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Original Phone Again Finnegan header art


The Phone Again Finnegan Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Phone Again, Finnegan


Phone Again Finnegan spot ad dated March 30, 1946

Stu Erwin and Florence Lake mug for Phone Again, Finnegan
Stu Erwin and Florence Lake mug for Phone Again, Finnegan



This program is something of a sentimental favorite, even though precious few of examples exist in circulation. Phone Again, Finnegan (1946) was veteran Film and Radio actor Stuart Erwin's one and only starring role in a recurring Radio program. Until his death several years ago, this was my father's all-time favorite Radio program from The Golden Age of Radio. Dad could recite anecdotes from episodes that haven't even reached circulation as yet and it always fascinated me to see him so animated about such a relatively obscure Radio program.

Phone Again, Finnegan had much to recommend it. A situation comedy set in a typical medium-sized town in Anywhere, U.S.A., the focus of the production was The Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel (or apartment house). The fascinating cast included Stuart Erwin as the absent minded Fairchild Finnegan, Manager of The Welcome Arms. But the person who really ran the place was veteran Film actress Florence Lake as the worldly-wise, philosophical switchboard operator with the unlikely name, Fanchon Smith. The other most often recurring role was that of The Welcome Arms' janitor-cum-poet, Longfellow Larson, a Swedish Renaissance Man portrayed by Harry Stewart essentially reprising his Yogi Yorgesson character from his Al Pearce and The Gang (1934) years on Radio. The cast also included Finnegan's niece Bunny and his out-of-town nephew Jiggs, who visited whenever things were going poorly at home. Also heard was an occasional visit by Wilfred The Welcome Arms' owner's son, who was only too well aware of who owned the apartment house.

Written after the fashion of The Great Gildersleeve and Fibber McGee and Molly, the more interesting angle was the option of transient characters entering and leaving the scripts for even more diversity in plot lines. Stu Erwin's interpretation of Finnegan would pave the way for the similarly absent-minded principal Erwin would later portray in his five-season Trouble With Father Television program, later renamed The Stu Erwin Show (1950-1955).

Though airing only one, 52-week season, the program underwent three significant changes during its year on the air. Begun over the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the program inexplicably moved to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) after its thirteenth episode, necessitating a schedule change from Saturday afternoons to Thursday nights. 1946 was the year that all Radio networks were racing to comply with their own National Association of Broadcasters' (NAB) programming guidelines, designed to present only mainstream, family-friendly programming during prime-time--designated as before 9:30 pm Eastern time. Though there was nothing particularly objectionable about Phone Again, Finnegan, the continual juggling of programming throughout the networks didn't leave much in the way of an available timeslot for Phone Again, Finnegan.

The next change was the departure of Stuart Erwin in the Fall of 1946. Erwin was yet again in demand in Film and realized he wouldn't be able to meet the West Coast commitment of Phone Again, Finnegan with his new Film projects. Veteran character actor Frank McHugh was brought in as Erwin's replacement in the role of Fairchild Finnegan. The rest of the cast remained in place.

The third change was a name change from Phone Again, Finnegan to That's Finnegan. Again inexplicable, since in just that short a time, the term 'Phone Again, Finnegan' had already entered popular vernacular. It's the Frank McHugh programs that have yet to enter circulation so there's little to compare between the two great character actors' respective interpretations. But given the similarity in their Film roles over the years, one would imagine that they'd have at least 'felt' the same on-air.

Given their late night time-slot, the scripts were given the leeway to wander into more adult-oriented themes, such as politics, religion and crime themes. But that may very well have been the move that 'jumped the shark' for the series. The late night, mid-week timeslot effectively foreclosed any possibility of a younger audience and left most of Finnegan's previous mainstream audience well asleep by the time the program aired each Thursday night. It didn't help that, as with most of CBS' programming of the era, once the decision was made to axe a production, all promotion of the program was immediately cut off. Hence we have virtually no surviving information on the scripts for the last two months of programs.

On the production side, the entire run was recorded at the KFI Radio studios in Hollywood. The series was produced by veteran Radio Producer Frank Ferrin. Music was provided by Johnny Duffy, a long-time associate of co-star Harry Stewart. Household Finance Corporation sponsored the program and was probably most reponsible for the demise of That's Finnegan, opting to switch sponsorship to CBS' other West Coast cash cow, The Whistler. The Whistler had just lost its sponsor of long standing, Signal Oil Company. The Whistler and That's Finnegan aired concurrently for a month before HFC pulled the plug on That's Finnegan.

'Woulda, coulda, shoulda' will remain the hallmark for this program. The fascinating premise, a solid supporting cast, and a successful transition between its two lead stars promised that the program might very well have succeeded were it not for the abominable scheduling disaster it suffered. We'll never know. But the three entertaining programs in circulation, coupled with my father's vivid recollections of at least fifteen more programs yet to surface, show great promise for a resurgence in popularity for this production once more examples surface.

Let's hope they surface soon. I'd love to play them again in memory of my own beloved 'Finnegan' . . . my Dad.

Series Derivatives:

That's Finnegan
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Situation Comedies
Network(s): NBC, CBS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): 46-02-28 xx Audition
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 46-03-30 01
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 46-03-30 to 47-03-20; NBC; 46-03-30 to 46-06-22; Thirteen, 30-minute programs, Saturdays, 5:00 p.m.; CBS; 46-06-27 to 47-03-20; Thursdays, 10:30 p.m.; Thirty-nine, 30-minute programs
Syndication: AFRS
Sponsors: Household Finance Corporation and Subsidiaries
Director(s): Hobart Donavan; Frank Ferrin [Producer]
Principal Actors: Stuart Erwin, Florence Lake, Harry Stewart, Frank McHugh
Recurring Character(s): Fairchild 'Finney' Finnegan, Fanchon Smith, Longfellow Larson, Bunny, Wilfred.
Protagonist(s): Fairchild 'Finney' Finnegan [Stu Erwin and Frank McHugh], Manager of the Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel; Fanchon Smith [Florence Lake], Switchboard Operator at the Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel; Longfellow Larson [Harry Stewart], Janitor at the Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel; Bunny, Finnegan's niece; Wilfred, son of the owner of the Welcome Arms Apartment Hotel
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Unknown
Music Direction: Johnny Duffy
Musical Theme(s): "Finnegan's A Wonderful Guy"
Announcer(s): Ken Niles [CBS]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
52
Episodes in Circulation: 6
Total Episodes in Collection: 2 [AFRS]
Provenances:
RadioGOLDINdex (David Goldin), Jay Hickerson Guide, 'The Directory of The Armed Forces Radio Service Series'.

Notes on Provenances:

All above cited provenances are in error in one form or another. The most helpful provenance was the log of the radioGOLDINdex.

Digital Deli Too RadioLogIc


The entire run was recorded at Radio station KFI in Hollywood.

Contrary to information in the Hickerson log, Frank McHugh succeeded Stu Erwin with Program #27, on September 26, 1946. The transition to That's Finnegan came with Program #29 on October 10, 1946. Nor did we find any official reference to the program acquiring the name, 'Finnegan Again'.


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Phone Again Finnegan Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
46-03-30
1
Title Unknown
N
[Premiere Episode; Saturdays, 5:00 p.m.]
46-04-06
2
Title Unknown
N
"4 p. m. — Phone Again, Finnegan (WIBA): Stuart Erwin, as manager of Welcome Arms apartment hotel, runs into more difficulties."
46-04-13
3
Title Unknown
N
"4 p. m. — Phone Again, Finnegan (WIBA): Stuart Erwin has trouble with his employer . . ."
46-04-20
4
Finnegan Plans An Easter Egg Hunt
N
"4 p. m Phone Again, Finnegan
(WIBA): Stuart Erwin, as
Finnegan, apartment hotel manager plans an Easter Egg Hunt . . . "
46-04-27
5
Finding an Apartment for a Veteran
N
"4 p. m. — Phone Again, Finnegan (WIBA) Finnegan gives his apartment t0 an army sergeant and his wife."
46-05-04
6
Finnegan Learns The Hotel Has Been Sold
N
Saturdays, 4:00 p.m.
"3 p. m. Phone Again, Finnegan (WIBA): Stuart Erwin, as Finnegan, learns the hotel has been sold . . ."
46-05-11
7
Broken Drug Store Window
N
46-05-18
8
Title Unknown
N
46-05-25
9
Finnegan Plays Cupid
N
"3 p. m. — Phone Again, Finnegan (WIBA): Finnegan acts as Cupid."
46-06-01
10
Title Unknown
N
46-06-08
11
Title Unknown
N
46-06-15
12
Title Unknown
N
46-06-22
13
Title Unknown
N
46-06-27
14
Title Unknown
N
[Moves to CBS; Thursdays, 10:30 p.m.]

46-06-27 Wisconsin State Journal
Phone Again Finnegan, the comedy show starring Stuart Erwin as Finnegan, manager of the Welcome Arms apartments, switches to the Colulmbia network with the program to be heard at 8:30 tonight on WBBM. The series has been heard on the NBC network on Saturday afternoons.
46-07-04
15
Title Unknown
N
46-07-04 Wisconsin State Journal
"Stuart Erwin star of "Phone Again Finnegan,"'. at 8:30 p. m., befuddles himself into the wrong end of a hilarious situation and finds that the laugh is on him, in the latest episode of the comical adventures of an apartment house manager."
46-07-11
16
Finnegan and the 10-Dollar Bill
N
46-07-11 Wisconsin State Journal
"Stuart Erwin stars the harrassed apartment-house manager on 'Phone Again, Finnegan' at 8:30 p.m. In Thursday night's episode a single 10-dollar bill is claimed by the entire neighborhood, until it develops that the bill was marked by the police on the trail of a black market operator."
46-07-18
17
Title Unknown
N
46-07-18 Wisconsin State Journal
"Stuart Erwin, long-suffering superintendent of the Welcome Arms apartment house in "Phone Again Finnegan," will be on the air at 8:30 p. m. Longfellow Larson, the malaprop Swedish janitor, and Fanchon Smith, slangy telephone operator, along with other assorted characters, assist manager Erwin in making "Phone Again Finnegan" a very funny show."
46-07-25
18
Title Unknown
N
46-08-01
19
Finnegan's Rich Uncle
N
"Stu Erwin, as the manager of the Welcome, Arms apartments, finds his hands full on the Phone Again. Finnegan" show at 8:45 p. m. when his rich uncle whom he hasn't seen in years comes to visit him and upsets the entire building with his eccentricities."
46-08-08
20
Finnegan The Tough Guy
N
"Stuart Erwin, who plays the milquetoast manager of the Welcome Arms Apartments, suddenly becomes the terror of the tenants on the "Phone Again Finnegan" show, Thursday night at 8:30. Finnegan gets himself hypnotized and thinks he's a toughie, while regular playmates Fanchon Smith and Longfellow Larson add to the fun. Ken Niles announces."
46-08-15
21
Finnegan and Cousin Firby
N
"Stuart Erwin, as Finnegan, manager of the Welcome Arms Apartments on "Phone Again, Finnegan" is all for cutting down his family tree in Thursday Night's comedy broadcast at 8:30pm. Finnegan has enough worries without getting a visit from his cousin Firby. According to Cousin Firby--nothing is too good for Firby. He is only too happy to take the shirt off Finnegan's back, and there's nothing he'd rather do than sleep in Finnegan's bed--which he does. Florence Lake, Harry Stewart and Marlene Aames will be on hand to console Finnegan."
46-08-22
22
Title Unknown
N
46-08-29
23
Finnegan, Public Enemy
N
"Stuart Erwin, in his role of Finnegan unwittingly becomes public enemy on "Phone Again Finnegan" at 8:30 p. m. As manager of the Welcome Arms apartment, Finnegan finds himself mistaken for one of the country's toughest gangsters. All gangland is out to see that Finnegan rests in peace — and as a result, he gets no rest at all."
46-09-05
24
Title Unknown
N
46-09-12
25
Finnegan At The Altar
N
"As the the harrassed manager of the Welcome Arms Apartment House, Stuart Erwin gets himself into another complication Thursday night on' "Phone Again Finnegan,"
1:30 p. m. Seems Mr. Finnegan tries to help a girl who has been jilted at the altar and poses as her husband. True to form, Finnegan's attempts to be helpful come to grief."
46-09-19
26
Finnegan Helps An Interesting Guest
N
""Wry, tired-voiced Stuart Erwin as Manager Finnegan 0{ the Welcome Arms Apartments runs into more trouble than any one man should have, when tries to help a very interesting guest, on "Phone Again Finnegan" at 8:30 p.m. Poet-janitor Longfellow Larson, telephone operator Fanchon Smith and various guests of the Welcome Arms Apartments add to the hilarity.""
46-09-26
27
Finnegan's New Boss
N
"Frank McHugh. The Welcome Arms Apartments get a new manager, when Frank McHugh succeeds Stuart Erwin as Fairchild Finnegan on the comedy series, "Phone Again Finnegan," at 8:30 p.m. Finnegan's supervisory duties are regularly extended to overcome a series of hilarious misadventures involving irate tenants. The arrival of a new boss at the Welcome Arms is the signal for some revolutionary changes. McHugh, noted film comedian, brings his famous laugh-getting technics to radio or his first regular series when he assumes the role of Finnegan."

[Sep. 24, 1946 SHORTS: Location hunting in a plane, Stuart Erwin and Director Al Rogell almost were blown into a canyon wall by a suddenburst of wind. Ironically, their picture
will have the title, "Heaven Only Knows."]
46-10-03
28
Finnegan and The Luxury Hotel
N
"Frank McHugh - Overwhelmed by the amountof petty detail involved in his job as manager blithe Welcome Arms Apartments, Frank McHugh as Finnegan quits and looks or another job, in the "Phone Again, Finnegan" broadcast:"at" 9:30 p.m. His application for appointment as manager of the most luxurious hotel in a major hotel chain is successful, but Finnegan soon discovers that it is not as wonderful as it seemed to be."
46-10-10
29
Finnegan and The 'Talking Dog' Act
N
That's Finnegan
"Frank McHugh - Manager Finnegan of the Welcome Arms Apartments, played by Frank McHugh, is outwitted by an old vaudevillian and his "talking dog" in an old rent dodge, on "That's Finnegan" at 9:30 p. m. (formerly. ."Phone Again Finnegan.")"
46-10-17
30
Finnegan The House Detective
N
"That's Finnegan Frank McHugh--cheerful and constantly surprised looking comedian is now playng the role of Finnegan on "That's Finnegan" at 9:30 p. m. As the manager of the Welcome Arms Apartments, Finnegan overhears a telephone conversation which convinces him that one of his guests plans to murder her husband, and subsequent snatches of conversation do nothing to alleviate his fears. Supporting McHugh are Florence Lake as Fanchon Smith, switchboard operator, and Harry Stewart as Longfellow Larson, poetic janitor."
46-10-24
31
Finnegan's Class Reunion
N
"Frank McHugh fills out a questionnaire and runs into trouble when he does a bit of fact stretching, on "That's Finnegan" at 9:30 p. m. With a class reunion pending, leaders of Finnegan's graduating class set out to discover how well members of the class are doing. Finnegan's exaggerations lead to disastrous results."
46-10-31
32
Finnegan and the Practical Jokester
N
"In a plan to put a practical joker in his place, FrankMcHugh as Finnegan plays dead and almost ends up playing for keeps on "That's Finnegan," at 9:30 p. m. O'Brien, the jokester, springs an electrical hot-seat on Finnegan, who promptly keels over, leaving O'Brien with a body on his hands. Events that follow are disturbing to O'Brien, but twice as disturbing to Finnegan."
46-11-07
33
Finnegan Votes -- Three Times
N
"(9:30 p. m.) Finnegan becomes involved in politics and manages to vote 3 times for 3 different candidates on "That's Finnegan." The over-enthusiasm displayed by Finnegan (played by Frank McHugh) leads to an attack of conscience, and he gives himself up to the district attorney."
46-11-14
34
Finnegan and The Runaway Nephew
N
"(9:30 p.m.) Finnegan's plan for a vacation sans children is ruined when his runaway nephew Jiggs arrives with the avowed intention of making his fortune in the big city. Frank McHugh as Finnegan pretends poverty to discourage the teenster, but his plan boomerangs."
46-11-21
35
Title Unknown
N
"(9:30 p.m.) Frank McHugh as Finnegan, manager of the mythical Welcome Arms Apartments, has another hilarious misadventure. Finnegan's niece, Bunny, the poetical janitor, Longfellow Larson, and the wise-cracking telephone operator, Fanchon Smith, add to the fun on "That's Finnegan.""
46-11-28
36
Title Unknown
N
46-12-05
37
Finnegan and The Bum Santa
N
"(9:30 p.m. ) Frank McHugh as Finnegan is overcome by the Christmas spirit, so he gets a ne'er-do-well a job as Santa Claus. The situation is complicated when Finnegan has to fill in as Santa himself."
"That's Finnegan (WBBM): Finnegan plays Santa Claus."
46-12-12
38
Finnegan and the Christmas Tree Mixup
N
"(9:30 p.m.) Frank McHugh, as Finnegan, gets off on the wrong foot with his girlfriend's father. In a mix-up involving 2 Christmas trees, their friendship is soured and another obstacle placed in the way of Finnegan's romance."

"9:30 p. m. — That's Finnegan (WBBM); Finnegan gets Christmas trees crossed"
46-12-19
39
Finnegan and The Tardy Santa
N
"(9:30 p. m.) Finnegan (Frank McHugh) gets an undependable friend a job as Santa Claus, with near-disastrous results. The situation is complicated when Finnegan has to don the whiskers himself when his friend fails to show up."
46-12-26
40
Title Unknown
N
"(9:30 p.m.) Manager Finnegan of the Welcome Arms Apartments finds himself in a brand-new mess of trouble. Frank McHugh plays the title role."
47-01-02
41
Finnegan and The Borrowed Tuxedo
N
"(9:30 p. m.) A borrowed tuxedo causes full-dress trouble when Finnegan's nephew Jiggs is invited to the same party as the owner of the suit. Frank McHugh plays the role of Finnegan."

"9:30 p. m. — That's Finnegan (WBBM):
a borrowed tuxedo causes trouble . . ."
47-01-09
42
Title Unknown
N
47-01-16
43
Title Unknown
N
47-01-23
44
Title Unknown
N
47-01-30
45
Title Unknown
N
47-02-06
46
Title Unknown
N
47-02-13
47
Title Unknown
N
47-02-20
48
Title Unknown
N
47-02-27
49
Title Unknown
N
47-03-06
50
Title Unknown
N
47-03-13
51
Title Unknown
N
47-03-20
52
That's Finnegan Finale
N
[Last Episode]
Sponsor and slot move to The Whistler

AFRS Phone Again Finnegan Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
46-04-27
5
Finding an Apartment for a Veteran
Y
46-05-11
7
Broken Drug Store Window
Y


Phone Again Finnegan Radio Program Biographies




Stuart Erwin
(Fairchild Finnegan)

(1903 - 1967)

Birthplace: Squaw Valley, California, U.S.A.

Radiography:

1935 Shell Chateau
1937 Camel Caravan
1939 Lux Radio Theatre
1939 The Chase and Sanborn Hour
1942 The Rudy Vallee Sealtest Show
1942 Suspense
1944 Cavalcade Of America
1944 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre
1945 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1945 The Raleigh Room
1945 Theatre Guild On the Air
1946 Phone Again, Finnegan
1949 Your Movietown Radio Theatre
1959 Bob and Ray Present the CBS Radio Network
1960 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
Hollywood's Open House


Stuart Erwin, ca. 1934
Stuart Erwin, ca. 1934

Stu Erwin in 1937's Dud Ranch
Stu Erwin in 1931's Dude Ranch

Famed Director Ernst Lubitsch stops to chat with Stu Erwin on the Paramount Lot, ca. 1934
Famed Director Ernst Lubitsch stops to chat with Stu Erwin on the Paramount Lot, ca. 1934

Stu Erwin co-starred with James Cagney in 1935's Ceiling Zero
Stu Erwin co-starred with James Cagney in 1935's Ceiling Zero!

Erwin starred with Bette Davis and Jack Carson in 1941's The Bride Came C.O.D.
Erwin starred with Bette Davis and Jack Carson in 1941's The Bride Came C.O.D.

Speaking of brides, here's Stu Erwin's wife of 36 years, the lovely Stage, Screen and Television actress, June Collyer, brother of Superman's Bud Collyer
Speaking of brides, here's Stu Erwin's wife of 36 years, the lovely Stage, Screen and Television actress, June Collyer, brother of Superman's Bud Collyer.

Stu Erwin and his bride, June Collyer enjoy dinner at the famed Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove, ca. 1934
Stu Erwin and his bride, June Collyer enjoy dinner with Spencer Tracy (left) at the famed Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove, following the Academy Award ceremony of 1934.

It was originally Stu Erwin and lovely comedienne Una Merkel who were to star in the long series of Blondie Films.  The  series eventually starred Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake, brother of Florence Lake (below)
It was originally Stu Erwin and lovely comedienne Una Merkel who were to star in the long series of Blondie Films. The series eventually starred Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake, brother of Florence Lake (below).

Stu Erwin goes over a script for his long-running Television situation comedy, The Trouble With Father, later The Stu Erwin Show, ca. 1953
Stu Erwin goes over a script for his long-running Television situation comedy, The Trouble With Father, later The Stu Erwin Show, ca. 1953



Stuart Erwin was a California-born actor, raised in lovely Squaw Valley. He began acting in college during the mid-1920s, first appearing in small parts in local Stage productions. He broke into Film with 1928's Mother Knows Best. Quickly becoming a versatile--and popular--character actor, 'Stu' Erwin was usually cast as the likeable foil in some 70-plus films prior to 1939.

Quickly becoming one of Paramount's most durable and well-liked contract actors, he routinely appeared with most of Paramount's early film stars. Paramount showcased their growing array of contract players in their Paramount On Parade (1930) in which Erwin appeared as the Marine in the Montmartre Girl segment.

Though born and raised in California, Erwin's knack for accurately capturing charmingly Mid-Western types of characters endeared him to a broad segment of middle-American audiences. At one time or another during his early career with Paramount, Stu Erwin was cast opposite Mary Astor, Irene Rich, Clara Bow, Kay Francis, Victor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe, Constance Bennett, Jean Arthur, Ruth Chatterton, Maurice Chevalier, Wallace Beery, Buster Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and the lovely young silent and talkie star, June Collyer. Indeed it was after appearing together in 1931's Dude Ranch that Stu Erwin and June Collyer married.

As Stuart Erwin's star continued to rise at Paramount, he appeared as a standout in such memorable Films such as The Big Broadcast (1932), International House (1933), Viva Villa! (1934), and in the back-story to the popular cartoon take-off, Palooka (1934) as the hapless, lovable boxer himself. 1935 found him in a supporting role with Clark Gable in After Office Hours.

In 1936, Parmount cast Erwin in Pigskin Parade, garnering him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. There was just one problem--Stu Erwin was the lead in that movie. It was the first year that The Academy had introduced the Best Supporting Actor/Actress category, which apparently wasn't introduced very smoothly.

Stu Erwin's fortunes continued to rise in both co-starring appearances with even more of Hollywood's most popular actors, as well as lead roles in twelve popular feature films by 1941:
  • Pigskin Parade (1936)
  • Women Are Trouble (1936)
  • All-American Chump (1936)
  • Dance Charlie, Dance (1937)
  • Small Town Boy (1937)
  • Checkers (1937)
  • Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938)
  • Passport Husband (1938)
  • It Could Happen to You (1939)
  • The Honeymoon's Over (1939)
  • Sandy Gets Her Man (1939)
  • Cracked Nuts (1941)

In 1938, Stu Erwin and Una Merkel were slated to portray Chic Young's whacky, lovable Dagwood and Blondie. The project went through several cast changes before ultimately settling on Shirley Deane for the female lead. Gloria Blondell had been the first choice for Blondie and Una Merkel the second. Columbia eventually settled on Shirley Deane and Stu Erwin, but young Arthur Lake was finally selected for Dagwood. As things turned out, none of the original cast ultimately survived intact, since Shirley Deane fell ill prior to filming the first Blondie and Penny Singleton picked up the role. The Blondie franchise eventually ran to twenty-eight popular films. Stu Erwin did eventually co-star in one of them--1942's Blondie for Victory.

The 1930s kept Stuart Erwin busy on several fronts. Erwin began appearing on Radio in 1932, with credited appearances beginning in 1935 on Shell Chateau, often appearing with fellow character actor Frank McHugh. Erwin reportedly loved performing on Radio and his Radio career eventually spanned over twenty-seven years. From comedies to straight dramatic roles, Erwin's Radio appearances grew in both breadth and depth over the years. As adept at straight Drama as Comedy, Radio producers loved casting him in counter-character productions such as a heavy melodrama or even as the occasional villain.

Stuart Erwin's first--and only--lead role in a recurring program was as the lovable, easily distracted Fairchild Finnegan in 1946's Phone Again, Finnegan a program replete with subtle ironies for its lead star. He appeared opposite Film-staple Florence Lake who played Fanchon Smith, the philosophical switchboard operator of the Welcome Arms Apartment House managed by Finnegan. Florence Lake was the sister of Arthur Lake, who eventually took the role of Dagwood Bumstead in lieu of Erwin. Harry Stewart, as Longfellow Larson, the janitor cum poet at the Welcome Arms had worked extensively with Erwin on Shell Chateau and other early Radio Variety and Comedy programs. Erwin eventually turned the role of Finnegan over to Frank McHugh, one of Erwin's film contemporaries and another early alumnus of Shell Chateau.

While appearing in another fourteen feature films between 1941 and 1952, Stu Erwin could see the future of Entertainment with the advent of popularly available Television. One of Television's earliest successful situation comedies was Stu Erwin's own Trouble With Father (1950), later renamed The Stu Erwin Show. A light-hearted domestic comedy, Erwin cast himself as the principal of the local High School and father of two quite different daughters. In the role of his wife, Erwin coaxed his real-life bride of nineteen years, June Collyer out of a 15-year retirement. As beautiful in 1950 as she was in the 1930s, the couple was a perfect fit as the hapless, forgetful academic husband and the centered, grounded wife and mother who invariably found the solution to every family's problems. But of course she always persuaded her husband that it was he who'd arrived at the solution. This was the 1950s after all.

One of early Television's better situation comedies, The Stu Erwin Show ran for five full seasons--a total of 128 episodes. For the next twenty years following his own program, Stu Erwin became a regular guest star in well over 200 Television productions, often cast counter-type to keep even his most ardent fans guessing.

Stu Erwin and June Collyer passed away within months of each other in 1968 after 37 years of one of Hollywood's most successful marriages. That would normally close the book on The Erwins. But remembered as two of Film and Television's most beloved actors, Stu Erwin and June Collyer continue to find new fans and admirers with the release of more and more of their Radio, Film and Television work. Justifiably so. They were a remarkable, loving, wonderfully home-spun couple--both together and separate--over any medium.





Florence Lake [Florence Silverlake]
(Fanchon Smith)

Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor
(1904-1980)

Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.

Radiography:

1939 Lux Radio Theatre
1943 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1946 Phone Again, Finnegan
1947 Leo and the Blonde
1947 Stars Over Hollywood
1950 Broadway Is My Beat
1950 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1950 This Is Your FBI
1957 The Lone Ranger

Florence Lake, ca. 1941
Florence Lake, ca. 1941

Florence Lake (left) take umbrage at being frisked in Frisco Jenny (1932)
Florence Lake (left) take umbrage at being frisked in Frisco Jenny (1932)

Florence Lake as a cavewoman on Superman Television program, ca. 1955
Florence Lake as a cavewoman on the Superman Television program, ca. 1955

Florence Lake, ca. 1962
Florence Lake, ca. 1962

Actress Florence Silverlake is probably best remembered for her roles in a long running series of short films playing the wives of actor Edgar Kennedy. They ran right up until Edgar Kennedy's death in 1948. They were so closely linked in Film that both actors' press agents had to continually remind the public that they were both happily married to their own spouses in real life. She was the sister of actor Arthur Lake, best known for his role as Dagwood Bumstead of Blondie fame on television, radio, and in films. But few people realize that Florence and Arthur Lake were indeed Blondie and Dagwood for several months in 1942-1943 while Penny Singleton accompanied her Marine Officer hubby through training at Quantico. Florence Lake's credits include the films:
  • New Year's Eve (1929)
  • Waltzing Around (1929)
  • Romance (1930)
  • Thanks Again (1931)
  • All Gummed Up (1931)
  • Frisco Jenny (1932)
  • Jimmy And Sally (1933)
  • Wrong Direction (1934)
  • A Blasted Event (1934)
  • Gasoloons (1936)
  • Muss 'Em Up (1936)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • Her Primitive Man (1944)
  • Home Canning (1948)
  • Bitter Creek (1954)
  • The Desperado (1954)
  • The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966)
  • Welcome To Arrow Beach (1974)
  • The Day Of The Locust (1975)

Miss Lake's television roles included:

  • Baretta
  • The Family Holvak
  • Emergency!
  • Celebrity Playhouse
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Adventures Of Bill Hickok
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Lock Up
  • Petticoat Junction
  • A Touch Of Grace
  • Adam-12
  • Police Woman

Florence also endeared herself to Radio audiences for over 18 years, with frequent appearances in Lux Radio Theatre, The Charlie McCarthy Show, Leo and The Blonde, Broadway Is My Beat and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar as well as some 500 other appearances. But she's probably most fondly remembered for her world wisened Fanchon Smith, the switchboard operator at The Welcome Arms Apartment House in the 1946-1947 run of Phone Again, Finnegan (That's Finnegan) opposite sturdy character actors Stu Erwin and Frank McHugh.

One of Hollywood's sturdiest female character actors, Florence Lake's Entertainment career spanned fifty years on Stage, Screen, Radio and Television. Her consistent portrayals of proud, average, hard working American women in a dizzying array of roles endeared her to three generations of audiences. Never taking the glamour roles, though a stunning woman in her own right, Florence Lake delighted in putting a mirror to the mainstream American woman and illustrating why they should be proud of each other.




Harry Stewart [Harry Edward Skarbo]
Stage, Radio, and Television Actor, Profesional Singer, Comedian, Songwriter, Radio Director
(1908-1956)

Birthplace: Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.

Radiography:

1942 The Ben Bernie War Workers Program
1946 Phone Again, Finnegan
1947 Lora Lawton
1948 Lassie
1949 Command Performance
1953 The Johnny Mercer Show

Harry Stewart, ca. 1955
Harry Stewart, ca. 1948

Harry Stewart as Yogi Yorgesson, ca. 1941
Harry Stewart as Yogi Yorgesson, ca. 1941

'Yogi' and his 'Family Album' of his alternate personae
'Yogi' and his 'Family Album' of his alternate personae.

Harry Stewart and yet another of his alter-egos, Harry Kari
Harry Stewart and yet another of his alter-egos, Harry Kari


Harry Stewart was responsible for penning the pesky amphibian gremlin, Froggy, for the Buster Brown Gang Radio and Television programs

Harry Stewart was responsible for penning the pesky amphibian gremlin, Froggy, for the Buster Brown Gang Radio and Television programs.


The Froggy character remains an pop culture memorabilia item from the 1940s and 1950s
The Froggy character remains a pop culture memorabilia item from the 1940s and 1950s

Norwegian-American comedian Harry Stewart was born to Elise and Hans Skarbo, immigrants from Norway. His mother died in childbirth when Harry was only two. Harry's father, overcome with grief from the loss of both his wife and newborn child, realized he was nno longer emotionally capable of caring for his two year old son and arranged for his adoption with the Stewart family.

The Skarbo family had often entertained themselves by playing instruments and singing together, so music was clearly in his genetic makeup. Harry attended Stadium High School in Tacoma. When he was 15 or 16, he contracted tuberculosis, resulting in the loss of one lung. He worked as a bellhop at the Carlton Hotel and on the graveyard shift at the local Lumber Company.

During his precious remaining free time he began to hang around the new Radio station, KVI, Tacoma. In 1927 he was eventually given jobs as announcer, weather reporter, news man and banjo player at the station. He moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1931 with the hope of landing an announcing job with one of the larger stations.

Soon realizing that he needed a gimmick to set him apart from the hundreds of other young competing aspirants, he developed the character Yogi Yorgesson, a self-styled Swedish-Hindu mystic. He auditioned his new routine on the nationally broadcast show Merrymakers. Within six months he landed a job with Al Pearce and His Gang (1934) for three years (1934-1937).

As Yogi Yorgesson, he gazed into a small, round fish bowl turned upside down as his crystal ball reciting, "I can see my face on da udder side." As Yogi, he answered questions called in to him by listeners. In reality the listeners’ questions were scripted. As an example of his comedy he had a lady calling in to ask, "My baby just swallowed some bullets, what should I do?" Yogi replied, "Give him some caster oil and don't point him at anybody!"

Harry married Gretchen Ida (Sissell) Ross in the late 1930s. In 1939, Harry and Gretchen were living in Chicago while Harry was working in production, on-air annoucing and scriptwrting for a company that produced articulated sound ads, or Articulated Commercials. An example was the Bromo Seltzer ads for Inner Sanctum and other Emerson Drug-sponsored programs. The train-chugging "Bromo Seltzer, Bromo Seltzer, Bromo Seltzer, Bromo Seltzer" effect of an old steam train was an example of Articulated Commercials. Lifebouy soap's jingle for Al Jolson and others was another with its "Lifebouy really stops, Beeee, Ooooo" in the sound of a fog horn.

Harry Stewart also did some comedy scripting for local Radio programs. During this period he was often featured on 40 Million, Command Performance, and Moonlight Memories & Miller. Stewart also toured the East Coast with Band Leader Ben Bernie, who employed Johnny Duffy as piano player, a relationship that would endure for several years. Indeed it was Johnny Duffy who performed the music direction and wrote the theme song for Stewart's 1946 Phone Again, Finnegan program, in which he appeared as the janitor-cum-poet, Longfellow Larson. Duffy also performed in the same capacity on Stewart's long running Lassie Radio series.

Stewart's “The Object Of My Affection,” was recorded on The Ben Bernie War Workers Program (1942). The song was eventually released with Capitol Records eleven years later. He was also an early performer in Las Vegas. But his remaining years were occupied with another regular role in Radio's Lassie (1948) and several more appearances on Command Performance and The Johnny Mercer Show. Harry Stewart also often directed Radio, as with the long-running melodrama, Lora Lawton (1947) and the Lassie program.

In yet another fascinating bit of trivia, it was Harry Stewart that penned the character of 'Froggy' the pesky frog from Smilin' Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Show, famously responding to Ed's inimitable, "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!". The routine transitioned to the Television program as well with Andy Devine and his nemesis, Froggy.

Within ten years of appearing as Longfellow Larson on the well-received That's Finnegan and Lassie programs, he passed away at the age of only forty-four. His car had overturned enroute home from an extended fishing trip.

As intentionally corny as his Yogi Yorgesson gig was, it never failed to entertain, especially among the community of Scandinavian-Americans. Though relatively short-lived, Harry Stewart cut a wide swath through the world of Entertainment in a multitude of ways and with a home-spun brand of humor that continually reminded Americans of their diverse roots.



Frank McHugh [Francis Curray McHugh]
(Fairchild Finnegan)

Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor
(1889-1981)

Birthplace: Homestead, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Radiography:

1935 Shell Chateau
1938 Warner Brothers Academy Theatre
1941 The Kraft Music Hall
1941 The Lux Radio Theatre
1942 Over Here
1945 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre
1945 Suspense
1946 Phone Again, Finnegan
1947 Family Theatre
1965 The Hollywood Palace

Fank McHugh, ca. 1937
Fank McHugh, ca. 1937

Frank McHuh and Kenny Baker in Warner Bros. Green Room, ca. 1937
Frank McHugh and Kenny Baker in Warner Bros. Green Room, ca. 1937


Frank McHugh from the trailer for Four Daughters (1938)


Frank McHugh, often in profile confused with friendly rival Allen Jenkins, here with William Demarest and Humphrey Bogart in
All Through the Night (1942)

Frank McHugh was another turn of the Century entertainer born into a Stage family. His parents ran their own stock company and Master Francis was on the Stage as a child actor. At 10 he was part of an act that included his brother, Matt McHugh, and sister, Kitty McHugh.

After Vaudeville and experience with other stock companies, Frank McHugh debuted on Broadway in The Fall Guy (1925). Warner Brothers signed McHugh in 1930 as a contract player, where he was usually cast as the sidekick to one of Warner Bros.' lead actors to provide comedy relief. His signature nervous laughter and dour demeanor propelled him to over 90 films during his first twelve years with Warner Bros.

McHugh appeared with rival character actor, Allen Jenkins in 15 films. McHugh was by then being cast as a mechanic, pilot, song plugger or some other type of hustler, or newsman. He rarely got the girl unless she'd already been spurned by the lead. But throughout his formidable Film career he worked with Warner Bros.' greatest lead actors.

McHugh proved to be as versatile on Radio as in Film. Performing as early as 1932 over Radio, McHugh's first regular appearances came over The Shell Chateau (1935). He was prominently showcased in Warner Bros.' short-lived Acting Academy preview program, Warner Brothers Academy Theater (1938). The next ten years saw him performing in several Radio dramas, ultimately landing the lead role in 1946's That's Finnegan for CBS.

As his Film career began to decline he successfully made the jump to Television, with over 80 Television credits to his name and ultimately playing Bing Crosby's foil Willis Walter on The Bing Crosby Show (1964).

After a twenty year career on Stage, a twenty-five year career in Film, a fifteen year career in Radio and a twenty year career in Television, McHugh quitely retired from show business in 1969 with his wife, Dorothy. McHugh passed away in 1981 survived by his wife of 48 years and his three children.




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