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Original It's Higgins, Sir header art

It's Higgins, Sir! Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> It's Higgins, Sir!
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Article on Harry McNaughton and It's Higgins, Sir' from July 17 1951
Article on Harry McNaughton and It's Higgins, Sir' from July 17 1951


It's Higgins, Sir! is a charming situation comedy with a fascinating twist--the Family Roberts has a Gentleman's gentleman somewhat forced onto them by the charming bearer of news of an inheritance from Great Britain. Naturally the bearer of the news is Higgins, Gentleman's gentleman to the Roberts Family's distant English uncle, Sir Reginald Robertson. Higgins arrives bearing the sad news of his previous Gentleman's demise, the Family Silver Set, and himself. Madcap hilarity ensues with Higgins getting accustomed to tending to the Family Roberts, and The Family Roberts, to being tended to.

This is as engaging a situation comedy as, for example, The Smith's of Hollywood, and is equally charming in its built-in situations, given the series' underlying premise. McNaughton is wonderfully engaging as Higgins. So much so that it defies logic why Mr. McNaughton didn't find yet another similar avenue for what would appear to be a natural talent for situation comedy. Of course he wasn't by any means unique during this era. There were several other more experienced character actors already successfully portraying the proper Gentleman's gentleman with an ironic, sardonic, yet highly amusing twist.

One hopes that explains it. This could easily have spun right into an equally enjoyable Television situation comedy. It would be a decade more before creator/director Paul Harrison would rescript and recast It's Higgins, Sir! for Television. Starring Stage, Screen, Radio and Television star Stanley Holloway, the Television series Our Man Higgins ran for one season from 1962-1963. Perhaps the timing was again poor. One is reminded of Shirley Booth's incredible success as the housekeeper in Hazel, which ran for six seasons from 1961-1966. There simply wasn't enough oxygen to support two prominent Stage actor stars in competing domestic comedies. Stanley Holloway was a far more seasoned big screen and small screen actor than McNaughton had been, and Holloway was only a year away from his most memorable role as Alfred P. Doolittle in 1964's smash hit musical comedy, My Fair Lady.

The premise was intriguing, sound, and eminently engaging. One can only imagine that cultural timing being such an elusive element in the success of any new project, Higgins simply fell through the crack in some way. We found this series highly listenable, well produced, well transferred and delightful addition to any Radio Collector's active library.

Series Derivatives:

"Advance Release";
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Situation Comedy Dramas
Network(s): National Broadcasting Company
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): 50-08-17 [Aud] It's Pippins, Sir
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 51-07-03 01 Higgins Arrives
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 51-07-03 to 51-09-25; NBC; Thirteen, 30-minute programs; Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Syndication: NBC
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): Paul Harrison
Principal Actors: Harry McNaughton, Vinton Hayworth, Peggy Allenby, Charles Nevil, Pat Hosley and Denise Alexander.
Recurring Character(s): Higgins, The Gentleman's Gentleman, and The Roberts Family: Philip Roberts (father), Elizabeth Roberts (wife), Nancy (daughter), Tommy Roberts (son), Debbie Roberts (8 yr. old daughter)
Protagonist(s): Higgins, The Gentleman's Gentleman
Author(s): Paul Harrison
Writer(s) Paul Harrison
Music Direction:
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 13
Total Episodes in Collection: 13

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were newspaper listings.

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It's Higgins, Sir! Series Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
It's Pippins, Sir
[ Auditioned under the NBC "Advance Release" series]

Higgins Arrives

[ Premiere Episode; Summer replacement for Bob Hope ]

51-07-01 Bridgeport Post
'IT'S HIGGINS, SIR' Harry McNaughton will be cast in the familiar role of an English butler when a new situation comedy series, "It's Higgins, Sir" replaces the Bob Hope show on NBC Tuesday at 9 p.m.

51-07-03 The Capital Times
8 p.m. — It's Higgins, Sir: fun with Harry McNaughton— WIBA.

Higgins Arranges Dates
51-07-10 The Capital Times
8 p.m. — It's Higgins, Sir: fun with Harry McNaughton— WIBA.

Mrs. Roberts Has a Car Accident
51-07-17 The Capital Times
8 p.m. — It's Higgins, Sir: fun with Harry McNaughton— WIBA.

Summer Vacation
51-07-24 The Capital Times
8 p.m. — It's Higgins, Sir: fun with Harry McNaughton— WIBA.

A Day in the Woods
51-07-31 The Capital Times
8 p.m. — It's Higgins, Sir: fun with Harry McNaughton— WIBA.

Higgins Befriends a Hobo
A Day on the Farm
Nancy Elopes With Pudgy
Mr. Roberts' Birthday
Higgins Gets Amnesia
The Vegetarian

Mr. Roberts' Business Trip
Newspaper Interview
[ Last Episode ]

51-09-25 Wisconsin State Journal
8 P. m. — Its Higgins, Sir. (WIBA): comedy with Harry McNaughton.

It's Higgins, Sir! Biographies

Harry McNaughton

Actor, Panelist
Surbiton, Surrey, England, U.K.

1932 The Beechnut Hour
1934 The General Tire Revue
1935 The Armour Hour
1936 The Phil Baker Show
1937 Town Hall Revue
1938 Log Cabin Jamboree
1939 Honolulu Bound
1942 Command Performance
1943 The Kate Smith Hour
1943 It Pays To Be Ignorant
1944 Radio Hall of Fame
1951 It's Higgins, Sir

Harry McNaughton c. 1938
Harry McNaughton c. 1938

Harry McNaughton (right) as 'Bottle' with Kenny Baker (1938)
Harry McNaughton (right) as 'Bottle' with Kenny Baker (1938)

Harry McNaughton is probably best remembered for his part in the long-running ensemble cast of It Pays To Be Ignorant. And that memorial is probably well deserved. But the little-known It's Higgin's, Sir! usually comes as a surprise to Harry McNaughton fans. And a pleasant surprise at that.

The series is a situational comedy much in the mold of The Smiths of Hollywood. But of course The Smiths of Hollywood had a far better known Englishman as part of its cast--although one might get into a serious argument over that assertion from dyed-in-the-wool It Pays To Be Ignorant fans.

McNaughton's droll delivery suited the Higgins character particularly well. Anyone who's heard this short, charming series is left wondering why it wasn't picked up.

From the July 17, 1951 edition of The Capital Times:

'It's Higgins, Sir'

Harry MaNaughton, star of the NBC-WIBA comedy program, "It's Higgins, Sir," heard at 8 p, m. Tuesdays, is a veteran entertainer with 40 years of experience with stage, film, and radio.
Since comedy has always been McNaughton's forte and since it is generally conceded that he started the--comedy "butler" characterization when he introduced the fabulous character of "Bottle" with Phil Baker in 1933, he is well suited for his role of Higgins in the new radio series about a British butler serving an American family and his gradual understanding of the American way of life.
McNaughton was born in Surbiton, Surrey, England, on Apr, 29, 1896. He made his stage debut in 1911 at the Tivoli theater in London, but soon returned to school. During World War I he served with the British Rifle brigade for three years and nine months in France.
In 1919, on his first visit to the U. S., he literally came out of the trenches only to go back into them again on the stage, portraying Bert in Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather's famous play, "The Better 'Ole," under management of Charles Coburn.
McNaughton has seldom been idle since then. Among the many stage successes in which he has appeared were "Happy-Go Lucky," "Passing Show" in 1924, "Kongo," "Ziegfeld Follies" in 1927-28, and "American Born," with George M. Cohan.
He often appeared in character parts, but usually was cast as a comedian. In 1932 he made a personal appearance tour of picture theaters and then played in talking films.
It was while McNaughton was featured with Phil Baker as star in a two-reeler,, "Poor Little Rich Boy," that the idea for his first "butler" role was born. He has since appeared in several radio series and has made guest appearances on many shows.

Harry McNaughton wasn't exactly marking time in Radio. He'd already appeared in seven films before he'd ever sat before a Radio microphone. And he managed to leverage his It Pays To Be Ignorant fame into a short, but well-received run of the program over Television. He spent the last years of his semi-retired career appearing as judge or panelist on a brief series of television programs.

Peggy Allenby
(Elizabeth Roberts)

Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor

Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.A.


1936 David Harum
1936 Radio Guild
1937 Phyl Coe Mysteries
1938 Great Plays
1038 The Shadow
1943 This Is Our Enemy
1944 The Sportsman's Club
1947 The Clock
1948 Famous Jury Trials
1951 Its Higgins, Sir
1952 The Land Of the Free
1953 Stroke Of Fate
1954 Inheritance
1956 Masters Of Mystery
1956 X-Minus One
ABC Mystery Time

Young Stage Actress, Peggy Allenby, c. 1924
Young Stage Actress, Peggy Allenby, c. 1924

Peggy Allenby, c. 1935
Peggy Allenby, c. 1935

Lovely Peggy Allenby publicity photo, ca. 1936
Lovely Peggy Allenby publicity photo, ca. 1936

One might easily--and persuasively--argue that lovely young Peggy Allenby was one of 20th Century American Theatre's earliest feminists. She was outspoken--often to a fault, she was highly independent her entire life, she was very single minded in most activities, and she established early on that it was as important for a professional woman to be able to stand on her own laurels, resumé and acting proceeds as for a professional male actor.

This was quite famously exemplified when she divorced her stage actor husband of two years, Robert Armstrong (later of King Kong fame). Parting amicably, the public was somewhat shocked to discover that she hadn't sought alimony from Mr. Armstrong. She refused any alimony, famously quoted for the following observation on the topic of alimony in general:

"I think some women have an awful nerve to cease loving a man, but go right on loving his money."

. . . thus instantly endearing herself to every eligible--or ineligible--male in the U.S.. And probably just as equally alienating as many females--married or single.

But such was her level of conviction, and such was her stubborn independence throughout her multi-faceted Arts career. By the tender age of 23, she'd already appeared in several stage plays and her silent film career gave every promise of successfully bridging the jump to sound. And so it did.

Peggy Allenby began her career on Stage, debuting in Two Strangers From Nowhere (1924). Her strong voice, perfect diction and confident bearing led to a string of successes on Stage: Schemers (1924), The Sap (1925), Find Daddy (1926), The Little Spitfire (1926), Synthetic Sin (1927), Within the Law (1928), Married-and How! (1928), He Understood Women (1928), Conflict (1929), Among the Married (1929), and A Widow in Green (1931). Once her Radio career began to develop she retired from the Stage until 1948 and her performance in The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, followed by her performance as the wife of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (1949). A last minute replacement, her performance garnered critical acclaim for its 18-month run.

But it was over Radio that most of her staunchest fans found her. From her first big lead in The Phyl Coe Mysteries (1937)--yet another manifestation of her ground breaking early feminism--to consistent, delightful Radio appearances in many of the Great Plays productions, several appearances in The Shadow and The Clock, and her co-starring role in It's Higgins Sir!.

Once the Golden Age of Radio had waned, she rebounded with several appearances in Television, and a long-running appearance on Edge of Night as Mattie Lane Grimsley from 1956 - 1966 (the year of her unexpected death.)

Vinton Hayworth
[Jack Arnold | Vinton Haworth | Vinton Hayworth Sr. ]
(Philip Roberts)
Stage, Screen, Radio and Television actor

Birthplace: Washington D.C., U.S.A..

1937 John Barrymore Theatre
1945 The Adventures Of Father Brown
1945 Lights Out
1946 Murder At Midnight
1947 Quiet, Please
1948 Romance
1948 The Adventures Of Archie Andrews
1949 Cavalcade Of America
1950 MGM Theater Of the Air
1950 Meet Me In St Louis
1950 The Big Story
1951 Now Hear This
1951 It's Higgins, Sir
1951 American Portraits
1952 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
1952 The Chase
1953 The New Adventures of Michael Shayne
Caption: Vinton Haworth, who causes feminine hearts to flutter, played Jack Arnold, Marge's love interest, in Myrt and Marge (1936)
Caption: Vinton Haworth, who causes feminine hearts to flutter, played Jack Arnold, Marge's love interest, in Myrt and Marge (1936)

Vinton Hayworth with actress Donna Dameril circa 1936
Vinton Hayworth with actress Donna Dameril circa 1936

Vinton Hayworth circa 1950
Vinton Hayworth circa 1950

Vinton Hayworth as Gen. Winfield Schaeffer in I Dream of Jeannie (1970)
Vinton Hayworth as Gen. Winfield Schaeffer in I Dream of Jeannie (1970)

Vinton Hayworth as Genl. Winfield Schaeffer from I Dream of Jeannie (1970)
Vinton Hayworth as Gen. Winfield Schaeffer from I Dream of Jeannie (1970)

From the It Happened Last Night column by Earl Wilson from the January 26, 1951 Terre Haute Star:


By Earl Wilson


     I proudly present--the only man who can make both Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers say uncle.  Vinton J. Hayworth, the radio and television after, proudly states that he's uncle of both—and also of Mrs. Bennett Cerf.  He proudly states too, that he's the uncle of Aly Khan.  He doesn't proudly state, though, that he's the ex-uncle of Orson Welles.
     Hayworth's handsome, mustached and fortyish.  He's one of the TV's iron men.
     For a year he's averaged one TV dramatic performance a week—a lot of memorizing. 
     "I used to baby-sit for Rita out in Woodside when she was so little she looked like a Japanese doll." he told me over at the Lambs Club.
     "From a baby, she was a magnet for men.
     "Her father used to go with her when she had a date, sitting in the car and waiting for her.
     "He had the duenna idea."

     Rita's real name was Margarita Carmencita Cansino.  Her mother, Volga Hayworth, was Vinton's sister.  He's an uncle-by-marriage to Ginger.  Her mother, Leilah, is the sister of his wife, Jean.
     But carry on, there's still more men.  Vinton Jr., 15, his son, is a cousin of both Ginger and Rita, and the only male in the world,
related, by blood, to both dolls.
     When Margarita took her mother's maiden name, she shortened Margarita to Rita. Got it now?

     "I had a fight with her once, he said.  "Her father wanted me to give her some diction lessons.  She didn't know how to read lines.
     "She said, 'Oh, what do you know about it, father?"  Well, I let her have it."
     "She didn't need any diction, he says now,

     "When she was married to Welles, I never met him.  We were in an elevator once.  He didn't speak.  He was lost in the depth of
his genius."
     Rita, now the perfect niece, invited him to her wedding.  Ginger, a perfect niece too, has been very kind and has given him presents and three ex-nephews, including Lew Ayres.
     "It's curious," ' he says, that when Rita was three, my father wrote a poem, which he called "To My Little Princess."
     "He used to tell her that some day a prince would carry her away.  He called her Princess Margarita"
     Maybe Rita doesn't even remember it—but today her formal name is "Princess Margarita."

     Hiya, Terre Haute!  The Vinton Hayworth of this story was the son of Allyn Hayworth, who was born in Terre Haute a lot of years
ago, and went to Washington, D.C. where he became a publisher and printer.  Undoubtedly there are Hayworths around Terre Haute
who are related—somewhat distantly—to Vinton Hayworth, and thus—more distantly—to Rita.

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, handsome, multi-talented young Vinton Hayworth was appearing in several local high school dramatic productions as early as 1922--and obtaining respectable notices in the process. Hayworth's grandfather, Joseph Hayworth, had been a celebrated Shakespearean actor in his own right. The Hayworth family could also lay claim to no less than Rita Hayworth [the former Margarita Carmencita Cansino] who was Vinton Hayworth's niece.

Young Hayworth continued acting in and directing local theatre productions through the 1920s. According to the April 20, 1924 edition of the Washington Post:

"Mrs. Pat and the Law" will be directed by Vinton Hayworth, who will be assisted by Andrew Allison and Amila Peters."

By 1932, Vinton Hayworth was appearing at New York's Ambassador Theatre in a revue entitled Chamberlain Brown's Scrap Book as a sketch performer in a Myrt and Marge sketch. Hayworth's next major foray onto the Broadway Stage would come ten years later in 671 performances as Tom Dillon in George S. Kaufman production of The Doughgirls (1942-44) at the Lyceum Theatre.

Vinton Hayworth married Jean Owens, in 1935. Jean Owens was the sister of actress Lela E. Rogers [Leilah Owen], who was the mother of Ginger Rogers. (Thus, Vinton Hayworth could later refer to both Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers as nieces.)

Vinton Hayworth began his Radio career in the New York area, appearing regularly in several east coast programs from 1935, forward. One of Radio's most successful character actors, Hayworth found himself cast as the lead in several Radio productions, among them, the head of the Roberts family in Its Higgins Sir (1951), and Michael Shayne in the 1953 ABC incarnation of The Adventures of Michael Shayne (1952-1953).

With Radio winding down and Television ramping up, Hayworth made a highly successful jump from Radio to Television, with over 100 television appearances between 1952 and 1970. That, added to fifty feature films, several local, regional and Broadway Stage plays, and some 700 appearances over Radio and you have the makings of one of the acting profession's great success stories.

After Vinton's passing in 1970, his wife Jean Hayworth continued acting in her own right, once appearing as Ginger Rogers' mother in the mid-1970s (remember that Jean Hayworth was Ginger Rogers' real-life aunt).

With much of Vinton Hayworth's radio work surfacing in circulation each passing year, the majority of his Film appearances already in circulation and most of his Television appearances now circulating, almost anyone can reacquaint themselves with Vinton Hayworth's natural charm, winning personality and versatility as a character actor.

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