up in the Philadelphia area knows the name Gene Crane, the legendary broadcaster.

What they might not know is that when he retired in the 1990s, he became an expat in Mexico, moving to San Miguel de Allende.

Crane, 99, died Monday, Aug. 26, of complications from a fall in his home in Mexico.

Crane’s career with WCAU, now an NBC affiliate in Philly, began in 1946 when he was hired as a radio announcer.

In 1948, when WCAU-TV went on the air, Crane embraced the new medium. From the late 1940s through the 1950s, he conducted “Man on the Street” interviews and hosted three children’s shows as well as a daily talk show, NBC reported in an obituary.

Mr. Crane starred as a carnival barker on “M&M’s Candy Carnival,” a children’s TV show in which Ed McMahon, who became Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show sidekick, was one of the clowns.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Crane rode a horse at the beginning of every episode of “Grand Chance Roundup,” a locally produced, daily Western program.

From 1953 to 1957, he and his wife, Joan — they married in 1947 — hosted the nation’s first husband-and-wife morning show, called “Mr. & Mrs.”, for 90 minutes each weekday.

Mr. Crane served as a WCAU-TV news anchor, weatherman, science reporter, and sportscaster through the decades. He also starred in various TV commercials and played the mayor of Philadelphia in “Rocky III.”

Mr. Crane was inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers’ Hall of Fame in 1995 and was named the broadcast group’s 2003 Person of the Year.

He continued to work part-time at WCAU into his 80s, filming news segments that focused on the concerns of seniors. He retired in 1994 and moved to San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico.

Donations may be made to the Gene Crane Fund at Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, P.O. Box 2886, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.

Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, NBC

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