The Mr. and Mrs. Blandings Radio Program
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- The actual Blandings House wasn't built in Connecticut. It was built on the grounds of 20th Century Fox's 2,000 acre location ranch in the Malibu Hills above the Malibu Colony of Southern California.
- 20th Century Fox sold the ranch to the State of California in 1974.
- The State renamed the property Malibu Creek State Park in 1976.
- The original Blandings House remains a part of the State Park as of 2009
- It's reportedly currently used as administrative offices for Park personnel.
The Blandings House as it appears in 2009
Billboard Magazine's first review of Mr and Mrs Blandings from February 3 1951
Mr. and Mrs. Blandings transcription label from February 25 1951 recording
Background: A shaky start
From the February 2, 1951 edition of the Lowell Sun:
By JOHN CROSBY
The deafening roar coming out of your radio loudspeaker these days is the accumulated sounds of husbands billing and cooing to their own wives. Sociologically speaking, it's an altogether splendid uproar and you're likely to hear quite a lot of it this winter. The husband-and-wife radio teams includelet's see nowRonald and Benita Colman In "Halls of Ivy," the Phil Harrises, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, the Cary Grants in "Mr. and Mrs. Blandings" and coming soon, as they say in the moviesthe Humphrey Bogarts.
Never in my memory has matrimony got such excellent
notices from many glamorous people all at once. And every loving couple has got a sponsor, too. As Dorothy Dix would be the first to tell you, there's nothing like a sponsor to hold a marriage together. "Just Mary and me and the sponsor makes three . . ." There's a song in there somewhere, Mannie, if we can just straighten it out.
Let's stop woolgathering. The newest husband-and-wife team is that of Cary Grant and his wife Betsy Drake in "Mr. and Mrs. Blandings" (N.B.C. 5:30 p. m. EST Sundays) which is billed as the first big radio-show of 1951.
Big as it is, Cary Grant is quite a plum for N.B.C. and socially commendable as its message is, there's quite a lot wrong with it.
The story is derived from Eric Hodgins' two books, "Blandings Builds His Dream House" and "Blandings Way." The radio program picks up where the first book left off. The dream house is built, though nothing in it works very well. The trials and expense and disillusionment of getting the house up are out of the way, which may be one of the reasons why the show doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
On the opening installment, the Blandings got a bad fright when the State Highway commission decided to run a road right through their living room. On the second one, the Blandings' two girls, Susan and Joan, are sent home from school suffering from what turned out not to be measles after all. Those two situations should have offered enough plot complication for a half hour show. But they didn't.
The trouble lies, I should say, in the rather lofty, though puzzling, exchanges between Mr. and Mrs. Blandings, a type of dialogue which, I expect, is meant to represent the utmost in suburban sophistication. Mostly, the listener is left wondering just what the Blandings are talking about.
Since I'm one of the six people left in America who has neither read the books nor seen the movie, I have no way of knowing whether Mr. Grant and Miss Drake are faithful reproductions of the Hodgins characters. Miss Drake, who has a wispy voice and a personality that seems to be obscured in fog, plays the part of one of those females who tells a story backwards. Wives, I must admit, do this sort of thing, but it's a difficult character to project over the radio without confusing the listeners as much as the husbands.
Grant's distinctive muscle-bound voice is very much in evidence and should be a very great asset in radio comedy. But it hasn't yet had much to say. In addition to the Blandings, characters include a lawyer named Bill, the Blandings' best friend who passes most of his time insulting both of them; and a couple of salty old country folk who don't make much sense either. The dream house is almost a character in itself. The door bell sets the washing machine in motion; the front hall switch rings the doorbell; communications between the master bedroom and the kitchen are carried on by means of two tin cans connected by a string.
It ought to be funny, all right. It just isn't. I'm still rooting for the Grants, though, since Cary Grant has proved on numerous guest appearances that he is a very expert radio comedian when given a chance. About Miss Drake I have grave reservations.
The Grant show is sponsored, incidentally, by TWA, the air-line people, and bless my soul, if they haven't got a singing commercial:
"You'll love to fly
"High up in the sky
"You ride the airways
"Starry stairways . . ."
The timing--and tenor--of Radio critic and curmudgeon, John Crosby, and his less than laudatory review are entirely appropriate. One might well expect that any production starring Cary Grant in a recurring role over NBC should have premiered to outstanding reviews. Add to that formula the costarring role of Grant's wife, Betsy Drake, no less than five writers on board for the premiere episode, and Howard Hughes' own Trans-World Airlines as a sponsor and one might rightfully assume a production that couldn't fail.
In all fairness to the Radio rendition of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, the Film rendition (1948) of Eric Hodgins' best-seller was a tough act to follow on several levels:
- The chemistry between Myrna Loy and Cary Grant was not new to the big screen. They'd starred together in Wings In the Dark in 1935 and in The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer (1947) the previous year--yet another domestic comedy.
- The timing for both the book and the Film adaptation were exquisite, coming as they did at the peak of the extraordinary explosion in families--both ex-G.I. families and civilian families--emigrating to the suburbs after the end of World War II.
- The crisp dialogue throughout the Film version was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy for 1948.
- Betsy Drake and Cary Grant had become inseparable during the filming of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House--the couple ultimately married in December of the following year.
The Film version of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House was a sleeper. During its first screenings it was cited as an average domestic comedy for its time. But as the housing booms continued to wax and wane throughout late 20th century American history, the film continued to strike an often intimate chord with first-time homeowners. The film has since reached classic status as a popular sentimental favorite--moreso with home buyers who've found themselves with a money-pit on their hands. The enduring message remains: a house is not simply the sum total of what it cost, but rather, the home it ultimately represents to its inhabitants.
As unlikely as it might seem, the first two episodes of Mr and Mrs Blandings were indeed, stinkers, given the acting and production talent behind them. The overwhelmingly common criticism of the season's first two episodes were two-fold: they were poorly written and Betsy Drake's performances were uncharacteristically flat. Quite naturally, the almost uniform panning of the season's first two episodes rivetted the attention of NBC, TWA and the Grants equally. Primarily in response to Billboard's highly critical pan of the two season openers, the Grants sought, and ultimately obtained, brand new writers by the Summer. In the interim, Betsy Drake herself, penned most of the scripts under the nom de plume, 'M Winkle.' She even weaved the name M. Winkle into one of her scripts as a pivotal character.
Compounding the mixed buzz of the first ten episodes was a circulating rumor that Cary Grant was so disenchanted with the production's writing that he was trying to get out of the commitment altogether. Both Grant and NBC promptly quashed the rumor via most of the print media of the era and the series proceeded as planned, ultimately spanning twenty-two episodes and with far more sparkling productions after the mid-point of the season.
From the February 5, 1951 Time Magazine article:
Radio: Very Attractive Couple
Eric Hodgins' bestselling Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House was a quietly hilarious account of a man's troubles with a new house. Though Blandings was short on sex appeal, it sold more than 300,000 copies and was bought by the movies. Then Hollywood, which thinks sex is so important that it created a Production Code to keep sex out, added a triangle to the plot. The Cary Grant-Myrna Loy movie was advertised with leering posters: "Does Gary suspect the wolf at the door is his best friend?"
Last week, sponsored by Trans World Airlines, Mr. and Mrs. Blandings (Sun. 5:30 p.m., NBC) reached radio, which is even more frightened and fascinated by sex than the movies are. Listeners were asked to visualize a firelit room, shaded lamps, a deep-cushioned sofa and a shakerful of Martinis. Against a background of Tchaikovsky, they eavesdropped on Cary Grant and Actress Betsy Drake (his wife both in radio and life), reminiscing about their courtship and honeymoon. Producer-Writer Nat Wolff (who is getting "dialogue assists" from Actress Drake) wants to picture "a very attractive couple in the $25,000-a-year class...the kind of people we'd like most to be." The show will contain "no platforms, no politics, no message." Nothing, in fact, but a little spicy innuendo and a succession of comic crises based on domestic misunderstandings.
At week's end, Blandings was being bombarded from all sides. Because of critical blasting of his first program, Grant had turned down five scripts, finally accepted and recorded one written entirely by his wife. Movie Producer David O. Selznick was demanding a reported $1,000 a week from the network because Betsy Drake was violating her contract by appearing on the show without his permission. Said Grant dazedly: "From what I now know of radio, I am amazed that some shows are as good as they are."
Once the series hit its stride, Billboard Magazine re-reviewed the production and pronounced it thoroughly improved--including Betsy Drake's scripted lines and delivery. In another wrinkle, Betsy Drake was being required by David O. Selznick and the R.K.O. Studio to kick back $1,000 of her earnings each week from Mr. and Mrs. Blandings in keeping with the terms of her contract with David O Selznick. This, in addition to plugging Selznick's latest film at the end of virtually every program of the series. And R.K.O's further response to The Grants' Radio success?: they re-released Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House in 1951 at the peak of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings' popularity over Radio. Hollywood Studio management--utterly predictable.
Mr. and Mrs. Blandings hits its stride
One of the more underreported developments during Mr. and Mrs. Blandings' early episodes was Betsy Drake's writing for the production. Writing as 'M Winkle', Betsy Drake, in response to numerous pans of both the writing for the early episodes and her own performances, penned at least six of the production's early episodes. The improvement showed. By the time Billboard gave Mr. and Mrs. Blandings another listen, the scripts had experienced a complete turnaround. Betsy Drake's own performances had improved as well. As many of the Radio critics had observed, Betsy Drake's quiet, soft-spoken performances in Film were entirely appropriate for her roles. But those Film performances were portrayed in combination with her physical presence, her extraordinarily expressive eyes, and her grace and delicate beauty in Film. Radio, an aural medium, didn't capture the visual elements and nuances of Betsy Drake's Film portrayals.
Betsy Drake rose to the challenge by punching up her lines for the scripts she penned, both giving Muriel Blandings a bit more spunk and irony, as well as noticeably delivering her Radio lines in a far more direct and snappy manner.
The premiere and second installment of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings sported no less than five writers--Nat Wolff, Walter Brown Newman, Millard Kaufman, and Lawrence and Lee [Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee of Stage Play fame], two directors--Nat Wolff and Robert Packham, and two producers--Don W. Sharpe and Archie Scott.
Eric Hodgins, the author of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and the sequel, Blandings' Way, was reportedly non-committal in response to the Radio rendition of his two best-sellers. Contary to John Crosby's observations (above), Gale Gordon's portrayal of The Blandings' lawyer, Bill Cole, was entirely in keeping with the Film portrayal of the character by Melvyn Douglas. Indeed, one might well argue that Gale Gordon was even better suited to the role in the first place.
By the time the production's scripts showed a marked improvement, the production had whittled the staff down to two writers--Charles Stewart and Mort Lachman, one director--Warren Lewis, and a solid ensemble of supporting performers, including Elvia Allman, Sheldon Leonard, Gail Bonney and Cliff Arquette. Gale Gordon's participation showed a marked expansion as the series matured and both Ann Whitfield (Susan Blandings) and Patricia Iannone (Joan Blandings) continued to mature in their roles. Announcer Wendell Niles had also left the production, replaced by Don Stanley.
Needless to say, trimming down the staff significantly improved the production. The ensemble cast, with continuing appearances by Radio legends Elvia Allman, Sheldon Leonard, and Cliff Arquette, expanded their involvement as well, and began markedly defining their roles. In any case, Cary Grant's extraordinary following, alone, would have ensured the success of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings. But quite understandably, as a simple point of pride, both Cary Grant and Betsy Drake wanted to put their best foot forward.
Clearly, the first few episodes of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings had been over-produced, with far too many cooks messing with the broth. While frustrating, to be sure, The Grants showed their extraordinary professionalism--over any medium--by quickly recovering and wearing as many hats as necessary to reconstitute the production. The effort both redeemed the great acting couple, and provided one of the most entertaining recurring appearances of Cary Grant over Radio.
What remains of their efforts stands as yet another historic remnant of The Golden Age of Radio--important for both Cary Grant's only Radio lead in a recurring role, as well as Betsy Drake's remarkable versatility as both an actress and writer. Indeed, we're hard pressed to recall an instance of a lead actor--other than perhaps Orson Welles--stepping forward to take over the writing chores for a popular Radio production already underway. It might well be argued that, were it not for Betsy Drake's interim scripts, the production may very well have folded by April of 1951.
In the final analysis, Mr. and Mrs. Blandings acquitted itself well, compared to the other husband and wife airings of the era. For dyed-in-the-wool Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House fans, the series was a splendid extension of the charming story, which, for its era, touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of ex-G.I.s who sought to rebuild their lives after the turmoil of World War II, simultaneously building their own versions of the American Dream, a house at a time, throughout the exploding suburbs of America.
|AFRTS END-289 'Mr. and Mrs. Blandings'
||Anthology of Golden Age Radio Situation Comedies
||Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
||50-11-08 [Aud] The New State Highway
||Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
||51-01-21 01 The New State Highway
||Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
||51-01-21 to 51-06-17; NBC; Twenty-two, 30-minute programs; Sundays, 5:30 p.m.
||Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne; NBC; AFRTS
||Trans-World Airlines [Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne]
||Don W. Sharpe [Producer]
Archie Scott [NBC Producer]
Nat Wolff, Warren Lewis [Directors]
Robert Packham [NBC Producer]
||Cary Grant, Betsy Drake, Ann Whitfield, Patricia Iannone, Gale Gordon, Herb Vigran, Jack Kruschen, Robert Cummings, Jane Wyatt, Sheldon Leonard, Gail Bonney, Larry Keating, Elvia Allman, Jeanne Bates, Marion Richmond, Ed Max, Jerry Hausner, Earl Keen, Cliff Arquette, Patty King, Earle Ross, Ken Christy, Ralph Moody, Sammy Ogg, Stuffy Singer, Norma Jean Nilsson, Sandra Gould, Jim Backus
||Jim Blandings[ Cary Grant] and Muriel Blandings [Betsy Drake], Susan [Ann Whitfield] and Joan Blandings [Patricial Iannone], Bill Cole [Gale Gordon]; Bunny [Sandra Gould] and Popsie [Sheldon Leonard] Davis; Cliff Arquette as Constable Arquette; Elvia Allmann as Maude, the Blandings' cook and housekeeper.
||Jim Blandings [ Cary Grant] and Muriel Blandings [ Betsy Drake]
||Nat Wolff, Walter Brown Newman, Millard Kaufman, Lawrence and Lee, M. Winkle (Betsy Drake), Charles Stewart, Mort Lachman
||Wendell Niles, Don Stanley, Bob Lemond
||Estimated Scripts or
||Episodes in Circulation:
||Total Episodes in Collection:
||RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the RadioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings. The least helpful source was the notoriously inaccurate OTTER database exclusively maintained by the OTRR and based on the equally inaccurate logs of The Vintage Radio Place.
Mr. and Mrs. Blandings was an historical program--Cary Grant's only recurring lead over Radio. The RadioGOLDINdex has long provided many of the transcription recording dates for the series, but only for eleven of the twenty-four programs. With this provenanced logging effort, we've uncovered not only the appropriate dates and program sequence for the series, we've also uncovered seven more provisional titles for the series.
You're welcome to compare our fully provenanced log below with the 1,500 'expert researchers' at the OTRR and their own Mr. and Mrs. Blandings log.
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The Mr. and Mrs. Blandings Radio Program Biographies
|Cary Grant [Archibald Alexander Leach]
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor
Birthplace: Horfield, Bristol, England, U.K.
1937 Lux Radio Theatre
1938 Silver Theater
1939 The Circle
1939 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1942 Command Performance
1942 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1943 It's Time To Smile
1944 The Abbott and Costello Show
1945 The Doctor Fights
1946 Theater Of Romance
1946 Academy Award
1947 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1948 Camel Screen Guild Theatre
1948 Kraft Music Hall
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1949 Cavalcade Of America
1950 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1950 Operation Tandem
1951 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
1955 Biography In Sound
1957 Recollections At Thirty
Classic Cary Grant publicity photo circa 1952
Cary Grant circa 1941
Cary Grant Players Cigarette card from 1931
Cary Grant in Wedding Present (1935)
Cary Grant in a publicity photo for Alice In Wonderland (1933)
Publicity still for Wings in the Dark (1935) with Myrna Loy and Cary Grant
Cary Grant with Jimmy Stewart, John Howard and Kate Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn at CBS mike for The Philadelphia Story (1942)
Cary Grant and Betsy Drake in Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
|From the November 26, 1986 edition of the Burlington Hawk-Eye:
Cary Grant to inaugurate Iowa theater
By Jim Arpy
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - Cary Grant chortles when he's reminded of a reply he made during a recent on-stage question and
He'll be doing the same thing at the Adler Theatre, Davenport, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday when he appears for "A Conversation With
The questions get pretty personal and once a woman in the audience asked, "Mr. Grant, what do you wear to bed?"
The suave actor didn't even hesitate. "My wife," he cracked.
"Yes, I suppose I did say that," he said during a phone interview in those deep, cultured accents familiar to millions, and he
"My wife (actress Barbara Harris) usually travels with me and sits in the back row while I'm out on stage and she worries, 'Oh
God, what will he say next?'
"Why be pompous and exaggerated?" he asks. "I let people know what cinema people are like. I level with them and tell the truth.
Grant is a man who obviously enjoys life very much and he's interested in things and people. He's indisputably movie royalty,
though he hasn't been in a film for years, but if others are terribly impressed with Cary Grant, he's not.
Told that the Quad-Cities audience is looking forward to his appearance, Grant said, "Well, they're sure in for a disappointment,"
What if the questions from the audience get personal?
You can almost see that roguish grin over the phone.
"Then I either have to tell the truth or detour around the subject."
And getting back to those gossip columnists, Grant said, "The best thing about their misquotes is that I actually improve when I'm misquoted."
The thought touches off a long merry peal of laughter.
"I know Frank Sinatra well and I told him that every knock is a boost and that book about him will really do him a hell of a lot of good. He couldn't believe I was right, but just look, his record sales are already way up. That's why it doesn't bother me what
they say about me."
From the November 30, 1986 edition of the Daily Herald:
Grant taken to hospital
DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Movie actor Cary Grant was rushed to a hospital Saturday night, forcing the cancellation of a scheduled appearance at a local theater. Grant, 82, debonaire leading man of films for more than 30 years, was taken to St. Luke's Hospital emergency room at 9:30 p.m., according to Marilyn Stone, night nursing supervisor. Neither his condition or the nature of his illness was immediately disclosed. The show at the Adler Theatre, entitled "A Conversation With Cary Grant."
From the December 1, 1986 edition of the Burlington Hawk-Eye:
Grant dies of stroke
DAVENPORT (AP) - People gathered in front of the Adler Theater, taking pictures of a marquee that read, "A Conversation with Cary Grant," as a momento of a performance the 82-year-old actor never gave.
Many residents of this Mississippi River town spent a dreary, foggy Sunday trying to deal with the news that their movie idol was dead.
"Many, many people are of course very saddened by his death," said Lois Jecklin, one of the people instrumental in arranging
Grant's visit to Davenport for a benefit performance Saturday night.
Doctors said Grant suffered a massive stroke Saturday and died in a hospital intensive care unit at 11:22 p.m. Hospital
confirmation of Grant's death did not come until about two hours later.
Mrs. Jecklin, who was with Grant at a rehersal for his show just before he became ill, said the actor's concern was completely
with his audience, not himself.
"To the end, he thought of other people,"
Grant was reluctant to seek aid at a hospital for fear he would miss the performance to benefit the Quad Cities' Visiting
Artist Series, she said.
"In this day and age, people who think of others first are rare," Mrs. Jecklin said.
Many visitors to the Davenport display of a Festival of Trees on Sunday, part of the gala benefit for the series featuring 50
professionally decorated Christmas trees and 12 life-sized Santas, were saddened by the actor's death.
"I know that when I was a youngster, Cary Grant was very 'in,' " said Dorothea Bare, 65, of Rock Island, 111. "I was very shocked."
Davenport Mayor Thomas Hart said this city was was sharing grief with the rest of the nation.
"I think that Davenport, like our country, is shocked and in mourning, actually," Hart said. "We were all anticipating
his performance here. It was just so sudden, so quick."
Grant was preparing for his performance when he complained of being cold but officials said he was reluctant to go to a hospital, witnesses said.
"As ill as he was, he was still trying to perform," said Margie Mellick, spokeswoman for the Festival of Trees.
Word of Grant's death spread through the entertainment community on a day when Hollywood planned to celebrate at the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade. "Cary Grant was one of the great people in the movie business," said actor Jimmy Stewart, who worked with Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the 1940 classic, "The Philadelphia Story."
"He was a consummate actor and a complete professional insofar as his work was concerned," said Stewart, 78. "He made many wonderful contributions to our industry. Cary kept up his work until the very end. He enjoyed a full life in every sense of the word. We will miss him greatly."
"He was the most handsome, witty, and stylish leading man both on and off the screen. I adored him and it's a sad loss for all of us," said Oscar-winning actress Eva Marie Saint, who appeared with Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "North By Northwest" in 1959.
By midday Sunday in Davenport, people were gathering in front of the Adler Theater, a 55-year-old refurbished performing arts center, taking pictures of the marquee. Grant was taken to the emergency room at St. Luke's Hospital and admitted about 9:15 p.m. Saturday. He was examined there for about 45 minutes before being moved to the intensive care unit.
Dr. James Gilson, a Davenport cardiologist who treated Grant, said a stroke was not uncommon in someone Grant's age. Gilson said the actor's death was swift and Grant was in very little pain.
From the Carroll Daily Times-Herald:
Death of 'stylish leading man' mourned
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Cary Grant was a consummate actor and a "stylish leading man both on and off the screen," friends said after the cosmopolitan actor died while touring in a one-man show.
"Cary Grant was one of the great people in the movie business," said actor Jimmy Stewart. "He was a consummate actor and a complete professional insofar as his work was concerned."
Stewart, 78, worked with Grant and Katharine Hepburn In the 1940 classic, 'The Philadelphia Story."
"He was the most handsome, witty, and stylish leading man both on and off the screen. I adored him, and it's a sad loss for all of us," said actress Eva Marie Saint, who starred with Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 thriller "North By Northwest."
Grant, 82, died of a stroke Saturday In Davenport, Iowa, where he was to appear in a program that included a talk and clips from some of his 72 movies. His fifth wife, Barbara, was at his side.
The body was flown Sunday to Los Angeles.
"There will be no funeral." said his lawyer, Stanley Fox. "The family wishes no service and no funeral is planned. Cremation is intended."
President Reagan, a former actor, called Grant a friend and said, "He was one of the brightest stars in Hollywood and his
elegance, wit and charm will endure forever on film and in our hearts."
The name Cary Grant was one of the biggest in movie history, but his only Academy Award came four years after his last film - a 1970 honorary Oscar for "his unique mastery of the art of screen acting."
"I always thought and hoped that he was Immortal," actor Jack Lemmon said. "His innate dignity and grace enhanced everyone fortunate enough to be a member of the same profession."
"His life was lived with consummate grace. He gave new meaning to the word gentleman at a time when that word was out of fashion," said actor Charlton Heston.
Frank Sinatra, who appeared with Grant in "The Pride and the Passion," in 1957, said in a statement, "I am saddened by the loss of one of the dearest friends I ever had. Nothing more to say except that I shall miss him terribly."
Grant's bearing suggested aristocracy, but his father was a presser in an English garment factory. He was the idol of millions of
women around the world, but his private life often was troubled.
"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, and I finally became that person," Grant once said. "Or he became me. Or we met at some point. It's a relationship."
It was a singularly successful relationship that began in 1932 and filled movie screens until 1966 and his last film, 'Walk, Don't Run."
A taped celebrity tribute to actor Clint Eastwood, which included Grant reading a message from President Reagan, was televised as scheduled Sunday, with a message flashing that the show was recorded earlier.
Grant was paired with Katharine Hepburn, Myma Loy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. It was to him Mae West tendered the most famous, and frequently misquoted, proposition In movie history: "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"
He was born Archibald Leach on Jan. 18, 1904. in Bristol, England, the only child of an unhappy marriage. His mother, who taught him to sing and dance, was placed in a mental institution when he was 9, and he didn't see her for 20 years.
He ran away from home at 13 to join a boys' troupe of tumblers, but his father retrieved him. Archie stayed in school until he turned 14.
He rejoined the group, but left it in 1922 in New York, taking jobs that included Coney Island stiltwalker, vaudeville mime and comedy straight man. He began dressing with conservative elegance, and was a hit with New York hostesses.
He invented his cosmopolitan accent as a cover for ignorance.
"It started because I was very conscious of my lack of education and didn't want it to show, so I affected a sort of Oxford accent," he said some years later. "I was an utter fake, a know-all who knew very little."
In 1927, a friend took him to meet an uncle, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Archie Leach landed a part in an operetta called "Golden
Dawn." Other parts followed, along with a role in a Paramount onereeler.
Although he flunked his first screen test, he succeeded on a second try. He got a movie contract and a new name: Gary, for a part he'd had in a play, and Grant, chosen from a list prepared by the studio.
He caught the eye of Mae West, who cast him opposite her in "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel." Both were box office
But he suffered dark moods, and developed a reputation as a prickly perfectionist. He was unhappy at Paramount, believing the studio was trying to limit him to shallow roles.
In 1937, he became an Independent, and the most memorable roles of his career followed as he found a niche in such "screwball comedies" as "The Awful Truth" and "Holiday" and in such maledominated films as "Gunga Din" and "Only Angels Have Wings." The danger that seemed to lurk beneath the charm made him the perfect lead for such Hitchcock thrillers as "Suspicion" and 'To Catch a Thief."
He played professors, publishers and playboys, many of them unsuccessful in their efforts to keep women at arm's length.
In "The Philadelphia Story." he stifled an impulse to punch Katharine Hepburn in the nose, instead putting his hand over her
face and shoving her to the ground. His accent made him a favorite with impressionists, but he never uttered the words, "Judy, Judy, Judy."
Grant became a U.S. citizen in 1942. He invested carefully, received a share of his film profits and amassed a fortune estimated
as high as $40 million.
As his hair turned silver, he appeared comfortable in the role of Gary Grant, but the scars of Archie Leach's childhood had made Gary Grant's personal life a troubled one.
Grant's first marriage to actress Virginia Cherrill In 1934 ended after 13 months. He married Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton in 1942; they divorced In 1945. In 1949 he married actress Betsy Drake. Their union lasted seven years, and was formally dissolved in 1962.
In the late 1950s, Grant's psychiatrist tried to help him with LSD, which then was believed to help speed analysis. He discussed his use of the hallucinogen, saying, "My intention was to help make me happy." He added that "LSD is not a drug for
addicts. The nightmares come out of you."
Grant and actress Dyan Cannon dated four years and married in 1965, when he was 61 and she 30. They separated after 17 months, after the birth of Grant's only child, Jennifer.
In 1981, Grant married Barbara Harris, a public relations director for a London hotel and 47 years his junior. The fifth Mrs. Grant later said the age difference was an advantage.
Grant's career was was one of Hollywood's class acts
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gary Grant was one of the last of Hollywood's suave leading men, a class act on the screen or strolling down the street, and a cut above today's rough-and-ready crew of screamers and punchers.
Grant, who died of a stroke Saturday In Davenport, Iowa, at 82, had classic features that made women's hearts ache and men
jealous: square jaw, cleft chin, perfect line of raven hair, sparkling brown eyes, and lilting voice.
And when the hair turned silver, Grant was still trim and enduring, and still captured hearts with less trouble than actors half his age.
"How can there be a "young" Cary Grant?" the late Rock Hudson asked after he was compared to the master. "The real one is ageless."
On the screen, he romanced Mae West, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Deborah Kerr. His love life offscreen Included five wives and actress Sophia Loren, who described their affair in her book.
Grant said when he turned 80 that he had no intention of titillating the world with what he called "kiss-and-tell books."
"I find it sordid and In bad taste," he said.
Grant made his last movie 20 years ago, and committed himself to serving on the corporate boards of Faberge, Hollywood Park, and MGM, but the devilish romantic refused to fade from the public's mind.
"Another light has gone out, I guess. He was most romantic and amusing, wasn't he?" actress Helen Hayes said Sunday.
"He was the most handsome, witty, and stylish leading man both on and off the screen. I adored him and it's a sad loss for all of us," said actress Eva Marie Saint, who appeared with Grant in "North By Northwest" in 1959.
Grant was among the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age: Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, William Powell, and the survivor, Jimmy
Stewart. Impossible to Imagine them throwing a public tantrum, or hitting a photographer. They didn't need to.
"Who do you think you are?" an angry autograph seeker once shouted when the actor declined to sign a piece of paper.
"I know who I am," Grant replied. "I haven't the vaguest idea who you are and furthermore I don't care."
Grant was often criticized as a man limited to light comedy and adventure, but he reminded critics about the difficulties of his
"I always remember what the great English actor A.E. Matthews said on his deathbed," Grant said during a personal appearances last year. "Someone asked how he felt. 'Dying's tough,' he replied, 'But not as tough as comedy.'"
"Isn't that lovely?" he beamed. He also discussed death.
"I often wonder how I'm going to do it," Grant said last year. "Do you ever wonder how you are going to do it, whether you are going to embarrass someone or do it in your sleep?"
|Betsy Drake Grant
Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Actress; Writer; Psychotherapist
Birthplace: Paris, France
1950 Screen Director's Playhouse
1951 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1950 Operation Tandem
Betsy Drake circa 1948
Betsy Drake's first appearance with Cary Grant was in Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
Cary Grant and Betsy Drake in Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
Betsy Drake with Franchot Tone in Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
Betsy Drake and Cary Grant circa 1949
Cary Grant and Betsy Drake frolicking at the beach
Betsy Drake with Zachary Scott and Dennis Morgan in Pretty Baby (1950)
From the December 18, 1949 Galveston News:
Betsy Drake Wants to Succeed On Own, Without Cary's Aid
BY LOUELLA O. PARSONS
HOLLYWOOD. Dec. 17. -- The opinions about Betsy Drake's future as an actress were divided at the time she made "Every Girl Should Be Married."
Some people thought she was too reserved and quiet, others applauded that and her naturalness, and believed a star had come to Hollywood.
When "Dancing In the Dark" is shown there will be no more quibbling as to Betsy's status. Today, she is a well-poised, interesting, and above all, a beautiful young star.
WAITS ON WORK
I had talked with Betsy for a magazine story I was writing about her future, and I asked her when she was going to marry Cary Grant.
She said: "I shall not marry until I have made some pictures on my own without Cary."
Betsy had not seen "Dancing in the Dark." She was a little dubious about it because there had been trouble.
I don't think I'm talking out of school when I say that she and George Jessell didn't see eye to eye.
Betsy will do only what she thinks is right for her, and Georgie isn't one to compromise on his ideas either. That happens often in Hollywood with two people of ability.
I know how bitter was the fight between Georgie and Betsy because they were both on my radio show. Even then, there was an argument over certain phrases she didn't want to use.
Betsy knows what she wants to do, and mountains can not move her.
She is the most completely determined young woman I've ever met--yet, determined in a pleasant way.
STATES HER CASE
She states her case, tells what she believes, and no amount of persuasion will change her. Whether that is responsible for her excellence in "Dancing in the Dark," or George Jessel's handiwork, I am in no position to say.
I do know that George was disappointed at not getting June Haver. I am sure he doesn't feel that way now, for Betsy gives a really charming performance. There was one pet phrase of Georgie's that Betsy wouldn't say in the script. It was that she walked like a duck. Betsy looked miserable when he tried to insist. She confided in me:
"I have always been self-conscious about my walk and I have worked hard to walk correctly. I just cannot say it. Besides, I think walking like a duck in unattractive."
WON HER POINT
Betsy won her point.
That day as she and I talked, I said to her, "Well, you have a wonderful picture in spite of all the trouble."
"I hope it's good," she said. "I have no hard feeling toward Mr. Jessel. We just don't agree on certain points." Betsy, who was educated abroad and is very much a lady and innately sweet, has certain set ideas that will never be changed by Hollywood.
We had talked about marriage and she had said:
"I must succeed on my own, and not even think of marriage until I have made at least two good pictures. If people say 'Oh, she's made good because of Cary Grant,' that's bad for him and bad for me."
I learned one thing about Betsy--she's shy, but I was still amazed at the spirit she showed at the broadcasting station.
As George grew angrier, she grew quieter--but she got her way. Maybe that will always happen to her. Maybe that's the way to get your way.
What is this girl like, who the whole world believes will be Mrs. Cary Grant?
Well, she has eyes that turn sort of green' she has an extremely pretty face; she's different. We say that about many young actresses, but Betsy is really different. She had a lot to say about William Powell--about how excellent his advice was, and how, in some of the scenes, he almost directed them himself.
"I think he's a fine actor," Betsy said. "He was kind and patient." Betsy still feels she has much to learn, and that's always a good sign.
"What about making pictures with Cary?" I asked her.
"Oh, I want to make other pictures with Cary, of course," she said. "But I feel I must do something on my own first."
From a UPI-syndicated November 1, 1958 article:
Betsy Drake To Try Comeback In Acting
By VERNON SCOTT
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) -- Betsy Drake, separated from husband Cary Grant, says she is turning to her career to keep busy and forget the past.
"I'm thinking of the future now," said the green-eyed blonde.
"Five years ago I was learning how to keep house and cook. Well, I've learned those things. Now I'd like to keep working in pictures and TV as long as I have my own teeth and hair."
"Truthfully, I'm not completely happy these days, but I'm not distraught either. There have been times when I was terribly happy, and I hope to be again."
Betsy's acting career was eclipsed following her marriage in 1949 to the debonair Grant, although the couple did co-star in pictures together.
To The Top
The 54-year-old Grant continued to soar in movies while Betsy's hopes for stardom faded. Now that she is on her own the soft-spoken actress believes she can work her way to the top.
"I'm going to try," she said during a lunch of grapefruit and coffee. As a starter, Betsy can be seen on TV's "General Electric Theater" Nov. 9 in which she plays a feminine quiz contestant. It will be her video debut. She hopes it will be the first of many TV appearances.
"I had to fight and struggle for a career," she said. "Then I was married and took time off to rest. Now I'm going to re-establish myself. I don't know how to sing or dance, but I'm willing to learn, although I'm doubtful about ever becoming a singer."
"My career wasn't built on my physical attributes, but I think I'll work on that, too--including cheesecake."
Fond Of Work
A former high fashion model, Betsy is statuesque and somewhat shy. Not once during the interview did she mention Grant by name. During much of her marriage to the actor Betsy found herself alone. Her English-born husband frequently was away on location making movies, and Betsy herself made two pictures in Britain last year.
"I'm looking for a place to live now, out near the ocean," she went on. Because she moved out of the couple's home, Grant will retain possession of the family residence. So far, neither Betsy nor Grant has filed a divorce action.
This Christmas Betsy will vacation in Europe, paying a visit to her old friend, Grace Kelly.
"That is unless I'm working," she said. "Frankly, I'd like to be working all the time. I'm fond of acting--and I like the money too."
|As gifted as Betsy Drake was, she was a reluctant dramatic actress. She was born in Paris in 1923 to a previously wealthy, expatriate family with a rich past. Betsy Drake, her brothers, her parents and her nanny sailed back to the U.S. in 1929 on the Ile de France after the Stock Market Crash reversed the family fortunes. The family fortunes were based in two famous Chicago hotels--The Blackstone and The Drake. The family lost both famous landmark hotels during the Crash.
Over the following thirteen years, she attended twelve different schools in Chicago, Westport, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, and New York. While attending a junior college in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., she became interested in dramatic arts. In 1940, at the age of 17, she quit college and moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. She supported herself working for the Harry Conover Agency--the agency that trademarked the term 'Cover girl'--as one of their 'fresh-scrubbed' young models.
Over the course of the following five years she found occasional work on the New York Stage. In early 1946, her exposure through both modeling and Stage work brought her to the attention of producer, Hal Wallis, who signed her to a Film contract under pressure from her agent. Wallis flew her to Hollywood for a screen test--that she failed. She soon found herself so utterly disenchanted with Hollywood and its Studio System that she reportedly feigned insanity to get out of her contract with Hal Wallis.
She returned to New York in 1947, soon after landing an opportunity to read for a role in the London Stage production of Deep Are The Roots (1947) . Upon returning to the U.S. on the Queen Elizabeth, she was approached by Merle Oberon, acting as an 'emissary' of Cary Grant to extend an invitation to lunch with Grant at the Captain's Table. The couple spent the rest of the crossing together.
Grant, reportedly intantly smitten with Drake, was almost twenty years her senior. He was reportedly captivated by her delicate appearance, dress ("little high collars, princess-style coats, flared skirts, white cuffs, and white gloves"), her hint of a French accent, her characteristic lateral lisp, and her interest in Taoist philosophy and hypnotism.
By the time the Queen Elizabeth docked, Cary Grant was reportedly in love with Betsy Drake. But with a firm commitment to be in Hollywood to film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House for R.K.O., the couple had only a week in New York together. Grant reluctantly left for Hollywood after pressing Drake to promise to visit him in Los Angeles.
The fly in the ointment was David O. Selznick, the legendary Hollywood svengali who was actively promoting--and engaged to--Jennifer Jones at the time. Grant reportedly only went through with his Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House commitment with the idea of promoting Betsy Drake to Selznick. Upon completing principal cinematography for Mr. Blandings, Betsy Drake traveled to Los Angeles in January 1948, for Grant's 44th birthday celebration.
Cary Grant moved back into his larger Beverly Grove Drive home in Beverly Hills, so as to provide Betsy Drake her own bedroom. But to all intents, Cary Grant and Betsy Drake were then living together. Grant proceeded to 'sell' Betsy Drake to the studios, concentrating primarily on Dore Schary, the head of R.K.O, and David O. Selznick. Grant, through Betsy Drake's agent, Ray Stark, eventually struck a deal with both Selznick and Schary to reportedly 'share' Betsy Drake as Grant's new protégée in residence. The other player in Betsy Drake's future was Howard Hughes who by 1948, had secured a controlling interest in R.K.O. Studios.
In August 1948, Betsy Drake accompanied Grant to Germany to film I Was A Male War Bride (1949). In December of 1948, when the production returned to London, Grant looked forward to introducing Betsy Drake to his mother, Elsie. As things turned out, Grant came down with a debilitating bout of infectious hepatitis, soon became jaundiced, eventually lost almost forty pounds, and was pronounced virtually terminal, with less than a 10% chance of survival.
Grant demanded throughout the life-threatening illness that Betsy Drake be his only attending nurse. She remained at his side in that capacity for the entire duration of the attack--some four weeks. Grant eventually recovered, but, owing to the hospitalization and his other commitments after his recovery, was never able to introduce Betsy Drake to his mother.
Grant completed production of I Was A Male War Bride and the couple returned to the New York. The film premiered in August of 1949 and ran through October 1949. In the interim, Grant and Betsy Drake had become engaged and set the date for their wedding for December 25, 1949. Grant's good friend, Howard Hughes, personally orchestrated the couple's secrecy as the date approached.
Howard Hughes personally collected the couple on the morning of December 25, 1949 and transported them to the airport, where they boarded one of Hughes' planes. He flew them to Phoenix, Arizona, where they were further transported to a wealthy friend's hacienda for the wedding ceremony. Hughes served as Grant's best man and Betsy Drake had no maid of honor for the service. Once the ceremony was complete, Hughes flew the newlyweds back to Los Angeles, drove them to their home, and presented Betsy Drake with his wedding present--a white poodle she named, Suzie.
The morning of December 26, 1949 was flooded with headline stories of their secret marriage. Grant, for his part was reportedly never happier and Betsy Drake had met and married her one true love of her life. By mutual agreement, the couple maintained a very quiet, jealously guarded domestic life for the remainder of their marriage. Indeed, when approached for comment on their domestic life in November 1953, Betsy snapped to the interviewer:
"How much does your magazine cost? For 15 cents nobody gets into our bedroom!"
Betsy Drake had appeared in one feature film with Cary Grant,--1948's Every Girl Should Be Married prior to their marriage. During 1949 and the early 1950s, she appeared in Dancing in The Dark (1949), The Second Woman (1950), Pretty Baby (1950), and Room For One More (1952) with hubby Cary Grant.
Betsy Drake's first appearances in Radio were in the NBC Screen Directors' Playhouse productions of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, on June 9, 1950 and Shadow of A Doubt, on December 20, 1950, both opposite hubby, Cary Grant. It was the presentation of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House that inspired The Grants, Don W. Sharpe, and NBC to begin discussing a possible Radio feature extending The Blandings' adventures in their 'dream house.'
Over the course of the next few months, the principals hashed out the details, eventually recording an audition disc for the package on November 8, 1950. Howard Hughes came on board through Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne, to sponsor the package for Trans-World Airlines. With everything finally in place, Mr. and Mrs. Blandings premiered over Radio on January 21, 1951 to mixed reviews.
The Grants, determined to make a go of the Radio feature, responded quickly to the pans. They dumped the writing staff and Betsy Drake herself, penned six of the subsequent scripts, to increasingly improving critical and popular reviews. The program ran for twenty-two episodes.
In 1956, while sailing back from Cary Grant's location shooting in Spain for The Pride and The Passion (1957), Betsy Drake found herself one of the 1,700 victims of the famous Andrea Doria collision off the coast of Nantucket on July 25, 1956. In a bizarre twist of fate, she was rescued by the very ship upon which she'd first sailed back to the United States in 1929--the Ile de France. As a consequence of the catastrophe at sea, she lost a reported $200,000 in jewelry as well as a book manuscipt she was preparing.
The following two years found Betsy Drake costarring in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Next To No Time (1958), and Intent To Kill (1958). Becoming increasingly disenchanted with her Film career and the stresses of interrupting her domestic life with Cary Grant, combined with his legendary possessiveness, eventually contributed to the couple's separation in 1958. Betsy Drake and Cary Grant ultimately finalized their divorce on August 14, 1963 (not the widely reported 1962 date).
The couple remained reportedly mutually in love with each other for the remainder of their lives, but Cary Grant subsequently married two more times. Cary Grant remained Betsy Drake's only husband. Following their separation, Betsy Drake appeared in a couple of Television features, but left the big screen until 1965, when she costarred in Clarence, The Cross-eyed Lion (1965).
Her divorce from Cary Grant had left her with a reported $1M cash settlement and a portion of the residuals from the thirteen films Grant had performed in during their marriage. Betsy Drake subsequently reinvented herself as a writer and psychotherapist, having taken a position at U.C.L.A. as a director of psychodrama therapy at their Neuropsychiatric Institute, then several years later at Harvard University where she obtained her Masters Degree in Education.
In 1971 she penned her first--and only--novel, Children You Are Very Little, for Antheneum Press, under the name Betsy Drake Grant. A play on the oft-quoted "Children You Are Very Little" from A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson, her novel examined her own difficult childhood through the artifice of her ten-year old protagonist, Lucia. The book met with mixed reviews.
Betsy Drake continued her Psychotherapy practice through the 1980s, remaining resolute in her jealously guarded private life.
One of the bright spots in Cary Grant's difficult marital excursions throughout his life, Betsy Drake was also a bright spot to hundreds of thousands of admiring fans. A woman of timeless beauty, outspoken views, selfless dedication to her only husband and his career, Betsy Drake remains on of the best kept secrets of modern American culture.
For her Film and Radio fans the surviving examples of her work remain both charming and compelling--as well as all the more valuable for their comparative rarity. Her appearances in Mr. and Mrs. Blandings were--eventually--the equal of any of the popular 'Hollywood couples' situation comedies popularized during the early to mid-1950s.
She was clearly a steadfastly loyal companion to Cary Grant, and she's been a woman of both deep principle and compassion throughout her life. Her body of admiring fans continues to grow with each passing year--as it rightly should.
"It is necessary to have the courage to be bold and not to let the fear of failure stand in your way."
--Betsy Drake Grant
[ Charles T. Aldrich, Jr.]
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor
New York City, New York, USA
1932 Strange Adventures In Strange Lands
1932 Tarzan of the Apes
1932 The Linit Bath Club Revue
1933 Seal of the Don
1933 Calling All Cars
1934 Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher
1934 Mama Bloom's Brood
1934 Mary Pickford and Company
1935 That Was the Year
1935 Front Page Drama
1935 The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon
1935 The March of Time
1937 Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police
1937 Dr Christian
1937 The Cinnamon Bear
1938 Captains of Industry
1938 The Fullness of Times
1938 Log Cabin Jamboree
1938 Good News
1938 Warner Brothers Academy Theatre
1938 Big Town
1938 Lux Radio Theatre
1938 The Wonder Show
1939 The Joe E Brown Show
1939 The Shadow of Fu Manchu
1939 The Adventures of Jungle Jim
1939 Fibber McGee and Molly
1940 In His Steps
1940 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
1941 Miss Pinkerton, Inc.
1941 Cavalcade of America
1941 Orson Welles Theater
1941 Your Red Cross Roll Call
1942 The Pepsodent Show
1942 The Whistler
1942 Mail Call
1945 Cavalcade of America
1946 The Fabulous Doctor Tweedy
1946 H0llywood Star Time
1946 The Casebook of Gregory Hood
1946 Theatre Guild on the Air
1946 Birds Eye Oopen House
1946 The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
1946 The Drene Show
1947 The Freedom Train
1947 Here's To Veterans
1947 The Baby Snooks Show
1947 The Life of Riley
1947 The Greatest Story Ever Told
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1947 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1947 The Great Gildersleeve
1948 A Day In the Life of Dennis Day
1948 The Shadow
1948 Old Gold Time
1948 The Judy Canova Show
1948 The Little Immigrant (Life With Luigi)
1948 Our Miss Brooks
1948 NBC University Theater
1948 The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show
1948 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1949 From the Bookshelf of the World
1949 My Favorite Husband
1949 The Magic Detective
1949 Sweet Adeline
1949 The Halls of Ivy
1949 Guest Star
1950 Granby's Green Acres
1950 The Halls of Ivy
1950 The Cass Daley Show
1950 The Lucky Strike Program
1950 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1951 All About Time
1952 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
1952 Junior Miss
1953 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1955 My Little Margie
Gale Gordon circa 1949
Gale Gordon, circa 1926
Gale Gordon, circa 1934
Gale Gordon at the mike with Jean Hersholt and Rosemary De Camp for Dr. Christian circa 1937
Gale Gordon's posthumous Radio Hall of Fame Award 1999
Gale Gordon as Mr. Kirkland in The Real McCoys from 1959
Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney in The Lucy Show from 1967
|Say the name 'Osgoode T. Conklin' outloud and what does anybody within earshot--and over the age of 50--immediately imagine? Gale Gordon, naturally. Next test: say the name Gregory Hood outloud within earshot of the same audience? . . . . . wait for the sound of a pin dropping two rooms away.
Such was Charles T. Aldrich's blessing--and curse--for the first half of his acting career. Who's Charles T. Aldrich?--the self-same Gale Gordon. It's a truly great character actor's curse--or blessing--to not be recognized. Indeed, the most ideal character actor imaginable, might never be recognized at all--by anybody but his acting peers.
So how does an actor as strikingly debonair and attractive as Gale Gordon manage to escape being typecast for the first half of his acting career? He was darn good at what he did. That's how.
Any dyed-in-the-wool Film, Radio, or Television buff can probably rattle off a stream of 20 - 40 great character actors they've heard or seen during their lives. But it's a rare few character actors that can immediately evoke the kind of visceral connection to a character that Gale Gordon can.
And if you're blessed enough to be an aficionado of all three of the audiovisual Arts of The Golden Age then the name Gale Gordon will come to mind over and over and over again whether in Film, on Radio, or on Television. Just take a brief tour of Gordon's Radiography at the left. Action, Adventure, Romance, Comedy, Thriller, or Melodrama. They're all there--and in embarassing abundance. That's the mark of a truly versatile character actor at the height of his powers.
Gale Gordon almost immediately established that he could star as a lead radio character in virtually any radio genre. But Gordon was an actor's actor. He appears to have continually sought the delicious character roles that he could really sink his teeth into. He had the chops, the looks, and the swagger to lead in any of the various action or detective genre programs of the era. And he tried a few for size. But it was the more quixotic, challenging character roles that he enjoyed the most.
Some maintain that Gordon got his break on radio as Mayor Latrivia on the ever popular Fibber McGee and Molly Show which aired on radio from 1935-1959. But that ignores over fifteen years of a highly productive, successful radio resume before that role.
The other false assertion about Gale Gordon's amazing career is that he "found his niche as stuffy, blustery characters" on Our Miss Brooks (1952) and the various Lucille Ball sitcoms. That's simply nonsense. This great character actor's 'niche' was virtually any script placed before his eyes--period. That he'd mastered the casual, icy 'slow burn' to gifted comedic actresses the likes of Eve Arden or Lucille Ball, belies their equal genius for comedic timing and irony. Gordon simply responded to that exquisite timing with his own well honed timing and character development--both skills he finely crafted over a 30-year acting career spanning over 500 appearances by then.
But there's no denying what a wonderful curmudgeon he could be. Indeed, Gale Gordon recognized all too well that characters as well-spoken and erudite as Mayor LaTrivia, Osgoode T. Conklin, or Theodore J. Mooney (the names alone evoke a certain image) could certainly take ever more ironic turns by poking fun at them. That was his genius and that was the genius of the producers that cut him loose on such classic characters.
Charles Aldrich, Jr. was the son of a vaudeville quick-change artist, Charles T. Aldrich Sr., and Gloria Gordon, a former British actress who played Mrs. O’Reilly the Landlady on television's My Friend Irma. He clearly had greasepaint in his blood and his path to become a great character actor was etched in stone from the outset. He studied as a student and dresser in a local theater and made his stage debut at the ripe age of 17.
His Film work included:
- Here We Go Again (1942) as Cadwalader (his film debut)
- A Woman of Distinction (1950) as Station Clerk
- Here Come the Nelsons (1952) with Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, as H.J. Bellows
- Francis Covers the Big Town (1953) with Donald O’Connor and Francis the talking mule, as District Attorney Evans
- Our Miss Brooks (1956) with Eve Arden, as Osgoode T. Conklin, a spinoff of the TV and radio series
- Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) as Col. Thorwald
- The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959) as Raven
- Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959) with Jerry Lewis, as Congressman Mandeville
- Visit to a Small Planet (1960) again with Jerry Lewis, as Bob Mayberry
- All in a Night’s Work (1961) as Oliver Dunning
- All Hands on Deck (1961) as Commander Bintle
- Dondi (1961) as Colonel
- Sergeant Deadhead (1968) as Capt. Weiskopf
- Speedway (1968) as R.W. Hepworth
- The ‘burbs (1989) as Walter (his final film role.)
Simply scan the above list for the names of his characters. Without even watching any of them, one can 'see' him in any of those roles.
When the great character actor Joseph Kearns passed away unexpectedly during filming of the third season of Dennis The Menace, it was Gale Gordon they immediately tapped to fill in for his long-time friend, as Mr. Wilson's relative John Wilson. And who better to immediately--and seamlessly--to tackle the role on short notice to save the franchise for another two years.
Gale Gordon was married to actress Virginia Curley for his entire adult life, from 1937-1995. She passed away just a week before Gale Gordon's own demise. You can't invent a more perfect life than that with all the resources of the Fates combined. He's not only missed, he's cherished--by generation after generation that will be able to hear and watch this wonderful character actor--and gentleman--for hundreds of years to come.
|Elvia Allman [Tourtellotte]
(Maude the Housekeeper)
Birthplace: Enochville, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Education: University of Chicago
1931 On With the Show
1933 California Cocktails
1934 Crazy Quilt
1934 Komedy Kapers
1934 The Laff Parade
1934 The Blue Monday Jamboree
1936 Lux Radio Theatre
1937 Komedy Kingdom
1937 John Barrymore Theatre
1937 Cinnamon Bear
1937 The Jell-O Program
1938 Hollywood Mardi Gras Mummers
1938 The Pepsodent Show
1940 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1942 Command Performance
1942 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
1942 The Jack Benny Program
1942 The Abbott and Costello Show
1943 Fibber McGee and Molly
1943 Mail Call
1944 THe Bakers Of America Show For the Armed Forces
1944 Radio Almanac
1944 G.I. Journal
1944 Radio Hall Of Fame
1945 The Eddie Bracken Show
1945 Birds Eye Open House
1946 The Life Of Riley
1946 The Alan Young Show
1946 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1947 The Lucky Strike Program
1947 The Mel Blanc Show
1947 The Bill Goodwin Show
1947 Guest Star
1947 The Victor Borge Show
1947 The Jack Paar Program
1948 The Eddie Cantor Pabst Blue Ribbon Show
1948 The Railroad Hour
1949 Sealtest Variety Theatre
1949 Young Love
1949 My Favorite Husband
1949 The Amos 'n' Andy Show
1950 The Henn House
1950 The Adventures Of Maisie
1951 The Baby Snooks Show
1951 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1952 Broadway Is My Beat
1953 The Edgar Bergen Show
1954 The New Beulah Show
1954 The Six Shooter
1954 Meet Mr McNutley
1954 That's Rich
1956 Recollections At Thirty
1962 Heartbeat Theatre
1973 Hollywood Radio Theatre
1979 Sears Radio Theatre
||Radio's Queen of Mirth, Elvia Allman was born in North Carolina but raised and educated in Texas. The local newspapers recorded her high school graduation exercise of June 1, 1921 from The Academy of Mary Immaculate--a graduating class of ten young ladies.
Upon reaching her majority, she emigrated to Southern California and began her radio career in 1926 at KHJ. Hired as a program arranger and children's story reader, she later became a singer for the station as well. She was also noted early on as a gifted dialectician and diseuse--a woman who is a skilled and professional reciter.
It was in 1930, while working as a studio singer, that she met her first husband, Wesley B. Tourtellotte, a studio musician. Though they divorced within two years, Elvia Allman and Tourtellotte criss-crossed the nation for three more years performing in the long-running California Cocktails (1933) program, Crazy Quilt (1934), Laff Parade (1934), and Komedy Kapers (1934)--and making quite a name for herself as a multi-talented singer, comedienne, and diseuse in the process. She'd also made a successful alliance with talented Lindsay MacHarrie.
MacHarrie and Allman had worked together at KHJ for almost five years. Lindsay MacHarrie rose to the position of Dramatic Director at KHJ while Elvia was coming up on her own at the station. Elvia Allman's rising star didn't go unnoticed. Indeed, while working at KHJ, MacHarrie was also the Production Manager for TransCo, a company which recorded and marketed programming on electrical transcription discs for syndication to independent Radio affiliates as a turnkey production.
KFRC's The Blue Monday Jamboree had been airing over first CBS from KHJ and then Don Lee-Mutual throughout the 1920s over KFRC and KHJ. Elvia Allman developed several of her most memorable early characters during the Blue Monday Jamboree years, among them: Auntie MacCasser, Octavia Smith-Whiffen, and home economist Pansy Pennypincher. MacHarrie remembered Elvia Allman's captivating and versatile contributions to Blue Monday Jamboree and when it came time to develop a comedy -- variety format, for syndication he tapped Elvia Allman to fill a variety of needs in the format--singer, dialectician, straight-man and comedienne. Their first outing together was with Komedy Kapers (1933), which TransCo licensed or sold to Bruce Eells and Associates for 1934 syndication as Comedy Capers. Elvia Allman appeared in at least thirteen of the Komedy Kapers installments.
Elvia Allman's first major, coast-to-coast exposure was over Bob Hope's The Pepsodent Show. In September of 1938 she introduced Hope's nationwide audience to her character, Cobina, the man-chasing, man-crazy debutante. Much as with Barbara Jo Allen's ''Vera Vague'' and Minerva Pious' ''Mrs. Nussbaum'', Elvia Allman's ''Cobina Gusher'' was so successful in her own right that Allman reprised the role in both Film and Animation.
Indeed, her debut in Animation came five years earlier than her Film debut. By the mid-1930s, a favorite of both the Leon Schlesinger -- Warner Bros. animated features as well as those of The Disney Studios, Elvia Allman voiced numerous, well-remembered characters from the early animated classics, including the voice of Clarabelle Cow in several of the Walt Disney animated features between 1930 and 1942.
Elvia Allman married popular sports promoter, C.C. 'Cash & Carry' Pyle in January of 1937. He'd become famous--or infamous--for the Bunion Derby (1929), a trans-continental marathon comprised of athletes from virtually every possible discipline--and reputation. He was also responsible for successfully recruiting ''The Galloping Ghost'' himself, Red Grange, to professional football. Within two years Pyle would be dead of an unexpected heart attack at the age of 56. Elvia Allman was at his side when he passed.
A tall, strikingly attractive young woman in her own right, it wasn't long before she began appearing in feature films. There was clearly a method in the apparent madness of a woman as naturally attractive and statuesque as Elvia Allman downplaying her classic figure and beauty. As with many of the most successful comediennes throughout modern entertainment history, she discovered that the secret to longevity was continually playing to the irony of such an inherently attractive woman portraying oddball, neurotic, outlandish, or eccentric female characters of one stereotype or another.
Viewed by her contemporaries much as the generation of the 1980s viewed Carol Burnett, Elvia Allman was taking on a dimension of her own with the extraordinary success of her Radio work. She'd been heard coast-to-coast over both CBS and NBC at one time or another, as early as 1933. Her work with Bob Hope on his Pepsodent Show made her a natural addition to Hope's film Road To Singapore (1940), the first of the sextet of 'Road' films starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Though appearing uncredited, it's clear that her appearance at all in the film was a tip of the hat from Hope to Allman in recognition of her contribution to The Pepsodent Show--and her talent. Bob Hope was long known for both his loyalty to, and promotion of, his hardest-working ensemble players. Elvia Allman was no exception.
Never truly a 'star', as Carol Burnett eventually became, Allman's consistent contributions to all manner of character roles over the next fifty years of an incredibly prolific Film and Television career simply underscored her reputation and lustre.
It's also worthwhile remembering that even with her increased success in Television, Animation and Film, Elvia Allman compiled an estimated 4,000 appearances in Radio over a fifty-year career that spanned the entire Golden Age of Radio, including its Revival years in the 70s and 80s. Among her most memorable roles throughout the era were her numerous characters cited above, as well as Cora Dithers on both the Radio and Television versions of Blondie, and literally hundreds of other archtypal, matronly shrews.
Viewed as much as an ensemble player on virtually every program she contributed to during the era, she ultimately became one of Radio's most recognizable voices from the era. But the best was yet to come.
It was Elvia Allman's Television audiences that identified most closely with her various characters over the years. As recognizable as her voice had already become, the tall, statuesque queen of mirth lent that same towering height to even more over the top performances via the more visual medium of Television. The highly practiced, matronly authority figures from her greatest Radio triumphs were ideally suited to all manner of situation comedies throughout the Golden Age of Television.
Once again leveraging her tried and true formula of self-deprecation and self-parody, she now lent an even more ironic dimension to her portrayals. With her long graceful neck, her patrician nose, her high cheekbones and perfect jaw, combined with her relatively towering height, she was a natural to portray everything from snoopy neighbors to snooty blue-bloods--and every objectionable, overbearing and irritating matron or spinster in between. And she most certainly did.
A simple review of the names alone of her 100+ characters in Television during her career speaks volumes about the types of characters she portrayed. Indeed, given her own considerable comedic writing talent over the years, one finds it easy to imagine her devising the vast majority of those characters' names herself. Allman became a familiar face to television viewers throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with numerous guest appearances on the most successful situation comedies of the era.
With frequent appearances on Abbott and Costello, I Married Joan, I Love Lucy, December Bride, The People's Choice, The Bob Cummings Show, and Bachelor Father, America was soon demanding she appear in numerous other similar roles on Television. And the smarter producers and networks of the industry complied.
Known for her brilliant comedic timing from her Radio work, her most memorable Television characterizations continued on through seven appearances on The Jack Benny Program, several guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hazel, The Addams Family, and then recurring roles in both Petticoat Junction (as Selma Plout) and The Beverly Hillbillies (as Elverna Bradshaw).
As Ms. Allman approached her 70s, her more active Television and Film careers began to wane--by choice, reportedly. But her Radio work continued, in voicing Elliott Lewis' wonderful Radio Revival programs Hollywood Radio Theatre and Sears Radio Theatre.
Indeed, once Hollywood sat up and took notice, yet again, of Elvia Allman, she was tapped for another fifteen Television appearances during the 1980s.
And in one of the Entertainment Industry's wonderfully seredipitous ironies, 1990 brought her entire, sixty year career full circle with her voicework as Clarabelle Cow for the animated feature film The Prince and The Pauper.
Within two years she would pass away from complications of pneumonia at the age of 87. She'd lost her third husband, Jerome Bayler in 1978.
One of the Entertainment Industry's most identifiable voices, faces and figures, Elvia Allman's body of work over some sixy-five years in one entertaining capacity or another spanned the very beginnings of The Golden Age of Radio, encompassed the Golden Age of Film, outlived the Golden Age of Television, and appropriately enough, memorialized that entire expanse of talent with her last credited performance.
A sublime and fitting end to one very extraordinary woman's career. A classically attractive woman who, wisely, found that her very genius in downplaying her own attractiveness and figure were the secret to her resounding success in every entertainment venue she pursued. She was brilliant, charming, exceptionally well grounded, and clearly one of the Entertainment World's most respected performers.
All we can say to that is "Here, here!"
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