Sit down, close your eyes and let your mind form the images as you relive the golden age of radio programs. Each week we'll feature a different and exciting program in MP3 format. Just click on the radio image below to be transported back in time.

This Week

 

My Favorite Husband

April Fool's Day

April 1, 1949

 

Liz plans to plant a lipstick covered handkerchief on George to accuse him of cheating, but he already has guilty evidence on him planted by his boss.

The great Sitcoms of early TV owe a greater debt to Old Time Radio than many in the industry care to admit. Most notable were shows that moved almost directly from the radio to the small screen such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett and The Life of Riley. The Aldrich Family and The Adventures of Archie Andrews would influence Teenage-comedies for decades to come. However, one of the most successful and influential TV sitcoms of all time, I Love Lucy also came from the radio, although not as directly.

I Love Lucy was the TV version of My Favorite Husband, which starred everyone's favorite Redhead. The show's path from radio to the small screen is not as direct as some others, but then, getting Favorite on the radio was not as direct as you would think. The story of George and Liz, "two people who live together, and like it!", first appeared in the 1941 best-selling novel Mr. and Mrs. Cugat, the Record of a Happy Marriage by Isabel Scott Rorick. Mrs. Rorick developed her stories for the local Junior League newsletter and based them on her marriage to Ceilan Rorick, a bank worker in Toledo.

Hollywood snapped up Mrs. Rorick's story and released it as Are Husbands Necessary? (1942, Paramount) starring Ray Milland and Betty Field. The Lux Radio Theater adaptation starred George Burns and Gracie Allen. Although Gracie was perfect in the role of a scatter-brained housewife, she was already playing one on CBS (at the time, sponsored by Swan, a rival soap company). By the time CBS was ready to bring the Cugat's to the airwaves, George and Gracie were working for Maxwell House Coffee on NBC.

The Cugat story was too good of a property to not produce, so CBS went with a rising starlet, Lucille Ball. Lucy had some radio comedy experience supporting Phil Baker and Jack Haley, but the movie studios had primarily used her in ingénue roles. Casting her as Liz Cugat in My Favorite Husband gave her a chance to show off her impeccable comic timing.

Ms. Ball was offered the role of Connie Brooks on Our Miss Brooks, which was closer to production than My Favorite Husband, but Lucy was already committed. Her pal, Eve Arden got the school teacher role. However, when Our Miss Brooks was scheduled to begin its run on July 5, 1948, the program was not quite ready, and the timeslot went to My Favorite Husband. This audition program was a hit with listeners and the network picked it up as a sustained program in the fall lineup.

Although they had a place in the schedule, not all was blissful for the Cugats at 321 Bundy Drive. For one thing, another Cugat, bandleader Xavier Cugat, objected to their name, and although the program was getting good ratings, it was not bringing the network any money yet. That changed on January 7, 1949, the 26th episode, when Lucy opened the show, now as Liz Cooper, with the greeting: "Jell-O everybody!"

Several things were learned over Favorite's run on the radio. One of the most important was that Lucy was a better comedienne when she played in front of a live audience. Realizing they had a bonafide hit on their hands, the network was anxious to transfer the magic by putting Lucy and her costar Richard Denning together on the small screen. Lucy, however, had other ideas.

Lucy and her real-life husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz were anxious to start a family, so Lucy insisted that if she was going to do any TV work, it would only be with Desi costarring. The development of I Love Lucy is the stuff of Hollywood legend and would involve the founding of Desilu Studios (which would be the birthplace of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek franchise), a new way to shoot TV sitcoms, and when rival NBC became interested in the program, Desi being hired by CBS Radio to host a game show.

The radio and TV show appeared to be a lot different. For one thing, while George Cooper was married to a scatter-brained girl who was determined to help his career, Ricky Ricardo wanted a "normal" housewife and got a scatter-brained girl who was desperate to break into showbiz. However, many of the stories used on I Love Lucy were direct reworks of Favorite scripts.


  Huntington Beach News


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