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Original Sara's Private Caper header art

The Sara's Private Caper Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Sara's Private Caper

Premiere announcement of Sara's Private Caper over WHIZ
Premiere announcement of Sara's Private Caper over WHIZ


Sara Berner demure young Brooklyn, N.Y., miss who was acclaimed the greatest imitator ever heard on the Major Bowes' Amateur Hour and has been showered with offers for future professional stage appearances.  She will be one of the many unusual acts to appear with the Major Bowes' Unit at the Memorial auditorium, Gary, on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 and in the evening at 6:30 and 9 p.m. performances, December 20.
The December 18th 1936 edition of the Hammond Times showcased voice find Sara Berner for her forthcoming appearance at Gary, Indiana's Memorial Auditorium

Sara Berner's remarkable versatility as a voice artist and natural comedienne accelerated to new heights after a series of appearances on Major Bowes' Amateur Hour. As her exposure and letter-perfect impersonations and dialects continued to expand throughout the 1930s and 1940s demand for her talents found her compiling an extraordinary resume of memorable characters: Mabel Flapsaddle, the telephone operator on the Jack Benny program, Gladys Zybisco, the girl plumber on the Jack Benny program, Ingrid Mataratza on the Jimmy Durante show, Helen Wilson on Amos 'N' Andy, Mrs. Horowitz on Life with Liugi, Chiquita on the Gene Autry program and Crystabelle, Geneva Hafter and Aunt Nellie on Beulah.

Indeed her 1940 Radio Artists' Directory entry not only captured her range, but gave a hint of her even more memorable roles to come:

Sara Berner's entry in the 1940 Radio Artists' Directory
Sara Berner's entry in the 1940 Radio Artists' Directory

And so it was that after over 15 years of highly successful work for other artists' Radio vehicles, Sara Berner finally got a shot as the lead artist in her own Radio production, Sara's Private Caper.

From the June 17th 1950 edition of the San Mateo Times:

Sara's Show Okeh head

     We knew it would happen sooner or later, and it did last Thursday night. We mean a new TV show and a new radio show hitting the air lanes at the same hour.

     The two shows were "Sara's Private Caper" over KNBC at 7:30 and "Bay Area Showcase" on KRON-TV at the same time.

     By listening to "Sara's Private Caper" with one ear and watching the "Bay Area Showcase," we were able to come up with a point or two on both shows.

     We might well have not wasted our time watching this "Showcase" thing, but the effort was well worth it on the "Sara" show.

     Sara, as you probably know, is the young woman who portrays Mabel Flapsaddle and Mrs. Mataratza on the Jack Benny and Jimmy Durante shows respectively. Her debut as a star in her own right was a most happy affair.

     The program is a comedy-detective affair with Sara playing the part of a "crime-crazy" stenographer and secretary to a police lieutenant.

     Not satisfied with the way her boss "closes" cases, Sara and her boy friend, a clerk in the catsup department of a supermarket, play private detectives.

     In addition to leading her not-so-smart boy friend into one hot spot after another, the female "Sam Spade" just accidentally solves her mysteries.

     Sara, who is a frequent visitor to the home of her sister, Mrs. Henry Lapkin, 2110 Reddington road, Hillsborough, is a swell gal, a good sport, and a success like she established last Thursday couldn't happen to a nicer person.

     We must admit that it could stand a little strengthening in the writing department, and we think too that maybe Sara's part was a bit complicated. However, the show is excellent summer fare and with a little more work on the part of the writers it could probably be developed into something darned interesting for the entire season . . . .

Series Derivatives:

Sara's Private Eye; Sara's Private File; Sara's Private Crime
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Comedy-Mystery Drama
Network(s): NBC
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 50-06-15 01 Sara's 'Sonnets of Fu Yen' Caper
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 50-06-15 to 50-08-24; NBC; Eleven, 30-minute programs; Thursdays
Sponsors: General Mills [Wheaties]
Director(s): Joe Parker [Producer/Director]
Principal Actors: Sara Berner, Gerald Mohr, Frank Nelson, Jerry Hausner, Bob Sweeney, Howard Duff (by transcription), Lurene Tuttle (by transcription), Peter Leeds, Tom Holland, Tony Barrett, Eric Snowden, Jack Lacuzzi, Donald Morrison
Recurring Character(s): Police Stenographer, Sara Berner [Sara Berner]; Melvin Ingersoll, Sara's boy friend [Bob Sweeney];
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Morton Fine, David Friedkin, Joe Parker
Music Direction: Robert Armbruster
Musical Theme(s):
Announcer(s): Frank Martin
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 1
Total Episodes in Collection: 1

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were newspaper listings.

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Sara's Private Caper Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
50-06-08 Wisconsin State Journal
9:30 p.m. Operation Ezra (WIBA): Montgomery Clift in story of airlift rescue of Jews from Iraq.
Sara's 'Sonnets of Fu Yen' Caper
50-06-15 Wisconsin State Journal
9:30 p.m.--Sara's Private Caper (WIBA):
new series of mystery stories, starring Sara Berner as dialect expert.

50-06-15 Long Beach Press-Telegram
Versatile Sara Berner now has her own show. She plays the part of a crime saturated stenog who adopts vocal disguises to unravel the mysteries that come across her desk. "Sara's Private Caper" is the gal to out sleuth all the sleuths of the airways.

50-06-15 Capital Times
Tonight's lineup will include a new series, "Sara's Private Caper." Starring Sara Berner. It will be on WIBA and WIBA-FM at 9:30.
Miss Berner will appear as a crime-conscious police department stenographer who attempts to solve criminal cases in the best tradition of such sleuths as Sam Spade—using her many dialects as disguises.
Miss Berner Is known best for her current portrayal of Ingrid Mataratza in the Jimmy Durante show

50-06-15 San Mateo Times
Sara Berner, clever radio comedienne and woman of many voices, will be heard tonight in her own show, "Sara's Private Caper," over KNBC at 7:30. Miss Berner will make use of her many dialects in her role of Sara when the crime-saturated stenographer adopts vocal disguises to unravel various mysteries.
Sara's Missing Pearl Necklace Caper
50-06-22 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

50-06-22 San Mateo Times
A missing pearl necklace will be the center of "Sara's Private Caper" tonight over KNBC at 7:30. Portraying a crime-conscious stenographer, Sara is assisted in the caper by her friend, Melvin.

Title Unknown
50-06-29 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper
Title Unknown
50-07-06 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper
Title Unknown
50-07-13 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper
Sara's Millionheir Caper
50-07-20 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

50-07-20 San Mateo Times
Multi-dialect comedienne
Sara Berner applies her own special brand of child psychology to put an end to the junior-sized crime wave of a pampered young "millionheir" tonight on "Sara's Private Caper" on KNBC at 7:30.

Sara's Amusement Park Caper
50-07-27 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

50-07-27 Long Beach Press-Telegram
7:30--KFI--"Sara's Private Caper"
involves her with a mite-sized amusement park operator when mysterious accidents pop up in the fun park.

50-07-27 San Mateo Times
Troubles of a mite-sized amusement park operator takes a multidialect comedienne, Sara Berner, from her police detective bureau typing chores on NBC's comedy-mystery show, "Sara's Private Caper," at 7:30 on KNBC.

Title Unknown
50-08-03 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

Title Unknown
50-08-10 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

Sara's Murder At the Beach Caper
50-08-17 Wisconsin State Journal
9:30 p.m.--Sara's Private Caper (WIBA):
Sara solves murder, confuses police.

50-08-17 Capital Times
9:30 p. m. — Sara's Private
Sara solves beach murder, confusing the police—WIBA

Title Unknown
50-08-24 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Sara's Private Caper

50-08-25 Franklin News-Herald
Even radio has title trouble. Sara Berner's new airshow started out as "Sara's Private Eye," then became "Sara's Private File," was changed to "Sara's Private Crime" and now is Sara's Private Caper." Next week: "Sara's Private East Lynn."

50-08-31 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 9:30 Folk Songs

50-09-05 The Chester Times
Even radio has title trouble. Sara Berner's new airshow started out as "Sara's Private Eye," then became "Sara's Private File," was changed to "Sara's Private Crime" and now is "Sara's Private Caper."
Next week: "Sara's Private East Lynn."

Sara's Private Caper Radio Program Biographies

Sara Berner [Lillian Herdan]
(Police Steno, Sara Berner)


Albany, New York, U.S.A.


1936 Major Bowes
1939 Fibber McGee and Molly
1940 The Jell-O Program
1940 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
1941 Miss Pinkerton, Inc.
1941 Barrel Of Fun
1942 Lux Radio Theatre
1942 Command Performance
1943 This Is My Story
1943 The Jack Benny Program
1944 The Raleigh Cigarette Program
1944 Duffy's Tavern
1944 Cavalcade Of America
1944 The Lucky Strike Program
1944 G.I. Journal
1945 The Roy Rogers Show
1945 Abbott and Costello
1946 Baby Snooks
1946 The Smiths Of San Fernando (Audition)
1947 The Jack Carson Show
1947 The Smiths Of Hollywood
1947 Amos 'n' Andy
1947 Sealtest Village Store
1947 The Life Of Riley
1947 The Eddie Cantor Pabst Blue Ribbon Show
1947 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1948 U.S.O. Farewell Program
1948 Philco Radio Time
1948 American Showcase
1948 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1949 The Veterans Of Foreign Wars Jubilee Show
1949 The Red Skelton Show
1950 Life With Luigi
1950 Night Beat
1950 Sara's Private Caper
1951 Hallmark Playhouse
1952 My Friend Irma
1952 The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet
1954 Bud's Bandwagon
1957 The Best Of Benny

Sara Berner circa 1937
Sara Berner circa 1937

From the December 25th 1949 edition of the Zanesville Sunday Times Signal:

Radio is Far from Finished; More Sets Go into Use Daily

     NEW YORK, Dec. 24 (AP)—Radio, far from being finished, is spreading into more and more of the average American's average day.
     Once most radio listening was over the family set in the living room.  Then came the automobile radio and the portable set you could take into the back yard, to the beach on a picnic.
     Now the installation of radios in buses and street cars, and in grocery stores is spreading rapdly.  The next extension will be special broadcasts for restaurants and other public places.  The New York Public Service Commission held hearings this week on commercial broadcasts recently inaugurated in Grand Central Station.
     And in the home itself, radio still is on the upbeat.  There is an increasing trend toward a personal set for every member of the family or a set for every room.
     Television appears to have stimulated rather than discouraged this trend.  Despite the strong appeal of television, frequently all members of the famly will not be interested in the same program at the same time.  Some will retire to another room to listen to the radio. This can be accomplished by moving the principal radio set but more often it means an extra set.
     The increasing penetration of radio is fine for those who like it—but for those who don't, there are few places left to hide.
     Objectors have made vigorous protests against the Grand Central broadcasts during the hearings by the New York Public Service Commission, and the Public Utilities Commission in Washington received strong protests against radios on buses there, but gave its approval after hearing both sides.  Opponents have declared they will contest the action further in the courts.
     Installation of radios in buses and trolleys has spread to a score of cities.  And special radio broadcasting setups for supermarkets are in operation in Southern New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Omaha and several other places.  One company alone has contracts with 500 stores.
     While the broadcasts for transit systems and stores are aimed at those audiences—particularly the commercials — they also can be received on home radio sets that have frequency modulation bands — the broadcasts are from FM stations.
     A supersonic signal that isn't heard on home sets goes out from the station to boost the volume of sets on buses, trolleys and in stores so the commercials come in loud and clear.  The gimmick will be used in reverse by stations serving restaurants and other public volume of those sets so the commercial isn't heard.
     As for sets in the hands of the public, the totals run like this:  well over 39 million homes have at least one receiver, in addition to which there are more than 21 million extra sets. And there are more than 12 million automobile sets and three million portables, plus five million more sets in public places.
     You're no doubt familiar with the voice of Mabel Flapsaddle, the telephone operator, and Gladys Zybisco, the girl plumber, on the Jack Benny program.  Also Ingrid Mataratza on the Jimmy Durante show, Helen Wilson on Amos 'N' Andy, Mrs. Horowitz on Life with Liugi, Chiquita on the Gene Autry program.  Also Crystabelle, Geneva Hafter and Aunt Nellie on the Beulah show.
     What you may not know is that all these voices -- each with its distinctive accent, dialect or personality -- belong to one person.  She is pert, blonde Sara Berner who can turn different accents on and off as easily as you turn your dial from one station to the other.
     How does she do it?
     "Well, you have to have an ear for it," she tells this column.  "Some people have an ear for music.  I have an ear for accents.
     When Miss Berner wants to test the authenticity of her accent, she goes to the region where it is most common.  Then she tries her version on a store salesman, ticket seller or someone else who deals with the general public.  If she gets a laugh there, or is spotted as being from another section, she knows her accent is phony and there's more work to be done.
     Although Miss Berner is best know for her Brooklynese on the air, she is from Oklahoma.

From the December 13th 1952 edition of the East Liverpool Review:

Out Of The Air

 The Laugh, Clown, Laugh Girl
      Pathos always sold well on radio, largely dished out on soap opera.  The future of the soaps on television is still pretty uncertain, but the pathos vein is being worked over extensively.  I suppose the leading contender in this line of work is Strike It Rich, where they dig up the victims of the most heartrending current sob stories, splash them with sympathy and load them down with money.  Close behind Strike It Rich in the pathos department is This Is Your Life, which is presided over by Ralph Edwards.  Edwards is described at the outset of the program as "your warmhearted host."
     Well, he's that all right, a warmhearted host with a keen sense of double entry bookkeeping.  Early in the television sweepstakes, Edwards came out with a TV version of his renowned radio show Truth Or Consequences, where audience participants underwent the most surprising humiliations with great good nature.  This sort of thing apparently either habbled or outraged the television audience, however, and Truth Or Consequences fell by the wayside, one of the happiest casualties in my memory.
     MR. EDWARDS Turned to the pathos dodge.  This Is Your Life reconstructs somebody's life from front to back.  By some manic ingenuity, Mr. Edwards lures on stage an individual who has no idea what is in store.
     Let's say the individual is (as it was last week) Sara Berner, the girl who plays most of the dialect parts on radio.  Miss Berner had been enticed down there ostensibly to take part in some monkeyshines about a commercial for Hazel Bishop lipstick.  To be specific, she smothered Mr. Edwards in kisses to demonstrate that Hazel Bishop doesn't smear.  It doesn't.
     That part of Miss Berner's career out of the way, Mr. Edwards told her it was her life that was on the fire that night.  She was, to put it mildly, overcome.
     "This is a storyof courage and comedy, and the tears behind that comedy," trumpeted Mr. Edwards, overflowing with warm-heartedness.  "How many of you really know Sara Berner--the 'Laugh, Clown, Laugh' girl--the girl who dreamed of stardom but settled for supporting roles."
     In the heartbreak department, Miss Berner's career which was then unfolded backwards, didn't live up to its advance billing.  It seemed in retrosopect a very pleasant succession of minor triumphs, marred by occasional tragedy (the death of her mother and her first husband).
     Mr. Edwards, whose staff if a wizard at collecting friends and relatives of his lifers, trotted out Miss Berner's present husband, who said that "marriage is the one place where Sara is the star."  Spike Jones with whom she had recorded, her dramatic teacher in Tulsa, and an old girl friend, June Robbins, , whom she hadn't seen in 10 years, Jack Benny--Miss Berner plays the Brooklyn telephone operator from time to time on his show--called to say how much he admired her.
     MISS BERNER dabbed away at her eyes during all this, exclaiming at one point:  "This doesn't happen until--God forbid--you pass on."  The freshets of tears grew stronger as the incidents and people dredged up by Edwards receded in time, receded way back to her childhood when she was winning auditions to appear on Major Bowes amateur hour.
     At the end, Mr. Edwards, in his own words, took her "Through the archway of your life" into a replica of the kitchen of her Oklahoma home where Mr. Edwards had given refuge to Miss Berner's brothers and sister and father who fell on her with happy cries.
     "The girl that made millions laugh while she was crying," declared Mr. Edwards.  I don't quite dig this statement since Miss Berner hadn't appeared to have done much crying until she got on this show where she did plenty.
     Actually,l Sara Berner is an awfully cute trick, a born comic, and a girl who seems to have had a heck of a good time out of this vale of tears.
     But the customers want pathos and Mr. Edwards, I suppose, has to manufacture it.  "The program" says a press release, "has substantiated Wdwards' eblief that truth is not only stranger but also vastly more powerful than fiction."  Well, anyhow, it sells more Hazel Bishop lipstick.
     If you're a great one for family reunions, this is your dish of tea.  It isn't mine.
(c) 1952 New York Tribune

From the October 14th 1969 edition of the Van Nuys News:


Sara's Mabel Flapsaddle
Bedded by Own Phone
     The story was of actress Sara Berner and it ran in a series of supporting players.  It was on Page 43 and the magazine was the old Radio Life, now Radio-TV Life.  The year was 1943. And of the publication, there's no one in the world who could top Sara's quip that this radio actor's bible "sold at the time for 3 cents."
     Of course this would be if Sara felt up to any kind of gag concerning the old mike days or even the present nonradio days.  For Sara, known to millions of both radio and television listeners in those nostalgic days as Mabel Flapsaddle, feels little inclination now to be very funny about anything.
               Questions Answered
     The versatile little actress, whose home is in Van Nuys today is confined to a convalescent home following major surgery.  It's not as funny a place as Jack Benny's studio where Sara convulsed not only the "39-year-old" comedian at the microphone, but all who worked on the set as well.  Sara's Mabel Flapsaddle had 'em in the aisles both on and off the air.
     And this tribute to the spunky little trouper is in part an answer to the uncounted queries as to her present whereabouts and "when is she going to be heard again?"
     Sara's address is Jefferson Convalescent Home, 5240 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.  The telephone, just waiting to ring, is 391-7263.
     Sara, as the oldtimers will remember, is the girl who made hash out of Benny's attempts to get the right telephone number.  As the operator who tangled, literally, with more wires than are pulled by politicians, the actress gave new, electronic meaning to the word "boner" and had fan clubs coming out of the mike.
               Now Convalescing
     As dialectician par excellence, the little gal from Oklahoma did her stuff regularly on all hte top shows and gave 20 of the best years to Benny and Miss Flapsaddle.
     She's now giving a few to herself and the goal is good health again and then, back to work.
     As for Mabel and her tangled prefixes and loused-up connections, she will never be forgotten.  The same goes for Sara.

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